By Hollie Wells
An interesting part of the Adam and Eve story that I have tried to understand better is when the Lord places Cherubim and a flaming sword around the tree of life to keep Adam and Eve from partaking of its fruit (Genesis 3:24). In the Book of Mormon, Lehi is at the tree in his dream, and describes the fruit as being sweet above all that is sweet, so why were Adam and Eve kept from eating it?
Luckily, later in the Book of Mormon, we get some commentary on this from Alma. “What does the scripture mean, which saith that God placed cherubim and a flaming sword on the east of the garden of Eden, lest our first parents should enter and partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and live forever? And thus we see that there was no possible chance that they should live forever.
Now Alma said unto him: This is the thing which I was about to explain. … if it were possible that our first parents could have gone forth and partaken of the tree of life they would have been forever miserable, having no preparatory state; and thus the plan of redemption would have been frustrated.” (Alma 12: 21-26)
In ancient temples, there was embroidery of angels (cherubim) on the veil, standing to guard the way to the Holy of Holies, protecting unworthy mankind from the presence of God. There were also statues or some other likeness of angels at the gates of the temples, safeguarding the entrance there. So how does Adam and Eve’s experience and the ancient temple design relate to my modern temple worship? I always picture these guarding angels when I come to the temple and approach the recommend desk and see two welcoming temple workers there, or come to the veil and meet a temple worker there.
This week in my Book of Mormon study, I was reading 2 Nephi 2 which is an iconic sermon on Adam and Eve and their progression into mortality. Through the chapter, Lehi focuses a lot on opposition and makes an interesting comment that I have never considered until now. “After [God] had created our first parents … 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.” (Verse 15)
One of the tree’s fruits was sweet and the other was bitter! Although they only tasted one fruit in the garden, both Adam and Eve describe the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil as being delicious. It logically follows that the bitter fruit must have been the fruit of the tree of life. You wouldn’t think Lehi would teach about the fruit in this way, especially after having the dream of the same tree where the fruit was so sweet and delicious.
Adam and Eve weren’t ready for the Tree of Life. The fruit would have been bitter for them. They were just beginning their mortal journey and had a lot to learn. In the same way, God places safeguards around the covenants of the temple which lead to the sweet fruits of a covenant relationship in our lives. This “cherubim and a flaming sword” comes in the form of age requirements, worthiness, and a temple recommend. If we are not ready or unworthy to keep the temple covenants, receiving them would condemn us.
God safeguards the knowledge and covenants from those who are not ready or prepared as a merciful act of kindness, both to Adam and Eve and to us in modern day.