The Fall of Adam and Eve in the Temple

Intro

One of the main focal points of the endowment ceremony is learning about the Fall of Adam and Eve. The Fall is also recounted in Genesis 2–3, Moses 3–4, and Abraham 5. We’ve got a lot to cover, so today I’m going to go over the basic story of the Fall, as it’s presented in the scriptures and the temple. I’ll draw out some important, doctrinal truths we learn from this story, including the important roles of men and women. I’ll discuss why Eve was the one to first partake of the fruit, I’ll talk about why Adam and Eve were given a commandment they were fated to break, and I’ll tie it all back to the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

I need to start this video by disclaiming that when it comes to these first primordial narratives of creation and fall, there is little that we know. The temple, the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Moses give us greater light and knowledge on the Fall, but our information is still limited. People may wonder to what degree the stories are meant to be taken literally, historically, figuratively, metaphorically, ritually, symbolically, etc. I’m not here to draw those lines. Our purpose today is to focus on the ritual function of this text. What I would like to do is lay out some possibilities of interpretation, fully acknowledging that my thoughts are my own, and I do not represent the Church.

As I mentioned, Latter-day Saints have accounts of the Fall in 4 different places: the temple, Genesis 2–3, Moses 3–4, and Abraham 5. You can watch my previous video on the 4 different creation accounts if you want a more thorough run-down on why these accounts differ from each other. But to summarize, it’s possible there are differences between these accounts because:

  • God is speaking across different times, cultures, circumstances.
  • The differences may reflect Joseph Smith learning new revelation line upon line
  • Some of these texts are ritual texts, which means their primary purpose is not to convey literal history.

Differences Between the Accounts of the Fall

Genesis 2Moses 3Abraham 4Temple
Creation of EdenCreation of Eden The plants were living soulsCreation of EdenCreation of Eden
Description of 4 riversDescription of 4 riversMention of 4 riversNo mention of rivers
   Adam needs a helpmeet
   God creates Eve from Adam’s rib
   Adam names her Eve No naming of animals
Commands to Adam: Dress and keep the garden.Do not partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.Commands to Adam: Dress and keep the gardenDo not partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil“nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself”Commands to Adam: Dress and keep the garden.Do not partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.Time reckoning of KolobCommands to Adam: Multiply and have joy in posterityDo not partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil“nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself”
Adam needs a help meet for himAdam needs a help meet for himAdam needs a help meet for him
Adam names the animalsAdam names the animals Animals have living soulsGods create Eve from Adam’s rib
God creates Eve from Adam’s ribGod creates Eve from Adam’s ribAdam names her Woman
Adam names her WomanAdam names her WomanCleave unto wife Naked and unashamed
Cleave unto wife Naked and unashamedCleave unto wife Naked and unashamedAdam names the animalsGods will visit again with further instructions
 Aside on origin of Satan
Introduction of serpentSatan put it into the heart of the serpentSatan appears as a person
 Satan tempts Adam first. Adam rejects the offer.
Serpent tempts Eve. Eve explains the commandmentSerpent tempts Eve. Eve explains the commandmentSerpent tempts Eve. Eve questions his identity.
Serpent countersSerpent counters Serpent counters
Eve saw that it was Good for foodPleasant to eyesMake one wise Eve partakes of the fruitEve saw that it was Good for foodPleasant to eyesMake one wise Eve partakes of the fruitEve partakes of the fruit
Gives fruit to AdamGives fruit to AdamGives fruit to Adam.
Realization of nakedness. Made fig leaf aprons and hidRealization of nakedness. Made fig leaf aprons and hid. Realization of nakedness. Made fig leaf aprons and hid.
God discovers Adam and EveGod discovers Adam and Eve God returns to give further instruction. Discovers Adam and Eve.
Adam admits to eatingAdam admits to eating “and commandest that she should remain with me”Adam admits to eating “and commandest that she should remain with me”

The Garden of Eden

So let’s dive in. The account of the Fall first begins with the Garden of Eden. The Lord creates Eden, describes it, and then introduces Adam and Eve as characters. And this intimate scene before the Fall story is where we learn a lot about the sacred roles of men and women. Each account differs in how Eve is introduced and named. I think each one has something special to contribute. But in the current temple account, Woman is created immediately after Adam’s creation.

Help Meet

She is created as the result of a search for a help meet for Adam. In Genesis 2:18 God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”

Now, it’s important to understand that “help meet” is an adjective phrase, not a word. The phrase “help meet” is an archaic KJV phrase. In this instance the adjective “meet” is defined as “precisely adapted to a particular situation, need, or circumstance : very proper.” It that tries to convey how Adam needed a companion precisely adapted for him, a help corresponding to him, not above or below him.

It was not sufficient to find a companion among the other beasts of the field. Only a creation equal to him would be sufficient to make him whole. And while “help” may still seem like a mundane title, the word for “help” in Hebrew (ezer), is most often used for describing God, or divine, providential aid. So woman is not a helper, or assistant, or servant to man, but rather a corresponding, divine companion, to help each other achieve the measure of their creation.

Naming of Eve

After the creation of woman from Adam’s side,[1] Adam names her Eve. Both Adam’s and Eve’s names teach us something important about their roles. The word “adam” in Hebrew simply means “man.” Adam is the primordial man of all creation and he has stewardship over the beasts of the field and the care of the earth.

So if Adam is “man,” you’d maybe expect that Eve means “woman,” or nekevah in Hebrew. However, that is not the case. “Eve,” is chavah in Hebrew, which means “life” or “living.” Her name highlights her important stewardship as a life-giver. Genesis 3:20 says that “Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living” (cf. Moses 4:26). Eve and all women after her, have a distinct and sacred role to play in being divine life-givers for all humanity.

In the scriptural accounts of the creation of man, the woman does not receive her name “Eve” until after the Fall, implying that the measure of her creation could only be fulfilled through the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Throughout the whole Garden of Eden narrative, she is just referred to as “the woman.” Her new name marks a new state of being and elevated status, that only came because of the Fall. Without the fall, her creation is incomplete. Because of the Fall, she is Eve, the mother of all living.

Commandments

After the establishment of Adam and Eve, the Lord gives both of them commandments.

  • Multiply and have joy in your posterity
  • Dress and keep the garden
  • Do not partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil
  • “nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself” (Moses 3:17)

So already in the beginning of this story, there is some foreshadowing that there is more going on here than meets the eye. This story isn’t about black-and-white sin and transgression. Rather, there’s an important undertone of agency that flows throughout the whole narrative.

The Fall

So now we are in the Garden of Eden. At this point in the story, a new character is introduced: a serpent and/or Satan. In the Genesis account, the character is very clearly a serpent. The Book of Moses clarifies that Satan put it into the heart of the serpent, and the temple portrays Satan as a person being the acting agent.

In the temple account, Satan first approaches Adam and tempts him to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When that attempt fails, he then approaches Eve and entices her to partake of the fruit. After conversing with Satan about whether or not she should, she eventually does partake.

Why Did Eve Partake of the Fruit?

This is mostly speculation and my own opinion, but I believe Eve was the one to partake of the fruit because of Adam’s and Eve’s divine, but distinct roles in the gospel. As Valerie Hudson-Cassler has discussed (and as I’ve talked about in a previous video), men have ecclesiastical priesthood offices and authority that allow them to officiate in the ordinances that lead God’s children through the veil of death. This is the covenant path that leads souls from mortality into God’s presence in eternal life. Therefore, perhaps men have sacred stewardship over the tree of life.

As for women, they have sacred trust over childbirth, motherhood, and the ordinances associated with leading God’s children through the first veil of mortality. This is the covenant path that leads souls from pre-mortality into life on earth. The Book of Mormon teaches that children could not be born without the fall (2 Nephi 2:22–23). Partaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was what allowed procreation to take place, and what allowed new life to be ushered in. So perhaps women have stewardship over this tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eve may have been particularly drawn to the tree of knowledge of good and evil because she knew it was her divine destiny to escort life through the veil (again, speculation).

Why Did God Give a Commandment Just to Break It?

Many Christian traditions believe that if it weren’t for the fall, humanity would be dwelling happily in the garden of Eden. Latter-day Saints believe that the Fall was positive, and that without the fall, Adam and Eve could not have had children. This is a beautiful doctrine, but it does create a conundrum. Why did God give a commandment, if he just wanted Adam and Eve to break it after all?

First of all, it’s important to understand how the Book of Moses elaborates on this issue. In the garden, God gave the commandment,

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).

While traditional interpretations of the Bible view the fall as a clear violation of God’s irrevocable law, and thus constitutes a sin, the Book of Moses indicates that there is more at play. Joseph Fielding Smith paraphrased and summarized the passage as follows:

The Lord said to Adam, here is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you want to stay here, then you cannot eat of that fruit. If you want to stay here, then I forbid you to eat it. But you may act for yourself, and you may eat of it if you want to. And if you eat of it you will die.[3]

We believe that the fall was a positive, necessary part of the plan of salvation. For the plan to succeed, mankind needed to have and utilize their agency. He needed to partake and enter mortality.

God needed to introduce a law in the Garden of Eden so that it could be broken, and so that the Atonement could take effect. In discussing the fall, Lehi introduces some syllogisms that can help us understand what at first seems like a contradiction in commandments:

And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin.
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;
for there could have been no creation of things,
neither to act nor to be acted upon;
wherefore, all things must have vanished away. (2 Nephi 2:13).

So in order for God to exist, for righteousness and happiness to exist, for the Atonement to take effect, there needed to be sin. There needed to be a law, and for that law to be broken. He needed that specific law to be broken so that Adam and Eve would have the tools they needed to discern righteously in the world.

The partaking of the fruit is what grants unto mankind the ability to discern truth from error. Just as the tree of life embodies the love of Christ (1 Nephi 11:21–22), so is the tree of knowledge of good an evil an embodiment of the light of Christ (Moroni 7:15–19). Partaking of this tree distinguishes man from the beasts, and realizes the statement than man is made in the image of God. Partaking of the fruit opens the possibility for man to ultimately become like God (Genesis 3:22; cf. Moses 4:28).

Conclusion

Latter-day Saints believe that the Fall was a necessary, and positive event for the salvation of all mankind. It is one of the three pillars of eternity. Without the fall, the Atonement could not have occurred, the souls of men could not have come down to earth, the potential for men and women could not have been realized. Our scriptures and prophets teach time and again, that while the Fall came with consequences and an imperfect reality, it was absolutely positive. Adam in the Book of Moses declares:

Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God. (Moses 5:10)

Eve similarly teaches,

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)

In the Book of Mormon, we gain additional insight on the positive nature of the Fall. Lehi exhorted,

22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he 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.

23 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.

24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.

25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

2 Nephi 2:22–26

So I hope this inspires you to learn more about the fall in the temple and the scriptures. I’ll include links in the description if you want to learn more. The fall is an integral part of the plan of salvation and teaches us important truths about our divine natures as sons and daughters of God. Through these early primordial stories, we learn about the distinct, but divine roles of men and women. We learn about the importance of agency, the importance of opposition, and the centrality of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Further Reading

Daniel Belnap, “Clothed with Salvation: The Garden, the Veil, Tabitha, and Christ,” Studies in the Bible and Antiquity 4 (2013): 43–69.

Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, “Did Satan Actually Deceive Eve?KnoWhy OTL04A (January 15, 2018).

Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, In God’s Image and Likeness Volume 1: Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve (Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014).

David Calabro, “Lehi’s Dream and the Garden of Eden,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 26 (2017): 269–296.

Jess L. Christensen, “The Choice That Began Mortality,” Ensign (January 2002).

Spencer J. Condie, “The Fall and Infinite Atonement,” Ensign (January 1996).

Alex Douglas, “The Garden of Eden, the Ancient Temple, and Receiving a New Name,” in Ascending the Mountain of the Lord: Temple, Praise, and Worship in the Old Testament (2013 Sperry Symposium), ed. Jeffrey R. Chadwick, Matthew J. Grey, and David Rolph Seely (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2013), 36–48.

Barbara Morgan Gardner, “Women and the Priesthood in the Contemporary Church,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 43 (2021): 322.

Valerie Hudson Cassler, “The Two Trees: An LDS Revisiting of the Garden of Eden,” Square Two 9, no. 1 (Spring 2016).

Gerald N. Lund, “The Fall of Man and His Redemption,” Ensign (January 1990).

Donald W. Parry, “Garden of Eden: Prototype Sanctuary,” in Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism, ed. Donald W. Parry (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: FARMS and Deseret Book, 1994), 126–151.

Ricks, Stephen D. “Adam’s Fall in the Book of Mormon, Second Temple Judaism, and Early Christianity.” In The Disciple as Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, edited by Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry and Andrew H. Hedges, 595-606. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2000.

Skinner, Andrew C. “Savior, Satan, and Serpent: The Duality of a Symbol in the Scriptures.” In The Disciple as Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, edited by Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry and Andrew H. Hedges, 359-384. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2000.

Joseph Fielding Smith, “Adam’s Role in Bringing Us Mortality,” Ensign (January 2006).

Book of Mormon Central, “Why Did Lehi Teach that the Fall was Necessary? (2 Nephi 2:22–25),” KnoWhy 269 (February 1, 2019).


[1] In the Genesis account, God took a rib from Adam’s side to create eve. The Hebrew word for “rib” (tzelah צלע ) is playing on the Hebrew word for “image” (tzelem  צלם). Since Adam was made from the image (tzelem  צלם) of God, and woman was made from his rib (tzelah צלע ), the woman is characterized as being likewise made in God’s and Adam’s image.

[2] In the temple narrative, Adam names her immediately after her creation. This also has implications for our theology of motherhood. We often extol motherhood as the greatest achievement of women, yet the beautiful thing is, you don’t have to give birth to be a mother. After all, Eve was called the mother of all living before she ever gave birth.

[3] Smith, Joseph Fielding, Jr. Doctrines of Salvation: Sermons and Writings of Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1954-1956), 1:114.

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