“The woman is not the villain of the story, enslaved by appetite and bringing sin and death into the world. She can be seen as the heroine of the story, leading her husband into the brave new world of moral demands and moral decisions,” Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, author and rabbi
“It is the woman who sees through Satan’s disguise of clever hypocrisy, identifies him, and exposes him for what he is. She discovers the principle of opposites by which the world is governed and views it with high-spirited optimism,” Hugh Nibley , Mormon scholar
“…there is no language that could do credit to our glorious mother Eve,” Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon scholar
The story of Eve, our first mother, is too often told negatively. She is often viewed as a foolish temptress who led Adam into sin and brought original sin upon the world.
I don’t see it that way. I think Eve was strong and wise. Mormons do not accept the idea of original sin. We do acknowledge that we live in a mortal state, separate from God, in this life, which includes suffering, and that Adam and Eve began that journey with their taste of fruit. Joseph Smith said in our Articles of Faith, “We believe that man will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.”
As a Mormon, I believe every person who ever has lived, or ever will live, existed as a spirit child of God in heaven before Adam and Eve came to earth and received bodies. I hope you will be patient as I try to summarize complicated (and yet sweetly simple) beliefs for the purpose of Eve’s story, including Mormon scripture.
We believe before we came to earth and received bodies God presented us with a wonderful plan we refer to as a “Great Plan of Happiness” or “Plan of Salvation.” Essentially, it is the meaning of life. It outlines how all of God’s children could come to earth and receive bodies (a great blessing), grow and develop here, choose whether or not to return to God, and be redeemed and allowed to return to God’s presence because of the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Then we continue to grow and become like God forever and have eternal families and great joy.
In the Book of Moses, — a scripture from Joseph Smith’s translation of the book of Genesis (however Mormons generally study the King James version of the Bible), we learn God presented this “Plan of Salvation “ to his children during what we call the pre-mortal life. He would give us the gift of “free agency,” or the gift of choice. It is always our choice whether we choose good or evil. Chooseing good over evil will allow us to return to God after our earth life. We then learn Satan offered a different plan to God whereby God would not lose any of his children to sin because we would not have the right to choose. Satan would ensure our return and deny us the precious gift of choice! He also wanted all the glory. He was cast out from heaven (he started as an angel, like us — Isaiah 14:12), and Jesus Christ humbly said, “Here am I, send me,” and “Thy will be done, Father,” making the plan possible through his redemptive gift, the atonement, found in Moses 4:1-4 (Mormons don’t believe in the Trinity; we think God and Jesus are separate beings).
So when Adam and Eve came to earth, it was important they begin to fulfill this plan. Adam and Eve were given two conflicting commandments by God — the principle of opposites, or paradox, mentioned above in the second quote.
One commandment was to multiply and replenish the earth (Genesis 1:28), the other was to not eat the fruit (Genesis 3:3).
The eating of the fruit would make Adam and Eve mortal and able to bear children; they would have to leave the Garden of Eden, where they existed in a state of innocence (not ashamed of their nakedness), according to Genesis 3: 7, 19.
How could they obey both? Not eating the fruit would mean remaining like innocent children in the garden forever, never dying, never truly living, never having children.
After she became mortal, Eve said, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed [children], 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).
After partaking of the fruit they were no longer innocent and they had to work and suffer outside of paradise. But they knew true joy (for example, the joy of family) because they knew true pain. One cannot be appreciated without the other.
Satan thought he was meeting his agenda by offering the fruit, his lies and half-truths to Eve, by encouraging her disobedience. But after she ate the fruit she became mortal and became our first mother, and God’s Great Plan of Happiness was able to truly begin. Spirits started coming to earth to receive bodies and fulfill their earthly journey and purpose here. You see, it was Satan who was the fool, not Eve.
I hope others find Eve’s story as empowering as I do!
Laura Kipp is a 20-something Mormon living in Spokane Valley.
I do find Eve’s story empowering! Great article, Laura. (Please forgive the nepotism, everyone.)
“We believe before we came to earth and received bodies God presented us with a wonderful plan we refer to as a “Great Plan of Happiness” or “Plan of Salvation.” Essentially, it is the meaning of life. It outlines how all of God’s children could come to earth and receive bodies (a great blessing), grow and develop here, choose whether or not to return to God, and be redeemed and allowed to return to God’s presence because of the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Then we continue to grow and become like God forever and have eternal families and great joy.”
I’m not seeing the logic here. Why is leaving God’s presence to receive a mortal body a great blessing? If the whole idea is to return to God, why not just stay there? This would seem to bypass any need for redemption and Christ’s death. Was there a need for salvation in heaven? Why don’t we remember these things? And why would God wait until just a couple hundred years ago to remind humans of this (nothing of the sort is taught in the bible)?
Also, how do you explain to someone that you are going to give him/her free-choice? Wouldn’t this be like explaining to a robot that you are going to give it artificial intelligence? Finally, how can we be truly said to have had a free choice if we cannot remember making that choice? In other words, why the disconnect between our earthly minds and our alleged pre-mortal minds? Sorry, for all the questions, but I’m just not seeing it.
Thank you, Ryan, for showing me where I need to clarify!
“I’m just not seeing it.”
Don’t despair! As I said, “The Plan of Salvation” is a rather enormous theological idea that I tried to VERY briefly touch on, in order to be able to make my point about Eve. It would be like if someone was writing an article being read by someone who wasn’t familiar with Christianity and briefly mentioned the Atonement 🙂 I tried to provide a couple links in the article to get you started. 🙂 Here is another. http://www.lds.org/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-4-freedom-to-choose?lang=eng
I think it might help you if I emphasize that the purpose of life is seen through this plan as an opportunity to learn and grow. Say, like leaving the nest. We will make mistakes, and make choices that hopefully we make us worthy to be in God’s presence again in the next life. So, the atonement is absolutely vital for that!
We believe children are born innocent. No original sin, remember?
Mormon scripture does a beautiful job being companion books to the Bible in my opinion.
We do believe we existed before we came to earth, but we wouldn’t have much need for faith if we could remember living in God’s presence before this, right? So part of the plan is that we wouldn’t remember the pre-existence during this life, yes.
I’m really sorry I wasn’t more clear, it’s a hard thing to summarize. If you want me to explain more, please Email me.
Thanks for the reply Laura. But if you don’t mind me saying, faith is overrated. True, we wouldn’t need faith if we remembered and my reply to that is: so much the better! We don’t need faith. Frankly, I’m not sure how it got such a prominent spot on the virtue list. So, why is faith such a valuable thing on your position? Why should one have faith? More specifically, why should one have faith that your position is correct?
You have to understand that from my perspective, it appears awfully convenient that we cannot remember, since it makes it completely unfalsifiable. But even if one can swallow that bit, there still seem to be some major philosophical problems. For instance, if “I” really did have a pre-existence, but have absolutely no memory or connection to that pre-existence, in what sense could I be said to be the same person?
Also, I’m still not seeing the purpose of becoming mortal in a physical world. Why do we need testing at all? And if one is needed, couldn’t it have been carried out in heaven? When I left “the nest” I didn’t forget that my parents existed and I didn’t move to another dimension.
That’s pretty deep. And not really relevant to my point about Eve. I have many thoughts on the value of faith, etc, but I don’t really want to have a debate in this comment section. This website needs a chat room!
I will also say that I never have, nor will I ever, tell anyone what they “should” believe. The Mormon invitation is to read The Book of Mormon and pray to know if it is true, if one is inclined to do so.
Questions: Do you believe that everyone who has existed, does exist and will exist is one of God’s “spirit children” who previously existed in Heaven? If so, where did these “spirit children” first come from? Were we all conceived in Heaven sexually or did God flat out create us? How do we become physical beings? In other words, who or what decides which people in Heaven will become which people on earth? How is it decided who will become who’s children on earth? Do people volunteer? Is it random? Are there a bunch of spirit children in heaven right now just waiting to be born here on earth?
Q2: As best I gather, created by God to be spirits, but always did exist (eternal) as “intelligences,” possibly in element form
Q3: Maybe flat out created, as opposed to how Jesus was created?
Q4: Bodies are created by God, the spirit resides in the body
Q5-9: Every person will get their chance on earth, however, a third, or a third part, of God’s spirits, chose to follow Satan instead of God, before anyone was ever born. They are now, for lack of a better word, demons. Some like to speculate that families and even life journeys are predestined to some degree, because “God has a plan” for us. I don’t think this is solid scripturally (is that a word?). However, it would seem God definitely picked some people ahead of time to be spiritual leaders, and saved some people for the “last days,” before the second coming of Christ, which we would say we are already in (we don’t claim to know when that will be.) Volunteering sounds good to me, we all have free will.
Q6: Of course. In fact, there are always some religious people who claim to feel in tune with angels, and if a Mormon person were that way, she might possibly even say her unborn children are watching over her or something. I have never felt that way but it’s interesting what the spiritually sensitive (and melodramatic) will say.
This makes me laugh a little. Nobody claims to know every detail of how things played out. I imagine God reveals through scripture enough information to be useful, and not more than we can handle. While this is fun, it almost embarrasses me a little to answer questions like this- in this format, because it makes my religion sound like a sci-fi novel. It’s not. It’s a faith group. Church is for gathering to worship God, learn about Jesus and the purpose of life, like every other Christian religion.
Okay, if “people” are in heaven right now watching us or who their parents will be, then why do some children end up killing their parents? Or, less extreme, why do some children become very bad? Do they plan to be this way even from heaven? And if it is a matter of volunteering, who in their right mind would volunteer to be the child of, say, an abusive drunk or as the result of rape? Or who would volunteer to be born to a family who practices a different religion, which will increase the probability to near certainty that he/she will come to false beliefs? Or who would volunteer to be the child of a drug addict, which will increase the probability that he/she will make bad decisions and not be worthy of returning to God?
I don’t mean any offense, but if a religion is to avoid sounding bizarre, why posit such bizarre things as pre-existing in heaven?
Okay… you win. Here goes:
Q1 & 5: Why do some children kill their parents? Or who would volunteer to be the child of a drug addict?
Most likely it was either an accident, or they were being abused, or possibly they were adopted from a Romania orphanage and have severe attachment disorder??? How the heck would I know??? Did I claim to know? Did I claim Mormons knew? Did I claim that Mormons think that spirit people want drug addict parents? Nope, I sure did not. However if you are going to press me, for my *personal opinion,* I guess that’s fine with me. I simply speculated that some spirits may have volunteered, because *you asked* for my *opinion.* That one was NOT Mormon doctrine, all right? I am very sorry if not making that clear was my mistake! Bizarre is very relative, but I do have plenty of bizarre opinions, and I enjoy learning about metaphysics and new age beliefs very much, which speculate about life, it’s all good stuff. I will assume calling my thoughts bizarre was intended as a great compliment. If I was going to get really wild and crazy and speculate for the sake of speculating, about volunteering in the pre-earth life, which I have already done in the past, I would say, why not, maybe some people did volunteer to go to bad situations for the learning opportunity …or something else? This idea personally comforts me. Also, maybe they didn’t know there would be drugs or what they were or maybe some or all didn’t get to choose. Maybe they didn’t. I certainly don’t know. Maybe if we prayed about it God would bless us with insight. 🙂
Q2: Why do some children become very bad?
Bad children?! I personally don’t believe there is such a thing. I believe children are born innocent and become accountable to know right from wrong at about age 8 (Mormon children are baptized at age 8, but you might be interested to know the right from wrong thing is supported by child development research.) I believe all people make poor choices but everyone is inherently good and has the “light of Christ” within them, that is how I would state it. Some people certainly seem to make much worse choices because of their circumstance and understanding, and only God can judge them.
Q3: Do they plan to be this way even from heaven?
Very interesting question. I do not claim to know!!!
Q4: And if it is a matter of volunteering, who in their right mind would volunteer to be the child of, say, an abusive drunk or as the result of rape?
That’s a good one! I know many fantastic people who were born into imperfect circumstances. Sorry, EVERYONE I know was born into imperfect circumstances! All of these people, unless they are suffering from severe clinical depression, are glad they were born. Some even love their parents! In fact, Jesus was a descendant of David and Bathsheba, who’s union came to be by adultry and murder. Everyone makes mistakes, most people reproduce anyway, and as Nietzsche said, and Kelly Clarkston sang, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Most abusers were abused themselves, and I am always very inspired when someone breaks the cycle. Now, that is what it is all about!! Some people from tragic circumstances claim to be grateful for it, and say it makes them better or more compassionate. They are obviously all high, but I say a little delusion is healthy, and I have clinical studies to back me up. 😀
Or who would volunteer to be born to a family who practices a different religion, which will increase the probability to near certainty that he/she will come to false beliefs? …increase the probability that he/she will make bad decisions and not be worthy of returning to God?
You are obviously extremely intelligent, and we both know you are throwing around a whole bunch of unnecessary assumptions there. So I don’t feel obligated to even touch this. However, if you are kept awake at night by the age old philosophical question of why “bad things happen to good people,” I will direct you to one of my very favorite talks by a Mormon apostle. It tackles this question and is called “Love and Law.” http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2009/10/love-and-law?lang=eng&query=love+(name:”Dallin+H.+Oaks”)
What I would say is God is a God of laws. Universal laws can’t or shouldn’t be broken, He is a God of order. People chose to come to earth knowing there would be good and bad, knowing we have to appreciate both to appreciate one, knowing there are two forces at work in the universe, good and evil. Knowing it would make them stronger. Knowing that we are safe in God, He has a plan for us, and that good will triumph in the end and it will all be okay and worth it. 🙂
I don’t expect you to agree with anything I wrote, but hopefully you won’t take the fact that I think differently than you as a personal annoyance.
I appreciate your answering my questions. If I may ask another, do you believe in Hell? If so, what is your position on it?