The first step in abandoning a sin is recognizing that it exists. If we are unwilling to admit that we have done something wrong, we are likely to continue making the same mistake over and over again.
When God approached Adam and Eve after their transgression in the Garden of Eden, He gave them the opportunity to acknowledge their actions. The scriptures say that they “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God” when they heard Him walking in the garden (Genesis 3:8, 10, Moses 4:14, 16). They dreaded this conversation!
God knew what they had done, but He didn’t directly confront them. Instead, He asked a series of questions which invited them to take responsibility for their own decisions. To Adam: “Where art thou?” “Who told thee that thou wast naked?” and “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (Genesis 3:9, 11, Moses 4:15, 17) To Eve: “What is this that thou hast done?” (Genesis 3:13, Moses 4:19)
It was not easy for them to acknowledge their actions, even when confronted with the evidence. In both cases, they pointed out the influence of another actor, to give context for their decision. But in the end, both of them said these three crucial words: “I did eat” (Genesis 3:12-13, Moses 4:18-19).
Many times in the Book of Mormon, we read about people acknowledging their mistakes as part of their process of leaving those sins behind. For example:
- After organizing the church at the waters of Mormon and fleeing from the armies of King Noah, Alma spoke to his people. “I myself was caught in a snare,” he said, “and did many things which were abominable in the sight of the Lord, which caused me sore repentance” (Mosiah 23:10).
- His son, also named Alma, explained the pain he felt when an angel brought him face to face with his actions: “I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments,” he later said to his son Helaman. “Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror” (Alma 36:13-14).
- Amulek, as he defended Alma to his friends and neighbors, was also candid about his prior errors: “I did harden my heart,” he said, “for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart” (Alma 10:6).
None of these men wallowed in their sins. Their purpose in bringing their past decisions up was to communicate that they accepted responsibility for what they had done, and that they were determined to do better. They acknowledged their errors in order to let the errors go.
Today, I will admit my mistakes. I will remember that failures can only be beneficial if I am willing to learn from them. I will take responsibility for my own actions.
Good focus, Paul! Your analysis of the Adam-Eve dialogue with God
focusing on the questions make it clear that asking questions, at least
in this case, is a better way to proceed than bellowing accusations
(although there are plenty examples in the Old Testament that, depending
on the prophet, threats and dire warnings could also be in the divine
I agree that the socratic method isn’t God’s only method of teaching us. Perhaps we aren’t always responsive to that approach and sometimes need something a little stronger to get our attention. I noticed after writing this post that God’s approach with Cain mirrored His approach with Adam and Eve, but with less optimal results!
Thanks for your thoughts!