The tree of knowledge of good and evil was the last of three to be introduced in the Garden (at least according to Genesis), but the first to come with a warning.
“Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,” God invited Adam and Eve. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17
We look to the labors of our tilling to nourish us and they do.
“Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.” D&C 59:18-19
But what are the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and why the warning?
The tree of knowledge is a library of truths waiting to be nourished by anyone smart enough to do it, including the word of God. And math, music, science, geography, technology, and a million others amazing truths.
The fruits are the individual and collective outcomes of our nourishing efforts. Cities, highways, bridges, dams, medicines, technologies, machinery, music, education and political systems are all fruits of the seeds of knowledge we’re pursuing. In sum, these fruits define our conditions and make up our environment.
God’s warning was simple. The fruits of the tree of knowledge won’t nourish the way the fruits of the garden do. Don’t look to the tree of knowledge to produce joy and happiness. Its not that they won’t bring bursts of it, they do. But the fruits are a mixed bag, hence the “good and evil” part. This tree gave rise to the phrase “blessing and a curse.” Medicines help, but there are side effect, cars are convenient, but they hurt the environment. Knowledge is complex. We need to nourish its seeds to gain knowledge and understanding, but not pin our hopes to its fruits.
The other challenge to the fruits of knowledge is their distraction factor. More than anything else, these keep us from nourishing the third tree – the tree of life. Hence God’s warning, “lest ye die.” Nourishing brings life. It’s lack means death.
Satan had a contrasting views and still does today. Satan views the fruits as the source of wisdom and happiness. Today, we have an abundance of the fruits of knowledge and they produce many conveniences. The marketing message for each is the same generic message of the Garden: partake and be happy. Do they deliver?