The Fall is a broad topic and so I have taken an element from it upon which to elaborate my personal understanding, feelings and beliefs. It is the idea of condescension.
This essay is not about what we already know, rather about “Good from Evil” as motivation for fulfilling or acting contrary to the formalities of the Law. In Christ’s words, “Love your enemies and be ye perfect even as your father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:44, 48) and in Lucifer’s, “then ye shall be as gods” (Gen 3:5).
Strong’s literal translation of “fall” or “naw-fal,” sounds like “awful,” because formally it is but not because it has to be, has causative and literal meanings, “death” and “condemnation,” respectively. These are appropriate for our understanding of what I like to call, “The Condescension of Adam and Eve.” I call it the “Condescension” instead of “Exodus” because they move from freedom to subjection, whereas the Israelites moved from subjection to freedom. The reasons for their condescension are, for Eve, to know good from evil and, for Adam, that man might be. Eve is deceived, whereas, Adam makes a conscientious decision. Therefore, by transgressing the will of God, they become subject to the Devil. If we understand “death” as a state of being without a body and “condemnation” as a state of being separate from Heavenly Father, Adam and Eve “fall,” just as Lucifer had fallen, to become subject, just as Lucifer is subject, to “condemnation” and “death.” Satan is pretty happy about this development. Adam and Eve are under his dominion; Lucifer, having been cast out to the earth, is self-proclaimed “god” of this world.
Heavenly Father, like any human being…well, not any human being…has boundaries that must be respected if we desire His fellowship. This association with Heavenly Father, we call liberty or freedom. It is freedom from subjection to the Devil and freedom to associate with Heavenly Father. Having failed to respect Heavenly Father’s boundaries, Adam and Eve are cut off from His presence. Despite being estranged from Heavenly Father for their disobedience, Heavenly Fathers protection is still upon them. Lest Adam and Eve be subject to the Devil as outcasts forever, angels and a flaming sword are sent to prepare and placed to guard the way of eternal life. The Lord gave Adam and Eve “commandments” and sent an angel to teach them the plan of salvation (Moses 5:4-10). Being inspired, Adam and all his righteous sons proclaim the plan of salvation (Moses 6:22-23).
In Adam, we all die. Adam represents a sort of human solidarity. We all suffer the same subjection. The drama of human transgression does not stop after the condescension of Adam and Eve. The drama continues towards sin with Cain. As we noted previously, the Lord calls Adam and Eve to responsible action: Observe the commandments and proclaim the plan of salvation. Cain does neither. Cain represents a third fall, Lucifer the first and Adam the second. All these “falls” are necessary parts of the plan of salvation. In 2 Nephi 2:11, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one.” And having killed his brother Abel, Cain was cast out from among the righteous. And that there “is an opposition in all things,” the Lord said, “whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold” (Gen 4:15).
We learn that this “opposition” exists for a purpose: “Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement” (2 Ne. 2:10). “And the Lord God said: The Lamanites shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge the Nephites even unto destruction” (2 Ne. 5:25). Cain and his followers serve a purpose in the plan of salvation it would seem. Their purpose is “opposition,” “punishment” and “destruction.” They are a “scourge” to all who are wicked. In Romans 13:2-3, Paul describes this arrangement thus, “Whosoever therefore resisteth the powers, resisteth the ordinance of God,” for the “rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.” Primitive Saints concerned about whether they should resist the Romans are commanded to “give place unto wrath, for conscience sake” and to “do that which is good.”
The retribution of the wicked runs amok. Lamech, descendent of Cain, states, “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and seven fold” (Gen. 4:23-24). Lamech is a fourth fall. He murders a man for wounding him, a young man for bruising him and his grandfather Irad (Moses 5:47-51). The sons of men despise Lamech and the sons of Adam cast Lamech out, lest the sons of men kill him. The scripture says, “And thus the works of darkness began to prevail among all the sons of men.” In as much as the Lord brings a twinkling of sanity to the darkness of chaos by ordering and limiting, through law, violence to proportionate vengeance, or what the Bible Dictionary calls “righteous retribution,” ultimately, what saves humanity is obedience to Christ’s command to repay evil with good, even seventy seven times. The sons of Adam do not give up on the sons of men and do something “good” that the scripture says was from the beginning and will “be until the end thereof” (Moses 5:58-59). And thus the fall proceeds from a violation of higher laws to a violation of lower and lesser laws. This begs the question (and Pilate would be proud), “What is good?”
The Atonement is a “good” that redeems humanity from death and hell. Therefore, I will speak of another “good,” or what I will call an “exodus from evil.” Ephesians 6:12 calls it a “struggle,” not against flesh and blood, but against “spiritual wickedness.” This is the “good” we can perform, made possible by the “good” that Christ performed. I will speak of the “good” that leads humanity to an observance of higher and greater laws. This “good” is also governed by law, which we call the gospel, and it is given order through government, which we call the church. Here are some clues as to what this “good” might be. In Alma 26:26-27 we read, “We came into the wilderness not with the intent to destroy our brethren, but with the intent that perhaps we might save some few of their souls.” We could call their “wilderness” our “world.” In Helaman 5:6-7 we read, “I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written, even as it has been said and written of Nephi and Lehi who came out of Jerusalem. I desire that ye should keep the commandments and to preach the word of God.” And finally, in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation. To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
It took me a while to figure out, being the dullard that I am, but what we are talking about here as the “good” the Lord would have us distinguish from “evil” is “missionary work,” among the other missions of His church. The “good” that we can do today is to be an agent of reconciliation. This is the example Christ left for how we should live our lives. His is a life of ministry and so too must needs ours be. Even in death, Christ ministered to the spirits in prison. In the resurrection, Christ went forth to the Americas to minister unto its inhabitants. And in these last days, Christ has restored his government and given his law, that we may also be his ambassadors. It is what gods, having discerned good from evil, do. Through baptism, we have all accepted this ministry. To quote Alma Sr., who when baptizing Helam at the waters of Mormon said, “as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body, and that the Spirit of the Lord may be poured out upon you; may the Lord grant you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world” (Mosiah 18:13). And again later, to Alma Sr., but to us all really, the Lord said, “Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep” (Mosiah 26:20).
Our righteousness must be greater than that of the Pharisees. Eternal life is predicated, not only upon personal worthiness, but also upon gathering together Christ’s sheep. Proclaiming the gospel of peace to outcasts is not soo bad, is it? So that they too can be with us in the Kingdom of Heaven, the repentance of publicans and sinners, as stated in D&C 18:15-16, should bring us “great joy.” In 2 Ne. 10:23-25, Jacob says, “Cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life. My beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh. Remember, after ye are reconciled, may God raise you by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God. Amen.” I have work to do. I can no longer justify standing aloof in a self-righteous manner and assert that the sins and evils of the community are not my responsibility while praying in the Temple to proudly thank Heavenly Father that I am not as bad as some other people. I am grateful for the Atonement. It allows me to do good as outlined in D&C 98:30, than having to justify myself by repaying evil with evil. It allows me to save the world, than having to destroy it. I testify that ministry for and on behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the work of the Father. We–you, you, you, y’all, me–are THE global force for good. So let us do some that man might be.
Good from doing Evil
The stripling warriors were free to choose between liberty (freedom from association with sinners through righteous retribution) or love (freedom to bear patiently the association of sinners through mercy and forgiveness). This was not a choice denied them by their parents. Unless the warrior Lamanites who embraced a covenant of love were male and female, then it is apparent that the Anti-Nephi-Lehites were primarily males. The fact that they settle among the Nephites gives us interesting insight into how the Ammonites raised their children, their Nephite mothers having the greater influence in the child’s rearing. While the fathers were covenanted to love (renounce war cf. D&C 98:16), the mothers raised their children to carry on the traditions of the Nephites, which was to zealously defend liberty by upholding the “statutes and judgments” according to the Law of Moses (Alma 58:40). Rendering unto the Nephites that which belongs to the Nephites is non-resistance to evil. It is the Atonement of Christ that facilitates this choice and is not denied Saints today as we can read in D&C 98:30-31:
“If thou wilt spare [thine enemy], thou shalt be rewarded for thy righteousness; and also thy children and thy children’s children unto the third and fourth generation. Nevertheless, thine enemy is in thine hands; and if thou rewardest him according to his works thou art justified….”
To repay evil for evil is justifiable, a choice permissible to the Saint, though it may prove to be a curse, rather than a reward, to future generations. Like divorce, it is a concession given, within limits of proportionality, due to the hardness of the hearts of men. Such concessions did not exist “in the beginning” (Matt. 19:3-12). Therefore, “righteous retribution” was a concession to hardhearted man. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:38-42), the Lord goes further, and urges us not to retaliate at all (Rom. 12:17, 19). To do “righteousness,” to have the power in addition to the authority of the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God, one would need to love, to forgive and to pardon (ie., facilitate social salvation), just as Christ had done for the adulteress and for the Roman soldiers who scourged him and assented to his death. According to the Bible Dictionary, these “statutes and judgments” were officiated under the lesser priesthood and are also called the “carnal commandments,” the intention of which was to train the Israelites to be righteous through shame, guilt and fear, neither through love, compassion nor patience (BD Retaliation, Retribution, Law of Moses, Punishment). If these punishments did not destroy sinners, then it only enraged sinners and did more harm than good.
The “statutes and judgments” of the Lord are fulfilled in Christ. This does not mean that we may sin with impunity as some might believe. The Pharisees had the problem of making exception for sin in order to make observance of the Law more realistic (we call this legalism) without having to mitigate the punishments. Nor does it mean that the Lord’s standards for righteousness have been lowered, rather heightened. Christ increased the requirements of the law, but he made exception for sinners. The people of Ammon were forward thinkers in their covenant of love. They covenant “never to shed blood” and bury their weapons of war in the ground (Alma 24). Whereas the covenant of Capt. Moroni and the Stripling Warriors is strikingly similar to the Law of Moses, the covenant of the Ammonites is similar to the covenant of the gospel. In D&C 63:25-35, the Lord prohibits the Saints from shedding blood. In D&C 98:16, the Lord commands the Saints to renounce war. The most recent statement on war by the First Presidency is that it is an “unrighteous” means of settling disputes, making the voluntary participation therein of every Saint “unrighteous.” 1 Corinthians 6:1-12 extends this denunciation of coercion and force to the courts and the police. The shame, the guilt and the fear is now upon those who seek retribution against sinners and not solely upon sinners themselves. In fact, the civil authority is referred to as the Lord’s “enemy” and punishment at the hands of the civil authority is referred to as the “buffetings of Satan” (1 Cor. 5:5 cf. Job 2:6 cf. D&C 58:22; 78:12; 104:9-10 cf. 1 Tim. 1:20).
It can be said that Moroni and the sons of Helaman loved liberty more than they loved the enemy (Alma 26:23-27, Ammon recognizes the whole “if not by the word of God then by the sword” as rationalization originating in the hardheartedness of men, cf. Alma 61:14). Are they like the rich young ruler whose personal worthiness was impeccable but who refused to sell all he had to give to the poor (Luke 18:18-28)? Would they have accused the Lord of destroying the law? Would they have called Jeremiah a traitor and thrown him into prison for suggesting surrender to the Babylonians? Would they have done the same to Alma Sr. or Limhi who, having surrendered without resistance, received “compassion” from the Lamanites (Mosiah 20:26 cf. 23:27-29)? Would they have persisted in their zeal for liberty by claiming that mercy cannot rob justice? Would they have risen up in an insurrection against the Romans, as so many zealots did, and bring upon Jerusalem a Desolation of Abomination (Alma 60:27, 33)? Or did they merely put off for tomorrow, looking forward to a fulfillment of the Law in Christ, that which was “highly favored of the Lord” today? This reminds me of many Saints in Brigham Young’s day who put off living the Law of Consecration until the Second Coming of Christ because it was not in accordance with their “desires” and conflicted with their views of what was “expedient.” Maybe Moroni and the sons of Helaman believed that their personal worthiness justified their condemnation of sinners. If the servant was not such a hypocrite, then his lack of mercy might have been justifiable (Matt. 18:21-35). According to the Law, they are probably right. According to the example of Christ, they would be mistaken. In his patience, Christ, acting no hypocrisy, showed mercy unto and facilitated social salvation for publicans and sinners, even the powers and principalities of this world. He could have called down legions of angels or caused his disciples to fight after all. The Lord shows pardon for the sake of repentance, but he is not an unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8). Those who desire justice will receive it (more below). Therefore, the atonement facilitates a second option of mercy and pardon for those after the Lord’s own heart. It is an option for those who choose to impute it upon their personal offenders, whether that offender is the civil authority or a sinner.
The justice zealots like Capt. Moroni and the Stripling Warriors seek will not be denied them. If we look at Capt. Moroni and the Stripling Warriors as defending the interests of God (the church) as against the interests of Satan (the civil authority), then we are closer to what the Lord would have us understand from the scriptures. Nevertheless, such a time as God having authorized a redress of grievances against the church and its members, through war, either against the outsider or their representative—the civil authority, has not come. We can vote and we can properly dissent, but rising up in insurrection, carrying out political assassinations and waging war is unauthorized. To “punish” the civil authority is prohibited, although we may seek immunity from it. Our covenant is very much like that of the Ammonites, of Jeremiah in chapter 27, and of Primitive Christians in Romans 13 than the covenant of Capt. Moroni and the Stripling Warriors. We “resist not evil” in a war against flesh and blood (here referring to the powers and principalities of this world or “spiritual wickedness in high places”). Why then is this not an acceptable course in dealing with individual sinners, we call our personal offenders? While we may be justified to redress our grievances through law by punishing our offenders, to pardon them through exceptions provided by law, to offer the sinner the same immunity that the civil authority enjoys, even seventy seven times, is righteousness afforded by the atonement of Jesus Christ beyond what is justifiable (“righteous retribution”). In fact, D&C 64:13 suggests that the redress of grievances through punishment should be mourned for what it is: A requirement coerced by a lawgiver lacking compassion.
D&C 109:25-28 gives a warning to the civil authority and any other combine of individuals that persecutes the Saints. The warning is that a time may come when the Church, no longer being able to patiently suffer offense in love and forgiveness, demands justice and is given authorization to rise up against the civil authority for its long train of abuses and usurpation, not because the Lord wills it, rather because His Saints demand it. This demand is characteristic of a Capt. Moroni, the Stripling Warriors, zealots who stoned publicans serving Rehoboam, and the zealot uprising against Caesar in 70 A.D.
In Alma 34:12-13 we read:
“The law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore, [in order to bring about a stop to the shedding of blood,] there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world. Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice, and then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the Law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle…” [Clarification added].
Does mercy then rob justice? In verses 15 and 16 we learn that mercy cannot rob justice because mercy satisfies justice and overpowers justice. Who does not give up some of their liberty and freedom to have a family? And what spouse and/or child does not exist that should bring us joy? This is a striking dynamic in the Book of Mormon, between zealots of the law and Disciples of Christ, that also existed in the Levant during the meridian of time and that exists today. It is true that the sinning Saint, who hardens his heart against repentance, is delivered over to Satan spiritually through excommunication and, in some cases, physically to the servants of Satan through punishment at the hands of the civil authority. At least in the latter case, this is done because of the law and the lawgiver’s lack of compassion, to keep the peace by rendering unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar (the wicked), and not because it is righteousness (D&C 64:13).
I have often wondered what need had Christ to offer himself up for trial, condemnation and the cross? No man could take his life from him. At any time before or after his entry into Jerusalem, the Lord could have laid down his life, taken it up again and brought about the resurrection. What purpose(s) did standing trial, being condemned as an innocent and being lifted upon the cross serve other than to fulfill scripture? I believe two purposes exist: 1) To demonstrate that the powers and principalities of this world, to whom Christ subjected himself and to whose subjection he calls his disciples, belong to Satan and 2) To crush the serpent’s head by gaining a victory over it. If the Eternal Judgments of God cannot be brought to pass upon persons except they are permitted to act in the flesh, then neither can they be brought upon the institutions of men unless they too are permitted to act in the flesh. Tyranny is preferable to war, not only because tyranny heaps coals of damnation upon the institutions of men that do not repent, but that through pardon, repentance can be facilitated. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Therefore, it is true that pardon can have either effect depending on how those pardoned live out the rest of their lives. Will they continue to violate their mortal probation? To continue as publicans and sinners. Or will they have their records expunged by enduring to the end? Becoming Disciples of Christ.
Revisiting the Good and the Evil
There are those who argue that I dwell too much on the mistakes of good men and that I should look for the good that these men do. As an example, Captain Moroni and the Stripling warriors, despite their warring in a zealous defense of liberty (read: zealous demand for and execution of justice), preserve a nation. From the evils of war came the good of preserving “opposition”: the lines that separate us, the group loyalties or caste system that secures our privileges and immunities, and the suspicions and fears that cause our enmity, dissent, and future war with each other. This line of reasoning has a significant amount of merit to it. For the cause of pardon it has a significantly greater amount of merit. Because of Christ, many things we call “civilization” would have been impossible. Without Christ, the future of humanity may have been limited to sheepherding and farming in agrarian societies. Because the land could bear no fruit for them, was it not then the descendants of Cain and of other outcasts that gave us music, astronomy, mathematics and metallurgy (read: technology). Had Cain been snuffed out for his sin, rather than pardoned, all secular advances arising out of his seed and the seed of other outcasts would have been snuffed out with them. It seems that from the good of pardon came the good of tearing down opposition: the lines that separate us, the group loyalties, suspicions and fears that exploit us and that are further causes for enmity, dissent and war. What are the rewards we deny our children and our children’s children unto the third and fourth generation by failing to be righteous? Either by stepping down as the law’s enforcer or by stepping up as the law’s observer?
I was thinking about the compassion shown Alma the Elder and the people of Limhi for their nonresistance to the Lamanites. It reminded me of two stories, one nonfiction and another fiction. The second, which is a fiction, I believe to be an accurate depiction of the life of Liver-Eating Johnson, aka “Jeremiah Johnson. “Jeremiah” was a great warrior and, as tradition would have it among the Native Americans, it would be a great honor and glory to kill or be killed by Jeremiah in battle. I am reminded of the Spartans who loved a good war and thought it an honor to die on the battle field. I am reminded of modern day gang bangers and police who find honor in dutifully killing or dying while trying to kill each other. I am also reminded not to give a person the fight for which (s)he is looking. And this brings me to the first story, a nonfiction. The Quakers on the frontier lived in peace with the Native Americans exactly because there is no honor or glory in killing unarmed men, women or children. To me the Book of Mormon is authenticated from these two histories in modern times. The resistance of Capt. Moroni and the Stripling Warriors encouraged the Lamanites while the nonresistance of Alma the Elder and the people of Limhi cultivated compassion in the Lamanites.