Why the Fall Was Designed
Adam and Eve were the first mortals to discover the Atonement’s meaning, and they found it only when they were lost. Not long after they were left to wander as outcasts in the lone and dreary world, the Lord sent an angel to teach them: “As thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed” ( Moses 5:9 ). He urged them to accept the Atonement by repenting and calling upon God in the name of the Son. He promised that God would not only forgive their transgression in Eden—he would also cause the sorrow and the bitterness of both Eden and mortality to bring them great meaning and joy.
When Adam, in his lost and fallen state, realized that his experience with sin and suffering could enlighten and exalt him rather than condemn him, he exclaimed: “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” ( Moses 5:10 ; emphasis added). He had discovered that in being lost, he could find God in a way that would not otherwise have been possible.
Eve had the same astonishing insight: If they accepted the gospel, their sad experience would not destroy them—it would actually sanctify them! “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 5:11 ; emphasis added).
The story of Adam and Eve teaches us that the Atonement is for all of our losses and all of our lives, each day of our lives. The Savior’s gracious power not only heals and comforts—it is also a source of personal growth and development, leading to an understanding of life and a fulness of joy. The Atonement is thus developmental and practical, not static and abstract.
According to Lehi, if Adam and Eve had not transgressed, they would have remained in the Garden of Eden “in a state of innocence, ” having no children and knowing neither misery nor joy ( 2 Nephi 2:23 ; emphasis added). The Fall was therefore an essential step in their development. It introduced the misery and sorrow of a sinful world, but the Fall was not a mistake or an accident. Rather, the Fall was consciously designed—misery and all—to bring us joy and freedom: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, . . . that they . . . become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves” ( 2 Nephi 2:25–26 ).
The Unexpected Lesson We Learn About the Atonement from Eve
What must life have been like for Eve, whose willingness to live righteously was constantly tested and battered by the growing pains of mortality? She had no precedent, no one to call for advice who had been through her experience. She couldn’t call her mother on the phone and ask, “Mom, what did you do when your children argued and fought?” She and Adam had only each other—and the Spirit of the Lord; but, over time, how they grew in that total interdependency! When they were first together, Adam was defensive about his choice to eat the forbidden fruit. Under the Lord’s firm questioning, he said, “The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat” ( Moses 4:18 ; emphasis added). But after their shared experience brought them, together, into the depths of humility and the heights of marital commitment, “Adam and his wife mourned before the Lord, because of Cain and his brethren” ( Moses 5:27 ; emphasis added). Their love grew as they learned together the tastes of bitter and sweet, and the joy of their redemption.
Eve’s experience as a mother further opens our understanding of the Atonement’s developmental nature. The Lord compared himself to a mother when teaching us how he feels toward us as his children: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?” Just as a mother could never forget her child, he said, “I [will] not forget thee.” And just as a mother’s body may be permanently marked with the signs of childbirth, he said, “I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” ( 1 Nephi 21:15–16 ). For both a mother and the Savior, those marks memorialize a wrenching sacrifice, the sacrifice of creating life—for her, physical birth; for him, spiritual rebirth.
How does such a mother view her child’s mistakes? Certainly not as the child does. Think of a frustrated little girl, crying and miserable because she always makes mistakes, loses her shoes, and leaves untidy debris around the house. Her mother does not view the child’s mistakes as hopeless disasters. She views those mistakes as growing pains. Her mother holds her, dries her tears, and tells her not to be discouraged. She will learn. She will grow. Everything will be all right. With her mother’s encouragement, she picks up all she can from the debris of her travail. And when the child is exhausted, her mother picks up after her. Mother picks up what her daughter cannot reach, what she cannot find, what she cannot see.
The Lord views our mistakes—our messy debris—as a mother would. To us, they can seem like overwhelming failures. To him, our mistakes are growing pains. He will hold us. He will comfort us. And then, if we do our best, he will pick up after us. Even when we try our hardest, cleaning up everything by ourselves can be too difficult.
After we clean up as much of that waste as we can, the Lord himself absorbs the residue, for he alone drank the bitter cup. He continually nourishes and heals us, from all our losses and all our pain, whether caused by our acts or caused by our being acted upon. Each member of the Church is his spirit child, and he will not forget the children of his compassion, for he has graven us upon the palms of his hands. He will find us when we are lost; and when we hear his voice, we, like Eve, will be glad.
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“Both as a publisher and from personal experience, I recommend this revised edition to anyone who is seeking to better understand the scope and personal impact of the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.” — Sheri Dew