The Fall of Man: No Catch-22

A good rule of thumb is that there’s no point debating what could have been. Today I’m going to break that rule by describing what could have been if not for the transgression of Adam and Eve because I continue to encounter a widespread misunderstanding about the fall of man and the character of God.

Lucifer instructed Eve to partake of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil in order to ‘be as gods’. A few wonder, “Was there no other way?” Satan taught that there was indeed not, and this teaching of his is widely believed. However, the truth is that there was another way.

In order to pre-empt a lot of disputation that could arise, I invite you to refer to my statement on doctrinal authority.

The Eden imperatives

Heavenly Father delivered two commandments to Adam and Eve, which I will hereafter call the Eden imperatives: (1) touch not the tree of knowledge and (2) multiply and replenish the earth.

Prevailing opinion on the Eden imperatives indicates two erroneous beliefs, one of them harmful: (1) breaking the law of God was a necessary step to bring about the fall of man and (2) God gives men commandments that cannot be obeyed.

Before discussing the alternative to Adam and Eve’s transgression, let’s debunk these two errors.

No mutually exclusive commandments

It is out of character for Heavenly Father to deliver unkeepable commandments to men. The prophet Nephi testified that God “giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 3:7)

Many seek to justify their belief in unkeepable commandments by saying that the choice between these commandments was a choice between good and better, rather than two choices between good and evil. This rationalization will not answer, however. In the first place, it still requires that God give unkeepable commandments. In the second, if the intent of was to force our first parents into breaking the law (which is erroneously supposed), then choosing the good over the better would not accomplish it. God attached no time frame to his injunction to replenish the earth, so one could obey the first imperative indefinitely without violating the second.

Conflicting commandments

Hasn’t God given other conflicting commandments, though? Yes, but even these conflicting commandments are not mutually exclusive. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

First: we read ‘thou shalt not kill’ as well as multiple instances of heavenly mandates to kill. For instance, Saul was commanded to kill every living thing among the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:3); Nephi was commanded to kill Laban (1 Ne 4:10); and even in the chapter right after the 10 commandments, the Hebrews are given instructions to kill under multiple conditions (Ex 21:12,15,16,17,29).

Second: God instructed that a temple was to be erected in Jackson county (D&C 57:3) in the very generation in which said instruction was given (D&C 84:2–5). Then he rescinded the instruction (D&C 124:49–51).

What these examples demonstrate is that commandments change. Commandments change in order to further elucidate the principle behind them or because the people receiving the commandments are too obtuse to benefit from them in their current form. In these cases, a new commandment modifies or replaces an existing one.

No one in Christendom can honestly believe that either of the Eden imperatives was an offshoot or a replacement of the other, so let’s dispose of the conceit that only one of them was to be kept. We do not have examples of God giving mutually exclusive commandments.

Must we taste the bitter to know the sweet?

Could Adam and Eve have obtained knowledge of good and evil without actually performing an evil act? Absolutely.

We know that their act was not a sin, yet it taught them good from evil.

We know that knowledge of good and evil per se is not a bad thing. God knows good and evil, doesn’t he? In fact, the very enticement in knowing good and evil was to ‘be as gods’.

We know that one can know evil without partaking of it. Jesus Christ knew good from evil, and that’s not merely because he experienced the weight of our sins; he must have known good from evil before that for the sake of his mortal experience: he could not have lived by faith without the opportunity to sin, and he could not have had that opportunity unless he knew good from evil. If he hadn’t known good from evil, he could have obeyed Satan prior to Gethsemane without committing sin, yet the New Testament makes a point of demonstrating that Jesus was tempted and refused to submit to temptation.

In response to the opposing position

As provided in my statement on doctrinal authority, there are numerous more-or-less authoritative sources stating that there was no alternative to Adam and Eve’s transgression in Heavenly Father’s plan. I cannot address them all, but I will speak to two well-known scriptures that have perhaps convinced many that if not for the transgression, Heavenly Father’s plan would have been frustrated.

*          *            *

If Adam had not transgressed, he would not have fallen, but would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things 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. (2 Nephi 2:22)

Take a moment to recognize that this verse refers only to Adam’s transgression. Moreover, it comes only after explaining that Eve was the one who yielded to Lucifer’s persuasions.

Yes, if Adam had not broken the law—subsequent to Eve’s transgression—then the plan would have been frustrated. This is only because Eve had already broken the law. Her nature had already become different from Adam’s, and she must soon be furthermore separated by physical distance in being expulsed from the garden of Eden. Such a separation (followed by Eve’s inevitable death) would probably have indeed frustrated the plan.

Therefore Paul tells us, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1 Tim 2:14)

*          *            *

And Eve … was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil…  (Moses 5:11)

It appears as though we have two conflicting ideas: on the one hand, Eve hearkened unto Satan and was deceived by him; on the other hand, she thought through her conundrum and made a choice that blessed humanity. What many fail to recognize is that these teachings are not incompatible.

Eve did understand that knowledge of good and evil was essential to progression; modern authorities have made that unequivocal. But this does not mean that the only way to obtain the knowledge was in taking the fruit without permission. Had she asked Heavenly Father about what Satan had told her, she might have received a very different answer.

Instead, she was deceived (1 Tim 2:14), and it appears that she didn’t learn otherwise before the foregoing declaration (which fell on the day that Adam learned why he was performing sacrifice).

The fall & Heavenly Father’s plan

Heavenly Father propounded a plan before his children, which was subsequently ratified by ~2/3 of them. That plan included a fall for mankind. There is no dispute (among LDS, at least) that the fall was necessary.

The creation of the earth, the necessary fall that enabled man to be, and the atonement of the Lord are three fundamental components of God’s eternal plan. (Russel M. Nelson)[i] (italics mine)

Lucifer and his adherents, just like you and I, were present then. They knew that the fall was integral to the plan, but the transgression need not have been outlined in the plan. (We will see later why not.)

Indeed, if the transgression had been described to Lucifer et al. beforehand, it is strange that he would abide by it in offering the fruit to Eve; seemingly, there was nothing to gain because having Eve touch the fruit would not count against her as sin. What’s more, if he believed that a transgression were requisite to having seed, he could have effectively damned all of his pre-mortal brothers and sisters by preventing the transgression and fall: none of the pre-mortal spirits would ever receive a material body or exercise their faith outside of the presence of God.

The transgression & Heavenly Father’s plan

Surely God, who sees the end from the beginning, knew that the fall would be brought about by an infraction of the law. And some might contend that because God held foreknowledge of the transgression of Adam and Eve, it was vital to the plan of redemption. Clear heads, however, distinguish between being part of the plan and being vital to the plan.

Being part of the plan means that it is expected and provided for. Being vital to the plan implies that there is no alternative. Therefore, even if we hold that transgression was part of God’s plan, it is possible that there was another way.

This likewise allows that God’s spirit children could have had the plan unfolded to them without having the transgression in Eden disclosed.

All things in their season

The belief that the Eden imperatives are mutually exclusive depends upon an unexamined axiom: man knows God’s timetable. That’s a wrong axiom. Oftentimes we do not receive what we desire from God, but this does not mean that God will never at any time grant our desire. All blessings, all light and knowledge, come in accordance with our readiness to receive and God’s willingness to impart.

Put another way, proponents of the belief in mutually exclusive Eden imperatives must suppose that God’s work in Eden was finished, that he had no further truth or blessing to impart, and that it was entirely up to Adam and Eve to bring about the fall, without God’s participation.

This very arrogant supposition is accepted by many latter-day saints, even though another LDS belief shows that it is absurd: Heavenly Father talked with Adam and Eve and taught them during their time in Eden.

Should we suppose that after giving them two commandments that he had finished with them? If he were finished with them, then they were already outside of God’s presence, and half of the fall was already in effect. Should we likewise suppose that Lucifer’s successful temptation took place only after their tutelage had reached its fullness?

Satan is a usurper

What is [Satan] doing here when he tells Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit? The same thing that had been done in other worlds. … The thing is that he wants them to be taking orders from him—that’s the whole thing. He wants us to be saved, but he wants to be the author of salvation. (Nibley)[ii]

Satan disobeyed orders when he revealed certain secrets to Adam and Eve, not because they were not known on other worlds, but because he was not authorized in that time and place to convey them. (Nibley)[iii]

The fact that Satan delivered the fruit to Adam and Eve does not signify that Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ would never have done so. Rather, his excuse (i.e. that he was doing that which had been done in other worlds) suggests that the fruit would have been forthcoming in time. Indeed, Nibley furthermore says of Satan’s action in Eden:

It was not his prerogative to do so—regardless of what had been done in other worlds. (When the time comes for such fruit, it will be given us legitimately.)[iv] (italics mine)

A final response to the opposition

No doubt you’ll encounter numerous statements declaring that breaking God’s law was necessary. Even if they are touted to come from a reputable source (like the Joseph Smith quotation below), I urge you to scrutinize them before relying on them. Let’s treat this last example as an exercise.

Adam did not sin in eating the fruits; for God had decreed that he should eat and fall. (Joseph Smith)

This is one I’ve seen come up in a number of places. Can you spot the problems with it?

First, consider the source. This quote is repeatedly cited from The Words of Joseph Smith, a compilation of Smith’s teachings, most of which are only a paragraph long, delivered with little or no context, and not even recorded as a quotation. The foregoing selection, in its entirety, comes from the minutes of a meeting as follows:

Joseph said in answer to Mr stout that Adam Did Not Comit sin in [e]ating the fruits for God had Decred that he should Eat & fall—But in complyance with the Decree he should Die—only he should Die was the saying of the Lord therefore the Lord apointed us to fall & also Redeemed us—for where sin a bounded Grace did Much more a bound—for Paul says Rom—5.10 for if—when were enemys we were Reconciled to God by the Death of his Son, much more, being Reconciled, we shall be saved by his Life— [sic] (Ehat & Cook)[v]

Returning to the cleaned-up version of the ‘quotation’, observe that the two clauses in it, taken individually can be true without requiring a God who gives lose-lose commandments: (1) Adam did not sin in eating the fruits (without knowledge of good and evil, he could not sin) and (2) God had decreed that he should eat and fall (we suppose that God would have imparted the fruit in his own due time). It is only the reported relationship between these two clauses that would make God the giver of mutually exclusive commandments, and that relationship depends on very exact semantics, which cannot be drawn reliably from such a source as the foregoing.

[i] Nelson, Russel M. “Call to the Holy Apostleship” General Conference. April 1984.

[ii] Nibley, Hugh. Teachings of the Book of Mormon: Semester 1. p 246. see also (

[iii] Nibley, Hugh. Temple and Cosmos. 1992. p 63.

[iv] Nibley, Hugh. Approaching Zion. Don E. Norton, ed. p 92.

[v] Ehat, Andrew F. and Lyndon W. Cook. The Words of Joseph Smith. 1980. p 63

Melchizedek is not Jesus

Not long ago, I read a paper which defended the position that Melchizedek of the Old Testament was the ante-mortal Messiah. The paper made a great analysis, which included philology, legend, and canonical scripture.

Today, it seems reasonable to assemble my thoughts on why LDS teaching does not leave much room for this possibility.

The JST presents Melchizedek as a mortal

The JST for Gen 14:25-40 presents Melchizedek as a mortal man, even to the extent of having had a childhood (2000 years before Jesus’ childhood): “and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.”

If you would contend that these miracles could be presented as prophecy for the actual childhood of Jesus, about which little is known, I cannot definitely tell you otherwise, but John the Revelator, at least, did not think that Jesus did any such thing in his childhood: speaking of the miracle at the marriage in Cana, he said, ‘This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee.’ (John 2:11)

Other excerpts from JST Gen 14 which hint at Melchizedek’s life being mortal, though they are far from conclusive on their own, include:

  • Now Melchizedek was a man of faith (nowhere in canon is God called ‘a man’ or even ‘man’, except for the sobriquet ‘man of holiness’)
  • having been approved of God (unless we apply divine investiture to this text, it’s self-referential)
  • he was ordained … after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch (why would Enoch be treated as antecedent if Melchizedek were the ante-mortal God?)
  • his people … sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken

Names appear not to interchanged in writ

Scriptural writers may have many names for Jesus (e.g. Lamb of God, Son of God, Messiah, Christ, etc.), so if Jesus and Melchizedek were in fact the same person it is possible that a writer might interchange Melchizedek for any of the better-known names of Jesus. However, an interchange is not what we see. Rather, the names are compartmentalized in the scriptures, with the only intersection being ‘Prince of peace’.

The name ‘Prince of peace’ is nowhere (in canon, at least) actually used as a referrer for Melchizedek; rather, we read that he was king of Salem (whose name means ‘peace’) and “therefore he … was called the prince of peace.” (Alma 13:18; c.f. JST Gen 14:33) What’s more the term ‘prince of peace’ is not reserved for Melchizedek and Jesus alone but is applied also to Abraham. (Abr 1:2)

Moses, David, Alma, Paul, and Joseph Smith mention Melchizedek by name, but never refer to him by any other name in context. If Jesus and Melchizedek were one and the same, the scriptural writers either didn’t realize it or decided not to disclose it.

This is at least the case for Joseph Smith, who gave us D&C 107:

Why the first [priesthood] is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest. Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. (D&C 107:2-3)

If the writer knew that the two were one in the same and didn’t mind letting on, this language makes no sense.

God visited Abraham as Jehovah

Despite the segregation of the two personas in scripture, one might yet hold to an idea that Melchizedek was God but that Abraham failed to recognize the fact, which gave rise to Melchizedek’s treatment as a different character in later scripture. After all, did not the resurrected saviour keep company with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, yet they did not recognize him? (Luke 24:13-31) And did he not speak of himself in the third person, as though he were not the Christ? (vs. 26)

However, Abraham had already had dealings with the ante-mortal Jesus (Gen 18) and known him as God, which is something that his disciples appeared not to have grasped.

Without beginning of days or end of years…

A (ostensibly) compelling argument for the unity of Jesus and Melchizedek comes in a Paul’s (ostensible) description of Melchizedek:

Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God… (Heb 7:3)

However, the Joseph Smith Translation for that scripture places the description on the priesthood, not Melchizedek.

For this Melchizedek was ordained a priest after the order of the Son of God, which order was without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. And all those who are ordained unto this priesthood are made like unto the Son of God, abiding a priest continually.

Day 4: Bedfordshire to Derbyshire

The previous post in this series on our visits through Britain detailed our family history calls for the Fenn family in Billington and Leighton Buzzard. In our travel northward through Bedfordshire, we created a few other memories, however.

Villages of Aldwincle & Wadenhoe

The beautiful small towns between the day’s first and final ports of call were numerous, and we made stops in two of them, Aldwincle and Wadenhoe, for footbound exploration.



Most houses were built of stone and had thatched or slate roofs. The village streets could be walked in entirety in the course of an hour or two (less if you’re Luther). When strolling through Aldwincle, we spoke wistfully of relocating permanently in order to rest amid the beauty, the quiet, and the slower pace of things.

I won’t use the term ‘quaint’ to describe the villages, for that suggests to me a creature living after a simple manner because it knows of no alternative; I rather think that familiarity with the alternatives might drive a person to adopt a way of life offered by such a village as Aldwincle.

Froth ‘n’ Elbow

Because I never saw a pub in London (at least not any that looked like the English free houses I had encountered on the previous excursion), lunch at the Froth ‘n’ Elbow (Dunstable) was our first call to a pub on this visit. The cook and the other guests were polite and helpful, but the tapstress was decidedly unfriendly.


Scattered about the interior were painted quotations. One by Andy Warhol, “Being born is like being kidnapped and sold into slavery,” stayed with me.

Our second pub deserves comment and praise: The King’s Head (Wadenhoe), a beautiful, slate-roofed, grey-stone free house. We only stepped in to use the loo, but the service people were exquisitely courteous, and there were tablecloths and candles on the tables. Full marks.

King's Head Wadenhoe 2011
King's Head Free House, Wadenhoe

Hartington Hall Hostel

The only youth hostels I recall from previous experience had lice or were in the middle of nowhere, with no electricity. Hartington Hall, where we stayed the night, bills itself as a hostel but is actually an opulent manor house with (comparatively) spacious grounds.

Hartington Hall Hostel front 2011

There were animals (rabbits, chickens, goats, etc.) and a garden and games. It appeared distantly akin to a summer camp, but adjacent to a town.

Cait and Brad on grounds of Hartington Hall Hostel  

The only thing that made this experience resemble a hostel stay was that we were to bring our own towels.

Genesis 35 and 37 are out of order

The writer no longer holds the following position (having been disabused of it by Luther). The post remains in place due to pack-rat compulsions.

Last week’s discussion of Joseph’s second dream only bears merit if Genesis chapters 35 and 37 don’t fall in chronological order. Their anachronlogy has long been my unexamined supposition, but since it has been challenged, I am obliged to investigate and explain the point.

Anachronology in chapters 35–37

  • Gen 35: Rachel gives birth to Benjamin. The sons of Jacob are listed. Jacob and Esau bury Isaac at Mamre.
  • Gen 36: The descendency of Esau is listed.
  • Gen 37: Joseph’s brothers sell him to Ishmeelites.

Chronology between 35 and 37 is clearly discontinuous because chapter 36 lists multiple generations that follow Esau, generations that existed after the characters in chapter 37 were all dead.

There is plenty of logical room, then, to allow that chapter 37 takes up a new thread in the narrative, one which begins before the events of Gen 35. From that footing, lets see what evidence there is:

Location, location, location

The most significant argument for the anachronology of chapters 35 and 37 is where Jacob’s flocks are located at the time that Joseph was sold by his brothers:

And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Schechem? come, and I will send thee unto them…

(Gen 37:13)

The name Shechem rings a bell because Jacob and his family lived there until Gen 35:1, when God instructed them to move to Bethel. Why did they have to move? Presumeably because they weren’t safe in Shechem after Simeon and Levi killed the prominent people of the area for defiling their sister, Dinah.

Jacob certainly thought they weren’t safe:

And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me stink among the inhabitants of the land… they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me…

(Gen 34:30)

Two verses later, God instructs Jacob to move to Bethel. Why would Joseph’s brothers be grazing their flocks in Shechem (Dothan, to be specific) in chapter 37, unless the events of chapter 35 (and 34) had not happened yet?

Little clues

There are a few little clues to suggest that Gen 37 occurred before Gen 35. They don’t weigh much on their own, but adding them together provides further support for the precedence of chapter 37.

  • Jacob mentions Rachel in chapter 37. “Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?” (Gen 37:10)
  • Gen 37:3 says Joseph was “the son of [Jacob’s] old age,” an exclusive title.
  • In chapter 37’s multiple references to Joseph’s brethren and their treachery, never is any exclusion made of Benjamin, though Reuben and Judah are each mentioned by name for their unique performances. If Benjamin were alive, his absence (or abstinence) was surely more divergent from the pack than Reuben or Judah’s behaviour; it should have earned him mention.
  • Jacob witholds Benjamin from going down into Egypt, as though Benjamin were too vulnerable. But if he were alive when Joseph was sold into Egypt, he must have been at least 20 years old by then.