Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Joy of Our Redemption

I've been thinking a lot about Eve the past couple weeks. Actually, I've been thinking about her and studying her story deeply over the past year as I've contemplated her story and how a correct understanding of the Fall and of Eve's role in the Fall helps us understand ourselves. Understanding Adam and Eve is crucial to understanding who we are as sons and daughters of God.

There is power in knowing who we are.

There is power in knowing our past.

The Mother of All Living, by Al Young 

And Eve is at the beginning of all of our stories. She is the one who made the courageous, faithful decision to enter mortality. (And I know that this is a different perspective of Eve and the Fall than most people have--and it can be difficult to understand. But I am grateful for restored views of the doctrine of the Fall. The doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the Fall was necessary and that Adam and Eve are to be honored for deciding to partake of the fruit. If you have any questions, send me a message and I'd be happy to talk about it.)

Last week, I had the opportunity to present about Eve and how perceptions of Eve affect Mormon women. While there, I had the chance to meet Camille Fronk Olson (whom I deeply admire) and who has written extensively about Eve and other biblical women. It was wonderful to just talk with her (if only for a little bit) about the importance of Eve in the plan of God, and how she is a remarkable role model and example for women and men today.

I also had the opportunity to give a Relief Society lesson at church today about Eve. And it was a wonderful opportunity for me to share what I've learned about Eve this past year. Like I mentioned above, a correct understanding of ourselves and our past empowers and enlightens us. And so I feel like sharing a few quotes, scriptures, and epiphanies about Eve and the Fall which have helped me on my journey to understanding this incredible woman.

Necessity of the Fall: 
2 Nephi 2:14-25 (all of it, but particularly verses 16, 22-25):
v. 16 "Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
v.22-25 "And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy."

Moses 5:10-12
"And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.
And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.

Elder Russell M. Nelson:
"Their bodies of flesh and bone were made in the express image of God's. In that state of innocence, they were not yet mortal. They could have no children, were not subject to death, and could have lived in Eden's garden forever. Thus we might speak of the Creation in terms of paradisaical creation. If that state had persisted, you and I would still be stranded among the heavenly host as unborn sons and daughters of God. The great plan [. . .] would have been frustrated. [. . . ] Should they eat from the 'tree of knowledge of good and evil,' their bodies would change; mortality and eventual death would come upon them. But partaking of that fruit was prerequisite to their parenthood. [. . .] While I do not fully understand all the biochemistry involved, I do know that their physical bodies did change; blood began to circulate in their bodies. Adam and Eve thereby became mortal. [. . .] Accordingly, we could speak of the fall of Adam in terms of a mortal creation because 'Adam fell that men might be.'"

Joseph Fielding Smith:
"Adam and Eve did the very thing the Lord intended them to do. If we had the original record we would see the purpose of the Fall clearly stated and its necessity explained."

Elder Russell M. Nelson:
"We and all mankind are forever blessed because of Eve's great courage and wisdom. By partaking of the fruit first, she did what needed to be done. Adam was wise enough to do likewise."

Adam and Eve as Equal Companions 
Genesis 2:18--"And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him."
There is a lot of misunderstanding of what "help meet" means. There is a negative connotation--like Eve was made as an afterthought. However, looking at the definition of "help meet" illuminates the text. The Oxford English Dictionary describes "help meet" as "even with or equal to." The Hebrew definition is even more enlightening. The Hebrew word for "help meet" comes from two words--ezer, meaning "to save, to rescue," and has the meaning of something majestic, strong, and powerful; and k'enegdo, which means "equal." Unfortunately, words are lost in translation, but imagine if we read the Genesis text like this: "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a majestic, saving power, equal with him, to be his companion." I think it is glorious. (For more information about the Hebrew definitions, see Beverley Campbell, "Mother Eve, Mentor for Today's Woman: A Heritage of Honor.")

Moses 6:9--"In the image of his [God's] own body, male and female, created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created and became living souls in the land upon the footstool of God." (emphasis added--but the connotation that Adam is not only a first name, but can also be used to describe Adam and Eve as a couple.)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
"Christ and Mary, Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, and a host of mighty men and equally glorious women comprised that group of 'the noble and great ones,' to whom the Lord Jesus said: 'We will go down, for there is space there ,and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell."

President Ezra Taft Benson:
"In the beginning, God placed a woman in a companion role with the priesthood. . . . She was to act in partnership with him."

Nature of the Transgression 
Elder Dallin H. Oaks: "For reasons that have not been revealed, this transition, or 'fall,' could not happen without a transgression--an exercise of moral agency amounting to a willful breaking of a law. [. . .] It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same. And thus Eve and 'Adam fell that men might be.'"

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith:
"I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. [. . .] There was a transgression of the law, but not a sin . . . for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!"

Elder Boyd K. Packer:
"The Fall came by transgression of a law, but there was no sin connected with it. There is a difference between transgression and sin. Both always bring consequences. While it may not be sin to step off a roof, in doing so, you become subject to the law of gravity and consequences will follow. [. . .] The fall of man was made from the presence of God to this mortal life."

Elder John A. Widstoe:
"The eternal power of choice was respected by the Lord himself. [. . .] It really converts the command into a warning, as much as to say, if you do this thing, you will bring upon yourself a certain punishment, but do it if you choose. [. . .] 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 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."

"Glorious Mother Eve" 
Doctrine and Covenants 138: 38-39--"Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days and father of all,
And our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God."

Beverley Campbell: "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 this earth, resulted from her choice to become mortal."

Sheri Dew:
Eve "made the most courageous decision any woman has ever made and with Adam opened the way for us to progress. She set an example of womanhood for men to respect and women to follow, modeling the characteristics with which we as women have been endowed: heroic faith, a keen sensitivity to the Spirit, an abhorrence of evil, and complete selflessness. Like the Savior, 'who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,' Eve, for the joy of helping initiate the human family, endured the Fall. She loved us enough to help lead us."

Sarah Kimball:
Eve is to be giving "reverent honor for taking the initiative to partake of the fruit."

Emmeline B. Wells:
"We are taught that Eve was the first to sin. Well, she was simply more progressive than Adam. She did not want to live in the beautiful garden for ever, and be nobody--not able even to make her own aprons."

Eve as Example: 
President Henry B. Eyring:
"By revelation, Eve recognized the way home to God. She knew that the Atonement of Jesus Christ made eternal life possible in families. She was sure, as you can be, that as she kept her covenants with her Heavenly Father, the Redeemer and the Holy Ghost would see her and her family through whatever sorrows and disappointments would come. She knew she could trust in Them."

Elder John A. Widstoe:
"In life all must choose at times. Sometimes, two possibilities are good; neither is evil. Usually, however, one is of greater import than the other. When in doubt, each must choose that which concerns the good of others--the greater law--rather than that which chiefly benefits ourselves--the lesser law. The greater must be chosen whether it be law or thing. That was the choice made in Eden."

Anyway, there is good sampling of some of the quotes I've found about Eve and the Fall. Of course there is so much more, and if any of you would like to talk more about this, I would love to. It's something I'm passionate about, if you couldn't tell. :)

I think one reason I love Eve's story so much is because her story is our story. Of course, none of us will have to make the decision of leaving Eden to become mortal. That was Adam and Eve's choice. That was the hardest choice Eve ever had to make. (And it must have been terrifying to her not knowing if Adam would make the same choice to leave Eden and choose to be with her--I can only imagine her fear.)

But, each of us will have those crossroads in our lives where we have to choose between staying in our figurative Edens . . . or stepping out into that dark, scary, unknown world without knowing exactly what is ahead of us. And in those moments, we can look to Eve as an example of faith and agency. She sacrificed Eden for something better--she sacrificed Eden for a chance to work out her own salvation. And that is beautiful to me.

The Joy of Our Redemption, by Al Young

[For more reading on this subject, I recommend Beverley Campbell's Eve and the Choice Made in Eden, Camille Fronk Olson's Women of the Old Testament, Beverley Campbell's "Mother Eve, Mentor for Today's Woman: A Heritage of Honor, and Valerie Hudson Cassler's "The Two Trees.")

No comments:

Post a Comment