The Fall: Transgression or Sin

I once read somewhere that Adam and Eve only gained one thing from eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and that was sin. Sin will always subtract as it never adds… so in the broader scope of things, Adam and Eve did not gain anything from eating the forbidden fruit. I never felt comfortable with this reasoning. If the fruit was forbidden.why would God place it in the garden to begin with? I didn’t get it.

When I first started studying the gospel, I believed like most Christians that the eating of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was due to sin. I couldn’t fathom it being anything other than that. I also couldn’t grasp how it was a good thing. Yet as I studied more and asked questions I would learn that The Fall was not a sin, but a transgression.

Sin-To sin is to do something contrary to the will of the Lord. It is to be willfully disobedient.

Transgression– is the violation of a law or rule that may or may not be against the will of the Lord. Thus, all sins are transgressions but not all transgressions are sins.

The first time sin is mentioned in the Bible is in regards to Cain, whilst Adam and Eve’s partaking in the forbidden fruit is referred to as a transgression. (Genesis 4:6-7, Romans 5:14)

God gave Adam and Eve two commandments:

  1. Multiply and replenish the earth
  2. Refrain from eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

It wasn’t until I studied the Scriptures deeply and began to ask why would these two commandments contradict one another that I began to appreciate Adam and Eve’s roles.

How would Adam and Eve replenish the earth (procreation) when they were innocent and knew nothing of pain or even joy?

One of these commandments had to be broken. If they chose to eat the fruit, they would be cast out of the Garden, however if they chose not to eat from the fruit and remained in the garden, it would be impossible for them to have children. The Garden of Eden was a realm of innocence and purity and remaining in the Garden they would not progress. They would remain the same, never-changing, never growing in any way which ultimately included not having children.

“To bring the plan of happiness to fruition [fulfillment], God issued to Adam and Eve the first commandment ever given to mankind. It was a commandment to beget children. A law was explained to them. Should they eat from ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ (Genesis 2:17), their bodies would change; mortality and eventual death would come upon them. But partaking of that fruit was prerequisite to their parenthood” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 46; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 34).  ~Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

As God’s children we would never understand or grasp joy unless we experienced pain. Adam and Eve knew this and understood free will. They had the freedom to choose. By not eating the fruit they would not have been able to have children or learn to make the right decisions.The Fall enabled us to be born on earth, where we can learn and progress toward exaltation and eternal joy.

We can learn from the story of Adam and Eve. Their choice to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil did not come from a desire to disobey God, but from the need to gain wisdom. Their choice gave each of us the option to be born and live upon the earth to learn as Adam and Eve did. We can learn from them and always choose good over evil.

Resources:

Quote from the LDS Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual:

Partaking of the forbidden fruit was not a sin

To help explain that Adam and Eve did not sin when they partook of the forbidden fruit, read the following statement from Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

“It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. 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. …

“… We celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall. … 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.’ …

“This suggested contrast between a sin and a transgression reminds us of the careful wording in the second article of faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (italics added). It also echoes a familiar distinction in the law. Some acts, like murder, are crimes because they are inherently wrong. Other acts, like operating without a license, are crimes only because they are legally prohibited. Under these distinctions, the act that produced the Fall was not a sin—inherently wrong—but a transgression—wrong because it was formally prohibited. These words are not always used to denote something different, but this distinction seems meaningful in the circumstances of the Fall” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 98; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 73).

Genesis 1:28; 2:16–17

Moses 2:28; 3:16–17;

2 Nephi 2:19–20, 22–25;

Moses 4:6–12.

The Fall of Adam and Eve, Teacher’s Manual (1998)

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