Why Did Adam and Eve Have to Break a Commandment of God? – 2 Nephi 2:15-25

Lehi taught his son Jacob that the Fall of Adam and Eve was a necessary step for their happiness and for ours. He explained what would have happened if they had not eaten the forbidden fruit:

  1. Everything would have been stagnant, unchanging.
  2. Adam and Eve would not have had children.
  3. They would not have experienced joy or misery, righteousness or sin (2 Nephi 2:13, 22-23).

So the Fall was an essential component of God’s plan, not a mistake:

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 (2 Nephi 2:24-25).

The Fall consisted of Adam and Eve breaking a commandment they had received from God. Here is that commandment, as recorded in the book of Genesis:

Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
thou shalt not eat of it:
for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
(Genesis 2:16-17)

In the Joseph Smith Translation of that passage, two additional phrases are inserted:

Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
thou shalt not eat of it,
nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee;
but, remember that I forbid it,
for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
(Moses 3:16-17, italics added)

In my mind, these two inserted phrases are critical to understanding the commandment. God is still telling Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit, but he is also telling them that the decision is theirs. “Thou mayest choose for thyself,” He says, “for it is given unto thee.” As Lehi told Jacob, “The Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself” (2 Nephi 2:16).

Then, God reiterates the consequence: “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Your choice will subject you to physical and spiritual death. You will be cut off from my presence, and you will become mortal. That is the outcome if you choose to eat this fruit.

Here’s the message I think the Lord is giving them: “This decision has to be yours. I will not make it for you. In fact, I will forbid you to do it, so that there is no question in your mind that this was your decision. Life is going to be hard. It’s going to be painful. It’s going to stretch you and challenge you in ways you cannot foresee. At times, you may wonder why you ever signed up for this experience. But you will know that it was you who signed up. I didn’t do it for you. This was your choice.”

In the Council in Heaven, we all agreed to follow God’s plan and come to earth, in spite of the risks and the obstacles we would face. In the Garden of Eden, our first parents faced that same choice again. On behalf of us all, they chose progression over convenience, growth over stagnation. God made clear to them that the path would not be easy, but they chose it anyway, because without experiencing misery, they (and we) would never be able to achieve true happiness (2 Nephi 2:11-12). In the words of Eve:

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 5:11).

Today, I will be grateful for the Fall of Adam and Eve. I will remember that their decision gives me the opportunity to experience joy and to progress toward my divine potential.

5 thoughts on “Why Did Adam and Eve Have to Break a Commandment of God? – 2 Nephi 2:15-25

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  1. There is always the unspoken possibility that God would have offered them the fruit in due time if they had been patient. He did say he had greater light and knowledge for them. It makes sense to me that Satan could have tried to supplant the role of the Savior by offering the fruit “the same as has been fine in other worlds”. And then the cursing words to Lucifer later “because THOU hast done this , thou shalt be cursed….” have a slightly different meaning. It was possibly because he took on a role that was meant for the Savior and out of order, meant for a future time. The idea that there was no other way was not from God, but suggested by Satan. So while the outcome may have been the same, the actual choice and early timing was out of fear of missing out, and not faith in God and His ability to redeem them. They learned of that later and were glad. As my dad once said, “Eve jumped the gun.” This makes sense to me, but may not be true. Just my 2 cents.

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    1. Thank you for sharing that intriguing interpretation. If your hypothesis is true that they might have eventually been permitted to partake of the fruit, that they simply partook too soon, then your reading of Moses 4:20 is exactly right: “because THOU hast done this,” or even, “because thou hast done this NOW…”
      I do think that there is additional evidence, however, that God intended for them to break the commandment, that this was an essential part of His plan. Here are a few examples:
      1. Lehi tells the story of the Fall as an example of the opposition we must all face. Before explaining that “Adam fell that men might be,” he says, “All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things,” which suggests to me that the events in the garden happened exactly as God intended (2 Nephi 2:24).
      2. After they were cast out of the garden, Adam and Eve were both convinced that they had done the right thing. Adam: “Because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy.” Eve: “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” (Moses 5:10-11).
      3. Multiple modern-day prophets have taught that Eve’s decision was the right one. For example, Boyd K. Packer said, “A choice…was imposed upon Eve. She should be praised for her decision. Then ‘Adam fell that men might be.'” (“For Time and All Eternity,” General Conference, October 1993). And Dallin H. Oaks said, “Some Christians condemn Eve for her act…. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall” (“The Great Plan of Happiness,” General Conference, October 1993).
      Admittedly, this interpretation makes the whole episode more complex, but I think that is the point. I think grappling with difficult choices, struggling to make the right decisions in the midst of bewildering circumstances is part of the opposition we face in life, and that is why mortal life is such a powerful environment for growth.

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  2. Thank you for your thoughtful reply! Of course, I concur whole heartedly with your no. 1 point–in that God definitely wasn’t surprised by their decision, and as all things do work together for the good of those that Love the Lord, it did indeed workout to their good through the grace of God. However, after that, it does get a little messy. If God had given them the fruit, would they have been any less grateful for learning good from evil, only under His tutelage? We will never know in this life, most likely. Did they know good from evil because they partook of the fruit, or because they transgressed? Personally, I think we equate transgression with partaking of the fruit, when I’m not convinced that it had to be one and the same. Could they not have potentially partaken of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil and knowingly condescended to a mortal world? Again, we don’t know. But I believe it is possible. I suppose I resist equating the two on this premise: God did not tell Eve “good job, you did what I asked you not to do”. In fact, he counseled her to talk to her husband in the future and promised her that her troubles would be multiplied. I just can’t imagine why he didn’t compliment her if she had really done well! I don’t believe we should condemn Eve, but I’m not sure celebrating her act of what appears (to me) to be an act of fear and taking things into her own hands is truly what women of God should be emulating? Even by their own standard, Adam and Eve considered themselves to have been deceived. I do believe that Eve fully repented and learned and became all she needed to become and overcame the fall by truly coming to the Savior– and that because of her fall, she did know the Savior better than had she never fallen. I just can’t follow the logic of believing it was an act of faith to disobey. I do see that the outcome was exactly as God intended it to be, however, so perhaps that is the only thing that matters. Thank you for listening. This is something I have pondered and thought about for years.

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    1. Thanks for those great thoughts! I think you have laid out the difficulties raised by this event very well. I agree that it would be wrong to conclude from this story that stubbornness and disobedience is somehow okay. And yet I think there is something deeper here.
      When my children have gone on missions, I have been pleased with their decision to serve. But I have also wanted it to be their decision, because I know that the experience will be difficult. They need to know that it was their choice, that the decision wasn’t imposed on them. Of course, I didn’t forbid them to serve, but I think a similar principle is involved. “Thou mayest choose for thyself,” Heavenly Father said to Adam and Eve, “for it is given unto thee” (Moses 3:17). And Lehi introduced the story by saying, “The Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself” (2 Nephi 2:16). My view is that they were more prepared and fortified to endure the pains and the challenges of mortal life because they knew they had chosen it.
      You and I agree on the most important points–that the Fall was part of Heavenly Father’s plan for our happiness, and that Adam and Eve benefitted from the experience in spite of the negative consequences which followed their transgression.

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