Free Will vs God’s Control- Genesis 2:15-17

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

COMMENTARY

Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it.
Yesterday we discussed how God sets bounds on our lives, and within those bounds we can freely make our own choices. We often think that this freedom is inherent to our human experience, that for earth life to exist it must necessarily include agency. But this is not the case at all.
As seen in the story of the first creation, our agency is actually explicitly designed for by God. God planted a garden for Adam and Eve, and in it put many trees that they were sanctioned to eat from. More importantly, though, he also put a tree in the garden which they were not sanctioned to eat from. They could eat from it, but they were not supposed to.
Of course God could have created a garden populated only with trees that were appropriate for the couple to eat from, but then there would have been no freedom within those bounds. The couple would have remained good, but only because they had no other choice. They would not have had any agency.
The example of the Garden of Eden shows that forced obedience is not God’s agenda for us. He values our freedom so much that he will intentionally place a tree of knowledge within the reach of mankind, just so that they have the power to choose. So do we have free will? Absolutely. But it isn’t our default state, in truth we only have it because God is in control and He designed for us to. Thus God’s involvement in Earth life does not create a paradox for free will, it is what even makes it possible.

The Nature of Sacrifice- Moses 5:6-8

And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.

COMMENTARY

I know not, save the Lord commanded me
I feel that Adam’s reasoning for performing sacrifice perfectly captures the simple faith behind so much of our own obedience. Why do you go to church? Pay your tithing? Hold back that insult? Tell the truth that harms you? Perhaps for some of these things we have learned the reason why, but at some point I think the answer for each of us is “I dunno…it just seemed like the right thing to do.”
Now I am a firm believer in doing the right thing because it is the right thing, that is more than reason enough, but at the same time I do believe that there are deeper reasons, even if I do not yet comprehend them. Just as I believe that there are reasons and rules for every behavior in physics, even if I do not know what they all are.

This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father
Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son
In this case we learn what the reason for animal sacrifice was: to signify the greater sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Performing this ritual was to help the disciples of the Old Testament understand that their sins required atoning, and that it would be the blood of the lamb which would ultimately fulfill that need.
But this second line, the one about doing all that we do in the name of the Son, gives us the reason for our other types of sacrifice. Why do you give up your addiction? Your anger? Your idle wastes of time? Because by the Son’s sacrifice you were purchased, and his name is upon you, and now you are to become an embodiment of him. You are to do the things that he would do, and not the things that he wouldn’t. So sacrifice, that you may better become him.

Divided from God- 2 Nephi 2:24-25, Matthew 6:8

But behold, 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.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

COMMENTARY

All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things
Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him
We have already discussed how in this fallen world we feel a strange strain, one where need God’s presence, but lack the ability to commune with Him directly. Not only this, but also we are a soul divided, some parts of us craving for divinity and others for debauchery.
It is natural to wonder why are we divided so? Why is our spirit so willing, but our flesh so weak? Why do we search for God but do not see Him? Why can’t it all be more straightforward?
It is a strange, fallen world we live in, but perhaps we can take solace in the knowledge that this is how it is supposed to be. God simply would not have let us come here unless it was for our own good. God knows what we need even before we do, and provides what is good for us.
Perhaps we cannot fully understand why. Perhaps we do not need to. In the end all that we need to do is accept that God god “knoweth all things,” and that what He has orchestrated has been “done in wisdom.”

Divided from God- Doctrine and Covenants 29:40-41, Alma 42:7

Wherefore, it came to pass that the devil tempted Adam, and he partook of the forbidden fruit and transgressed the commandment, wherein he became subject to the will of the devil, because he yielded unto temptation.
Wherefore, I, the Lord God, caused that he should be cast out from the Garden of Eden, from my presence, because of his transgression, wherein he became spiritually dead, which is the first death.

And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will.

COMMENTARY

Wherefore, I, the Lord God, caused that he should be cast out from my presence, because of his transgression
Our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord

We feel a separation from God and we feel frustrated by it. The first thing to understand is that this is perfectly normal, in fact our instincts are exactly correct, because we do have a very real divide from God. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind has been cut loose from the direct communion that was once our daily pleasure.
There is a direct analogy in this to a newborn having its connection to the mother, the umbilical cord, cut at birth. Of course, there yet remains a form of sustenance available to the baby through suckling, but can any of us blame that infant for mourning its sudden separation? Neither should we be blamed for mourning the very real absence of God’s direct presence. We were made to be in His presence, and now we are not and we feel that absence deep in our souls.
Like a newborn, we do learn to move on, and with the rest of this study we will examine how. But I just wanted to pause here at the start and appreciate that our perplexity is very real, and we need not be ashamed for feeling it.