We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
Mormon doctrine asserts that Adam and Eve were real people, the first people, and the Garden of Eden was real, too. The transgression of partaking of the forbidden fruit was a necessary step for the progression and redemption of mankind. Because of the Fall, temptation, trials, and sin were introduced to the world. Mormon doctrine differs from mainstream Christianity in that Mormonism maintains that original sin was atoned for by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are all born into a fallen world, the consequence of Adam’s transgression, but we do not inherit original sin.
Mormonism teaches that according to God’s plan, Adam and Eve were illustrious spirits in the Pre-Mortal Existence. They were chosen to be our first parents. In order to guarantee their agency, when the Lord placed them in the Garden of Eden, He gave them two conflicting commandments: 1) to multiply and replenish the earth, and 2) to refrain from partaking of the forbidden fruit (the “fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil). The Garden of Eden was a paradise, wherein there was no illness or death, but also no procreation. While in the Garden, Adam and Eve could not bear children. When Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, she knew she would be cast out. The commandment to procreate could never then be upheld. Adam partook, so that he could leave the garden with Eve. The atonement of Christ, the central event of the Plan of Salvation, compensates for the sin of Adam, and provides a way that men might not suffer.
And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
The defining message in the above scriptural verses from the Book of Mormon is that which is written in bold. Adam fell for a purpose, that man might begin his mortal existence. The purpose of mortal existence is to attain joy. True joy can only be attained by a person who is resurrected and therefore has an immortal, perfect body. And joy is found in the heavenly realm where Christ Himself dwells.
We are not born sinful. According to Mormon doctrine, the age of accountability is eight. Prior to the age of eight, a person is not capable of sin or understanding the process of repentance, and those who die before this age are saved in the highest kingdom of heaven through the mercy of Jesus Christ. According to Mormon belief, the saving mercy of Jesus Christ is also extended to the mentally challenged, or others who are not in full possession of the ability to exercise their agency.
In the scriptures, it is written that all have sinned, but sinfulness is not an inherent trait. Every person’s thoughts, words, or deeds will, at sometime in life, be contrary to the laws of God. Justice forbids a sinner from entering the kingdom of God, but we will be punished for our own sins, not Adam’s. Fortunately for us, God is not only just, but merciful. Mercy provides us to accept Christ’s suffering as punishment for our sins; if we repent, we need not suffer, not even for those sins we ourselves committed.