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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.