Why would God give conflicting commandments to our first parents?
Immediately after creating Adam and Eve in His image, He gave them the same commandment He had given to the animals: “Be fruitful, and multiply” (Genesis 1:28, Moses 2:28; see also Genesis 1:22, Moses 2:22). Yet Lehi tells us that everything in the Garden of Eden was static, unchanging.
If Adam [and Eve] had not transgressed [they] would not have fallen, but [they] would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.2 Nephi 2:22-23
One possible answer is that this life would be so difficult that they needed to know they had chosen it; if mortality were simply imposed upon them, they would never rise to the challenge and “act for themselves” (2 Nephi 2:26). Here’s a blog post in which I discuss that concept in more detail:
We don’t know how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, but we do know that Eve was the first to recognize the need for change. She initiated the process that allowed all of us to come to earth, which may be why God named her Chavvah (חַוָּה): “life” or “life-giver.” Here’s a blog post about her:
In explaining the consequences of their action, God taught them an important principle: “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19), or as Joseph Smith rendered the passage: “Dust thou wast, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Moses 4:25, italics added). Book of Mormon prophets used similar terminology to remind us of our vulnerability and need for humility:
- “All Flesh Is of the Dust” – Jacob 2:21
- What Is the Significance of the Phrase “a Tabernacle of Clay?”
After Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, God prevented them from partaking of the fruit of the tree of life, which apparently would have neutralized the consequences of their transgression. (See Genesis 3:22-24, Moses 4:28-31.) The Bible merely reports that God took this action. In the Book of Mormon, Alma explains why: Adam and Eve needed time to prepare for eternal life. If they received that blessing before they were ready, it would have been a curse. Here are some blog posts on the topic: