Sunday, February 19, 2006

That Men May Be

In a recent Sunday school class, we had an interesting lesson on the Fall of Mankind. A number of things were brought up that interested me. One was the difference between sin and transgression.

The way I see it, a transgression is the breaking of a law, while sin is knowingly breaking the law and therefore willfully disobeying God. By this definition, a sin is a transgression, but a transgression isn’t necessarily a sin. This fits nicely with 1 John 3:4, which I’ve heard numerous times from those unfriendly to the Church to make out the Fall to be a horrible thing. We as a Church generally try to explain it as something necessary and beautiful. Adam and Eve were innocent (2 Nephi 2:23, Genesis 2:25), and therefore their transgression wasn’t a sin. They were as children.

From certain scriptures (Moses 4:14, and others that seem to imply such), we know that children can trangress the law. If you punish your 3-year old child for coloring on the wall, you know this. They break the law, and there may be temporal consequences, like a spanking or a time-out. Nevertheless, they are innocent, and are therefore not eternally accountable for their decisions. Adam and Eve’s innocence allowed them to remain unstained from sin. See Moroni 8:8, 20, 22 where it teaches that Christ's atonement was still required to pay for the transgressions of children. The law can still be broken, but because are unaccountable before God for their transgressions, Christ paid the price for them.

But my real question isn’t the degree to which Adam transgressed. My question is the same cliche' that has been asked so many times before: Why did God make the path to a necessary mortality through a transgression of the commandments of God?

Some have theorized that God was testing them to see if they would be obedient for a period of time, and that later he would command them to partake of the fruit. This doesn’t make sense to me for a few of reasons: 1) Such a test wouldn’t seem to have any bearing on anything else in God's plan, temporal or spiritual. They still would have been required to enter the lone and dreary world where they would be subject to sin and temptation, whether they passed or failed the test. Their future's and the future of humanity would still have been the same. 2) I don’t believe God would command someone to do something that would result in separation from him. All of his commandments are designed to bring us closer. If they were later commanded to take the fruit and leave the Garden, it would almost be as if God were commanding us to take part in sin, or something that would draw us away from him. 3) The scriptures will always offer a stronger argument than anything I ever could. Read Nephi 2:22, where it seems to clearly teach that if there had been no transgression, Adam and Eve would still be innocent nudes in the Garden of Eden.

I offer what I believe is the truer answer. God knew that the experiences we needed to grow and become gods ourselves required a test of mortality and separation from God. But by his own laws, he can’t simply remove himself from us. We have to transgress to part from him. So he chose to set up a law that could be broken in order for them to separate from him on their own. He allowed them to make a decision that put them in the fallen state necessary for growth via transgression. Then they were required to pay a temporal consequence, namely mortality and expulsion from Paradise, just like the child in time-out. They also were given knowledge, and became accountable, like a chid reaching the age of eight. Along with these changes came a cutting off from the presence of God. Yet, this was not an eternal damnation. This was merely a more distant relationship. They would not suffer in Hell for their mistake, but they were required to grow up a bit, and spend their newly found mortal lives learning for themselves and making further mistakes. Yet, a Savior was provided, and they, with all of us, were given the opportunity to return to our Heavenly Father.

Some may believe my theory to be borderline blasphemous. I knew a missionary who put it this way: “It sounds like God set them up to fail.” I don’t see it that way. You see, God knows the beginning from the end. He doesn’t ever command someone to sin, but he knows they’re going to do it. So he uses others’ choices to further his own ends. Take the crucifixion of Christ for example. In 2 Nephi 10:3 it explains that it was necessary for Christ to live among the Jews, because they were the only ones wicked enough to crucify their Messiah. He used the bad choices of others to complete his Son’s atonement. So he similarly used Adam's and Eve's weakness of succumbing to temptation to bring to pass his righteous ends.

Adam and Eve were innocent, and therfore incapable of sin. They fulfilled God’s plan by transgressing the law, and were thereby given the opportunity for growth. Yet through it all, God did not cause them to sin.


Eric Nielson said...

I wonder if what needed to happen was a choice on our part to participate in the plan. God know there were risks associated with participation, and would not force anyone to participate in the plan of salvation without making a choice. A way of knowing the consequences and choosing to take them on. I have a feeling that each of us here chose to partake of the same fruit in a symbolic way.

Rob Osborn said...

I believe that the transgression of Adam and Eve was sin. They willingly were obedient to Satan and fell to temptation. They then needed baptism in order for redemption of their sin. We often tend to think that Adam was perfect. Yet we know that there was only one who was perfect. I believe as is spoken in 1 John that sin truly is trangression of the law. Adam knew he had disobeyed because he went and tried to hide himself from the Lord's presence afterwards.

mathoni said...

I agree that God never sets anybody up for failure. However, he knows what we need to do so we can grow. We all had to choose to come to this life. We all had to choose to have mortal bodies that will die. We all had to choose to sin.

As an additional thought, I once heard from my mission president that in the pre-existence, we all sustained Jehovah to be our Savior. We then sustained Adam and Eve to be our represetatives in the garden. In other words, every one of us who came into this world was represented in proxy by Adam or Eve, and we all would have partaken of the fruit, given the same chance. We all knew it was important and wanted it to happen. The fall was always a part of the plan.

For those who have gone through the temple endowment, there is some support in that ceremony for this train of thought. But even there, the entire reasoning does not get explained.

As for Adam being perfect, I don't think I've ever thought that. I do agree with Rob Osborn that sin truly is sin, no matter how small. Adam and Eve broke God's commandment willingly and knowingly. Just because it was part of the plan doesn't mean they didn't suffer the consequences. They had to repent. They were cut off from the presence of God. If transgression is defined by the intention, Adam and Eve sinned. Could the difference be in the degree of badness?

J2A2K (darth_ender) said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
J2A2K (darth_ender) said...

I should have incorporated some quotes into my article. Church leaders have expressed their belief in the distinction between sin and transgression. For instance, Joseph Fielding Smith said, "I do not look upon Adam’s fall as a sin, although it was a transgression of the law." This of course does not make it wrong, and Church leaders absolutely can err. I tend to side with them on this one. This site may also be found as helpful:
(Copy and paste both lines, as one would not fit)
Thanks for the comments and ideas.

Anonymous said...

Look to 2 Nephi 2 and read and re-read that chapter as well as regularly attend the temple to completely understand the fall and the setting in which it took place.

J2A2K (darth_ender) said...

I have a hard time seeing what you are getting at. Many of your comments are a tad, shall we say, patronizing. Are you telling me I am lacking in my spiritual understanding? Should I "read and re-read" 2 Nephi 2 and get to the temple a bit more often, and then rewrite this essay? Though neither reading from Nephi or increased temple attendance is unwise, I am getting the vibe that you are telling me I am lacking in understanding.

Fine. You have every right to feel that way.

But if that is indeed what you are truly trying to say, Could you come down from your Rameumptom so I can hear you better? There is some danger to asserting your "greater scriptural understanding" to those around you.

And next time, tell me how you think I'm wrong. I despise vague criticism.

Anonymous said...

I do not know if this helps but I found some research while surfing that reveals in-depth studies into the archaeological claims in the BOM.

Hope this helps.

J2A2K (darth_ender) said...

Interestingly, I was reading in a forum the other day how evil Mormons missionaries use deceptive tactics to gain converts. I myself was once a missionary, and if some of the claims were true, then I was disappointed in the missionaries who used them. I believe in being 100% truthful, and I know the Church does not condone dishonesty to gain members.

But when I read this latest comment from some bloke named Peter (whose name links us to instead of any organization that he truly belongs to), my first thought was, "Well, Mormon Archaeology is off toppic. But I'll give it a try." Come to find out, the website "Peter" provided sends us to an anti-Mormon ministry site.

My point is that while there may be dishonesty among those who teach my faith, it is absolutely not universal. And while there is certainly a great deal of honesty among members of other faiths, even those who oppose mine, it is absolutely not universal. Some people will use whatever means they can to deliver their message. Peter's message will not be deleted, so that the reader may see what I mean.