January 4, 2009

The Alternative Garden Scenarios

While considering Adam and Eve’s temptation in the Garden of Eden, I became vaguely uncomfortable with it. In time I realized my discomfort focused on several questions, some of which were simple matters of curiosity while others were central to the underpinnings of my faith. For several years my study of the gospel centered on the questions and I read everything about the topic I could find, including both canonized and apocryphal scriptures, Biblical commentaries and Jewish folklore. (This was before I decided apologetics held little value). Eventually I reached two conclusions:
  1. The events, as recorded in Genesis, couldn’t have happened (a possibility with which even Joseph F. McConkie concurs).
  2. Nevertheless, the account remains a remarkable and important sacred text.

Eager to codify my thinking, I began to put down on paper a treatise on the subject, but what resulted surprised me. Rather than craft an argument that was indicative of my conclusions, I ended up with a series of vignettes that described alternative versions of the events in the garden. Each vignette incorporated one or more of the questions I had investigated. Some of them reflect Mormon thinking on the subject, but they should be of interest regardless of doctrinal persuasion.

Here they are.

Scenario One

Boy, was Adam stumped! Faced with the toughest decision of his life, the future prophet knelt on Eden’s fertile ground and called upon God. The problem was that Eve, his helpmate, had partaken of the forbidden fruit and was arguing for him to do likewise.

Because Eve had disobeyed a commandment, Adam figured she would be expelled from the garden. That possibility caused him to feel something new, an emotion he called loneliness. The feeling was awful, and he knew it would only increase once Eve was gone. Her pleas, therefore, didn’t fall on deaf ears. In fact her arguments seemed to make sense.

“God told us to multiply and replenish the earth,” she said. “And since we need each other’s help, you need to eat the fruit, so we can stay together.”

“What do you mean?” Adam asked.

“Don’t you see? You have to be expelled from the garden, too.”

Adam thought long and hard, when a notion suddenly occurred to him. Having been formed outside of Eden, he’d seen the world before. Surely the Lord of heaven and earth wouldn’t confine him to the garden. Otherwise their home was more a prison than paradise. Adam wanted to avoid loneliness at all cost, but must he disobey God in order to be with his helpmate?

Eve seemed to sense her own vulnerability and continued to plead her case. If Adam—without partaking of the forbidden fruit—was allowed to exit the garden, he might decide to return at a later date and leave her alone.

That’s when God appeared in a stream of light and inquired as to the problem. He listened to their summary of events and said there was only one thing to do. God commanded the woman to leave, then created another helpmate to replace her.

“But I want to be with Eve,” Adam said.

“And leave paradise?”

The man considered God’s words, then turned to his new helpmate and said, “I shall call you Eve.”

Scenario Two

After the second Eve confessed to partaking of the forbidden fruit, God demanded to know the reason for her disobedience. In time she provided a full accounting—and what a fascinating story it was!

“A serpent beguiled me,” she said.

“How’d he do that?”

“He claimed I could be like the gods, knowing the difference between good and evil.”

“Hm.” God put a hand to His chin, as if considering a serious philosophical question. “And was your mind then opened?”

“Afterwards I realized that I was naked.”

“So prior to partaking of the fruit, you were innocent and unable to feel shame for your nakedness?”

Eve shrugged. Her eyes were full of questions. “I guess,” she said.

“Because, if you couldn’t tell right from wrong, I’m not sure you were accountable for your acts. The way I see it, I’d be cruel to punish you.”

Eve nodded emphatically.

“Okay,” God said. “But now you know better. No second chances.” And He left in a stream of light.

Scenario Three

Satan was concerned. Over the last hundred years Adam and Eve had become restless and he knew it would lead them to no good. Still he could smile at the irony. Having been expelled from heaven for trying to force humankind to live righteously, Satan was surprised at God’s chosen home for Adam and Eve.

“What trouble can they get into?” he said aloud. “They have everything they need, with no distractions. God must have changed his mind about free will, because there’s no mischief here in Eden.”

Yet even as he spoke, he realized that Adam and Eve’s unspotted existence would end if they became too restless. He noticed how they looked longingly at the forbidden fruit, but he hoped to keep them from eating it. The act, he reckoned, would usher in God’s plan and unleash events beyond Satan’s control.

With free agency unleashed upon the world, opposition would become a part of human existence. Though weak individuals might not survive the chaos (justifying Satan’s plan of coercion) the strong would thrive on new opportunities. In the way some folks might learn how to get warm in the cold, many would obtain courage when afraid. Some would acquire integrity when given opportunities for illicit gain—even patience over adversity.

“No, I can’t let God win,” he said. “I’ve got to keep them from eating that fruit!”

But Satan was too late. The deed had already been done. He shed a tear, watching God toss the couple out of Eden. That’s when a thought occurred to him. Just because Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, were they subject to opposition as a result? After all, who creates all lies? Who manufactures all adversity?

“I do,” Satan whispered. “If I leave Adam and Eve alone without temptations, what will happen to God’s plan?”

Scenario Four

Adam and Eve had been living in the garden for a long time. In fact it was their 9,673 anniversary of being lead into paradise, when Adam reflected upon the many years of tranquil, yet uneventful, years he’d been with his helpmate.

“Eve,” he said in a peculiar way. “I’m bored.”

“Bored? What’s that?”

“Well, it’s a word I made up. It means I want something new. I want excitement. I need a challenge.”

Eve looked surprised. Being the first humans on earth, they were accustomed to inventing new terms to describe their experiences, but a great deal of time had passed (almost eight hundred years) since they’d increased their vocabulary. Now in the space of a handful of seconds Adam had used three new words. What had gotten into him?

“Excitement?” Eve asked. “Challenge?”

“Never mind. I’m not sure I understand it myself. It’s like I’m not growing.”


Yet the more they talked, the more she seemed to understand. Eve said she’d felt the same emotions herself—particularly over the last two centuries. The garden was a lovely place, but just like Adam said, it was boring.

Suddenly Eve jumped up. “I know!” she said with more exuberance than either of them had showed in quite some time. “Partake of the fruit of that tree. That’s the one thing you haven’t done since coming to the garden.”

“But Eve, don’t you remember what God told us?”

And she sat down, as if to ponder her existence.

A thousand years passed, and Adam and Eve woke up to another perfectly dreadful day of peace and sunshine. This time they were both using new words they’d come to understand and employ fluently. These included: restless, useless, character, improve, and wrong.

“You’re right, Eve,” Adam said. “I think it’s time we ate the fruit of that tree. I’d rather not live than go through another day of bliss.”

Without understanding the consequences, but sensing the necessity, Adam tasted the joy of the forbidden fruit and opened a door to opportunities born out of conflict.

Scenario Five

There was a great tumult in heaven, for God had gathered His spirit children in order to present a plan. It was the means, He said, by which His children might acquire physical form, an important step in their progress toward increased happiness. With bodies, not only would they have a chance to grow, but they would experience pleasure, as well. God specifically mentioned the thrill of consuming tasty foods and engaging in physical love.

Then His countenance grew solemn as He explained the risks of having such appetites and passions. These attributes, God said, could be a source of joy if indulged within certain bounds. But without personal restraint, their new feelings might enslave them and lead to sorrow. Some spirits would be tempted to perform all manner of wickedness. Others would receive physical abuse at the hands of wayward brothers and sisters. Their bodies would be subject to sickness and death.

Suddenly God smiled and said that only by overcoming these physical appetites, passions, and weaknesses, would His children acquire the characteristics He Himself possessed. He spoke joyfully of the lessons that could be learned by encountering and overcoming challenges.

The sea of spirits broke into a whispered debate. Adam and Eve spoke together, saying they hadn’t expected the need for work. Work and opposition, after all, were difficult concepts for them to understand, much less anticipate. It was then that a single hand went up from among the crowd and God recognized Lucifer, the Son of Morning.

Lucifer stood and spoke with quiet assurance. “Father,” he said, “I have sat in council with You, and I know You would do nothing contrary to the interests of Your spirit children. I am in awe of Your power and glory. I am even more in awe of Your desire to share glory with us. But when You speak of risks, I shudder to think of the implications. I would gladly suffer pain to be like You, but to see my brothers and sisters in anguish—to watch them cause each other grief—would be more than I can bear. Surely, You will allow me to remain in my present state rather than suffer such afflictions.”

God looked at Lucifer and frowned. “You can remain,” He said, “for it’s your choice to make. But despite the possibility of failure, there’s a portion of glory reserved for those who try. The greatest failing is to make no attempt.” Then looking over the immense gathering He added, “Perhaps we should all spend time considering this important decision.”

The spirits seemed to recognize the importance of God’s invitation. It marked the first decision of their existence and introduced them to the contrasting emotions of anxiety and anticipation. To some these feelings were exhilarating and gave them a hopeful glimpse into mortality. To others the implication of facing still more choices was frightening. In the end they all exercised free agency for the first time. While some of them chose never to choose again, others selected mortality as a step towards greater immortality.

Adam and Eve were the first to begin their journey. After receiving instructions, they bid farewell to their brothers and sisters and left for a new place. It was an existence that would teach them to love, once fear and enmity owned a place in their hearts.

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