One of the things I truly love about Mormonism is our doctrine surrounding the fall of Adam and Eve. I would start my lesson by highlighting our knowledge of the Plan of Salvation and how it allows us to see the beauty and love in a story that is vilified by so many others. (note: my thoughts and questions will appear in italics.)
Adam and Eve were the first to come to Earth
I like the suggestion in the manual to use questions to start a discussion that will lead class members to the text of the scriptures. To get the class comfortable and involved, I would ask questions like:
- Who were our first parents?
God prepared this earth as a home for His children. Adam and Eve were chosen to be the first people to live on the earth (see Moses 1:34; 4:26). Their part in our Father’s plan was to bring mortality into the world. They were to be the first parents. (See D&C 107:54–56.)
- What do we know about them?
Adam and Eve were among our Father’s noblest children. In the spirit world Adam was called Michael the archangel (see D&C 27:11; Jude 1:9). He was chosen by our Heavenly Father to lead the righteous in the battle against Satan (see Revelation 12:7–9). Adam and Eve were foreordained to become our first parents. The Lord promised Adam great blessings: “I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever” (D&C 107:55).
Eve was “the mother of all living” (Moses 4:26). God brought Adam and Eve together in marriage because “it was not good that the man should be alone” (Moses 3:18; see also 1 Corinthians 11:11). She shared Adam’s responsibility and will also share his eternal blessings.
You might want to stress this last point. There is certainly a disparity between what we know about Adam and what we know about Eve but we have to assume that our first mother did many noble and great things, including opening up mortality for all of us, and will be blessed for those things in her own right.
- What scriptural evidence helps us know that Adam and Eve were valiant spirits? (Abraham 3:22-23)
- What can we learn from the examples of Eve and Adam?
The Garden of Eden
- Under what conditions did Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden?
When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, they were not yet mortal. In this state, “they would have had no children” (2 Nephi 2:23). There was no death. They had physical life because their spirits were housed in physical bodies made from the dust of the earth (see Moses 6:59; Abraham 5:7). They had spiritual life because they were in the presence of God. They had not yet made a choice between good and evil.
- What were the commandments God gave Adam and Eve?
God commanded them to have children. He said, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over … every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Moses 2:28). God told them they could freely eat of every tree in the garden except one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Of that tree God said, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Moses 3:17).
You might want to have a conversation with your class about why God would give two seemingly contradictory commandments. Direct the class to 2nd Nephi 2:22-24. Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, “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. This would be a planned offense, a formality to serve an eternal purpose.” I love that in Moses 4:6, we are told that Satan played right into God’s hand by beguiling Eve. This backs up what Lehi tells us, that all thing were done in the “wisdom of him who knoweth all things.”
I would also spend some time talking about Eve, especially if you are preparing this lesson for Relief Society. Many Christian religions have reviled Eve for her choice but through modern day revelation, we know that Eve made a righteous and noble choice. Have somebody read this quote from Dallin H. Oak’s talk, “The Great Plan of Happiness“:
“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. Joseph Smith taught that it was not a “sin,” because God had decreed it. Brigham Young declared, “We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least” Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. … This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin … for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!”
I also love this quote by Sheri Dew:
“Eve set the pattern. In addition to bearing children, she mothered all of mankind when she made the most courageous decision any woman has ever made and with Adam opened the way for us to progress. She set an example of womanhood for men to respect and women to follow, modeling the characteristics with which we as women have been endowed: heroic faith, a keen sensitivity to the Spirit, an abhorrence of evil, and complete selflessness. Like the Savior, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” Eve, for the joy of helping initiate the human family, endured the Fall. She loved us enough to help lead us.”
If time permits, you could share this beautiful poem by Mormon poet, Elizabeth Cranford.
Adam and Eve’s Separation from God
- What physical and spiritual changes occurred in Adam and Eve as a result of their transgression?
Because Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the Lord sent them out of the Garden of Eden into the world. Their physical condition changed as a result of their eating the forbidden fruit. As God had promised, they became mortal. They and their children would experience sickness, pain, and physical death.
Because of their transgression, Adam and Eve also suffered spiritual death. This meant they and their children could not walk and talk face to face with God. Adam and Eve and their children were separated from God both physically and spiritually.
I don’t think you need to spend a lot of time in this section, briefly make the point that with mortality comes with all the ills of the human condition: pain, death and separation from God.
Great Blessings Resulted from Transgression
Some people believe Adam and Eve committed a serious sin when they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. However, latter-day scriptures help us understand that their Fall was a necessary step in the plan of life and a great blessing to all of us. Because of the Fall, we are blessed with physical bodies, the right to choose between good and evil, and the opportunity to gain eternal life. None of these privileges would have been ours had Adam and Eve remained in the garden.
After the Fall, Eve said, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed [children], and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (Moses 5:11).
- How does the Fall provide opportunities for us to become like our Heavenly Father?
- Why do you think it is important to know about the Fall and how it influences us?
I would end this lesson by testifying of the beauty of the Plan of Salvation. That by entering mortality, not only do we have the opportunity to return to our Heavenly Parents, we also have the ability to be like Them. The Fall provided each of us with the opportunity to have a physical body, to know good from evil and exercise our agency. But most importantly, our Heavenly Parents and our First Parents gave us the opportunity to experience joy. (2nd Nephi 2:25).
(Additional Resource: As a teacher, I like to have as much context as possible for the subject I am teaching. Yale University provides a wonderful service in that they make several courses available for viewing online. One of those courses is an introduction to the Old Testament taught by Dr. Christine Hayes. In sessions 3 and 4, Dr. Hayes covers in detail the story of Adam and Eve and provides context, insight and superior translations of scripture. I would highly recommend looking at them if you have time. You can view a recording of those classes or read a transcript here.)
Note: This lesson was originally written for the Relief Society audience in 2010-2011, when the Gospel Principles manual was temporarily used as curriculum for Relief Society, Elders Quorum and High Priest classes. The lesson may require adaptation for Gospel Principles classes, which are mixed gender and primarily serve new members and investigators of the church.