It has been a few years since I read “Paradise Lost,” but even now I cannot revisit—either in the scriptures or in the temple—the account of Eve’s temptation without remembering Milton’s characterization of Eve. However, for my part, I believe that Eve’s motives were innocent because while living in the garden, she was still in a state of innocence. The reason I think about what Milton said is because sometimes I seem to be the one guilty of thinking that I am smarter than God.
Usually in retrospect, I discern that I have argued with the Spirit, saying “I don’t want to do that” when the Spirit prompted me to do a particular thing—usually a hard thing. And then I further hardened my heart against the prompting with a determination to do what I wanted to do instead, which is a path that I think is smarter or less difficult or more attractive or better just because I thought of it (and this is pleasing to my self-image as a highly intelligent person). Smarter than God? Right.
Eventually, after trying to do things my way, I discover that I am actually dumber than dirt because dirt actually obeys when God commands. And the Spirit always knows better than I do what I should do. Yes, we are to study things out in our minds—but as a first step, not as the only step. After thinking up my plan and deciding what I am going to do, the Spirit almost always suggests a better plan. Gently suggests. Does not force. “Here is an idea . . .” the Spirit whispers. “I don’t want to do that!” I say, slamming the door shut on the Spirit.
By acting like I think I am smarter than God, I am also supplanting or replacing God in my life. When God is replaced by a prideful intellect, intellect becomes my God. My intellect becomes my God. Therefore, I am my own God.
Some of the saddest words in the scriptures are these: “the Spirit of the Lord hath already ceased to strive with [them]; and they are without Christ and God in the world; and they are driven about as chaff before the wind” (Mormon 5:16). ‘Without Christ and God in the world’—by choice we cast ourselves out of the Garden.