Where as ldssdc.info is no longer available, I’m reposting this to keep the information available.
The Standard of Truth Part 2
What’s the Truth regarding Adam and Eve’s nakedness in the Garden of Eden?
By Michael S. Ai, Southern California
The story of Adam and Eve is one of the primary arguments used by the proponents of the “nudity is evil” concept. Since it’s one of the first stories in scripture, I’ll examine this argument first.
As with all scripture, we have two interpretive paradigms: (1) literal interpretation, in which the words of the scripture are taken at their literal meaning; and (2) symbolic interpretation, in which the symbols of the scripture are examined for their representative meaning.
The symbolic interpretation, by its very nature, produces many levels of meaning depending on the interpreter’s ability to understand and readiness to accept the deeper truths. The deeper we go with symbolic interpretation, the closer we get to understanding the mysteries of godliness, or in other words, the knowledge of God.
This knowledge of God, which is required for our becoming gods, is buried deep in symbolism so that only those who truly desire to possess it can access it.
This is why God and Christ—The Master Teacher—chose to use symbolic teaching: The most precious of all understanding is hidden away from those who either don’t desire it or who are unready to understand and receive it. Additionally, symbolic teaching allows God to lead the humble and willing deeper and deeper to the priceless knowledge of God, as He teaches them line-upon-line.
Accordingly, doctrine can be either static or dynamic depending on our interpretive paradigm. If we choose to take a literal interpretation, doctrine becomes static, as the meaning of words rarely changes.
On the other hand, if we choose to take a symbolic interpretation, doctrine becomes dynamic, constantly changing as our ability to understand and willingness to accept Truth increases. But that’s another discussion for another time.
As there are two possible interpretations to the Adam and Eve story, and since the vast majority of people—especially the proponents of the “nudity is evil” concept—take a literal interpretation to scripture, I’ll examine whether the literal interpretation meets the Standard of Truth.
Remember, the Standard of Truth is this: (1) Truth is “the way things really are” whether or not we understand it, whether or not we believe it, whether or not we accept it; and (2) Truth never changes throughout all time, culture, circumstance, opinion, belief, etc. In other words, there must be no exceptions when examined from all angles.
What’s the literal interpretation?
To keep this post as short as possible I will summarize most of the story rather than provide the actual scriptural verses. The story is so common that I believe everyone will understand that I present the story correctly. If you’d like, you can verify my presentation of the story by referring to your scriptures.
Here are the main ideas of the story according to the literal interpretation:
- God created the earth so His children could live upon it and gain the understanding necessary to become as He is. In other words, God created the earth as a step in His plan to bring all of his children into Godhood.
- God placed two people—a male and a female—upon the earth to begin the human race. God called the man Adam and the woman Eve.
- God married these two people.
- God created a Garden, called Eden, and placed the husband and wife in the Garden. The Garden of Eden spontaneously brought forth an infinite abundance of beauty and plenty.
- In Moses 3:25 we read: “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” The word “naked” is synonymous with “nude,” which means “without physical clothing.”
- Adam and Eve dwelled in the presence of God in the Garden, where they walked and talked with Him.
- God told Adam and Eve that there were three types of trees in the Garden: the Tree of Life, the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, and all other trees.
- In Moses 3:16, 17, we read: “And I, the Lord God, commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember, that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
- Lucifer tempted Adam first to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, but he refused. Next, Lucifer tempted Eve and she partook of the fruit. She then presented it to Adam, who also partook.
- In Moses 4:13-17, we read: “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they had been naked. And they sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God, as they were walking in the garden, in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife went to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And, I, the Lord God, called unto Adam, and said unto him: Where goest thou? And he said: I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I beheld that I was naked, and I hid myself. And, I, the Lord God, said unto Adam: Who told thee thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, if so thou shouldst surely die?”
- In another version of the story, when they heard the voice of God, Lucifer said: “See, you are naked. Take some fig leaves and make you aprons. Father will see your nakedness. Quick hide.”
- God explained to Adam and Eve that because they had partaken of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, they would be cast out of the Garden and they would enter the Lone & Dreary World in which they would eat their bread by the sweat of their faces. In addition, God had them make a very significant covenant.
- In Moses 4:27, we read: “Unto Adam, and also unto his wife, did I, the Lord God, make coats of skins, and clothed them.”
From this literal interpretation, the following conclusions have been drawn:
- Nudity is evil. In other words, it’s evil for others to see one’s nude body and it’s evil for one to see another’s nude body.
- Until Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, they didn’t know they were committing sin because they didn’t yet know the difference between good and evil.
- Once they partook of the forbidden fruit, they opened their eyes and came to understand that they were committing sin by being nude together.
- Because nudity is evil, God gave them coats of skin to cover their nude bodies when He expelled them from the Garden of Eden.
Do these conclusions meet the Standard of Truth?
Now, let’s evaluate these conclusions to see if they meet the Standard of Truth.
In D&C 1:31 we read:
“For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”
The word “allow” means “to give permission to” or “permit.”
The word “degree” in this context means “extent, measure, or scope.”
Accordingly, the above verse explains that God cannot permit sin in the least degree, or to any extent.
Further, in 1 Nephi 10:21 (among many other scriptural verses) we read:
“…and no unclean thing can dwell with God.”
Finally, in D&C 29:40, 41, we read:
“Wherefore, it came to pass that the devil tempted Adam, and he partook of the forbidden fruit and transgressed the commandment, wherein he became subject to the will of the devil, because he yielded unto temptation. Wherefore, I, the Lord God, caused that he should be cast out from the Garden of Eden, from my presence, because of his transgression, wherein he became spiritually dead, which is the first death…”
So, if nudity—seeing others nude and being seen nude by others—is evil, then Adam and Eve would have committed sin before they partook of the forbidden fruit.
Whether they understood their sin or not, they would have been guilty, as ignorance is not a defense. As explained earlier, God cannot look upon sin with any degree of allowance, including permitting it because of ignorance.
The justice of God (in addition to the Standard of Truth) would have demanded that Adam and Eve be cast out of the presence of God due their committing the sin of being nude. Yet, they weren’t. Why? They weren’t cast out of God’s presence until after they partook of the forbidden fruit, meaning that they would have been permitted to commit sin by being nude while in the presence of God.
In D&C 29, we read that they didn’t become subject to the devil’s will until after they partook of the forbidden fruit, not because they were nude. However, if their nudity was evil, they would have become subject to the devil’s will before they partook of the forbidden fruit. This alone would have caused them to become unworthy of God’s presence and accordingly would have cast them out of His presence. Again, they remained in God’s presence in their sinful, nude state. Why?
At this time Adam and Eve were the only two people on the face of the earth. They were husband and wife. The prevailing belief both within and without the church today is that it is perfectly okay for husband and wife to be nude together, for them to see each other’s nude body.
If it was evil for Adam and Eve to be nude together, the Standard of Truth requires that it would be evil for husband and wife to be nude together today. In other words, if it was evil then, it has to evil now. Similarly, if it’s okay today, then it was okay in their day.
Who told Adam and Eve that they were nude? Was it God? No, it was Lucifer. Lucifer was the one who told them that they were nude and that they should cover up, not God; and that raises some very significant questions.
If it were evil for Adam and Eve to be nude together, why would God place them in the Garden in that state of undress? Would God even be capable of placing them in a sinful situation?
If it were evil for Adam and Eve to be nude, why would God not teach them that when He placed them in the Garden? Why would He not have given them “coats of skin” before their fall instead of after it?
Further, if nudity were evil, why would Lucifer be the one to teach them that? In fact, why would Lucifer even say anything about their nudity? Wouldn’t he want them to commit sin? Why would he try to prevent or cover it up? Why wouldn’t he try to get them to sin? If nudity was evil, wouldn’t Lucifer want them to remain nude? Wouldn’t he want to cause them misery by having God discover their nudity?
Interestingly, the first thing that concerned them after their “eyes were opened” was not that they had violated God’s commandment to not partake of the forbidden fruit with its accompanying sentence of death, but that they were nude. Why? According to our records, God gave no commandment about being nude, yet they were concerned about their nudity instead of being concerned about the consequences of partaking of the forbidden fruit.
If the prevailing belief that Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the Garden of Eden before the fall is true, then God would have seen these two adults in their nude state many times. Since we don’t know how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden before they partook of the forbidden fruit, they could have been there for an extremely long time, in which case, God would have conceivably seen them nude countless times.
If nudity is evil, God would have perfectly understood that. So, while most proponents of the “nudity is evil” concept argue that Adam and Eve didn’t know they were committing sin, they can’t argue that God didn’t know they were committing sin. In fact, if it’s evil to see others nude, which is part of the “nudity is evil” concept, then God Himself would have committed sin each time He saw them—particularly Eve—nude.
Now, it’s conceivable that the response to this observation would be: Well, God is perfect and would have had purity of thought when seeing Adam and Eve nude. Let’s assume that’s true. What would the ramifications of that be?
First, it would mean that seeing another’s nude body (particularly a nude body of the opposite sex, since that’s a major part of the “nudity is evil” concept) is not what would be evil. Instead, it would be the observer’s impure thoughts that are evil.
Accordingly, if one possessed pure thoughts while seeing someone nude, then it would not be sin, but perfectly okay.
Second, it would destroy the idea that Adam and Eve’s nudity in the Garden was evil because at that point Adam and Eve weren’t capable of having impure thoughts.
Third, it would suggest that if we are to become like God, having purity of thought as He has purity of thought, then we would need to develop that same characteristic at some point, the sooner the better.
It would also suggest that seeing nude bodies, especially those of the opposite sex, would be necessary in order to develop that ability. Otherwise, the growth and development couldn’t begin.
Adam and Eve created fig-leaf aprons to “cover their nakedness.” Curiously, the aprons only covered the groin area, as indicated by the apron used in the temple endowment. How could these aprons even come close to covering their nudity?
Further, God had already seen their nakedness while walking and talking with Adam and Eve in the Garden. Why would His seeing their nakedness be any different after partaking of the forbidden fruit than it was before?
Next, they made the aprons and hid in order to cover their nakedness from God. Why do both? If they made aprons so Father wouldn’t see their nakedness, why would they have to hide?
When God calls for them and asks why they hid, Adam explained that they hid because they were naked. Why would he say that? They had already made aprons to cover their nakedness so why hide?
After the fall God gave Adam and Eve coats of skin to cover their nakedness, yet we have no record of Him teaching them that nudity is evil. Further, if nudity is evil, why didn’t God give them the coats of skin when He placed them in the Garden? Why wait until after they partook of the forbidden fruit? Is it possible that the coats of skin had to do with the fall and not with their nudity?
When I consider all of the inconsistencies and contradictions associated with the conclusions drawn from a literal interpretation of this story, it’s very clear to me that these conclusions do NOT meet the Standard of Truth. Therefore, in my mind, they are in error.
Consequently, if the concept of “nudity is evil” is in error, what is the truth about nudity?
One final thought: If we consider a symbolic interpretation of this story, we remove the inconsistencies and contractions because “nakedness” no longer refers to Adam and Eve’s nude state. Instead, the symbolic interpretation makes perfect sense. It gives us the correct understanding of what “naked” really means; and it gives us greater understanding of how we separate ourselves from God and how we can “redeem” ourselves and return to God’s presence.
That’s where the “coats of skin” comes in.