Mothers and the Fall

By: Amber Richardson //

Well guys, today is the day that we recognize our mothers. We honor them and remember them with praise and gifts and love (shout out to my own mother who just sent me a rockin’ birthday card with a squirrel wearing a birthday hat on the cover). And so, on this special day, I’d like to ask, do we really understand what our mothers have done for us?

That understanding didn’t come to me until I stopped and really thought about what we Mormons call the Plan of Salvation, and then stopped again and really thought about the woman all of the rest of us know as Eve—our first mother.

Creation of Eve

“The Creation of Eve” by Rose Datoc Dall

 

Today I’d like to share my belief in the glory and wisdom of my first mother, Eve, and of the reality of my savior Jesus Christ. I wish to explore with you the equality—and yet the divine differences—between men and women through an exploration of the fundamentals of the Plan of Salvation, an exploration of the relationship between Eve and Christ. I believe that as we understand errors in our thinking surrounding Eve and the Fall, the equality between men and women becomes more clear.

There’s not much that makes me any more qualified to be writing this post than that random girl who sits next to you in Sunday School. Working in my favor perhaps are two things:

  1. For the last three years I have been creating a short film called Women of Faith, which tells the stories of five awesome and under-sung women from the history of the Church (shameless plug). You can see it for free by clicking that link. Aside from the work you’d expect would go into making a film (screenwriting, producing, performing), much of the work we’ve done has centered on studying both the history of women, and the doctrine of womanhood within the Church.
  2. I have deeply struggled while seeking to know about my place in the Plan of Salvation as a female.

What I will be sharing with you in this post are the answers I’ve found after asking a lot of questions. It has taken me several years to come to a place where I can talk about what I’ve learned without feeling as though my scalp might unhinge and molten lava might come shooting out of my head all over my Sunday School class. So now, hopefully sans lava, I’ll try to share some of those lessons. I hope that if anything, this post will inspire you to seek more light on this sacred topic. If I can get answers, so can you. But before we can get to those, we need to lay a little groundwork.

 

What Mormons Believe About The Fall

Theologically speaking, we the people of Mormonism have a lot in common with many of our Christian sisters and brothers. Like other Christians, we believe that Eve was a real person, and while it is sometimes unclear if the events that took place in the Genesis account are strictly allegorical, we do believe that Eve and Adam were the progenitors of the human family. However, there are many places where we diverge in our beliefs. One of those places is in our understanding of the Fall, that episode where Eve partook of the fruit, and Adam followed suit (I rhymed. Is that tacky?) and everybody got boot-ed (IT’S ANOTHER RHYME.) out of the Garden.

Our slightly different understanding comes from the books of scripture we study in addition to the Bible—the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price. The Book of Mormon teaches us that: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:26)

So, on a most fundamental level, we believe that the Fall was a necessary part of the Plan. Extend that idea a bit further, and yes, we even believe that the Fall was as integral to the Plan as the Atonement itself. Check out this excerpt from a Bruce R. McConkie address to see what I mean:

“If there had been no fall of man, there would not be a mortal probation. Mortal man would not be, nor would there be animals or fowls or fishes or life of any sort upon the earth. And, we repeat, none of us would be on the way to immortality and eternal life… The fall of Adam brought temporal and spiritual death into the world, and the atonement of Christ ransomed men from these two deaths by bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. This makes the fall as essential a part of the plan of salvation as the very atonement itself.” (“The Three Pillars of Eternity,” 1981)

I suppose that we believe these things are true because we believe that there is purpose in suffering. Likewise, we believe that by being separated from God, by entering a world of trouble and pain and heartache, we have an opportunity to become more like Him. But it’s more than that because without sorrow, there really would be no such thing as joy. In Mormon lingo, we call this the law of opposition. Because we believe that the Fall is so purposeful, we believe that Eve was very wise to choose it.

 

What Mormons Believe About Eve

Oh man. We love Eve. We admire her in much the same way we admire our own moms. We believe that she was Adam’s equal and participating partner. We believe that she was righteous and awesome. In the Church’s Women’s Meeting a month ago one of the members of our First Presidency spoke about Eve. He said:

“You have her example to follow. By revelation, Eve recognized the way home to God. She knew that the Atonement of Jesus Christ made eternal life possible in families.” (Henry B. Eyring,Daughters in the Covenant,” 2014)

We also believe that the choice she made, with the fruit? We believe that it was her decision to make. Adam couldn’t have made it.  Eve’s calling was given to her by God in the name He chose for her —Eve—which means the mother of all living (see Moses 4:26). This calling made her both the conduit through which life for the entire human family would begin and the representative for that entire human family in the making of this rather monumental decision.

Eve

A painting of Eve created by Annie Henrie for Women of Faith

Joseph Fielding Smith, one of our prophets, taught that “she partook of that fruit for one good reason, and that was to open the door to bring you and me and everyone else into this world, for Adam and Eve could have remained in the Garden of Eden; they could have been there to this day, if Eve hadn’t done something.” (In Conference Report, October 1967, italics added.)

That’s just a sum-up. I’m barely scratching the surface here. If you’d like to learn more about who Eve is to Mormons, I’d suggest this article by Beverly Campbell, the former Director of International Affairs for the Church. She published a much longer version of her research in a book (which is also hugely worth your time) called Eve, and the Choice Made in Eden.

 

Binaries

Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about what Mormons believe about the Fall, but let’s take it back for a moment to the law of opposition. Here’s what The Book of Mormon has to say about the law of opposites:

“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness or misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” (2 Ne. 2:11)

For the purposes of our exploration, we’re going to rely on a concept developed by linguistic theorist, Ferdinand Saussure, called the binary. Monsieur Saussure believed that as humans, we create meaning in differences. He looked at the world through opposite pairings, which he called binaries. That scripture above is full of binaries. Righteousness versus wickedness; good versus bad; life versus death; and so on.

Here is a list of binaries that apply to the topic at hand:

man/woman

spirit/body

day/night

light/dark

priesthood/priestesshood

fatherhood/motherhood

Fall/Atonement 

So that was Monsieur Saussure’s first point—that meaning is derived in differences. That you can’t have one without the other. But his second point might be even more significant. He believed that it is our human tendency to wrongly value, or privilege, one half of any binary over the other. I want you to look at the list again, and ask yourself, which one do I privilege?

man/woman

spirit/body

day/night

light/dark

priesthood/priestesshood

fatherhood/motherhood

Fall/Atonement

 

The Three Pillars of Eternity

One of our best remembered apostles, Bruce R. McConkie, taught that the Plan of Salvation stands on three pillars: The Creation, The Fall, and The Atonement. If we examine these three themes of eternity through a gender lens (which is exactly what we’re gonna do) the equality that is imbedded in the Gospel becomes more clear.

We’ve been taught that God created the world. Because of modern-day revelation, we believe that God is a title referring to both of our Heavenly Parents, the union of a perfected man and woman. In fact, referring to the text in Genesis about the creation of Adam and Eve—

“and God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness…so God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen. 1:26-27)

—prophet Brigham Young taught that “we were created . . . in the image of our father and our mother, the image of our God.” (See Discourses of Brigham Young, pg. 51)

So we can see how the genders were equally represented in the Creation. And we’ve already discussed whose choice it was to enact the Fall. And I’m gonna go out on a limb here—but I’d guess that you know who enacted the Atonement. Eve, a female, and Christ, a male, have created a pattern for us in their roles. The Fall was an inherently Feminine act, and that the Atonement was an inherently Masculine one. And I don’t mean that in any trite or trivial form. I’m not talking about breadwinning versus knitting here. I’m also not talking about a stereotypical interest in nail polish as opposed to automobiles. I’m talking about the glorious, grand, and perfectly equal plan of our Heavenly Parents. Equal, but not the same. Equal and complementary.

Their respective roles speak volumes about what it means to be a man and a woman in an eternal sense. And this is the pattern. It is the pattern of beginning and returning.

Women, with our bodies, bring people into the Fall. And men, with the Priesthood, bring people out of the Fall, back to God. Through the processes of gestation, childbirth, and lactation, women are giving life to the mission of Eve. Through the ordinances of baptism, confirmation, and the ordinances of the temple, men are embodying the Atonement.

Interestingly, the Latin root of the word transgress means “a downward but forward movement.” Imagine in your mind the kind of line that creates. The Atonement is its inverse, an upward, forward movement. Together, they create the crucible of life.

two women understanding the same mystery-

“Two women understanding the same mystery” by Caitlin Connolly

But What About Adam?

Adam had just as great a role to play in the Plan as Eve did. He was her partner and biggest supporter. And just as at times Eve led, Adam also had periods where he was the divinely appointed leader. To fully examine his contribution to these sacred events would be another essay. So until that happens, I hope the following perspective can help you understand some of why the focus needed to be on Eve today.

While I believe that Eve and Adam had an exemplary marriage, I also believe that because her mission and contract were with God, and not with Adam, it is important to see Eve as an individual first, and then in connection to her husband. In the same way it is important and healthy for women to see themselves as individuals, outside of their relationships with spouse or children.

In Conclusion

Men and women are both so important, so necessary in the Plan of our Heavenly Parents. Each sex is loved, and each gender has been given a divinely mandated mission. But as today is mother’s day, let’s take a moment to realize that not only was it mom who gave you a heartbeat, who taught you right from wrong, left from right, baking soda from baking powder, but it was your mom who brought you into the Fall. It was your mother who gave you the opportunity to know the Atonement, and the reason to need it. That is her divine role.

 

 

Amber somewhat begrudgingly blogs at A Bright Particular Star. But don’t click that link. What she really wants you to do is watch Women of Faith. To view production photos and to engage with the film’s fans and cast check out www.facebook.com/WomenofFaithFilm . If you’re looking for more information about the women highlighted in the film, the creators behind the project, or to view the film please visit www.iamawomanoffaith.org.

14 comments

  • This is a truly beautifully written essay, and perfect reading for this day (although, I admit, I am from England, and our Mother’s Day was a while ago). I love, in particular, the last couple of lines – ‘It was your mother who gave you the opportunity to know the Atonement, and the reason to need it. That is her divine role.’ I’m failing to know quite how to write my praise for this piece (I cannot possibly be effusive enough), but if I cannot write it specifically and eloquently, let me write it generally: this is a wonderful and thoughtful essay, and one I plan on sharing with my own momma :) Thanks for posting it!

  • This was very thought provoking. I appreciate the study and parallels you’ve provided. I look forward to reading the other articles and book you reference. I have felt more of a connection to Eve in particular since the updated temple films.

  • “Women, with our bodies, bring people into the Fall. And men, with the Priesthood, bring people out of the Fall, back to God. Through the processes of gestation, childbirth, and lactation, women are giving life to the mission of Eve. Through the ordinances of baptism, confirmation, and the ordinances of the temple, men are embodying the Atonement.”

    Women bring people into “the Fall” by having kids? And men “bring people out” because they have the priesthood/they provide the saving ordinances? Is this what you are saying? I have two children, and I did not bring them into this world by myself. My husband was half the equation. He bottle fed my kids because I couldn’t breastfeed. I was literally dying. He nurtured and loved our children as well as any mother. If men are not responsible for Adam’s transgression- women are not responsible for Eve’s. Your idea of women representing sin and death and men representing the Atonement is proof we need further light and knowledge with regards to our Heavenly Mother and the role of women in the eternities.

    • Hi Isabella!
      I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to respond to your comment. I am also sorry, even more so, if this article upset you, or caused you to feel pain. That was definitely not my intention. What I shared in this article is my personal revelation on the subject, and has been hard earned over many years. I put it online in the hopes that it might be helpful for someone, knowing that the way God teaches me might not work for everybody.
      That being said, I’d like to address a few of your thoughts, if that’s alright. Before I do though, please understand that an essay on Normons did not really give me enough space to dive as deep as I’d like to into some of these ideas, and so I’m afraid I had to leave a lot unsaid. If you’d like to correspond privately about these topics, I’d be happy to do that over email. Maybe I could share some of my resources with you?
      I think that you did capture what I was trying to communicate in the article. Yes, I believe that women bring people into the Fall by having kids, and that men bring people out by using the Priesthood. Thank you for sharing some of your experiences with me. After reading about your sacrifices I feel that you must be a very incredible woman.
      You’ll notice though, that I didn’t use the word “nurture” anywhere in the article. “Nurture” doesn’t really speak to me, and has actually caused me many problems and confusions.
      Now, you’ve cited the second article of faith: “…we believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.” I think that if you were to study words of modern prophets you might find that Adam was not being “punished” for his transgression either. Neither was Eve. Her choice to leave the Garden was met with appropriate consequences of leaving God. But she was called to make that choice. I suppose that because I believe that, I see sin and death differently than you might. I suppose that I don’t privilege them above life and rebirth because I believe that they are all necessary parts of mortal life, and that all are integral to growth.
      Lastly, it seems that we agree! I feel so strongly that we do need further light on these topics. And I guess that I’m an impatient person. So, instead of waiting for light to be revealed on an institutional level, I decided to seek it personally. I wish that you knew me, that you knew my weaknesses and my personality, and that you had more to go on then the few words I’m writing you here, but I am really a very imperfect human. So I suppose that what I’m saying is, that if God cares me enough to reach out to me and help me learn in ways that I can understand, I believe that he (and she) will do the same for you. I get very bothered when people try to give me answers, especially when they don’t anything about my life or my struggles, and I hate to do that here.
      But, I hope that you will consider, in your own way, seeking the revelation that you need.

      With love,
      Amber

  • May 12, 2014 at 9:27 am // Reply

    Great essay! I love your words about women and the fall, and men and the priesthood. To support your words I would add these scriptures from Moses chapter 6:

    58 Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying:

    59 That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;

    60 For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified;

    The role and union of husband and wife is so beautiful, and we really need our mothers and fathers, as “Equal, but not the same. Equal and complementary” to really understand God’s plan.

    Great article, I love your perspective.

  • Thank you all for reading, and for your kind comments. Shawn, I don’t know if you’ll see this, but thank you especially for posting that scripture! I have been pondering that block of verses for like, 4 years, but somehow hadn’t made the connection you just made for me. Don’t know how I missed it all this time!

    • June 2, 2014 at 2:05 pm // Reply

      I’m glad it is more meaningful to you now and glad that I read your essay, I loved it! Thanks for your insight Amber!

  • The Fall was deliberately brought about by both of our First Parents partaking of the fruit of this planet to bring about a change to their physical bodies. It was a joint effort with both Parents working together. The salvation of the human family is brought about by the Sacrifice of the Firstborn Son of the Eternal Father. This is not a male versus female situation. All of these beings work together to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man ( male and female). The Fall is an indispensable part of the plan of salvation.

  • Amber, first of all, thank you for this essay. I was hoping you could clarify something you said. Towards the end of your piece you said, “I also believe that [Eve's] mission and contract were with God, and not with Adam.” I have a very close family member struggling with this idea and how it affects her relationship with God. (I don’t feel comfortable saying why this concept causes her heartbreak on such a public forum). If you feel comfortable sharing this, how did you come to this understanding?

    • Hi friend! I’m very comfortable sharing this with you. It’s a wonderful question, and I hope that some part of my response can help your loved one. Before I get going though, I wanted to let you know that I’d be happy to correspond with you further over email, if you would be more comfortable discussing things through that mode. You can email me by clicking my name.

      Firstly, I suppose that it’s relevant for me to detail the foundation that many of these discoveries have sprung from. In my younger years I had a strong sense of my identity as a daughter of God. I knew that there was a direct line of communication and power between my Heavenly Parents and myself. I felt very empowered that way.

      As I got older I noticed with dismay that not every woman feels this way. It seems that there are many, many pressures and traditions that can get in the way of a woman truly gripping her divinity. In my teen years I fell prey to many of those pressures.

      So I went through a rediscovery process if you will. And I came out much stronger, much firmer in my understanding of my own personal relationship with God. And I suppose that I assumed that if this channel exists for me, it must exist for every woman. It is kind of a given for me. So I’ve extended that understanding to Eve. But I didn’t get it confirmed immediately. It wasn’t until I really studied Eve that I found what I needed. There were two things primarily.

      As LDS folk, we actually have four records that detail the Creation: the Old Testament account, the Moses account (in the Pearl of Great Price), the Abraham account (also in the Pearl of Great Price), and the temple narrative. In the Moses account, God tells Moses that “in a day when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write, behold, I will raise up another like unto thee; and they shall be had again among the children of men—among as many as shall believe.” (Moses 1:41)

      So, the Moses account in the Pearl of Great Price is a fulfillment of God’s promise to his ancient prophet. A record where the words are restored. With this in mind, I decided to study the Moses creation account against the Genesis account, to see which words were restored. I figured they would be important.

      I found my answer in Moses 4:26 (as compared to Genesis 3:20). The phrase that Moses 4:26 adds to the story is very important. Here’s the verse without that added phrase:

      And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

      And the verse with the phrase from the Moses account:

      And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living; for thus have I, the Lord God, called the first of all women, which are many.

      Ah ha! So we see that Adam called his wife Eve because that was the name that God called her by. I had a wonderful Pearl of Great Price teacher who didn’t think that this distinction was very important for some reason. I disagreed with him very whole-heartedly. This distinction is hugely important! Adam did not name his wife in the same way he named all of the animals. No, no. Adam used the name that God gave to Eve, God’s daughter.

      “Eve” is not just an name. It is a title. It means the mother of all living. So, in my mind, in this one inspired phrase, we can see from whom Eve received her calling and mission. It’s imbedded in her very name.

      Now, if that’s not enough, check this out. When Joseph Smith was retranslating the Bible, he made an important comment about the Hebrew word ruach. Ruach translates to “life” in English. Joseph said that “the 7th verse of the 2nd chapter of Genesis ought to read—God breathed into Adam his spirit or breath of life; but when the word ruach applies to Eve, it should be translated lives. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 301.)

      The breath of lives! Adam could not make this choice. He wasn’t called to do it. He could not represent the entire human family in this way for he did not have the breath of lives breathed into him. But Eve, she could.

      And she did.

      I hope that this is helpful to you in some way. I would also, hugely, hugely suggest that you recommend the book Eve and the Choice Made in Eden to your loved one. Perhaps you should even read it yourself! :D Beverly Campbell (the author) does an inspired job of weaving together an impressive collection of prophetic words on Eve.

      With love,
      Amber

  • Many years ago, I read an article called “Next Year in Jerusalem” by Ellen Willis. She tells of her conversation with Rabbi Noach Weinberg, which I found especially interesting after I became a Mormon, in light of our belief in the importance of “opposition in all things”:

    “Why was the world created? For our pleasure. What is the one thing we are capable of doing? Seeking pleasure. So how can we go wrong? Insanity! Tell me – what’s the opposite of pleasure?”

    “Pain.” I said.

    “No! No! The opposite of pleasure is comfort. Pleasure involves pain. Decadence is opting for comfort. For example, what’s more important, wisdom or money? Ask most people, they’ll say ‘wisdom.’ ‘Okay, stay here six months and I’ll give you wisdom.’ ‘I can’t – I have a job, a girlfriend, I’m supposed to take a vacation in the Greek islands.’ ‘Stay six months and I’ll give you $20,000.’ ‘Fine!’ ‘What about your job, your girlfriend?’ ‘They’ll wait.’

    “The soul wants wisdom; the body wants money. The soul wants pleasure; the body wants comfort. And what’s the highest pleasure? The aim of the soul? God. That’s real happiness — ecstasy! Find out what you’re living for! Take the pain — pleasure only comes with a lot of pain.”

  • July 28, 2014 at 10:27 am // Reply

    Love this! I never had thought of how Eve brought us into the fall and Christ brings us out of it! Thanks!

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