Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My take on the whole Eden story

Like most of my recent blog posts, this is a comment I quickly put together for another blog and decided that it was long enough to also post here.

I think too often we get caught up in our own modernity and expect others to read (and write) the scriptures with our worldview. We tend to have an obsession with a correlation theory of truth where a statement can only be true if it correlates with a fact of the world. Thus, we say that the Adam story can only be true if there was in fact a man (Adam) who fell and thus caused all humans to be in a fallen state. The problem we have is that the Garden myth is so full of obvious absurdities today (talking animals, magical fruit, mystical beasts, light-sabers, etc) that we want to dismiss these as allegory, but still maintain our correlation theory of truth and demand that while their may not have been [a magical garden with naked people talking to animals and then being deceived by a talking lizard who convinces the naked people to eat a magical fruit which causes them to be banished from the magical garden and prevented from eating other magical fruit by winged beasts with light-sabers, while at the same time the talking lizard is cursed to lose his legs and is thus forced to crawl on his belly], we yet demand that each of these items must correlate to some historical (past) person/thing/occasion in order to be true.

Imagine poor Jesus giving the parable of the Good Samaritan and being constantly interrupted by his disciples who were trying to figure out which historical (actual) person each character on the parable was supposed to represent. The truth of the parable, just as with the truth of the Garden narrative, isn’t in it’s historical accuracy, but in the truth of the message that is pulled from it.

I think we as LDSaints need to come to grips with the fact that the Garden myth is not supposed to be some one-to-one retelling of historical (actual-through modernity’s eyes) events, but is a prophetic retelling and restructuring of ancient creation narratives borrowed from other cultures that pre-dated the OT’s creation narrative. In other words, the prophets were not giving us a description of what happened in the past. They were picking up others’ creation narratives and retelling them to teach us about the fallen nature of man and the reason why snakes don’t have legs and are an enemy to humans (who when get bit by snakes tend to die).
But what about J Smith’s use of Adam? Simple, he was just doing the same thing that all the other prophets were doing. He took on a cultural myth and prophetically re-adapted it to teach new principles.


  1. I saw your comments at BCC. I was somewhat mystified as to why Steve Evans and others insisted that a literal Fall was required in order for us to believe in a literal Atonement. I don't see the correlation at all. If you take the world as currently observed, with death, weakness, imperfection, and sin, and posit that our eternal destiny is to return to live with God as resurrected beings with perfect bodies and more refined characters, then a story needs to be provided that explains how that is going to happen. Hence the Atonement. But you need no such story to explain the existence of death and sin in this world, since no one has observed any world without such things. They simply are.

  2. I don't even know why I bother to ever comment on BCC. I don't think I have ever gotten a response there. Bunch of self-involved putzes.

  3. I think the notion that belief in a literal Fall is required in order to believe in the Atonement may derive from McConkie's "three pillars of eternity."

    Our SS instructor drew the three-pillar diagram on the board this last Sunday, and I must say that I could not figure it out. The analogy doesn't seem very helpful.

  4. It comes from before McConkie. His dad-in-law was adamant that evolution was a product of Satan designed to lead people away from Christ. According to him, if evolution is true, then there was no Adam. If no Adam, no Fall. If no Fall, then no need for an Atonement. If no need for an Atonement, then no Christ.

    His logic would be pretty good if it wasn't so bad.

  5. Dude, light-sabers are not an absurdity.

  6. Oh yeah, Joseph F. Smith. That guy.

  7. I really like two of your points except I would like to expand on the first:

    1. The creation myth (and most of the scriptures) are NOT supposed to be a one-to-one retelling of historical stories. Check out your journal from more than 5 years ago and see how that worked for you. Even better - review family stories like marriage "myths" - how they met and all that other stuff. For example you might have been told a partial picture of a girl led to a marriage but isn't there a lot missing to make it all the way to altar?

    2. Light sabers - that explains a lot.

  8. We are all children of Adam just as we are children of Abraham.

  9. Stephen, do you mean that the DNA in our blood is literally changed so that it contains Adam's DNA?


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