5 Things Every Mormon Should Know About Mother Eve

4. Satan did not deceive Eve.

We read in the biblical text that Satan beguiled Eve. Knowing the negative modern connotations of the word used to explain Satan’s hold over Eve, I wondered how this magnificent woman could have been beguiled.

Sensing this was another word whose true meaning might have been lost after so many centuries of translation, I spoke with Dr. Nehama Aschkenasy. She explained that the Hebrew word that 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.

We gain some insight into Eve’s thought process from Moses 4:12, which indicates that her exchange with Satan (or the series of exchanges) had evoked in Eve a review of the total range of the human experience: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat” (emphasis added). Eve was uttering a truth regarding the tree and what it stood for, advises Elder B. H. Roberts. He notes: “Let it be observed that the tree of knowledge, even though the tree of death, is nowhere called an ‘evil tree,’ or its fruit bad. . . . Rather to the contrary: it is included among the trees ‘pleasant to the sight, and good for food,’ in the same verse in which it is named (Gen. 2:9).”

After partaking of the fruit, Eve recognized the correctness of her actions and the necessity of them. Some time later she expressed her feelings as a joyous sermon filled with praise and thanksgiving: “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” (Moses 5:11). These moving words spoken by the esteemed Mother of All Living brought comfort and assurance to her children, to the hosts of waiting spirits, and to her beloved husband, Adam.

5. God did not curse Eve after she partook of the fruit.

God spoke to Eve of what she would experience as she embraced her destiny to be “the mother of all living” (Moses 4:26) as she and Adam complied with God’s commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. These teachings were surely meant as instruction for Eve’s daughters, who would follow after her. They are preserved in scripture.

On the face of it, the Lord’s words to Eve might seem harsh: “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” (Moses 4:22). Hugh Nibley noted: “The key is the word for sorrow, atsav, meaning to labor, to toil, to sweat, to do something very hard. To multiply does not mean to add or increase but to repeat over and over again; the word in the Septuagint is plethynomai, as in the multiplying of words in the labor of Eve will be multiple: she will have many children.”

Thus, in saying He would “multiply thy sorrow and thy conception,” God is not meaning that childbirth will be a cause for sadness. Rather, He seems to have been telling Eve that in mortality childbirth will be difficult, that in childbirth she will sweat and toil and experience pain. This instruction lets her know what is to be expected as she gives bodies to waiting spirits.

God is not cursing Eve or causing pain to be inflicted on her. Instead, He is making her aware that her newly mortal body will experience pain in the process of childbirth—a pain that will come and go and be repeated many times.

Is the way that women evaluate their own worth affected still by the biblical story of Mother Eve? Author Beverly Campbell suggests, “In much of the literature and in most of the histories referring to women there is an undercurrent of apology, as though there is something not quite 'all right' about being a woman. In looking for the source of this unease, I came to recognize that it could be traced to accounts of the Creation and to the ever-prevalent and negative characterizations of Eve.” Available at Deseret Book stores and deseretbook.com. Also available and in e-book form.

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