Alma 42:6, LeGrand Baker, “appointed unto man to die”
6 But behold, it was appointed unto man to die
Death always gets a bad press in human culture. The reasons are quite obvious. What is left over after the spirit is gone may be down right gruesome, or if it isn’t, it soon begins to stink and having it around becomes macabre. So we get it stowed away as soon as it is practicable. But that’s just the point: all we get to see is the left overs.
Like to country preacher said: “We shouldn’t be mournin’ fer good ole Sadie. Its only the shell that’s here in the casket. The nut still lives on.”
We are appointed to die, and however we may think of it, the fact remains: the assurance that we can die is one of the greatest blessings of the Atonement.
A much beloved and frequently repeated scripture is this one about Adam and Eve. It reads,
15 And I, the Lord God, took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it.
16 And I, the Lord God, commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,
17 But of the tree of the 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. (Moses 3:15-17)
Every word in that scripture is important.
And I, the Lord God, commanded the man, saying…But of the tree of the 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.
God had to forbid it. The laws of justice and mercy insist that he do so. God could not have commanded them to eat that fruit, or even tell them that it would be OK, because if he had, then he would have been responsible for their expulsion from the Garden and into this world. If he had been responsible for putting us here, he also would have been equally responsible for getting us back. Had that happened, it would have left us without responsibility, without agency, purpose, or the freedom to be our Selves. We would have come, not to act, but to be acted upon. So his instructions were:
“nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee.”
What was true of Adam and Eve was equally true of ourselves. We did not leave the premortal spirit world because we were forced to come to this earth, but we left because we understood our Heavenly Father’s plan and trusted in the Saviour’s atonement. We came here because we chose to come. And now, having made that decision, we are free to make the decisions about what we will do while we are here. And that is what this experience is all about.
In those same verses, we read the words of the very first covenant that our Father in Heaven made with his earthly children.
“for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Because, from our this-world perspective, death is sometimes a fearful thing, those words are usually read as a curse rather than as a blessing. But they are not a curse, they are the words of the covenant that evoke one of our greatest blessings.
It is the promise that if God’s children chose to come to this earth, he guarantees that there will be a way to get out again. Being here forever—-living in this world’s tensions between good and evil forever—-would be a perpetual hell. We needed the experience of knowing and choosing, but there also had to be a promise that we wouldn’t have to be here forever. So Adam and Eve left the Garden with the knowledge that they could also leave this world, and that when that time came, the Atonement would make it possible that they take no baggage with them, except the products of their own choices.
The covenant to each of us is: “If you choose to go down into that dark and dreary world, then, after you have learned what you are supposed to learn, you may return home again. We are not compelled to stay there in this world because the Lord has provided a way for us to return to him. The fulfillment of that covenant is in the words: “thou shalt surely die.”