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This subpage is for discussion of the fall. I'm particularly interested in the distinction between sin and transgression, about which there has been a lot of blog discussion lately. I'd like to organize and anlayze the main arguments and relevant quotes and links on this page. Thanks in advance for any help!


Sin, transgression, and praiseworthiness of the fall[edit]

Elder Oaks (see link below) has said that the distinction between sin and transgression is important in the wording of the 2nd Article of Faith--that Adam and Eve partaking of the fruit was only a transgression (malum prohibitum in legalese, or "wrong because it was formally prohibited" in Elder Oaks' wording), not a sin (malum in se, or "inherently wrong" in Elder Oaks' wording). If we accept this distinction, do transgressions need to be forgiven?

Moses 6:53 says that the transgression in the garden needed to be forgiven. If this verse is using the term transgression as Elder Oaks is using it, then at least this transgression needed to be forgiven. Despite the need for this act to be forgiven, apostles have praised Adam and Eve's partaking of the fruit in the garden. Elder Nelson has said

"We and all mankind are forever blessed because of Eve’s great courage and wisdom. By partaking of the fruit first, she did what needed to be done. Adam was wise enough to do likewise." ("Constancy amid Change")

How can Adam and Eve's transgression, blatant disobedience to God's commandment (cf. Moses 3:16-17) be praiseworthy? Elder Oaks explains

"Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same." (“The Great Plan of Happiness")

Elder Oaks intimates uncertainty about the nature of Eve's culpability, but implies that at least Adam's partaking (after Eve) was praiseworthy. Adam's situation can be viewed as slightly different than Eve's. The case could be made that since Eve had disobeyed God's commandment, Adam needed to follow suit in order to fulfill the commandment God had given him to remain with Eve [is this in the scriptures or am I mistaken??]. However, it begs the question, "couldn't Adam have waited for God to come back and then explained the situation and asked for further advice"?

Contradictory commandments?[edit]

Did God give Adam and Eve two contradictory commandments in telling them to not partake of the fruit and to multiply and replenish the earth (see 2 Ne 2:21-25 and Moses 5:11)? If so, it seems God was somehow setting Adam and Eve up to fail. But setting Adam and Eve up to fail seems incompatible with the kindness and justice of a loving Heavenly Father. Put differently, if Adam and Eve's disobedience was indeed a praiseworthy act, why did God give a commandment whose breaking would constitute a praiseworthy act?

One possible answer might be related to Adam and Eve's innocence in the garden. If they didn't know the difference between good and evil before partaking of the fruit, then their disobeying of God's commandment might be viewed very differently than any disobedience to a commandment from God after having partaken of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Another possible answer is that although the transgression in the Garden might've ultimately worked for their good (cf. Rom 8:28), this does not necessarily imply that another way couldn't have been better (see exegesis for Moses 5:11 and 2 Ne 2:22).

Key scriptures[edit]

  • 2 Ne 2:21-25: ". . . . 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. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy."
  • Alma 42:12-13,17: "there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience ... only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state. ... How could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law?"
  • Moses 5:10-11: "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."
  • Moses 6:53: "And the Lord said unto Adam: Behold I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden."

Related links[edit]

Sin vs. transgression[edit]

Blog threads[edit]

  • T&S discussion: Discussion of Julie Smith's Sunday school lesson heavily discusses the distinction between sin and transgression.
  • Clark's M* discussion: Clark Goble's thread at M* discusses the distinction between sin and transgression.
Thoughts on why God didn't set Adam and Eve up to sin. Summary last paragraph: "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."
Discussion of whether God set Adam and Eve up to fail
  • Mark Butler's post at M* arguing the fall was unfortunate. (I only briefly skimmed the marathon discussion there—it follows a fairly typical analytical theological style; I noticed this post from this somewhat related post wondering why Adam and Eve couldn't have children in the Garden of Eden.)