Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 2:8-9

8 And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

9 And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Note that the presence of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden was no coincidence. God adorned the grounds with all manner of plants: trees that were lovely to look at, trees to provide the food man needed to live, and even a tree that gave immortality. But He also intentionally added this one other tree, one that would enable mankind to fundamentally change his state from innocence to being able to perceive evil.

At times I have wondered what the nature of this tree was that it would give knowledge of good and evil. The thought occurs to me that just by God forbidding the eating of that tree it would already qualify as a tree of knowledge of good and evil, for now it could not be eaten except by an act of disobedience, which would necessarily break one’s innocence, which would bring them face-to-face with guilt and consequences. Had God instead commanded Adam to not lift a particular rock then we could just as easily be talking about the rock of knowledge of good and evil.

However this tree has the title of “knowledge of good and evil” even before God forbade the eating of it. That seems to suggest there was something inherent in its nature that God was steering Adam and Eve away from, just as He gives us commandments today to keep us from inherently harmful behavior.

But maybe these questions don’t matter, though. What is more pertinent to me is that this tree is an allegory for the breaking of innocence in my own life. I have had my own trees of knowledge of good and evil, like that time I colored red crayon on the carpet and found myself facing negative consequences on the one hand or the temptation to lie about it on the other. It was an opportunity planted in my life, able to bring me to a knowledge of both good and evil. And like Adam and Eve, I gave in to the temptation, I lied about the mess, and I entered a more fallen world as a result.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- Summary

The idea of how to share the gospel message with others has been a recurring theme on this blog. I guess I have many questions about how to negotiate that intersection of living a godly life and living as a cooperative member of society.
Wanting to share the gospel in a socially kind way isn’t only about avoiding unpleasant tension, it is also essential to presenting your message in the light that was always intended to accompany it. You simply do not become a good missionary without first learning how to be a good brother or sister to your fellowman.
This study helped me to reiterate some of the ideas I’ve had on the subject before and also gave rise to some new ones. Here are some of the core concepts that stood out to me from my research.

Come to Your Own Knowledge)

First and foremost, you cannot properly testify of what you do not personally know. Testimonies that come from a place of “or so I’ve been told” are unhelpful to everyone involved. A testimony is not what you think and it’s certainly not what you’ve been told, it is what you have come to actually gain a knowledge of for your own self.
But most of us are terrified by the idea of admitting when we do not know something. Everyone has an answer to every moral question, even when they haven’t given the matter any prior thought. And I know that this game of pretended knowledge occurs because I have played it myself. I have spoken as if I had a sure confidence when I really didn’t. And I have seen enough to know I am not the only one that has done so. There are pretenders everywhere.
And there is no point in considering the question of how to testify of good and renounce evil unless we have first come to truly know what is right. To be able to testify with power you must be able to testify with confidence. You have to be able to believe your own words before you can expect anyone else to. And if you don’t really know what you’re talking about, then set aside the question of testifying for a time and focus instead on just coming to really, really know.
Matthew 15:14- Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
Alma 32:34- And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.

Wake Up the World)

But bit-by-bit one can come to know what they’re talking about. Not all at once, not the entire whole as a single piece, but gradually one can come to be sure that faith yields fruit, that repentance yields cleansing, that sacrifice yields humility, and that following God yields true happiness. Even before one can testify of all things they are able to testify of some.
And not only are they able to testify, they must! For there is already such false confidence given to hurtful philosophies that many men and women are left confused and derailed. When one awakens to the truth one sees how much untruth is being championed as fact. And untruth actively causes harm, it is sure to hurt the lives of those that abide by it.
One cannot idly sit back when these realities become apparent. We must try to help those in harm’s way, even if it means speaking with such boldness that some will become angry at us. We are compelled to renounce the lies and champion the truth. Not because we wish to condemn our brothers and sisters who are deluded, but because we love them and we want to help them.
Matthew 5:14- Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid
Acts 4:29-30- And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.

Ever an Invitation)

We are meant to preach with boldness, we are meant to renounce sin without reservation, we are meant to speak of absolute truth in absolute terms. Our words and our example should testify of the truth with such weight that those who hear it cannot help but be moved. Moved to say to themselves “well I had better find out for myself on this matter.” Truth testified boldly has that effect: to compel the hearer to come to their own knowledge. It inspires men and women to find their own surety.
But…though we seek to be bold, to compel, and to inspire, in none of these ambitions is there justification for trying to force. I can make clear my own convictions, but I must never try to make your own convictions for you. This gospel is one of invitation. The message should be given in a very clear and powerful manner, but then it must be left to the hearer what they will do with it.
And some will choose to do nothing with that message and some of them will choose to fight against it, and we must accept and allow that. Though we seek to make the world a better place, we know that it can only be better when people are able to choose it for themselves.
2 Nephi 2:27- Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
Doctrine and Covenants 121:41- No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

Optimism in a Falling World- Moroni 7:40-42

And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?
And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.
Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.

COMMENTARY

How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope? If a man have faith he must needs have hope
In my previous post I spoke of the need for faith, and how it is to be exercised before we even see the path to success. Faith is not founded upon knowledge. As these verses suggest, it is founded upon hope. For while we may not know how good will triumph over evil and a lost soul will be saved, to act in faith we must hope that these things can and will happen. God does not unveil to us His master plan, but He often does show us a corner of it, enough so that we can have hope in the rest.

And what is it that ye shall hope for? Ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal
And as with my last post, our hope is not meant to be founded upon anything earthly or mortal. Frankly what makes us believe in the salvation of mankind is not what we see in mankind, only what we see in God.
This verse speaks of having hope in the atonement and the resurrection, in being brought from this fallen state to one of eternal life. And first of all we are meant to have that hope of reclamation for ourselves. Then, when we feel the reality of it, we are meant to have that hope for all our fellow man as well. For if I was once able to be so lost, yet was found, then these others are not beyond hope either.

A Surety of Truth- 1 Corinthians 13:13, Luke 22:32

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen they brethren.

COMMENTARY

When thou art converted
Yesterday I shared an example from the life of Peter where he was commended for having a testimony of Jesus’s status as the Christ. And yet, while he had this knowledge directly from God, he would later deny the Savior three times in a moment of fear. Though he had a testimony, Jesus still stressed Peter’s need to be more fully converted.
And so it is with each of us. Even after we obtain our first witness from God we still need to become more fully converted.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face
Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known
And perhaps we don’t attain a perfect knowledge for every matter of the gospel in this life. Perhaps some testimonies must wait until we see God face-to-face on the other side of the veil.
And perhaps we only attain moments of pure knowledge, brief experiences where we know the reality of God and His love for us, but then, like holding water in our hands, the experience fades and we have to ask Him to remind us again.
Perfect knowledge is an ever-evasive goal, yet still we strive for it, because just by making the effort we better ourselves every day.

The Way That Things Are- 1 Corinthians 2:6-8, 1 Nephi 8:27-28

Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.
And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.

COMMENTARY

But we speak the wisdom of God, even the hidden wisdom, which none of the princes of this world knew
As I said yesterday, truth does not need to be known to be true. That one does not understand something is not evidence against it. As a three-year-old I did not understand Algebra, Geometry, or Calculus, yet they still contained correct teachings.
Now imagine if I grew to adulthood, successfully gained an understanding of many other things, but still could not comprehend mathematics. Would the fact that I was capable of knowing many other things, but still not mathematics, be evidence at last that there was no truth in arithmetic? Still no.
To be intelligent beings, yet still have our blind spots of ignorance, is a fact of life.

And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them
When our car has trouble we go to a mechanic, when we want to build a house we find a contractor, when we feel sick we seek guidance from a doctor. Wisely we have learned to rely on those who know when we ourselves are ignorant….except, it would seem, in one particular case.
For some inexplicable reason, we take the religious opinions of those that openly admit that they are not religious, and we take the moral guidance of those that are not moral. We give people credentials in the matters of the soul simply because they are popular or because we like them, not because they actually know.
There are those that actually know, there is even one who knows all. If we want to understand divine truth, we cannot hope to gain it through an ignorant source.

What Sort of Disciple Are You?- Socrates and the Buddha

Socrates opened the minds of his followers to just how little actual knowledge anyone really has. He pointed out to them how so very much of what we say we know, is just things that we think to be likely, or are taking on authority. In fact, the only piece of information he claimed to really know, was the fact that he knew nothing.

Socrates had a point. As I think about it, there are extremely few things that I really know directly. I only take it on faith that the atom, Australia, and the 1970s exist(ed). I have never personally seen, measured, or witnessed any of these things. I do not doubt their existence, but I admit that all information I have of them is strictly secondhand.

The Buddha similarly cautioned against relying upon secondhand knowledge. Even as he presented to his followers the path to Nirvana, he instructed them not to take his word for it. To do so, he explained, would be insufficient. Rather than only being told the right way, one had to possess what he called “direct knowledge” of it. It was this direct knowledge that had led him to his own enlightenment, and also it was the only way for any other to reach enlightenment.

When one is willing to confess their ignorance, and let go of all the many things they do not know, they often discover that not everything is taken away. There still remains a nugget or two of the eternal. When we are no longer cluttered by the things that we think or assume, then we can discover the penultimate truths that we actually know.

This is a knowledge that surpasses mental cognition. It is a spiritual knowledge, one imprinted within us by God from before we were born. In our hearts we know, and we know firsthand, that God is our Father and that we are His children. We know that He is good, and that we are good, too. We know that He loves us, and that He wants us to be with Him. We know that He is happy, and that He desires us to be happy, too. These are eternal truths, and the direct knowledge of them are our most precious possession.

Indeed, when I consider how deeply rooted this knowledge is within me–so much more than anything else–I find it hard to accept that I know anything else at all.

Faith vs Fear- Hebrews 11:1, 7; Luke 9:2-3

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house

And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.

COMMENTARY

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, prepared an ark
Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece

What exactly do the works of faith look like? In Noah’s case he was warned that something bad was going to happen and so he prepared. But later Jesus told his disciples not to worry about the essentials of life, and to instead trust that those would be provided for them.
Noah could be considered a fearmonger, or Jesus a flippant idler…if it wasn’t for the fact that they were both right in what they did. In the end the flood did come and the disciples were cared for. God’s ways ebb and flow, and under different contexts an action of faith can take entirely different forms.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen
Because in the end faith isn’t just based in the unseen, it is also based on what is true. Sometimes that truth may be that there is danger and you must prepare, other times the truth is that you will be protected and need not fear. Acting in faith is not a rash gamble where you hope God will catch you, nor is it wearing tin hats “just in case” someone is trying to read your mind. It is an informed and conscious decision, an assurance based upon the foresight only God can provide.

Our Dual Nature- Summary

The notion of a dual nature has long existed in many different cultures and religious beliefs. One side is generally considered to be good, while the other is not. The way that “bad half” is viewed varies greatly, though. Is it something to be ashamed of and to wish we could be rid of? Is it something to give in to by letting go of all our inhibitions? Is there some sort of balance that has to be maintained between the two, neither allowing ourselves to become “too” good or “too” bad?
Alongside of these questions is the one of basic human nature. Evidently we have a good and a bad part, but which represents the real us. Are humans fundamentally good or evil?
I hope this study has been helpful to any seeking answers to these questions. I have been touched in this research to find that God’s opinion of our good-but-flawed selves is one of care, patience, and understanding. He wants us to embrace our best selves, but He also knows it is beyond us to do on our own.

Imperfection is Necessary for the Pursuit of Perfection

The existence of both good and evil is essential, so that we may define ourselves in relation to those two. Each of them presents certain pros and cons. On the one hand we have to exercise patience but will receive eternal joy, on the other we receive instantaneous gratification but will suffer for it afterwards.
Though to the rational mind the correct decision may seem obvious, our mortal shell’s are deeply swayed by the promises of carnal pleasure. This sets the stage for inherent conflict. There is no way to progress down a path of good without being beset by attacks from our own body. There is no way to progress down a path of evil without being panged by the pleadings of our own conscience. We are locked in the most difficult war possible: the war with ourselves. To reach either potential destiny requires overcoming one side of our nature or the other.
2 Nephi 2:11- For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.
Moses 6:55- They taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good

The Struggle Protects Our Freedom

This natural opposition that exists down each path ensures that each step is made consciously and intentionally. Not a one of us will accidentally fall into our own salvation, not a one of us will be forced into damnation against our will. When we stand at judgment we will be able to appreciate that what we have become was our own decision.
To remove the struggle would be to remove our agency. It would mean our destiny would be the result of either random chance or another’s will being imposed upon us. God’s desire is not for His children to be good, it is for them to choose to be good, for them to want to be good, for them to prioritize being good over all other ways.
Moses 6:66- And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves

Free Will Comes at a Cost

Necessarily our freedom comes with terrible pain. Not a one of us fights against our evil nature except through great effort, and also moments of defeat. By our struggle we are all made intimately familiar with failure, shame, unworthiness, and isolation. The weight on us is heavy, indeed, but we are not the ones taxed most heavily by it.
If we were left to our own devices, we would indeed gain the knowledge we required, we would learn the value of virtue and the foolishness of sin, and we would ultimately decide that happiness was the path we wished to pursue…only to now find that that way was closed to us forever. Having paid the price to understand, that understanding would be futile if not for an atoning sacrifice to make up for the mistakes we made during our learning experience.
Though at times our lot is hard, God has given the greater sacrifice by far: the life of His perfect Son. The atonement of Jesus Christ not only makes succeeding in this earthly trial possible, it even allows us to hold a miraculous peace and joy while in the midst of it.
Psalm 23:4-6- Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Our Dual Nature- Genesis 2:8-9, 16-17; 3:6-7, 22

And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
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.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
And the eyes of them both were opened.
And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.

COMMENTARY

And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow…the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
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.
I personally cannot accept the notion that the Fall of mankind was somehow an accident, or in any way contrary to God’s plan for us. If God did not want Adam and Eve to ever leave the Garden of Eden the solution would be simple: just don’t plant the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the first place!
But God did plant it. And I think that’s an important detail as well. God planted it. It was not a tree created by Satan, its fruit was the creation of the ultimate source of good in the universe.
However God did not stop with planting this tree either, He also planted the idea. By calling it out directly and placing a stipulation that whoever eats of it will become mortal, He is laying the law for Adam and Eve’s eventual fall.

A tree to be desired to make one wise
And the eyes of them both were opened
The man is become as one of us, to know good and evil

Did Adam and Eve bring mortality, sickness, and sorrow upon the human race through their decision? Yes. But there was a blessing mingled with that curse: Adam and Eve and all their posterity gained understanding, the ability to discern between right and wrong. And as we will see in later passages this study, this knowledge was something God always intended for us to obtain.


I’m going to go ahead and give my own opinions right now. This is my personal reasoning, and you are free to disagree with it. But to me this sequence is confusing so long as I view it as God making a commandment, and them breaking it. What makes more sense to me is God giving them a choice, and them deciding which path they wish to follow.
Could it be that God was saying to them: “This tree will give you knowledge of good and evil, a truly wonderful gift. But to be able to comprehend evil would make you susceptible to it as well. As such you would not be able to stay in this pristine and sterile garden. You would have to leave, and you would have to die. You can stay here in perfection but never have knowledge, or you can persevere through anguish to find true joy. The choice is yours.”
Could it be that God was proud of their choice, even as His own rules required banishing them to this world? Personally, I think so.