How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

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jfro18
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How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by jfro18 » Wed Jul 22, 2020 9:45 am

Between the temple changes and my run-in with my kid about Adam Eve I've been thinking about it this week.

Am I wrong to think that the Adam and Eve story has to be a literal, real event or else Mormonism just completely collapses as a true church?

The endowment is built about the A&E story, the Book of Mormon mentions A&E ~27 times, and the D&C mentions them repeatedly.

But I was listening to an Infants on Thrones recently after Hagoth brought up their 7 deadly heresies, and John Hamer was explaining the problem with Adam and Eve to Mike Tannehill -- in the Old Testament, the Adam and Eve story is not mentioned a single time by early prophets.

So the story is created around 600BCE when creating the five books of Moses... and then it's mentioned just twice in the OT and I think he said 7 times in the New Testament.

In other words, no one ever knew of the A&E story until after 600BCE, which seems impossible for a story that in Mormonism is the central story to our existence, the fall of man, etc.

I've heard arguments against A&E through DNA/archaeology/evolution/etc... but the textual one seems so much more concrete and damning to not just the Adam and Eve story, but any other religion that bases so much off of it being literal (cough, Mormonism, cough)

Am I missing something?

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Phil Lurkerman
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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by Phil Lurkerman » Wed Jul 22, 2020 11:08 am

I agree with your logic — but I’ve started to wonder if issues like this really matter to believers. We see so much fervent belief across various religious, political, conspiracy groups, etc., none of which stands up to logical analysis.

So, my best guess is that believers will continue to believe, and will find a way to justify their faith regardless of whether A & E can be supported as literal history. I suspect the church could officially announce that it is ok to view this story as allegory and very few of the faithful would give it a second thought.

As far as I can tell, evidence and reason seem to have almost nothing to do with belief for a great many people.
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jfro18
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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by jfro18 » Wed Jul 22, 2020 11:59 am

Phil Lurkerman wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 11:08 am
I agree with your logic — but I’ve started to wonder if issues like this really matter to believers. We see so much fervent belief across various religious, political, conspiracy groups, etc., none of which stands up to logical analysis.
I agree with this 100%, but I also think if you admit that it's a mythical story it really just crushes the way it's used in the Book of Mormon to consider it an ancient record, that D&C would have God referring to stories that didn't happen, etc.

But you're right - Nelson could come out today and say the Book of Mormon is the work of Joseph Smith but that it helps us and therefore is scripture and quite a lot of people would remain in the church nonetheless.

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Hagoth
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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by Hagoth » Wed Jul 22, 2020 2:40 pm

The Fall and the Atonement are the book ends between which lie all of Mormon doctrine. Neither works on its own without the other. They must both be literal. But then, if you believe in Adam and Eve as a Mormon you must also believe the canonized doctrine in the D&C that they lived in Missouri 6000 years ago. But if you believe the Gospel Topics essays on the official church website you have to acknowledge that there were already people in North America at least 6000 years before Adam and Eve.

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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by Thoughtful » Wed Jul 22, 2020 6:16 pm

Without the fall and atonement, Mormonism falls apart.

That said, I believe that an older ceremony said the garden story was figurative, this was changed before I went through and we were each to consider ourselves Adam and eve.

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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by Lloyd Christmas » Thu Jul 23, 2020 4:35 am

I agree with what Hagoth and Thoughtful said. Without literal Adam and Eve and the Fall, there is no need for the Atonement to overcome "physical and spiritual" death. Bruce R Mckonky used this to explain why evolution couldn't have been a tool to create Adam and Eve. Evolution requires a series of births and deaths and thousands of years. As Hagoth said, the Fall and Atonement are the bookends of Mormonism, and really Christianity in general. Other Christians don't often call it the Fall, but original sin is still a requisite for needing a savior.

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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by deacon blues » Thu Jul 23, 2020 8:59 am

Most of my life I doubted a literal Adam and Eve, yet I hung on to Mormonism. Thus, when my shelf broke it was a relief rather than traumatic. I would be curious how many BYU profs. believe in a literal Adam and Eve. I would guess less than 50%.
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Lucidity
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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by Lucidity » Thu Jul 23, 2020 11:44 am

Lloyd Christmas wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 4:35 am
I agree with what Hagoth and Thoughtful said. Without literal Adam and Eve and the Fall, there is no need for the Atonement to overcome "physical and spiritual" death. ....but original sin is still a requisite for needing a savior.
I’m not so sure about this. It all depends on how much of the scriptural record one is able or willing to reject or reinterpret.

From a logical standpoint all you need is as a barrier to God, Jesus to overcome it, and prophets to tell you how to gain access. Human behavior, aka sin, alone works just fine as a barrier to God, regardless of how humans came to be. It even makes Satan unnecessary.

Ancient and Modern prophets may have painted the theology into a corner so this may not be an option, but I’m not seeing how Adam and Eve are necessary for Mormon theology to work. I don’t need Adam to die, and I don’t need Adam to sin.

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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by Just This Guy » Thu Jul 23, 2020 11:46 am

One thing I will add is that the literal A&E is not just a Mormon issue.

Catholicism commonly states that original sin began with Eve. Lots of Christian denominations build off of their doctrine. I know many Christians who consider the garden to have been a historic event. IF anything many born again Christians take take a literal Bible to a bit of an extreme. Just take a look at the Creation Museum. They are really struggling to fit literal creation, young earth, Garden of Eden with dinosaurs.
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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by Hagoth » Thu Jul 23, 2020 1:07 pm

Lucidity wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 11:44 am
It even makes Satan unnecessary.
That's fightin' talk! How dare you question the fourth member of the godhead?
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Hagoth
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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by Hagoth » Thu Jul 23, 2020 1:12 pm

Thoughtful wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 6:16 pm
That said, I believe that an older ceremony said the garden story was figurative,
It did. "This is figurative as far as the man and woman are concerned." In my TBM days I took that to mean that the two volunteers were figuratively representing a literal Adam and Eve. In my nuancing days I took it to mean that Adam and Eve are literary symbols for all mortal men and women. In my nonbelieving days I just shrug.
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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by moksha » Thu Jul 23, 2020 1:49 pm

I think a fanciful creation story being understood as literal is non-essential to a Church that claims an open canon.
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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by nibbler » Thu Jul 23, 2020 3:21 pm

Just This Guy wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 11:46 am
One thing I will add is that the literal A&E is not just a Mormon issue.

Catholicism commonly states that original sin began with Eve. Lots of Christian denominations build off of their doctrine. I know many Christians who consider the garden to have been a historic event. IF anything many born again Christians take take a literal Bible to a bit of an extreme. Just take a look at the Creation Museum. They are really struggling to fit literal creation, young earth, Garden of Eden with dinosaurs.
To add to your point, there's a Noah's Ark replica in Kentucky that is brought to you by the same people behind the Creation Museum.

There's even less of a need for a literal Noah's Ark. Well, maybe Mormons need it a little more than other denominations... the baptism of the Earth and all that.
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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by Thoughtful » Fri Jul 24, 2020 9:04 am

Hagoth wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 1:12 pm
Thoughtful wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 6:16 pm
That said, I believe that an older ceremony said the garden story was figurative,
It did. "This is figurative as far as the man and woman are concerned." In my TBM days I took that to mean that the two volunteers were figuratively representing a literal Adam and Eve. In my nuancing days I took it to mean that Adam and Eve are literary symbols for all mortal men and women. In my nonbelieving days I just shrug.
Ha! And that's a great description of how I feel when part of me wants to continue to dissect Mormon history and doctrine. Because its all made up, understanding it doesn't matter. Meanwhile I feel like I wasted so much of my life being Mormon and need more stuff to talk about than Mormonism.

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jfro18
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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by jfro18 » Fri Jul 24, 2020 10:34 am

I read a few minutes on FAIR about the need to believe in a literal Adam and Eve, and they do the typical apologists squish where they say you can believe there was life before Adam but that they didnt have the priesthood and thus didn't count.

And this is definitely not a strictly Mormon problem, but one that was made much worse by Joseph Smith putting such a literal belief into the Book of Mormon and D&C.

And as Hagoth already said, the church literally has to admit in the DNA essay that people were alive 15,000 years ago when Joseph Smith claims that Adam and Eve were 6,000 years ago... so you can see why FAIR has to play those games with saying "there were people here millions of years ago, but those people were different than what God was talking about in the Bible."

I would love to sit down with a church leader and watch them squirm and try to explain all of that, because every time they answer one question with apologetics it opens up two more. It's like watching the TV show Lost yet the ending is even worse than the show. :)

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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by Reuben » Fri Jul 24, 2020 2:02 pm

Lucidity wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 11:44 am
I’m not so sure about this. It all depends on how much of the scriptural record one is able or willing to reject or reinterpret.

From a logical standpoint all you need is as a barrier to God, Jesus to overcome it, and prophets to tell you how to gain access. Human behavior, aka sin, alone works just fine as a barrier to God, regardless of how humans came to be. It even makes Satan unnecessary.
This is where I had gotten to when I still believed. I didn't need Adam and Eve to exist for the fall to make sense, and I didn't need Satan to exist to explain why people sin.

I still talked about Adam and Eve as if they existed. I did it so well that my oldest kid was really surprised - and probably shaken - when I said one night at dinner that evolution was how we all got here. And that's the problem with trying to be nuanced in a fundamentalist church: you still have to walk the fundamentalist walk and talk the fundamentalist talk, so your kids might not see you setting an example of how to be nuanced.

(I could never bring myself to talk about Satan as if he was real after I gave up believing in him, though. I just avoided the subject.)

Anyway, that suggests a point of caution in this discussion: let's remember that the official doctrine, however much establishing it is like nailing Jell-o to a wall, isn't the same as what Mormons believe. Officially, Adam and Eve exist, and we even have Jeffrey Arrrrr Holland recently saying that they must or the atonement is nonsense. A lot of believing Mormons don't accept that, but they generally can't say so.
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jfro18
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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by jfro18 » Fri Jul 24, 2020 3:23 pm

Reuben wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 2:02 pm
Anyway, that suggests a point of caution in this discussion: let's remember that the official doctrine, however much establishing it is like nailing Jell-o to a wall, isn't the same as what Mormons believe. Officially, Adam and Eve exist, and we even have Jeffrey Arrrrr Holland recently saying that they must or the atonement is nonsense. A lot of believing Mormons don't accept that, but they generally can't say so.
I think this really hits the nail on the head - no matter what you bring up to a true believing member, they can nuance that particular thing to avoid confronting it.

I've noticed some of the more liberal apologists (the Jim Bennett CES reply really goes at this) will admit the global flood likely never happened, yet explain you could have the overall story work. The problem is that this is nonsensical from a historical standpoint, but that doesn't matter if you're just looking to nuance one problem and ignore the issues it opens up.

I didn't see the Jeffrey Arrrr quote though - I need to check that out.

One of Joseph Smith's biggest mistakes was making the Biblical stories so literal to the point where the Book of Mormon relies on them being literal. The good news for Joseph Smith and the church is that most members will do the gymnastics to avoid the implications that come from it.

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Hagoth
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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by Hagoth » Fri Jul 24, 2020 4:43 pm

I know I have shared this before, but this article by Jeffrey Holland is a masterpiece golden age Mormon doctrine that shows just how much nuancing and backpeddaling is going on in the church now. Read it alongside the DNA essay for a real eye-opening experience:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/stu ... d?lang=eng
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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by Reuben » Fri Jul 24, 2020 8:30 pm

jfro18 wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 3:23 pm
Reuben wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 2:02 pm
Anyway, that suggests a point of caution in this discussion: let's remember that the official doctrine, however much establishing it is like nailing Jell-o to a wall, isn't the same as what Mormons believe. Officially, Adam and Eve exist, and we even have Jeffrey Arrrrr Holland recently saying that they must or the atonement is nonsense. A lot of believing Mormons don't accept that, but they generally can't say so.
I think this really hits the nail on the head - no matter what you bring up to a true believing member, they can nuance that particular thing to avoid confronting it.

I've noticed some of the more liberal apologists (the Jim Bennett CES reply really goes at this) will admit the global flood likely never happened, yet explain you could have the overall story work. The problem is that this is nonsensical from a historical standpoint, but that doesn't matter if you're just looking to nuance one problem and ignore the issues it opens up.

I didn't see the Jeffrey Arrrr quote though - I need to check that out.
https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/stu ... mercy-meet
In our increasingly secular society, it is as uncommon as it is unfashionable to speak of Adam and Eve or the Garden of Eden or of a “fortunate fall” into mortality. Nevertheless, the simple truth is that we cannot fully comprehend the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ and we will not adequately appreciate the unique purpose of His birth or His death—in other words, there is no way to truly celebrate Christmas or Easter—without understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it.
This was in 2015, before my faith transition, so it caused me some discomfort. I shrugged it off. At that point, I had learned to allow myself to disagree with apostles.

Odd that he blames "our increasingly secular society." I would have said back then (and would still say now) that it's because we can see more accurately into our past.

I think I overstated the strength of his assertion earlier. Mea culpa.
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Re: How essential is a literal Adam and Eve story to Mormonism?

Post by Corsair » Fri Jul 24, 2020 10:00 pm

Reuben wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 8:30 pm
In our increasingly secular society, it is as uncommon as it is unfashionable to speak of Adam and Eve or the Garden of Eden or of a “fortunate fall” into mortality. Nevertheless, the simple truth is that we cannot fully comprehend the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ and we will not adequately appreciate the unique purpose of His birth or His death—in other words, there is no way to truly celebrate Christmas or Easter—without understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it.
This was in 2015, before my faith transition, so it caused me some discomfort. I shrugged it off. At that point, I had learned to allow myself to disagree with apostles.
My problem with JRH statement is that it implies an unnecessary literalness. It's not that Adam and Eve are necessary. It's that the LDS versions of Adam and Eve. LDS theology is built around a narrow vision of Adam and Eve and the church has firmly attached the temple endowment drama to this view. But Adam and Eve don't really make any day to day difference even to believers. Sure, they pray to Jesus, but Adam's involvement is not necessary.

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