Plan-B Theology

NoCoolName_Tom wrote the following in a recent comment:

beyond the reality of a God-guided creation, a human-caused Fall, and an infinite Atonement, there isn’t much that I find in the Bible to be historically necessary.

Do we believe in a human-caused Fall? Is the great plan of happiness a plan B, forced upon us (and God) by his wayward children? I would tend to say no (strongly even), but I am curious to hear what you all have to say on the subject. Do we believe in Plan B theology?


  1. Well, Brigham Young sure didn’t. (grin)

  2. Mark D. says:

    I would say that Plan “B” was inevitable. A Plan A theology is tantamount to no theology at all – sort of a cross between Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. I don’t see how it is possible without depriving everyone of their free will.

  3. A human-caused fall (fall caused by sin and transgression – or choice of directive), a human-caused fall (fall defined as an imperfect mortal condition and the need to reach a perfect immortal condition), a human-caused fall (fall caused by the exercise of agency), etc. – Yes.

    A human-caused fall (Plan B in opposition to what God really wanted) – No. Not based on what I read of the pre-existent choice of a Savior and Redeemer as founded on the necessity to correct what inevitably would occur.

    (Having said that, I am intrigued by the concept of if a fall occurred in other worlds in the same way it occurred in ours, but I think that would require discussing certain quotes more openly than I am comfortable doing here.)

  4. Latter-day Guy says:

    Plan B? I don’t know what post coital contraception has to do with Adam and Eve…

    Seriously though, there are things that would suggest both yes and no: we are taught in the Pauline writings that Eve was deceived, which has caused some to speculate that A&E would have been given the fruit at a later time by God; that is, the sin was not necessarily in eating the fruit, but in doing so at the behest of Satan. Thus, eating the fruit was not bad, but was it at the time or in the manner the Lord would have preferred? A good question, especially considering one line the villian makes in the endowment, which I can’t quote here.

    More broadly, LDS teaching has taken pains to separate the concepts of foreordination and predestination, suggesting that we can either fulfill the calling that was given to us in the pre-mortal life, or not. If we do not, and someone else must pick up the slack, is that a Plan B? I think it must be. In the same vein, there are callings for which there could have been no understudy; ie: Savior.

    So I would say the answer is a very definite… “maybe.”

  5. Mondo Cool says:

    I gotta agree with Latter-day Guy. Peter says Christ was “slain _before_ the _foundation_ of the world” which means we needed someone to redeem us from the fall before the fall occurred. I think Lucifer was trying to usurp the process by offering the fruit. And because _he_ had done this, he was greatly cursed. That’s his MO – always wanting to be in place of God. So, my take is the need for a Savior was not a Plan B.

    *mumble – sounds like JWs. – mumble – A God who’s first pick blows it for everybody- mumble*

  6. I can actually imagine a non-human species of God’s children on some other planet not having the fall. They would come of age and become moral beings without ever having to commit murder, or be cruel to others, or sin in any other way. They might simply be more naturally empathetic and gentler beings than us, in the same way that a rabbit is gentler than a cat. Or just as some humans are naturally sweeter, more generous, and have more agreeable natures than others.

    So while I don’t think of it as Plan B, I think of it as our particular plan, geared to and dictated by our exact choices exercising our free agency from the very start of humankind. I think what happens to us throughout our entire history is very much contingent on what we choose. Just as it will be going forward, as well. We can choose to grow up as a species, act in sustainable ways, take care of the earth and all the other species, change our approach to life on earth, or we can keep on doing exactly what we’re doing until we go extinct taking a lot of other species along with us. I think it always was and always will be largely up to us.

  7. A couple thoughts:

    While it is possible to speculate regarding what has happened on other worlds, we only have evidence regarding this one. Any argument should attempt to explain what happens on this world, before turning to hypotheticals.

    On this world, we fell. If we believe in fate or a strong version of God’s foreknowledge, then it is ultimately his fault. If we believe in a very weak version of God’s foreknowledge, it might be solely our own fault, wherein we surprised God. I think that the actual LDS position is somewhere between the extremes of strong and weak foreknowledge, but closer to the strong version. After all, if the plan of redemption and the Savior were chosen from the beginning of the world, then it seems unlikely that we weren’t going to fall. Also, President Joseph Fielding Smith went to some length to argue that what Adam and Eve did was not a sin, but rather a transgression (a distinction that I don’t understand, but that appears to argue that it was okay for them to go against God’s will because God told them to).

    In any case, the concept of the Atonement being a “plan B” is completely foreign to the Book of Mormon. In that book, the Lord wants us to fall so that we will all repent. Interesting, no?

  8. If God is really omniscient and all powerful, than it has to be plan A.

    Knowing all things from the beginning, his acquiescence is an adoption and expression of will.

  9. NoCoolName_Tom says:

    I was just trying to be careful in how I worded things because my personal feelings on the fruit/tree stuff tends more towards symbolism than actual events. Adam and Eve “Fell”; I’ve always felt that it was due to their choice and agency — thus I’ve always felt it to be human-caused. Whether it was planned or not, I don’t know, but it feels too much like a Jack Chick tract to imagine some sort of Fall-less counterfactual (“Man, if it wasn’t for Adam, we’d have Heaven on Earth” and all that).

  10. I can’t follow this: Without a ‘fall’, things would have gone Satan’s way. So he came to the cause the “fall’ things would go God’s way?

  11. Bob, Just a possibility: The Fall was a foregone conclusion, particularly if it was defined as leaving the Father’s presence and making choices on our own. It was a given in the Plan. Satan lost the first battle to become our representative with the Father, but re-connected in this sphere in order to thwart the overall plan . Getting Adam and Eve to fall wasn’t the issue, since it was a foregone conclusion; getting them to choose to obey him instead of the Father and Jehovah was. They were told to keep two contradictory commands on their own, of their own free will (to act as agents unto themselves); Satan was trying to thwart that responsibility and get them to bow to someone else’s will (be acted upon).

    I’m not saying that has to be the correct interpretation, but it makes sense to me as a possibility. I look at the description we have of the War in Heaven, then I look at the account of the Garden of Eden, and I see enough similarities to accept that the Garden account might be allegorical – or at least merely representative. This is true particularly given the positioning of the participants in the temple relative to Adam and Eve.

  12. #11: “They were told to keep two contradictory commands on their own”…. It’s GOT to be simpler then this (If I am to follow). Oh well, back to my BBQ. Happy 4th!

  13. Sorry; forgot one thing: Placing the fall within the pre-existence as a given within the Plan of Salvation makes “Adam fell that men might be” and Nephi’s statement about no children MUCH more consistent and easier to understand. If Adam and Eve represent all of God’s children, and they were given the choice to remain in a state of innocence in the presence of a God (Lucifer) or to understand good and evil and make their own choices with only the promise of the future intervention of a God (Jehovah), then the depiction we have of the Garden fits perfectly as a way to show how that battle continues to play out in mortality.

    Again, just a possibility, but one I like.

  14. Sorry, Bob. I meant to type “choose between” two contradictory commandments, not “keep” two contradictory commandments. That simplifies things down to the core: choose your actions or let others choose them for you.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    I think the Fall and the Atonement were Plan A.

  16. Right on, Kevin.

  17. I guess for me to think this through, I must first know if we are talking about real persons,real places, real events.
    If real persons, what was their level of understanding in making their ‘choose ‘to take the Fall? How/why did they ‘choose’ a life of ‘Good and Evil”, when they did not know Good From Evil? Why did Satan throw the game, by playing into ‘Plan A”?

  18. Latter-day Guy says:

    Larry, RE: #8,

    I am not sure that that is defensible. Can we not use that then to argue that whatever happens is the Lord’s plan? Certainly whatever happens (or could happen–with few exceptions) will not frustrate the Lord’s plan, but wouldn’t the Lord prefer some things to go differently than they do? I am sure that we cause suffering which is not within the Lord’s plan, which, if avoided, would be a good thing.

    Was it God’s will, for instance, that J and H Smith be shot? Don’t you think that the gospel would have gone forward just fine had they lived? Had we not invaded Iraq, would the Plan of Salvation unraveled?

    There is the danger of buying into A. Pope’s protestation that “whatever is, is good.” I cannot stomach that. Consider Kimball’s (legendary) remarks about finding a spouse; that is, any two people who are willing to live the gospel can make a go of it. (Forgive the paraphrase.) Just like there is no valid concept of “the one” or “soul mates,” I don’t think that we can use omnipotence and omnicience as proofs of what is, essentially, predestination.

  19. This goes back to the question I never answered on the evolution thread.

    The Fall is, IMO, false doctrine. I know, heresy. But stay with me.

    Notice the capital T, capital F fall isn’t the fall the Savior redeems us from. It’s superstitious nonsense we’ve inherited from our fathers as a way to try to understand the Creation. Adam and Eve weren’t created with immortal, perfect bodies. Why would God waste his time with something silly and ridiculous like that? We didn’t come here to experience immortality, we came here to experience mortality. Why do we insist otherwise? Not to mention that if such were the case, then God is a monstrous trickster to fill the earth (and museums) with fossil and dinosaur evidence to the contrary of “No death before the fall”, etc.

    The actual fall is something each of us performs on our own, when we choose disobedience. When we choose to act like the animals we are, rather than sons and daughters of God that we wish to become. Everyone falls, ’cause everyone sins. Not because Adam and Eve “blew it” or transgressed or whatever. Whatever acts of disobedience the actual persons of Adam and Eve performed caused them to fall has nothing whatever to do with our fall. That’s all about us and our choices. See the 2nd article of Faith if you think I’m just making this up. The fall is nothing more than us separating ourselves from God by our willful acts of disobedience. This lower-case fall still requires a savior to redeem us from our follies. It simply takes the whole troublesome “no death before the fall but what do we do with T-rex teeth” dilemma and puts it where it belongs — in the rubbish heap of past folly and superstitious ignorance.

    This whole eating fruit business is strictly metaphor, allegory, whatever you want to call it — we are reminded in the Temple that Adam and Eve just represent each of us, symbolically. They were given a choice — remain in the brute animal kingdom, only worrying about eating, sleeping and mating (what most of society seems to care about anyway), or become like God — forgiving, loving, caring, repenting, etc. — the higher, harder path to Godhood. Your and my choice. We can prop up our feet at the end of the day and swig our beer and fry our brains in front of the TV, and play the brute, or we can try something more noble, uplifting, and worthwhile. Something that helps us BECOME like the Savior.

    Why would God waste His time creating a creature that is immortal, when His intention for said creature all along is to subject him/her to mortality in the first place? It’s a silly idea if you stop to think about it.

    We act like this is a big mystery. I just think someone way back got it all wrong and everyone since then keeps perpetuating this nonsense because nobody is willing to set the record straight. Abraham, Nephi, Bruce R. and Boyd K. — they all have it wrong. No biggie really, except it helps people in the church continue in ignorance. We as seekers of the truth need truth, not ignorant superstition masquerading as truth. And yet I’ll likely get beaten with the heresy stick for saying this out loud. Sigh.

    My $.02, FWIW.

  20. oops, I meant to say Moses, not Abraham. Old Abe probably understood it.

  21. Antonio Parr says:

    “False Doctrine”. “Heresy”. Don’t mince words with us — tell us what you ~really~ think . . .

    As for the Fall — I see Plan A as part descriptive and part prescriptive. Specifically, the descriptive element involves the propensity of humans to rebel. The prescriptive element was the sending of Jesus Christ to cure a Fall that was inevitable.

    I do not see the partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge — when God has expressly forbade such partaking — to be an act that is in any way worthy of praise, especially when at least one component, i.e., Eve’s partaking, was unquestionably the result of being tricked by Satan (at least according to “official” accounts of the Church). (I recognize that each of these accounts may be metaphor.) Whether historical or metaphorical, I can never imagine an instance where succumbing to the temptations of Satan is a good thing.

    In spite of all of the above, I go back to nocoolname Tom — which actually may be the coolest name on this board — and his statement that beyond the reality of a God-guided creation, a human-caused Fall, and an infinite Atonement, there isn’t much that I find in the Bible to be historically necessary. This is an intriguing thought, and may apply not only to the Bible, but to all of our Scriptures.

  22. Antonio Parr says:

    By way of clarification for #21, I don’t see the partaking of the fruit to be worthy of praise because it was (a) following the lead of Satan; and (b) done without any apparant consultation with God. Had Adam and Eve gone to God with their apparent dilemma, it is very possible that they would have been instructed to do what they did. However, when they tasted the fruit, they did so in disobedience of an explicit command of God.

  23. I just wanna say that in terms of Mormon theology, Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire is a pretty interesting film.

  24. The choice Eve & Adam made in the garden seems to represent the choice we all made in the preexistence–we all chose to leave a paradisical existence where there was no sin or death, to come to a world where we would be subject to pain and suffering (and their opposites) as well as temptation and death. The whole purpose is to gain knowledge and become more like God.

    In that sense, the garden of eden seems to be a representation of pre-earth life (and perhaps nothing more). And that would suggest no Plan-B.

  25. I am, generally speaking, opposed to the idea that the Garden of Eden story is simply a retelling of the war in heaven story. I can understand that logic, but I don’t see a compelling need to make it so. In fact, believing in an interventionist God as I do, it sort of ruins the whole thing.

    Perhaps I am just a throwback, tho.

  26. P. Nielsen says:

    Joseph Smith taught that predestination and foreordination are different things, but that the fall was foreordained. Brigham taught the same thing. Lehi implied it in 2 Nephi 2. I also like:

  27. Well, Eve asks satan, “Is there any other way.” Satan says no. Was Satan telling the truth? Adam and Eve were clearly commanded not to eat the fruit of the tree. But, Adam and Eve’s sin was not so much in the eating of the fruit as it was that they did it knowing that God forbad it and satan encouraged it.

    The fruit eating wasn’t their only sin. They went on sinning by harkening to satan again and covering their nakedness with figleaves. Obeying is worshiping.

    “That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill’; at another time He said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire.” –Joseph Smith

    I wonder what would have happened if Adam and Eve got together and said something like, “we need to eat of the fruit and die to have children, so, lets pray and tell God we are ready to give up the garden and ask permission to eat the fruit in order to comply with the commendment to multiply and replenish the Earth.” What if God were to have revoked his earlier commandment (D&C 56: 4).