Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

on the Fall of Adam and the Natural Man


Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has written:

The Fall

So Adam and Eve willingly made a choice, choosing the path toward growth and godhood inherent in the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil over the potentially meaningless (at least at that point in their development) tree of life. With the enticement of Lucifer, "that old serpent that did beguile our first parents, which was the cause of their fall," as Abinadi phrased it, they consciously chose to step out of the garden of Eden-a magnificent, terrestrial-like, paradisiacal world-into a fallen, telestial one, a world filled with very unparadisiacal thistles and thorns, sorrow and sin, disease and death.

In doing so, Adam and Eve answered forever the plaintive question that is so often heard: "If there is a God, why is there so much suffering in the world?" The answer to that is we now live in a fallen world filled with opposites, a world in which God is the most powerful but decidedly not the only spiritual influence. As part of the doctrine of opposition, Satan is also at work in the world, and we knew before we came here that he would bring grief and anguish with him. Nevertheless, we (through Adam and Eve) made the conscious choice to live in and endure this mortal sphere of opposition in all things, for only through such an experience was godly progress possible. Adam and Eve-and we-knowingly and lovingly absolved God of the responsibility for the "thorns and thistles" of a fallen world that was personally chosen by us, not capriciously imposed by him. We wanted the chance to become like our heavenly parents, to face suffering and overcome it, to endure sorrow and still live rejoicingly, to confront good and evil and be strong enough to choose the good. In this telestial, mortal world filled with competing voices, enticements, and experiences, we get a lifetime of opportunity to refine and strengthen these virtues.

Understanding this doctrine, Lehi noted that for Adam and Eve to have remained in the garden of Eden would have kept all things "in the same state in which they were after they were created," a situation in which 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."

But Adam and Eve made their choice for an even more generous reason than those of godly knowledge and personal progress. They did it for the one overriding and commanding reason basic to the entire plan of salvation and all the discussions ever held in all the councils of heaven. They did it "that men might be." Had Adam and Eve never left the garden, Lehi noted, "they would have had no children" [2 Ne. 2:25].  ...

Natural Man

Many things happened in the process of the Fall, including changes that came to the physical bodies of Adam and Eve. For one thing, they fell into "nature," the word becoming something of a synonym for the Adamic process. King Benjamin would say of little children, "As in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins." [Mosiah 3:16; emphasis added]

Part of the natural world Adam and Eve entered included the addition to their bodies of blood-a corruptible ingredient-in what had been to that point an uncorrupted body of bloodless flesh and bone. But even more important than such physical changes were the temptations of and threats to the spirit. Spiritual as well as physical separation from God came with the Fall. Humankind was cut off from the immediate personal companionship with God that Adam and Eve had enjoyed in the garden of Eden. As a result, they were distanced from the Holy Spirit and became less responsive to many of the things of righteousness. King Benjamin made that issue one of the central tasks for men and women to deal with in their fallen, or natural, state.

"The natural man is an enemy to God," he taught, "and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father." [Mosiah 3:19]

More extreme language than that of "natural man" or even "enemy to God" is Abinadi's pronouncement that as a result of the Fall and the increased influence of Satan in the fallen world, "all mankind [became] carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good, subjecting themselves to the devil.

"Thus all mankind were lost; and behold, they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state.

"But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him. Therefore he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God; and also is the devil an enemy to God." [Mosiah 16:3-5]

The brother of Jared made reference to that mortal alienation between man and God when he plaintively cried to the Lord, "O Lord, . . . do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually." [Ether 3:2]

Because this doctrine is so basic to the plan of salvation and also because it is so susceptible to misunderstanding, we must note that these references to "natural" evil emphatically do not mean that men and women are "inherently" evil. There is a crucial difference. As spiritual sons and daughters of God, all mortal men and women are divine in origin and divine in their potential destiny. As Doctrine and Covenants 93:38-39 teaches, the spirit of every man, woman, and child "was innocent in the beginning." But it is also true that as a result of the Fall they are now in a "natural" (fallen) world where the devil "taketh away light" and where some elements of nature-including temporal human nature-need discipline, restraint, and refinement. It is as if men and women are given, as part of their next step in development along the path to godhood, raw physical and spiritual ingredients-"natural" resources, if you will. Those resources are not to run rampant but are to be harnessed and focused so that their power and potential (as is sometimes done with a "natural" river or a "natural" waterfall) can be channeled and thereby made even more productive and beneficial.

Natural man, with all of his new and wonderful but as yet unbridled and unregenerated potential, must be made "submissive" to the Holy Spirit, a spirit that still entices and lifts us upward. The brother of Jared acknowledged the inherent goodness of the soul when he said that our mortal transgressions and temporal natures can be overcome when we call upon God and from him "receive according to our desires." Our deepest desires, our premortal yearnings, are still divine in their origins, and they are still deep in our souls. The echoes of our earlier innocence still reverberate, and the light that forsakes the evil one still shines. Our hearts can-and in their purity, do-desire that which is spiritual and holy rather than that which is "carnal, sensual, and devilish." If that were not so, we would be in a hopeless condition indeed, and the idea of real choice would be jeopardized forever. We praise God our Father that our true heritage is of him and that by yielding and submitting to his eternal influence we can overcome the enmity which separated us from him and turn those gifts from nature to our blessing rather than our cursing.

(Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City,UT: Deseret Book, 1997]  pp.203 - 207)