I’m pretty sure my understanding of the Fall is woefully incomplete. I’ve been still trying to square statements that pop up with frequency in the Bloggernacle and even in General Conference talks that say things like, “Mormons believe that Eve was courageous and wise” in her decision to partake of the forbidden fruit, when the scriptural texts suggest we don’t believe that. I thought it might be useful to explore just what the Book of Mormon says about Eve and the Fall.
I learned a few things. First, while Eve is referred to three times by name (2 Ne 2:18-19, 1 Ne 5:11), she is referred to many more times as one of our “first parents.” (1 Ne 5:11, 2 Ne 2:15, 2 Ne 9:9. Mosiah 16:3, Alma 12:21,26, Alma 42:2, 7, Hel 6:26, Ether 8:25). That is, she and Adam are more frequently referred to as a unit than as separate people. The Fall is never associated with Eve alone.
This treating of Adam and Eve as a unit extends explicitly to the actual partaking of the fruit as well: the two of them were “beguiled” (used three times) or “enticed” (used once) into partaking of the fruit. That is, both are viewed as responsible for the partaking. It is not that Eve is foolish while Adam is wise, or that Eve and Adam are both wise. Both were tricked, both were cut off. If anything, Adam bears the larger burden of blame; many times the fall is referred to just as the “transgression of Adam” or the “fall of Adam.” (Mosiah 3:11, 19, and many other examples.)
Furthermore, the Book of Mormon makes it very clear that Adam and Eve were tricked by Satan into eating the forbidden fruit. While some have argued that “beguiled” might not mean what the dictionary says it does, the context in which the Book of Mormon uses “beguiled” repeatedly very effectively destroys that argument (2 Ne 9:9, Mosiah 16:3, Ether 8:25). Plus of course the use of the word “entice,” (Hel 6:26) just to make things clear. Nowhere does the Book of Mormon suggest that Adam and Eve were courageous, or wise, or had foreknowledge. Just the opposite — this was something Satan led them to do, not something they did on their own. Lehi asserts, “All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things,” (2 Ne 2:24) but that knowledge is never attributed to Adam or Eve.
While it is clear that God had planned for the Fall, the Fall still was a transgression with serious and immediate undesirable consequences. It in and of itself was so severe that it led Adam and Eve to be “cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord.” (Alma 42:7), and if there would not have been an opportunity for change from that state (probation/repentance), “they would have been forever miserable.” (Alma 12:26, note again the plural form).
So perhaps I can summarize the implications:
– The Fall was a joint decision and joint action. Eve gets neither sole credit nor sole blame. Both are actors in the story, both are essential and repeatedly mentioned. I find the frequency with which Eve is included in the Fall to be very interesting and quite different from the way Mormons typically describe the Fall. Perhaps we should start referring the Fall of Adam and Eve, rather than the Fall of Adam.
– Both Adam and Eve were tricked (“beguiled,” “enticed”). No foreknowledge. No courage. No wisdom.
– The Fall was a serious transgression that had the same net effect that serious sin has, on both Adam and Eve. To me, this means that the term “transgression,” is a term of art, a description of this particular event, and significant especially in the context of Adam and Eve not yet knowing good from evil.
– God had a plan. This does not, however, mean that Adam and Eve were robots, or that that was not some other alternative to partaking of the fruit.
I’m sure there’s more…