Melinda Wheelwright Brown: How Understanding Eve Could Change the World

Wed Jun 14 05:00:11 EDT 2023
Episode 229

How has the world’s perception of Eve affected women throughout history and what is the cost of misunderstanding her choice in the garden? Can the restored gospel help us make sense of Eve’s choice? Could adopting Eve’s perspective of mortality bring increased joy into our own lives? Melinda Wheelwright Brown seeks to address these questions and more on this week’s episode of All In.

…it isn’t a story about sin. The transgression involved is very different. It’s not your typical sin by any means. It was a crossing of a threshold that was done by choice because of the beautiful gift of agency.
Melinda Wheelwright Brown

Show Notes

2:11- Jane Eyre
5:08- "Eve, Can You Help Me?"
11:24- Research
15:12- Doctrinal Differences
17:25- The Cost of Misunderstanding Eve's Choice
23:24- "Fruit"
24:37- The Transformative Power of Their Story For All
30:55- A Decision to Trust God
38:58- Eve's Role in the Restored Gospel
41:55- The Need for a Savior
46:18- What Does it Mean To Be “All In” the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

This episode originally aired on March 4, 2020.

Links & References
Eve and Adam: Discovering the Beautiful Balance (Melinda’s Book)
“Decision Making The Lord’s Way” by Steven C. Wheelwright
Multiply Goodness Bible Study Group
Jane Eyre
Eve’s Journey: Feminine Images in Hebraic Literary Tradition by Nehama Aschkenasy
Rediscovering Eve by Carol Meyers

Scriptural accounts of the Fall:
Genesis 1
Moses 3
2 Nephi 2


Morgan Jones 0:00

A few years ago, Melinda Wheelwright Brown began to be bothered by the gulf between the divine doctrine of gender relations and the difficult realities many women face. She started a serious search for increased understanding and insights to help her reconcile these contradictions and discrepancies. Now, four years later, her favorite scripture is Doctrine and Covenants 42:61, which says, "If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal." She hopes her new book, "Eve and Adam," will offer readers a hopeful perspective on loving life.

Melinda Wheelwright Brown earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Brigham Young University and is a respected teacher and public speaker. She has a passion for solving problems and has been involved in several organizations, including "Fight the New Drug, the "Now I Can Foundation." "Days for Girls, "Better Days 2020, "Big Ocean Women," and the "Utah Valley University Women's Success Center." Melinda and her husband, Doug, are the parents of four children. And some of her favorite things include sightseeing, sand dollars, and grandbabies.

This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, "What does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?" I'm Morgan Jones and I am so grateful to have Melinda Wheelwright Brown here with me today, also known as Mindy, is that right?

Melinda Brown 1:42

Yep, that's correct.

Morgan Jones 1:43

Well, welcome.

Melinda Brown 1:44

Thank you.

Morgan Jones 1:44

We are so excited. I have been looking forward to this because I've been reading Mindy's book, which is called "Eve and Adam," and it is remarkable. Like I've been telling everybody in our office I'm like, "This is going to be a big one." I I was like, "I know a win when I see one." And they've been making fun of me, but I really—I'd put money on it. I'm not a gambling woman.

Melinda Brown 2:08

That's very sweet. Thank you, kind words.

Morgan Jones 2:11

I knew that we were going to be friends when I opened the book and I saw the reference to Jane Eyre. "Jane Eyre" is one of my favorite books of all time, and you quote the book and it says, "I remembered that the real world was wide and that a varied fields of hope and fears of sensations and excitements awaited those who had the courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils." Mindy, what did you hope—it's kind of an interesting choice to start a book about Eve and Adam with a quote from Jane Eyre—what did you hope to communicate through that?

Melinda Brown 2:51

Well, first of all, I think I felt like drawing from the canon of great literature would maybe immediately help the reader recognize that this is a really applicable, broadly applicable story of Eve's and Adam's, and to just demonstrate that across time, cultures, everything, this is a story that resonates and has meaning in our lives. And I think that's something we often find in literature, right? It really speaks to us. And so like you, "Jane Eyre" is one of my absolute favorite books. It's the one I kind of keep on my nightstand and sometimes I just opened it up and read a few pages. I just love it. And I love the Bronte's. I love all the sisters. I think their story is just remarkable. And so I had a hunch early on that I might find something in there that would be just right for this. But I'd been kind of looking everywhere for just the right thing. And I was really excited when I found this one and realized just how totally perfect it is. I think it covers kind of three key elements of the thesis of my book, and that's why it fits so well. First of all, it's courage, it mentions courage. And mostly I want to help people recognize that faithful courage is at the core of Eve's very brave choice to open the doorway to mortality for all of us. So that was the first thing. The second thing is that Jane really accurately describes the real, wide world. She uses the terms, "the hopes and fears, the sensations, and excitements the joys and perils." And that just really sums up mortality. I mean, that's, that's it, we all know that, and it's meant to be that way. So I love her description because it captures the essence of what an amazing gift our bodies are, and how working together with our spirits, we really get a powerful, meaningful learning experience. And to me, that's a huge part of this story that I'm trying to tell here and apply to all of us. And then finally, her notion of real knowledge just really sums up my feelings about life, that there's something so unique and powerful about experiential learning that there's just no substitute for it. And that that's why this perfect plan includes a mortal experience. And then, of course, just overall and in a general sense, I just love Jane's grit, her determination, and endurance. And then it feels very Eve-like to me and I think Jane and Eve would be very nice friends. So it was a good fit.

Morgan Jones 5:08

Yeah. And I love how you kind of continue that, you have other references to classic literature throughout the book. And I think that's so neat because I think, obviously, there have been pieces of classic literature written about Adam and Eve. But I also think the story of Adam and Eve belongs in that mix of things. So I love that you did that. Mindy, from what I know, you've kind of come out of nowhere. I mean, obviously you came from somewhere, but tell us a little bit about yourself and how this book came to be.

Melinda Brown 5:43

Okay. So I went to Brigham Young University many years ago.

Go Cougs, yeah. I have a degree, actually, in economics. I have not taken writing courses. But I've always enjoyed writing and I've had a lot of experiences to do a lot of gospel writing and teaching, in conjunction with different responsibilities and callings I've had, and also kind of as an assistant for some of the things my parents have been able to do. My father was the president of BYU Hawaii for eight years and that requires a lot of speaking engagements. Just, you know, the honest truth is just more than any one person could ever prepare all those talks and presentations for. And so I kind of was an assistant to them. And that was a fabulous experience to learn how to really tap into the Spirit in presenting something in a way that people would be able to understand. And, you know, when you're speaking to a lot of young adult audiences like they were, it just required a lot of clarity, and it forced me to just really practice getting to a clear place in articulating an idea, and especially a theology and doctrinally based idea. And so that was huge in the process of that. Yeah, very formative.

Morgan Jones 5:48

Go Cougs!

Melinda Brown 7:04

And then, I guess really, it started—I've always been very interested in women's studies issues. And I've been involved with several great nonprofits and different organizations and helping women and girls of all ages. And so that was kind of a side thing that was going on for, you know, the past 20 years of my life. But about four years ago, and it basically was a four-year project, we're just past the four-year mark basically, my extended family and I were going through a challenging time, searching for some clear answers to some really challenging questions. It was definitely a thorny patch. And none of our options felt ideal. And they were just were really hard choices to be made. The specifics just don't even matter because I think we've all been there, we've all had those experiences and interpersonal relationships are just like that, especially the more people you add to the mix, the more tricky some of those choices are going to be, right? So we'd been working through some things for a couple of months and almost in desperation maybe, exasperation maybe, I was at my desk one day, and I have a beautiful portrait of Eve that hangs across from my desk. And I just said almost audibly I said, "Oh, Eve, can you help me?" And it was a rare experience because I don't usually hear voices, the Spirit speaks to me maybe in different ways, feelings and ideas. But there was almost a clear voice there, with her almost leaning out of the frame saying, "Yes, I thought you would never ask." And it caused me such pause that I like stopped everything and started to dig in and go through some books and figure out where did that come from? How in the world could this apply and help us in this situation? And really quickly, within hours, almost, there was clarity and understanding coming through and it led to some really great discussions between several family members, and it just brought peace to us. We just kind of took on a different perspective. And it really helped and it ended up that we were able to move forward and it was this beautiful experience.

But I would say simultaneously with that happening, there was this confluence of the things I was learning in the women's studies field with all these organizations I was working with. Just really getting into the trenches of some of the realities of the hard, awful, unfair abusive things that happened to women around the world now and always have. And I think that juxtaposition of those two things happening in my life just presented me with this, almost a quandary of like, how do these two things fit? I feel the beauty of Eve's story, of her experiences, of how she can influence us. And yet I see these hard, awful things happening all around to women and it was just tragic. It just seemed so tragic to me that I just felt like, I want to do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of this. Like I have to make sense of this because I can't sleep at night, like this is really bothersome to me, how are these things supposed to fit?

And so that just opened up a ton of research, two solid years of researching. And at that time, it was really just for me, I thought, well, you know, this would at least be something meaningful to my family if I compile this somehow. And it was kind of towards the end of that two year period that I started to feel really compelled like, this is for everybody. And I talked to countless women about various pieces of the story and this puzzle. And everybody was searching for these things that I was finding—not that were terribly hidden even. Often I would say these things are hidden in plain sight, but they just haven't been compiled in a way that makes a really clear picture of how everything fits. And so that that became my goal. And so then I spent a year writing and then a year in the publishing process and learned more than I ever expected to and had amazing experiences. And to be at this point, I just feel like it's a miracle because I really never thought—this wasn't what it started out as so it's exciting.

Morgan Jones 11:24

I love that so much. I think, as somebody who would love to write a book, but just feels like I can't figure out what to write one about, I think it's amazing that it just kind of all came together and then that you put in the work as somebody that's not even like a writer to do this. I just think that's remarkable. And what a beautiful book you've created. I found it interesting as I started reading, you cite some professors who I'm assuming are not members of our church, is that correct? Is that a correct assumption?

Melinda Brown 11:59

Yes, the ones I think you're referring to are not. Throughout the book, there are lots of non-LDS scholars cited but also a lot of LDS scholars that people will recognize their names.

Morgan Jones 12:11

Okay. So, in the beginning, you kind of set the stage and frame the way that our society perceives the story of Eve. What did you learn about the way that people of other religions perceive her story? And then I guess, together with that, how do we as Latter-day Saints, what's the juxtaposition there?

Melinda Brown 12:35

Okay. Yeah, that is a really interesting thing I started to discover bits and pieces of as I went through all this research. And really, my goal at the beginning was just to read every single thing I could get my hands on about it from everything—just everything I could find. And so I found a couple of women, in particular Nahama Ashkenazi is one who has written a great book called "Eve's Journey." And she's really coming at it from the Judaic tradition. And then Carol Myers, who's a professor at Duke University, wrote one called "Discovering Eve," and then there's a later edition called "Rediscovering Eve," they're wonderful. And so those two were kind of my launching place in terms of scholarly work outside of our faith tradition. And what I found is that in all these different religious backgrounds, there are scholars kind of bubbling up that are searching for the exact same things I was searching for. And we're finding those things. So you know, when I say this was hidden in plain sight, it was from all these different researchers turning up these ideas. And I think culturally, it's had some really sticky misperceptions. And the general lay public looks at it differently than those who have really dug into it and have been able to find kind of the truth in the message, in the metaphors and in the figurative language that can be so tricky in scripture. And so it was really comforting and enlightening for me to recognize that all these different Christian religions and Judeo Christian backgrounds were uncovering these beautiful truths about Eve's courage, and about the meaning of her choices. For sure the missing piece that became apparent is without the premortal piece of the puzzle, without the big picture plan, like capital P plan, way back there in the Council in heaven. They were definitely missing pieces, but they were finding treasures in what they could get their hands on. And so piecing that together really helped me start to kind of parcel out the doctrine from the culture. And I think in every religion, including ours, there's just a lot of cultural baggage that is really hard to wade through. And it creeps in all the time. And we hear it all the time. And so it's a tricky thing to kind of tease out where the doctrine is.

Morgan Jones 15:12

Right. I feel like Latter-day Saint doctrine, in regard to the Fall is so unique. Did you get any sense of how that is perceived by these people who are studying?

Melinda Brown 15:26

Well, I think so much of that, they just don't get the big picture. So they talk about the fall—and some of them use that term, that's a pretty LDS term, right? But one of the biggest things that was surprising to me is people who were writing about Eve and Adam's story would uncover wonderful ideas and beautiful truths, but almost always with a slant of recognizing or saying, claiming, "We know they're not real people that this is just a story. This is like a legend. This is an origin myth. But we can still find a lot of meaning in it." And that became a really interesting divergency between what we believe with them, "No, they actually were our, our first parents here on earth and mortality." And I was just amazed to see how far they could come without accepting that truth. Because they were finding great things, but they were missing that part. The other part that is amazing, as you know, we talk about heavenly parents, that's really something we're comfortable with. And that is totally exclusive to us. I didn't hear anybody else pulling that in, in anything that I was reading in a broad sense. And maybe they would get as far as saying, "Wow, how in the world could Adam and Eve have figured out their marital relationship early on with no role models? That's amazing." And I would think, "Oh, no, you're missing such an important piece. They had amazing role models, they had divine role models." Of course, they saw this playing out, they were personally acquainted with them so they knew whose example to follow. So that was a really interesting difference.

Morgan Jones 17:25

So interesting.

You quote Dr. Camille Fronk Olson in the book, who says, "Our interpretation of Eve's role in the Fall likely influences the manner in which we regard women in general." And in another spot, after talking about lost truths from the Bible, you say, "Perhaps nowhere are lost truths more troubling than throughout the account of Eve's life story because of the damaging effects they have had on women's well being."

This part of your book kind of blew my mind a little bit just because I don't think that we think about . . . the way that society has perceived Eve and her decision to partake of the fruit, that that could potentially have had detrimental effects on women as a whole. What would you say, Mindy, are the costs of misunderstanding Eve's choice?

Melinda Brown 18:22

Well, there's obviously a lot we can talk about on that, that's a really big question.

Morgan Jones 18:26

That's a loaded question.

Melinda Brown 18:27

That is a very big question. But I think there are two halves of this equation. There's the effect it [has] had on men, and the way they have been subtly influenced to perceive women and think of women. And then there's the effect that it's had on women. And I would say and this—and forgive these broad generalizations, I understand they're going to feel like there's some stereotypes in here—but just as kind of a starting point, I think some men have felt justified treating women poorly, because if they cling at all to this so-called origin myth, and they believe that she blew it—it's her fault—we're living in this hard, mortal, fallen world—then it's just this insidious, perpetuated notion that when life gets hard, it's her fault—a woman was the cause of that.

And that's a terrible place to start out gender relations. That's so unhealthy and unhelpful. And then, really, equally pervasive is this idea with women that if they feel like somehow we're less than, that if we are being repeatedly treated as inferior to men, then that sinks in and we start to feel less valuable, less needed, less important, and that obviously has huge repercussions. So, both sides of this equation then kind of doubly affect women—that we're not living up to our privileges, our rights, and there's this serious loss for everybody.

And I think what we find if we start really digging into the story, and the way that I present it in the book, is I start with looking at the fruit and looking at those two trees. Because right off the bat . . .if we were to go out, you know, and do a very unscientific sort of, on-the-street, every person sort of interview, they would say, "Oh, well, she ate the apple, and she made a mistake, and that was evil." And the roots of that go so deep.

And so, one of the really fascinating bits, I think, is the idea of an apple—there's no apple mentioned in the biblical account. And when I say the biblical account, I include Genesis and the Moses version that we are blessed with in the Pearl of Great Price. There's no apple. There are figs mentioned, there's other fruit in general, but this apple idea is just something that has crept into culture, really over centuries, you know, even thousands of years. And when we look at where that came from, the Latin word for "apple" is malum. And that word has a homonym, which is evil.

And so I think, way back in time when the Bible was being canonized and we were having all these translations and multiple translations, those scribes really enjoyed wordplay. And we see that in lots of places in the Bible. There's lots of wordplay if we dig into the Hebrew, or the Latin, or the Greek, we can see multiple meanings of the words that they choose to use in different translations. And this one is just huge—the repercussions of this are huge. If you look at almost any classical artwork depicting Adam and Eve, you will see an apple, and it's clearly an apple. It's more recently that we see depictions that look like some mysterious fruit that maybe we don't recognize immediately. But the apple is what has stuck.

Another term that I think is really sticky and that really gets me—I don't like to hear it referred to this way—is we talked about them being "cast out" of the garden. And that's not a biblical phrase. That's not in Genesis or Moses. That's something that culture has attached to this. And obviously, there's a really negative connotation with the idea of casting someone out and it sounds so awful. But what's actually in the scriptures is the phrase, "God sent them forth from the garden," and that He drove them out. And "drove" you could look at in different ways.

There are different connotations there. But the way that I always think of this is an experience I've had way too many times for my liking—and I know lots of other people have, too—and that's driving my college students to the airport when they're going to leave to go back to school. And what that driving them out kind of feels like. Those are some of the most tender moments. I always feel like those 45 minutes in the car to the Salt Lake airport from our home—it's my last chance before the next span that they're going to be away. I’ve got to think of all the important things I haven't told them, and any great advice I have for the next couple of months that they're going to be away from me. And those are sweet, sweet times. And that's how I picture our Heavenly Parents kind of saying goodbye to [Adam and Eve] as they leave the garden, as this very tender scene. No fire-and-brimstone sort of casting out, which is often portrayed. So that's one example of that stickiness of culture.

Morgan Jones 23:24

Yeah. Well, it's so interesting, you have a whole chapter in the book, I think it's called "Fruit," is that right?

Melinda Brown 23:30

Yes, that's right. Right at the beginning.

Morgan Jones 23:32

And I think it's interesting because in my mind as I was reading that I was like, "You're so right," like Snow White, the apple, evil, like, all of the pieces started to come together. And I was like that's spot on and really, we don't know what the fruit was.

Melinda Brown 23:48

Yes, yes. And it's everywhere in fairy tales and literature. We always are getting those same ideas, "That evil apple." You know, I mean, even her name like it's strange that her English name of Eve sounds even like evil. And that's and that's so unfortunate. I don't think that's meant to have that connection. But I think that it's just one more thing that kind of fuels that fire of, "Oh, she blew it and we wouldn't be in this fix if she hadn't messed things up." And I just think that's totally inaccurate, because we know that mortality was a really crucial piece of the puzzle. Both of those trees were good trees. There wasn't a bad tree that she was choosing from, they were both good trees. It was a matter of timing and preparation, and choice. It's really ultimately a story of agency.

Morgan Jones 24:37

Yeah. I love another statement you make in the book, and you're talking about the interdependence between men and women. And you say, "One cannot recognize their beautiful, balanced, interdependence without first restoring her, meaning Eve, to her proper place." Why, Mindy, would you say—I feel like this will be a book that women will gravitate toward. Men, maybe not as much. Why does this story matter? Why does understanding this matter to men as much as it does to women?

Melinda Brown 25:13

Well, actually one of the things I've been really surprised by, not too many people have read the book, but I did have about a dozen beta readers that I had look at it. There were a few men in that mix, but it was predominantly women. And I was so surprised and extremely pleased with the responses I got back from spouses, from men who saw their wives reading this book, and picked it up and read it alongside them. And without exception, for those homes where there was a man and a woman there and they had a copy of my manuscript, the man would in fact pick it up because he was very interested in it. And one day, in particular, I bumped into a husband of one of the readers and I almost didn't recognize him, I just didn't make the connection quickly. And he approached and was just effusive about how meaningful the book was to him. And went so far as to say, "That book has changed our marriage." He just went on and on saying, "That is what I needed, that sort of reaffirmation of those truths. And she needed to hear that. She needed to know that no, we are absolutely balanced together, neither of us is higher or lower than the other. We are a united, interdependent team and with unified goals, we just can conquer the world together". You know, that's really kind of the attitude that he had about it. And I heard that from several other people as well. And it was just thrilling to me because I really intended from the start that this was not going to be just a "woman's book," and I say that in quotation marks, air quotes there. That is for everybody. And my dedication page, it's to all my brothers and sisters, it's not just a women's message. I guess in some ways you can kind of liken that to something that we see culturally and in the media, we often feel like, oh, if there's a movie with a male main character, then that's a movie for everybody. But if it's a woman main character, then maybe that's a chick flick, that's a girl story or whatever. You know you hear people say things like that. And we all know that's ridiculous, that's ridiculous. Every story can be for everybody. There's meaning that we can find everywhere. And especially in this case, this is a story for everyone to understand. It will help all of our relationships work better.

Morgan Jones 27:41

Thank you. As a follow up to that, why, Mindy, would you say that that is? Like what is it about the story of Adam and Eve that has a transformative power if we allow ourselves to internalize it?

Melinda Brown 27:58

Well, I guess the way that I would explain that, kind of a nutshell version of that. I think we often start at the middle of the story, say where she partakes of the fruit, and then go forward from there, look at them leaving the garden, look at what their life then looked like and maybe how they had to work toward repairing that situation, right? That's kind of the general, worldly view of that story. We are so blessed with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and the continuing, ongoing restoration of that gospel to have the first half of the story as well. And I think where other people look at this and say, "This is a metaphor for all of our lives because we all sin, they sinned, and they got it patched up thanks to a savior it's all better, it's going to be fine." We can start at the beginning of the story and say that this is the big picture. This is the plan. This is a story about agency and for agency to really be effective, we'll have to have a savior, we have to have kind of the twin partner of agency which is repentance, which Jesus Christ makes possible. And if we kind of overlay our story over that first half of the story that we each made the same decision in the council's in heaven, that in pre mortality, we each had to make the decision, do we want to trust our elder brother? Can we trust Jesus Christ enough to venture into this relatively unknown, but I think we probably did know that it was going to be very hard. I mean, we understood different personalities then. We know that some spirits had progressed further than others had, some had been more diligent in their studying and learning than others had. And I imagine that we could look around those people near us, the spirits that were surrounding us and think, you know, I don't know that I really want that fellow over there to have the same degree of agency I have. Like that could end up being a problem for me or for my family or my posterity. And I think we've really had to tap into trust at that point. I think that's the very beginning of the story of trusting our Savior, that He could make all of this work to our good. And to me, that's the beauty of this story that applies to all of us. And that's where I'd love to see our focus shift to a little bit more than just seeing it as a story of sin and repentance into mortality. I like the first half and i think it informs why it isn't a story about sin, that the transgression involved is very different, it's not your typical sin by any means. It was a crossing of a threshold that was done by choice because of the beautiful gift of agency.

Morgan Jones 30:55

Thank you. That's super helpful. Another statement that I wanted to touch on in the book you said, "For millennia, the world has dismissed the story of Adam and Eve as simply a choice between good and evil with the obvious conclusion that Eve chose evil. But on much closer inspection, we can discover and lead others to discover that the choice was in fact between certainty and uncertainty, security and risk, fear and faith. Eve's most remarkable choice had everything to do with stagnation versus progress, hers was a decision to trust God." And you just kind of touched on this idea of trust. But can you explain how you learned that hers was a decision to trust God and what that can mean for us?

Melinda Brown 31:47

I think one of the tricky parts with this story is it's been simplified so much, in the broadest sense, I'm talking the historical sense. It's come down to a story that can be told in like three sentences, right? It's just very straightforward and people simplify it that way. And in that simplification, I think we lose sight of the possibility that they may have been in the garden for eons. Like we have no idea of what that timeline looked like. We have some sense of the chronological order that things happened because of how the story is told in scriptures and through revelation and modern-day prophets and things. But we don't have a sense of if the choice came immediately on their being introduced to the garden, or if it was ages later after tons of tutoring and conversation and learning with angelic messengers, their heavenly parents, you know, there's a lot of unknown there, we just don't know. And I took a lot of comfort for me personally, some of Elder Holland's writings really meant a lot to me as he describes that they weren't being taught trivial things while they were in the garden, that they were learning the gospel. And he even uses the phrase, "in its entirety." I think that's something that the rest of the world doesn't even consider that she knew. Because we think of them as being as in an innocent state, but there's a difference between clueless and innocent, right? They had plenty of so-called book learning, we could think of it, but no street smarts. They just hadn't experienced life yet, mortality and the workings of a body and spirit together, which creates some unique challenges too that they were totally unfamiliar with.

So my personal opinion that helps me feel peace with the issues that we started out discussing is that she had a very good sense of the big picture before she made this choice. I think the issue of these two commandments that they had been given, that a lot of people term "conflicting commandments." And that's where so many people get hung up on this story. And they feel like there's this gross injustice in it right from the get-go, because how is that fair that they were given these two mutually exclusive commandments? I think, really the meaning behind that is so recognizable in our own lives because we are constantly presented with two mutually exclusive options. Sometimes it's two great choices that we have to decide between, sometimes it's two rotten choices that we have to decide between. Sometimes it's just a matter of some that are better than others in various ways, and it's weighing all the pros and cons and having to come to that decision. And I think, to me, the beauty of the way they were presented with these two mutually exclusive options is it made it 100% about their agency and their choice. They had to choose one or the other because, by virtue of not choosing, they were making a choice, you know, they were both a choice. And they needed to know that it was their decision that it wasn't clear cut to them so they couldn't look back later and think, "Well, I knew what our heavenly parents wanted us to do and so we did that even though we weren't comfortable yet." There had to be this ambiguity there that they needed to decide when they were ready to go ahead. And I don't think that they were clueless moving ahead. I think they had a sense of how hard it would be, and that there would be a savior to help them through this, that it was all going to work out because they knew and trusted our Savior, Jesus Christ. We know His is an infinite atonement, it's an infinite sacrifice He made for us. He was our Savior at the very beginning as much as He will be our Savior at the end. And that is a really important piece of the puzzle.

Morgan Jones 36:06

I think that's such an important point that you bring up in that I think so many of us also have choices like you said, many times choices between two great things. And we kind of have to own that decision. And I think looking back, if we were forced to do it, or if we knew 100%, this is what's supposed to happen, then we'd be able to say, "Oh, well, I only chose it because of this." Or even, another example is when your parents come out and tell you, "This is what we'd like you to do." Well, then you can look back and blame it on your parents. But if your parents say, "It's your choice," then you just own it. And I think that there's something really beautiful and important in our Heavenly Father's plan about our owning our personal decisions.

Melinda Brown 36:54

Yeah, that's exactly right. And I think looking at it from a parental perspective, really makes that clear to us. And we can understand that better. Because I think any parent who's had children get to kind of the stage where they're leaving home, or they're choosing who they want to spend the rest of their life with.

Morgan Jones 37:11

I'm hoping to never have kids get to that point.

Melinda Brown 37:13

It is scary, it's hard! But you know, really, those are the times more than ever, even though they're the most critical choices they have to make, I think wise parenting requires that we step back and say, "You know what, I'm not going to tell you. I don't want the responsibility for influencing this because you're going to have to sleep in the bed you made,right? This is yours and it needs to have been your decision completely. You know, I can try to teach you every bit of wisdom I might have, but I'm not going to make this choice for you. It has to be on you." And I just think that our heavenly parents absolutely, to a much greater extent realized we don't ever want to be blamed for the hard stuff ahead. You know, it has to have been their choice. And in that sense, one of the beautiful positions that Eve is then in when we look at the story, the biblical account, is that she was like the original proxy. And we use the term proxy a lot in the church and in the temple. And she was very much a proxy with Adam, once he chose as well and followed her lead, for every single one of us. Because we know from the restoration and revealed truth through modern prophets and everything, that we each made that choice in pre mortality, and it wasn't something forced on a single one of us. And in fact, a lot of our cohort chose not to. That to them, it just seemed too risky, too dangerous, too hard, or who knows what they were thinking. But I imagine there were probably a lot who thought it seemed too risky. And that's why they didn't choose to proceed with the plan.

Morgan Jones 38:58

Fascinating. I noticed earlier something that you said, you said, "We're so blessed as members of the church to know," and I don't even remember what it was that you were talking about, but as you've gone through, I've noticed how many things are unique to our doctrine. How has kind of digging into this in this way increased your testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ?

Melinda Brown 39:25

Oh, like more than I can even find words to express. That was something I didn't recognize early on that that would be one of the very biggest takeaways is how grateful I am for the ongoing restoration. You know, we have so much of it right off the bat in the Book of Mormon, we're all studying the Book of Mormon right now. And right there in second Nephi chapter two, wow, we have some absolutely critical truth that the rest of the world has really missed out on. One of the most important things that we know from those teachings in chapter two is that Adam and Eve could not have children in the garden, that that wasn't an option. They were very much in a static place and it would require leaving for progress to begin. And that, in a nutshell, is the biggest missing piece that the rest of the world can't get over and get around. Because so many of them think, for example, I have some close friends who are Jehovah's Witnesses, and I've had some conversations with them and I've said, "Do you think that we could be living in the garden right now if Eve hadn't eaten that?" And they say, "Oh, absolutely, we'd all be there. She wrote it, we'd be living in paradise." And you know, we just see that so differently. So these truths that we have really change everything and give so much more meaning to it to the big picture and it changes everything.

Morgan Jones 40:51

Yeah. I love that you said that you didn't see that being a byproduct of this research. But I volunteer with a Bible study nonprofit, and we do these devotionals. And every time that I have to do a devotional, I'm like, "Oh, if I could use that Book of Mormon scripture," but I can't. But it has increased my testimony of the Book of Mormon. It's so interesting to me how our testimonies of the gospel can be enhanced as we kind of dig into these things that are available to all.

Melinda Brown 41:24

Yeah, that's exactly right. And actually, an ongoing conversation that my husband and I have had for the last couple of years, is he really felt like, and I agreed early on, that this would be a great book to pursue as a nondenominational Christian book. That this should be for everyone. And so many people in the broad, wide world need this message. And as I got close to the writing stage, I was still kind of toying with that idea, thinking could I do that? Could I make this for everybody? And honestly, I couldn't. I could not figure out how I could possibly make sense of these issues without the restored gospel pieces of it, it's impossible. And it's heartbreaking. I wish I could. But I've had fascinating conversations, there was a really memorable flight I took one day where the man sitting next to me looked over my shoulder and noticed that I was doing some searching on my computer. And it made me so uncomfortable when he said, "I can't help but notice that it looks like you're doing some archival research there." And I was, it was almost like I was going through some microfiche sort of archival records looking for actually a primary source on one of the quotes we use in the book. And he was so kind he said, "I really don't mean to pry, but I work for Amazon and I'm one of their leads on search engines and I'd love to show you how I think I could help you find what you're looking for in a much easier way." And I mean, it was amazing, I thought oh my word, a miracle on the plane right here. But as we kind of got past that, and he showed me some cool tricks and things, he said, "Well, what is it exactly that you're working on?" And when I told him a very brief overview, just from a broad Christian standpoint, he was thrilled. He said, "Oh, I need this book. And my parents need this book. They need this book more than anyone and, and we're all Christian and my girlfriend, and I would just love this. And I'm going to watch for this to come online. And I'm gonna be one of your first people to order it and I'm going to track you down and have you sign my copy." And, you know, it was all of this and it just it was such an interesting moment to think, "You'll be surprised when you realize this is in fact, kind of unique to one subset of Christianity here." But I hope that other people do pick it up and I hope to have some really great missionary discussions because of it. So it applies to everyone, we just happened to have the missing pieces.

Morgan Jones 41:55

For sure, 100%. Before we get to our final question, I want to know, Mindy, how you would say this study of Eve has changed your life?

Melinda Brown 44:05

Well, so many ways. I mean, like you just pointed out, my testimony of the restored gospel has just skyrocketed to new levels. And I'm sure it has a lot further to go as well. But it's exciting that I feel like I've made some progress in that regard. But I think, ultimately, on just a moment to moment, day by day basis, it has just helped me be a much happier person. I think I really feel joy and peace concurrently, regardless of what's going on, because I look now and I say—my family probably gets real tired of me using this phrase, but I just say, "That's mortality for you," you know, "That's just all part of the plan. And, well, what can we learn from that?" And I just see things through a lens of everything being a learning experience, whether we get it right the first time or it takes 10 times to get it right, it's all about the process of exaltation. I think ultimately, my viewpoint on exaltation has really shifted where I don't see it as a destination so much anymore as something that happens when we finally cross that finish line, but as an ongoing, sanctifying process that happens every single day, as we just try to make sense of how to get through mortality while collaborating with our Savior. And that's really a critical piece of it is that it's not necessarily meant to be possible without His help. I think that it requires His help to be able to get through. And I hope, I hope that the biggest takeaway message from the book and what I build up to through the course of the book and at the end of the book, is the unbelievable need we have for a savior to help us every single day just make the best and help everything work for our good. And I just believe so strongly that He can do that and that that that's why we're here and going through this and experiencing these often very hard, difficult, sometimes awful things, is to learn that He can make everything work for our well being and benefit. And we're becoming like God by going through this process.

Morgan Jones 46:18

Well, that is a perfect lead into our final question. My goal with this podcast, especially this year, is to center everything around Jesus Christ. And so I love that you brought it back to Him because He is the centerpiece of all of this. Mindy, what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Melinda Brown 46:44

I love that question. I listen to your podcast a lot, and I always love hearing how people answer that. I think with an Eve perspective, that it just is crystal clear to me that to me, all in means accepting the good and the bad, the hard and the easy, the comfortable and the uncomfortable, the scary, and the routine, that it's just all part of the fun mixed bag that we get to learn from. And I really am enormously grateful for Eve's example and that faithful courage that she demonstrated throughout her life and how we can follow that lead, that that it's all good. I used to kind of laugh when people would say that and think, "No, it isn't actually all good. There are some things that are really bad and yucky and awful." But now I really can say with a conviction, deep in my soul that it is all good. It will all work out and bring it on. We can do it. We can handle it with the help of a loving Savior.

Morgan Jones 47:47

Thank you so much. Thank you, Mindy.

Melinda Brown 47:49

You're welcome. Thank you.

Morgan Jones 47:51

We are so grateful to have had Melinda Wheelwright Brown with us on today's episode. Melinda's book, "Eve and Adam" will be in Deseret Book stores later this month, but you can pre-order the book now using the code "allin6" to get 15% off between now and March 14. Again, that's "allin6," and that code can be used until March 14. Thanks to all of you for listening and to Derek Campbell of Mix At Six Studios as always, for making us sound good. We'll be with you again next week.

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