3 Now, we see that the man had become as God, knowing good and evil; and lest he should put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever, the Lord God placed cherubim and the flaming sword, that he should not partake of the fruit–
4 And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God.
5 For behold, if Adam had put forth his hand immediately, and partaken of the tree of life, he would have lived forever, according to the word of God, having no space for repentance; yea, and also the word of God would have been void, and the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated.
Heavenly Father is a perfect parent, and His interactions with Adam and Eve can teach us principles which can help us be better parents and leaders:
1. He allowed Adam and Eve to make choices. People need a certain level of autonomy in order to be happy.
2. Because they didn’t fully understand the implications of their choices, He warned them about one particular choice which would have long-ranging consequences. He described those consequences to them clearly, so that they would be able to make their own decision with full awareness of what they were doing.
3. He didn’t try to shield them from the consequences of their choice once they made it. He demonstrated respect for their agency by allowing them to both choose and accept the consequences of that choice.
4. But He did shield them from another choice which would have caused permanent, irreparable damage. There are limits to the choices our Heavenly Father will allow us to make. If He had allowed them to partake of the tree of life, they would have lost the opportunity to repent and be cleansed. They needed to be mortal for a while and to learn from their mistakes in a controlled environment before being placed in their permanent and eternal home. So Heavenly Father cut off that option from them. He allowed them to eat one fruit even though the consequences were severe and painful, but He didn’t allow them to eat the other fruit which would have limited their options forever, at least not until they were ready to partake. They needed a probationary time, a “space for repentance,” before they could be ready to partake of that fruit.
So also as parents, we need to enable our children to make good decisions. We need to teach them about the options that are available to them and the consequences associated with various courses of action. We need to allow them to make decisions on their own and to take full responsibility for those decisions, including letting them experiences the consequences. But some decisions have consequences so severe that we cannot allow our children to make them–not yet. We must place some limits on their autonomy for a time in order to protect them from consequences they are not yet able to endure. These restrictions do not indicate a lack of respect for their agency but rather a recognition that we have an important role to play as their parents, and that we must also exercise our agency on their behalf while they are under our care. In our home, they make choices within a controlled environment; they are still in a preparatory state. We place limits on their decisions in order to guide them safely to adulthood and independence, when they will have access to a much larger number of choices and consequences.