Response to Kevin Graham
Rejoinder by John Divito
In order to make this
review easier to read, all original quotes from the Mormonism 201 rebuttal are
boldfaced and italicized to separate these from the rest of the rejoinder
understanding of the Fall is essential to having a correct understanding of all
of redemptive history. There are sharp disagreements over the Fall between the
LDS faith and Christianity.1
Therefore, Kevin W. Graham responded to chapter five of McKeever and Johnson's
work, "The Fall."2
Graham's stated goal in his reply is as follows: "This review will
attempt to correct the common misunderstanding of the LDS doctrine on the Fall,
and perhaps add further insight regarding its biblical and logical roots."3
Therefore, this response will seek to evaluate whether or not Graham has
succeeded in his attempt. The major arguments Graham gives will be identified
and analyzed, and then further biblical evidence will be presented to come to
an accurate conclusion.
A Fall Upwards
Graham begins by
questioning McKeever and Johnson's statement that Mormons believe that the Fall
was a fall upwards. He says, "Are Mormons grateful for the fall of Adam?
If I had to entertain this idea, I would say that perhaps I am grateful for
Adam's transgression in the same respect that I would be grateful for Judas who
decided to betray the Lord, thus, fulfilling prophecy. Likewise, Adam and Eve
did as God planned through their disobedience."4
must be noticed that Graham moves from whether Mormons are grateful to if he is
grateful. But the question must be asked: why does his opinion matter? Many
Mormon leaders throughout history would never agree with Graham's statement.
And while much Mormon belief is varied, it does not take long to realize that
numerous Mormon leaders have embraced a different view from Graham's.
example, McKeever and Johnson cite a quote from Mormon Apostle Dallin H. Oaks:
"Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her
daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by
revelation, we celebrate Eve's act and honor her wisdom and courage in the
great episode called the Fall."5
Oaks is more than grateful for the Fall; in fact, he wants to celebrate it!
And notice why people should honor Eve – for her "wisdom and courage." Now,
would Oaks (or Graham) dare say that Judas Iscariot should be honored for his
wisdom and courage in his betrayal of Jesus? Should Judas' act of betrayal be
celebrated just as we ought to "celebrate" Eve's action? While Graham may not
go as far as Oaks, Oaks is one of many Mormons who historically have treated
the Fall as positive. As a result, Graham should not attempt to speak for
Mormons. And if he disagrees with many Mormons on this issue, he should admit
Graham tries to minimize the gratefulness of many Mormons by saying,
…one might be shocked to learn that some Mormons have indeed
expressed gratitude for the fall. Such expressions, for the most part, are
given in tribute to God's perfect plan that is still in progress. This plan,
according to LDS teaching, included the fall of Adam. But according to LDS
theology, since God is all knowing, everything occurring in this world that
directly pertains to man's eternal destination, is part of God's plan. It is
God who is glorified in these expressions, not Adam or Eve.6
can one honestly say after reading many Mormons' positive view of the Fall that
"it is God who is glorified in these expressions, not Adam or Eve"?
Maybe one could argue that God ultimately gets the glory, but this would not
remove the fact that, for many in the LDS Church, one should still be grateful for the actions of
Adam and Eve.
continues by saying, "I have never heard the fall referred to as an
'upward fall', but without supporting references, our critics are quick to
assert that 'some Mormons' believe that's exactly what it was."7
Therefore, he establishes doubt as to the accuracy of McKeever and
Johnson's use of the term "falling upwards." To help Graham, here are a couple
of quotes taken from LDS publications that refer to the Fall as an upward
event. First of all, LDS Apostle Orson F. Whitney wrote in Improvement Era:
There has been an enlightenment from on High. Our heavenly Father has
sent knowledge into the world, explaining away the misfortune, the calamity,
and has made plain to those who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, that the
fall of man was necessary: that by means of it the human race took a mighty stride
forward—a downward step, yet a step upward, in the great march toward
the goal of eternal life. Adam himself recognized this fact; Eve, his wife,
recognized it, and it has crystalized [sp] into a doctrine which the Latter-day
Saints accept as divine: "Adam fell that man might be, and man is that he
might have joy."8
George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl say, "The great purpose of the advent
of the Messiah in the fulness of time was to redeem the children of men from
certain consequences of the fall. For, although that experience was necessary
in the development of man, and was, as has been said, a 'fall upwards,' it had
certain consequences that called for redemption."9
a result, we see that some Mormons have indeed used the term. But Graham says,
"Yet, the only reference I could find for the phrase 'fall upwards' was
from B.H. Roberts who expressed exactly the opposite of what our authors are
trying to impose on LDS doctrine."10
However, given the other quotes above, it seems as if Roberts was correcting
some Mormons' use of the term. Regardless, the point is that Mormons have
referred to an upward fall. McKeever and Johnson never suggest that all Mormons
use this term (Graham and Roberts obviously would not). At the same time, it
cannot be denied that some Mormons have found it useful.
whether one uses the term "falling upward" or not, the point is that Mormons
see a tremendous benefit to the Fall. Christians see the Fall as an evil act
where Adam and Eve were seeking to usurp the authority of God. This is the key
to the whole debate. And this is what will be addressed below.
Stacking the Deck?
A surprising statement is given by Graham when he says,
…our critics do a good job at the beginning of this chapter when
they present the LDS position on the fall. However, they unnecessarily stack
the deck with selected quotations (one prophet, four apostles, one BYU
professor and one LDS scripture), and they could have elaborated further on why the LDS believe this, instead of making a black
and white comparison with their particular view of Christian thought.11
Graham admits that McKeever and Johnson did a good job of presenting the Mormon
view of the Fall. Yet he does not approve of how the comparisons are made with
Christian doctrine. He states that McKeever and Johnson use "their
particular view of Christian thought." The problem with this is that
they are not trying to argue their particular view but what the authors of the
Bible actually meant. As a result, Graham has two options: show how McKeever
and Johnson misunderstand what the author of the Bible passage meant to say, or
argue that the meaning of the text is not to be found in what the author
communicated. The second possibility is untenable, and Graham leaves a lot to
be desired by using the first method. This will be demonstrated below.
misunderstanding of the Christian view of the Fall also often impedes his
reply. For example, he states, "It seems perfectly clear that our
differences lie in the fact that we believe God expected and even wanted them
to transgress because it was a necessity, whereas the traditional idea is that
Adam botched God's intended plan."12
The traditional idea (i.e. the Christian belief) is not "that Adam
botched God's intended plan." It is that Adam and Eve disobeyed God
and brought themselves and the whole human race under condemnation for their
God's Perfect Plan?
continues with a section on God's "perfect plan." He says, "Mormons
believe God's plan was perfect because we believe God is perfect and He knows
everything. That is what it all boils down to in the end. I don't think it is
reasonable for us to assume that an all-knowing Being would put forth a plan
that would fail on day one."13
seems to think that Christians believe God created Adam and Eve the best He
could, but Adam and Eve surprised God when they disobeyed Him and ate the
forbidden fruit. He then condemned them for their action and had to set up a
contingency plan where His Son would be crucified for this mistake. But true
Christians have never subscribed to such beliefs. We realize that God is
all-knowing (omniscient) and all-powerful (omnipotent). The problem with
Graham's reasoning is that he does not understand what Christians believe about
God's "plan," better understood as His will. The Christian position is
described well by Wayne Grudem:
Though in God his will is unified, and not divided or contradictory,
we cannot begin to understand the depths of God's will, and only in a small
part is it revealed to us. For this reason,… two aspects of God's will
appear to us. On the one hand, there is God's moral will (sometimes called his
"revealed" will). This includes the moral standards of Scripture,
such as the Ten Commandments and the moral commands of the New Testament.
God's moral commands are given as descriptions of how we should conduct
ourselves if we would act rightly before him. On the other hand, another
aspect of God's will is his providential government of all (sometimes called
his "secret will"). This includes all the events of history that God
has ordained to come about, for example, the fact that Christ would be
crucified by "lawless men" (Acts 2:23).14
moral will was known to Adam and Eve through God's command (Genesis 2:17). They
were not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But in God's
providential government, He knew they were going to disobey His command. As an
example, let's say that a husband decides to cheat on his wife. He is
therefore disobeying the seventh commandment by not following God's moral
will. But God, being all-knowing, knew that this person was going to commit
adultery. Therefore, it was part of God's providential government. Now, could
it be said that God desired for the husband to commit adultery? Of course
not. And did the act of adultery surprise God? Obviously not. Let's take
this back to the Fall. Did God desire for Adam and Eve to disobey his command
and break his moral will? No. But does this mean that God could not have
known that Adam and Eve were going to disobey Him? No, again. Yet this is
what Graham seems to think that Christians must believe.
Then Graham goes
on to say, "Could this be why He made Adam and Eve ignorant of good and
evil first, so they would have no choice but to fall into deception?"15
This statement is simply incredible! According to Graham, Adam and Eve had no
choice but to fall. But this is problematic given the Mormon concept of
moral agency. According to this doctrine, decisions must be freely chosen and
without compulsion in which the person could have done otherwise. Given this
understanding, Adam and Eve could not have had any moral agency. So, the LDS
view seems to say that for mankind to obtain moral agency, God had to deny the
first two humans this ability. Considering the importance of moral agency in
the LDS faith, what kind of a God would deny to Adam and Eve what is so
important for humanity to have? This also brings up serious problems when
dealing with the problem of evil (also known as theodicy). If Adam and Eve had
no choice but to fall, then how is God not the author of evil? After all,
according to Graham He is the One who forced it to come to pass.
Graham goes on to
once again misrepresent the Christian view. When addressing what Christians
would believe if Adam and Eve never fell, he states, "The only logical
alternative our critics can offer is for Adam and Eve to have remained in
ignorant bliss and live forever, alone in the garden. More importantly, they
would not be in the presence of God, according to orthodoxy."16
Graham is apparently ignorant of the condition Adam and Eve were in prior to
the Fall! Genesis 3:8 says that God was in the garden with them: "And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the
garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the
presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden." They were in the presence of God Himself, not alone as
Graham claims. Graham also seems to think that Adam and Eve were completely
ignorant prior to the Fall. However, they did not lack knowledge but only the "knowledge
of good and evil" (Genesis 2:17). What
the knowledge of good and evil means will be dealt with later. Nevertheless,
it is sufficient to say that they did have knowledge. They were created in the
image of God (Genesis 1:26), given dominion over the earth
(Genesis 1:28-30), and Adam named all the animals
(Genesis 2:19-20). This does not describe those who
have no knowledge. Graham seems to vastly underestimate how good things were
before the Fall. But God Himself remarked how wonderful His creation
originally was, "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it
was very good" (Genesis 1:31a).
the biggest problem with Graham's argument is an almost complete absence of what
God's "perfect plan" actually is. Besides including the Fall and the
atonement of Christ, Graham gives little information. But it is precisely at
this point, namely what God's purpose was in redemptive history, that Graham
does not mention. This is exactly where the discussion should be, however,
since Christianity and Mormonism have such vastly different views of God's
purpose in history. For Mormons, humans are of the same "race" as God who can
progress to become gods themselves. Therefore, the fall of Adam and Eve was
necessary to attain the intended outcome, which is exaltation to godhood. As
LDS Apostle John A. Widtsoe states:
To enter the highest of these degrees in the celestial kingdom is to
be exalted in the kingdom of God. Such exaltation comes to those who receive the
higher ordinances of the Church, such as the temple endowment, and afterwards
are sealed in marriage for time and eternity, whether on earth or in the
hereafter. Those who are so sealed continue the family relationship eternally.
Spiritual children are begotten by them. They carry on the work of salvation
for the hosts of waiting spirits. They who are so exalted become even as the
gods. They will be "from everlasting to everlasting, because they
The end for those males who are exhalted is to become married gods
who, with their spouses, will conceive spirit children and bring the same law
of progression to them. But for all of this progression to occur, Adam and Eve
had to choose as they did to begin the process on earth. Nevertheless, this
plan can be found nowhere in the Bible.
On the other hand, Christians believe that Adam and Eve began with
everlasting fellowship with God. They were never to become gods but needed to
depend on and glorify the one true God. Unfortunately, they lost this
communion with God (and suffered in many other ways) due to the Fall. All of
humanity became slaves to sin and are dead in their trespasses and sins. So,
while God certainly knew about the Fall and took it into account when he
ordered all things, it cannot be said that he ever desired such disobedience.
Graham goes on to
contrast the differences between Christianity and the Mormon faith. "Latter-day
Saints also believe that if Adam and Eve had never partaken of the fruit of the
Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, then they would have remained incapable of
procreation, thus disobeying the commandment previously given."18
Therefore, God commanded Adam and Eve to procreate but did not give them the
ability to do so. Graham elsewhere says, "Adam and Eve received the
command to multiply and replenish the earth without knowing the means."19
a result, God gave two conflicting commands. If Adam and Eve obeyed God and
did not partake of the forbidden fruit, they would have disobeyed His command
to procreate. And if Adam and Eve obeyed God's command to procreate, they
would have to disobey God's command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil. Unfortunately for Adam and Eve, this is a lose/lose situation.
Either way, they must disobey God. What kind of a God would force his creation
to disobey them?
The LDS position
also contradicts the biblical teaching of the matter. When God told Adam and
Eve to procreate, he never implied that they could not yet do so. Genesis 1:28 says, "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful,
and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over
the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing
that moveth upon the earth."
To say that
they could not fulfill this is to bring a foreign idea into the text.
Genesis 2:24 also rules this possibility out. When God puts Adam and
together, the passage states, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and
his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
When the text says "they shall be one flesh," this includes sexual
relations. As one commentator contends,
"They become one flesh." This does not denote merely the sexual union
that follows marriage, or the children conceived in marriage, or even the
spiritual and emotional relationship that it involves, though all are involved
in becoming one flesh. Rather it affirms that just as blood relations are
one's flesh and bone…, so marriage creates a similar kinship relation
between man and wife.20
So, part of being united as one flesh includes sexual relations. This would seem
to imply that Adam and Eve could have had sexual relations before the Fall.
There is another
reason to believe that Adam and Eve could procreate before the Fall. When God
was punishing Eve after she partook of the fruit, the Bible says, "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow
and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire
shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." (Genesis 3:16) Therefore, the punishment was that God
would greatly multiply Eve's pain in childbirth. Would this not imply that Eve
already would have had some pain in childbirth prior to this? And would this
not mean that Adam and Eve were physically able to conceive and bring forth
children prior to the Fall? As a result of all of this, the Bible clearly
indicates that Adam and Eve would have been able to procreate prior to the
Fall, not that it was impossible until after they had disobeyed God.
Fulfilling Predestination of Christ's Atonement
atonement of Jesus Christ was foreordained by God before the foundation of the
world. To this belief both sides agree. However, Graham misunderstands the
Christian position by saying, "The sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the
Lamb of God to rescue fallen mankind was not an unfortunate backup plan, but
was a key part of God's perfect plan from the beginning."21 Once again, Christians
do not see Christ's death on the cross as a "backup plan." It was
part of his governmental will. It was predestined before creation took place.
It is essential to differentiate between God's revealed will and His
governmental will. Since He knew that Adam and Eve would fall, He established
that Christ would be a payment for those who believe in Him. One should
understand the logical order in which God decreed history. He decreed the Fall
first and then decreed the solution to the Fall next. He obviously did not set
up the atonement to take place before he established the need for it in the
continues, "If Adam and Eve had remained obedient, they would have
made God a liar, since without the fall, there would be no need for Jesus
Christ to be slain before the fall ever took place."22 This statement is confusing. Did
God decree the atonement before He ordained why it was needed? Does Graham not
believe that God foreknew the Fall just as much as He foreknew the atonement?
If so, there would be a need for Jesus Christ to be slain before the Fall
actually took place because He knew the Fall was going to
occur and wanted the problem to be overcome. The logic in Graham's thought
fails. If the Fall had never taken place, then this would be a part of God's
governmental will. And as a result, all of God's revelation of His
sovereign will would reflect this, including whether or not there would be an
The Fall as a "Lesson"
then compares God and Adam and Eve with a father and his children. He
maintains, "Adam and Eve were 'babes,' to say the least. God was
acting as a Father who was teaching His children the consequences of
disobedience. They suffered death because of their actions, but for us, it
opened the opportunity to come to Earth and return to heaven."23 As has been
demonstrated above, the ability to procreate was not a result of the Fall. And
while God's punishment certainly involved Adam and Eve's understanding the
seriousness of their sin, this does not mean that God in any way desired their
In other words, God used the opportunity for His purposes, but He
did not force their decision in the situation. Adam and Eve were not
rubes who had to be taught a lesson. God did not want them to partake
fruit, which is why He commanded them not to eat from the tree (Genesis
2:17). The result of their not listening to God was a swift judgment
and punishment. The happiness and advancement they were seeking never
clear understanding of the biblical texts is essential in this matter.
Genesis and the Fall
looks at the scene in the garden before and after the Fall. However, instead
of doing a point-by-point analysis of Graham's argument, it will be easier and
more productive to deal directly with the passage in Genesis itself. Three
areas are crucial to correctly comprehend the current discussion: what the tree
of the knowledge of good and evil offered (Genesis 2:9, 17), how Satan tempted
Eve in the garden (Genesis 3:4-5), and God's response (Genesis 3:14-24,
specifically v. 22).
Genesis 2:9, 17 describes the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the
warning of the consequences if Adam or Eve ate from it. The passage says that "out
of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the
sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and
the tree of knowledge of good and evil… But of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest
thereof thou shalt surely die." Scholars have given various interpretations of what the
"knowledge of good and evil" is here. The consensus is described by Old
Testament scholar Gordon J. Wenham:
"Knowledge of good and evil" is wisdom… It is easy to see that
God has wisdom and that children lack it, but more difficult to see why it was
forbidden to man. The acquisition of wisdom is seen as one of the highest
goals of the godly according to the Book of Proverbs. But the wisdom
literature also makes it plain that there is a wisdom that is God's sole
preserve, which man should not aspire to attain (e.g., Job 15:7-9, 40; Prov
30:1-4), since a full understanding of God, the universe, and man's place is
ultimately beyond human comprehension. To pursue it without reference to
revelation is to assert human autonomy, and to neglect the fear of the LORD
which is the beginning of knowledge (Prov 1:7). "For the Yahwist the only
proper posture of man if he would be truly wise and lead a full life is faith
in God and not a professed self-sufficiency of knowledge. It is in this latter
acceptation, then, that man is forbidden 'the tree of the knowledge of good and
bad [evil in the KJV]'" (Vawter, 73).24
the "knowledge of good and evil" was wisdom that was not to be pursued apart
from God. Yet this is exactly how Satan tempted Eve. "And the serpent said
unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye
eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing
good and evil" (Genesis 3:4-5).
Testament scholar Gerhard Von Rad states,
So the serpent holds out less the prospect of an extension of the
capacity of knowledge than the independence that enables a man to decide for
himself what will help him or hinder him. This is something completely new in
that as a result man leaves the protection of divine providence. God has
provided what is good for man (2[:]18!), and had given him complete security.
But now man will go beyond this, to decide for himself… What the
serpent's insinuation means is the possibility of an extension of human
existence beyond the limits set for it by God at creation, an increase of life
not only in the sense of pure intellectual enrichment but also familiarity
with, and power over, mysteries that lie beyond man.25
and Eve were to trust in God and depend upon Him for wisdom. Yet Satan tempted
them to not follow God on His terms — with autonomy. Another Old Testament
scholar, Kenneth A. Matthews, tells us more about this temptation:
When set in the larger context of the story, the serpent's words are
shown to be both true and false. This proved true in that the man and woman
did not immediately die physically. Their eyes were opened (v. 7), and they
obtained knowledge belonging to God as the serpent had promised (v. 22).
However, the serpent's half-truths concealed falsehood and led the woman to
expect a different result altogether. The serpent spoke only about what she
would gain and avoided mentioning what she would lose in the process. Though
the man and woman did not die immediately upon eating the fruit, the
expectation and assignment to death were soon enough. Furthermore, they
experienced expulsion from the garden, which was indicative of death…
Although their eyes were opened, they were rewarded only with seeing their
nakedness and were burdened with human guilt and embarrassment (v. 7). Although
they became like God in this one way, it was at an unexpected cost. They
achieved isolation and fear. The couple was cut off as well from the
possibility of life, the one feature of divinity which otherwise they were
destined. They obtained "wisdom" in exchange for death.26
while Satan used half-truths to persuade Eve, it did not bring about what Eve
was led to believe. However, to completely understand the travesty of the
results due to the Fall, one needs to look at God's punishment. For this, a
person needs to consult Genesis 3:14-24. First, God punished the serpent by
sentencing it to live on the ground eating dust. This refers to a penalty of
humiliation and subjugation in the world. He also said there would be enmity
between the woman and the serpent, ultimately culminating in the destruction of
the serpent. This "bruising" was fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Next, God told
Eve that her pains in childbearing would increase (see above) and that her
desire would be for her husband who would rule over her. Finally, God punished
Adam by telling him that the work and dominion over the earth would be much
more difficult. God also said that they would physically die. This was truly
awful! And it has been true for all men and women since.
leaving the passage, verse 22 needs to be specifically dealt with. It is
commonly used by Mormons such as Graham to defend their view of Satan's
temptation. However, one must begin with what McKeever and Johnson actually
said: "Genesis 3:3-5 has been used by Mormons to support the idea that Adam
and Eve made the right decision. Since the possibility of godhood is
considered a Mormon truism, some have said that Satan was telling the truth
when he told Eve in verse 5 that she 'shall be as gods.'"27
McKeever and Johnson were pointing out that some Mormons use Genesis 3:3-5 to
defend their doctrinal view that we can progress to be gods. Remember, this is
the "perfect plan" that Graham keeps referring to (but never actually states).
authors go on to show that Satan is not to be trusted and that Adam and Eve
were never entering a path to godhood through the Fall. Graham replies with
verse 22, which the first portion states, "And the
LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil." Graham argues about this verse, "If
our authors [McKeever and Johnson] had seen the looks on as many Christian
faces as I have (a blank stare into the verse as their mouths drop open in
silence) when they are shown verse 22, and witness their trap vanish into thin
air, they probably wouldn't have been so quick to ignore this common LDS
Therefore, he says verse 22 shows that the Mormon view on Genesis 3:3-5 is
Genesis 3:22 does not show that Adam and Eve will become gods
as God is. The verse defines in what way Adam and Eve became "as one of us;"
it was "to know good and evil." As shown above, the "knowledge of good and
evil" was God's wisdom that was obtained unlawfully. As a result, they
were removed from the Garden of Eden (where God was present and where they
would have lived forever). They were also punished in other ways. This is not
something to celebrate but to mourn.
if Genesis 3:22 did mean that Adam and Eve were to be gods, there
is still a problem with this text. In Genesis 3:22, God gives this statement as
a completed fact. In other words, they had already become "as
one of us." As a result, according to what Mormons claim this verse
teaches, Adam and Eve became gods at the Fall. However, this would mean that
they never went through the deification process, they did not obey the eternal
celestial law, and they did not need Christ's atonement for this to occur. Mormons
cannot, with consistently, admit that this text teaches what they say it does.
Their argument would prove too much. One must remember that the passage itself
defines how humans are "as God" — to know good and evil. Mankind
obtained wisdom that God had reserved for Himself. This is the only way
it can be said that people are "as God."
Transgression vs. Sin
Graham goes on to
defend the Mormon claim that Adam and Eve disobeying God was a transgression
but not a sin. In Mormonism 101, McKeever and Johnson used 1 John 3:4
to show that sins and transgressions are equated and used synonymously. This
verse states, "Whosoever committeth sin
transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." Graham replies, "This is all well and good,
but the referenced scripture doesn't say all transgression is sin. It simply
says that if someone sins, then it is a transgression of a law. Naturally, all
sin is a transgression, but this doesn't necessarily mean all transgression is
To support this claim, he points to James 4:17, which says, "Therefore
to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Therefore, Graham argues that sin includes the knowledge
of good and evil. Since Adam and Eve did not have such knowledge, they could
not have sinned – only transgressed.
Graham takes James 4:17 out of context. To understand the meaning of the
verse, New Testament scholar Douglas J. Moo comments,
…we are to posit a more general connection between v. 17 and what
James has commanded us to do in v. 15. He has urged us to take the Lord into
consideration in all our planning. We therefore have no excuse in this matter:
we know what we are to do. To fail now to do it, James wants to make clear, is
sin. We cannot take refuge in the plea that we have done nothing positively
wrong. As Scripture makes abundantly clear, sins of omission are as real and
serious as sins of commission.30
was writing his letter to people in the church, some of whom apparently felt as
if not doing something they were supposed to do (a sin of omission) was not
really a sin. Sins occur only when individuals do something that they are not
supposed to (a sin of commission). For example, a sin of commission would be
if a person stole a lawnmower from his neighbor. He was commanded not to steal
(the eighth commandment), but he did so anyway. On the other hand, a sin of
omission would be if a person was supposed to take care of the widows and
orphans (Isaiah 1:17) but did not. Some of those whom James was
writing argued that this second case is not a sin. Therefore, James wanted to
correct this notion, showing that both kinds of actions are sins. As a result,
James is not defining sin as requiring the knowledge of good and evil (as
Graham asserts). In context, James is teaching that those who do not do what they
know they are supposed to do are sinning.
The words "sin"
and "transgression" are synonyms. Because of this, the two terms are used
interchangeably throughout the Bible. Graham actually admits this is the case
with the Apostle Paul when he says " …it seems perfectly clear to me
that Paul used the two terms interchangeably."31
However, Graham asserts that they mean two separate things in other parts of
Does the Hebrew (Old Testament) usage of transgression blend well with
James's definition and the LDS description? If there is absolutely no
difference between the two, and they are actually their own definition for one
another, then why are there so many scriptures in the Old Testament which
refers to one's sins and then their transgressions? You'd think they would kill
two birds with one stone by just saying one or the other.32
Graham does not seem to understand that ideas can be repeated to give
additional emphasis. In addition, there are Old Testament texts that use the
terms in parallel, thus equating them. Psalm 32:1 states, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is
covered." And Jeremiah 31:34 says, "And
they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother,
saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto
the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I
will remember their sin no more." These parallel statements clearly show
that the term is used interchangeably.33
Graham never really answers McKeever and Johnson's argument from Romans
5:12-15. He states:
Yet, to their disapointment [sp], Latter-day Saints also agree that
the fall caused sin to enter into the world so this part of their argument is
moot. Everything after Adam's transgression was considered sin because mankind
had known the difference between good and evil. They should have stuck with the
first part that mentions the transgression as sin. What the LDS do recognize,
however, is that the fall is referred to as a "transgression" almost
all of the time in the Bible. In fact, the verse they presented from Paul is
the only biblical instance where Adam's transgression is called a sin.34
though Graham admits that Adam's transgression is called a sin, he
ignores it since it is mentioned only once. The simple question remains: If
the Bible itself refers to Adam and Eve's decision as a sin, then why
have many Mormons denied this? Graham also admitted that the Apostle Paul used
the terms transgression and sin interchangeably. But Romans was
written by the Apostle Paul! In Romans 5, he used three terms to refer to the
Fall: transgression, sin, and disobedience. Therefore, Paul (and the other
biblical writers) saw Adam and Eve's action as a sin.
tries to limit the damage by maintaining: "In any case, this issue is
really of no consequence since I don't believe any LDS prophet has ever said
Adam's transgression wasn't a sin 'in any sense.'"35
He goes on to quote Joseph Fielding Smith who said that Adam's transgression
was "not a sin in the strict sense". But this just seems to be
splitting hairs. Even if Joseph Fielding Smith saw the Fall as a sin in some
sense, many other Mormons have denied any connection. McKeever and Johnson quoted
Mormon Apostle Dallin Oaks who argued that the Fall was not a sin.36 If a Mormon will admit that
Adam and Eve sinned through their disobedience, then this issue becomes moot.
However, many Mormons will not admit this truth. Because of this, McKeever and
Johnson's section is still relevant.
What did the Early Christians Believe?
uses certain early Christians to bolster the historicity of certain Mormon
ideas in two sections. Regarding procreation being possible only after the
Fall, Tatian and Clement are mentioned. Graham also argues that Clement, along
with Irenaeus, thought the Fall was "fortunate."
before a person can look at the doctrinal beliefs of certain individuals, he or
she must begin by understanding how Christians know what is true.37
This is established by the famous phrase Sola Scriptura, which means "by
Scripture alone," with Scripture here meaning the 66 books that make up the
Holy Bible. A good summary of this view was given by the Alliance of
Confessing Evangelicals, who summarize Sola Scriptura this way:
We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written
divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches
all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which
all Christian behavior must be measured.
We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian's
conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is
set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a
vehicle of revelation.38
all doctrine, beliefs, and theories need to be measured by the Bible to see if
they are true or false. The early Christian Fathers' beliefs should only be
accepted as correct if they are biblical.
Graham comments on
Tatian, saying: "Furthermore, the connection between the
transgression and sexual knowledge is attested by Tatian, an early Christian
However, Tatian took a very low view of sexual relations overall, seeing
virginity and celibacy as more pleasing to God. The book Sex and the Church
explains Tatian's view concerning sex and marriage: "Tatian (A.D.
110―172) held that marriage is corruption and fornication and that Paul's
reluctant concession of marriage [1 Corinthians 7] was tantamount to
condemnation. This period was marked by a tendency to regard every measure of
self-denial as meritorious, including the withdrawal of married couples from
As a result, Tatian's view of sex and the Fall is tainted by his negative view
of sex and marriage.
mentions Clement when he writes: "In fact, Clement of Alexandria taught that it was God who led Adam and Eve, 'like
the irrational animals to procreate.' Clement also blamed Adam's sin on his
desire to acquire the fruits of marriage (multiply his seed)."41 However, Clement held a similar view of sex to
that of Tatian. Such a view was common in the patristic age of the church, as
social anthropologist Robert Briffault demonstrates:
It would be hard to find many Christian writers in the first four
centuries who have not composed a tractate in laudation of virginity…
There was a division of opinion and much controversy on the question whether
marriage was permissible or not, and several of the Fathers protested against
the view that it is incompatible with the profession of the Christian religion;
but they were one and all agreed in regarding it as an evil, albeit a necessary
evil. Clement of Alexandria devotes a whole book, the third, of his
'Stromata,' to combating the view that marriage is incompatible with salvation,
but he has little doubt as to celibacy being infinitely superior and as to
woman being the tool of Satan.42
either Clement of Alexandria or Tatian's case, it is not hard to understand why
they thought sex was a result of the Fall. Much of the Christian view of this
time held to a low view of sex. Briffault comments, "Bishop Gregory of
Nyssa held that Adam and Eve had, at first, been created sexless, and that the
phrase 'Male and female created He them' referred to a subsequent act
necessitated by Adam's disobedience; had this not taken place the human race
would have been propagated by some harmless mode of vegetation. This view was
endorsed by John of Damascus."43
that Clement held a view of the Fall similar to LDS doctrine. He quotes Barry
Bickmore as arguing: "The writings of several early Christian writers
agree with the Prophet that the Fall was 'fortunate.' Clement of Alexandria exclaimed: 'O mystic wonder! The Lord was laid low, and man rose up;
and he that fell from Paradise receives as the reward of obedience something
greater [than Paradise]―namely heaven itself.'"44 The
problem is Bickmore (and Graham) seem to misunderstand what Clement was saying;
he was not suggesting that the Fall was "fortunate." He was reflecting upon
the tremendous grace of God who would give man something better than he
originally had possessed, even though man disobeyed Him. In the same chapter
Bickmore mentioned, Clement says,
The first man, when in Paradise, sported free, because he was the
child of God; but when he succumbed to pleasure (for the serpent allegorically
signifies pleasure crawling on its belly, earthly wickedness nourished for fuel
to the flames), was as a child seduced by lusts, and grew old in disobedience;
and by disobeying his Father, dishonoured God. Such was the influence of pleasure.
Man, that had been free by reason of simplicity, was found fettered to sins.45
Clement understood the Fall to be negative. What he rejoiced in was the
tremendous grace that more than overcame the Fall through Jesus Christ!
also uses Irenaeus to support his view. However, Irenaeus' point was that God
used the evil of the Fall for his purposes. All Christians admit this ―
the Fall was a part of God's providential government (see above). None of this
makes the Fall a good or positive event. And neither quote establishes such
thought among the early church. It must be remembered that even if some
Christians did see the Fall as a positive event, what matters is does their
belief adhere the God's biblical revelation? If not, they were in error. The
same can be said for certain Christians' views regarding procreation and the
Further Biblical Evidence
However, before a
conclusion can be reached, one cannot leave out what the Apostle Paul reveals
about the Fall. He summarizes the biblical understanding of the Fall and the
wonderful grace of Jesus Christ in Romans 5:12-21.
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the
world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have
13 (For until the law sin was in
the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from
Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of
Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
15 But not as the offence, so also
is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the
grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath
abounded unto many.
16 And not as it was by one that
sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the
free gift is of many offences unto justification.
17 For if by one man's offence
death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of
the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)
18 Therefore as by the offence of
one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of
one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
19 For as by one man's
disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be
20 Moreover the law entered, that
the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
21 That as sin hath reigned unto
death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by
Jesus Christ our Lord.
thorough treatment of this passage goes beyond the scope of this reply.46
However, a few insights need to be noted. First of all, the Fall was a sin
(see above). Secondly, sin and death entered humanity through Adam. Third,
Adam was a representative for all of mankind and the Fall resulted in every
human inheriting a sinful nature. Also, judgment and condemnation have come to
all men through the Fall. This is certainly not a positive picture.
Thankfully, Paul shows us that through Jesus Christ we can have hope. He is the
Second Adam and has brought life instead of death and righteousness instead of
sinfulness. This is strictly because of and through His grace.
doctrine dealing with the result of the Fall is often called "original sin."
Christian theologian Millard J. Erickson explains:
We have argued that the Bible, particularly the writings of Paul,
maintains that because of Adam's sin all persons receive a corrupted nature and
are guilty in God's sight as well. We have, further, espoused the Augustinian
view (natural headship) of the imputation of original sin. We were all present
in undifferentiated form in the person of Adam, who along with Eve was the
entire human race. Thus, it was not merely Adam but man who sinned. We were
involved, although not personally, and are responsible for the sin.47
explicitly deny that this belief is true. The LDS second Article of Faith
states, "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not
for Adam's transgression." But this is directly at odds with what Paul has
said in Romans 5:19. It also is in opposition to what Paul proclaimed earlier
in verses 10-18:
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none
that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out
of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth
good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they
have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full
of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and
misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no
fear of God before their eyes.
Paul speaks of individuals being spiritually dead "in
trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). Man
is born this way (see Psalm 51:5). And this can only be understood through a
proper understanding of the Fall.
As it has been
demonstrated, Graham is unpersuasive in his defense of the Mormon view. The
Bible does not support it, history does not support it, and logic does not
support it. The views of Christians and Mormons are fundamentally different
regarding the Fall. McKeever and Johnson have tried to show these differences
in their book48 and
Graham does not like it. He then reproduced his own chart of differences
between what he assumed would have happened if Adam remained obedient and what
were the results from the Fall of Adam.
all four of his points under "If Adam Remained Obedient" are in error. He
says, "Man would remain ignorant."49
But this is untrue – Adam and Eve were created with knowledge. At the same
time, there was certain knowledge that God reserved for Himself. Graham then
asserts, "Man would not return to God."50 But
there was no need to return to God; Adam and Eve were in the very presence of
God in the garden! They were not separated from God prior to the Fall. Next,
Graham maintains that "Christ's Predestined Atonement would be in vain."51
However, as mentioned above, since God knows all things, including whether or
not Adam and Eve would fall, His providential government would take that into
account in determining all of history (including the atonement). And finally,
he states, "Adam and Eve wouldn't reproduce."52
This was also demonstrated to be false.
a correct view of the Fall is necessary. Below is a chart that compares before
and after the Fall biblically. It contains entries that Mormons cannot adhere
to and thus shows how their position is unbiblical and hence untrue.
|Life Before the Fall||Life After the Fall|
|In the presence of God||Separation from God —Spiritual death|
|Able to obey God's commands||Inherit a sinful nature and in rebellion against God|
|Live in paradise||Live in corrupted creation|
Throughout this response, Christianity will refer to the historic, orthodox
Christian faith, and Christians as those who hold to this faith. Many Mormons
claim that they are Christians, but this ignores the fundamental differences
between the two faiths. To better understand this, consult James R. White, Is
the Mormon My Brother?: Discerning the Differences Between Mormonism and
Christianity (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1997).
Ibid. In order to make this review
easier to read, all original quotes from the Mormonism 201 rebuttal are
boldfaced and italicized to separate these from the rest of the rejoinder.
Ensign, November 1993: 73. Taken from McKeever and Johnson, Mormonism
Orson F. Whitney, "Blessings from the Tragedies of Life," Improvement
Era, vol. 19, no. 3, January 1916. Taken from GospeLink 2001 CD-ROM.
George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon,
edited and arranged by Philip C. Reynolds, vol. 1 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book
Co., 1955), 249.
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 332. For biblical
support and analysis of these wills, see pp. 213-216.
John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations (Salt Lake City:
Improvement Era), 201. Taken from GospeLink 2001 CD-ROM.
Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, vol. 1 of Word Biblical Commentary (Waco,
TX: Word Books, 1987), 71.
Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 63-64.
Gerhard Von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: The
Westminster Press, 1972), 89.
Kenneth A. Matthews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A of The New American
Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 237.
McKeever and Johnson, Mormonism 101, 74.
Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, vol. 55 of The Pillar New
Testament Commentary, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: William B.
Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 208.
Interestingly, in a footnote Graham includes Psalm 32:1 as one of the
supporting verses for his claim. Yet it seems obvious that here the author of
the Psalm is not referring to two different classes of things. He is putting
the same idea in parallel.
McKeever and Johnson, Mormonism 101, 76.
A portion of this section was taken from my Response to Mormonism 201:
Preexistence and the Second Estate.
Oscar E. Feucht, Sex and the Church: A Sociological, Historical, and
Theological Investigation of Sex Attitudes, vol. 5 of Marriage and
Family Research Series (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1961), 45.
Robert Briffault, The Mothers: A Study of the Origins of Sentiments and
Institutions, vol. 3 (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1927), 374-375.
Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church, 170. Taken
from Graham, "TF."
For a thorough, scholarly evaluation of this biblical text, consult Douglas J.
Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, vol. 42 of The New International
Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Ned B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, and
Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmands Publishing Company,
1996), 314-350; Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, vol. 6 of Baker
Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Moisés Silva (Grand Rapids,
MI: Baker Books, 1998), 267-297.
Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book
House, 1991), 638.
McKeever and Johnson, Mormonism 101, 77-78.