Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy. 2 Nephi, 2:25
The story of the Garden of Eden, in which Adam and Eve walked with God until they partook of the forbidden fruit, commonly called the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, is common in one form or another in pretty much all cultures and histories. In the Genesis version of the story, the serpent told Eve,
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good from evil. Genesis 3:5
Of course, as the story goes, they did partake, and became “fallen” – separated from God, and we each inherited that state from our first parents.
There are many in the world who believe this story is to be taken literally, while many others ascribe to it various degrees of allegorical origins and meaning. I personally believe it contains important truth, and whether it is literal or allegorical is irrelevant – at least for this discussion. How’s that for a cop-out?
What the story does claim is that, because we gained knowledge of good and evil, we became separated from God. I suggest that it’s not the knowledge of good and evil that separates us; it’s what we do with that knowledge that separates us. Not only that, but it’s what we do with that knowledge that is the essence of what many believe is a single mortal probation, implying, of course, a pass/fail component of our life in this mortal state, on this earth.
What I’m trying to say is that I believe it is possible for us to have knowledge of good and evil, and remain, or maybe be restored as, one with God. Such a restoration, of course, is commonly called redemption, and the common narrative among Christians is that Christ himself made that redemption possible through His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross, demonstrating said fruits through His resurrection.
So, if it’s possible that we can have partaken of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and still retain or be restored to our oneness with God, and yet we still remain fallen, or separated from Him, what is it that we do with this knowledge that cause us to be separated from Him? Here’s my list:
- We judge. We judge ourselves as either worthy or unworthy of God’s love. Even worse, we judge others as either worthy or unworthy of God’s love. In doing so, we reject God’s love, which is to reject Him, which, of course, is separation. A corollary principle, then, is that we can somehow earn that love back (having rejected it) by making “good” choices, while at the same time implying that we and others can be – and many will be – rejected by Him based upon their choices. The irony of this, of course, is that it is us who are rejecting Him, not Him who is rejecting us. In carrying this even one step further, by putting conditions on God’s love, we judge Him!
- We fear. We fear evil, as if it can somehow harm us. I’m not talking about the fear that accompanies the threat of immediate bodily harm. I’m talking about the fear of not existing. This is a deep-seated, insidious fear that drives us to constantly judge, condemn, reject. It is the fear that if we are not better than someone else, or less than someone else, then we don’t exist or that we only exist through separation from, or comparison to, someone else. It is a fear that we hardly recognize as fear, but it is there, and it is very real, and it is the direct result of having had our eyes opened, knowing good from evil. Of course, this fear, which thrives on comparison, is the perpetuating force in our separation – from God and from others. It prevents oneness, and ensures that we will remain fallen, unredeemed.
- We take evil onto ourselves. This is very hard to explain. When we acknowledge the existence of evil as being a motivating factor in either our choices or in the choices of others, we give it life. We validate it. Without that validation, it doesn’t exist. There is no evil in God. God is love. God is ONLY love. Everything about God is love. That which is not love…is evil. Evil is our own creation, an illusion born of fear. When we engage in “not love”, we cannot be one with God. Satan, whether real or allegorical, lied when He said we would be as the Gods. God does not know evil. He cannot, or He would cease to be God. God only knows love. I guess in a sense we became “as the Gods” in that we are able to discern between good (love) and evil (not love), but we lost it when we began to apply this knowledge out of fear.
This fallen state, then, is a choice. We choose to be separated from God, but we don’t realize it.
Ever since I first read the Book of Mormon, and came across 2 Nephi chapter 2 – especially verse 25, quoted again here…
“…Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy.” 2 Nephi, 2:25
…I have sought this promised joy. Where is it? How is it manifest? If this, to have joy, is the purpose of my creation, why am I not experiencing it…or am I?
Over the years, my prayers have matured. That’s kind of a weird thing to say, but I don’t know how else to describe what has happened. Yet, in my innocence early on, I prayed for things that have yielded results beyond my comprehension at the time. The answers have come line upon line, of course, and only in looking back can I see that the Lord has answered those early child-like prayers.
One of those prayers was to “know Him”. Another was that I might learn charity. Yet another, that I might recognize and experience joy.
The answer to all 3 of these prayers has come in an interesting way; I have been taught – oh, so slowly – over the years – that all 3 of these things have already been granted to me, but I had to choose to receive them.
And I can’t receive them as long as I continue to apply the knowledge of good and evil in the context of fear.
As I learn to, instead, discern between love and not love, and choose love, I have found that I am free to receive these things which are truly my inheritance – knowledge of God, the pure love of Christ, and the joy that is the purpose of my creation. They were there all the time, I just didn’t choose them. I chose fear instead. I chose judgment, and comparison, and separation instead. I chose…evil.
Oh, I wasn’t a bad person through all of this. I was just blinded by…the philosophies of men. And what are the philosophies of men? Comparison, competition, contention…control. Judgment. Jealousy. Pride…fear. Not love! And, not love is not God. So, all these years, as I sought to draw closer to God, I was actually rejecting Him. But He didn’t reject me.
Make no mistake – shedding the thought processes, the protections, the habits, the learned reactions of 65 years of sustained separation is not easy. That takes time, but I am honestly amazed at how quickly things are changing. I’ve been encouraged as the layers fall away and the truth is revealed. And that truth, which came as an epiphany a couple of days ago, is…
We must choose joy! We must choose charity! We must choose knowledge (of God)! We must choose the tree of life. We don’t need to reject knowledge of good and evil (love vs. not love, God vs. not God) to choose joy, but we must reject the veil of fear. We must stop using that knowledge, applied in fear, to judge, compare, and separate. We must also have faith that these things, these greatest of divine virtues, are truly our inheritance, and are not to be given, but have already been given. These things are the measure of our creation, but we must choose them, if we are to fulfill that measure.
These ideas are not revolutionary. They’re not rebellious. They’re not blasphemous or “New Age”. It’s all right there in the scriptures. The Doctrine of Christ; the Sermon on the Mount; the prophesies of the Old Testament prophets – it’s all there; all pleas for us to receive our inheritance as what it truly is; an inheritance of love, of patience, of peace…an inheritance of divinity. May we all decide to choose that inheritance, and with it, the knowledge of God, which is, of course, eternal life.