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Sin, Trespass, and Transgression

Note: The following was originally printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Mormonism Researched. To request a free subscription, please visit here.

By Bill McKeever

Writing to the Christian church in Rome, the apostle Paul notes that “sin came into the world through one man” (5:12). The context clearly shows that the “man” Paul had in mind was Adam (5:14). This event, known as the fall, is described by Paul as a negative event in humankind’s history.

Writing for the Evangelical Dictionary of  Theology, Dr. Bruce A. Demarest writes, “Mankind after the fall suffers extensive spiritual deprivation. Although the image of God in man survives (Gen. 9:6), reason has lost its soundness (2 Cor. 4:4), the will is no longer free to choose God and the good (John 8:34), and man is both spiritually blind (1 Cor. 2:14) and spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1,5)” (404).

Paul goes on to explain that in contrast to the sin and death introduced by the disobedient “trespass” of Adam,  a “free gift” of grace is offered as a result of the obedience of Christ, and that this “free gift is not like the result of that one man’s [Adam] sin” (Rom. 5:16). Paul clearly sees Adam’s transgression as a sin.

Mormonism denies this, and instead touts the fall of Adam and Eve as something positive and praiseworthy. Speaking in general conference in October, 1993, Russell M. Nelson, at the time an apostle in the LDS Church, said, “We and all mankind are forever blessed because of Eve’s great courage and wisdom. By partaking of the fruit first, she did what needed to be done. Adam was wise enough to do likewise” (“Constancy amid Change,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 34).

In that same general conference, Dallin H. Oaks concurred, stating, “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” (“The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, November 1993, 73).

This thought is supported in LDS Church manuals. For example, on page 59 of the manual, Preach My Gospel, Mormon missionaries are taught, “Latter-day revelation makes clear that the Fall is a blessing and that Adam and Eve should be honored as the first parents of all mankind.”

In the 1998, Preparing for Exaltation Teacher’s Manual, it states, “The decision of Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit was not a sin, as it is sometimes considered by other Christian churches. It was a transgression – an act that was formally prohibited but not inherently wrong” (13).

The New Testament does not allow for such a faulty distinction. See  Romans 5:14,17,18; Galatians 3:19; 1 Timothy 2:14; Hebrews 2:2, 9:15; James. 2:9,11.

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