Monday, January 26, 2004

sins, transgressions, adam, satan, and a mango

why a mango? because a freshly picked, tree-ripened mango is the most tempting piece of fruit on earth.

in both my western religions class and my institute class, we have been discussing the garden of eden. in the former, we are looking at the eden myth and how it has been interpreted in jewish and christian thought, and in the latter we began discussing what made adam's choice a transgression, rather than a sin. now for some thoughts...

1. sin vs transgression. by strict definition, there is nothing different between the two. according to my institute teacher, joseph fielding smith was the first two popularize a supposed distinction between the two. often the distinction given is that a sin is a deliberate rebellion of god's laws, while a transgression is an ignorant breaking of god's laws. the problem here is that adam was explicitly commanded not to eat the mango. there was no ignorance in his choice. so why this lexical distinction? i think there are a couple main reasons why people want to say that adam transgressed rather than sinned. the first reason is that adam sinning (especially in traditional christianity) is seen as a terrrible action and all mankind is screwed because of it. as lds, we see adam's choice as a necessary and noble step in the plan of salvation. how dare we call such a noble step by what it actually is, a sin. so in order to preserve adam's dignity, we call it a transgression. it just sounds better. the other reason why we want to call in a transgression, is because of the necessity the book of mormon places on the fall. god put adam in a tight spot. either way, adam was going to sin. either he ate the mango, or he breaks the commandment to multiply. adam had no choice to not sin. it was inevitable. to save god's dignity, we pull out our transgression card and save god from forcing adam to sin.

2. myth vs history. this, i believe, is the key to understanding the garden of eden. i;'m sorry to say it, but there wasn't a garden with naked people made from clay, frolicking around, hanging out with talking snakes, and eating magic mango. does this mean that the genesis account isn't true? no. it just means that the events didn't actually happen as they were revealed. i believe that there was a first man and woman on the earth, but i'm sure there story was rather boring. so why the story? i think god revealed the garden myth to teach us about ourselves. it's a narrative drama about our own nature and place in this world. in the book of moses, adam is many and as we go through the temple, we are adam and eve. the story is not about a couple of nudists in hawaii, it's about you and me. the account begins with placing us in the universe. the world was made for us. each aspect of the natural universe (the heavens, seas, land, animals, plants, etc) was designed and placed for out betterment (is that a word?). the myth is no longer about how some guy way back when sinned and fell, it's about how we individually have sinned and fallen. we have each eaten the mango in one way or another and are screwed without the saving powers of our savior. sin is a necessary aspect of our progression. we need to have experienced it to have a true knowledge of good and evil (this is rather controversial). i do use neccessary with caution though. as jesus showed, it is entirely possible to live a life without sin. though he still needed to experience it by proxy in getheseme. we are all on earth, a mango is dangled before us. we give in. luckily wer'e not accountable for our wrongs until we are around eight, but as soon as that time comes, it prolly took us less than a few minutes to take the fruit. not by necessity, not even by nature, but by our free-will. the actual possibilty existed for us to totally abstain from sin, but we don't. luckily, god gave us a way out.

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