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Was Adam's Sin Necessary?

LDS theology turns Adam and Eve’s rebellion in the Garden of Eden into a necessary good for humankind. For Joseph Smith and his followers, the Fall was a “fall upward.” Their sin was a blessing in disguise.

The picture is painted most starkly by Lehi in 2 Nephi 2:11-14 in the Book of Mormon: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things… If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth…” Lehi concludes in verse 25: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”

God's very existence depends on the necessity of sin?? Innocence means no joy?? It sounds like God has been made the author of not only moral evil, but of all the hideous suffering that has come with it. How can all of this be, and why?

Eve is happy to give us one answer why in Moses 5:11 (in the LDS scripture Pearl of Great Price): “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should we have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth to all the obedient.”

So Eve says that if we had not sinned, we'd never have had children. But still, how can obeying Satan be a good thing? "Woe unto them that call evil good" (Isaiah 5:20).

I reject the claim that there would be no children without the Fall. Children serve a different purpose in a fallen world (replacement) than in an unfallen world, where we would increase God's army of image-bearers to fill creation and subdue it. The new heavens and earth in Revelation are Eden 2.0, with a holy city, which is what Adam and his sinless children would have built, if sin hadn't destroyed the relationship they had with God.

Children were always intended for a higher purpose than replacement, so the Fall was an unnecessary tragedy of catastrophic proportions.

So why was the Fall necessary, then? Our LDS friends say the greater issue is that without pain and struggle, how are righteousness and human greatness possible? How can we have goodness, without evil to resist? An LDS friend of mine says that a perpetual Eden would have produced spoiled brats, or at best, they would have remained little children rather than becoming mature, virtuous adults. He claims that the Fall was needed to make heaven as wonderful as it is, and that the blessings we will inherit there are greater than we would have had without the Fall.

My LDS friend thinks that innocent humans would not be Christ-like, because they would not have struggled with sin like Christ did. Some LDS have speculated whether Heavenly Father or Jesus had to overcome sins of their own committed in a previous world. This possibility would be entirely consistent with LDS beliefs about Adam and the necessity of the Fall in our present world, but it creates great problems for our understanding of the Atonement, which requires a Savior with no sin of his/her own to pay for.

The truth is that to know evil by doing it was not necessary for our first parents. Jesus was perfect, without ever having participated in evil. The sinless Jesus encountered opposition, the same kind as Adam and Eve did before they fell. Rebellion had already happened before Eden was created, so Paradise was not without potentials to sin, so Adam still had evil to resist there. Because Adam fell, God sent Jesus as the second Adam, to undo all of the damage done by the first Adam.

So how can Adam and Eve know good, if they have never known evil? The answer is that they knew good, like a fish knows water, and evil would always be close at hand, even if they always made the correct choice. We must learn through what we suffer, but that’s because we now have a human nature that is at war with God, unlike Adam and Eve, who did not have a sin nature to struggle against, but fell anyway.

Yes, Adam and Eve had none of the effects of the curse, effects which God hates: pain, death, corruption. God uses evils like these to produce great good (Romans 8:28). But God hates these evils all the same. Adam and Eve did have to exercise faith (not just passive acquiescence), which is the very point where they failed. They did work, but without the subsequent curses on their work such as futility, thorns and thistles, etc. C S Lewis' Perelandra describes a world on Venus where the inhabitants did not commit Adam's sin, and were just on the verge of making that fateful mistake when the hero of the story intervenes.

Death threw a brick through the glass window of God's paradise. God fixed it, but to say that this was good is to agree with the logic that riots are good for the economy, because they require economic activity to rebuild what was destroyed. Death was not necessary then. It has become necessary now, in order to release us from the curse brought on by our rebellion, so that we can be restored to God's original intention, from which we took the whole creation on a Satanic detour. We did not need regeneration, until we threw away our originally intended state.

It required child-like faith for Adam and Eve to let God decide good and evil for us, and it was Adam and Eve's desire to "be like God, knowing good and evil" [determining it for themselves] that was the very issue where the serpent tempted Eve. Better not to be "like God" in this way.

We would have been better off if we had maintained a childlike trust in God to decide good and evil for us.

To claim that the Fall of Adam and Eve was a necessary blessing turns our entire faith upside down. It requires suffering and evil of catastrophic proportions, simply so that we might have joy in spite of all the damage. To me, this teaching is one piece of evidence that the prophet who taught it is not from God.