Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Two Commandments and The Origin of Adam

I like the way Robert J. Matthews handles the "problem" of the two commandments and Adam's origin:

Why the Lord Did Not Simply Create Man Mortal
Other questions that arise in association with theistic evolution include the following: Why didn't the Lord simply create man in a mortal, fallen state? Why cause him the trauma and difficulty of facing conflicting commandments? Did Adam obey God's will when he partook of the fruit? If so, why was he punished?    
We do not yet have the complete story of the fall of Adam, nor do we know all of the elements and circumstances that were operative in that event-that is, in the process of Adam and Eve's becoming mortal. If we had more of the facts, I believe we would see that it was all accomplished in a very orderly way and according to eternal principles and procedures. Hidden behind the story of the rib and the forbidden fruit are some deeper meanings.          

Consider these words from President Joseph Fielding Smith:          
Why did Adam come here? Not subject to death when he was placed upon this earth, there had to come a change in his body through the partaking of this element-whatever you want to call it, fruit-that brought blood into his body; and blood became the life of the body instead of spirit. And blood has in it the seeds of death, some mortal element. Mortality was created through the eating of the forbidden fruit, if you want to call it forbidden, but I think the Lord has made it clear that it was not forbidden. He merely said to Adam, if you want to stay here [in the garden] this is the situation. If so, don't eat it.    
One can tell that President Smith did not view the Fall as a tragic miscarriage of, or impediment to, the purposes of God. It was just the opposite-the Lord wanted Adam to fall. Mortality was an essential step in the progress of the human family. President Smith said he understood the Lord's words to Adam to mean that Adam was forbidden to stay in the garden if he ate a particular fruit-not that he was absolutely forbidden to eat the fruit in the first place. That clarifies a vital point, and I appreciate the spiritual insight of this great latter-day prophet and theologian.          

Now let us consider the query, Why didn't God just create man mortal and thus save him the trauma and experience of a fall brought to pass through transgression and seemingly conflicting commandments? There are in the scriptures no one-sentence answers to this question, but we have been given enough knowledge concerning God's plan to think through a possible response. In the plan of salvation God does for human beings only what they cannot do for themselves. Man must do all he can for himself. The doctrine is that we are saved by grace, "after all we can do"  (2 Ne. 25:23).  If Adam and Eve had been created mortal, they would have been denied one of the steps in the process that they were capable of performing themselves. As we read in the Book of Mormon, man "brought upon himself" his own fall  (Alma 42:12).  Since the Fall was a necessary part of the plan of salvation, and since man was capable of bringing about the fallen condition himself, he was required-or rather it was his privilege-to take the necessary steps.     
Furthermore, the Lord has told us that he does not create temporal or mortal conditions nor function on a mortal level. Notice this interesting statement:      
"As the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit.    
For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal-    
First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work-   
Speaking unto you that you may naturally understand; but unto myself my works have no end, neither beginning; but it is given unto you that ye may understand, because ye have asked it of me and are agreed.         
Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.       
Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual."  (D&C 29:30-35.)           

I take this statement and explanation by the Lord to be another of those universal fixed principles of eternity. Since the Lord works by law, I take it that he could not create Adam and Eve as mortals because in so doing he would have been creating man by a temporal, mortal law, an area in which he says he is not engaged. God did not need to create our first parents in a fallen condition anyway, because Adam and Eve, by their agency, were capable of bringing about the Fall quite effectively.        
If God had created man mortal, then death, sin, and all the circumstances of mortality would be God's doing and would be eternal and permanent in their nature (see  Eccl. 3:14) whereas if man brings the Fall upon himself, he is the responsible moral agent, and God is able to rescue and redeem him from his fallen state. Moreover, Adam and Eve's having brought about the Fall themselves made them subject to punishment or reward for their actions. A little reflection upon these matters leads one to conclude that the Fall was accomplished in the very best possible way. As Lehi said about the Fall and the Atonement, "All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things"  (2 Ne. 2:24).         
We can benefit from the observation of Elder Orson F. Whitney, who said, "The fall had a twofold direction-down-ward, yet forward."It is as the Prophet Joseph Smith said: "Adam was made to open the way of the world." Adam and Eve had the privilege of getting things under way by their own actions. This is far better than their being created mortal and sinful. Here we might also observe that, since Adam opened the way of the world, it follows that there could not have been such worldly things as death, birth, sin, and reproduction going on before Adam's transgression-that is, before he opened the way.          
Adam's Origin         
    I am in no position to speak for the Church or for the Brethren, but I want to express my personal belief on the subject of the creation of Adam. I believe that Adam's physical body was the offspring of God, literally  (Moses 6:22) that he was begotten as a baby with a physical body not subject to death, in a world without sin or blood; and that he grew to manhood in that condition and then became mortal through his own actions. I believe that Adam's physical body was begotten by our immortal celestial Father and an immortal celestial Mother, and thus not into a condition of mortality, a condition which would have precluded Jesus from being the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh  (D&C 93:11)- flesh meaning mortality. Jesus' physical body was also begotten of the same celestial Father but through a mortal woman and hence into mortality.   
Commenting on  Luke 3:38  ("Adam, which was the son of God"), Elder Brace R. McConkie wrote: "This statement, found also in  Moses 6:22, has a deep and profound significance and also means what it says. Father Adam came, as indicated, to this sphere, gaining an immortal body, because death had not yet entered the world.  (2 Ne. 2:22.)  Jesus, on the other hand, was the Only Begotten in the flesh, meaning into a world of mortality where death already reigned."         

Evolution would place Adam's body as the offspring of animals, each generation having gradually evolved and improved in structure and in intelligence until a creature came into being that was more man-like than animal-like. This seems to me such a time-wasting process. We know that God can beget children: he is the Father of Jesus' body and has also begotten innumerable spirit children in his own likeness and image. Why would the Father resort to animal evolution to bring his very own family into the new world that he had created, rather than he and the heavenly mother doing it in just one generation by begetting Adam themselves? Surely we would not deny the heavenly parents the privilege of begetting their own children. If our heavenly parents were but spirits only, there might be some cause for expecting they would need an alternate way to produce Adam's body. But since they are tangible resurrected beings of flesh and bone, there seems to be no necessity to resort to the animals to produce bodies for Adam and Eve. How could Adam be called the son of God  (Moses 6:22)  if he were the offspring of animals?    
Furthermore, if Adam were the product of animal evolution, it could hardly be said that he was created in the physical image of God; yet we know that the scriptures say man was created in God's image  (Gen. 1:26-27).  There is a very compelling passage in  Mosiah  that speaks of this same matter: "He [Abinadi] said unto them [the Nephites] that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and said that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God"  (Mosiah 7:27).  It is easy to see the thrust of that passage: The image of man in which Christ appeared was the same image in which man was created in the beginning, the image of God. The particular wording of this verse calls for a single and standardized image for man all along from the beginning-a Godlike image, not an image barely removed from that of a brute. 
Before leaving this subject, I would like to address one other related issue. There are those among the advocates of theistic evolution who do believe in a version of the fall of man. The scenario goes something like this: In the physical creation, God used the evolutionary process of natural selection and generation until an apelike animal was produced that was sufficiently advanced physically that God could place a man's spirit-namely, Adam's-into the body instead of an animal spirit, the latter having been used in all previous generations. This was the first man, these theorists claim, and he was immortal at this point; hence, when Adam subsequently fell, the effects of his transgression-death and the ability to produce children-applied only to man and not to the animals, those processes being already present in the animal kingdom.      
Now, as I see it, a problem with this position is that it asks its adherents to accept the premise that advanced, wholly-mortal apelike beings (themselves subject to death and callable of reproducing) produced a man, Adam, who was not subject to death and who could not reproduce unless he transgressed in the garden. Thus, ironically, Adam had to transgress to become mortal like his apelike parents. This scenario seems to be an illogical situation from the standpoint of an evolutionist, whose emphasis is on the natural processes of reproduction and selection; the idea that Adam's mortal animal parents produced an immortal child seems to override, if not nullify, the natural evolutionary process. 
These ideas thus raise more questions than they answer. How does the theistic evolutionist account for Adam's unique deathless situation, if his body was completely the product of mortal animals? Why did Adam not inherit death and reproduction from his parents? Would a theistic evolutionist who advocates the above scenario be willing to suggest that the scriptural statements about Adam's deathless and childless state do not really apply to our first parents? To so state would be tantamount to rejecting the plain declarations of the scriptures; and if a person does that, what has happened to the "theistic" part of his theory? How many scriptures can one neglect and still have theistic evolution? Moreover, the scriptures that relate to this subject cannot be dismissed on the grounds that they are archaic or translated incorrectly: the scriptures that speak of the Fall and its effects upon mankind are latter-day scriptures found in the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.         
            (Robert J. Matthews, A Bible! A Bible! , p.185-190)

Brother Matthews is a retired BYU professor from the Religion Department and the foremost scholar in the Church on the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.

1 comment:

Ryan Lanier said...

Excellent post. Some LDS get confused and think that evolution is a possible method that the Lord used to bring Adam about. The First Presidency declared in the "Origin of Man" in 1912 that Adam did not evolve. Man is just lower than the angels.

Elder McConkie also stated (according to Vivian McConkie Adams) that in order for Adam and Eve to enter a probationary state, they had to do something probationary. Thus the condition attached to the Lord's injunction "nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself."