The Garden of Eden. We know the story well. God creates man. God creates woman from man because man had so much awesomeness that he had a little to spare… a rib. Plus, he needed a companion… errr… someone to bear his children. God puts them in a sacred garden where they are protected from the evil world. Well, not totally because God put the King of Lies in the garden with them, disguised as a talking snake. Evil talking snake beguiles Eve to eat the fruit and disobey God but she was really following God’s plan, therefore obeying Him but Eve was still wrong for it, while being completely right. It’s a little confusing. Anyways, Eve gets Adam to eat the fruit. What choice did he have? Men think with their penis and God commanded Adam to use his. Damn Eve. God casts them out of the sacred garden and are left to fend for themselves in the new scary world, where they’ll be tempted to do bad things, even though God allowed Satan to be in The Garden and they are in this predicament because he tempted them to do a bad thing, so how is it any different? Apparently they were really good survivalists because they populated the earth and are the literal parents of mankind. Yes, that means there was a ton of incest but that’s gross, so we won’t focus on that. Yay, perfect plan executed by God!
OK, if you weren’t terribly offended by the introduction, let’s move on from the snark (It’s tough for me to write about that story without plenty of sarcasm) and discuss this idea of The Garden of Eden and how it’s being ironically implemented in religions today; namely Christianity; specifically Mormonism because that’s my background and I don’t want to misspeak about other Christian religions that I don’t have enough experience in.
God created a place that insulated and protected Adam & Eve but His plan needed them to escape that bubble and experience the outside world by partaking of a fruit that gave them knowledge. Mormon doctrine expounds on this idea, when Lucifer is convincing Eve to eat the fruit:
“I (Satan) want you (Eve) to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, that your eyes may be opened, for that is the way Father (God) gained his knowledge. You must eat of this fruit so as to comprehend that everything has its opposite: good and evil; virtue and vice; light and darkness; health and sickness; pleasure and pain; and thus your eyes will be opened and you will have — knowledge.” – Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony
Though that’s a very black and white worldview, its simplicity has a lot of truth in it. It’s improved when you dig deep and realize that Knowledge is essential to understanding the world. Education of events and people outside of our personal experience is what develops empathy and increases knowledge. God wanted Adam and Eve to obtain this knowledge so they can learn truth. He didn’t just want them to know only the good, or his plan would have us all living in The Garden, forever happy. He wanted us to learn, know and experience more.
Why do Religious Leaders warn their members to avoid the “evil world” and attempt to inoculate them from things outside of their particular belief system? That doesn’t appear to be God’s plan.
Mormon Leaders are particularly guilty of this. They tell their members to avoid anyone who has left the Mormon Church (an Apostate), so they won’t “lead you astray.”
“Remember: when you see the bitter apostate, you do not see only an absence of light, you see also the presence of darkness. Do not spread disease germs.” Boyd K. Packer, “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect,” speech given August 1981 at BYU, Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1981
Growing up Mormon, I was repeatedly counseled to avoid any books or media materials that would make me question my beliefs or run contrary to them – Only consume products that are uplifting and faith affirming. When studying Mormon history or doctrine, only read church approved books.
One of [J. Reuben Clark’s] “fundamental rules” was “that I never read anything that I know is going to make me mad, unless I have to read it. To this rule I have added another, which is applicable here: I read only as time permits materials which merely support my own views.” D. Michael Quinn, Elder Statesman: A Biography of J. Reuben Clark – A Mormon Apostle
“There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.” Boyd K. Packer, The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect, Fifth Annual Church Educational System Religious Educators’ Symposium, Brigham Young University, 22 August, 1981
This was embedded in me so deep, it took 34 years to find the courage to do an honest uncensored study into Mormon history and doctrine.
This is where Mormonism separates itself from many other beliefs. When I told my Christian or Secular friends that I was leaving Mormonism, they encouraged me to, “Question everything. Read everything. Find the truth, where ever that leads you.”
Mormon Leaders told me this:
“Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true (Alma 32:21),” he said. “Therefore, please, first doubt your doubts, before you doubt your faith.” – “Come, join with us.” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, Oct. 5, 2013
Why the censorship and fear of outside information? If you have “God’s Truth,” won’t it withstand scrutiny? Is your foundation built on sand or rock? It seems to me that God or “The True Church of God” would be more welcoming and inviting to any type of research, having full confidence they’d find The Truth, at least that’s how other Christians and Secularists phrased it to me.
The second aspect of the story of Adam & Eve that I’d like to discuss is, God gave Adam & Eve two commandments, knowing they’ll have to break one to fulfill his plan:
- Multiply and replenish the earth
- Don’t eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
He expected disobedience because Mormon prophets teach that Adam & Eve were unable to have children while in The Garden, due to their state of innocence; meaning they’d have to eat the fruit to fulfill the first commandment. Yet, Mormons value obedience above all other laws in Heaven:
“Obedience is the first law of heaven, the cornerstone upon which all righteousness and progression rest. It consists in compliance with divine law, in conformity to the mind and will of Deity, in complete subjection to God and his commands” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.539).
The first law? Really? Jesus himself taught something quite different (Matthew 22:37-39):
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Mormon leaders say obedience, when Jesus says it’s Love…. Think about that.
The Mormon Church gave me literal instruction in every aspect of my life. Even the most personal. There are just too many; in fact, each Bishop & Stake President has a “Handbook of Instructions” which tells him how to counsel their members in everything from money to sexual acts, even for married couples, to family planning or sterilization options. Here, I’ll list a few:
- Clothes I could wear, including underwear
- What I could put into my body. No coffee, tea, alcohol or tobacco.
- What organizations I could support.
- What political causes I should support. No Gay Marriage or Women’s Choice.
- What movies or media I should watch. No Rated-R Movies
- What hairstyle I should have. Clean cut. Facial hair is discouraged culturally.
- What sexual acts I could participate in before I was married. Nothing more than light kissing. Even heavy petting will get your temple recommend removed. I know, it happened to me.
- Where my money goes. 10% to The LDS Church, plus fast offerings once a month.
- To a less defined degree, where I spent my service hours. You spend so much time serving the church and its members, there just isn’t any time for community service of any kind.
I could keep going. The list is ridiculously long. Every disobedience has a consequence. That consequence could be, not being able to enter the temple, take the sacrament or baptize your child. You could be disfellowshipped or excommunicated. There are even cultural consequences, like not getting higher callings or acceptance from other members. To further illustrate my point, I’ll share some disturbing quotes from Mormon Prophets about Obedience:
“My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he tells you to do something wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.”Heber J. Grant, Prophet Heber J. Grant, as quoted by Apostle Marion G. Romney in “The Covenant of the Priesthood,” Ensign, July 1972, p. 98“You have heard me say, a great many times, that there is not that man or woman in this Church, and there never was and never will be, who turn up their noses at the counsel that is given them from the First Presidency, but who, unless they repent of and refrain from such conduct will eventually go out of the Church and go to hell, every one of them.”Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 17:159
“Authoritarianism is the system by which truth is learned from those who are authorities or experts. We trust learned men or women, such as parents, teachers, religious leaders, and consultants, to give us truth in their areas of expertise.”Gerald N. Lund, Ensign, Countering Korihor’s Philosophy, July 1992“Carried to an undisciplined excess, love and tolerance can produce indifference to truth and justice and opposition to unity.”Dallin H. Oaks, BYU Fireside, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall”, June 07, 1992
“People think in a very critical way before they come into this Church. When they come into this Church they’re expected to conform.” President Gordon B. Hinckley – ABC TV Interview with David Ransom, November 9, 1997
The most damning quote may be this one from Joseph Smith, the founding prophet himself:
“What a strange people these Mormons are. They are like a flock of sheep; if I should jump into hell, I believe they would follow me!” Joseph Smith, (on the block‑voting of Mormons) Macomb Journal, January 25, 1877, p. 2, Politics and Mormons
Compare those quotes and detailed instructions to what Christ taught:
With such a broad commandment such as “Love,” we are free to choose what our opinions, beliefs, morals and political stances will be, for ourselves.
“Love your neighbor” could mean, Be Tolerant and Accepting of Those Not Like You, thus approving of Gay Marriage or Women’s Choice or people of a different race/culture. It could mean respect other’s beliefs and love them regardless. It could mean to follow your heart and conscience and not follow a religious leader.
Why do many religious leaders, especially Mormons, create a modern-day Garden of Eden, keeping their followers segregated from the “outside world?”
In fact, it was the Pharisees & Sadducees who were obsessed with rules. Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses and taught the higher law. The higher law gave people freedom. Why have we taken a step back?
Without a detailed list of “Do’s and Don’ts,” the control is gone. People are free to exercise their agency. They are free to make mistakes. They are free to experience the world around them. They are free to form real empathy and compassion. They are free to do as God intended Adam & Eve to do… Partake of the Fruit of Knowledge and enter the outside world.
Finally, a Mormon is reading this, saying I am wrong because they are told to “Be in the world, not of the world.”
I have one question for those Mormons. Look at your closest friends. The people you truly rely on. Are they Mormon?
That simple question will tell you if you are “in the world.” Now, follow Eve and take a bite.