The atonement of Jesus Christ is the most important event in the history of the world. It is the central point and focus of God’s Plan of Salvation for us.
Mormon doctrine holds a different view of the fall of Adam and Eve than does the rest of the Christian world. Mormons see it as a necessary step in the plan of salvation. Mormons do not believe in “original sin,” but that babies are born in innocence and remain innocent until they are old enough to know right from wrong and understand the process of repentance — around age eight, which is when willing Mormon children are baptized.
The Garden of Eden was paradise, but there was no death and no birth. In order to “multiply and replenish the earth,” Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden of Eden for a lower sphere.
And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not 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.
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. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy (2 Nephi 2:22-25).
Two Kinds of Death were Overcome by Christ
The fall of Adam brought two kinds of death into the world — physical death, and spiritual death (sometimes called the “Second Death”), which is defined as separation from God. The atonement of Christ has overcome both. Christ was the first-fruits of the resurrection, and because of this, all will be resurrected — both the wicked and the righteous people of the earth, and indeed, all living things.
Christ also has overcome spiritual death by taking our sins upon Him. In Gethsemane, He took upon Himself all of our sorrows, regrets, and sufferings. So much did He suffer, that He bled from every pore. Christ also suffered the wrath of His father in our behalf. Then He willingly gave His life as the final great and infinite sacrifice, that those who repent and believe on His name may never have to suffer for their own sins. We have some indication of how much Christ suffered when we read His warning to those who reject Him and therefore must suffer for their own sins:
Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men (Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-19).
Through Christ’s atonement and through our repentance and belief on His name, we may be purified. Although we can’t work our way to heaven, or ever become perfect enough using our own power to return to God’s presence, through the grace of Christ we can be washed clean and gain exaltation into the presence of God for eternity. Thus, Christ has overcome the Second Death for us.
What Does it Mean to be “Born in Innocence”?
Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcisionis done away in me.
And after this manner did the Holy Ghost manifest the word of God unto me; wherefore, my beloved son, I know that it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children. Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.
And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins. But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism! Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell.
Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy. For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing—(Moroni 8:8-13, 19, 22).
Thus, little children who die are saved and exalted into God’s presence in the highest realm of heaven.
We are not Responsible for Adam’s Transgression
The second of the Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ says the following: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.”
Born in innocence, each of us comes into this world filled with the Light of Christ. This light acts as our conscience and is meant to help us to make those decisions that will lead us to the presence of God. If we are sensitive to it, it will lead us to seek Him. The Lord is willing to answer the prayers of those who present themselves humbly at His feet. Personal revelation from on high is available for all sincere seekers. Personal revelation, heavenly guidance, can teach us our personal responsibility for our own salvation, through the ever-available grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.