The Three Great Pillars of the Gospel

Three Great Pillars: Creation, Fall, Atonement.

Genesis 1: 26-27.  We are created in God’s image.

Agency and Consequences:
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-19.

  • Why did God command Adam and Eve to not partake of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge, when He knew it was part of the Eternal Plan? – Quote 1
  • Why was Lucifer allowed into the Garden of Eden? – Quote 2
  • What’s the difference between freedom and agency? – Quote 3


These three are absolutely necessary for our eternal progression, and follow one after another, and are dependent upon one another.

5 fundamental principles to understand the Fall:

  1. 2 Nephi 2:4 And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free. [There is a constant that outlives and exceeds this earth life and time frame.]
  2. 2 Nephi 2:4 The Fall was planned for as a central part of the Plan.
  3. 2 Nephi 2:4 Salvation is free. See 2 Nephi 9
  4. 2 Nephi 2:5 And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever. [As descendants of Heavenly Father we all have the light of Christ in us. This means we all know right from wrong, good from evil.]
  5. 2 Nephi 2:5 By the law no flesh is justified.  This statement sets forth the need for a Redeemer. Justified means, in a theological sense, to be right with, or in order with God. It means to represent righteousness, to represent no sin. The law of justification states that breaking a commandments requires a punishment, and obedience gives blessings. No one is saved by the law because if you break the law, you have sin, and “no unclean thing can dwell… in His presence.” (see Moses 6:57). So by the law, as soon as we sin, our salvation is lost.

With these fundamentals understood, there are two ways to reach the state our Father in Heaven has. 1) Fulfill all covenants and commandments and never sin during this phase in life. 2) Someone who has done number one pay the penalty for someone who has not.  Jesus Christ did the first, and IS the second for everyone else.

Quote 1 [ top ]
For reasons that have not been revealed, this transition, or “fall,” could not happen without a transgression—an exercise of moral agency amounting to a willful breaking of a law (see Moses 6:59). This would be a planned offense, a formality to serve an eternal purpose. The Prophet Lehi explained that “if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen” (2 Ne. 2:22), but would have remained in the same state in which he was 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” (2 Ne. 2:23).

But the Fall was planned, Lehi concludes, because “all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things” (2 Ne. 2:24).

It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same. And thus Eve and “Adam fell that men might be” (2 Ne. 2:25).

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 (see Bruce R. McConkie, “Eve and the Fall,” Woman, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979, pp. 67–68). Joseph Smith taught that it was not a “sin,” because God had decreed it (see The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980, p. 63). Brigham Young declared, “We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least” (in Journal of Discourses, 13:145). Elder Joseph Fielding Smith 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!” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 1:114–15).

This suggested contrast between a sin and a transgression reminds us of the careful wording in the second article of faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (emphasis added). It also echoes a familiar distinction in the law. Some acts, like murder, are crimes because they are inherently wrong. Other acts, like operating without a license, are crimes only because they are legally prohibited. Under these distinctions, the act that produced the Fall was not a sin—inherently wrong—but a transgression—wrong because it was formally prohibited. These words are not always used to denote something different, but this distinction seems meaningful in the circumstances of the Fall.

Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Nov 1993,  72

Quote 2 [ top ]
Lucifer in clever ways manipulates our choices, deceiving us about sin and consequences. He, and his angels with him, tempt us to be unworthy, even wicked. But he cannot, in all eternity he cannot, with all his power he cannot completely destroy us; not without our own consent. Had agency come to man without the Atonement, it would have been a fatal gift.

We are taught in Genesis, in Moses, in Abraham, in the Book of Mormon, and in the endowment that man’s mortal body was made in the image of God in a separate creation. Had the Creation come in a different way, there could have been no Fall.

If men were merely animals, then logic favors freedom without accountability.

How well I know that among learned men are those who look down at animals and stones to find the origin of man. They do not look inside themselves to find the spirit there. They train themselves to measure things by time, by thousands and by millions, and say these animals called men all came by chance. And this they are free to do, for agency is theirs.

But agency is ours as well. We look up, and in the universe we see the handiwork of God and measure things by epochs, by eons, by dispensations, by eternities. The many things we do not know we take on faith.

But this we know! It was all planned before the world was. Events from the Creation to the final, winding-up scene are not based on chance; they are based on choice! It was planned that way.

Humbly I lay claim upon the atonement of Christ. I find no shame in kneeling down in worship of our Father and His son. For agency is mine, and this I choose to do!

Boyd K. Packer, “Atonement, Agency, Accountability,” Ensign, May 1988,  69

Quote 3 [ top ]
Seventh, we should be aware that some people are more susceptible to some addictions than other people. Perhaps such susceptibility is inborn, like the unnamed ailment the Apostle Paul called “a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” (2 Corinthians 12:7). One person has a taste for nicotine and is easily addicted to smoking. Another person cannot take an occasional drink without being propelled into alcoholism. Another person samples gambling and becomes a compulsive gambler.

Perhaps these persons, as the saying goes, were “born that way.” But what does this mean? Does it mean that persons with susceptibilities or strong tendencies have no choice, no free agency in these matters? Our doctrine teaches us otherwise. Regardless of a person’s susceptibility or tendency, his will is unfettered. His free agency is unqualified. It is his freedom that is impaired. Other persons are more free; though they unwisely sample the temptations, they seem immune to the addiction. But regardless of the extent of our freedom, we are all responsible for the exercise of our free agency.

As Lehi taught, in mortality we are only free “according to the flesh” (2 Nephi 2:27). Most of us are born with thorns in the flesh–some more visible, some more serious than others. We all seem to have susceptibilities to one disorder or another, but whatever our susceptibilities, we have the will and the power to control our thoughts and our actions. This must be so. God has said that he holds us accountable for what we do and what we think, so these must be controllable by our agency. Once we have reached the age or condition of accountability, “I was born that way” does not excuse actions or thoughts that fail to conform to the commandments of God. We need to learn how to live so that a weakness that is mortal will not prevent us from achieving the goal that is eternal.

God has promised that he will consecrate our afflictions for our gain (see 2 Nephi 2:2). The efforts we expend in overcoming an inherited weakness build spiritual strength that will serve us throughout eternity. Thus, when Paul prayed thrice that his “thorn in the flesh” would depart from him, the Lord replied, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Obedient, Paul concluded,

Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. [2 Corinthians 12:9­10]

Whatever our susceptibilities or tendencies, they cannot subject us to eternal consequences unless we exercise our free agency to do or think the things forbidden by the commandments of God. For example, a susceptibility to alcoholism impairs its victim’s freedom to partake without addiction, but his free agency allows him to abstain and thus escape the physical debilitation of alcohol and the spiritual deterioration of addiction.

Free Agency and Freedom,” Dallin H. Oaks was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this fireside address was given at Brigham Young University on 11 October 1987.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • PDF
  • RSS

Related Posts: