Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism 101/Chapter 5

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Response to claims made in "Chapter 5: The Fall"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism 101, a work by author: Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson

Response to claims made in Mormonism 101, "Chapter 5: The Fall"

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Response to claim: 72-74 - The authors claim that Mormons believe that the Fall of Adam was a "fall upward"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors claim that Mormons believe that the Fall of Adam was a "fall upward." They claim that the decision by Adam and Eve to disobey the Father has been "continually commended" by LDS leaders.

(Author's sources:
  • Moses 5:10-11
  • Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 3:74. Smith notes that the Garden of Eden was located on the American continent.
  • Talmage, Articles of Faith, p. 70.
  • McConkie, The Promised Messiah, p. 222.
  • Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 195.
  • Robert L. Millet, Ensign (January 1994): 10.
  • Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign (November 1993): 73.)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

LDS doctrine does not praise the decision to disobey. However, it acknowledges that God anticipated their disobedience, and that this eventual disobedience was part of God's plan. God had prepared the atonement of His Son to permit us the benefits which came from Adam and Eve's disobedience, without requiring that they or we suffer forever because of it. Because of the atonement and God's plan of happiness, LDS doctrine does not see the Fall as unalloyed tragedy.

The fall was not "upward," but it set in motion the conditions which--because of God's plan and the sacrifice of His Son--could enable us to move upward.

The only other option must assume that the Fall was not part of God's plan, and that it required Him to come up with "Plan B" for the salvation of mankind. Would the authors prefer this view of God and his purposes, that they are so easily thwarted?



Question: What to Latter-day Saints believe regarding the concept of "original sin"?

Latter-day Saints believe that "original sin" as commonly understood in many branches of western Christianity was not a doctrine taught by the Bible, Jesus, or the apostles

The Second Article of Faith states that "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression." There is a form of "original sin" in LDS theology, but it is a matter that has been resolved through the atonement of Christ:

And our father Adam spake unto the Lord, and said: Why is it that men must repent and be baptized in water? And the Lord said unto Adam: Behold I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden. Hence came the saying abroad among the people, that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world. (Moses 6:53-54, emphasis added.)

Thus, LDS theology explicitly rejects the idea that Adam's "original sin" results in a condemnation of the entire human race. Efforts to insist that all of humanity is thereby tainted, all desires are corrupted, or all infants are damned without baptism are untrue. Because of temptation and the instinctive desires of physical bodies, human beings wrestle with the desire to sin (Matthew 26:41; Mosiah 3:19), but Adam's actions in the Garden of Eden have no bearing on this.

As Wilford Woodruff taught:

What is called the original sin was atoned for through the death of Christ irrespective of any action on the part of man; also man's individual sin was atoned for by the same sacrifice, but on condition of his obedience to the Gospel plan of salvation when proclaimed in his hearing.” [1]

Concluded Elaine Pagels:

Astonishingly, Augustine’s radical views prevailed, eclipsing for future generations of Western Christians the consensus of the first three centuries of Christian tradition. [2]

Original sin is the innovation. It is a post-biblical novelty without scriptural support.

Given that the doctrine is explicitly repudiated by modern revelation, the Saints feel no need to accept it.

Clearly, any effort to exclude the Church from Christendom because they reject original sin must also exclude several hundred million Eastern Orthodox and Anabaptists. Clearly, such a standard would be nonsensical.


Response to claim: 74 - "Contrary to the LDS concept of the fall, the Bible shows that this event was the result of disobeying God"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors claim,

Contrary to the LDS concept of the fall, the Bible shows that this event was the result of disobeying God.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

This claim by the authors directly contradicts Alma 42:12:

And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience.





Response to claim: 74 - "If transgression was a positive and it was a blessing to leave Eden, why does Genesis 3:24 say that God had to drive them out?"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors claim,

If transgression was a positive and it was a blessing to leave Eden, why does Genesis 3:24 say that God had to drive them out?[3]

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

It was not a "blessing to leave Eden," but leaving Eden allowed God's plan to continue. The fall was not unexpected, or unprepared for, by God. LDS scripture acknowledges the driving from Eden, and the negative consequences:
  • "And after Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit they were driven out of the garden of Eden, to till the earth." (2 Nephi 2:19)
  • "And he said unto them: Because that Adam fell, we are; and by his fall came death; and we are made partakers of misery and woe." (Moses 6:48)



Response to claim: 74-75 - Mormons believe that "Satan was telling the truth" when he told Eve that she "shall be as gods"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

Mormons believe that "Satan was telling the truth" when he told Eve that she "shall be as gods." The authors conclude: "is it wise to trust a promise from one who is called the 'father of lies'?"

(Author's sources: *Genesis 3:3-5)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The Bible makes it clear that this was the truth, since God said so only a few verses later: "the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil" (Genesis 3:22). If the authors wish to claim that Satan lied in this case, they must also accept that God then lied. Satan's lie was that spiritual and physical death would not result from partaking of the fruit.



For a detailed response, see: Deification of man

Response to claim: 76 - According to the authors, Mormons distinguish between "sin" and "transgression" in order to "minimize the severity of Adam's disobedience"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

According to the authors, Mormons distinguish between "sin" and "transgression" in order to "minimize the severity of Adam's disobedience." The authors claim that this contradicts 1 John 3:4, which states that "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."

(Author's sources: *Dallin H. Oaks, "The Great Plan of Happiness," Ensign (November 1993), 73. off-site)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The intent of this distinction is not to "minimize the severity" of Adam's act, but to high-light the fact that someone without a knowledge of good and evil is not morally culpable in the same sense as someone who has knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve did not know good from evil—they were much like little children, who might understand that something had been forbidden, but not have the moral sense or insight to perceive why this was so, or why disobedience was such a grave matter.

LDS scripture makes it clear that without the atonement of Christ, Adam's act would have been eternal and irrevocable in its consequences—hardly an attempt to minimize its seriousness:

And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord. And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience.... (Alma 42:11-12).

The article cited by Elder Oaks makes it clear that he is not minimizing the seriousness of disobedience, but insisting that Eve's action does not condemn her and all women afterward:

For reasons that have not been revealed, this transition, or “fall,” could not happen without a transgression—an exercise of moral agency amounting to a willful breaking of a law (see Moses 6:59). This would be a planned offense, a formality to serve an eternal purpose. The Prophet Lehi explained that “if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen” (2 Nephi 2:22), but would have remained in the same state in which he was created....

Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall....(italics added)




Response to claim: 76-77 -Joseph Smith equated "sin" and "transgression"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors claim that Joseph Smith equated "sin" and "transgression," and that Paul stated that death was the result of Adam's sin, not transgression.

(Author's sources: *DC 132:26

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

As the article by Dallin H. Oaks cited by the authors above indicates, there is not always a distinction between "sin" and "transgression," and that the author's intent is important for deciding if such a distinction is meaningful:

This suggested contrast between a sin and a transgression reminds us of the careful wording in the second article of faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (emphasis added). It also echoes a familiar distinction in the law. Some acts, like murder, are crimes because they are inherently wrong. Other acts, like operating without a license, are crimes only because they are legally prohibited. Under these distinctions, the act that produced the Fall was not a sin—inherently wrong—but a transgression—wrong because it was formally prohibited. These words are not always used to denote something different, but this distinction seems meaningful in the circumstances of the Fall (italics in original).

Thus, Paul is not making the distinction which Joseph was making.

  • The authors omit a verse in Romans 5 between the verses (12 and 15) which they cite, which discusses transgression:
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come (Romans 5:14.
  • The KJV of the Bible uses both terms on occasion:
    • "Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin...." (Exodus 34:7).
    • "How many are mine iniquities and sins? make me to know my transgression and my sin" (Job 13:23).
    • "If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom...." (Job 31:33).
    • "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." (1 Timothy 2:14).



Response to claim: 77 - The authors claim that Mormons believe that "Satan told the truth in the Garden of Eden," as opposed to Christianity, which believes that "Satan deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors claim that Mormons believe that "Satan told the truth in the Garden of Eden," as opposed to Christianity, which believes that "Satan deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The reality is that Latter-day Saints believe that Satan mixed truth with lie in order to entice Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit. Therefore, claiming the Mormons believe that "Satan told the truth" is an omission of information on the part of the authors and an attempt to skew LDS belief.

The truth Satan told was that eating of the fruit would make them "as gods, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5). The Bible makes it clear that this was the truth, since God said so: "the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil" (Genesis 3:22). If the authors wish to claim that Satan lied in this case, they must also accept that God then lied.



Notes

  1. Wilford Woodruff, "Fulfillment of Ancient Prophesy," in Brian H. Stuy (editor), Collected Discourses: Delivered by Wilford Woodruff, his two counselors, the twelve apostles, and others, 1868–1898, 5 vols., (Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987–1989), 1:344. [Discourse given on Sept 1, 1889.]
  2. Elaine Pagels, “The Politics of Paradise: Augustine’s exegesis of Genesis 1-3 versus that of John Chrysostom,” Harvard Theological Review 78 (1985): 68.
  3. Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 74. ( Index of claims )