Inspired by this answer to a previous question, in which the answerer stated:

"For example, the Book of Mormon adds the belief that Adam and Eve could not have children before the Fall."

Supported by quoting from 2 Nephi 2:22-23:

And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created...

And they would have had no children; wherefore 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.

This leads me to ask how could this be true, given that God told Adam and Eve to "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." {Genesis 1:28}

It would seem that this is a clear contradiction between the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

How does the LDS church address this apparently-blatant contradiction?

  • 4
    Also, I just noticed that it seems that people--myself included--tend to say that Adam and Eve couldn't have children in the garden, yet the Book of Mormon says wouldn't have had children. Does anyone know of any place in scripture that actually says they couldn't have children there? Maybe there's another simple explanation that I'm overlooking.
    – Matt
    Jun 22 '14 at 5:22
  • @Matt, the grammar of the preceeding verse makes it a "couldn't." They "must" have remained innocent and therefore (as a consequence) wouldn't have children. Jul 1 '18 at 18:43

Mormons believe both passages,

  1. That Adam and Eve were commanded to multiply (Genesis 1:28).

  2. Unless these partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge Adam and Eve could not have children (2 Nephi 2:23).


  1. God commanded them not to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17).

So really, the contradiction in Mormon belief seems to be in the commandments God gives to them: multiply and don't eat...but you can't multiply until you eat.

God is forcing them into a situation in which they cannot follow his commandments. Is God the author of sin?

Other Christians don't face this contradiction because #2 is unique to Mormonism.

AFAIK, there isn't a direct, clear-cut answer to this in canon, but here are two scripturally-supported common explanations.

Explanation 1: It was a transgression, not a sin

Mormons consider transgressions and sins differently.

A transgression is violating a law. A sin is violating a law, knowing it to be evil.

Joseph Fielding Smith, a President of the LDS Church said

I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin...This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin...for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!

Just as Mormons believe little children cannot sin (Moroni 8:8) they believe that Adam and Eve could not sin, as they did not know good from evil.

Thus, God's commandments were not a sadistic trap that forced them to sin. Instead, because they could not sin, he was offering a sin-free choice: live innocently in the garden forever without joy or pain, or leave the garden, know good and evil, and have posterity.

Eve chose the latter and Adam followed.

Explanation 2: One commandment superceded the other (for now)

An example:

Mankind (according to Mormonism and many other Christian faiths) is still under the command to "multiply and replenish the earth".

However, my adult sister is not participating in this commandment. Why? Though she could physically bear children, she is not married, and God has forbidden adultery/fornication. So on the one hand, God commands her to multiply, but on the other hand, another of God's commandments prevents her, at least for now.

This is the situation that Adam and Eve faced. They were to multiply, but another commandment (temporarily) restricted them from doing that. Had Adam and Eve refrained from partaking of the fruit, circumstances would have changed, i.e. God lifts the restriction, they fulfill his commandment to multiply, without repercussion.

Of course, Adam and Eve chose to take the fruit anyway, and God knew they would, but God wasn't contradicting himself then, just as he isn't contradicting himself now.

Additional notes

It is worth noting that rather than viewing the Fall of Adam and Eve as an unfortunate and evil accident, one which if it had not happened, everything would be perfect, Mormons see the Fall as necessary to the purpose of life on earth.

Life is an opportunity to learn to choose good over evil. This could not happen if there was not good or evil. (See 2 Nephi 2.)

The sacrifice of the Son of God was planned from "the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). So also was the Fall -- which necessitated the sacrifice -- known from the beginning. Mormons often describe the Fall as a fall downward, but also forward.

  • 2
    I have a question about your statement "A transgression is violating a law. A sin is violating a law, knowing it to be evil.". Based on what you are writing, the opinion is that Adam and Eve did not sin because they did not know that what they were doing was "evil". How does this work with passages such as Genesis 3:2,3 where Eve specifically told the "snake" that they have been told not to eat from the fruit of that tree, and if they do, they will die. It looks like she knew that it was wrong for her to eat from it. Jun 13 '17 at 3:55
  • @SherlockEinstein, she knew "God hath said, 'Ye shall not eat of it...lest ye die'". But was that childlike knowledge that something had been said, or a mature understanding that obedience to God was right? Genesis 3:5,7 "in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil...And the eyes of them both were opened." Jun 13 '17 at 5:34
  • "It was a transgression, not a sin." (*sigh*) Various Church leaders have gone out of their way to try and make Adam and Eve something they weren't: obedient. The reality is they were disobedient, that was the whole point, and were punished for it ("no unclean thing...", "for in Adam all die..."). The reality in scripture cannot be contravened by Church leaders without the common consent of the membership, "Sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). Jul 1 '18 at 17:32
  • Mormons do not believe both passages. The temptation of Genesis is not that Adam and Eve would acquire intellectual knowledge of good and evil but that they would usurp God's prerogative and determine good and evil for themselves. They would be "like God" in that way. Jul 11 at 12:18

This question deserves a more in-depth answer, but first, let me get something out of the way.

I posted an answer to Are “sin” and “transgression” different in LDS terminology? that contradicts the regrettably popular opinion that sin and transgression are different. Various Church leaders over time have tried to make Adam and Eve something they were not: obedient. For some reason, they think that making our First Parents into something they weren't will give them greater honor or respect. This simply isn't true. Adam and Eve were without doubt amazing people, but they acted against a commandment of God, and that's a sin, for "sin is a transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4). For details, please click the link. Curiously, this entire issue has nothing to do with your question, but it was brought up as important by Paul Draper and so needed to be addressed.

The relevant verse from the Book of Mormon is this one:

And they would have had no children; wherefore 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. (2 Nephi 2:23, emphasis mine)

That's would, not could. Dogmatically there was no physiological condition preventing Adam and Eve from conceiving children in the Garden. So why wouldn't they? This verse explains that Adam and Eve were innocent. OK, what does that mean?

Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God. (D&C 93:38)1

Considering that the LDS Church believes there was a council in heaven before the world was created during which Lucifer and a third of the host of heaven rebelled against the Father and were cast out, it's a head-scratcher as to why the Lord would tell Josph Smith that before birth into mortality, every spirit is innocent. The answer is a few verses earlier.

For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; and when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy. (D&C 93:33-34)

Humanity is innocent of what it means to be mortal before birth into mortality, which includes the ability to procreate. And since disobedience had never before occured and the knowledge that there might be something other than saying "hi" that humans might do had not yet been introduced to the earth, they were stuck, innocent, doing a whole lot of nothing. Which is what we read from the preceeding verse in 2 Nephi.

And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. (2 Nephi 2:22, emphasis mine)

These statements make some assumptions.

  1. That Adam and Eve would never have been enticed of their own selves to sexual activity.

  2. That Adam and Eve were not strong enough to avoid all temptation.

Earlier still in the same scriptural discourse we read:

Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other. (2 Nephi 2:16)

Here's where we finally start understanding the problem. Our Heavenly Father wants us to be free, but the only way to be free is to have the power to choose between good and evil, and that was something Adam and Eve did not yet know how to do. They didn't even know the difference between good and evil.

So, how does a mortal parent teach a 6-mo-old child that embezzlement is wrong? That's a mighty complex sin for a very innocent child. What they do, of course, is educate the child — a process that takes years.

Our Heavenly Father used the same process, He just didn't need that much time.

And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God. And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil. (2 Nephi 2:17-18)

To this we need to add one key concept that LDS members learn from the Temple endowent: the decision to let Lucifer tempt Adam and Eve was the Father's.

This is unbelievably important.

  • The choice to eat the fruit was Adam's.
  • The choice to let Adam be tempted was God's.

We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression. (Article of Faith #2)

50% of the reason for Jesus' atoning sacrifice is that being tempted wasn't Adam's fault. But the consequence of Adam's choice affected everybody. A balance had to be restored, and Jesus restored the balance.

The result is that everyone now has access to knowledge and are afflicted by temptation, granting us the privilege of choice, which includes the privilege of choosing to bring children into this world.

Regrettably, there is a component of "we don't know" that must be addressed

The astute observer will notice that I didn't address assumption #1, that Adam and Eve would never be enticed of themselves to sexual activity. And if we pay attention to what Jacob said, "would" vs. "could" doesn't actually matter because he's discussing a consequence of being in the state of perpetual innocence that they "must" have been in (2 Nephi 2:22-23). Grammatically, they couldn't have had children. But this not because of a physiological difference that we don't now a blooming thing about and can only assume or speculate, it's because of the innocence of spirits when first brought into a mortal body and are then left without influence (the influence of knowledge or temptation).

They didn't know how to procreate and there was no enticement to learn.

In other words, we simply do not know if Adam and Eve could have physiologically conceived children before the Fall and if they could, we do not know if (given the possibility of an infinite amount of time) whether or not they would have eventually discovered their sexuality.

About this aspect we do not know. From the perspective of fallen Man we simply don't have the perspective to answer that question. Our only point of reference is a laughing happy baby... which does not have any sexual proclivity.

We also don't worry about it as it isn't how events played out.

1This is one of the two scriptural reasons why the LDS Church does not endorse infant baptism (the other being Moroni 8:5-8). Due to the atonment of Christ, all people born into the world are as innocent as Adam and Eve were before the Fall. And just as Adam and Eve had to learn (via the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil), all children must learn, and will not be held accountable until they have.

  • The gulf produced by this answer between 1) God "knowing" Adam would fall and creating anyway and 2) God "intending" Adam to fall is enormous. Jul 11 at 12:29
  • You're welcome to answer the question, @MikeBorden. That's always a benefit. Jul 11 at 21:44

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