One of the distinct doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is our perspective on the story of Adam and Eve. While generally the rest of the Abrahamic religions have seen Eve as a sinner, a shameful sort of character who jipped us all with her choice to partake of the fruit, we see her as a glorious and righteous woman. That is one of the reasons Valerie Hudsen Cassler wrote this post, about the fact that she is a Mormon because she is a feminist. Say what?! :) Read it. It’s a good one. Just in case you wanted to know, the definition of Eve in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism is this:
“Eve, first woman of earthly creation, companion of Adam, and mother and matriarch of the human race, is honored by Latter-day Saints as one of the most important, righteous, and heroic of all the human family. Eve’s supreme gift to mankind, the opportunity of life on earth, resulted from her choice to become mortal.”
This is a very significant view. Why? Because a large part of the discrimination and oppression of women through the ages has been precisely because of the distorted, even hateful views surrounding mother, Eve. By association with this incorrect view of Eve, women have been viewed as the stupid/weak ones who really mess everything up all the time. And we as women? We have a whole lot of guilt for our womanly feelings, intuitions, sensitivity – and it seems that much of that is tied back to those incorrect views of Eve. But, in reality we shouldn’t feel ashamed of being women. Eve was incredible! If we study her story we can understand some pretty wonderful things about our heritage and gifts as women, and have confidence in our femininity and contributions to our families and the world.
***Let me throw in this aside real quick. Every time I write about Feminism on this blog, I get quite a bit of traffic. When I wrote about “How to be Husband Ready in 15 Minutes” and then when I responded to the FMH flurry on that post with, “My Brand of Feminism: I AM NOT A VICTIM” and later with my, “I’ll Be Wearing Pants this Sunday” post, the level of interest spiked in my blog traffic and comments. Because so many of you enjoyed the Busche quote in my pants post, and because of other spiritual promptings I have received, I have felt an impression to be more like Bushe :) and to move my energies and tone in the direction of not so much bashing of the oft-misguided feminist movement, but of sharing the truths of the restored Gospel instead. This year, I am making my emphasis in scripture and Gospel study the Priesthood and Women and their unique power and role in God’s plan. I thought you might like to hear quotes, scriptures, and reviews of helpful resources I find along the way. Am I right on this, bloggy friends? I’m not really sure if that is what you want, but that is what you’re going to get! ;) Just a heads up!***
Anyways, let’s get back to Eve. I just read a phenomenal book about Eve called, Eve and the Choice Made in Eden by: Beverly Campbell. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who still struggles with some of the more ambiguous or uncomfortable elements of the story of Adam and Eve. Because, as it says on the back cover of her book, “Understanding what happened in the Garden can change your life.” Profound and true? I think so!
Campbell compiles many quotes and scriptorians’ insights
into the verses surrounding the Eve story in one succinct, quick, and very
thought-provoking 180 page read. Here are a few of my questions that were
answered from this book. I will write my questions and direct quotes from
Campell’s book as response.
Why did God give two apparently conflicting commandments to Adam and Eve?
- “If God had created Adam and Eve as mortal beings, He would have negated His own gift of agency.” (pg.44)
- John A. Widstoe elaborated on the agency that had to prevail in the Garden: “The eternal power of choice was respected by the Lord himself. . . . The Lord had warned Adam and Eve of the hard battle with earth conditions if they chose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He would not subject his son and daughter to hardship and the death of their bodies unless it be of their own choice. They must choose for themselves. They chose wisely, in accord with the heavenly law of love for others.” (pg.38)
- Dr. Nehama Aschkenasay . . found that command as used in the Creation story was from a different verb form [different from the verb form used in the Ten Commandments], whose usage connotes a strong, severe warning, perhaps a statement of law, that was possibly temporary in nature, so that at some future, unspecified time it might not apply. . . I thought of the warnings we give our small children who, in their tender tears, must be protected in matters that involve life and death or injury. Such a warning might be, “Do not, under any condition, touch the stove.” “Do not ever cross the street alone.” Do we mean that they are never to cross the street or to use a stove? Of course not! What we intend is that until our children have learned enough to make appropriate decisions, the stern warning, indeed prohibition, is in force. (pg.42-43)
What does helpmeet mean exactly? The word seems to indicate a lower status.
- “According to biblical scholar David Freedman, the Hebrew word translated there into English as “help” is ezer. This word is a combination of two roots, one meaning “to rescue,” “to save,” and the other meaning “to be strong.”. . .In contrast, k’enegdo, another Hebrew word used in the Genesis 2:18 to describe Eve, appears only once. . .k’enegdo means “equal” and stated that in his view “there is no basis for translating k’enegdo as ‘fit’ or ‘appropriate,’ as the traditional translators do when they describe the woman as a ‘fit helper.’” He concluded, “When God creates Eve . . ., His intent is that she will be – unlike animals - ‘a power (or strength) equal to him.’”. . . Suppose we had all, male and female alike, been taught to understand Genesis 2:18 as something like the following: “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a companion of strength and power who has a saving power and is equal with him.” (pg.24-25)
What does transgression mean exactly? It’s not sin. . . but the connotation seems negative?
- Trans is a Latin word meaning “to move from one state to another, on or to the other side of, beyond, over, across.” Gress is a form of a Latin word meaning “to go.” (pg.39-40)
- “We must partake of the fruits of mortality before we can partake of the fruits of immortality.” – Robert Millet
What does the word beguiled mean? Was Eve just tricked or did she understand her choice?
- [Dr. Nehama Aschkenasy] explained that the Hebrew word which has come to be translated as beguiled is a rare verb form of unusual depth and richness. Because it is a form no longer in use, it is almost impossible to translate. “It is safe to say that it indicates an intense multilevel experience which evokes great emotional, psychological, and/or spiritual trauma.” Aschkenasy wrote of this in her book Eve’s Journey. The use of this word in the biblical narrative “makes it clear that Eve was motivated by a complex set of inner drives, anchored not only in her physical, but also in her intellectual nature.” She further indicated her belief that this intense, multilevel experience caused Eve to step back, reevaluate, reassess, and ponder the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (pg.71)
How does the Eve story apply in my life? What do I learn about what it means to be a righteous woman from Eve?
- Rabbi Harond S. Kushner wrote: “I don’t believe that eating from the Tree of Knowledge was sinful. I believe it was one of the bravest and most liberating events in the history of the human race. Yes, its consequences were painful, in the same way that growing up and leaving your parental home can be painful, in the same way that undertaking the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood can be painful and leave you wondering, ‘Why did I ever give up my less-complicated life for these problems? But for the person who has experienced the complex, hard-earned satisfactions of human existence, there is no doubt that it is worth the pain. . . . The woman is not the villain of the story, enslaved by appetite and bringing sin and death into the world. She can be seen as the heroine of the story, leading her husband into the brave new world of moral demands and moral decisions.” (pg.88)
- Elder Mark E. Petersen wrote: “I have learned that there is a feminine side to spirituality which we men seldom, if ever, truly appreciate. That feminine type of spirituality is truly divine. It is what makes good mothers great. It is what makes them partners with God in a very real and literal sense. It is what makes them the queens of their homes, the spiritual centers of their families.” (pg.119)
- “Satan wishes to blur our knowledge of the absolutes of good and evil. The power inherent in that knowledge makes us like God. It is our choice of good over evil which makes us godlike. If the adversary is able to diminish or erase our sensitivities in this regard, his chances of keeping us from becoming as God are significantly enhanced, and therefore his hope of having us within his power is exponentially advanced. We must never forget that our knowledge of good and evil also makes us free – “free to choose liberty and eternal life” (2Nephi 2:27). (pg.40-41)
- Not only will women need to seek truth for themselves but they will need to speak up courageously and articulately as half-truths or faulty premises are presented to their sisters in the guise of progress and enlightenment. One of Satan’s ruses is to mix mostly truth with a little error. Cleverly, this small percentage of error is not introduced until long into the journey. By that time many have emotionally, intellectually, or physically been led onto a path they cannot see is wrong and from which they find it difficult to turn back. Women, particularly Latter-day Saint women, can and must identify truth. They can and must stand firm in their commitment to that truth, whatever the cost. (pg.78-79)
- [Sheri Dew said], “Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege of motherhood.” Motherhood is more than bearing children, she reminded us, “though it is certainly that.” She spoke of this role as “the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us. . . As daughters of Eve, we are all mothers and we have always been mothers. And we each have the responsibility to love and help lead the rising generation.” (pg.135-136)
- [Richard Eyre] wisely suggested that the maxim “The Home Supports the Career” be reconfigured to read “Careers Exist to Support the Home.” (pg.137)
- “From that day, when Eve thus placed first among her blessings the power to bear children, the greatest glory of true womanhood has been motherhood.” (pg.137)
- “Discernment, the ability to see beyond the literal to the divine essential, has ever been God’s gift to women. Since Eve, women have faced the challenge of ambiguous choices that carry with them the holy, life-altering consequences. On the correct resolution of these ambiguities hangs the future of generations, the civilizing of society, the basic dignity of the human race, and moral life itself. Daily, women must make decisions based on things not seen or even known clearly. Often these decisions require great leaps of faith. Frequently these decisions must be based on what serves the greater good for the greatest number. Often such decisions require women to set aside their own well-being in favor of another’s. The very process of bearing children illustrates this truth dramatically. It is a source of strength and comfort to many women to know that inherent in their divine nature is this innate ability to be in tune with God’s purposes. Even more awe-inspiring is the knowledge that the Lord has such abiding faith in women’s judgment and wisdom. By His very actions, He has shown women that He wants them to claim and properly act on this gift. Women are surely beloved of the Lord for Him to have placed them in such a position. As He relies on women to embrace the greater law, to bow to the greater commandment, He affirms their intellect, their integrity, and their righteousness. (pg.41-42)
These are just a handful of the gems in this book. There are many more I would like to share, but I’m pretty sure I’d have to quote whole chapters to illustrate the wisdom contained in them. And, probably Beverly Campbell wouldn’t appreciate me doing that. ;) Suffice it to say that this is a beautiful, empowering, insightful book and I really think you should all read it. 5 stars!!!
I’m currently studying the minutes from the first meetings of the organization of the church’s Relief Society in Nauvoo (the largest women’s organization in the world – the women’s organization for our church), where Joseph Smith gave specific counsel to the women there. You can find those at this link. Also, I’m gearing up to read, The Gift of Giving Life, as soon as I save up a few more dollars of fun money. :) Maybe as a birthday gift?! Did you read that, honey? ;) Friends, study along with me if you like – or just read about what I discover as I share it here.
Just know – all you women out there are awesome and beautiful and very very loved by Father in Heaven. I highly recommend you do yourself a favor and go read and study about our Mother, Eve. And then, get your husbands to read about her, too. We would all do well in coming to better understand this critical story.
How has your understanding of the story of Adam and Eve influenced your life?