Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Examining the relationship between the temple and Garden of Eden

Last Sunday, I was fortunate to be a part of an eye-opening discussion, where we examined the Garden of Eden and its relationship to our modern-day temple. I had been looking forward to this discussion for a while, particularly because a friend had asked me earlier about Mormonism's view towards Adam's fall, prompting me to explain our unique take on it (in short, it was a good thing). Below are some of the insights I gained and still pondering about from the discussion:

1. The Garden of Eden was a place where Adam and Eve were able to walk and talk with God, as well as gain instruction. The temple, then, is an opportunity for us to temporarily return to a Garden of Eden-like state, where we can gain spiritual instruction and be in God's presence. The temple is also a poignant reminder that as Adam and Eve's descendants, we are not punished for their transgression in the Garden, as the Lord has provided a means for us to be in his presence at least temporarily. 

2. Juxtaposed with Genesis 2-3, 2 Nephi chapter 2 in the Book of Mormon provides an enlightening (and necessary) perspective of the Fall.

First, the parallels between Adam and Eve's family and Lehi's family are quite striking. Both of these families had been forced to leave their comfortable state (Jerusalem, Garden of Eden), into the unknown wilderness. Their family culture was also divisive with attempted fratricide on both sides (one with a terrible outcome). But what's important to note here is that the Fall is just as relevant to Jacob as it is to us. We live the repercussions of the Fall every day; our afflictions are a direct result of being a part of this mortal experience.

Finally, 2 Nephi 2 provides necessary clarification to Genesis 3. Consider the implications of verses 22-24:

 22 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

 23 Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

 24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

 Here, God seems to exhibit a similar reaction as Zeus when he discovers that mankind possesses fire, something reserved only for the gods, and he unearths terrible vengeance. Similarly, God views Adam and Eve as a distinct threat, as they have become like him--and they are expelled from his presence.

But reading 2 Nephi 2, a much different explanation takes place. Here we learn that  "the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free." We also learn that "all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things." Through Christ's atonement, God has prepared a way for his children to return to him. We are not a threat to God, rather, He wants us to return to His presence, and He has planned a way for us to return.

The temple then, stands as a reminder of God's desire for us all to come back to him and to be redeemed through making promises to Him.

Photo by Ted.