Monday, November 23, 2009

For Whom Did Christ Die?

Did He atone for the sins of all the world, or just for a few? Did He die to redeem all mankind, or only the “elect”? According to Calvinism (which encapsulates the broad spectrum of the so called “Reformed” churches, Evangelicals, and Baptists), He died only for a select few, not for all mankind. The Bible, however, teaches differently:

John 1:

29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

John 3:

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 6:

51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

1 John 2:

2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:

14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

1 Timothy 2:

6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

1 Timothy 4:

10 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.

2 Corinthians 5:

14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

Hebrews 2:

9 But we see Jesus, … that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

2 Peter 3:

9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

And curiously enough, this is also affirmed by the Book of Mormon:

2 Nephi 9:

7 Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more.

* * *

21 And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.
22 And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.
23 And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.
24 And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it.

2 Nephi 25:

16 And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind—and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things.

Alma 34:

9 For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.
10 For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice.
11 Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay.
12 But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.
13 Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice, and then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away.
14 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.
15 And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.
16 And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.

D&C 18:

10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.
12 And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.
13 And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!
14 Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.
15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

The more fundamental theological problem of Calvinism, however, relates to their belief in predestination. The reason why they believe that the Atonement was partial and not universal is that they believe that the Atonement automatically saves those to whom it is applied, who are predestined to be saved without any voluntary act on their part. Therefore the only reason why some are saved and some are not is because the Atonement was never performed on their behalf. The Bible, however, teaches that the Atonement was universal for all mankind; but salvation in conditional on individual faith and repentance, which is a voluntary act on the part of the believer. They, on the other hand, associate universal Atonement with universal salvation (through predestination); and since salvation is not universal, they conclude that the Atonement could not have been universal either. That is just one of the many perverse doctrines of Calvinism.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What is the Gospel?

The question is often asked (not just of the Mormons), “What is the gospel?” For Latter-day Saints, that question is clearly answered in the modern scriptures of the Church, which includes the Book of Mormon and the book of Doctrine and Covenants:

3 Nephi 27:

13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.
16 And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
17 And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.
18 And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.
19 And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;
22 Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day.

D&C 33:

10 Yea, open your mouths and they shall be filled, saying: Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand;
11 Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.
12 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and remember that they shall have faith in me or they can in nowise be saved;
13 And upon this rock I will build my church; yea, upon this rock ye are built, and if ye continue, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.
14 And ye shall remember the church articles and covenants to keep them.

D&C 39:

5 And verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel receiveth not me.
6 And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.

D&C 76:

40 And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—
41 That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;
42 That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;
43 Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.

D&C 42:

12 And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel.
13 And they shall observe the covenants and church articles to do them, and these shall be their teachings, as they shall be directed by the Spirit.

D&C 34:

5 And more blessed are you because you are called of me to preach my gospel—
6 To lift up your voice as with the sound of a trump, both long and loud, and cry repentance unto a crooked and perverse generation, preparing the way of the Lord for his second coming.

D&C 112:

28 But purify your hearts before me; and then go ye into all the world, and preach my gospel unto every creature who has not received it;
29 And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Achilles’ Heel of Jehovah’s Witnesses Theology

Jehovah’s Witnesses theology centers on the Deity referred to in the Old Testament by the name of Jehovah, Jesus Christ being one of the main players (perhaps even the main player) in that elaborately constructed theology. It hinges on the assumption that Jehovah and Jesus are two different beings. That assumption is so central to JW theology that if it can be proved conclusively from the Bible that Jesus Christ is in fact the same as Jehovah, it has the effect of destroying their elaborately constructed theology from the foundation up. It brings the whole structure crashing down. The biblical proof that Jesus Christ of the New Testament is the same as Jehovah of the Old Testament, however, is indisputable. Here are some references:

Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple … (John 8:58-59.)

The expression “I am” is the standard trademark of Jehovah in the Old Testament, with which the Jews were familiar; hence their taking offence at His remark, and trying to stone Him, implying that He had committed blasphemy by identifying Himself with Jehovah. Here Jesus informs us that He is in fact Jehovah.

And [the Israelites who came out of Egypt] did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them: and that rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:4.)

The “Rock” referred to by Paul in the Old Testament signified Jehovah, thus implying that Jesus of the New Testament was in fact Jehovah. In the following scriptures “LORD” is a direct translation of the Hebrew “Jehovah”:

For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour … (Isaiah 43:3.)

This verse becomes more meaningful in the light of the quotations from Zechariah given below.

And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD [Jehovah] said unto me, cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was priced at of them … (Zechariah 11:12-13.)

According to Matthew 27:9, this verse is a prophecy of the betrayal of Jesus Christ; yet it is Jehovah who is speaking, thus identifying Jesus with Jehovah.

In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I [LORD, Jehovah] will seek to destroy all nations that shall come against Jerusalem. And I [LORD, Jehovah] will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me [Jehovah] whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him … (Zechariah 12:8-10.)

By all accounts, this is an indisputable prophecy of the Second Coming of the Savior (see Revelation 1:7); and the identification of Jesus with Jehovah is undeniable. Jesus [Jehovah] is returning as the “Savior” of the Jews at His Second Coming in the last days, and they shall look upon Him Whom they have pierced.

Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his [LORD, Jehovah’s] feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in twain in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west … (Zechariah 14:3-4.)

Again, this is an indisputable prophecy of the Second Coming of the Savior, identifying Jesus with Jehovah.

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise up unto David a righteous branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgement and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Jeremiah 23:5-6.)

This is another obvious and well-known prophecy of the coming of the Savior, who is named here THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS! “LORD” is a translation of Jehovah. In other words, this future king, the Savior, Jesus Christ, who will be born of the house of David, and will reign over Israel, shall be called JEHOVAH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS! I think that these references are pretty conclusive that Jesus of the New Testament is the same as Jehovah of the Old Testament. It presents a serious challenge to JW theology which I don’t think they have an answer for.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Challenging Question for Latter-day Saints!

In the well-known official “Proclamation” concerning the family published by the LDS Church in September 1995, the following paragraph appears:

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. . . . Source

This raises a question in LDS theology: How do you reconcile the above statement with the scriptural passages which suggest that our spirits in the preexistence were in fact created by Jesus Christ?

Mosiah 26:

23 For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them; and it is I that granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand.

Ether 3:

15 And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image.
16 Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.

D&C 93:

9 The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.
10 The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.

In the past when I have discussed this subject with Latter-day Saints, they have replied that it refers to the physical or natural creation, not the spiritual one. That might have been a satisfactory explanation if it could be shown to be scripturally viable; but judging by the text of the scriptural references, I don’t think that it is. The use of the past tense, or of present perfect tense (which implies action completed) in the above verses, applied to all mankind not just to those in the past or present, implies more than just the physical creation. Take for example the last verse in the last quote: “The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him”. The use of the past tense, and the inclusion of “all things,” implies something more comprehensive than just the natural or physical creation. The same can be said for Ether 3:15.

In the book of Genesis, and especially in the book of Moses, it makes it clear that creation had two stages: first the spiritual, and then the natural; and that the two creations go in tandem. The two acts of creation are inseparable. The same God who created the second created the first:

Moses 3:

4 And now, behold, I say unto you, that these are the generations of the heaven and of the earth, when they were created, in the day that I, the Lord God, made the heaven and the earth,
5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air;
6 But I, the Lord God, spake, and there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
7 And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word.

I don’t think it is possible in the economy of God to speak of only a “one-stage” creation of man, or of anything else, as further affirmed in the following verses:

D&C 29:

30 But remember that all my judgments are not given unto men; and as the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit.
31 For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal
32 First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work—
33 Speaking unto you that you may naturally understand; but unto myself my works have no end, neither beginning; but it is given unto you that ye may understand, because ye have asked it of me and are agreed.
34 Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.

In the light of the above, I don’t think it is possible to conceive of anything other than a “two-stage creation” with the Divine. If Jesus indeed created “all things” including men, as it is stated in the scriptures, then that necessarily must include the spiritual as well as the temporal creation. Therefore I don’t think that that explanation is borne out by the scriptures. A different explanation will have to be given that is more in line with what has been revealed.

Moving on a little beyond that, further ambiguity surrounds the spiritual creation in LDS theology. Joseph Smith taught that the intelligence of man was not created, but is co-eternal with God. But a careful reading reveals some ambiguity in his teaching:

The mind of man is as immortal as God himself. . . . their spirits existed coequal [coeternal] with God, . . . Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal and yet has a beginning? Because if a spirit has a beginning, it will have an end. . . . I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man, the immortal spirit, because it has no beginning. . . . God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. . . . Intelligence exists upon a self-existent principle; it is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. The first principles of man are self-existent with God. (Teachings, pp 352–54.)

Here Joseph Smith is not just talking about the “intelligence” of man, or whatever constitutes the “intelligent part” of him. He is actually talking about the spirit of man. He equates “mind” and “intelligence” with the spirit; and he says that it is the actual spirit of man that is eternal, has not been created. Joseph Smith of course did not pull that out of thin air. He obtained that information from the revelations that God had given to him, notably in the Book of Abraham:

Abraham 3:

18 Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.

* * *
21 I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen.
22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.

In these verses the Lord equates “intelligence” with “spirit” and “soul,” and says that it is the actually spirit of man that is eternal, and has not been created. But the ambiguity doesn’t stop there. In section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord identifies this uncreated “intelligence” with the “light of truth,” as follows:

D&C 93:

29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.

And in the following verses the “light of truth” is equated with the Holy Spirit which is also known as the “Spirit of truth”:

D&C 124:

9 And again, I will visit and soften their hearts, many of them for your good, that ye may find grace in their eyes, that they may come to the light of truth, and the Gentiles to the exaltation or lifting up of Zion.

D&C 88:

6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth.

And of course, going back to the Book of Moses passages already cited, we are informed without hesitation that God is indeed the creator of the spirits of men in the pre-existence, which appears to contradict the Book of Abrham account, as well as the teachigs of Joseph Smith. All of this raises a number of theological questions for Latter-day Saints that may be summarized as follows:

1. What exactly is this part of man that has “not been created”? Is it his spirit, his intelligence, or his mind; or are they in fact all the same? How do you account for the different scriptural readings on the subject?

2. If the spirit of man was created, who did the creating: God the Father or Jesus Christ?

3. If the spiritual creation of man was indeed carried out by Jesus Christ, as many scriptural passages attest, how do you reconcile that with the teaching of the Proclamation on the family that each of our spirits is a “beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents”? Should we redefine the meaning of “procreation,” or “parantage,” in the pre-existence, or in the spiritual sphere, to accommodate the doctrinal discrepancies, or is there a different explanation?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Friendly Advice to LDS Who Want to Debate Mormonism on the Internet

I am sure many Latter-day Saints who like to debate Mormonism on the Internet think that they are smart enough to take care of themselves, and don’t need any advice from me—and they are probably right. This is intended for those who may find it useful.

An important lesson to learn from debating Mormonism on the Internet is knowing when not to reply to someone. It often happens that the best reply to give to someone is not to reply to them at all! In those situations, any other answer given will be the wrong answer, and will put one at a disadvantage. It is difficult to lay down hard and fast rules when exactly to do that. It is like “teaching by the Spirit” (D&C 42:12). If you have the Spirit, you will know.

There are some people who as a general rule one should not reply to at all, except on rare occasions, and under the “constraint of the Spirit”:

D&C 63:64 “Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit; and in this there is no condemnation, and ye receive the Spirit through prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation.”

There are people out there who are in denial of the Holy Ghost; and it is actually a sin to engage them in debate:

1 John 5:16 “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.”

2 John 1:10–11 “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”

So if we are not supposed to pray for them, and even say hello and good bye to them, then it stands to reason that we should not debate with them either. There are such folks around; and they tend to congregate on Christian message boards on the Internet. We recognize them by the Holy Ghost. (Apostates from the Church sometimes fall into this category.) This does not mean that one should never reply to them. On rare occasions it might be necessary to do so. But there is a difference between giving them an occasional appropriate response, and engaging them in lengthy and protracted debate. Jesus gave appropriate responses to the devil when He was being tempted by him (Matthew 4:1–11); but He did not sit down and argue with him!

We also need to decide whether we want to inform people or argue with them. There is a difference between somebody who has a genuine disagreement with us and is willing to engage in a genuine discussion about those differences, and somebody who has no interest in the answers you give and just wants to argue. Again, we recognize them by the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why Did God Put the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden?

Some questions arose during my discussions on Christian message boards regarding the doctrine of the Fall of Adam and the Original Sin, which may be summarized as follows:

  1. Why did God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden?
  2. Why did He command them not to partake of it? What was wrong with having a knowledge of good and evil?
  3. Why did He allow Satan to tempt them to partake of the fruit?
  4. Why was the penalty of death assigned to partaking of the fruit?

My answers to these questions are given below:

Q1. Why did God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden?

The purpose of man coming to earth was so that he could be tested and tried to see if he would be obedient to the will of God, and choose good over evil; and ultimately be rewarded accordingly:

Abraham 3:

24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;

25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;

26 And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads forever and ever.

This is also attested by many passages in the Bible, where man is enjoined to always do good and avoid evil:

Deuteronomy 10:

12 And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,

Micah 6:

8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God

1 Peter 3:

10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:

11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

And God has appointed a day of judgment in which mankind will be judged according to their works, and each will receive a reward according to how their works have been:

Acts 17:

31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

None of these would have been possible without the acquisition of the knowledge of good and evil; for without it man could have chosen neither good nor evil. The acquisition of the knowledge of good and evil was a necessary prerequisite so he could be placed in a situation so that the above testing could take place. God placed the tree in the garden so that man by partaking of it might acquire a knowledge of good and evil.

Q2. Why did God command them not to partake of the fruit? What was wrong with having a knowledge of good and evil?

There is nothing wrong with the knowledge of good and evil per se. Indeed, as shown above, it was even necessary so that man could be made accountable for his actions and tested. But there was also a problem with it. Partaking of the fruit did not just give them a theoretical knowledge of good and evil; it placed them in a condition in which they would have to choose between good and evil—and suffer the consequences. It put them in a position where they would have to learn by experience the difference between good and evil. But God knew that if He placed mankind in that situation, that most (if not all) men, through the weakness of human nature and the force of circumstance, as well as the temptations of the devil, would choose evil rather than good, and fall into sin, and could not be saved. Therefore a plan was devised from “before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:18–20; Revelation 13:8) that would rescue man from his fallen state, should he partake of the fruit; and that plan was the Atonement of Jesus Christ. But in order for that plan to be put into effect, another condition had to be fulfilled; and that was death.

When Adam and Eve were first created, they were immortal and eternal beings. There was no death. If they sinned in that state, and remained in that state, their sin would have eternally remained with them, and there would have been no opportunity for repentance. That is why after the resurrection there is no possibility of repentance (Alma 34:33–35). Death was required so that this period of mortality would become a state of probation, a “preparatory state” (Alma 12:26; 42:10, 13) in which man could “repent and prepare to meet God” (Alma 12:24). Then, through the Atonement, a resurrection would take place which would “restore” mankind to that immortal and eternal state that they were in before the Fall (Alma 11:42–44; 40:22–24); and a final judgment would decide everyone’s fait. (Death was also necessary to fulfill the Atonement; if the sentence of death had not been passed on Adam, Christ could not have died to atone for the sins of the world.) So there were two trees placed in the Garden: one the tree of life, which enabled them to live forever; and the other the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which (necessarily) led to death. Thus the tree of good and evil was put in the Garden of Eden, and the penalty of death was affixed to partaking of it; and man was given the opportunity to eat from it and suffer the consequences if he chose to. But a plan was put in place to rescue him from the consequences of his actions should he partake of the fruit. The punishment of death for eating of the fruit was not exactly a “punishment” as such; but a necessary requirement to bring about the eventual salvation of man. Without it mankind could not have repented after sinning, and without repentance the plan of salvation could not have been put into effect. And without it also Christ could not have died to atone for the sins of mankind.

Partaking of the fruit was a sin because God had commanded them not to do it; not because it was something inherently wrong or immoral. The explanation that God gave to Adam and Eve for not partaking of the fruit was that if they did so, they would “surely die”:

Genesis 2:

17 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.

It is like being warned not to eat a certain poisonous substance because if we did, we would certainly die! Eating the poisonous substance is not immoral. It is just not a good idea if you intend to stay alive! The only thing that made it a sin was the commandment of God to them not to do it; but the reason why God had commanded them not to do so was the penalty of death that was (necessarily) affixed to it, not because it was something inherently wrong or immoral. Thus the tree was planted in the Garden of Eden, and man was given the opportunity to partake of it if he chose to; and the commandment was issued not eat of the fruit, the penalty of death having been assigned to breaking commandment in order to fulfill the “merciful plan of the great creator” (2 Nephi 9:6). This doctrine is explained in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 9:6–7; Alma 12:23–35; 34:33–35; 42:3–24.

Q3. Why did God allow Satan to tempt them to partake of it?

This is explained in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 2:11–27.

Q4. Why was the penalty of death assigned to partaking of the tree?

This has already been explained earlier; but to summarize: the penalty of death was not so much a punishment for partaking of the forbidden fruit, as a necessary consequence of it in order to put into effect the plan of salvation through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. But it became a kind of punishment for it because of the commandment that God had given them not to partake of the fruit.