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How did the Fall affect Adam and Eve? Come Follow Me for Individuals and Families; January 10-16



In the Come Follow Me lesson for Individuals and Families; January 10-16, we are asked the question: How did the Fall affect Adam and Eve? The Sunday School lesson for those dates offers: Class members could search for the effects of the Fall in Genesis 3:1–7 [and 8-24]; Moses 4:22–31 and list what they find on the board. I have addressed the question of “How did the Fall affect Adam and Eve?” in my recent book, The Infinite Fall, A Scientific Approach to the Second Pillar of Eternity (Cedar Fort Inc., 2021). Some of what follows is an excerpt from that book.

We read in Genesis 3:7 (Moses 4:13) “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”

Did the fruit of the tree actually open their eyes? Or did Satan tell them that they were naked and needed to make aprons of fig leaves?


“And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (Genesis 3:9-11)


God asked Adam, “Who told thee that thou wast naked?” (italics added) Even though this is almost certainly a rhetorical question, it none-the-less implies that partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, by itself, did not instantly give Adam and Eve the notion that they were naked. We are told in Genesis 3:7 that “…the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked…” But were their eyes opened in some direct physical or mental way as an immediate result of eating the forbidden fruit, or were their eyes opened because they were told they were naked? Outside of the temple, there is not much more that can be said of this exchange.


The stage within the Garden of Eden contained very few actors, only four that we are aware of: God, Adam, Eve, and Satan. It was obvious that neither God, nor Adam, nor Eve told them they were naked. That leaves only Satan, whom God knew was the author of their discovery of nakedness. Therefore, Adam’s and Eve’s eyes were opened to their nakedness, not because of some direct result of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, but apparently because Satan told them they were naked.


It is my opinion that even excluding the additional insight obtained within the temple, the exchange between God and Adam and Eve casts considerable doubt upon the hypothesis that the forbidden fruit had any direct, physical effect upon Adam and Eve, such as somehow magically causing their “eyes to be opened.”

Furthermore, the scriptures say absolutely nothing about any other physical change coming over Adam and Eve after partaking of the fruit. There is no scripture what-so-ever even remotely suggesting that some other change, such as blood entering their veins, transpired. Any such suggestion is pure speculation (i.e., the philosophies of men), has no scriptural foundation, and is contrary to all the known laws of science. This concept of blood entering their bodies after partaking of the fruit was apparently introduced to the Latter-day Saints, de novo, by Elder Orson Pratt in a sermon he gave in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, 11 September 1859. (Pratt, Orson, Journal of Discourses, vol 7, p. 254, September 11, 1859) Elder Pratt had speculated about the concept as early as 1845, but had not fully articulated it at that time. (The Orson Pratt Journals, compiled and arranged by Elden J. Watson, published by Elden J. Watson, 1975) I have tremendous respect for Elder Pratt as one of the great early thinkers in the Church, one who was not afraid to think outside the box. However, being a great and brilliant thinker does not guarantee a person will always be correct. I think he may have been influenced, perhaps indirectly, by the writings of John Milton, as he was of the opinion that Adam and Eve were inherently immortal beings when placed on Earth. (The Orson Pratt Journals)

There also are no scriptures suggesting that partaking of the fruit had any effect on any other plant or animal – such as causing death to enter the world in general (the issue of 2 Nephi 2:22-23 was addressed in another of my blogs). Again, such notions are speculation, have no scriptural foundation, and, again, run counter to all known scientific laws. Therefore, the notion that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil contained the “seeds of death” is complete speculation, with no foundation in the scriptures or science.


A search for “tree of knowledge” in the scriptures yields only one reference in the Bible, that in Genesis 2:9, cited above. The only other references are three in the Pearl of Great Price. One each in the books of Moses and Abraham are restatements of Genesis 2:9. The third is a statement in Abraham referring to the “time” rather than the “day.”

Searching the scriptures for the “forbidden tree” or “forbidden fruit,” yielded six citations in the Book of Mormon and one in the Doctrine and Covenants. Two references in the Book of Mormon are particularly insightful. Lehi taught his son Jacob, as well as his other sons:

“And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter. Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.” (2 Nephi 2:15-16)

This scripture tells us that the tree of knowledge of good and evil was in the Garden so that Adam and Eve could “act for themselves,” and they could not act for themselves unless they had a choice, and an “enticement.” Here Lehi says that the fruit of the tree of knowledge was sweet whereas that of the tree of life was bitter. This is the only time in the scriptures where the fruit of the tree of life is so described. In other places, it is described as sweet.


Then in answer to a question by Antionah, a chief ruler in Ammonihah concerning cherubim and a flaming sword guarding the tree of life, Alma stated,

“Now we see that Adam did fall by the partaking of the forbidden fruit, according to the word of God; and thus we see, that by his fall, all mankind became a lost and fallen people.” (Alma 12:22)

It is clear from this verse that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was the very instrument of the fall. However, the fruit of the tree of knowledge had no apparent physiological effect on Adam and Eve aside from “opening their eyes,” which is itself, not a direct affect. As far as all other scripture is concerned, the tree of knowledge could have been any tree – an apple tree, if you will. God said to Adam and Eve, don’t eat the fruit of that tree or you will die. It is not recorded that He told them how or why they would die if they ate the fruit.

Genesis 3: 22-24 states, “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: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 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.”


The statement is slightly different in Moses 4:28-31, explaining who the us is in the Genesis account: “And I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten: Behold, the man is become as one of us to know good and evil; and now lest he put forth his hand and partake also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever, Therefore I, the Lord God, will send him forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken; For as I, the Lord God, liveth, even so my words cannot return void, for as they go forth out of my mouth they must be fulfilled. So I drove out the man, and I placed at the east of the Garden of Eden, cherubim and a flaming sword, which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.”


The statements in Genesis and Moses are made even more clear in Alma 42:5-6: “For behold, if Adam had put forth his hand immediately, and partaken of the tree of life, he would have lived forever, according to the word of God, having no space for repentance; yea, and also the word of God would have been void, and the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated. But behold, it was appointed unto man to die—therefore, as they were cut off from the tree of life they should be cut off from the face of the earth—and man became lost forever, yea, they became fallen man.”


These scriptures make it abundantly clear that partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had no direct physical affect upon Adam and Eve, because they could have put forth their hands “and partake also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever.” This statement makes it clear that the outcome of partaking of the tree of knowledge was reversible – by their partaking again of the tree of life. Therefore, the only result of partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge got them kicked out of the Garden of Eden and forcefully separated from the tree of life by an armed guard. All other results were, therefore, subtended to their being separated from the tree of life.

During my forty years of teaching anatomy and human embryology to dental students, I have had numerous discussions with those students when they find that I am an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that I teach evolution as a natural part of my courses. They often ask me how I reconcile the two, apparently opposing issues. I have often answered that question with questions of my own to them: Were Adam and Eve inherently immortal when placed into the Garden of Eden? Typically they have answered in the affirmative. Then I present a challenge: Show me a scripture that supports the idea that Adam and Eve were inherently immortal. This challenge tends to surprise my students because there is no scripture to support such a notion (I discuss the issue of 2 Nephi 2:22 in a separate blog). Typically, I offer $1000 to anyone who can find such a scripture. In forty years of teaching, I have never had to pay. I then ask the students: what was the purpose of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden? The scriptures cited above answer that question: as long as Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of life, they remained in a state of immortality – it was that tree that was sustaining their immortality. “And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden.” As long as they continued to partake of the fruit of that tree, they, “And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.” But, “…they [also] would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.” (2 Nephi 2:22-23)


The phrase, “And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created…” has been a source of misconception, in my opinion, since it was first published in 1830. Apparently, many people interpret “…the same state in which they were after they were created…” to mean that Adam and Eve were created as immortal beings. As discussed in more detail in my blog on 2 Nephi 2:22 and as stated in Alma 42:5-6, their immortality was conditioned upon their continued eating the fruit of the tree of life. If Adam and Eve had been created as inherently immortal beings, then what was the purpose of the tree of life?


Furthermore, if “all things” meant every plant and animal on earth, as some people seem to interpret, then how could Adam and Eve have eaten “…Of every tree of the garden…” (Genesis 2:16) and still have the fruit remain in the “same state” in which it was created? Obviously “all things” does not include the fruit they ate. How could Adam and Eve also remain unchanged after having eaten of the fruit of the garden? Not fully understood to anyone in 1830 or in 1859, when Orson Pratt proposed that their bodies had no blood, eating fruit, or any other food, means digesting that food.

Glycolysis, also known as the Embden–Meyerhof pathway, which explains how humans break down carbon compounds from food to produce the energy necessary for life, was not worked out until the 1920s and 1930s, in Germany, by Gustav Embden and Otto Meyerhof – the culmination of over one hundred years of research by many people. Still, many people today have never even heard of glycolysis or Embden-Meyerhof. Those of us who have studied this critical pathway know that the last breakdown product of the Embden–Meyerhof pathway feeds into the citric acid cycle, which, in turn, feeds into the electron transport chain. The last step in the electron transport chain, which transfers the energy stored in hydrogen bonds (electrons) to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the energy currency of the body), is the transfer of an electron to oxygen. (Seeley, RR, Stephens, TD, and Tate, P: Anatomy and Physiology, McGraw-Hill, Dubuque, 8th edition, 2007)

The food is digested in the mouth, stomach, and intestines. The digested nutrients pass through the walls of the intestines into the blood coursing through the circulatory system. The blood transports the nutrients to the individual cells of the body where they enter the Embden–Meyerhof pathway, etc., where energy is transported to ATP, which provides the energy for muscles to contract, some allowing us to move and others causing the heart to beat and the intestines to contract to move food though the digestive tract. ATP also provides the energy for cells to divide, causing us to grow and change. Being alive is to change, and change is inevitable for any living creature.

Even today, with as much as we know about physiology, we don’t fully understand why we grow old and die. The cellular machinery, which converts energy trapped in food into the energy stored in ATP, which fuels cell function, should keep working indefinitely. Aging is, at least in part, associated with the shortening of telomeres in the DNA of our cells. Telomeres (from the Greek telos, meaning “end,” and mero, meaning “part”) are protective end-caps on DNA molecules that help protect the DNA from replication damage. Telomeres are long, repeated sequences of the nucleotides TTAGGG, which may be repeated up to 2,500 times in newborn human cells. Telomeres are somewhat like the plastic tips on shoelaces, because they keep the ends of DNA double strands from fraying and sticking to each other. Telomeres were first discovered in the mid-1970s by Elizabeth Blackburn, a postdoctoral fellow in Joseph Gall’s laboratory at Yale University. For her discovery, she shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with Carol Geider and Jack Szostak in 2009.

In a perfect world, our telomeres should keep our cells immortal. However, each time a cell divides, the telomeres become shorter – because of that tiny gap needed for RNA synthesis. Once the telomeres are gone, the main part of the DNA — the part with genes essential for life, starts being lost or tangled, resulting in loss of gene function. When this happens, the DNA cannot replicate completely, the ends fray, and the cell can no longer divide. That cell becomes inactive and “senescent” (old) or it dies. The telomere shortening process is associated with aging, impaired tissue repair, cancer formation, and an increased risk of death. As a result, telomeres also have been compared to the fuse on an explosive.

The telomere length in white blood cells ranges from 11,000 base pairs in newborns to less than 4,000 in elderly people. Each time it divides, an average cell loses 30 to 200 base pairs from the ends of its telomeres. The average decline is greater in men than in women. Cells normally can divide only about 50 to 70 times, with telomeres getting progressively shorter until the cells become senescent or die.


With our modern understanding of aging, we may conclude that what “…remained in the same state in which they were after they were created...” may have been the telomeres. With unchanging telomeres, the cells would not age and Adam and Eve could have “…remained forever, and had no end.” It is not clear how the fruit of the tree of life preserved the telomeres in Adam and Eve’s cells. I speculate about some possibilities in my book The Infinite Fall, A Scientific Approach to the Second Pillar of Eternity (Cedar Fort Inc., 2021), but we don’t really know what that fruit did.

What the scriptures do tell us is that by partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve were separated from the tree of life, which in some way, prevented them from changing and aging. Without access to the tree of life, Adam and Eve began to have children and began to change and age – ultimately to die.


Trent Dee Stephens, PhD


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