Friday, April 15, 2016

Which fruit is bitter and which is sweet?

I ran across a scripture recently that had something interesting about the forbidden fruit and the fruit of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden
And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, 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. (2 Nephi 2:15)
When I was looking at this scripture about the two fruits, I discovered I wasn’t sure which fruit is the sweet one and which is the bitter one.

If we go by the order they are mentioned, with the flavors corresponding to the same order that their fruits are mentioned, then the forbidden fruit was the sweet one and the tree of life had the bitter one.

A forbidden fruit
B tree of life
A sweet
B bitter

And this teaches us something about how temptations and commandments seem at first impression to the fallen man. Temptations seem sweet and commandments seem bitter.

However, it is possible that Lehi may be setting up a chiasmus in the order he talks about the fruit and their flavor.

A forbidden fruit
B tree of life
B sweet
A bitter

If the writing was meant to be read chiastically, then Lehi meant that the tree of life was sweet and the forbidden fruit was bitter.  This corresponds to how over the long term, giving into temptations yields bitterness, while complying with God’s commandments yields sweetness.

Since chiasm is used so much in the Book of Mormon, it is probably safest to read it the second way. Sometimes a western education will put us at a disadvantage in understanding the meaning of the Book of Mormon unless we can learn the manner of prophesying among the Jews, as Nephi did. 


Suzanne Benner said...

I've always thought it was the first way because of the "delicious to the taste" line.

Anonymous said...

LDS speakers and writers seem hesitant to state which fruit was bitter, perhaps because of something Harold B. Lee said back in 1956 April Conference, "The fruit of the one which was ‘bitter’ was the tree of life." However, I don't think Eve was lying to Adam when she said the fruit was delicious to the taste. I believe Lee mispoke. Nobody is infallible. But, metaphorically speaking, the Tree of Knowledge was bitter. Without the bitter experiences of mortality and its sting of death nobody would appreciate the sweetness of the Tree of Life (Jesus and His Redeeming Gift).

Suzanne Benner said...

There is no conflict between what Harold B Lee said and Eve's statement. If he said the tree of life was bitter, Eve was eating from the *other* tree... the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.