This part of the chapter delves into an eternal law of heaven. Opposites. Lehi tells us: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.” (11)
A college English professor taught that this is the basis of context. To be able to understand one trait or principle, you must understand it’s opposite. It is just as important to say what you DON’T mean as it is to say what you DO mean. You get a more thorough understanding that way.
In life, it’s the same. We cannot understand and gain godly knowledge unless we experience its opposite. Without opposition, “righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad….all things must needs be a compound in one.” (11)
Both parts make one whole experience. With just one part of the compound, you have nothing, or at least you don’t have the understanding to know the whole truth.
This is true for us as well. We have a spirit and a physical body, a compound in one. If we just had the body, “it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death…” (11) There would have been no purpose, and “this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power and the mercy, and the justice of God.” (12)
Our soul—body and spirit—is essential to further God’s purposes.
If there was no law, one could not sin. If there was no sin, no one could be righteous. If no one could be righteous, no one would ever be happy. That is the state of the Garden of Eden, before the fall. There was no sin…hence, there was no happiness. Joy did not come about until opposition came into play. Without the law of opposition, there would be no God. Without God, there would be no mankind, for there would not have been a creation. “All things must have vanished away.” (13) That is a hopeless thought.
To act / To be acted upon
But the following verse gives hope.
And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God [big breath of relief and joy], and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.”2 Nephi 2:14
What are some of the things that act? Man and woman—we have a brain and can choose how to act. Animals, to a lesser degree.
What are things to be acted upon? The earth is acted upon. Animals, with regards to humans, are acted upon.
However, with the responsibility to act comes the responsibility to exercise humane and wise stewardship over the things we act upon. We should care for Mother Earth and be kind to creatures in our care or that we use to feed ourselves. We should never act selfishly or cruelly. Gratitude should be shown for the things we act upon, the things we need to use to sustain life here on Earth.
It must needs be
Lehi goes on to teach about God’s purposes—the beginning of the plan of salvation, which hinges on this principle of opposition.
And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents…and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.”2 Nephi 2:15
That phrase, “it must needs be,” implies that opposition was an eternal law that God had to obey. Thus, even from the beginning, God set up opposing forces, which seem to keep the universe in balance.
Think of a scale or see-saw. If weight is only put on one side, it goes down on that side and no movement is possible. With weights on both sides (opposing forces), the balance evens out and it can move with force from each side.
Power of choice
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
God set up the two opposing forces and gifted man his free-agency to choose for himself what he would do. We should honor God for this powerful gift of choice He has given us.
Lehi talks about the devil; his name is formed from the word Evil, because that is what he seeks to do. Lehi gave a good description of Satan’s mission and the why behind his every act.
And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind.”2 Nephi 2:17
Great guy (NOT!). Because he chose poorly and it didn’t work out for him, he wants to take the rest of us down with him.
The devil is the father of all lies and is a master of half-truths.
He went right to work with Adam and Eve.
Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.”2 Nephi 2:18
A lie wrapped around a truth. Lie—Ye shall not die. Truth—ye shall know good from evil like God. Thus, the fall of man came about.
What I think is so awesome about this is that God knew what Satan would do, and He allowed him to work the plan of opposition naturally into the plan of salvation, tempting Adam and Even one way so that they had to make a choice. And because of their choice, death came upon all mankind, but also “they have brought forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth.” (20) That could not have happened had their bodies not been changed by the fall.
Mercy = Repentance
Instantly, a merciful plan is put into play to help Adam and Eve and their posterity return to God. Their lives are prolonged, “according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh.” (21)
The fall cut Adam and Eve from God, putting them in a hopeless state, but God was merciful and showed them a way to be brought back into His presence.
Probation is a time set aside to prepare one to enter real life again (usually after a jail sentence). It’s a time to get one’s life in order, to overcome the things that set them back (the Fall). Usually, a parole office is assigned to the person on probation, to watch, help, and support them as they reenter normal life. We have prophets that watch over us, encourage, help, and support us in repenting and getting our lives in order, so we can live with God again.
Repentance is the great key of mercy God held out to them.
Do I consistently utilize this key in my life?
For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.”2 Nephi 2:21
Most churches that don’t have this complete account of the fall of Adam feel upset that Adam and Eve brought misery upon mankind through their transgression. They falsely believe that all of us would be living content, wonderful lives in the Garden of Eden without any hardship if they hadn’t fallen.
That is a HUGE lie from Satan.
We wouldn’t have ever had a chance to come to earth if our first parents hadn’t made a choice to bring children to the earth. This choice set in motion the Fall, which was part of God’s great plan of salvation.
The next verses state that if Adam hadn’t transgressed, he wouldn’t 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.” (22)
To me, this implies no growth or change. No opposing forces would be working on them to help their spiritual muscles grow..
And they would have had no children.”2 Nephi 2:23
None of us would have come here if Adam and Eve had not partaken of the forbidden fruit. We would have been damned in our progression, if not for the Fall. Adam and Eve would have remained in a “state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.” (23) That is clearly not the paradise other churches assume the Garden would be for us…for there would be no us.
God wants us to have Joy
But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.”2 Nephi 2:24
A calming thought.
God knew before the foundation of the earth how things would play out—not because we are forced to do things a certain way, but because He knows His children so intimately. God knows our backstories (in author terminology); He knows what demons haunt us, what goals motivate us; what our ambitions are; what our weaknesses are.
Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”2 Nephi 2:25
Adam had a choice and a mission. He was one of the great ones. He had helped Jehovah (as Michael) create the earth and everything that is upon it. He had great knowledge that had been hidden under a veil, but he and Eve must have gleaned enough in their innocent state to recognize the better choice when it presented itself. They knew children needed to come to earth.
Adam and Eve fell that we might come here.
The second part of verse 25 puts the responsibility on us. We came here to experience joy. To do that, we must experience the opposite. We can’t know joy unless we know misery and pain. That’s a great thing to remember when we are faced with affliction.
And the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall.”2 Nephi 2:26
The power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is amazing. The verse above goes on to say why:
- 1) Redemption makes us free forever
- 2) We know good from evil & can act for ourselves, not be acted upon.
Without Christ’s intervention, we would have been acted upon by the forces of the Fall. We would have become slaves to death and hell.
Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man.”2 Nephi 2:27
Expedient means suitable for achieving a particular end in a given circumstance. In our earthly state, God gives us everything suitable for choosing right from wrong.
And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”
What will I choose?
Do I heed the great Mediator who loves me, or let the devil who hates me and wants me to be miserable sway my choices?
It seems as if it should be an easy choice. So, why do we fall prey to the adversary so easily? Why would we ever leave the iron rod to follow a being who hates us and wants our misery?
I think the key is given repeatedly in the Book of Mormon. When we allow our hearts to get hard, we are easily deceived and become selfish. Selfishness and pride lead to the adversary’s side—captivity, death, misery.
Lehi tells his sons to “look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life.” (28)
Mediator means someone who reconciles differences. There is a huge difference between what justice requires and what we, on our own, can pay. Christ, our Mediator, pays the difference and satisfies the demands of justice and mercy. We could not do this ourselves. EVER!
To look means to direct our gaze in a particular direction. Lehi tells us to direct our focus to the great Mediator. To me, this means to always remember what He has done for us. That’s one of our baptismal covenants—it is vital that we look to Christ and live.