Wheat & Tares welcomes guest poster Bill Reel: Host of “Mormon Discussion Podcast”. His Podcast serves to help those reconstructing their faith within Mormonism to do so “Leading with Faith” rather than leaving the Church.
In the Church there is an underlying tension that few members are aware of. The reconciling of a Literal Fall in a Literal Eden with what we know from Science about Evolution and the age of the earth.
Elder Holland recently stated “there is no way to truly celebrate Christmas or Easter—without understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it.”
He seems to impose a literal reading that there was a garden in Missouri where a literal fall took place.
This seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom regarding our earths history, prior species of humanoids, and the age of the earth.
I am not saying impossible but rather my brain searches for another way to put all this together.
So lets step back and look at all the possibilities.
#1.) LDS Leaders have given us way more room to not take this story literally than we think. For example
President Kimball stated – “”And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them. [The story of the rib, of course, is figurative.]”
President Packer has stated “What is said in the revelations about the Creation, though brief, is repeated in Genesis, in the Book of Mormon, in Moses, in Abraham, and in the endowment. We are told it is figurative insofar as the man and the woman are concerned. – The Law and the Light,” Book of Mormon Symposium, BYU, 30 October 1988
Elder McConkie taught “As to the Fall itself we are told that the Lord planted “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” in the midst of the garden. (Moses 3:9.) To Adam and Eve the command came: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Moses 3:16-17.) Again the account is speaking figuratively. What is meant by partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is that our first parents complied with whatever laws were involved so that their bodies would change from their state of paradisiacal immortality to a state of natural mortality”
And Elder McConkie again refers to the trees being figurative when he taught “As to the fall, the scriptures set forth that there were in the Garden of Eden two trees. One was the tree of life, which figuratively refers to eternal life; the other was the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which figuratively refers to how and why and in what manner mortality and all that appertains to it came into being. Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,” the Lord told our first parents, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Moses 3:16-17.) (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith , 85-86)
#2.) Once one allows the rib, the dust, the snake and the trees to be figurative, many will struggle to make much semblance of a literal Garden on this earth where a literal fall took place. It seems with no trees, ribs, snake, and dust the entire story must fall apart or perhaps take on a different meaning.
What else could the Story be telling us? I often wonder if God placed many of the stories in Scriptures that while taken literally by his children, actually take on a whole other level of intended meaning. What if the creation story with it’s Garden and Fall were God’s way of dumbing down an important story for his children?
Let’s consider the following intersections between the Garden Story and our Premortal life.
In the Garden Satan is present. In the Pre-mortal life Satan is present.
In the Garden Satan tries to convince God’s Children to follow him. He does the Same in the Pre-mortal life
In the Garden there is no death before the fall. In the pre-mortal life there was no death before our coming to earth.
In the garden Adam and Eve did not fully comprehend good and evil. Without bodies and a fallen nature in the Pre-mortal life, we can not fully understand good and evil
In the Garden Satan was cast out. In the Pre-mortal life Satan was Cast out.
In the garden Adam and Eve had to choose to partake of the fruit to experience the change. In the Pre-mortal life we each had to choose to experience this mortal life
In the garden was a fall and we were changed because of that fall. We “fell” from heaven to earth and were changed because of that transition.
In the Garden God Clothed us after the fall. When we left the pre-mortal life we were clothed with a body.
Both before and after the fall in the Garden Messengers from the father teach us. The same happened in both the Pre-mortal life and here.
There are others but this gets you thinking…. What if the Creation Story with its Garden and Fall was Gods way of telling us about our pre-mortal life?
This view resolves a lot of things but it also poses two problems.
First what it solves. It gives you and me room to welcome science and to not be shaken by issues of how old the Earth is or whether we and monkeys have a common ancestor. It simply does not matter. One allowing more figurativeness is not bound to many of the lines set in the past by leaders who took God’s stories 100% literally all the time. This gives more room to hold faith inspite of new scientific developments. It also calls on us to see that prophets and others are limited in their interpretations at times by the lens in which they see a story.
So you ask, what are the problems. One is that we have theologically staked a claim that Adam and Eve were real people and our first parents on this earth. The second is that Joseph taught that real defined places on earth were the same places where this Adam and Eve resided.
How do I make this work? Simple. I see the Garden and the Fall as both a allegorical story that refers to our premortal life and our fall from there. Yet I also hold that the first two of God’s spirit children placed into humanoid bodies were Adam and Eve, our literal first parents. In regards to the geographic locations, I am perfectly comfortable with God having shown Brother Joseph where these first parents lived and Joseph made a false assumption based on his literal view of the story that God was referring to Eden and just outside the garden when really God had only conveyed that this is where our first two parents resided.
In this perspective Elder Holland would be right that there was a literal Garden and Literal Fall, though we would say both occurred in another sphere and not on this earth. He would also be right when he said there exists a literal Adam and Eve.
– What other connections between the Garden and Pre-mortal life do you see?
– Does this explanation work for you?
– What problems do you see as not resolved?
– What other stories in scripture seem to resemble allegorical ideas?