Selected Teachings on
The Necessity of Opposites

Jeffrey R. Holland (Quorum of the Twelve)

A related principle ... to the eternal drama of the Fall and the Atonement is that of opposition, of contending enticements, a concept closely linked with choice and agency. If choice is to exist and agency is to have any meaning, alternatives must be presented.... Righteousness has no meaning without the possibility of wickedness. Holiness would hold no delight unless we realized the pain of misery. Good could have no moral meaning if nothing could be considered bad. Even life—the nature and eternal possibilities of which are the subject of the plan of salvation...— would have no meaning if we knew nothing of the nature and limitations of death.

In short, without oppostites and alternatives, "there would have been no purpose in the ... creation [of human life] (2 Nephi 2:12). All experiences in time and eternity would have been common, lifeless, indistinguishable—"a compound in one" (2 Nephi 2:11). At the end of this sequence would be the worst realization of all. There could be no happiness because there was no sorrow, and there could be no righteousness because there was no sin. But fortunately, there are happiness, righteousness, eternal life, and God, even as ... those blessings come only at the risk of confronting misery, wickedness, death, and the devil. (Christ and the New Covenant, p. 202)

Harold B. Lee (President)

Now to be an independent thinking individual, we had to have not only just the good but we had to have the evil in order that we could choose between the two. Now you think about that for a moment. If everything were good in the world and there were none evil, would you be able to choose anything but good? If everything were evil in the world, if there wasn’t any good to choose, could you choose anything else but evil? When you think about it for a moment, the only way there could be free agency in the individuals who live upon this earth is to have both the good and the bad and each one of us given the opportunity to choose for ourselves. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Harold B. Lee, 13-14)

Brigham Young (President)

Is it necessary that sin should be here [in the world]? What will the Latter-day Saints say? Is it necessary that we should know good from evil? I can answer this to suit myself by saying it is absolutely necessary, for the simple reason that if we had never realized darkness we never could have comprehended the light; if we never tasted anything bitter, but were to eat sweets, the honey and the honeycomb, from the time we come into this world until the time we go out of it, what knowledge could we have of the bitter? This leads me to the decision that every fact that exists in this world is demonstrated by its opposite. If this is the fact—and all true philosophy proves it—it leads me to the conclusion that the transgression of our first parents was absolutely necessary, that we might be brought in contact with sin and have the opportunity of knowing good and evil. (Journal of Discourses 14:70-71)


There is not, has not been, and never can be any method, scheme, or plan devised by any being in this world for intelligence to exist eternally and obtain an exaltation, without knowing the good and the evil—without tasting the bitter and the sweet. Can the people understand that it is actually necessary for opposite principles to be placed before them, or this state of being would be no probation, and we should have no opportunity for exercising the agency given us? (Discourses of Brigham Young, p.66)


I thank the Lord for the bitter as well as for the sweet; I like to grapple with the opposite: I like to work and have something to oppose. I used to dread those things, but now I like to grapple with opposition. (Journal of Discourses 3:11)


Some may regret that our first parents sinned. This is nonsense.... I will not blame Adam or Eve. Why? Because it was necessary that sin should enter into the world; no man could ever understand the principle of exaltation without its opposite; no one could ever receive an exaltation without being acquainted with its opposite. (Journal of Discourses, 10:312)


We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least. I am thankful to God that I know good from evil, the bitter from the sweet, the things of God from the things not of God. When I look at the economy of heaven my heart leaps for joy, and if I had the tongue of an angel, or the tongues of the whole human family combined, I would praise God in the highest for his great wisdom and condescension in suffering the children of men to fall into the very sin into which they had fallen, for he did it that they, like Jesus, might descend below all things and then press forward and rise above all. (Journal of Discourses, 13:145)

James E. Talmage (Quorum of the Twelve)

From Father Adam we have inherited all the ills to which flesh is heir; but such are necessarily incident to a knowledge of good and evil, by the proper use of which knowledge man may become even as the Gods. (Articles of Faith, p. 70)