Many of the prevailing ideas surrounding the atonement have parallels in our ideas about the fall. For example, the idea that our sins are transferred to Christ in the atonement is very similar to the idea that Adam’s transgression was transferred to each of us in the fall, giving us a “fallen nature.” I often pontificate against these sorts of transferals, as I don’t believe sinfulness or righteousness can be transferred from one person to another in an economic sort of transaction.
Instead of Adam’s transgression making the rest of humanity inclined to sin, I favor the view that the fall effected a change in the spiritual environment. The Earth fell from the presence of God. According to this explanation of the fall, the natural tendency of humankind to sin is explained by our pre-existing weakness before coming to earth. When we leave the presence of God to face the experience of life on our own we find that we have not yet developed the strength of character necessary to remain righteous in the face of temptation.
Now, there are many scriptures that could be brought to bear on this topic, but I wanted to focus this post on a favorite of mine. I don’t remember ever seeing the following scriptural argument made, but then, I don’t read much. I am interested in your reaction/criticism. As is often the case, I could be way off base.
We are all familiar with God’s warning to Adam:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Gen 2:17)
In my youth, I always supposed the “in the day that thou eatest thereof” part to mean simply that if Adam were ever to eat of the fruit, he would bring death into the world. Brigham Young had a different take, and in his usual literalistic way, said:
The life of man was not to exceed one thousand years, for saith the Lord, in the day you eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil you shall die; and according to the reckoning of the Lord’s time, one day with Him is as a thousand years of our time. Men may live if they can until they are as old as Methuselah, but they must die within the thousand years, or in the Lord’s day. (The Teachings of President Brigham Young pg. 234-244)
I can’t say I buy into this view, but it is noteworthy because it takes the English wording of the verse more seriously than I ever had growing up. The verse says Adam would die “in the day thou eatest thereof” and yet, Adam seems to have lived long after he partook of the forbidden fruit.
This takes us to the interpretation I wanted to try out on you. The book of Abraham changes the statement “in the day thou eatest thereof” (Gen 2:17) to “in the time thou eatest thereof” (Abr. 5:13). The context makes this change significant. In Abraham 3, the glory of the planets and stars is connected to their “time,” or the length of their day. Thus, “the time” refers to a where, not a when. Or rather, it refers to a spiritual environment, not a duration. The “time” of a planet is associated with its degree of glory:
But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the time that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. Now I, Abraham, saw that it was after the Lord’s time, which was after the time of Kolob; for as yet the Gods had not appointed unto Adam his reckoning. (Abr. 5:13, emphasis mine)
Notice that not only was “the day” changed to “the time,” but the ending of the verse specifically puts that phrase in the context of the previous discussion (Abr 3) by saying that Adam was still living after the time of Kolob while in the Garden as he had not yet had a reckoning appointed to him. His choice in the Garden is thereby portrayed as a choice which will determine the time, or reckoning, or order, or glory of the Earth.
This suggests that the commandment to Adam could be rephrased as: “Do not eat from this tree, because in the kingdom where you go to eat that fruit, you will surely die.” This is the alternate reading I would like your opinion on.
If this is the correct reading, then the essence of the fall was that the whole Earth changed from one spiritual level to another.
Another interesting implication of this interpretation is that eating of the forbidden fruit is symbolic of experiencing the type of existence we now enjoy. God was saying to Adam that in order to “know” (i.e. experience) good and evil, he had to decend to a telestial level; he had to be cut off from God’s presence much more dramatically than he already was. It also means that each of us partakes of the fruit of the ToKoGaE by coming to Earth in its current condition. This fully eliminates any transferal of sin or sinful nature from Adam to each of us.
So, what do you think of this change in wording in the Abraham account? Am I wresting the scriptures here, or does this change from “the day” to “the time” point to a uniquely Mormon spin on the warning to Adam?