How Do I Teach the Fall? Distinction and Harmonization

Mark T. Lewis

Mark T. Lewis, "How Do I Teach the Fall? Distinction and Harmonization," Religious Educator 24, no. 3 (2023): 13–25.

Mark T. Lewis ( teaches at Grantsville Seminary. He studied film, anthropology, and religious education at Brigham Young University and is pursuing a PhD in education at Utah State University. 

photo of a hand reaching for an orangeEve and Adam’s choice to enter mortality is analogous to our experiences moving out of our childhood homes to confront the world in all its tribulations. Photo by Jared Subia (modified),

Keywords: Fall of Adam and Eve, mortality, endowment

At least every other year, if not more frequently, Sunday School teachers throughout The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints share core doctrines drawn from the Fall of Adam and Eve with their students. The sacred story of what transpired in Eden is recorded in multiple scripture passages (Genesis 3, Moses 4, and 2 Nephi 2) and is represented in Latter-day Saint temples. While essential doctrines related to the Fall’s necessary and beneficial impact on human progress towards exaltation are clear,[1] some conflicting narrative details can be difficult to sort out—especially for younger students. One interpretive strategy that teachers use to respond to conflicting narratives is harmonizing the varied accounts to try to complete the picture for students. The merits of this approach can be seen in the rewarding insights teachers glean from a harmonized teaching approach of the Gospels—an approach commonly taken in Church curriculum and in seminary and institute instruction.

The impulse for teachers to try their hand at harmonizing the Fall narratives to make them “agree” is understandable.[2] However, there are many insights into a scriptural author’s intent and message that are best revealed by studying each account separately. One scriptural author may intentionally leave out details that another author includes in order to focus the narrative on his intended message.[3] As a result, harmonizing may have unintentional consequences if details and perspectives that have been intentionally left out of an account are reinserted.[4] And when two accounts do not fully agree, which version of events gets favored, and which gets silenced or reworded?[5]

Harmonizing may also be used to journalistically reconstruct events, assuming that the combined narrative with the most detail is the most accurate and therefore the closest to what really happened. While determining historicity and narrative fact are valuable pursuits, it seems that journalistic accuracy was not what scriptural authors were most concerned about communicating. Helping their audience understand their prophetic message or inspired commentary—the truths being taught—was their primary objective.[6] This may be especially true with the story of Adam and Eve’s Fall. As President Joseph Fielding Smith suggested, while we are clear that “the fall was a very essential part of the divine plan,” we do not have the original record of what took place regarding the precise details of Eve and Adam’s story available to us.[7]

For teachers, a different approach to the Fall narratives may be fruitful—an approach that respectfully recognizes the unique and relevant messages each presentation of the Fall story conveys to its audience. Each biblical author dealt with different circumstances and tried to meet different needs. By clearly distinguishing between narratives rather than harmonizing them, precious eternal truths rise to the surface. This article intends to describe the distinct contexts for Genesis 3 and 2 Nephi 2 and the important spiritual fruit each passage yields when these essential narratives are analyzed separately with an eye toward their unique messages. The rendition of the Fall narrative in Moses 4 and the temple endowment will briefly be treated to examine the opportunities they offer for students. Appreciating each distinct narrative will help teachers as they settle the best path forward when it is time to open the scriptures with students.

The Fall in Genesis

When read on its own, Genesis 3 may offer an unfamiliar experience for Latter-day Saints accustomed to Lehi’s more positive conclusions about the Fall’s fortuitous and necessary nature—essential doctrines that Latter-day Saints rightly cherish. In contrast, Genesis 3 straightforwardly presents Adam and Eve’s story as an illustration of the process of temptation, sin, and consequence. It portrays archetypical humans doing “natural man” and “natural woman” things: being clearly told what not to do (Genesis 2:17), being tempted to do that thing anyway (Genesis 3:5–6), yielding to temptation (v. 6), being confronted by shame and trying to conceal the results (vv. 7–10),[8] getting caught (v. 11), passing blame (vv. 12–13), and suffering the consequences (vv. 16–19). The process of temptation that Eve goes through before partaking of the fruit in Genesis 3 is similar to the process of temptation many mortals encounter. The Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis even adds that the tree “became” pleasant to Eve’s eyes over time (Moses 4:12), perhaps suggesting that the longer we entertain temptation, the more its appeal grows.[9]

In Genesis 3:16–19, the Fall narrative concludes by emphasizing the consequences of Adam and Eve’s choice to enter mortality: agony in childbirth, sorrow in raising children, the natural human’s struggle for dominance,[10] unmatched desires and wants, a cursed Earth, the difficulty of getting and eating food, the ever-present symbolic and literal thorns and thistles of life, the constant need for sweat and labor—and eventually, death.[11] These consequences culminate in what could be read as God’s devastating conclusion about human nature in Genesis: “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19). With this declaration, Latter-day Saints may hear echoes of Mormon’s commentary on humanity from Helaman 12:

And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; . . . Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide. O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth. (Helaman 12:1, 6–7)

If Genesis were the only account of the Fall available (as is the case in other Christian sects and in Judaism), one could hardly be faulted for viewing Adam and Eve’s actions and the resultant consequences as anything but self-centered and catastrophic.[12] For example, renowned Bible scholar Robert Alter interprets events in Eden as driven by appetite and ambition, expressing that humanity is cursed and banished because they inappropriately “aspired to be like God.”[13] Commentary in The Jewish Study Bible similarly attributes Eve and Adam’s disobedience to ambition and describes the process that carried them to that choice as rationalization. In Genesis, the act of eating from the tree of knowledge by Adam and Eve was the first offense in the continuing conflict between God and man—an “estrangement caused by the innate human appetite for evil.”[14]

But why may the author of Genesis have chosen to represent the Fall this way? Though the events and stories described in Genesis were first spoken or recorded long before, it seems its most recent compilation hearkens back to the moment that Israel was returning from exile in the fifth century before Christ.[15] God’s people had erred in their idolatry and wickedness prior to their exile to Babylon. Because of their failure to trust God and listen to his words they had lost their promised land, Canaan—their paradise. Israel had jeopardized God’s blessings to them because they sought to do their own will rather than yield to his wisdom and goodness. Now, through God’s mercy, they were hoping to have an opportunity to reclaim the privileges they had lost. The story of the Fall we find in Genesis of a promised paradise lost through temptation and disobedience would have been immediately relevant to the Israelites returning from exile. The story of Adam and Eve told in Genesis would have been a potent caution against yielding to their fallen nature. The archetypal message was clear for these Israelites returning to God’s promised land: do not mess it up this time!

This warning is relevant for the modern reader as well. The story of the Fall in Genesis cries out with Nephi and Paul, “O wretched man that I am!” (2 Nephi 4:17 and Romans 7:24). It demonstrates how humans are prone to find themselves “in the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity” (Mosiah 27:29; see also Acts 8:23). This perspective on human nature and on the Fall remains consistent throughout Genesis and is a crucial message for us in our sojourn through mortality with its manifold temptations. Preserving this perspective is of critical value—to remember the folly of temptation and the consequences of yielding to its call.

The Fall in 2 Nephi

In 2 Nephi 2, the prophet Lehi presents a different valuation on the results of Adam and Eve’s decision to eat the forbidden fruit and leave the Garden of Eden. Before mentioning Eve, Adam, or the Fall, Lehi begins by making an initial doctrinal point about opposition—a point he afterward merges with the story of Adam and Eve to create a vital reinterpretation of what happened in the Garden of Eden. Lehi tells his son Jacob there must be “an opposition in all things” (v. 11). Without necessary opposition, there would be “no purpose . . . no sin . . . no righteousness . . . no happiness . . . no punishment nor misery . . . no God . . . no creation . . . [and] all things must have vanished away” (vv. 12–13). Experiencing opposition is crucial for growth.

It is unknown what version of the Fall story Lehi had available to him on the brass plates, but the narrative he summarizes in 2 Nephi 2:15–21 is strikingly similar to what we presently find in Genesis 3. Placing this summary directly after his comments about opposition allows Lehi to present a reframing of Eden’s consequences. The tension between Lehi’s point about opposition (which prizes the vagaries of mortality) and his summary of the Fall narrative (which portrays our mortal conditions as less than ideal) leads to an inspired repurposing of the events in Eden as necessary to “bring about [God’s] eternal purposes in the end of man” (2 Nephi 2:15). As he proceeds, it is implied that Lehi is aware that his words are doctrinally innovative and represent a novel reinterpretation of the Fall’s consequences. Here, Lehi does not cite an earlier source for his thoughts like his son Jacob will do later when he quotes from Zenos and Zenock, or like he did himself before summarizing the Fall story from the brass plates by referring to “the things which I have read” (v. 17). Even Lehi’s style and word choice suggest that he is aware he is treading into novel territory in 2 Nephi 2. For example, following his point about opposition in verses 11–13, Lehi begins using stronger rhetorical language as if he is attempting to persuade his audience regarding the truth of something unfamiliar to them. The repeated and varied use of phrases like “it must needs be” and “if not so” demonstrate Lehi’s rhetorical exertion (see vv. 11–17, 22–25). He mixes these emphatic statements with logical sequences of “if this, then this” to strengthen his appeal for his perspective.[16] Notably, his persuasive language mostly vanishes in verses 18–21 as Lehi is summarizing the familiar contents of the Fall story.

In verse 22, Lehi marks the beginning of his reinterpretation with the phrase “and now, behold.” Here he lets his assertion about the necessity of opposition from verses 11–13 fully merge with his previous summary of the Fall narrative and inform his reinterpretation of the Fall’s consequences.[17] Lehi explains, if there were no Fall, “all things which were created must have remained in the same state. . . . They [Adam and Eve] would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin” (2 Nephi 2:22–23). Here Lehi implies that the Fall was a benefit to humankind, not a setback, and in verses 24 and 25 he explicitly states it: “All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” Lehi concludes that the realization of God’s plan was found in the Fall and in leaving Eden behind. It may seem illogical to leave paradise and condescend to mortality with the hope of rising higher—but that is the higher wisdom of God.

Why might Lehi have wanted to present the Fall story the way that he did? An answer to this question grows out of the context of Lehi’s day and the situation of his audience: his son Jacob. The outset of 2 Nephi 2 makes clear the facts of Jacob’s difficult upbringing in the wilderness and his suffering under the rudeness of his brothers (see 2 Nephi 2:1–3). Yet here, now, Jacob and Lehi and their families are at the end of their journey. They have done the unthinkable and left behind comfort and safety in Jerusalem—the Israelite promised land and the home of the temple—and traversed a wilderness and an ocean, all without the use of any fire and while enduring great hardship. But despite that hardship, Lehi asserts, “Nevertheless, . . . thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain” (2 Nephi 2:2). The suffering Jacob endured had led him to grow—he now knew the greatness of God and the righteousness of his Redeemer. God had used Jacob’s struggling in the wilderness to help him rise higher than he could have otherwise risen.

In 2 Nephi 2:11, Lehi uses a key word to describe what happens when we stay in a condition without difficulty and opposition. That word is remain. This word is more notable than it may seem; when it is used by Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, and other small plates authors, the word is almost exclusively used in a negative context.[18] In 2 Nephi 1:4, Lehi observes that “I have seen a vision, in which I know that Jerusalem is destroyed; and had we remained in Jerusalem we should have also perished.” In Jerusalem, Lehi and his family had everything they needed—they were in God’s holy city and were wealthy and well cared for. They had connections, family, and friends. Life was good! Why leave that behind and enter the wilderness of affliction? Because God had something greater in store—“a land which is choice above all other lands” (v. 5). Like Eden, Jerusalem was satisfying, but passing through affliction to something greater was what God intended for Lehi and his family.

To conclude his recontextualization of the Fall’s consequences in 2 Nephi 2:22–23, Lehi mirrors the structure of what we find in Genesis by listing curses humanity would have endured had they not fallen and “remained” in Eden. Here Lehi uses the word remain four times in quick succession, each describing a negative consequence had Adam and Eve chosen not to Fall and “remain” in the Garden of Eden. The word remain associates the folly of staying in Eden with earlier statements describing the error of staying in Jerusalem (see 2 Nephi 1:4–5). In using this word so repeatedly and consistently when talking about the Fall in 2 Nephi 2:22–23, Lehi paints a bleak picture—a clear description of a situation best outgrown and left behind. Like there was for Jacob, there is a pointed message for the modern reader who has weathered tribulation and wondered if it was worth it: a wise God can use our lost paradises and the tribulations that follow to help us arrive somewhere better than where we started. Even when we lose, God’s wisdom helps us come out ahead.

The Fall in Moses 4–5 and the Temple Endowment

To this point, we have only treated two of the four accounts of the Fall in Latter-day Saint tradition. In narrative and principle, Moses 4 is similar to Genesis 3.[19] However, Moses 5 offers a unique vignette after the events in Eden have concluded in the previous chapter. This short scene offers a glimpse into how fallen Eve and Adam have grown into understanding as they reflect on their choice in Eden. They glory in their redemption by Christ and are astonished by the joy that has bloomed out of their actions. They marvel that the Savior’s Atonement allows them to retain the positive aspects of the Fall while also overcoming its setbacks. The passage reads:

In that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God. And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: 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 5:10–11)

These verses echo what Lehi suggested in 2 Nephi 2[20]—that the wisdom of God and his redemption of humanity through Christ allow us to rise higher than could have been understood in Eden. This highlights God’s character to “comfort all that mourn; . . . to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:2–3). While Moses 4 could be described as emphasizing a similar message as Genesis 3, Adam and Eve’s retrospective in Moses 5 neatly merges the sweet realization of God’s wisdom and triumph over humankind’s folly akin to 2 Nephi 2.

Finally, the temple narrative offers some unique interpretive opportunities. While the Fall is a historic reality and much of what is depicted in the endowment presentation refers to that reality, other parts are symbolic and not intended to be literal.[21] Because of this, participants should be careful not to regard the robust version of events presented in the endowment as the “historically true” version of the Fall story. Though largely following the same story as laid out by Genesis 3 and Moses 4–5, the endowment adds many new narrative details. Chief among these is the suggestion that Eve and Adam are making a thoughtful and courageous choice in eating the fruit, causing the Fall, and leaving Eden.[22] This empowering expansion on Adam and Eve’s intentions adds a compelling layer to the conclusions of 2 Nephi 2 and Moses 5 which emphasize God’s wisdom in helping his children progress through the Fall. Adam—and particularly Eve—join God in grasping the wisdom of mortality and the necessity of falling. The fruitful modern application of this perspective will be explored shortly.

Despite this meaningful contribution, the endowment’s version of the Fall story fascinatingly preserves conflicting details of the Fall story from Genesis 3 and Moses 4 that paint Adam and Eve in a poor light.[23] The tension, or opposition, in the narrative is allowed to persist—a quality that can be considered an interpretive advantage as unresolved disquiet spurs revelatory reflection for participants struggling to individually reconcile these difficulties. This is consistent with what President Russell M. Nelson has declared as one of the major benefits of temple worship: “Let the Lord, through His Spirit, teach and inspire you there. I promise you that over time, the temple will become a place of safety, solace, and revelation.”[24] These revelatory experiences in the temple, spurred to reflection by opposition, allow worshippers to close the gap with God in resolution of their personal fall.

So How Do I Teach the Fall?

In wrestling with the question of how to teach the Fall, teachers should consider many factors, such as the book of scripture currently under study and the age and capacity of the learners. The simplest answer may be to use the approach or interpretation which best responds to the needs of hearers as different occurrences of the Fall narrative emphasize different eternal truths. Whether helping students wrestle with the mortal propensity to embrace temptation (as in Genesis 3 and Moses 4), marvel at God’s wisdom in helping them reach divinity despite (and through) difficulty (as in 2 Nephi 2 and Moses 5), or emulate the courageous act of willingly embracing this “vale of tears” for the sweetness it eventually yields (as in the temple)—each truth has its place. In any effort, care must be taken to avoid misunderstanding: drawing details from other accounts as necessary and emphasizing eternal doctrine about the Fall’s necessity and its ultimately beneficial nature. The point of this article is not to discourage harmonizing, but to suggest that religious educators do not need to feel burdened to reconstruct what “really” happened in Eden for their students or to feel conflicted about emphasizing a narrative’s unique perspective.

In conclusion, I offer an example of teaching to hearers’ needs. The inspired choice Adam and Eve made to leave Eden as depicted in the temple endowment has resonated with many of my young adult institute students. Eve and Adam’s choice to enter mortality feels analogous to their own experiences moving out of their comfortable childhood homes to confront the world in all its tribulations. The harsh experiences encountered by some have led them to question God’s providence and wisdom. Some even wonder if the benefits of this mortal experience are any match for the misery of sin and the intensity of evil. I like to point out that while Adam and Eve rejoiced in Moses 5:10–11, their testing was only beginning. Eve and Adam had seen both the pain and joy of bearing children, living by the sweat of their brow, and struggling with relationships. They exulted in their knowledge of good and evil, but did they know what bitter opposition yet awaited them in the fallen world? Undoubtedly, they were less exultant the night that Adam discovered the cold body of his boy Abel—and learned that he had been slain by his brother! The heartbreak must have been unimaginable. Did they say to themselves, “we knew there would be evil—but we did not know how evil it would be”? Did they pray that night? What did they say? Was eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge still worth it to them? Did they maybe, for a moment, wish they had not eaten it at all? Did they shrink before their grief?

That powerful ritual question for each of us mortals—“Is mortality worth the growth it produces?”—never stops being asked. Many of us have terribly bitter days. Many of us have moments where we bend beneath the weight of mortality and the evil that has been wrought in the world as permitted by God’s wisdom and as part of our growth into joy. If we could, would we take back the choice made for us in Eden? Would we undo their daring act?

One of the reasons my institute students and I love the narrative of the Fall presented in the temple is that it ritually invites us to consider these very questions. Our lives regularly confront us with the problems of mortality. The Fall as presented in the temple leads us to ask ourselves if it “is right” to partake. In my heart, the fruit of the tree of knowledge has become a sacred prelude to the sacrament. When we ritually participate in the temple endowment, each one of us has a moment to figuratively “take” the forbidden fruit in emulation of Adam and Eve and embrace the rightness of mortality and the Fall. For me and many of my students, that moment in temple worship offers catharsis in allowing each of us to accept our hardships in mortality and remember the wisdom of being here and experiencing this. The good news is that embracing the bitterness of mortal life is paired with the opportunity to embrace our complete need for Jesus and the sweetness of the redemption he offers. In appreciating Eve and Adam’s faithful act, I make peace with my brokenness and rejoice that Christ gave me the opportunity to fall and be redeemed. It is right—it is wisdom that I pass this way. It is okay to step into the storm—my joy is waiting!


[1] For doctrinally essential verses that will be explored in more detail later in this article, see 2 Nephi 2:22–25.

[2] To be fair, the narrative presented in the temple could be described as embracing that approach. This will be addressed below.

[3] Come, Follow Me echoes the sentiment that biblical books operate from a certain point of view, communicate to a particular audience, and possess a high degree of intention:

Just as it’s impossible to look at a flower, rock, or tree from more than one angle at a time, it’s inevitable that a historical account will reflect the perspective of the person or group of people writing it. This perspective includes the writers’ national or ethnic ties and their cultural norms and beliefs. Knowing this can help us understand that the writers and compilers of the historical books focused on certain details while leaving out others. They made certain assumptions that others might not have made. And they came to conclusions based on those details and assumptions. We can even see different perspectives across the books of the Bible (and sometimes within the same book).

“Thoughts to Keep in Mind: The Historical Books in the Old Testament,” in Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Old Testament 2022 (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2022), 94.

[4] When harmonizing the Gospels in this way, the Gospel of Mark is a frequent casualty because virtually all story details contained in Mark’s pages are covered by other Gospel authors and in more detail. However, Mark’s Gospel has a unique and intentional message reflecting on God’s call to all believers to endure hardship and suffering as part of their discipleship. Thus the compelling and powerfully told narrative that Mark crafts may get left behind because of what he lacks in new informational content.

[5] The Gospel of John is an excellent example of these intentional choices that sometimes go unnoticed. For example, John places Jesus’s cleansing of the temple much earlier in the Savior’s ministry (see John 2:13–17) and completely omits Jesus’s prayer and agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (perhaps in favor of John 12:23–28).

[6] “Don’t expect the Old Testament to present a thorough and precise history of humankind. That’s not what the original authors and compilers were trying to create. Their larger concern was to teach something about God—about His plan for His children, about what it means to be His covenant people, and about how to find redemption when we don’t live up to our covenants.” “Thoughts to Keep in Mind: Reading the Old Testament,” in Come, Follow Me (2022), 2. Alonzo L. Gaskill concurs in his book The Truth about Eden: “Keep in mind that the primary purpose of scripture is not to recount a historical message, but rather to bring men unto Christ. . . . Although we should not assume that everything in scripture is symbolic or figurative, nevertheless we should be sensitive to the fact that to read scripture only for its historical content is to severely limit the power of the word in our lives.” Gaskill, The Truth about Eden: Understanding the Fall and Our Temple Experience (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2013), 43–44.

[7] On this point, President Joseph Fielding Smith remarked, “The simple fact is . . . the fall was a very essential part of the divine plan. Adam and Eve therefore did the very thing that the Lord intended them to do. If we had the original record, we would see the purpose of the fall clearly stated and its necessity explained.” Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., vol. 4 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966), 80; emphasis added. Speaking as to whether the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden was an actual tree, Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “Again the account is speaking figuratively. What is meant by partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is that our first parents complied with whatever laws were involved so that their bodies would change from their state of paradisiacal immortality to a state of natural mortality.” “Christ and the Creation,” Ensign, June 1982, 15. This further suggests that the accounts available to us do not communicate precise journalistic details of what Adam and Eve did.

[8] Even Adam and Eve’s immediate shame after taking the fruit is relatable. Genesis 3:8 states that Adam and Eve “heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” Alternate translations for “the cool of the day” could be “the windy part of the day” or, more fascinatingly, “in the wind of the storm,” perhaps referring to the storm of God’s wrath in judgment. See NET Bible Notes for Genesis 3:8, note 22,

[9] Robert Alter’s recent translation of the Hebrew Bible somewhat affirms this perspective. Rather than the KJV, which renders the phrase as “a tree to be desired to make one wise,” Alter translates the phrase as “the tree was lovely to look at.” Alter states that this rendering preserves the verse’s internal parallelism and is consistent with how the Hebrew phrases are rendered elsewhere, such as in Psalm 41. The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary, trans. Robert Alter, vol. 1 (New York: W. W. Norton, 2017), 16.

[10] Here I am choosing to emphasize God’s comment at the conclusion of Genesis 3:16 as descriptive rather than prescriptive. See the NET Bible notes for Genesis 3:16, note 50,

[11] This is not to suggest that God is depicted as without mercy in Genesis. To the contrary, immediately after the Fall, he mercifully clothes Adam and Eve to help shield them from the very curses he had pronounced upon them as they enter the fallen world (see Genesis 3:21). In its commentary for Genesis 3:21, The Jewish Study Bible notes: “God’s clothing the naked indicates that His anger is not the last word in the divine-human relationship. The Jewish ethical tradition finds in this unmerited kindness a paradigm for human behavior as well.” Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds., The Jewish Study Bible, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 16.

[12] Latter-day Saints interpret the Fall positively largely on the basis of modern revelation and Restoration scripture. Some benefits Latter-day Saints see as stemming from the Fall—such as the opportunity to bear and rear children—many Christian and Jewish sects believe were already available to Adam and Eve in Eden based on God’s command for humans to multiply and replenish the earth in Genesis 1:28. See George A. Buttrick, ed., The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 1 (New York: Abingdon Press, 1952), 485–86; see also the BibleRef commentary for Genesis 1:28,

[13] Alter, Hebrew Bible, 16–18.

[14] Berlin and Brettler, Jewish Study Bible, 16.

[15] Robert Alter elaborates, “These sundry literary sources were probably edited and fashioned into a single book—the first properly canonical book with binding authority on the national community—sometime in the sixth century B.C.E., in the Babylonian exile. It has been proposed—not without challenge—that Ezra the Scribe, who instituted the public readings of the Torah for the Judahites returned from the Babylonian exile, perhaps soon after 458 B.C.E., may have overseen the final redaction of the Torah.” Alter, Hebrew Bible, xiv. Come, Follow Me notes this development of the Biblical text: “The historical narratives of the Bible we have today are primarily the work of many unnamed writers and compilers, who sometimes worked many years, even centuries, after the time periods they describe. They relied on a variety of historical sources and made decisions about what to include in their accounts and what to exclude.” “Historical Books of the Old Testament,” in Come, Follow Me (2022), 96n1.

[16] This type of rhetoric is common in the early parts of the Book of Mormon. Nephi uses nearly identical language when persuading his brothers to make another attempt at getting the plates in 1 Nephi 3:15–21 and 4:1–3. Lehi’s second youngest son, Jacob—the son to whom Lehi is speaking in 2 Nephi 2—uses a similar style in 2 Nephi 9 to make his urgent arguments for the necessity of the Atonement of Jesus Christ (see 2 Nephi 9:3–11). This method of earnest persuasion seems to be part of Lehi’s family vernacular.

[17] Philip L. Culbertson notes that when examining a story or legend, Hebrew interpreters were comfortable allowing one narrative to be viewed through various interpretive lenses to make a story applicable to different situations. Changing the commentary around a story could change the way the story would be understood, making the moral point of the story applicable for hearers in numerous circumstances. In 2 Nephi 2, Lehi seems to take part in this literary tradition by taking the central features of the Fall story and interpretively reframing them to offer us a different understanding about what the story means. In this prophetic editorializing, Lehi offers us a vital reinterpretation of the Fall. Culbertson describes the main narrative, parable, or story as the mashal and the moral or interpretation as the nimshal. See Culbertson, A Word Fitly Spoken: Context, Transmission, and Adoption of the Parables of Jesus (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), 12.

[18] This claim excludes quotations from Isaiah in the small plates. Another example of how small plates authors use the word remain in a negative context can be seen in 2 Nephi 9 where Jacob repeatedly uses the word remain to describe our awful, hellacious predicament without the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Remaining fallen (see 2 Nephi 9:7), remaining with Satan (see 2 Nephi 9:9), remaining in our sins (see 2 Nephi 9:38), and remaining in Jerusalem (see 2 Nephi 1:4) are all detrimental. To “remain” is to be in an undesirable state.

[19] Besides the aforementioned alteration that the tree “became” pleasant to Eve in Moses 4:12, other notable differences include the description of the origin of Satan at the beginning of Moses 4 and the interjection of the phrase “nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee,” in Moses 3:17. It is difficult to say how much the phrase, “thou mayest choose for thyself,” alters the meaning of God’s command to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge in these narratives. As with any commandment, God allows his children to choose for themselves whether to obey his clear directions, such as the law of chastity or the prohibition on murder.

[20] So much so that it could leave the reader curious if Lehi may have had some trace of this interaction in his copy of the books of Moses on the brass plates. The way Moses 4 begins with reference to Satan’s fall from heaven has similarities to Lehi’s version of the Fall narrative (compare 2 Nephi 2:17 and Moses 4:1–4). Lehi says, “According to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God . . . had fallen from heaven” (2 Nephi 2:17). This detail about Satan’s fall is not contained in Genesis 3. However, the phrase “must needs suppose” may indicate that Lehi is making an inference on what he has read and that this detail is not recorded on the brass plates like it is in Moses 4.

[21] Alonzo Gaskill collected sources in this regard in his book The Truth about Eden:

Elder Bruce C. Hafen expressed the following: “The experience of Adam and Eve is an ideal prototype for our own mortal experience. Their story is our story. The complete cycle of their fall from innocence and their ultimate return to God typifies a general human pattern.” BYU’s Hugh Nibley wrote this: “The Mormon endowment . . . is frankly a model, a presentation in figurative terms. . . . It does not attempt to be a picture of reality, but only a model. . . setting forth the pattern of man's life on earth with its fundamental whys and wherefores.”

Gaskill, The Truth about Eden, 25.

[22] It is interesting to note that Lehi never praises the wisdom of Adam and Eve. Though Adam and Eve are responsible for the choice, God’s wisdom receives the credit for providing the conditions to spark their agency and allow for their redemption (see 2 Nephi 2:15–16, 26–27). It is also important to note that many of the temple’s adjustments to the narrative concerning Eve and Adam’s wisdom are absent from what we find in Moses as well. In Genesis, 2 Nephi, and Moses there is no correction of the perspective that Eve and Adam had done what was forbidden. 2 Nephi and Moses unite in describing God’s wisdom in planning for this eventuality and allowing human setbacks to lead towards salvation. The temple is unique in helping us understand our first parents’ forethought and courage.

[23] Such as Adam and Eve hiding from the Lord’s presence, passing blame, and stating they had been “beguiled.” Other theological tangles for Latter-day Saints include the following: If the Fall was God’s wisdom, why did God forbid the eating of the fruit that would precipitate it? Second Nephi 2 doesn’t explain this, and Genesis doesn’t allow for it (presenting the Fall as a negative event in humanity’s relationship with God).

[24] Russell M. Nelson, “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation,” Liahona, November 2021, 95.