Sunday, January 17, 2010

Gospel Doctrine Lesson #4

SS lesson #4 Moses 4; 5:1-15; 6:48-62

These first few lessons all run together in the same chapters, and so it is very tempting to lump them all together, or to run over one lesson and into the next. I’ll do my best to follow the lesson assignments faithfully.

Background: 

The Creation is complete. God has instructed his Only Begotten, Jesus Christ, and other divine sons to create the earth (Abraham 3:24) from materials already present. Once completed, Elohim and Jehovah (Father and Son) form man from the earth. Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden, where they live in a state of complete innocence. They are only given a few commandments: to multiply and replenish the earth, and to not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The war for simple agency is over, as Satan was cast out of heaven, and mankind was given agency in God’s plan. On earth, the war will be over how each individual uses that agency. This will determine who keeps their second estate (Abr 3), or earth life, and returns in glory to God.

Lesson #4

Since we discussed verses 1-4 of Moses 4 in a previous lesson, we’ll start with verse 5.

What does it mean that Eve was “beguiled”?

We find in the Book of Moses that Satan has corrupted the serpent, and chooses to use the beast for his bidding. Obviously, Satan does not just show up in the Garden, but has spent the time to see what was going on, and determine his best opportunity to destroy Adam and Eve. We see that Satan seeks also to “beguile Eve”, not because she is weaker than Adam, but as we’ll see later, she sees the world from a very different perspective than Adam. Adam is told to obey, and he does so without question. Eve considers each proposition presented to her, and determines what is best.

Was she tricked by Satan? Of course. She was still innocent and na├»ve. His sophistry was very intriguing and tempting, just as it was for the third part of the host of heaven who followed him. The difference is, the spirit children who followed Satan knew things, including the gospel plan. Eve did not know anything, so innocent that she didn’t realize she was naked. How easy is it today to trick a small child, who has yet to understand the importance of wearing clothing in public? So it was for Eve.

Lucifer first questions her (vs 7), to test her knowledge base. She responds with the correct answer, though there is no full awareness of why. Note that in Moses 3:15-25, Adam is given the commandment from the Lord to not partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve is not yet formed, until AFTER the commandment is given. I would imagine, if this sequence is correct, that Adam mentioned the warning to Eve, but the command was not as impressed upon her mind by Adam, as it was on Adam by God.

The serpent explained to her that she would not die that day (which we see is true in the physical sense) and that the fruit would bring knowledge, making her as God, knowing good and evil. Still Eve did not take the serpent’s philosophy easily. She researched it, and determined that what the serpent told her was true. In verse 12, she finds that the fruit was “good for food” or that it was relatively safe to eat. It wasn’t bad looking on the breakfast table, and it was a “tree to be desired to maker her wise.”

How would it make her wise? If for no other reason in that it would taste differently than all the other fruits in the garden. It was something different to experience and experiment upon. Adam might not be interested in experiencing something new, but she was. And so she ate of the fruit. And since she was in charge of preparing breakfast, he ate of the fruit she placed on the table. Or she convinced him that choosing wisdom was better than living all alone in ignorance in the Garden.

How did the fruit open their eyes? Perhaps it was just a matter of a big difference. Imagine if all the other fruit in the garden was bland, sweet or sour. Then imagine the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was opposite taste. It would suddenly show them there is a difference, opening the door for learning. In other words, imagine if everything you ate was vanilla flavored. It wouldn’t be a bad existence, but vanilla flavored food for every meal does not provide for any sensory experience. Now, imagine one day having a chocolate, strawberry, jalapeno, or a Rocky Road ice cream. Suddenly there is a major difference in flavor. One can now appreciate the vanilla, because there is something to compare it with.

And they now notice that unlike the animals clothed in fur, they are naked. This new experience somehow gives them the drive and know-how to sew together fig leaves as aprons. Had God taught them how to sew? Did they learn to tie knots and weave by accident? It obviously was not the best sewing job, as God will prepare clothing for them.

Where Goest Thou?
When Adam and Eve hear God’s voice, they hide themselves. In Genesis, God calls to Adam asking, “Where art thou?” Here in Moses 4:15, God asks, “Where goest thou?” This suggests that God knows where Adam is, but wants to know why Adam is walking away from God, rather than towards him. Adam has, after all, heard God’s voice, and in times past would have walked to God.

In answering why they partook of the fruit, no one was anxious to admit blame. Adam blamed his wife. Eve blamed the serpent. In dishing out sanctions, God begins with the one being that is not questioned in the scriptures: the serpent. The serpent symbolizes both the snake and the devil. Traditionally, this is when the snake lost his legs and was left to slither on his belly. It is also the time when God explains the relationship between God, Satan and man. Satan would also slither on the ground as a subspecies, as man walked above the earth in the image of God.

Verse 21 has great symbolism. While the serpent would have seed that would attack people (often biting them on the heel), Satan never would have true seed. He would only have those who would choose evil over goodness, darkness over light, the dirt over the heavens. His followers would be his seed.

It is significant that the verse does not say that the serpent would have enmity with Adam’s seed. Instead, he would have enmity with the woman’s seed. Only one person has ever been born without a mortal father: Jesus Christ. While Satan would have power to bruise Jesus’ heel; Jesus would bruise or crush Satan’s head, providing salvation for all mankind.

Adam and Eve had been commanded to multiply and replenish the earth. When they were innocent, they were incapable of having children, if for no other reason than that they didn’t understand. They did not realize they were naked until after partaking of the fruit. Only then were they able to realize that their bodies were different from one another and from the other animals in the Garden.

In being blessed to be the bearer of the Savior, the Lord chose to also make it a great burden for Eve and future women. Childbirth is painful, and is fraught with danger. Many women over the centuries have lost their lives in childbirth. It is painful, draining, and can be affected by a multitude of complications. This, however, is not considered a curse by God. He simply states that since Eve chose a life with knowledge, she would also have the natural consequence of pain in childbirth. When you pick up one end of a stick, you pick up the other end, as well.

For Adam, however, there was a curse. But he was cursed for his sake (verse 23). With struggle comes sorrow, bringing experience and knowledge – the exact things Adam and Eve wanted in partaking of the fruit. Adam would learn to work, fight thorns and thistles, and eventually die. There would no longer be an easy life in the Garden.

The Tree of Life
In the Garden was another tree: the Tree of Life. This great tree is the focus of many ancient cultures and religions in the Middle East, Central America, and other locations. The Tree of Life becomes a major focus for the Nephites, as both Lehi and Nephi receive a vision with the Tree in the center of all things (1 Nephi 8-15). They are both aware of the importance of the Tree of Life, as there was one in Solomon’s Temple, until it was removed during King Josiah’s reign. Lehi would have remembered the Sacred Tree in the temple of his youth. The ancient Tree of Life represented the wife of God, sometimes called Asherah. She represented wisdom, understanding and fertility – all of which point to Eve as the “mother of all living” (vs. 26). In Nephi’s vision, the tree represents Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, and the Savior is the fruit. It is an interesting study to compare Mary, the mother of Jesus, with Eve, the mother of mankind.

In verse 28, God admits that “the man is become as one of us to know good and evil” (see Genesis 3:22). Adam has taken the first step towards being like God. He is no longer forced to stay in ignorance. He has used his agency to choose between two unlikely commandments: not eat of the fruit and remain in eternal innocence, or partake of the fruit to multiply and replenish the earth.

God has not stricken anyone, except the serpent. He has just pronounced upon Adam and Eve the natural consequences of their choice.

Adam and Eve are not ready to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life. They have just disobeyed God and have brought a change to themselves. They are no longer fit to stand in God’s presence. If they remained in the Garden and ate of the fruit of the Tree of Life, they would never have a chance to repent and return to God’s presence. Therefore, they had to be tossed from the Garden.

Conflict of Adam and Eve against Satan
Early Christian texts tell interesting stories regarding Adam and Eve’s experiences once cast from the Garden. In the First book of Adam and Eve (also called: the Conflict of Adam and Eve Against Satan), Adam and Eve are cast out from the Garden. They dwell on a mountain in the Cave of Treasures. The cave becomes the first holy place on earth outside of the Garden of Eden. They experience many things, some very frightening. For example, their first sunrise terrifies them. They’ve never seen a sunrise before, because it was always light in the Garden before the Fall (chapter 16).

Often, they plead with God to return them to the Garden, but to no avail. On a few occasions, they even consider suicide as an alternative to the bleak experience they now are going through. The stark difference between the Garden of Eden and life on the mountain is sometimes overwhelming to them.

After sometime, they begin to accept the new world they live in. But they ask God for some tokens from the Garden as a blessing they can have in the Cave of Treasures. God feels for them and sends three angels to the Garden to get gold, frankincense and myrrh. When the angels (Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael – the three main archangels) come to Adam, they find Satan is with them. Satan is tossed out on his ear, and the angels give the tokens to Adam and Eve. The Lord tells Adam,


Quote:
1 …"You asked Me for something from the garden, to be comforted therewith, and I have given you these three tokens as a consolation to you; that you trust in Me and in My covenant with you.

2 For I will come and save you; and kings shall bring me when in the flesh, gold, incense and myrrh; gold as a token of My kingdom; incense as a token of My divinity; and myrrh as a token of My suffering and of My death.

3 But, O Adam, put these by you in the cave; the gold that it may shed light over you by night; the incense, that you smell its sweet savor; and the myrrh, to comfort you in your sorrow." (Ch 28-31).
Later, the Lord explains to Adam that Satan “has deprived you of the Godhead, and of an exalted state like Me, and has not kept his word to you; but has, after all, become your enemy” (ch 45:5).

Moses 5:1-15

Where did all these children come from?
Here we learn that Adam and Eve had many children prior to the birth of Cain and Abel. Except for a few commandments given in the Garden, Adam and Eve are now on their own. They do not have a fullness of the Gospel yet. They are now “shut out from his (God’s) presence” (vs. 4). They are in a fallen state.

They have many children, who also have children of their own. Their region of the world quickly becomes populated. One of the key commandments God gave Adam was to offer sacrifice, even the firstlings of the flock (vs. 5). Adam was faithful in doing this.

The fullness of the gospel
In verse 6, however, we find something interesting. “After many days,” or decades after they were cast out of the Garden, an angel comes to Adam and asks him “why are you offering sacrifice?” Adam has no idea. He’s been doing this since before his children were born, and now he has grandchildren having children. As in the Garden, Adam tries to obey simply because he was commanded.

The angel explains the fullness of the Gospel to Adam and Eve. They are sacrificing animals as a “similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.” What is “full of grace and truth”? The Father? The Only Begotten? The sacrifice? I would suggest that all three are full of grace and truth.

Christ would become the great sacrifice of all. Through him, mankind would be saved. In the Conflict of Adam and Eve Against Satan, Satan attempts to kill Adam and Eve by dropping a boulder down a mountain on top of them. God saves them by causing the boulder to turn into a cave over them. They are trapped inside for three days, as a symbol of God also being in the sepulcher for three days. In another story, Satan slays Adam as he offers sacrifice on the altar. God raises Adam from death, and tells him that His Only Begotten will be sacrificed in like manner for all mankind.

Adam and Eve prophesy
Clearly, Adam learned about the atonement of God. In Moses 5:9, Adam and Eve are filled with the Holy Ghost and prophesy.

One can see that their perspective on life has not changed much since the Garden. Adam focuses on how the atonement affects him: “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” (vs. 10). He sees the joy he will receive in the resurrection and in this life, because of hope in Christ’s atonement. The Fall, though difficult, was a good thing, because it allowed for the atonement to save Adam.

Eve sees things from her perspective as a mother: “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” (vs. 11). She sees how the atonement will affect both Adam and her, as well as their posterity.

While much of Christianity condemns Adam and Eve for the Fall, LDS have the perspective that it was necessary. They could not have had children/seed while in their innocent state. They could not have left that state without first falling from God’s presence. With the Fall, the Atonement, which was planned before the creation of the world, could be put in effect for all.

Plan of Salvation

Adam and Eve seek to share the fullness of the gospel with their grown children. Sadly, many listen to Satan, who taught them to not believe in Christ’s atonement. But the Lord also called upon people through the Holy Ghost to repent and believe.

The plan of salvation is based upon 4 key points: Have Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Repentance (vs. 15), Baptism for remission of sins, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost (6:51-61). Nephi and Jesus Christ called this the “doctrine of Christ” (2 Nephi 31, 3 Nephi 11).

It is that as we develop faith in Christ, we will desire to repent/change our lives. As we do this, we seek to be born again in Christ, which is done by immersion in water (also represented by the sacrament communion). Finally, we are changed by the Holy Ghost, which fills us from within with a greater infusion of spirituality and righteousness.

Because of transgression, whether Adam’s or our own, comes a fall from innocence and God’s presence. The fall brings death, both physical and spiritual death. And even as we had to be physically born into this earth by water, blood and spirit; so we will have to be born again. The water (baptism) opens the gate to the kingdom of heaven. Christ’s blood cleanses us in the atonement. The Holy Spirit purifies us and makes us holy (Moses 6:59).

In Christ’s blood, we are sanctified, or made clean. The Holy Spirit justifies us, or makes us just/holy. The water represents our portion of the covenant – keeping the commandments through faith on Christ (vs. 60).

This is not something we do just once. It is a cycle. As we develop faith and repent, Christ’s atoning blood cleanses us. We can be baptized or partake of the sacrament as a covenant that we will accept Jesus’ atonement and follow him through faith. The Holy Ghost then becomes our companion, justifying us and establishing us as righteous to the level we have become righteous.
As we seek to more closely follow Jesus, we feel the need to repent of additional things. He then cleanses us again, and we are endowed with spiritual power to live even a higher way of life in Christ. As Jesus prayed to the Father, that his disciples may be one, even as Jesus and God are one (John 17), and that as followers, we may become one with Jesus.

As LDS we believe that Christ fully paid for Adam’s original sin (vs. 54). We will all resurrect and all will stand again before God, because of Christ’s atonement (Alma 11-12). The wicked will be judged, and will not want to stand in His presence, and so will be sent elsewhere. But Christ’s atonement will have paid for Adam’s sin, so that none will forever have to suffer because of it.

Man of Holiness
In Moses 6:57, we find out that God is called, “Man of Holiness.” This explains Jesus’ title of Son of Man (of Holiness). It also explains better our relationship with God. We are made in “his image” (Genesis 1:26-27). It would not do for God to create us in his image, if we did not look like his image. We are his children, because he is our Father. Jesus taught us to call God, “Father” for a reason. The Savior understood our true nature and role as God’s spirit children. Jesus understood that, as Adam and Eve did, we would all fall from God’s grace and presence. And He understood that only through His great and infinite sacrifice could we be brought back into God’s presence and be like Him.

Because we all fall, we know good from evil. And because of our personal falling, we all become agents unto ourselves (vs. 56, see also 2 Nephi 2). Only in experiencing a fallen state, can we realize how much we need the atonement of Christ. King Benjamin stated that because of our fallen state, we are less than the dust (Mosiah 2-4), yet we are also sons of God, because Christ has redeemed us.

1 comment:

rameumptom said...

For those interested in some good links regarding Lesson #4, try David Larsen's Heavenly Ascents blog:

http://www.heavenlyascents.com/2010/01/22/because-of-my-transgression-my-eyes-are-opened/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HeavenlyAscents+%28Heavenly+Ascents%29