Image result for Adam and Eve Tree

The story of Adam and Eve, Mormonly understood, makes a mockery of the idea of salvation under the Law.

The standard Christian view is that Adam and Eve were given a strict commandment not to eat the fruit, the Serpent tricked them into eating it, so God in his anger cast them out of Eden. The Mormon view is that Adam and Eve were given two commandments which could not both be fulfilled, so one (don’t eat the fruit), had to give way to the higher one (multiply and replenish the Earth). Adam fell that men might be.

Elder Oaks explained, more clearly than I can ever hope to, the Mormon belief that what Adam and Eve did was a “transgression,” not a “sin”:

For reasons that have not been revealed, this transition, or “fall,” could not happen without a transgression—an exercise of moral agency amounting to a willful breaking of a law (see Moses 6:59). This would be a planned offense, a formality to serve an eternal purpose.

The obvious theological objection to our doctrine would be: “God is perfect and perfectly just, so why would he give a commandment knowing that it could not be fulfilled? How is that fair?” As Elder Oaks says, the need for such a transgression has never been fully explained, and I admit that this one used to bug me a little when I was younger. Eventually I shrugged it off; it was a one-off deal, so why think too hard about it?

Then I served a mission, got married, had kids, and realized that God gives impossible commandments all the time.

No commandment is impossible in an absolute sense, mind you (I see you, Nephi 3:7). It’s only when you take them all together. For example, if I were truly devoted to my calling to the extent that I am commanded to be, I would have to cut considerably back on time with my family (“No Other Success Can Compensate for Failure in the Home”). Or if I were to put my foot down and say, “No, I won’t compromise on my calling or my family duties,” then I can compromise my ability to perform the job I’m paid a salary to do (“Are you honest in your dealings with fellow man?”) or cut back so completely on sleep and other healthful habits that I cannot possibly claim to keep the Word of Wisdom.

Now, I’m absolutely the wrong person to point this out, because I’m a lazy fool who comes nowhere near the limits of my ability to follow the commandments. But even in those times when I’ve given my full measure of devotion, there was simply no way I could have done it all.

[There are, of course, a few Elect who possess the superhuman ability to keep all their earthly and spiritual commitments to the letter. They are known as Stake Presidents and their Wives, and the less said about this inscrutable, alien race, the better.]

So, we have plenty in common with Adam and Eve on this point. We have to make difficult choices between competing commandments, and we know that we will be under condemnation unless…

…unless someone makes up the difference.

Image result for rubens christ on the cross

So much for the “fairness” complaint.

It still seems odd that the Father would set up the inherent contradiction of commandments that couldn’t be obeyed. But consider the alternative. How can mortals truly become the heirs of God when they’re only asked to do what mortals can do? And it’s not just this notion of “shoot for the Moon and hit the barn.” Our modern world labors under that secular form of Legalism known as “Equality.” Equality is a flattening of human expectations, wherein we minutely calibrate the demands of morality to prevent the tragedy that one man might be asked to bear a burden slightly greater than another.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn really had our number:

Western society has given itself the organization best suited to its purposes based, I would say, one the letter of the law. The limits of human rights and righteousness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad. People in the West have acquired considerable skill in interpreting and manipulating law. Any conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the supreme solution. If one is right from a legal point of view, nothing more is required. Nobody will mention that one could still not be entirely right, and urge self-restraint, a willingness to renounce such legal rights, sacrifice and selfless risk. It would sound simply absurd. One almost never sees voluntary self-restraint. Everybody operates at the extreme limit of those legal frames.

I have spent all my life under a Communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale than the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man’s noblest impulses.

So by obliterating the notion of salvation through the Law, and giving us commandments that he knew we couldn’t comply with, not all at once, not in this fallen world, our Father saved us from the damnation of mediocrity. The Ancient Greeks may have had it right about Hades: not a place primarily reserved for burning, but for bumming around.

Is this trickery? Does it impugn the perfection of God?

Let me turn that question around: What seems less consistent with the notion of a perfect God? That he gives commandments knowing they can’t all be obeyed? Or that his plan for his children is so flawed that it can be subverted by the solo effort of a two-bit trickster disguised as a snake? (A snake! He’s barely even trying to hide it!)

The more I think about it, the more I love the way the story of Adam and Eve has been flipped around by Mormonism. Not for us the humorless God who demands perfect obedience, gets outwitted by Satan, and then goes immediately to Plan B.

No, our God set it all up so that his worst enemy would play right into his hands! And then he sets us up for a “Fall Forward,” just like a father should. A father tells his daughter he won’t let go of the back of the bike…until suddenly the child looks back, and sees that she’s been tricked into learning how to ride without help. A father tricks his son into trying to score a 0% on his school tests, thereby turning him into a perfect student:

God is a Father, and fathers are good at tricking kids for their own good.

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