The following article originally ran on LDS Living in 2016.
Is the way that women evaluate their own worth still affected by the biblical story of Mother Eve? 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. But if we examine the words of the prophets and modern revelation, we begin to understand her magnificent contribution to Heavenly Father’s plan.
1. Eve was one of the “noble and great ones” in the premortal existence.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated:
“Eve—a daughter of God, one of the spirit offspring of the Almighty Elohim—was among the noble and great in preexistence. She ranked in spiritual stature, in faith and devotion, in conformity to eternal law with Michael.”
Christ and Adam were fellow servants in the premortal existence. Christ, the beloved and chosen of the Father, was foreordained to be the Savior of the world, and Adam, the great Michael, was foreordained to be the first man and the head of the human race. Elder McConkie reminds us:
“We cannot doubt that the greatest of all female spirits was the one then chosen and foreordained to be ‘the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh [Mary]’ (1 Nephi 11:18). Nor can we do other than suppose that Eve was by [Adam’s] side, rejoicing in her own foreordination to be the first woman, the mother of men, the consort, companion, and friend of mighty Michael.
“Christ and Mary, Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, and a host of mighty men and equally glorious women composed 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’ (Abraham 3:24).”
Enhancing our collective consciousness of Eve and women’s worth, Elder McConkie gave this grand testament:
"Certainly these sisters labored as diligently then, and fought as valiantly in the war in heaven, as did the brethren, even as they in like manner stand firm today, in mortality, in the cause of truth and righteousness."
2. Eve was a partner in the Garden of Eden, not a passive or incompetent participant.
President Ezra Taft Benson taught:
“In the beginning, God placed a woman in a companion role with the priesthood. The Gods counseled and said that ‘it was not good that the man should be alone; wherefore, I will make an help meet for him’ (Moses 3:18). Why was it not good for man to be alone? If it were only man’s loneliness with which God was concerned, he might have provided other companionship. But he provided woman, for she was to be man’s helpmeet. She was to act in partnership with him.”
Eve was foreordained to be a partner, an organizer, a builder, and a creator of forms so that the great plan might be fulfilled. Certainly these essential and empowering roles directly contradict the images of “eloquent passivity” or “incipient sinner” that have permeated society’s perception of Eve.
3. Prophets have had visions of Eve in the hereafter.
Modern revelation tells us much about the magnificence of Eve. In his vision of the redemption of the dead, President Joseph F. Smith saw the prophets assembled in paradise:
“Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adam . . . and our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages (D&C 138:38–39).”
Zebedee Coltrin remembered that he and Oliver Cowdery had shared a vision about Eve with the Prophet. Joseph Smith took Brothers Coltrin and Cowdery by the arm and said, “Let’s take a walk.” After arriving at a place “where there was some beautiful grass, and grapevines and swamp birch interlaced, President Joseph Smith then said, ‘Let us pray.’” The account continues:
“[They] all three prayed in turn—Joseph, Oliver, and [Zebedee]. Brother Joseph then said, ‘Now brethren, we will see some visions.’
“. . . The heavens gradually opened, and [they] saw a golden throne, on a circular foundation, and on the throne sat a man and a woman, having white hair and clothed in white garments. They were the two most beautiful and perfect specimens of mankind [they had] ever [seen]. Joseph said, ‘They are our first parents,’ Adam and Eve.
“Adam was a large broad-shouldered man, and Eve, as a woman, was as large in proportion."
Both visions attest to the rightness of Eve’s action and of the acceptability of her contribution, for they showed Eve after her life on earth. She had fulfilled her important assignment gloriously. Exalted, she continues her reign, side by side with mighty Adam.
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 a 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 says.
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.” Aschkenasy 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 (Genesis 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 repetitious prayers of the ancients. Both the conception and 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.
From the time of creation, God envisioned the male-female relationship as one of partnership and support. That is the pattern given by God and the only way His work can effectively move forward. Only when women and men come to understand the significance of that first partnership, as they ponder the illuminating statements uttered by our prophets concerning Eve, “the mother of all living” (Moses 4:26), can they begin to use it to benefit their own lives.
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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.