Latter-day Saints sometimes think that we do not believe in the concept of “original sin” found in Christianity. This concept suggests that, because of the fall of Adam and Eve, we have all become sinful and hence must be rescued by Christ from our fallen state (see Romans 3:23-24).
Actually, the Book of Mormon clearly teaches this idea. Where we differ from some other Christians is that we do not believe that the sin of our first parents was sexual in nature or that infants are born in sin. 1
Jacob, son of Lehi, declared that “if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, 2 to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself” (2 Nephi 9:8-9). 3
Having delivered this bad news, Jacob proclaimed that the atonement of Christ was the “way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit” (2 Nephi 9:10; see also vs. 19):
For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel (2 Nephi 9:26).
Jacob's brother Nephi also noted that “save Christ should come all men must perish” (2 Nephi 11:6).
The brother of Jared acknowledged that. “Because of the fall our natures have become evil continually” (Ether 3:2). Alma, explaining the fall of Adam and Eve, noted that “they had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature” and that mortality became a “probationary state” during which mankind might strive to overcome their evil nature (Alma 42:10).
Carnal, Sensual and Devilish
Humans are also called “carnal, sensual, and devilish” in other passages of scripture (Moses 5:13; 6:49; D&C 20:20; James 3:15). Mormon lamented, “O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!” (Helaman 12:4).
The prophet Abinadi expounded on this topic:
For they are carnal and devilish, and the devil has power over them; yea, even that old serpent that did beguile our first parents, which was the cause of their fall; which was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good, subjecting themselves to the devil.
Thus all mankind were lost; and behold, they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state.
But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him.
Therefore, he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God; and also is the devil an enemy to God. And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection.
But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ. (Mosiah 16:3-8)
King Benjamin taught these same principles in his final discourse to his people: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19). 4
Hearing his words, the people “viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men” (Mosiah 4:2).
Alma also discussed the fallen state of mankind, the atonement that rescues us from that fall, and the probationary state of mortality:
Adam did fall by the partaking of the forbidden fruit, according to the word of God; and thus we see, that by his fall, all mankind became a lost and fallen people.
And now behold, I say unto you that if it had been possible for Adam to have partaken of the fruit of the tree of life at that time, there would have been no death, and the word would have been void, making God a liar, for he said:
If thou eat thou shalt surely die. And we see that death comes upon mankind ... which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead.
Now, if it had not been for the plan of redemption, which was laid from the foundation of the world, there could have been no resurrection of the dead; but there was a plan of redemption laid, which shall bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, of which has been spoken.
And now behold, 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, and the word of God would have been void, taking none effect. (Alma 12:22-26)
To his errant son Corianton, Alma explained that “all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state” (Alma 41:11), and noted that this came about because of the fall of Adam and Eve:
And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will . . .
Therefore, as they had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature, this probationary state became a state for them to prepare; it became a preparatory state .