Sweet Fruit, Bitter Fruit

After my previous musing, I thought I might share some more in depth thoughts on the subject…

…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)

So which was sweet and which was bitter. Surely our first thought must lead us to believe that the fruit of the tree of life was sweet, but not so (despite the opinions I’ve read on other blogs and sites). It was the forbidden fruit (the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil) that was sweet.

The fruit of the one which was “bitter” was the tree of life, and the forbidden fruit was the one which was “sweet to the taste” Harold B. Lee CR April 56 page 109.

Harold B. Lee also stated:

Now that is the way it ofttimes sounds, that the things that are forbidden are the things which are the most desirable, and the things that are right for us are sometimes pretty bitter pills for us to swallow, as we say. (Teachings of Harold B. Lee pg. 13-14)

It makes sense to me that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was sweet to the taste. It is a desireable thing to have knowledge of good and evil. Recognizing the sweetness of the fruit of this tree may have meant that yes, they possibly did partake of the fruit of the tree of life. God say they could surely eat of any tree in the garden except for the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

… it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet. (D&C 29:39)

So this begs the question, was the tree of life that Lehi partook of in his dream the same tree of life in the garden of eden? The surroundings sound much different and there was no cheribum and flaming sword guarding it. This one I don’t know. It may have been “just a parable.” It does represent the tree of life in the interpretation given by Nephi.

And just maybe the fruit of the tree of life is “most precious and most desirable above all other fruits” now, but was not at the time. Have any of us eaten fruit that tasted bitter, but would have been more sweet if we’d just given it a bit more time to ripen?

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9 thoughts on “Sweet Fruit, Bitter Fruit”

  1. I think that the two trees in Lehi’s dream and the garden of Eden are the same. But there was a change in the nature of the fruit. I think that Christ made the bitter fruit sweet! 2 Ne 8:22, Luke 22:42-44, 3 Ne 11:11.

    Further I think that the tree of life is something which we must grow on a personal basis with the Lord, see Alma 32.

    Perhaps the reason Laman and Lemuel couldn’t come and partake of the fruit in Lehi’s dream was because they had no tree to come to.

  2. I think the two “trees of life” are different.

    As mentioned above, in the garden of Eden, there were two trees: the tree of knowledge of good and evil, whose fruit was sweet (we know this from the various accounts of Adam and Eve); and the tree of life, whose fruit was bitter (acc. to 2 Nephi 2).

    In Nephi and Lehi’s dream, however, the tree of life represents the love of God, and the fruit is sweet above all other fruit.

    The Book of Mormon tells us that that tree of life in the garden of Eden would have unconditionally granted immortality to Adam and Eve if they had partaken of it in their mortal state (Alma 41:5). For that reason the Lord had to physically guard the tree; otherwise they would have become immortal, having no space to repent.

  3. Thanks so much for this. Very interesting read. It’s nice to know that others have been grappling with this question. I’ve been pondering it for weeks and you have provided invaluable insights and information. I appreciate it. I just couldn’t come to terms with reconciling the idea of the bitter fruit of the tree of life Eden and the sweet fruit of the tree of life in Lehi’s vision. But, I agree that they don’t appear to be the same trees. The one in Eden seems to refer to immortality, while the one in Lehi’s vision (representing the love of God) seems to bring eternal life. That is a crucial difference that I’m grateful for the restored Gospel for clarifying.

    That also explains why Nephi would be so anxious to share the fruit with his family, versus the other tree which was forbidden with cherubim and a flaming sword.

    Again, I’m grateful for these insights for clarifying my question. I feel I understand the vision and the principle of opposition in all things so much better now.

  4. I also have to say that, while you made a good point about it being sweet to know good from evil, I think what was truly sweet was the ability to have children and families. If you look later in that chapter, verse 23:

    “And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.”

    Truly that is a very sweet (and perhaps sweetest of all) blessing of this difficult mortal life.

  5. I think you are all out of your minds! You do not read the scriptures carefully enough, and you allow Mormon Myths that are not offical Church doctrine to infiltrate your interpretations and guide your selective use of scripture verses you have pulled out of context! Then you mix in a heavy dose of speculation to engage in a form of silly trivial pursuit, arguing and discussing such impertinent things as this!

    I bet there are some of you who, in the name of “tasting the bitter in order to know the sweet,” have gone out of your way to deliberately sin, just to move the process along!

    Think about it! If “sin” is necessary and required of God, then how can it be SIN? If it is an unavoidable part of mortality, then how can any just person (or just god for that matter) rightly punish a person for doing that which is unavoidable?

    Your absurd doctrines twist morality, completely undermine virtue and discernment, and make a mockery of God. How can anyone have faith in a “god” who would “deceive us in order to better enlighten us”? How can you condemn a murderer from this perspective because for ought you know he is carrying out the will of God – creating bitter so that you can better appreciate the sweet! With such an ignorant view of God and morality, you must pay homage to Hitler for all the “sweet” he created in the world by causing so much bitter death!

    That is just sick!

  6. Wow. That seems unnecessarily harsh and judgmental. You are accusing people here of things of which you can have no knowledge. And you show a fundamental lack of understandings of our doctine. Sin is unavoidable, but we do the best we can and we have Christ to make up the difference. No one can overcome his or her own sins, so God sent us His perfect son to perform the Atonment that those who try their hardest and repent for the sins they’ve committed might be washed clean. Imperfections and sins are unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean they are to be reveled in. Nobody here is saying that. Nobody here is praising sin and nobody is saying God is unjust. That was just a harsh and unnecessary rant. Seriously. Rude.

  7. If you look up the word bitter in the index of the Book of Mormon, it says: 2 Nephi 2:15 tree of life, being sweet, is in opposition to forbidden fruit, being b.; 15:20 (Isa. 5:20) wo unto them that put b. for sweet; ….
    I learned a while ago that the index of the Book of Mormon paraphrases some scriptural references. I believe the index was written under the direction of President Monson, at the time Elder Monson. I believe also, that this passage of scripture is what is called a chiasm. That is, the ABBA sequence rather than ABAB sequence. “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last”. So “A” (of the ABBA sequence) = “the forbidden fruit”, “B” = “the tree of life”, “B” = sweet, “A” = “bitter”.

  8. just to shead a little light onto the one blog about lamen and lemual not partaking of the fruit in lihi’s dream if i can recall what happened was that lamen and lemual were dissobedient to lehi (their fater) and chose not to partake of the fruit. but i still ponder this question.i completely agree that the one other blogger was completely rude obviously he does not understand the book of mormon perhaps we could educate him.

  9. I enjoyed reading the above perspectives on 2 Ne 2:15 having just read it. I do agree that the other blogger seems to misunderstand the meaning of sin, the experience of life, and the role of the atonement. If I may quote from Bruce C. Hafen:“We might think of the degree of our personal fault for the bad things that happen in our lives as a continuum ranging from sin to adversity, with the degree of our fault dropping from high at one end of the spectrum to zero at the other. At the “sin” end of the continuum, we bear grave responsibility for our deliberately wrongful actions and the suffering they cause. We bring the bitter fruits of sin fully upon ourselves. But at the other end of the spectrum, marked by “adversity”, we may bear no responsibility at all…. We may experience trouble not only because of transgression but because it is a natural, even essential, part of life. Between the poles of sin and adversity along this fault-level continuum are such immediate points as unwise choices and hasty judgments, in which it is often unclear just how much personal fault we bear for the bitter fruits we may taste or cause others to taste.”(by Bruce C. Hafen, “The Broken Heart” , pages 10-11
    “King Benjamin taught that the Atonement applies fully to ignorant transgression as to deliberate transgression, even though the degree of wrongful motive varies so widely between these two categories that they hardly seem sinful in the same sense. (Study Mosiah 3:11-12; 3 Nephi 6:18) This comparison suggests that the scriptures may use the term sin with different meanings in different contexts. … For example, Bible scholars have established that our Old Testament uses the English word sin to translate Hebrew phrases that should more precisely have been interpreted as “missing the point,” or as describing “those who had lost their way” or those who “even with the best intentions were in difficulty”. … In the Greek conception, “guilt” and “sin” cover “everything from crime to harmless faults”. It is by no means clear that the Atonement would apply to all these usages of the word sin, but it applies to many of them, especially when the effects of the choice or conduct are the same as the effects of evil-based sin – harm to ourselves or others and estrangement from God…. It appears that the degree of repentance required may vary with the degree of conscious wrongdoing involved, because the repentance potion of Atonement doctrine is primarily concerned with a changing heart. But the healing and compensating potions of the doctrine reach to include the effects of actions that were not necessarily motivated by knowing rebellion.” (by Bruce C. Hafen, “The Broken Heart”, pages 13-15)

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