Stump the Missionaries

This afternoon, we had a family from our ward over for dinner. The missionaries were here, too. I have been home teaching this family for several years, and the husband has agreed to take the missionary lessons. After dinner, we retired to the family room for a discussion of the plan of salvation.

During the lesson, I was trying to figure out whether I was one of those helpful members who offers supportive comments and an occasional well-placed testimony or one of those nightmare members who takes over the lesson. If you have to ask yourself that question, chances are that you are saying too much. But can I help it if I have thought a lot about the pre-existence?

Anyway, when we finally reached Adam and Eve, my friend asked the missionaries, “Why couldn’t Adam and Eve have children before eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge?” Our missionaries, who are among the best teaching missionaries I have ever met, immediately turned to 2 Nephi 2:23-23:

And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.

“Ok,” my friend repeated, “but why no children?”

One of the Elders referred to Adam and Eve’s “state of innocence,” implying that they were like little children and thus incapable of intercourse. Hmm. That doesn’t fit very well with my image of them, though I suppose that could be right.

Looking back at the scriptures, I am tempted to rest on one more verse from the foregoing passage: “But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.” I can live with that, but if anyone has a better answer, I would like to hear it.

Why couldn’t Adam and Eve have children while in a “state of innocence”?

69 comments for “Stump the Missionaries

  1. Some have suggested, though I don’t necessarily subscribe to this line of thinking, that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil literally did something to their bodies–like a drug–changing them from immortal to mortal. If so, that same process could have enabled child bearing. What do you think?


  2. If they had not yet noticed their nakedness they were not likely to know what to do with that nakedness, were they?

  3. I’m not sure this is an answer to the why but it is what I first thought of. Childbirth is painful. Even with drugs there is physical pain at some point during the process (without even touching the potential emotional pain). I don’t think that there ever was a non-fallen pain-free childbirth available, it was always going to be painful. So having children means that there is pain, and if we believe in a Garden of Eden without suffering then childbirth can have no place in it.

  4. I think the Garden of Eden is not a literal place, but rather symbolic of the premortal life. Until a human spirit chooses to enter the mortal life, he can’t perform *any* meaningful activity (which includes having children).

  5. Here’s a link that discusses the LDS Theology that Adam and Eve didn’t have blood before the fall … this idea is somewhat similar to Starfoxy’s comment. If they had no blood, there could be no implantation, no feeding of the fetus, no birth, etc. The paradox, then, is that the act which brought death into the world also brought birth — Freud had a lot to say about the relationship between the drive to reproduce and the drive to die (see Beyond the Pleasure principle, for example).

  6. I think the answer is very simple. The Garden is an allegory of mankind’s first estate, where we first received spirit bodies. Spirits do not have children.

    Then through transgression of holy laws to love, serve, and worship only the true and living God, we died spiritually, becoming sensual and devilish, and became fallen man [1].

    According to the foreknowledge of God [2], a second estate was prepared, where we took upon ourselves mortal bodies [3], the ability to have biological children for the first time, and the new and everlasting covenant of marriage [3].

    Please note that both Moses and Genesis contain two creation accounts (roughly Gen 1 / Moses 2 and Gen 2-3 / Moses 3-4 respectively). Only the first account contains the command to multiply and replenish the earth, which is no problem because that account leaves pre-mortal life and the Fall out completely.

    However, the scriptural doctrine of no death before the Fall [4] (plus hundreds of millions of years of fossil evidence) is the clincher for this intepretation.

    [1] D&C 20:19-20
    [2] Moses 4:6
    [3] D&C 131:2
    [4] 1 Cor 15:21

  7. I think N.G.’s right — it was a biological phenomenon, as opposed to being an effect of ignorance. As Gospel Fundamentals Chapter 6 mentions, Adam and Eve had physical bodies of flesh and bone. I believe the Gospel Essentials book had an Adam and Eve chapter that made it clear that blood was not part of their bodies in the Garden of Eden. Two major effects of this sort of physical existence were 1) they lived forever while in that state, and 2) they could not have children.

    Now, a related question is: presumably the plants and animals were in the same state — could they procreate? They were certainly designed to bring forth after their kind, but were they able to until Adam and Eve fell?

  8. VeritasLiberat and Mark Butler,

    I have to disagree with the “it wasn’t really a physical existence” / allegory interpretation of the Garden. For example, statements from the Gospel Fundamentals Chapter 6 mentioned in my previous post:

    “When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they each had a body of flesh and bones that could not die” seems to mean they did have physical bodies at the time, and “They did not remember their life in heaven” seems to mean they were already beyond the first estate.

    I don’t think 1 Cor. 15:21 precludes the possibility of death having existed in some form for at least some pieces of what we now know as Earth before the creation of the Garden of Eden, or even before the Creation as mentioned in the scriptures.

  9. Sideshow,

    As the Apostle Paul said, “all flesh is not the same flesh” [1] . Spirits have bones and muscles [2], just as temporal bodies do, just less tangible [3].

    I do not think conclusion that the sort of bodies Adam and Eve (who were many[4]) had in the Garden were some sort of tangible tertium quid is justifiable given the scriptural evidence.

    By the way, the “bringing forth after their kind” is a feature of the first account. Neither man nor animal brings forth after their kind in the second, not until after the Fall [5] at any rate.

    [1] 1 Cor 15:39-31
    [2] Ether 3:8,16
    [3] D&C 130:22, 131:7-8
    [4] Moses 1:34, 4:26
    [5] Moses 5:2,5

  10. Sideshow,

    I should say I do not regard vague statements in manuals that cannot be supported from the scriptures as binding doctrine. Such things are useful approximations given according to our weakness, language and our understanding [1].

    The canon is an order of magnitude more definite, so far as the details are concerned. That is why Joseph Smith had to make such extensive edits to the Book of Commandments – he came to realize that certain thing he had written down according to his prior understanding were not completely correct.

    In the Garden, mankind was in the presence of the Lord, only until after the Fall was man cut off from his presence [2]. Now as to death, consider that the first man Adam was the first man of all men [3], and yet humans have lived upon this earth for sixty or one hundred thousand years.

    Thus we can easily conclude that the tangible body Adam received six thousand years ago was not what first made him a man, nor was it what made the first man Adam the first man of all men. But a spirit body meets that qualification easily. The first man Adam became the first man of all men, when he received his spirit body. Before that he was just an intelligence, i.e. a no-body (smile).

    [1] 2 Ne 31:3, D&C 1:24, 29:33
    [2] Alma 42:9, Hel 14:16
    [3] Moses 1:34

  11. Mark,
    Could you tell me what meaning you think the transgression has in the allegory? What law did we have to transgress to get from our premortal state? (I see allegorical value in the story, but I’m not convinced it’s all allegory. Adam and Eve were real people, after all. I have a hard time believing every time our prophets talk about Adam and Eve that they are only speaking in allegorical language.)

    Gordon, I wonder if there is not only some instruction about premortal and/or pre-fall conditions, but also about the postmortal state as well — that terrestrial beings will not have the power of procreation. Not that that answers your question, but I thought it was interesting to think about anyway. :)

  12. Don’t know if this is helpful:

    When Adam and Eve received the first commandment, they were in a transitional state, no longer in the spirit world but with physical bodies not yet subject to death and not yet capable of procreation. They could not fulfill the Father’s first commandment without transgressing the barrier between the bliss of the Garden of Eden and the terrible trials and wonderful opportunities of mortal life.

    “And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin� (2 Ne. 2:23).

    But the Fall was planned, Lehi concludes, because “all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things� (2 Ne. 2:24).
    Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,� Ensign, Nov. 1993, 72

    Some late-nite thoughts….

    Elder Oaks has also talked about how family life is one of the best ways for us to learn to “become” — perhaps there is that tie between eternal progression and family life. The commandment to have families of necessity had to happen in the sphere that was designed for our testing. All of us are part of a family and know that some of our greatest character growth comes as we seek to get along with those closest to us. In addition, growth only comes through opposition, and minus the two trees, there was none in the garden. Having children in that state would not have fulfilled the purposes of God.

    I’m interested to see how the fact that they would have had no children is connected with the remaining in the state of innocence, not knowing good or joy or evil or misery. Without that opportunity to be part of a mortal family, somehow they would have none of the opposition they needed to grow. (I suppose this could be extended to the whole human family, too…without the human family and human condition, none of us would have the opposition needed to grow. (Alas, we are here to provide opposition to each other and put each other’s agency to the test!)

    Eve said, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient� (Moses 5:11).

    Seed and knowing good and evil were two elements that were necessary for their growth. For some reason, because of the nature of the different states, those two things were only possible in a mortal, telestial state.

    To me, this makes the decision Eve and then Adam made that much more compelling. Somehow perhaps they knew that they couldn’t multiply and replenish in their state, and I sense perhaps that Eve understood that the opposition part was also necessary — the knowing good and evil. In the talk quoted above, Elder Oaks reminds us that “Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall.”

    Another thought: The Atonement would have been unnecessary to save children in the terrestrial state, because they would have had no opportunity to sin. Bringing children into an innocent state would have made no sense in terms of eternal progression (the purpose of God’s plan) and would have meant no need for a Savior. Since His role was planned for from the foundations of the world, all things were done according to God’s wisdom that would give us opportunity for growth and to have a Savior to help us back home. We needed family life (personal and general/human) and knowledge of good and evil through experience to experience the “joy of our redemption” in which Eve rejoiced.

    Just thinking out loud…dont’ know if I’m getting to your question or not.

  13. One last thought…if children had been brought into that terrestrial, no-opposition state, they would have had no opportunity to learn and grow by experience. They would have been stuck, progress-less. There would have been no point to their being “born” at least not according to God’s plan.

  14. Thanks to everyone for the comments. As to whether the story is allegory or history or a mix, I am not very interested in that question. I am interested in the story for its symbolic value, so theories about fruit-induced metamophoses don’t interest me very much.

    Does the Garden represent the premortal existence? Hmm. Certainly, Adam and Eve are portrayed as premortal, but if you credit the temple film, they are separated from what we normally refer to as the “premortal existence,” the place where our spirits dwelled before coming to Earth.

    Also, Mark’s “simple” answer — “Spirits do not have children” — seems strangely non-allegorical. That is, it seems like a natural explanation for their failure to have children, sort of like the lack of blood. (And, Mark, this statement — “Spirits have bones and muscles, just as temporal bodies do, just less tangible” — well, let’s just say I’m not buying.)

    m&m offers some thoughts that are close to my own. In my view, Adam and Eve were required to chose to follow the plan of salvation. That plan required a knowledge of good and evil, and before they obtained that, having children would have been pointless. I am not sure whether that is a complete answer, but I think it comes close.

  15. Re #1: “Some have suggested…that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil literally did something to their bodies…”

    Elder Talmage suggests this in “Jesus the Christ” (and references a Conference talk in that book).

    Mark Butler: I like the way you are footnoting the scripture references now.

  16. Starfoxy (3)–
    How will childbirth work in the Millennium then, with no pain and suffering? And eternally? I’m sure there’s a way for it to be painfree…

    And it seems like the fruit had to die, if they were eating it, so in some sense there was plant death already.

    Maybe I missed an earlier discussion of all this somewhere, but does anyone have a good answer for my kids on how the dinosaurs fit with the garden/scriptural history?

  17. So far the comments have proven that Gordon should have stuck with the “All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.”

  18. I don’t have time to go into a lot of detail, and it would all be speculation anyway, but my short response is as follows:

    The significance of Adam and Eve is that they were (a) the first beings to become accountable for their actions, and (b) the common ancestors of all subsequent beings to become accountable. Had they never fulfilled condition (a), they would never have been able to fulfill condition (b). I believe they still could have had children, its just that those children would have had no significance to us.

  19. I don’t know if someone else has already split these hairs, but the passage doesn’t say they were incapable, ie. “couldn’t have children.” It says *wouldn’t*, not *couldn’t*. In other words, they were physically capable.

  20. The “Adam and Eve had no blood” theory actually comes from Orson Pratt and is also found in the Bible Dictionary.

    “Death had no dominion over his tabernacle: the principle of blood which flows in the mortal tabernacles of men did not exist in his [Adam’s] immortal body; but his veins and arteries contained a fluid of a far purer nature than that of blood: in other words, they were filled with the spirit of life, which was calculated to preserve them in immortality.”

    Now, whether I believe that or not is another thing.

    This is actually an interesting discussion. The “innocence” argument is fairly convincing. They didn’t really know how. And how would they?

  21. Anita (16) I’ve never understood the Millenium to be free of pain and suffering, I’ve always understood it to be the mortal world where Satan is bound, Christ reigns and resurrection is instant. This may well be ignorance on my part, so if you have a reference of some kind then I will happily concede that there probably is a painfree way to give birth. I can’t help but think that painfree birth would require such a drastic change in anatomy, or human development that there is just no other way.

    As far as childbirth in eternity goes, few things are more appalling to me than the idea that I or others will spend eternity pregnant with either physical or spiritual children. I think that any sort of creation that happens in the celestial realm will be a completely different ball of wax- so much so that we couldn’t justifiably compare it to the current methods.

  22. I think that the tree of knowledge of good and evil was just that- partaking of it allowed them to see with their natural eyes and not their spiritual eyes. After eating the fruit their natural eyes were opened and they then saw and felt in their bodies that they were attracted to each other in an intimate way. Only the physical man can and is capable of being sensual and giving way to body appetites. This is why they tried to hide their nakedness when God came looking for them because they now realized that they could have and fulfill new body appetites and it was this itself that caused them to have shame before God. If they would not have partaken of the fruit of knowledge they would have had no intimate desires towards each other and thus would have been uncapable of having children!

  23. C’mon, Eve had a headache all the time, but when it came down to her leaving the garden without Adam, she caught him with guile, “you know, Adam, if you fall with me, I won’t have a headache tonight.”

    Actually, there is just a lot we don’t know. We could speculate all we want of it being an allegory, about their blood or lack thereof, child-like naivety, or what not.

    When it comes down to it, we don’t know everything, perhaps because God doesn’t want us to know or feels like it is of such small importance there is no need to explain. I think the next verse is important, as Gordon would have used.

    “But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.�

    We can guess all we want, but since we don’t know, it becomes silly speculation.

  24. The garden narrative has many incarnations in Mormon thought. There is the literalist NDBF of JFSII. There is the spirit fall that many on this thread have outlined. Brigham Young also had a narrative, which is no longer popular, but interesting:

    they will go into the garden, and continue to eat and drink of the fruits of the corporeal world, until this grosser matter is diffused sufficiently through their celestial bodies to enable them, according to the established laws, to produce mortal tabernacles… (JD vol. 6 pg. 275)

  25. Rob (#22),

    It sounds like you’re saying that “body appetites,” human nakedness and “intimate desires” are inherently wicked and should cause shame. I don’t think that’s the case. We’ve been told over the pulpit many times (e.g. “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments” by Elder Holland) that sexual intimacy is a God-given, joyful, inspiring and sanctifying facet of married life. Having been married for nearly five years now, I can attest to the veracity of this teaching. Of course, we are to overcome the natural man by yielding “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.” This does not preclude bodily urges, but rather encompasses them within the bounds set by God.

    That said, I personally agree with Ardis (#2, and I think Rob’s making the same general point) and N.G. (#5).

  26. Gordon, you might find it useful to review David P. Wright, “Sex and Death in the Garden of Eden,” Sunstone 110 (June-July 1998). Unfortunately, that particular issue is not yet up on the Sunstone website, so you may have to put your hands on a print copy if you don’t have the New Mormon Studies cd-rom.

    For a version of this material directed to non-lds scholars, see David P. Wright,”Holiness, Sex, and Death in the Garden of Eden,” Biblica 77/3 (1996; appeared 1997): 305-329.

    As I recall, Wright takes the view that Adam and Eve could have had sex and children in the Garden of Eden, and that the idea they could not is a specifically Mormon gloss. But it has been a long time since I read Wright on this issue. (David Wright is a professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Brandeis and former LDS.)

  27. Starfoxy (21)–I don’t have time to do a ton of research right now, but I guess the verse I’m thinking of is D&C 101:29, no sorrow, which to me also equals no sorrow for pain, but I suppose that’s stretching it. If I find whatever else I might have read to create that idea, I’ll let you know.

  28. FWIW, I’m among the hair-splitters who thinks they *could* but never *would* have.  But then, I’m obviously a hopeless heretic anyway because I think that what they did was an actual sin, not a mere transgression.  

  29. FWIW, I am with Starfoxy on the childbirth issue. It seems to me that the combination of blood, water, and spirit one finds in childbirth is directly related to the sacrifice of Christ in the Atonement. Birth and Death are thus connected to mortality and are both introduced in the Garden because the Garden introduces the Fall and the Atonement. Um, look here for some scriptural support.

  30. mistaben (25)

    I too believe sexual intimacy between husband and wife is the most wonderous and joyful expressions that can be made. Satan made it out to them that seeing each other and having feelings towards each other was shameful in God’s eyes even though it wasn’t. They sinned not because of their physical attractions towrd each others nakedness but because they had listened and obeyed the will of the devil.

  31. Tim J, #20: “The “innocenceâ€? argument is fairly convincing. They didn’t really know how. And how would they?”

    That argument relies on Adam and Eve having no sexual instincts. Maybe that was the case; the Fall changed them so that they gained the instincts we all have.

    Re: Hair-splitting “would” and “could”: if you are going to read “would” in that way for the “would have had no children”, then you have to read it that way for the whole verse. While it is possible to read “would but not necessarily couldn’t” in that part of the verse, the other uses of “would” are clearly not used that way. They are used to illustrate the absolute, unequivocable consequence of what precedes. (In other words, I think the hair-splitting is a big stretch.)

  32. I think it’s worth noting that modern prophets have said repeatedly that they couldn’t have children — they were not capable of procreation. (See, for example, the Elder Oaks snippet I included above.)

    On one hand, I agree that there is much we don’t know. But I believe we are supposed to seek to understand this story, so I like hearing different people’s points of views, and I like having discussions like this to bring it to the surface a little.

  33. J. Jenkins (#28),

    I am with you on your second point. The key scripture is D&C 20-19-20, which states that mankind fell by transgressing the holy laws to love, serve, and worship only the true, and living God. I recently wrote about this ad nauseam here:

    M. Butler, The Unfortunate Fall, Millennial Star (web log), 10/11/2006

    m&m (#11),

    Rather than me repeating myself, I suggest you refer to the above referenced post as well.

    Gordon (#14),

    There is scriptural evidence for the proposition that spirits neither have (biological) children nor were born viviparously (biologically) either. The first man Adam (not necessarily the one we know) was the first man of all men, had a body formed of the dust of the earth, and he was also many.[1] Eve, who was the first of all women, and also many [2], became the mother of all living, but not until after the Fall [3].

    It should be apparent that there is no account of viviparous (biological) spirit birth in the scriptures, and a rather detailed account of the alternative [6], which I call the surrection, apparently a foreshadowing of the re-surrection.

    Being born of the spirit, spiritually begotten sons and daughters unto Christ [5] is something quite different. Not that heavenly fathers and mothers do not figure into the picture.

    Genesis 1 and Moses 2 is not even part of the same account as the succeeding chapters, which causes much confusion relative to the command to multiply and replenish [4], which is only in the shorter version.

    [1] Moses 1:34
    [2] Moses 4:26
    [3] Moses 5:2
    [4] Moses 2:28
    [5] Mosiah 5:7
    [6] Moses 3:7

  34. m&m (#32),

    I think all evidence in the scriptures supports that conclusion.

    Gordon (#14 continued),

    It seems to me that the account in Ether 3 confirms quite conclusively that spirits look as if they have flesh (i.e. muscles) and even blood. The Lord said to Ether that “even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.” [1]

    The next best evidence is D&C 129 which makes it clear it is not trivial to distinguish between a spirit and a resurrected personage, at least not by appearance (when they come in glory – when not in glory a spirit is invisible, and a resurrected personage looks like an ordinary man).

  35. I think it’s possible to go insane trying to reconcile every detail concerning the various fall narratives into a single coherent interpretation, be it literal or allegorical. For me, the easiest explanation is that the details are not intended to mesh; they have been added piecemeal through various retellings, added for different purposes that reflect the insights and the emphases of the prophets that are relating the story. The version we have in Genesis appears to have this kind of layering (layered perhaps by inspired retellers who preceded Moses); the versions we have through modern revelation (BoM, POGP, temple) have added further details from Nephi, Moses, Abraham, and Joseph Smith.

    Some parts appear to me to be allegorical of the inevitable fall of every human from childhood naivety to adult sinfulness. Other parts contribute etiologies, answering questions as diverse as “what makes humans different from the rest of the animal kingdom?”, “why is childbirth so painful?”, and “why do serpents have no legs?”

    Still other parts (and I suspect these parts include especially those elements added by modern revelation) appear to be allegorical of our descent from a paradisaical spiritual realm to this mortal and flawed existence, as Mark Butler and others have pointed out. The business concerning the inability of Adam and Eve to procreate prior to the fall, if it has any importance at all, appears to be an element of the pre-existence-to-earth allegory. But clearly not every aspect of every fall narrative will mesh with this allegory.

  36. Although Adam and Eve were in a state of innocence, and partook of the tree of life, there is no evidence that the earth or other plants and animals were necessarily in the same state. Adam and Eve were probably engaging in the act of marriage. By eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil it produced a change in them whereby their cells began to divide, their biologic clocks started ticking, and they then became fertile and thus able to have children and later suffer physical death.

  37. I am not sure the first estate was all that paradisaical. The Fall seems to have come fairly early on. There was a major contention that lead to a major war, and not only the fall, but the outright rebellion of a third of the hosts of heaven. That doesn’t sound very pacific to me.

  38. As a current MD/PhD student, I have learned that it is ok to say “I don’t know.” I don’t know exactly why Adam and Eve couldn’t have children, and if they could, then perhaps their children would be spirit children. Perhaps it was innocence in that regard, and certainly their biology would not have been the same before the fall as it was after. Other than that, I don’t know.

  39. Forgive me a rhetorical flourish (“paradisaical”) if you will, though there’s no way of knowing the duration of conflict-free pre-serpent Eden. Just as we have no way of knowing how far back the antebellum preexistance extends.

  40. BrainJ #31: “That argument relies on Adam and Eve having no sexual instincts. Maybe that was the case; the Fall changed them so that they gained the instincts we all have.”

    It doesn’t require an assumption that they didn’t have the instincts that “we all have.” It only requires them to have immature instincts as children do.

    John Jenkins #28: It seems that to accept the idea of sin, you must reject the idea of innocence. Do you?


    We mere humans can take adults in the prime of their reproductive years and cause them to be temporarily sterile with a patch, a pill, a teaspoon of liquid, or a bit of plastic–and permanently sterile with a snip of the scissors. What more could God do? I tend to think God is an elegant designer. In my mind he probably used the simplest way that would meet all his purposes. It will be interesting to find out what that was.

  41. I don’t think the idea of absolute innocence is tenable. They were not complete ignoramuses. According to D&C 20:19 they knew at at least three commandments. And by transgression of those three they did sin [6].

    In any case, it is relatively easy to boot strap your way out of innonence – it is called education. And apparently Lucifer tried to give them too much too soon [1], hoping to hijack their loyalty or something like that. We cannot bear all things now, but must learn as we are ready [2]. Perhaps that is why the Church has many doctrines, but the Lord has not revealed his own systematic theology, or in other words how all the doctrines relate to each other in their fulness.

    In any case, as one becomes aware of the knowledge of the law, it is much easier to sin, not only because you know the law (and are held responsible for that knowledge [3]), but because it is easy to be lifted up in pride [4], and think that you know better than God, thus becoming a law unto oneself [5], which is sin.

    [1] Alma 12:9
    [2] D&C 50:40; 78:18, etc.
    [3] Rom 2:14; 3:20
    [4] 2 Ne 9:28-29
    [5] D&C 88:35
    [6] D&C 20:20

  42. AMS, #41: Thanks for the correction. It’s an important one, but I think the my main point still stands; namely, that to assume that the reason Adam and Eve did not have children is because they didn’t know how to have sex requires that we believe that they did not have the instincts typical of adults—and we typically think of them as having adult bodies, no? And there are reasons to believe that was the case.

    I like your idea of a Garden of Eden birth control pill. Maybe all the soy-based meat substitutes they ate…? {smile}

  43. “I think it’s worth noting that modern prophets have said repeatedly that they couldn’t have children — they were not capable of procreation.”

    This is true, but I would submit that it’s a case of GA misreading the passage, like Joseph Fielding Smith’s misreading of 3 Nephi 11:1 in Answers to Gospel Questions v.4, p. 25. :)

    The follow-up question is, what do you do when a GA teaching is based on a scriptural misreading?

  44. “According to D&C 20:19 they knew at least three commandments. And by transgression of those three they did sin [6].”

    What three commandments are you referring to, Mark?

    1. Love Him
    2. Serve Him
    3. Worship Him

    Are these the three, or are you combining the above into one.

  45. “It seems that to accept the idea of sin, you must reject the idea of innocence. Do you?”

    What is a sin?

    And why did the Lord have to forgive them of what they did in the Garden? (Moses 6:53)

  46. M&M, that’s unfair to put Ben up against our beloved leaders, when all he is trying to do is put 3 Nephi 11:1 up against Answers to Gospel Questions v.4, p. 25, both of which come from our beloved leaders.

  47. “What do you do when a GA teaching is based on a scriptural misreading?”

    You try to figure out whether the teaching originated in revelation and then was given cultural weight with (a misreading of) scripture, in which case you give thanks for continuing revelation and its symbiotic relationship with a wonderfully malleable scriptural canon, or whether it originated in a misreading, pure and simple, in which case you wait about ten years and then publish a deferential and discrete course-correction in BYU Studies.

    How do you figure THAT out? Dunno, unless your dad is the GA in question.

  48. bejing, I was referring to his assertion that the leaders are wrong concerning Adam and Eve’s lack of ability to procreate pre-fall. I wasn’t addressing the other reference you mention. Just to clarify.

  49. Mark #42: “I don’t think the idea of absolute innocence is tenable. They were not complete ignoramuses.”

    My six-year-old isn’t an ignoramus either. He taught himself to read at two (and, yes, I used to think people who said that were lying, too), he is a computer genius, and he can make chocolate milk (the most impressive and important of all). Still God says that he’s not accountable.

    God was willing to set an arbitrary line to distinguish accountable beings from non-accountable. Arbitrary, at least, in the sense that we can most likely agree that there isn’t some incredibly profound developmental change in children between 11:59 pm at the end of their eigth year and 12:00 midnight at hte beginning of their ninth. And, in fact, we can note that children can be baptized anytime on their eighth birthday–even if the time of their birth hasn’t actually passed or they live in a different time zone (in other words, before they have actually been out of the womb for eight full calendar years).

    My point, if I can find it, is that the incremental development children experience, the increased understanding they experience, doesn’t translate into incremental accountability…at least not until the day of their eighth birthday. As I understand it, until they are eight, they are “saved.” Then, suddenly, they are accountable for what they understand.

    I don’t see why the same couldn’t apply in the Garden. Why couldn’t God declare them (or keep them) “innocent enough” to be declared unaccountable? Even though they understood some stuff about what it means to be nice, be good, be obedient?

    My baby turned three today. He knows the difference between mean and nice, too. :) But I still think he’s going to be absolved for the diaper genie incident.

    BrianJ #43: “…to assume that the reason Adam and Eve did not have children is because they didn’t know how to have sex requires that we believe that they did not have the instincts typical of adults—and we typically think of them as having adult bodies, no?”

    I don’t think one need follow the other. As you, I have always thought of them having adult bodies–although I don’t recall a doctrinal source for that thought–still I don’t assume that an adult body requires a certain level of sexual drive or that, even if it did, that God couldn’t curtail that. After all, WE can. :)

    But, as you say, I really don’t assume that they didn’t know how to procreate or couldn’t figure it out. There are so many possibilities that I’ve never thought it worth wondering about. I mean, maybe they figured it out the first day and it went on all the time, but Adam was on Benadryl.

    Beijing #48: “…when all he is trying to do is put 3 Nephi 11:1 up against Answers to Gospel Questions v.4, p. 25, both of which come from our beloved leaders.”

    In fairness, I think Ben is putting up *his interpretation* of a scripture against the interpretation of one of our leaders. That’s probably not the same as comparing 3 Nephi in the pure Adamic only he understands to the crazy rantings of JF Smith. ;)

  50. Alison (#51),

    The difference is the Lord did hold them accountable and condemned them for it [1]. I understand them to be a whole society of course, and of course in the manner of their condemnation he prepared the way for their (or our) redemption. Ignorant or not, a lost and fallen people is still lost and fallen [2]. They are just more fallen when they sin contrary to their own knowledge [3]. As Alma said, they brought this state upon themselves by their “own disobedience” [4].

    Tim J (#45),

    Yes those are the three referred to, and which I was referring to. Though of course there are many ways by which they may have broken any and all of the three commandments. All sins tend revolve around some combination of pride and unrighteous desire, or lust [5]. And as the scripture says, by violation of those commandments they became sensual and devilish [6], so it would seem something in those broad categories was involved. And as the scripture says, pride goes before the fall [7].

    [1] Moses 4:22-25
    [2] Mosiah 1:5
    [3] Mosiah 2:27-39
    [4] Alma 42:12
    [5] James 1:14-15
    [6] D&C 20:20
    [7] Prov 16:18

  51. I’m simply saying that what our leaders have said about the topic doesn’t actually correspond to the scripture they refer to when they say it. If there’s post-scriptural revelation behind it, I’m willing to knuckle down and receive it. If, on the other hand, it’s a (mis)reading that has become rooted in tradition, then I don’t see it as being authoritative. And on that point, Joseph Fielding Smith would agree with me :)

  52. I’m more likely to go with Brigham Young’s statement that what we have here in Genesis are baby stories, not to be taken literally. I think when we take them too seriously, it leads us to waste time making up more baby stories. There is value in stories. At some point, we are all to consider ourselves as if we were Adam and Eve. They are archtypes. That’s the value in the story. There is no reason to believe that it is accurate history as we understand it today. So, don’t worry about Adam’s belly button or why they couldn’t have kids, except in how that might relate to you personally in your role as Adam or Eve.

  53. Thanks for the response, Mark. I’m not sure I understand one point about accountability, however. The fact that a consequence occurs as the result of an action, isn’t the same as whether we are “condemned” in the sense of being guilty of sin. God said, don’t eat it, you’ll die. They ate it, they became mortal. How is that markedly different from me telling my son not to touch the fire, because he’ll get burned–and then having him in pain when he’s burned from touching the fire? More to the point, why does it require lack of innocence, sin, or accountability for sin?

    Thanks for the clarification, Ben. How are you sure that they are misreading?

    Interesting post, Rob.

  54. Alison,

    If it is not clear, I do not believe that Adam and Eve (who were many) partook of the actual fruit of an actual tree, but committed a variety of sins summarized in D&C 20:19-20. From apocryphal accounts it appears what happened is Lucifer decided to initiate the body of mankind into the mysteries of godliness all at once instead of gradually as was the Father’s plan, to turn their loyalty.

    And with that understanding mankind became lifted up in pride and started to pursue their own desires and ideas, rather than humbly submitting to the plan the Father had laid out for them. And thus they died spiritually, withdrawing themselves from the Spirit of the Lord in a variety of diverse heresies, schisms, and divisions.

    And as we know the worst of them came out in open rebellion against God, and would not accept reproof, but followed after Lucifer, who aimed to establish a kingdom greater than that of the Most High and thus they fell, were cast out and became subject to the former, who became known as Satan, or the devil from that point on. And they became known as the sons of Perdition.

  55. Allison: The scripture is using a conditional statement in the past tense. “If not for x, then z *would* not have happened.” That’s different than saying “if not for x, then z *could* not have happened under any conditions.” 2 Nephi clearly says would, not could. The first statement rephrased, says “given the circumstances, z didn’t happen. Only after x happened (which changed the circumstances) did z happen.” The second says “It is impossible for z to happen without x first.”

    Hair splitting perhaps. But what are blogs for? :)

    BTW, if you pay attention in conference, there are scriptural misquotations, though I haven’t yet heard one that’s significant. I’ve heard one particular example two or three times, namely that “the words of Christ will tell you all things *that* ye should do.” The BoM uses an older less formal relative marker, “the words of Christ will tell you all things *what* ye should do.” Again, inconsquential, but it does show that things can get misquoted.

  56. I think trivial paraphrases are fine, as long as they do not contradict the scriptures. One should always double check on fine distinctions, of course.

  57. Rob (#55): I too find more value in the metaphorical readings than in a literal interpretation. It should be clear from #35 that I think multiple metaphors, stirred vigorously, form our current garden/fall narratives.

    Nevertheless, I think we should be cautious using Brother Brigham’s “baby stories” passage (JD v2:p6) as an endorsement of the metaphorical over the literal. The context of the quote has to do with a single detail of the creation narrative, namely that Adam was created from the dust of the earth. What Brigham’s “baby stories” passage tells us is that he felt free to dismiss particular details of a scriptural narrative when they didn’t mesh with his enahanced spiritual understanding. I think it’s interesting that he chose to dismiss the detail entirely rather than “spiritualizing” it (eg, dust as the natural man).

    A stronger argument that Brigham supported a metaphorical interpretation of the Fall comes from the pre-1990 introduction to the endowment.

  58. Adam and Eve did not have children before the fall for the same reason Santa and Mrs. Claus have not had any children–they are fictional characters, not real people.

  59. That is not what the scriptures say. This one is particularly illuminating:

    It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.
    (Abr 1:3)

  60. Mark, good friend, thank you for correcting my error. I never realized the scriptures said Adam was the first man. Silly me. If the scriptures say it, it must be literally true then. I guess I am now obligated also to believe in talking donkeys, giants, men who live to be 900 years old, a universal flood, women being turned into pillars of salt, etc.

    I do have one question for you, though. I am looking at my Book of Abraham and can’t find where it says what you have quoted in your comment. My copy appears to be a standard Egyptian funeral text for some guy named Horus. My Abraham 1:3 talks about Osiris and stuff like that. There may be something wrong with your translation there.

  61. Re #61: Equality, your answer is beside the point. The question, as I read it, is why the narrative logic of the garden myth requires that A & E have no children. The answer to this question is independent of the ontological status of Adam and Eve.

  62. Re #66. It was a joke. Ontologically (and perhaps even ornithologically if dealing with birds), didoes are beside the point. (Note: to those who may think I just used inappropriate language, I should like to point out that there is no “L” in the synonymological word I used vicariously for “joke”).

  63. John (#60), I hear you about using Brigham Young here. We all know he had some other very different views about Adam, and seems to have taken them quite literally. That pre-1990 reference you mentioned has always stuck with me, and given me comfort. I also liked Hugh Nibley’s view that there are many Adams serving as archtypes for various stages of our development–including the Adam wandering around before being placed in the garden.

  64. Equality,

    The primary reason I quoted Abraham 1:3 is there Abraham refers to an Adam who was the first man (and first father) from before the foundation of the earth, clearly not necessarily the same man as the Adam we know.

    So whether one thinks that there is some sort of evidence strictly contrary to the existence of Adam and Eve as literal persons on this earth or not, it is at least the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures that there was a first man of all men [1], a first father, and a first woman also [2], whether on this mortal sphere or some other somewhere in the beginning of time, time of course typically measured from the advent or reign of some king or another.

    [1] Moses 1:34
    [2] Moses 4:26

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