Brigham’s garden

By: J. Stapley - March 01, 2006

The garden of Mormonism is poetic and primal. A place of purpose – where we shed the shell of innocence, where we stretch the wings of new wisdom. There are many gardens in the Mormon narrative and perhaps the most controversial and obscure is Brigham’s, though it too is beautiful.

Speaking of our grand archetypes:

they will go into the garden, and continue to eat and drink of the fruits of the corporeal world, until this grosser matter is diffused sufficiently through their celestial bodies to enable them, according to the established laws, to produce mortal tabernacles…(1)

Otherwise stated, they “became mortal by eating the fruits of the earth, which was earthy.” (2)

Brigham’s narrative is no longer favored and it fuels the critical engines of many antagonistic to Mormonism. Regardless of controversy surrounding Edenic historicity, and despite my personal belief in a disparate garden, several aspects of Brigham’s resonate. Unlike others, here the transition is gradual, not instantaneous. The more Adam and Eve take of the fruit of the earth, the more they become earthy themselves. There is also no blame, something shocking considering that Brigham’s intimacy with our Temple liturgy.

Placing oneself in the Garden is not a foreign concept to Mormonism. Perhaps we all partake of the fruit of this world and slowly emerge from the haven we come to, changed. For many, the process is swift. For others it lasts a lifetime. The fruit makes us earthy, but it is also empowering.

There are many gardens in our history. While Brigham’s garden lays in an extremity, no longer frequented, it remains a powerful iconoclasm. Mormonism is founded in the concepts of our original progenitors. Who knows where they walked?

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  1. JD vol. 6 pg. 275
  2. An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton, p.433

9 Comments

  1. Nice.

    I think it is telling that when we want to talk about interesting aspects of the gospel, so many things go back to Joseph and Brigham.

    Comment by Eric — 3/1/2006 @ 8:47 am

  2. I had to look up disparate. I’m still confused, are you saying “a different type of garden?”

    Joseph F. Smith says in his Doctrines of Salvation that Adam and Eve ate a fruit that caused blood to flow in their bodies. I can’t remember the exact quote, but it made sense to me.

    I believe in a literal Garden of Eden; like you, I think it’s different. I think the Spirit World has these types of “gardens.”

    I’ve never understood the nature of the fall and I still don’t. I have a book by Robert Millett which supports my lack of understanding. I think it’s called Grace Works.

    This idea of grace is where I part ways with most of my conservative friends. Grace, love, and free agency are my top three principles. My friend, Lauri, adds obedience/works. Good combination.

    Comment by annegb — 3/1/2006 @ 9:31 am

  3. I like the gradual part Brigham taught… I just think he was a bit too literal about it all.

    Comment by Geoff J — 3/1/2006 @ 12:50 pm

  4. But there is a symbolic angle as well. The very act of living as mortals on the earth has to change them…make them more earthy.

    Could the transition from terrestrial to telestial have been a gradual accumulation of experiences?

    Comment by Craig — 3/1/2006 @ 1:13 pm

  5. Well Craig, that has been the case in my garden :)

    …and yes annegb, a different garden.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 3/1/2006 @ 4:48 pm

  6. Lovely post, Jonathan. It is interesting to me how the fruit in my garden has not always been delicious to the taste at first, but in the end perhaps more sustaining. I also love the idea of become earthy as opposed to earthly.

    Thanks for this.

    Comment by kris — 3/1/2006 @ 5:36 pm

  7. Once in Thailand while visiting one of their national parks, our guide presented us with our “lunch”. It was a huge papaya and a knife to cut it. We relished that first taste. It was exotic, sweet and most flavorful. We eagerly ate and ate. We soon found, however, that the fruit had lost its taste. (Something to do with the enzyme papain perhaps). We ate more thinking it would taste as it had at first bite. It wasn’t until we ate something different then went back to the papaya that it tasted good. I think the fruits of the garden would over time loose their taste. Too much of even something wonderful in any garden looses its flavor in its sameness. Perhaps that was the temptation of “earthyness”

    Comment by jns — 3/1/2006 @ 7:31 pm

  8. James E. Talmage, in General Conference in 1913 (as quoted in a footnote in Jesus the Christ) said of Adam in Eden, “He was warned that, if he did [partake of the fruit], his body would lose the power which it then held of living for ever, and that he would become subject to death. … Here let me say that therein consisted the fall—the eating of things unfit, the taking into the body of the things that made of that body a thing of earth.”

    So, while he doesn’t say how fast it happened, he seems to favor the same mechanism for the Fall that Brigham does.

    Comment by Bradley Ross — 3/1/2006 @ 11:12 pm

  9. That really is an interesting quote, Bradly. Talmage was one of the original proponants of a “child-like” Adam and Eve in Mormonism, but here he seems to be giving a slight nod to the early days. He seems to be equating the tree of the knowledge of good and evil with “things unfit” which makes the body a “thing of the earth.”

    A great datum. Thanks again.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 3/2/2006 @ 12:00 am

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