My outline prepared for teaching Sunday School this morning. We didn’t get to nearly all of the questions prepared because the discussion was very good, but I like to have more questions in mind than we can get to, or in case discussion shifts in a direction other than the one I expected. Today’s chief challenge was getting class members to stop when they reached the end of revealed truth, and not continue on with folklore of the past or private speculation — why are so many Latter-day Saints reading near-death experiences of Protestant ministers and wanting to share the wacky ideas of said ministers?
To help each class member understand that the Fall was a necessary part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us.
In 1854 [8 October], Brigham Young addressed the Saints on the topic of our lesson today:
When the Lord had organized the world, and filled the earth with animal and vegetable life, then he created man. … Moses made the Bible to say his wife was taken out of his side – was made of one of his ribs. As far as I know my ribs are equal on each side. The Lord knows if I had lost a rib for each wife I have, I should have had none left long ago. … As for the Lord taking a rib out of Adam’s side to make a woman of, it would be just as true to say he took one out of my side.
“But, Brother Brigham, would you make it appear that Moses did not tell the truth?”
No, not a particle more than I would that your mother did not tell the truth when she told you that little Billy came from a hollow toadstool. I would not accuse your mother of lying any more than I would Moses. The people in the days of Moses wanted to know things that was not for them, the same as your children do when they want to know where their little brother came from, and he answered them according to the level of their understandings, the same as mothers do their children.
Like the child who wants to know where his little brother came from, we all have a natural desire to know where we came from and how our world came to be. The Lord has done better by us than the mother in Brigham Young’s story did – He has told us something about our life with Him in the beginning, about his creation of this world, about our first parents, and the purpose of our lives here. But he hasn’t answered all questions yet, and we need to remember that when we study the words of Genesis, including the corrected and expanded account of Moses’s vision that we have in the Pearl of Great Price: These are ancient narratives, give by God for His purposes, and don’t necessarily answer all our questions in the way that is most comfortable for us:
The Lord showed Moses the “works of His hands” and taught him that God created all things; He did not, however, reveal many details about how he created those things, nor how many billions of years it may have taken, nor any of the divine nor natural processes that may have been involved. He taught Moses that man is created in God’s image, of the elements of this earth, but again He did not reveal any of the processes involved. He revealed some of the why, but none of the how.
Now we come to the part of the narrative where Man and Woman enter the stage and begin to act with the agency that God had given them.
Scripture Discussion and Application
1. The Fall of Adam and Eve and its effects on them and us.
What do we know of Adam and Eve’s stay in the Garden of Eden? How long were they there? How might they have spent their time?
“Dressing and keeping” the Garden: Moses 3:15 “And I, the Lord God, took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it.”
Exploring creation: Moses 3:20: “And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field.”
Being instructed by God: Moses 4:1-4: “And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.”
Walking and talking with God: Moses 4:14: “And they heard the voice of the Lord God, as they were walking in the garden, in the cool of the day”
And then what happened – how was this idyllic, innocent paradise disrupted? (Moses 4:6-31)
How does our (LDS) understanding of the Fall differ from the understanding of many other people?
What were some of the effects of the Fall on Adam and Eve, and on us today?
If it was so essential that we be separated from God in order to progress, why did not God simply expel us from His presence Himself?
2. The Atonement of Jesus Christ saves us from spiritual and physical death.
In the Church, we almost never speak of the Fall without also speaking of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Why is that?
President Ezra Taft Benson said: “The plan of redemption must start with the account of the fall of Adam. In the words of Moroni, ‘By Adam came the fall of man. And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, … and because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man’ (Mormon 9:12). Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ. No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 106; or Ensign, May 1987, 85).
3. Adam and Eve begin life as mortals, bear children, teach them the gospel, and worship and obey God.
And so Adam and Eve are driven from the Garden and begin their mortal lives in a fallen world. This is where the story really begins to get interesting for me – I have no memory of the premortal world, or of witnessing the Creation, and have no experience of living in paradise. But all of us have experience with living in the fallen world bequeathed to us by our first parents.
Read Moses 5:1-12
How is a day in the life of Adam and Eve now different from their days spent in the Garden?
What does it mean to “have dominion” over other life in this world?
(If the spirit is right, ask about the sons and daughters of Adam – brothers and sisters to each other – pairing off and begetting children, with the point being that God’s marriage and reproductive laws have changed through the ages, and that when we see different marriage customs in scripture, we need to recognize that our current feelings toward polygamy, e.g., are due to tradition and difference, not to any eternal principle.)
In Moses 5:4-8, Adam is found practicing some religious duties evidently taught to him before the Fall, and the angel instructs him further in the meaning of those duties. How does or should this set a pattern for our lives, and for the receipt of revelation throughout history?
How is sacrifice as practiced by Adam a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ? What is its value as a symbol to the generations upon generations who will follow the law of sacrifice in Old Testament times? (Tell the class that we will be pointing out other activities and objects throughout the year that also foreshadow the mission of Jesus Christ, and invite them to keep that idea in mind as they prepare for future classes – how might this event or action or thing have prepared the minds of the people to recognize and accept Jesus as the Savior?)
In Moses 5:9-11, Adam and Eve, in effect, bear their testimonies under the influence of the Holy Ghost. Is this recognition that they can experience joy in this life a new idea to them? something that they understand better now that the Holy Ghost has testified of the Father and the Son?
So what, finally, should we conclude about the Fall? Was it a tragedy? a blessing? Is life on this earth, under the conditions we know, a blessing? a curse? something we should resent? enjoy? Is joy something that is reserved solely for the next life?
As happens so often in scriptural accounts of someone who is newly converted to the Gospel, Adam and Eve are inspired to share their newfound knowledge.
Who do they turn to? Next week we’ll talk about how their children received the teachings of their parents – I’m sure Brother K. would appreciate your having reread Moses 5-7 before coming to class.