Sin Boldly! – Part Two: Possible Solution, Radical Interpretation

During a long blogging hiatus I decided to put down in words the basic ideas of what I believe and a particularly difficult theological problem I’ve struggled with. The following is part two of what I discovered about myself.

I have come to a radical – perhaps heretical by Mormon standards! – conclusion that satisfies our belief in a loving, benevolent God and the seemingly bizarre turn of events in the Garden of Eden. What if the idea of “Sin boldly” is the very principle God tries to teach Adam and Eve in the Garden? Had Adam and Eve decided to sit timidly, afraid to so much as breathe because it could contradict a commandment, they would still be in the Garden of Eden, and we would still be up in yonder heavens, waiting impatiently for our turn to finally come down to Earth. Perhaps this had happened for quite a while – the scriptures never actually tell us the duration of time Adam and Eve spent in paradise. Could it have been a day? A week? A year? A hundred years? A millennium of Sitting in the Garden, eating fruit and hanging out with the animals, racking their brains to find out what exactly their course of action should be?

The current church cultural explanation of Eve breaking ranks with Adam was that Eve possessed more wisdom than Adam, that somehow she knew more or was more spiritually in tune than Adam, that she understood what must happen in order to progress Father’s plan. She knew the greater purpose to life, more than simply sitting around naked and eating fruit and coming up with ridiculous animal names like rhinoceros. She understood that eating the fruit would allow them to become mortal, experience both the bitter and the sweet, have families, bring about the Fall of mankind and death, but lead to a brighter, happier future – the whole nine yards. I’m incredibly disinclined to the idea because it means Eve would have been wise before eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, and it would have negated the need for eating the fruit in the first place. Had she been so wise to begin with, she would have just taught Adam the birds and the bees and they would have started popping out babies in Eden. And even if she really were that wise to begin with, why would God still force His children to sin to jumpstart His plan? Isn’t sin bad? Sin cuts us off from the presence of God. Is God secretly condoning sin, or is He simply a passive-aggressive parent trying to get His children to move out of His home? But wouldn’t that make God…evil?

Perhaps the impossibility for us to escape this mortal coil sinless is simply a harsh, unchangeable reality rather than deliberate, that life’s inherent imperfection is more a constant of the universe and less a cruel Skinner Box for humans. Perhaps God set up a perfect paradise to show how our mortal idea of paradise becomes it’s very own hellish purgatory in sheep’s clothing. Rather than some spiritual feminine wisdom or intuition, perhaps Eve simply got bored – bored of sitting day after day, watching those days blend into eternity, eating fruit and sitting around. She wanted to be bold. She knew something just had to happen. She had been promised action but lived a life of shy, fearful stagnation. So she went out and did what she felt was best – and ended up sinning in the process. Apparently, despite her initial sin, this was a good thing. Eve proclaims, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, 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).

What do we take away from this? That paradise is actually kind of boring and sometimes you need to crack a couple of eggs to make an omelet. Be wise as serpents and harmless as sheep, Christ cautioned His followers, but ultimately, they needed to do what He did, which was go about doing good. Christ was the only perfect person to ever live – a central core doctrine of Christianity – yet the idea that people might still think He was sinning didn’t concern Him. Otherwise, He wouldn’t have healed the sick on the Sabbath. He wouldn’t have dined with publicans and prostitutes and He wouldn’t have talked to a Samaritan woman at a well. He would have lived as the Pharisees did, carefully parsing out the commandments and living a life of strict obedience – a life that also passed by opportunities to serve, to help, to bring relief to others, to mourn with those who mourn, to seek out the truly lost, to learn from our mistakes and failures, to boldly go forth and try your hardest to make a difference in life. Rather than join the Pharisees in their quest for ultimate perfection, if only perfection within public perception, He condemned them vociferously, and probably looked like a jerk in the process. But He apparently didn’t feel this was a sin.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Sin Boldly! – Part Two: Possible Solution, Radical Interpretation

  1. a nony mous

    I think one critical fact was overlooked here: Note the scripture says ‘transgression’. A transgression is different from a sin. Makes for an enlightening study.

  2. Beth

    Nah, you’re not a heretic.

    I have come to dislike the idea that women are naturally more spiritually in tune with men. This is often used as an excuse to why men hold the priesthood while women do not. I could really get into this, but simply put, I don’t think that it’s true. If it were, it would still make one sex less complete than the other. But that’s a topic of discussion for another day.

    I’ve always thought that Eve’s real sin was not in eating the fruit to begin with, but in excluding Adam from her decision-making process. It should have been a choice they made together.

  3. Ted

    If you have the time, I would love to hear it. I’ve heard multitudes of arguments in seminary and Sunday school parsing out the linguistic and literal differences of sin, transgression, and iniquity. As someone who is interested in linguistics, I think the whole subject (and it’s cultural ramifications) is fascinating.

    I’ve forgotten most of the arguments and differences between the three (or two, if you’re only talking about sin and transgression), so it would be very enlightening indeed to hear your side.

  4. Ted

    Oooh, that’s a really interesting idea, Beth. I could see that being developed further.

    However, why was Adam kicked out as well? Or is it that Adam chose to leave with Eve? Hmm.

  5. Jamie

    But even if that’s what happened, that Eve just got bored, then why didn’t Adam get bored? Was he content to just live forever in his parent’s basement? I still think this scenario suggests that Eve is somehow better than Adam. I agree with Beth that the idea of women having some higher inherent spirituality is wrong. It puts women on a pedestal which is just a sneakier way of objectifying them. If Eve was sinning boldly does that mean that Adam was weakly obeying? I think the decision to eat the fruit was very deliberate and that Adam knew exactly what was going on.

    The serpent “deceives” Eve, telling her that eating the fruit will make her more like God and she won’t really die. But… this isn’t a lie. I don’t think it was an act of boldness. I think they figured it out. I think they did make the decision together, and agreed that the “punishment” of bearing children would be better carried by Eve. So she ate first, then Adam ate second.

    Another idea: Before they eat the fruit, they don’t have knowledge of right and wrong. They don’t realize they are naked. Maybe this just means they weren’t limited by that opposing binary mindset that forces us to think in terms of “either/or.” If you don’t know right or wrong, how can you really sin? It’s after they eat the fruit that they are suddenly afraid, ashamed, finger-pointy and selfish. Maybe that’s the result of seeing things in terms of opposing binaries, of defining the world as right vs wrong. Maybe part of the fall was losing the ability to embrace contradictions.

    • Ted

      It’s hard to say why Eve got bored before Adam did (if that’s indeed the case). I would chalk it up to less gender stereotyping and more of different personalities. My wife is very content on keeping things the way they are; I’m always itching for the next big change. It could just be Eve was more restless than Adam due to personality rather than gender. Because they are the first man and woman, we tend to attribute all of Adam’s traits to men in general and Eve’s traits to women in general, but maybe it just happened to be a very Adam or Eve thing to do.

      I would argue that the fruit definitely made them die. Not right away, but death (the flip side to morality) is pretty inevitable. Even if you’re translated, it’s been said you’ll still need to go through some kind of death-like transformation process (translation sounds like half-way resurrection – the true undead; not really alive, not really dead).

      I am intrigued that the Fall brought about binary thinking and that’s our true sin everyone must grapple with. I must meditate on this further.

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