And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, 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.
And I, Lehi, according to that 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 2:15, 17, 18
I was thinking about these scriptures one Sunday a while ago, and wondering about Satan’s reasons for tempting Eve. We know, as Lehi teaches his sons, that it was because he wanted all mankind to be as miserable as he now was. But how?
I wonder if he wanted Eve, and Adam, to eat the forbidden fruit because he believed they would be undone by its bitterness (verse 15 above). That the reality of mortal life would be more awful/depressing/soul-stretching than they could handle (which was the theme of his alternative plan in the pre-mortal heavens), and they, too, would become miserable forever as a result.
If that’s true, then he hadn’t accounted for the redemptive power of Christ’s Atonement – His ability to turn suffering into joy; to make it sanctifying to our souls. He hadn’t understood that the suffering of mortality would actually lead people to become more like God – lead upward, not downward. Eve and Adam would become like God not just by subverting authority and getting the knowledge Satan implied God was witholding from them, but becoming as He is through the stretching experiences of mortality. It could only be accomplished through the ‘bitter’ fruit of knowledge that this life brings, and salvation from suffering-without-redemption (without meaning or purpose) could only occur through God’s mercy, shown in the grace of His Son.
We have to taste the bitter fruits of knowledge before we can approach the sweetness of eternal life. But that bitterness doesn’t overwhelm us because the Saviour has tasted all of it – He knows fully how bitter it really is. And His grace (saving power) makes it possible for us to endure it well, and to joy in the knowledge it gives. He makes the bitter sweet, by leading us to the Tree of Life – even in the midst of our gaining of knowledge, we have glimpses and tastings of the beauty of this other tree.
The misery or despair that Satan desired for all the other spirit children of God, as a result of the bitterness of mortal experience, does abound – but it abounds because of the false doctrines he has placed in people’s minds regarding the body and spirit, the purposes of life (or lack of), and who we really are – where we’re from, what will become of us after we die, etc. Philosophies like existentialism, humanism, and erroneous religious creeds cause un-needed suffering – agony of heart and mind, either in the not-knowing (of the answers to those questions) or the conviction of an awful fate/annihilation/some other horrifying misconception.
But the truth is that we live in the pursuit of joy (2 Nephi 2:25). Bitter experience leads to joy, when combined with correct knowledge of the purposes of existence and life, the realities of God, and our Saviour’s grace through His Atonement.
So even the first bitter event of this world – Satan’s misguided attempt to turn aside the Plan of Happiness by pushing mankind to experience what he thought would be the misery of mortality – was redeemed by God’s perfect love, becoming the means of progression and salvation. Jesus Christ truly does make weak things strong unto us (Ether 12:27).