MR: “The Redemption of Eve: Joseph Smith and Goethe’s Faust”

A new issue of The Mormon Review is available, with an essay on Goethe’s Faust by Terryl Givens. The article is available at:

Terryl Givens, “The Redemption of Eve: Joseph Smith and Goethe’s Faust,” The Mormon Review, vol.1 no. 4 [HTML] [PDF]

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107 comments for “MR: “The Redemption of Eve: Joseph Smith and Goethe’s Faust”

  1. September 14, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    I love the Mormon Review so far.

    I wonder if Eve knew or was warned, as Joseph Smith was, that she would go down in history as being known for good or evil. Many would see her as evil, but others with more knowledge would understand her dilemma more deeply and the necessity of her final choice.

    I was discussing the Garden of Eden with a nonmember last week, and we were discussing Eve’s choice. I said, “isn’t it interesting that much of the Christian world sees Eve as a villain, but when you think about it the Garden of Eden seems perfectly dreary. I mean, who wants to sit around a garden for eons without having any spark, any chance of advancement, any place else to go?” He thought for a moment and then heartily agreed that Eve was a heroine.

  2. Daniel
    September 14, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Why is there a desire to “redeem” Eve at all?

    The story is very clear in ALL of scripture as well as in the Temple: God said unequivocally: “Thou shalt not eat of it [the fruit]…”

    When God says “Thou shalt not…” I think it behooves us to take Him at his word!

    Thou shalt not kill…
    Thou shalt not commit adultery…
    Thou shalt not steal…
    Thou shalt have no other gods before me…

    So all these people trying to “redeem” Eve are telling us we cannot trust the word of God? When God says, “Thou shalt not eat of the fruit of the tree” he is really winking at Eve and saying “I really want you to partake of the fruit”?!

    So when God says “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is he saying that with a wink, too? He really does want us to commit adultery? And murder?

    To preserve Eve’s righteousness, you would sacrifice God’s trustworthiness?

    Such an abomination is not for me. Let Eve be responsible for her own sins – especially the SIN wherein she BROKE GOD’S DIRECT COMMANDMENT!

    Eve had no priesthood authority. What she says in scripture is no more “true” than what Korihor says.

    She was wrong. God is right. End of story.

  3. oudenos
    September 14, 2009 at 2:54 pm


    Your comment makes you out to be an ignorant wretch.

  4. Daniel
    September 14, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    How so? Please explain…

  5. Nate Oman
    September 14, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Daniel: If one reads the story of the fall in the Book of Moses the actions of Eve and Adam in partaking of the fruit is portrayed in a very different light. The passage quoted at the end of Givens’s essay is a nice example of its rather more nuanced approach to the story. What do you make of these scriptures?

  6. Daniel
    September 14, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    First of all, my “take” is NOT based on the assumption that there is anything worthy or righteous about defending (or redeeming) Eve. LDS theology, ethics, culture, etc. can remain intact with Eve being a sinful, fallible, mistaken woman who made a big mistake. I don’t see any reason why Eve needs to be made out to be more than that.

    Next, there can be no question that God commanded Adam and Eve NOT to partake of the fruit. He “forbade” it! He did not make it conditional (i.e., “I forbid it except…”).

    So all the “nuance” (read “subtil” – see Genesis 3:1) in the world cannot change what God commanded and forbade.

    AFTER having disobeyed God, Adam and Eve, in their “lost and fallen” state, made excuses, and rationalized what they had done, just as most mortals do: “for because of my transgression my eyes are opened” (exactly what Satan had 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.”

    The language of Adam and Eve is the language they adopted from Lucifer, who is “a liar from the beginning” and “the father of lies”. I read EVERYTHING Lucifer to have said to be a lie. There was NO TRUTH in what he said.

  7. Daniel
    September 14, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    I am still wondering how my comment makes me “an ignorant wretch”???

  8. September 14, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Daniel, what would have happened to the other spirits in heaven (ie, us — you and I and everybody reading this blog) if Adam and Eve had never transgressed? Indeed, what would have happened to them? Would they ever have progressed? They would have stayed in the Garden forever, so what, in your opinion, would have happened next?

  9. Nathan N.
    September 14, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    This is absolutely brilliant! Who would have expected the unusual affinity between Eve, the Mother of All Living, and Faust, the Medieval Malcontent? Givens has managed to explain a critical point of departure between Orthodox Christianity and Restorationist Christianity through the simple, yet agonizing, predicaments of these two unlikely fellow strivers. What their stories show is humanity desperate to break outside of itself, longing to move beyond its own boundaries. Perhaps that is what separates man from beast: one is content with its nature; the other is bent on transcending it.

    “Soul-starvation, or God-alienation”: Is this predicament itself an illusion of false choices? Is humankind destined to live out an intractable contradiction? How can it be that the God who would give us all things requires sin as the price of admission? In neither Joseph Smith’s account of Eve nor Goethe’s account of Faust we do not see a thorough, logical working-out of the contradiction. But, what we do see in both accounts is divine reward to those who take risks and err on the side of “self-actualization.” The God of Joseph Smith, and Goethe, is emphatically not a God of safety and stasis, but a God of venture.

    The eventual redemption of Faust in Goethe’s telling reveals what God ultimately requires of us: continual striving to achieve self-actualization, not, per the orthodox telling, mere obedience. Yet it is clear to me that Eve’s story and Faust’s story is not everyman’s story. This predicament seems to be only for the “strivers.” And who can honestly say that all humanity strives like Eve and Faust.

  10. Daniel
    September 14, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    I see nothing in scripture that supports the contention that God gave contradictory commandments. There is nothing in scripture to support the idea that Adam and Eve’s “sin” was a necessary (let alone sufficient) condition for them to procreate.

    Indeed, there is every reason to believe that God would not give them a commandment they could not keep (1 Nephi 3:7). God could not continue to be God if He did such a thing.

    Instead, go re-read your scriptures. You will find ample evidence in the text (with the exception of Lehi’s senile ramblings) that the REASON Adam and Eve could not procreate after Eve partook of the fruit was NOT because they lacked the knowledge or the physiological ability to do so, but merely because Eve would have been in a different location – cast out of the Garden! Adam partook under the false belief that if they stayed together, they would at least be able to keep the other commandment. But this was a deception. By the time they had listened to the Father of all Lies, Adam and Eve were not thinking clearly or truthfully.

    The tendency for LDS to justify sin and to say that sin is “the price of admission” into mortality is a distortion of God and a distortion of morality. It is an abomination.

  11. Kristine
    September 14, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    I really want to like this essay, but I find the glorification of Faust pretty distressing. The comparison to Eve is particularly distasteful, I think, insofar as Faust’s sin (and it is sin, no mere transgression of an arbitrary or impossible law) is to ravage an innocent girl and then refuse to do honorably by his own child, who dies in a horrifying infanticide. To suggest that his acquisition of knowledge, which occurs through violations of every notion of human morality, not just arbitrary religious orthodoxy, would vitiate the notion of human agency or capacity for morality. If Faust’s “striving” (which, besides the aforementioned ravishing and abandonment of Gretchen and her baby, includes flooding people out of their homes for self-aggrandizing projects, consorting with demons and witches, and making a deliberate, fully-informed bargain with the devil) can somehow be redemptive, I think we’re plunged into a Calvinist universe where grace is merely God’s somewhat arbitrary obliteration of human wickedness and not a meaningful gift to creatures endowed with the potential for godlike understanding and moral action.

    But really, other than that… ;)

  12. Raymond Takashi Swenson
    September 14, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Let’s see–Both Lehi, a prophet who was admitted into God’s throne room, and Adam (Archangel Michael) and Even tell us that they could not have had children, could not have brought us into mortality, if they had not Fallen out of their original condition in the Garden, and passed along to us a mortal, fallible condition in which we have the choice of failure but the opportunity of redemption. They make it clear that this was part of the PLAN, one of the three essential steps (as Bruce McConkie said), of Creation, Fall, and Atonement, that brought us from our pre-mortal existence, through gaining a physical body, and on into resurrection and redemption and exaltation. All of us must go emulate Adam and Eve. It is the path God laid out. There is no other.

    Daniel’s notion that God’s commandment in Genesis, to not partake of the Tree of Knowledge, is the totality of what God said about it, is incorrect, if you accept the Book of Mormon, Book of Moses, and Temple endowment as authoritative. This is one instance (among others) in which the Bible is incomplete.

    And frankly, the notion that Daniel espouses above, that God’s original plan for humanity was frustrated by Eve and Adam, raises all sorts of questions about the omniscience and omnipotence of that version of God, including His inability to make a man and woman who would strictly obey Him. If Jesus was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”, the Atonement, and indeed the Incarnation, were not Plan B, but Plan A, just as the PGP and temple make clear.

  13. Daniel
    September 14, 2009 at 7:43 pm


    Look up gnosticism. Your putrid doctrine necessitating sin in God’s “plan” is a remnant of grotesque gnosticism. A God such as the one you describe is no god at all, but a monster. Such a God cannot be trusted.

    Lehi was never “admitted into God’s throne room” and as I have pointed out, neither Adam nor Eve were perfect, omniscient, omnipotent, creatures. They were wrong and in open rebellion against God. They were punished for their rebellion against God.

    Your twisted doctrine would have people following Eve’s sinful footsteps, tasting the bitter so they might better appreciate the sweet; sinning so that they might better appreciate repentance.

    It is an abomination no matter how you try to twist it! It is the doctrine of the Father of All Lies!

  14. Daniel
    September 14, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Kristine, if I were a literary person, I would have tried to say it just as you have.

    Amen! Kudos for fine writing and fine thinking!

  15. September 14, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Fascinating article and interesting discussion.

    Daniel, while I actually agree with some of what you say, I have to say that Adam & Eve’s sin (yes, it was a sin) was necessary. God knew that opposition (sin) was an essential part of His plan for us. But He could not be the one to introduce sin into this world much like He could not be the one to save the world from sin. Each required another.

    I don’t think the commandments were conflicting either, but that’s heading down a different road and my views are well beyond mainstream.

  16. Kristine
    September 14, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    That’s interesting, Daniel, because I think I disagree with you, too. I _do_ think Eve’s choice is noble, and that’s why I don’t like the comparison with Faust. There’s a difference between a transgression that brings misery and difficult knowledge on oneself, and a transgression that forces misery on others while depriving them of the chance to gain knowledge.

  17. Daniel
    September 14, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Tim, why do you equate sin and “opposition”? Are you invoking an Hegelian dialectic here?

    What exactly was it about Eve’s “sin” that was so noble? She disobeyed a direct commandment from God.

    Imagine her situation: She makes covenants with God and Adam. Then she believes the liar and sins by partaking of the fruit that God had “forbidden”. Now what?

    She was also supposed to remain with Adam. And they were supposed to have children. But she can’t remain with Adam if she is “out” and he is “in”. And if they are not together, then obviously they cannot procreate.

    We need no twisted metaphysics (of gnosticism) to explain what happened. Adam and Eve fell into the common error of thinking they could fix one sin with another – Eve had already sinned, so they figured if Adam sinned as well, that would somehow fix things. It only made it worse.

    The evidence is in the text. Once Eve had eaten the fruit, she says to Adam that he must also partake because if he doesn’t, she will be cast out. They would not have children because they ALREADY KNEW how children were created and they knew being apart would make it impossible!

    What is so difficult about taking God at His Word? He means what He says! When He says “Thou Shalt Not…” he MEANS it!

    Why must we allow literary muddleheadedness to twist and distort God and the human condition to make it a tawdry Faustian bit of rubbish?

  18. September 14, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Daniel, one of the problems with repeating a stand with such vehemence is that it makes winning the argument more important than being right. Mormons have always recognized a difference between Eve’s choice (a transgression) and breaking a commandment (a sin). Dallin H. Oaks explains the difference in this conference talk, where he also writes:

    Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall (see Bruce R. McConkie, “Eve and the Fall,” Woman, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979, pp. 67–68). Joseph Smith taught that it was not a “sin,” because God had decreed it (see The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980, p. 63). Brigham Young declared, “We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least” (in Journal of Discourses, 13:145). Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. … This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin … for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 1:114–15).

    Searching for “eve transgression” will turn up a lot of other talks by a lot of other general authorites setting forth the Mormon position on Eve’s action. I mean, really, you could hardly accuse Joseph Fielding Smith of being soft on sin!

  19. September 14, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    I see nothing in scripture that supports the contention that God gave contradictory commandments.

    Most read 2 Ne 2 as entailing this.

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

    The contradiction is to not eat the fruit and replenish the earth. The near universal LDS reading is that those were in conflict.

    The reading that things would have stayed the same merely because Adam was in and Eve out seems hard to attribute to Lehi here. Lehi clearly is putting an opposition between change and stasis is the verse and seeing change as important.

    I don’t think one should read that as a Hegelian dialectic in the least. I think it pretty straightforward though that Lehi sees acting and freedom as united and requiring a kind of true opposition. The mainstream view of this life as a necessary testing ground for our eternal progression is part and parcel of this view. If Adam and Eve could have achieved everything in the garden then one is effectively saying mortality is unnecessary.

  20. September 14, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Ardis, I confess I don’t think I ultimately buy the sin/transgression distinction to the degree it is pushed. Clearly one can talk about degree of sin based upon degree of comprehension. But the way it is discussed often goes beyond that.

    Interestingly the attempt to praise Eve depends upon a lack of understanding necessary to make Eve not ultimately accountable for sin. Yet if her understanding is so childlike that she can’t sin surely she also can’t be praised for making such an important choice by the very same logic.

    So I confess that while I understand the drive to praise Eve, I think it’s really pushed too far.

    Part of the problem is the story in its key form is distilled to such a raw essence as to be more mythic than historic. (And no, that’s not saying there was no Adam and Eve – just that the presentation is more about archetypes) Lehi in particular really reminds me of Paul in Romans the way he treats the story. Not that Paul reads Adam quite the same way, but I think Paul’s conception of Law is very similar to what Lehi sees Adam as enabling.

  21. September 14, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    “What exactly was it about Eve’s “sin” that was so noble? She disobeyed a direct commandment from God.”

    Oh, I’m actually with you on this one. Eve did sin and she did so with disobedience in mind as Talmage says in Articles of Faith:

    “Eve was fulfilling the foreseen purposes of God by the part she took in the great drama of the fall; yet she did not partake of the forbidden fruit with that object in view, but with intent to act contrary to the divine command..”

    I don’t think there is much difference (none really) between sin and transgression. Any effort to separate the two in regards to Adam and Eve is only doing so to cast the two in a more positive light.

    “Tim, why do you equate sin and “opposition”?”

    Maybe not sin, but temptation?

  22. September 14, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Kristine, I agree that the reading here is odd. I don’t think that we can call it moral to choose power of a sort that involves grinding on the faces of the poor. Indeed, Faust’s choice is as much for power and control of others as it is for knowledge!

  23. September 14, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    Kristine #12, I don’t want to try and guess Professor Givens’ mind, but I don’t think he is talking about the assault on Gretchen or the destruction of the farms, not to mention the murders of Baucis and Philemon. All of these speak Faust’s faults and eventual downfall (even though only temporary). Rather I think Givens is focusing on Faust’s deal with Mephistopheles as a way to gain a knowledge that he could not otherwise obtain. This knowledge, like that sough by Eve, is not propositional but is affective. It can only be gained by actually experiencing the thing that is to be known. True knowledge of pain, pleasure, and even good and evil can never be taught or studied they must be personally experienced. As I see it, this was the dilemma of Eve and the dilemma of Faust.

    Daniel #14, Am I to understand that the the Book of Mormon through Lehi is teaching the doctrine of the Father of All Lies?

  24. September 14, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    If the hair-splitting legalism isn’t convincing as an explanation, Clark, we still have the fact that Mormonism does not condemn Eve for her action — we have a very different attitude toward her (Daniel’s view is typically Christian, not Mormon).

  25. Julie M. Smith
    September 14, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    Methinks Daniel = troll.

    Please, people, don’t feed him.

  26. Kristine
    September 14, 2009 at 9:06 pm


    Fair enough, but it seems to me that drawing the comparison so narrowly requires omissions large enough to become a distortion of Goethe. It seems to me that a huge part of what Act II is getting at is that the kind of knowledge Faust wants is ultimately destructive–that he can no more say “verweile doch” to the moment in which he has acquired his expansive knowledge at the expense of others than he could to his constrained existence at the beginning of Act I. I think it’s at least as plausible to read Act II as a vindication and expansion of orthodox notions of the Fall–to show that the kinds of economic and environmental predations involved in the supposedly exalted struggle for Truth are of a piece with the destruction of sexual innocence and purity of Act I. That is, he is expanding the consequences of the fall to encompass human intellectual work and notions of progress, in contrast to the relatively limited reading that sees the Fall as largely about sexuality.

  27. September 14, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Ardis, I fully agree on that. (And also agree that Daniel sounds more Evangelical than Mormon – which isn’t to say he isn’t Mormon. Just that his theology sounds oddly unusual for a Mormon.)

    I think the Mormon attempt to rehabilitate Eve comes from two directions. One, we simply see mortality and therefore the fall as important. (Culminating of course in BY’s Adam/God speculations which I think is just pushing things to far for most Mormons to be comfortable with) This sense that the fall is itself redemptive in a more broadly cosmic sense underlays a lot of how we view Adam and Eve – particularly Eve. Eve is the one who does what is necessary when Adam falls down on the job.

    The second sense of rehabilitation is to just ask what on earth God is up to in the Garden. While the Evangelical view that everything would have been great had it not been for Adam one has to seriously ask what on earth God was thinking even in the Evangelical history. Throw in the Mormon view and one can’t help but think of a couple of hapless kids being manipulated. It’s hard to not feel sympathy. I’ve long seen shades of Job in the Adam and Eve story; only with the modern sensibility of disbelief at Job being fundamentally a story about a bet between God and Satan. With Adam and Eve at least there is a point to the story (in the LDS version) whereas with Job one is left wondering. (A point key in the story itself)

    I must confess that I just don’t see the Dr. Faustus relations though, so I didn’t find the original article particularly believable. Certainly there is a sense of partaking knowledge from the devil. But the whole parallel really breaks down – especially the end. Since in LDS thought Eve and Adam are ultimately redeemed by Christ which makes the whole debate over whether it was or wasn’t a sin kind of futile. Who cares? If it was Christ took care of it long ago.

  28. September 14, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    What Satan said (in Gen 3:4-5) was “Ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

    But see Genesis 3:22 where God says “Behold, the man is as one of us, to know good and evil…”. It appears that many Christian philosophers have ignored this affirmation of part of what Satan said.

    The lie was, of course, “ye shall not surely die”, because God had decreed that Adam and Eve would die if they partook of the forbidden fruit, and acted to enforce that decree.

  29. September 14, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Julie, I second the troll observation.

  30. scott
    September 14, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    I’ve always understood Eve’s motive as being misguided, after having been beguiled by Satan. Adam sinned/transgressed by partaking of the fruit, so that he could remain with her and thus procreate. So I agree with Daniel on this.

    However what I’ve never understood is what would have happened had Eve not partaken of the fruit. Contradictory commandments? God had a plan that wasn’t articulated in scripture? I just don’t know.

    My take on Eve is that we shouldn’t vilify her for her mistake, we all fall short of the Glory of God and sin. I’m certainly missing something, but I don’t see the scriptural basis for Elder Oak’s lauding of Eve for having such wisdom. She was “beguiled”.

  31. scott
    September 14, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    I should clarify that I agree with daniel until that point.

  32. Nathan N.
    September 14, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Kristine, one important thing to point out is that when Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, she was almost instantly granted moral clarity. Whereas after Faust bargained with Mephistopheles, he was left almost entirely under the latter’s influence. In other words, Eve’s decision led to a kind of liberation from Lucifer; Faust’s decision led to a deepening bondage to Mephistopheles’ devices. Your sentiments against Faust are basically beyond reproach, but they seem to miss the fact that during this whole experiment Mephistopheles’ control over him grows with each new exploit, leaving him with nothing more than a mere “groping intuition.” Therefore, his accountability is nowhere near as great as Eve’s is, and, accordingly, their predicaments should not be viewed as identical. Remember that in the play the Lord knew the eventual outcome of Faust’s life and very early on prophesied Mephistopheles’ failure: “drag him, if you can keep hold of him, along your downward path, and stand abashed when you must needs admit: a good man, in his groping intuition, is well aware of what’s his proper course.” The point here is that while Eve and Faust both decided to take the plunge into the maelstrom of knowledge, risking the ire of God, they are not constrained by the same levels of satanic malevolence. While Faust is still “groping” in the dark, Eve seems to see the light more clearly. This should at least mitigate some of Faust’s evil actions.

  33. September 14, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Of course one could argue Satan was beguiled by God to do what God wanted done. Eve, if they really were childlike, seems to get off simply for being largely clueless. The interesting question is how Eve could even understand what a commandment was without breaking one? (Much liked it takes our own kids a while to learn why one has to obey – it’s not like they come out of the womb understanding)

  34. September 14, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    I am tempted to think that Faust’s only error was that once he made the bargain he lost control. That perhaps he could have stopped right there and controlled the Devil to avoid falling prey to evil. Bu I don’t think that that is Goethe’s point. And you’re right that you can’t stop with the initial bargain. Once Faust starts down that road his further depravities seem almost inevitable. I think it is safe to say that once Adam and Eve knew evil from their experience that they were tempted by it and still succumbed to it on occasion as we all do (if not to the extent of Faust). This highlights the absolute necessity of a Saviour. We cannot possibly progress without an affective knowledge of good and evil yet no one but the Lord has been able to completely withstand it. It is He that can snatch us back from its clutches.

  35. Nathan N.
    September 14, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Clark, at least in the case of Faust the devil himself admits his ultimate powerlessness in the face of God’s larger plan. When Faust asks him who he is, Mephistopheles replies: “A part of that force which, always willing evil, always produces good.” Moreover, in the play God says that “human activity slackens all too easily, and people soon are prone to rest on any terms; that’s why I like to give them the companion [Mephisotpheles] who functions as a prod and does a job as devil.” So, using this framework, and drawing on a quote from President Packer (“Do not suppose that God willfully causes that, which for His own purposes, he permits), it isn’t out of the question that Lucifer was similarly used as a pawn in God’s larger plan.

  36. September 14, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Can a troll nomination be thirded? I’m to the point of yawning now.

    I’ll always start with the disclaimer that I’m not a gospel scholar. That said it seems that if you haven’t eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, maybe you don’t have a knowledge of good and evil. And if you don’t, then…

  37. September 15, 2009 at 12:22 am

    But they did know that eating the fruit was wrong.

  38. Nate Oman
    September 15, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Do the rape and other crimes depicted in Goethe’s Faust appear in the other iterations of the Faust story? I don’t remember them in Marlowe’s Faust for example, but it has been a long time since I read it.

  39. September 15, 2009 at 10:13 am


    But they did know that eating the fruit was wrong.

    If you don’t know good from evil, do you know right from wrong? What is “wrong” without a concept of evil?

    Can you disobey an authority figure—even God—without sinning? I think LDS doctrine makes it clear that you can.

  40. Kristine
    September 15, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Nathan (33),

    That’s a useful point. In some ways, it’s also devastating to the comparison between Eve and Faust–on Goethe’s account, knowledge is gained only by experience, rather than as an immediate gift, and human beings are doomed to blunder and sin. On the Genesis/PoGP/temple account, by contrast, knowledge opens up the possibility of truly moral choice.

  41. September 15, 2009 at 11:05 am

    “If you don’t know good from evil, do you know right from wrong?”


    “Can you disobey an authority figure—even God—without sinning? I think LDS doctrine makes it clear that you can.”


    Adam and Eve were not mindless dolts running around the Garden. We know they walked and talked with the Lord during their time there, though we know not what was said.

    I think Adam and Eve being compared to children speaks more of their innocence and not their ignorance.

  42. Daniel
    September 15, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Julie and Geoff, upon what basis do you falsely accuse me? But more importantly, what exactly do you mean by leveling ad hominem attacks against me? How does that contribute one way or the other to the substance of the discussion?

    Is this a “Christian” thing to do? To call another person a “troll”? Or are you “transgressing” in order to experience an affective knowledge that you otherwise would not be able to obtain?

    Hmmmm. Methinks this corrupt doctrine manifests itself in sinful behavior.

    Please let me know what a “troll” is so that I can demonstrate that I am not one. It sounds ominous and negative, so I assume I should try to redeem my reputation from such a libelous appellation.

  43. Daniel
    September 15, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Lie 1a: eating fruit will open your eyes and give you knowledge of good and evil (like Gods)

    Lie 1b: (implied) God’s are defined by their “knowledge of good and evil” rather than their ability to discern good FROM evil

    Lie 1c: (implied) God does not want you to be like Him

    Lie 2: it is not certain that you will die


    There is ALWAYS another way. Always. Only in a deterministic universe is there “no other way”! Only in a deterministic universe is sin “necessary” as the “price of admission” into mortality (and the path to deification).

  44. Daniel
    September 15, 2009 at 11:45 am

    So let me see if I understand (in paraphrase) what the LDS “Plan of Salvation” is all about:

    God created man and commanded him NOT to take the “forbidden fruit”, but He really INTENDED for them to partake of it.

    So, God “set them up” by allowing Lucifer to deceive them, even though Lucifer apparently didn’t tell them anything that was not true because God really wanted them to disobey Him.

    And why did God want them to “fall”? So that they HAD to have a Savior!

    And why did God want to put them in a hopeless situation, thereby necessitating their need of a Savior?

    So that they would WORSHIP and LOVE Him forever and ever.

    Is that about it?

    Sounds like an abusive spouse to me: setting up impossible situations to deliberately entangle you so that you have no choice but to accept his “salvation” so that you will worship him? Hmmmm. Seems more like a monster than a God.

    Any of you ever watch that pleasant little movie, The Incredibles? Isn’t the Plan of Salvation just the same thing as what the arch-enemy, Syndrome, did? Is THAT the LDS God?

    (By the way, I AM LDS – have been my entire life)

  45. September 15, 2009 at 11:49 am

    To my knowledge, Mormons aren’t generally adherents of “Plan B” theology, which holds that Adam and Eve prevented God from doing what he really wanted to do and that, therefore, the world in which we are is somehow not the world that God wished for us to be in. Currently, most Mormon readings of the plan of salvation indicate that the fall was planned before the creation of the world. Some people argue that possibly God would have given the fruit to Adam and Eve himself and that the Adversary, in usurping this act, was attempting to usurp the role of God. I don’t think that is a necessary approach to the problem of evil in the world or that it is a necessary explanation for what the Adversary was up to in the Garden. I tend to think that it all went down the way God planned and that we are ultimately better off for it, but your mileage may vary.

    In any case, this is a threadjack. Do you think the comparison of Eve and Faust is just? I don’t, because I think that Eve is best understood as a child (as a person to be acted upon) and Faust is never that. Again, your mileage may vary.

  46. September 15, 2009 at 12:01 pm


    But they did know that eating the fruit was wrong.

    Yes, but this is the key problem with the story and why there is disagreement in an LDS context. What on earth does it mean to say they understood it was wrong if they had no knowledge of good and evil? This is why some can distinguish between sin and transgression.


    Clark, at least in the case of Faust the devil himself admits his ultimate powerlessness in the face of God’s larger plan. When Faust asks him who he is, Mephistopheles replies: “A part of that force which, always willing evil, always produces good.”

    Yes, but does the Mormon conception of Satan (admittedly always a bit questionable and problematic at times) have such self-knowledge? In one sense yes, since he appears to recognize creations that had gone before and that he is fulfilling a role that has been played before.

    Satan’s motivations are so complex in LDS theology and very contradictory. We have the conception sometimes taken out of the plan of salvation where Satan is a kind of flawed individual of nobel intent. His “sin” is extreme hubris. (i.e. he wants to save everyone – thus opening himself us in modern times as the archetype of hubris in politics and the prototypical Marxist for some thinkers) Yet we also have this portrayal in the garden which is hard to reconcile with that view.

    I don’t have an answer and merely note that Satan seems quite different depending upon the narrative he is put in. (Abraham, Lehi, Genesis, Job)

  47. September 15, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Daniel, I think the A&E story has some problems in all theologies (Jewish, Augustinian, Calvinist, Mormon). Which suggests some crucial information is missing.

    However I think that the Mormon view you critique only makes sense if our progression was limited without the experience of mortality. That is we needed to transform ourselves. That’s the best answer. I recognize from the other thread you’re not a big proponent of the transformation view of progression but that tends to be the mainstream view. I’m afraid without that that the whole A&E experience makes zero sense.

  48. September 15, 2009 at 12:25 pm


    “Can you disobey an authority figure—even God—without sinning? I think LDS doctrine makes it clear that you can.”
    Adam and Eve were not mindless dolts running around the Garden. We know they walked and talked with the Lord during their time there, though we know not what was said.

    Typically sin is seen to require knowledgeable intent. Of course this is the problem in LDS readings. Adam and Eve aren’t totally ignorant and it’s hard to tell what, exactly, the fruit actually does. (The temple account is most interesting here, and it’s too bad we can’t really discuss it)

    I think most LDS conceptions are largely informed by Moro 8 and Mosiah 3. There little children can’t sin and we assume that Adam and Even prior to the fruit were like little children. There’s even, in Benjamin’s account, the tie to Adam. If we fall by nature (rather than by choice) Christ takes care of it automatically and it isn’t counted a sin.

    The complexity here is whether this “not a sin” is due to Christ’s atonement or is just inherent to the situation. A point that doesn’t get discussed much.

    I should also add an interesting one is D&C 29:47 where Satan can’t tempt children until they become accountable. But how should that inform our reading of Genesis 2?

  49. September 15, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Pre-enimity being place and children don’t have access to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil or the Tree of Life. e.g. they’re in a mortal, post-garden state.

    Also: I largely agree with Kristine’s reading of Goethe’s Faust and will only add that anyone who has read all of part II deserves some kind of medal.

  50. Nathan N.
    September 15, 2009 at 12:55 pm


    Granted, Eve and Faust are not the kindred spirits that may have been suggested. But comparisons between Eve and Faust aside, what are we to think of Givens’ overarching thesis about the primal human predicament? i.e. that “in suffering the constraints of mortality,” mankind in effect “suffocates a soul with roots in the heavenly realms.” When all is said and done, aren’t Eve and Faust merely accessories to the larger point that Givens is trying to make? The two accounts of Eve and Faust – from Joseph Smith and Goethe – seem to affirm, in their own unique ways, that divine favor is given to those who choose growth over stasis, striving over idleness, however sin-riddled that path may be. Furthermore, these two accounts provide a way out of this predicament, not through a more convincing theological argument, but through a higher literary imaginativeness. In other words, this impossible human predicament turns out not to be so impossible.

  51. Daniel
    September 15, 2009 at 12:59 pm


    “Do you think the comparison of Eve and Faust is just?”

    I think it is obvious Goethe was giving us in Faust’s tale some hybrid of the Eden story and the story of Job, both of which hinge on the “problem of evil”. Because of the gnostic distortion of morality, however, I would never use the word “just” to describe the comparison.

    It is not quite the classical “problem of evil” with which these tales are wrestling, however, because they try to “redeem” so-called evil by incorporating it as a necessary mechanism in “The Plan of Salvation” (or Faust’s and Job’s bildungsroman).

    This does not resolve the problem of evil; it only makes us think evil does not really exist – evil on this view is merely a MISPERCEPTION (albeit a deep and existential misperception).

    If evil really does not exist, then neither does sin; if sin does not really exist, neither does repentance; if repentance really does not exist, then the “atonement” was not what we thought it was – it, too, was merely an illusion, as is our “salvation” and “exaltation”.

    As such, the necessity of sin within LDS theology actually completely undermines itself.

  52. September 15, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Daniel, why do you think the necessity of experiencing sin for growth entails sin isn’t real? I don’t see how that can possibly follow logically.

    It may well be that we have to experience sin in order to transcend it due to sin being a pre-existent possibility. That is the existence of sin entails the necessity of experiencing it.

    Also one should note that sin is a necessity within LDS thought in the sense that one must commit sin (as opposed to experiencing it). Indeed that seems to be the traditional notion of Christ – that he could experience mortality and not sin.

  53. Jonathan Green
    September 15, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Daniel, I am disturbed by the patent sexism in how you respond to men and women. When Raymond, Nate, Clark, or Tim comment, you’ve taken the time for a substantial response. But the women have had to settle with at most a nod or a shrug from you, and you’ve totally ignored Ardis’s comment (#19). Do you have difficulty regarding women as your intellectual equals? Here at T&S we try to maintain an open and supportive environment, and I certainly don’t agree that Ardis deserves the brush-off you’ve given her so far.

  54. Daniel
    September 15, 2009 at 2:12 pm


    I thought Ardis was a man’s name. Sorry.

    As for my alleged rampant sexism, I can only hope my seven sisters never find out! ;-)

  55. Daniel
    September 15, 2009 at 2:20 pm


    If eating the fruit is what God wills, then how can it be “sin”?

    If God intentially requires “sin” (or evil) in order for his great “Plan of Happiness” to work, then God is the author of “sin”… and as Paul said, “God forbid!”

    The fact that God CAN redeem sin does not necessitate sin except in a deterministic universe (“There is no other way”).

    In a pluralistic universe (a universe of possibility rather than necessity) there is always “another way” for God and humankind (and individuals) to learn, grow, transform, and become all we are meant to become – without the necessity of sin!

    “That is the existence of sin entails the necessity of experiencing it.” – only in a deterministic universe.

  56. Daniel
    September 15, 2009 at 2:31 pm


    Please accept my apologies if it appeared I was brushing you off.

    As for your (25) comment, I would like to see Mormonsim take a solid stand in favor of God and condemn Eve’s disobedience and “sin”! I think it wouls send a clear message that we believe in a God in whose word we can have absolute faith. We believe in a God who does not mince words by setting traps for us. We believe in a God in whom we can fully trust.

    I must also object to your damaging distinction: “Daniel’s view is typically Christian, not Mormon”. I am Mormon and I am Christian. I just don’t see any reason why Eve should be redeemed. If anyone out there has any good theological, moral, legal, or other valid reason why believing Eve was a typical, mortal, sinful, mistaken (and maybe even unattractive?) person, who should NOT have disobeyed God, somehow diminishes the Gospel and LDS theology, I would love to hear it!

    Ardis, you provided the results of searches of the website. Big whoop. Apostles, prophets, and Church leaders have been wrong before. I assert they are wrong in regard to Adam and Eve’s “sin” if it requires us to swallow a metaphysic in which sin (or anything else) is necessary and God is an accessory before the fact to all apparent evil and sin in the world.

  57. Andrew Ungricht
    September 15, 2009 at 2:36 pm


    Some thoughts. On the topic of the “twisted metaphysics” of “grotesque” Gnosticism, what exactly do you mean? I ask because honestly this sounds like a fallacy of division on your part. Just because gnosticism itself was heretical and “twisted” doesn’t mean that every metaphysical doctrine that comprised it also was. If you mean primarily that the idea that sin is necessary in God’s plan is “putrid,” I would heartily disagree with you. Certainly I would agree that it is wrong to intentionally sin in order to better experience salvation, but it seems to me that the crucial exercise is learning to properly avoid sin — and in that regard, sin is definitely necessary to God’s plan. Likewise, I would argue that extreme pain may be beneficial because it may strengthen us; but at the same time I wouldn’t recommend that anyone seek it out.

    The introduction of sin into the world strikes me not as a choice that God made arbitrarily, which would make Him rather menacing, but as an inevitability. Were sin inevitably going to enter the world (which I would consider as occurring the instant somebody disobeys God), then God would have two options: One, He could give no commandments, no instruction, and no guidance, which would preclude sin because there would be nothing for humanity to disobey, but which would also negate humanity’s progression because this would be a form of spiritual death (separation from God) without hope of return; or Two, give commandments, thus allowing sin to enter the world. However, since God is benevolent and omnipotent, He could allow for this “Fall” in some ideal way. I wouldn’t regard this as God “setting up” Adam and Eve, but acting in the best interests of all His children.

    And in response to your question, “If eating the fruit is what God wills, then how can it be sin?” As others have already answered, I would say, it isn’t. It’s a transgression.

  58. Kristine
    September 15, 2009 at 2:37 pm


    The problem is that using Faust as an example undercuts the argument you (and maybe Givens) are advancing. If, in fact, rejecting stasis and striving for growth inevitably involves (as it does in Faust) the abuse and destruction of innocence and beauty, perhaps the price is too high. If, on the other hand, as in the example of Eve, a certain measure of suffering (our own suffering, not suffering we deliberately cause to others) brings clarity of vision, the possibility of moral agency, and a more complex beauty and goodness on the other side of innocence, it is noble to choose that suffering for the sake of growth. In Faust, the human predicament really is impossible, and salvation is possible only because God lets Faust cheat Satan at the end–lets him off an a grammatical technicality (!)–and welcomes him to stasis, to rest, to verweilen.

    I’m not saying it very well, but I think it requires a fundamental misreading of Faust even to use Faust as a peripheral supporting character in the argument Givens is making (an argument with which I’m in substantial agreement). Wilhelm Meister might have been a more productive choice…

  59. September 15, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    “Satan’s motivations are so complex in LDS theology and very contradictory.”

    In regards to the Fall, Satan didn’t completely lose out. He wasn’t going to win any souls (or whatever) had all of humanity remained in heaven (or wherever). Had Adam and Eve not fallen, then Satan would have been unable to make man “miserable like unto himself.”

    “The BIGGEST LIE OF ALL: ‘There is NO OTHER WAY’!”

    Was there any other way to redeem mankind than thru the Atonement? What would have happened had Jesus turned away from his own execution? There was only one way.

    Again, sin had to be introduced into this world at some point and God could not do it himself. Exactly how he could not redeem the world from sin himself. Each required another.

    Did God set Adam and Eve up to fail? I guess it depends on how you look at it. I know my kids will disobey me, but that doesn’t stop me from giving them rules and punishing them when those rules are broken.

  60. September 15, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Clark, didn’t we have this discussion at M* a few years back? I couldn’t find it.

  61. Daniel
    September 15, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Is a “fallacy of division” of the same ilk as a “distinction without a difference”? If so, then the distinction between “sin” and “transgression” is such a thing. But I’m not sure what you think I am fallaciously dividing…?

    I did not capitalize “Gnosticism” because I was not referring to the heretical form(s) of Christianity so well discussed by Elaine Pagels and others, although the “subjectivism” (perhaps a better term) I was condemning is part of that tradition.

    This “subjectivism” is found in Faust and elsewhere, and claims to resolve the problem of sin (and evil) and the pessimism (nihilism, angst at the horror of history) it spawns by regarding the universe (creation) as a machine or divine contrivance serving no other purpose than for deepening the theoretic consciousness of what goodness and evil in their intrinsic natures are (you may call this “hermeneutic inspiration” or “revelation” or “transformation” if you will).

    Setting metaphysics (and theology) aside, your practical sensibilities as reflected in this comment is precisely my point: “Certainly I would agree that it is wrong to intentionally sin in order to better experience salvation, but it seems to me that the crucial exercise is learning to properly avoid sin — and in that regard, sin is definitely necessary to God’s plan.”
    The popular LDS doctrine is NOT that Eve learned to AVOID sin, but that Adam and Eve HAD TO EXPERIENCE/COMMIT SIN in order to gain knowledge like God! And that such moral defilement of their souls was NECESSARY for God’s plan to work the way He intended. That is a “bad omen” (abomination). In this regard, I am fond of trying to distinguish between “knowledge of good AND evil” from “knowledge of good FROM evil” – emphasizing that what makes God godly is His power of DISCERNMENT, not his theoretic consciousness or hermeneutic inspiration from EXPERIENCING and COMMITTING sin.

  62. September 15, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Big whoop indeed, Daniel. I’ll take the God that Mormonism knows. You can keep whatever idol you have constructed for yourself. The fact is — whether you can see it or not — your view of Eve, and the events in the Garden in general, are not Mormon, Mormon though you claim to be.

    And while I held out against identifying you as a troll longer than most, and paid you the courtesy of a serious response, I have to admit I was wrong. You are a troll, no mistake about it. Somewhere there is a bridge waiting for you to return.

  63. Adam Greenwood
    September 15, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    “If, on the other hand, as in the example of Eve, a certain measure of suffering (our own suffering, not suffering we deliberately cause to others)”

    The suffering is not all, or even mostly, our own. Eve’s choise, remember, was to “multiply”. In other words, she was taking responsibility not only for herself, but for others–Adam, her children, and all the rest–and this was a responsibility that she, like the rest of us, was in no way fit to have. The price of her knowledge was that lots of people had to suffer. That’s the price of my knowledge and yours, too.

  64. September 15, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    “Eve’s choise, remember, was to ‘multiply’.”

    I don’t think this is supported scripturally and I agree with Talmage (quote in comment #22).

  65. Kristine
    September 15, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Adam, agreed. But I think there’s a moral difference between that choice and a deliberate choice to directly harm another.

  66. Nathan N.
    September 15, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Kristine (59), well put. It is obvious that someone has been studying their German lit. Another crucial distinction here is that whereas Faust consciously entered into a kind of reciprocal contractual relationship with the devil, requiring him to be joined at the hip, so to speak, Eve did not view her decision to partake of the fruit as entailing any further commitment to, or even acknowledgment of, the devil. In fact, she was subsequently granted power to crush his head. So yes, the comparison does fall apart at many levels.

  67. September 15, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Daniel: Please make an effort to treat other commenters’ contributions, as well as well-established Church teachings, with a bit more respect. Offering critical commentary on the thoughts of either (comments and Church teachings) is fine, but only if done with due regard for the dignity of both. If you want a forum for no-holds-barred attacks on other commenters and/or Church teachings, please go elsewhere. If you want any more clarification on what I mean by “respect” or “dignity” please check our our commenting policy.

    Consider yourself warned. This blog is not a public forum, and while we invite everyone to participate we also feel no guilt about tossing gate crashers and any other unpleasant characters.

  68. September 15, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    I honestly don’t remember Tim.

    Regarding Satan what makes his motivation so odd is his recognition this sort of thing had happened before. But if so, why the war in heaven? There’s a lot confusing here. Once again an indication more needs to be revealed. The traditional portrayal is a spoilsport. He lost, so he’s just going to try and make as many suffer like him as possible. As such, in LDS terms, it may be that he knew he was ultimately doing God’s will in the garden and just didn’t care. In a limited way his and God’s aims overlapped in the short term.

    Andrew, the question of putting the issue of sin not on the intents of the doer but the intents of the commander is interesting. I’d not heard that argument before. I don’t think it works though since it would imply guilt on God.

    To draw an analogy, say the CIA knows a terrorist is about to murder a bunch of people and has sent Navy Seals to kill him. Meanwhile a serial killer happens upon the terrorist and murders him. It seems to me that the killer is still guilty of murder whether or not the US government has different intents.

  69. Andrew Ungricht
    September 15, 2009 at 3:57 pm


    I would claim that the difference between the use of “sin” or “transgression” in classifying Eve’s action is of paramount relevance and therefore not a distinction without a difference: Transgression occurs whenever one breaks or disobeys a commandment, and it only crosses the line and becomes Sin when one understands that it is wrong. The reason we would classify Eve’s action as transgression was that she did not understand the implications of it; we would classify her as innocent (and if that’s the primary break in our dialogue, then I’ll gladly second Adris Parshall’s latest comment [63]).

    Because of this distinction, I readily disagree with your statement that (excess capitalization removed) “The popular LDS doctrine is… that Adam and Eve had to experience/commit sin in order to gain knowledge from God!” In this instance, I would make a few changes to your statement to affirm the doctrine: Adam and Eve had to transgress a commandment from God to therefore remove themselves from his presence (allowing for mortality, the presence of evil, and all sorts of learning experiences imposed by a mortal state — all of which would be impossible in the presence of God). It isn’t about receiving knowledge directly, it’s about being enabled to undergo the learning process by experience.

    Would we think more highly had God just kicked them out of Eden without a reason? It seems to me that for God to be just He would not condemn his children to mortality without a cause, but that He would allow for an ideal situation by which his children could be mortal without damning them all: hence, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. You have criticized the God that would “set up” his children (though not in the way I have just described), but the alternative sounds hardly preferable. The truth of the matter is that God orchestrated a situation that would allow for humanity to enter a state in which it could learn and grow, and did so in the best possible way. It was a plan merciful to His children, including Adam and Eve who were not guilty of sin that they committed necessarily, and just, because there was a consequence for a broken commandment.

  70. September 15, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Tim the Talmage quote said Eve sinned, it didn’t say anything about the choice to multiply. (Although I actually agree that nothing in any of the accounts say that the reason Eve ate the fruit was to multiple – that tends to be Eve’s judgment after eating.)

  71. September 15, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Talmage states that Eve did not partake of the fruit having God’s plan (multiplying) in mind, but rather “with intent to act contrary to the divine command..”

  72. September 15, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    If eating the fruit is what God wills, then how can it be “sin”?

    This gets at whether law is what God ultimately wills or some specific propositional commands. Paul, as you might recall, makes a big deal of this. This is why I mentioned that I find Lehi’s account similar to Paul in Romans.

    It seems to me that for what you say to be true ever command God gives must perfectly reflect all aspects of his will. If you buy that (and judging by past comments by you I suspect you do) then what you say will hold. If you think words always mangle our intents then you will not.

    I think the more interesting reading (and the one I favor) is that God’s will is complex and can only be brought about by there being opposition. That is I reject the idea that God’s divine will is ultimately without fundamental opposition within it. And I think that’s ultimately the message we find in Lehi.

    I recognize you probably won’t agree and will see this as “deconstructive nonsense” but it seems to me to be the straightforward reading of Lehi.

    Regarding your other point, are you saying that Adam and Eve did not become more like God in knowledge after eating the fruit? You seem to be suggesting this wasn’t necessary and I’m wondering what the basis for this claim is.

  73. Andrew Ungricht
    September 15, 2009 at 4:10 pm


    You are correct. However, I don’t think we’re on the same page. I agree with your analogy completely, and I don’t mean to erase the intent of the one sinning, which is not quite what I’m arguing in saying that I don’t believe Eve to have been sinful in Eden. It seems to me that the inevitability of sin is undeniably central to the Plan of Salvation, which is built from the ground up around the concept of returning God’s children to Him both physically and spiritually. I don’t see this as placing blame on God, but acknowledging the realities of disobedience that would occur when individuals encounter commandments. God being omniscient, it would make sense that He would devise an ideal situation for the introduction of sin into the world, as it would inevitably come regardless.

  74. Andrew Ungricht
    September 15, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Clark again;

    I wrote (74) while you were writing (73), so what I have to say may not make sense following your additional comments.

  75. September 15, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Tim. OK, I misunderstood you and didn’t have my Talmage here at work to see the full quote. I actually agree with Talmage as well. I think the idea that Eve made an informed decision just can’t be lined up with any of the narratives. The best one could say is that after Eve became knowledgeable she communicated some of that knowledge to Adam who made a more informed decision.

    Andrew, I agree that if we view sin as willful and comprehending acting against God’s will that the transgression – sin difference works. (And that’s certainly the line Benjamin, Mormon and others follow) I’m not sure that explains the common LDS view of Eve, as I mentioned way back in #21. I think LDS take what can be held as supportable distinction and push it way too far.

  76. September 15, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    “God being omniscient, it would make sense that He would devise an ideal situation for the introduction of sin into the world, as it would inevitably come regardless.”

    The commandment itself was kind of arbitrary, though the fruit and tree are surely symbolic. Adam and Eve being immortal had no need for food which I always thought was interesting. The commandment could have been “don’t go in that river” or whatever.

    The point is that they were given a commandment and they broke it.

  77. September 15, 2009 at 5:31 pm


    “If you don’t know good from evil, do you know right from wrong?”


    Tim, could you clarify? As per the followup question, “What is ‘wrong’ without a concept of evil?”

    Sure, you can turn the wrong way or use the wrong fork without being evil. But the context is of disobeying a direct command from God, in which case “right and wrong” would have moral implications, not just social or aesthetic or something such.

    “Can you disobey an authority figure—even God—without sinning? I think LDS doctrine makes it clear that you can.”


    Is this a serious question? Children, mentally retarded, etc., can certainly disobey God—yet they cannot sin until they are accountable.

    Adam and Eve were not mindless dolts…We know they walked and talked with the Lord

    Hey, I know a few mindless dolts who can walk and talk, but I won’t bring politics into this. You know any 7-year-olds who can walk and talk?


    Please let me know what a “troll” is so that I can demonstrate that I am not one.

    I was going to say, try google, but I’m guessing you haven’t heard of that either?

  78. September 15, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    “Is this a serious question? Children, mentally retarded, etc., can certainly disobey God—yet they cannot sin until they are accountable.”

    I thought you were excluding the obvious. Again, I think Adam and Eve being childlike was more about their innocence and not their ignorance.

    “Hey, I know a few mindless dolts who can walk and talk, but I won’t bring politics into this. You know any 7-year-olds who can walk and talk?”

    Ha! I didn’t mean to imply that they weren’t dolts due to their ability to walk and talk at the same time. I think what we know of them would lead us to that conclusion.

    “Tim, could you clarify? As per the followup question, ‘What is ‘wrong’ without a concept of evil?'”

    Are you saying that Adam and Eve did NOT know that it was wrong to eat the fruit? I find this hard to believe.

  79. Daniel
    September 15, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    This will be my last post. I just wanted to apologize for offending anyone. It was never my intent to hurt anyone else.

    I do know what a troll is, and I assure you I am not one. I am a graduate of BYU, currently serving as High Priest Group Leader in a young ward and feeling extremely isolated.

    I came to BYU after serving an honorable mission and marrying in the Temple. At BYU I was well-educated with “the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.”

    After sharing my feelings of isolation, my Stake President recommended T&S because he thought I might find some kindred spirits and answers here.

    I thank you for your time, but I have now got my answers.


  80. gst
    September 15, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    My heart is warmed by the thought of bishops prescribing T&S to the lonely.

  81. September 15, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    T&S: The Lortab of the bloggernacle.

  82. Ryan
    September 15, 2009 at 7:37 pm


    It’s too bad you came into T&S so aggressively and combatively. Certainly you recognize that dialogue – even with kindred spirits – requires some deference (less italics, boldface, CAPITALIZATION, exclamation points, ranting, etc.). With this in mind, you may have indeed had a different experience. Even if the troll label is always an overstatement, I’m sure you can see how people are provoked into giving it.

  83. Adam Greenwood
    September 15, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Adam, agreed. But I think there’s a moral difference between that choice and a deliberate choice to directly harm another

    Certainly, but we can’t get around the fact that Eve’s choice was for her own personal benefit at the expense of an immense amount of suffering for others.

  84. September 16, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Adam, I’m not sure we can say it was for her own benefit either. Her motivation honestly isn’t at all clear – if she really had any at all. That’s sort of what I’ve been trying to get at. Eve just isn’t reasoning here. It’s not even clear she can reason in a responsible fashion. It’s desirable to her and so she eats it. But that’s about all we have.

    Tim, I’m not sure I buy the “innocence” vs. “ignorant” bit. For one clearly their knowledge after changes. (For instance they didn’t recognize they were naked before) So there’s a lot of textual evidence that the narrative presents them as very ignorant. A lot of Mormons, playing on the name of the tree, try to play up the effect as merely being able to distinguish good from bad. But the narrative presents it as being a whole lot more. (And the Temple, without saying anything detailed, pushes the knowledge as comprehension of things as things angle even more)

    Just to note, it is Adam and Eve’s knowledge of things they aren’t suppose to know that is presented as giving their state away to God.

    Once again I think we have to push aside the historical questions for the moment (which I think we Mormons as materialists and as having a tendency towards literalism fixate on). How does the narrative present their state before and after? Clearly the Genesis account focuses in on wisdom (and not merely morality as it is sometimes cast in modernism)

    We Mormons tend to see Genesis 2-3 through the lens of Lehi I think. I strongly don’t think 2 Ne 2 should be read in even a quasi-Hegelian fashion. I think the second place where especially more recent Mormons understand Genesis is in terms of Moses 5 where I think the mainstream LDS view is really made prominent. (It’s a remarkable expansion by Joseph Smith)

    And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God. And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: 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.

    This lines up with 2 Ne 2 of course. (Especially the emphasis on joy) It really is quite remarkable.

    I think it’s also easy to read Lehi’s bit about freedom, especially the “free to act and not be acted upon” in terms of the garden. Were Adam and Eve really actors in the garden? Or were they in their innocent/ignorant state much more acted upon and unable to be truly free?

    Lehi definitely sees the narrative as a narrative about the creation of freedom if the idea of a Messiah is added to the narrative.

  85. September 16, 2009 at 12:34 am

    Adam, I’m not sure we can say it was for her own benefit either. Her motivation honestly isn’t at all clear – if she really had any at all. That’s sort of what I’ve been trying to get at. Eve just isn’t reasoning here. It’s not even clear she can reason in a responsible fashion. It’s desirable to her and so she eats it. But that’s about all we have.

    I’ll go further, Clark. I don’t like blaming Eve, because the game looks incredibly rigged to me.

    Take a child of God without knowledge; one formed in the image of God, whose glory is intelligence; one whose nature demands knowledge and learning. And one who is completely innocent, not even knowing the difference between good and evil.

    Tell that child, here is a tree that will satisfy your deepest and most vital longing, and by the way don’t partake of it. Instead, please multiply and replenish the earth, a task which you have no idea how to do.

    Wait and watch as one of the most cunning and intelligent beings of all time talks to that child and makes a series of arguments which (not surprisingly) convince the guileless, innocent, clueless child to go ahead and take that thing that she desperately wants.

    Then, when that child finally eats from the fruit, curse her and all of her children forever.

    That’s a pretty rigged game, I’d say.

    It’s like putting a giant slice of chocolate cake right in front of the three-year-old and saying, “don’t touch,” and then going in another room. Or putting that three-year-old into a boxing ring with Mike Tyson.

    When the three-year-old touches the cake, or loses her bout with Mike Tyson — both of these are totally inevitable — you curse her and her posterity forever.

    I don’t see how blaming the three-year-old makes much sense.

  86. Adam Greenwood
    September 16, 2009 at 10:16 am

    “Adam, I’m not sure we can say it was for her own benefit either.”

    You’re talking motives, but I’m not.

  87. Rosalynde
    September 16, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    This discussion raises a hermeneutic question. Say Givens has misread Genesis or Goethe–and perhaps he has, if by “misread” one means “diverges from the original textual intent of the maker”—then what does this mean for his interpretation? Maybe nothing at all. After all, both the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price accounts can be seen as misreadings of the Genesis account. Misreading is an important mode of religious imagination (not to mention a venerable tradition of literary criticism).

    But if conformity to original textual intent grants no particular legitimacy to a given interpretation, then how _does_ one distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate—or even between merely better and worse—interpretations? If by the sheer discursive virtuosity of the interpretation, then Givens is in good stead. But that means that only smart people can perform legitimate interpretations of a text. If by the priesthood office of the interpreter (or university affiliation, if we’re talking literature instead of scripture), that means only certain men (and no women) can legitimately exege. One can imagine other unsatisfactory claims to interpretive authority—confirmation by the Spirit, reliance on the prestige of previous interpretations, etc.

    It’s enough to make one change one’s major to economics, sheesh. But is there a particularly Mormon approach to the problem?

  88. September 16, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Tim, why exclude the obvious? It’s the easiest way to prove a point. :)


    Again, I think Adam and Eve being childlike was more about their innocence and not their ignorance.

    An interesting assumption, but I’m not sure how you are using the term. Something along the lines of “chaste”? If so, I think it’s a stretch. Why have a “tree of knowledge of good and evil” if you already understand good and evil and it’s implications? Why not a tree of indecency and worldliness or something?

    “Tim, could you clarify? As per the followup question, ‘What is ‘wrong’ without a concept of evil?’”

    Are you saying that Adam and Eve did NOT know that it was wrong to eat the fruit? I find this hard to believe.

    Actually, I’d really like an answer to the question I asked (twice) as I think it will help me understand your position. As I said, I think knowing your mom told you not to put oatmeal into the DVD player isn’t the same as understanding (to the point of accountability) right/wrong:good/evil.

    It’s about time for a review of Bill Cosby’s “I don’t know!” skit. :)

  89. September 16, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    #84, #87

    Certainly, but we can’t get around the fact that Eve’s choice was for her own personal benefit at the expense of an immense amount of suffering for others.

    You’re talking motives, but I’m not.

    How can we define the purpose of Eve’s choice without discussing her motive?

    And I’m a bit baffled at the supposed result for the rest of us described as “immense suffering.” Although it’s been mentioned once in this thread, I’ve never before heard anyone suggest that Adam and Eve could procreate before the fall. Maybe that’s just due to “innocence”? But since we all “shouted for joy” at the prospect of coming here, I’m thinking that in spite of all the later trials, we all WANTED whatever it took to get the trail of people coming down.

    I’m sure I’m missing something there.


    It’s not even clear she can reason in a responsible fashion.

    I’d just like to point out, if it’s not inappropriate, that the pre-apple Eve in the temple is like an automaton. The post-apple Eve is actually kind of normal in a completely silent, complacent kind of way. Maybe it’s just the music that gets me.

    And I’ve always noted, as Clark said, that they didn’t notice that they were naked (this strongly resembles my kids at about age 3-4). Also Eve didn’t recognize Satan until afterward.

    I’m totally with Kaimi on this. Nice.

  90. September 16, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Kaimi, I think the “it’s a rigged game” is pretty much the LDS view. God needs Adam to fall, but (and this is the mysterious part honestly – and makes little sense) the only way to have Adam fall is to set up a rigged game where he breaks the law and is cast out.

    Now I think there’s plenty for a skeptic to criticize here. (Like why on earth God needs Adam to fall in this fashion!) This is why I think viewing the A&E story as more performance ritual makes more sense to me. That is it’s teaching something symbolic in which each of us are Adam and Eve. And I think it by necessity ends up saying something about Law vs. Justice as well – and that’s something Lehi gets at.

  91. September 16, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Alison, I think that’s more a function of picking a real couple with the actress not doing that great a job.

  92. September 16, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Sure, Clark, but it’s still funny — and wasn’t left on the cutting room floor.

  93. Adam Greenwood
    September 16, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    And I’m a bit baffled at the supposed result for the rest of us described as “immense suffering.” Although it’s been mentioned once in this thread, I’ve never before heard anyone suggest that Adam and Eve could procreate before the fall. Maybe that’s just due to “innocence”? But since we all “shouted for joy” at the prospect of coming here, I’m thinking that in spite of all the later trials, we all WANTED whatever it took to get the trail of people coming down.

    1) the atonement and 2) we’re in the same position as Eve, and making the same sort of choice.

  94. Kristine
    September 16, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Rosalynde (88),

    Bah! I don’t think there’s any need to make Givens into a Bloomsian ephebe. By “misreading,” I meant nothing about departure from authorial intent or authoritative interpretation. I meant simply that his reading fails to make its argument by reference to the text, in the relatively straightforward sense of missing important (in my opinion) details of the text that fail to support his argument or even directly contradict his thesis. I’m not sure that we need a complicated hermeneutic framework to argue these points at the level of theme, characterization, analogy, and syntax. Which is to say, we can have a very productive discussion at the level of bright high school students, which, all by itself, ameliorates several of the problems with class and authority that lurk beneath the surface of your questions. (And, for hell’s sake, “exege” as a verb?! Totally made my day :))

  95. Kristine
    September 17, 2009 at 11:33 am

    In case it wasn’t clear–I really didn’t mean to be sarcastic with that last; it really did make me smile. And, in general, the tone of the comment should be read as good-natured anti-lit.-crit. crankiness, not anything more unpleasant. (I think Rosalynde would know that, but not all readers will know that she and I are friends and can argue friendlily about such things).

  96. kevinf
    September 17, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    I’m feeling some sympathy for Daniel. At first, after reading his comments here and in some of the other threads of late, he sounded an awful lot like some of my evangelical friends when they get in the mode of “saving” me, using supposed contradictions in our doctrine, asking somewhat circular questions, all seeming to paint him as a troll. Apparently not.

    His frustration is obvious. Daniel, if you read this, we really do like to engage in dialogue, and discuss the issues, sometimes very energetically. The problem with your reception here has been that you are being perceived as someone who only wants a dialogue that convinces everyone else to come to your way of thinking, which is not all that different from my evangelical friends who are intent on saving me.

    Give us a fair shake, and we’ll give you one. You just seemed to have jumped into the pool with all your clothes on, and then complained about getting wet. Go put on a swimming suit, and then come on back. There is good here, I promise.

  97. Ron
    September 17, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Number 98 in line is late to make a comment. And my appoach (always) seems to be so different anyway when I read T&S. Nevertheless, here it is. The comparison with Faust for me is interesting but missed the point. Eve is the one in the story who is needed to progress the plan. She can do this because of her nature–she is the Mother of all living. She intuitively acts to progress the fortunes of living beings–even if at the surface level she is beguiled into doing what Satan wants. Why did Adam not respond, but she did? This is a fundmental reality–not to be broken down into smaller analytical pieces to establish commonalaity with Faust. Her idionsyncratic nature (and she is not the only one) is a foundational thing. She was sent–to transgress or sin or whatever. Before we can solve that it is important to know what the most fundamental questions/issues are.

  98. September 17, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    I’m not sure we can say she chose because she was nurturing and intuitive. What in a text can you point to as asserting that?

    The issue of why Eve and not Adam is interesting – and of course the feminists pick up on that. It’s hard not to miss the creation of a certain power relation. How much of that is intentional and how much simply cultural baggage I can’t say. But Eve is cursed not only to have her husband rule but to desire her husband. (And the meaning of that has been the subject of lots of analysis) Likewise the way Adam is rebuked verges upon saying that part of Adam’s sin was listening to Eve in general.

    So I think the aspect of the story in terms of gender roles can’t be ignored. And I’m fully sympathetic to feminist critiques here.

    Beyond that issue though I’m pretty leery to ascribe much to Eve picking rather than Adam. You can make that indicate something bad about Eve or something good about Eve (and weak about Adam). My feeling though is that the indication that the whole event is fixed by God makes the question moot. I don’t think Eve or Adam are really deserving of praise or condemnation given their state and the way things are rigged against them.

  99. September 17, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    “Why did Adam not respond, but she did?”

    One idea that comes from the text is that Eve never heard the Forbidden Fruit commandment directly from God Himself, most likely second-hand from Adam. You’ll notice in the text, Eve has not yet been created when the commandment is given. Also notice she adds to the commandment when approached by Satan by saying they aren’t even supposed to touch the fruit. Thus, it would be easier to disobey God if you never really heard the commandment directly from Him as Adam did.

  100. Ron
    September 17, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    #99: Point well made about what is actually in the text, so it is conjectural, for whatever that might be worth. Trying to look at the structure of the story, itself.

    As for general assumptions, I am not sure what “mother of all living” would imply–if that means nurturing and intuitive?–something that could lead into stereotypes. I’m just thinking of life, itself, as a category. (Perhaps one could say Adam was intuitive about something different.) Also, I am not thinking in terms of one of them being the bad or weak one–only different in a duality sort of way. Together things become complete.

    Also, the idea of curses have led into things that I would not agree with, it is true. But I think that curses coming from the Lord (not coopted by us) are not always what they seem.

    Finally, the idea that the whole thing is fixed by God seems problematic. Maybe one of the main points of the story resides in that conundrum–how we do what we do independently and yet how God’s purposes continue.

    #100: The idea that Eve hadn’t directly heard the command is interesting. The directness/indirectness idea can be traced further in the story, too. Eve gives the fruit to Adam, instead the serpent giving it, and Adam listens to her and not the serpent. And getting to the source is tricky when each of the actors points to someone else as a source when called to account. The issue later comes up in Adam’s sacrificing and then Cain’s sacrificing, etc.

  101. September 18, 2009 at 12:37 am

    Note that Eve’s naming by Adam initially in chapter 2 is as Woman because she was taken from Man. Then after the cursing it is Adam who renames her as Eve because she is the mother of all living. Even in the narrative she’s just “woman” and not Eve. That’s always struck me when I read it.

    I’m not sure what it means, mind you. In a vague way it’s kind of disturbing. It suggests multitude of issues in terms of identity. (i.e. the parallel to the naming of the beasts by Adam implying once again an unequal power)

    Something else odd is that God says that the Man (Adam) is become like God. He never says Eve is.

    So while I’m no feminist, I have to agree that there are some real oddities to the text here.

    I bring all this up because I think there’s something to Tim’s point, but I think a bit more profound and disturbing. If Eve is getting things second hand through Adam (although the power relation isn’t introduced until after the fruit) and if Adam’s act of naming (both initially and after the fall) implies power over Eve, then the fall is about Adam’s not exercising power. And the nature of the cursing can be see as that.

    Needless to say that’s a tad disturbing, and needless to say that isn’t something that is overt in LDS theology, although you can see it indirectly in various places. Mormonism has tended to go an other way with the gender relations and portray Eve as better. (Although as I think we’ve hashed out that’s difficult to see in the text, despite Lehi’s reading) Adam is weak not because he listens to Eve, but because he didn’t come up with Eve’s idea. This then culminates in the “on a pedestal” view of women which ironically is a way of eliminating power by portraying women as having more power.

    So if you look at the power relations it’s all quite odd. Primarily because, as Kaimi noted, the real power behind everything is God who is definitely pulling the strings.

  102. September 18, 2009 at 12:39 am

    To add, there is a kind of inverted parallelism to the text as well. Eve gets God’s command through Adam. But Adam gets Satan’s beguilement through Eve. I think that’s structurally important and gets at the power relations. It’d be interesting to reread Lehi in light of the power relations, although I don’t have time right now.

  103. Ron
    September 18, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    I have to admit that my thinking on the story comes from a general mixing of various accounts and then intuitively responding. I would love to find a good structural analysis of the Genesis version alone, and then compare this with other versions/sources, which would help me be clearer on where I stand.

    With the hierarchy and dominance issues, in LDS thought there are some reversals, as in D&C 121 and 122, as if not buying into a korihorian view is part of overcoming the world.
    I find myself going for the positive spin on these things–looking for the good news.

  104. September 18, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    And getting to the source is tricky when each of the actors points to someone else as a source when called to account.

    Please tell me I’m not the only parent who giggles at this in the temple.

    Tim, #100, that’s a very interesting point. I’d never noticed that before.

  105. Justin
    September 18, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this very long thread (although it is a long time since I read Faust!).

    Is is possible to delete the unpleasant exchanges and name calling, please?

  106. JimW
    September 23, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    I’m new here, but I enjoyed the exchange and look forward to more.

    Deleting comments is, as a rule, a bad idea. The Digg-style option to hide comments in-place, and giving the reader the option to show them, would be more useful.

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