|The Repentance of Eve
As Women of Faith: Talks Selected from the BYU Women's Conferences [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 88.)
88Suzanne Evertsen Lundquist fn
88"Adam, Eve. . . . Where art thou?" and "Who told thee that thou wast naked?" stand as two of the most significant questions posed by God to our original parents in the Garden of Eden. ("Gen. 3:9Genesis 3:9, "Gen. 3:1111.) And if God asks such questions to first man and first woman, by implication, we too are asked. Perhaps at no other time in the history of humankind has "discovering our nakedness" been so necessary. Where, indeed, are we in understanding what it means to be man—male and female? Wounded and wounding we go, still ignorant of beginnings, divine intentions, creation—standing, as it were, between the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" and "the tree of life."
88Essentially, life is a journey from "the tree of life . . . in the midst of the garden" ("Gen. 2:9Genesis 2:9) to "the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." ("Rev. 2:7Revelation 2:7.) The "fruit" of the tree in Eden, in Lehi's dream, in the midst of God's eternal landscape, can be eaten by those who have ears, eyes, and a will to discover how to overcome ignorance—to know, to become. The temple ceremony provides the clearest indications of what is required of each initiate—how, through voluntarily accepting and living covenant laws, one can move from Eden, through mortality, into the presence of God. In order to take full advantage of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we must individually and collectively answer the questions posed to Adam and Eve, and, like Adam and Eve, eat the fruit of these trees. By so doing, we can become "sons and daughters of the Gods."
89Traditional interpretations of "Gen. 1:0"Gen. 1:1"Gen. 1:2"Gen. 1:3Genesis 1-3 have had a powerful impact on the lives of men and women, and, for the most part, these interpretations come from negative misreadings. Any review of the criticism available on the Adam and Eve story would require a seminar. Indeed, universities such as Princeton offer a semester's study of Adam and Eve literature. Biblical scholars everywhere are revising, literally giving a new vision to, the meaning of the text. Those looking for the correct version will be at a loss to find it. Even within the Latter-day Saint faith, there are four (Genesis, Abraham, Moses, and the endowment text); each, however, illuminates the others in very meaningful ways. Perhaps this is what the Savior did when He expounded "all the scriptures in one." ("3 Ne. 23:143 Nephi 23:14.) Through proof-texting, comparing the available sacred literature written by Saints from the beginning, Christ was able to help the Nephites come to more correct notions about the nature of mortality. The familiar rabbinic formula for such exegesis would be: "you have heard it said, . . . but I say unto you. . . ." (See "Matt. 5:1Matthew 5.) During Christ's ministry on earth, He was constantly turning His audience to correct interpretations of familiar, standard works. fn
89I believe this same spirit of correction is moving many twentieth-century men and women to reevaluate the Adam and Eve story. This reappraisal is a result of the fact that, among other things, the notions of patriarchy, the origins of evil, and the nature of male-female relationships stem from this narrative. As both men and women move towards new understandings of what it means to be whole (a creation partaking in Gods' image), the idea that the Gods created woman to be ruled over by man, that she is a secondary creation, is no longer acceptable. Nor is the notion that Eve's seduction (with all the attending sexual overtones) was an experience exposing womankind's weakness for the flesh. What, really, did Eve do? What transgression did she make that requires repentance? Why is what happened to Eve in the Garden an event we ritually repeat in order to move towards salvation? As Carl G. Vaught so rightly suggests, "the quest for wholeness moves in two directions": "forward toward a larger, more inclusive unity [and] back to the origins of our individual existence." fn
90What Vaught suggests, then, is that before we, as women, can experience renewal, wholeness, the Second Coming, we must understand the origins of our being—which, by definition, includes the creation of woman "in the beginning." In essence, then, this paper is two directional: it first explores traditional, more negative approaches to "Gen. 1:0"Gen. 1:1"Gen. 1:2"Gen. 1:3Genesis 1-3 and then moves towards overcoming those interpretations through a revision of the text and, by implication, a new vision of what it means to be a whole woman in relationship to a whole man. We must be willing to know the good and the evil interpretations.
90Two attitudes towards the Genesis story prevent women from arriving at a more correct understanding of their origins. The first attitude involves innocence and ignorance. Many women accept the traditional interpretation of the tale. Such women are more literalist in their approach to reading sacred texts; that is, they read only on the literal level, ignoring symbolic dimensions, word studies, and alternate readings. Imagine discovering, for example, that the words help meet ('ezer in the Hebrew) have multiple meanings in the context of this story, the most important being a beneficial "helper equal to man." fn Or consider the delight at discovering that Moses, the presumed author of the text, was punning with words when he describes Eve's being made from Adam's rib. Ancient Sumerian texts describe the Goddess Nin-ti, a goddess created to heal Enki's rib, "the lady of the rib" or "the lady who makes live." fn Certainly Moses, the writer, was aware of the literary milieu. What better way to symbolize the creation of the "mother of all living" than by drawing on local "rib" imagery? Adam's wife is "the lady who makes live"—a powerful role and purpose for Eve and her daughters.
90The second attitude towards the creation story that prevents women from arriving at a more correct understanding of their origins involves arrogance. Many women insist that Eve has nothing of which to repent, no matter what multiple texts suggest to the contrary (i.e., Moses, Abraham, temple texts, and apocryphal and pseudepigraphal works). Eve is seen as a pawn in the plan of salvation—a character acting out key elements of a plot or script written by the Gods. Often, however, this arrogance comes from a failure to understand fully the nature of agency, accountability, and repentance.
91For example, of the four versions standard to Mormon theology ("Gen. 1:0"Gen. 1:1"Gen. 1:2"Gen. 1:3Genesis 1-3, "Moses 3:0"Moses 3:1"Moses 3:2"Moses 3:3"Moses 3:4Moses 3-4, "Abr. 5:1Abraham 5, and the endowment text), one pattern emerges: (1) God creates man (male and female) in the image of the Gods—indicating equality; (2) through Eve's choice to eat of the Tree, she becomes subject to Adam—indicating the beginning of patriarchy and inequality; and (3) through Eve's disobedience, mortal existence comes into being—separating Adam and Eve from the presence of God, the source of wholeness. According to Phyllis Trible, the "subordination of female to male signifies their shared sin. This sin vitiates [makes faulty or defective] all relationships: between animals and human beings ([Genesis] 3:15); mothers and children (3:16); husbands and wives (3:16); people and the soil (3:17); humanity and its work (3:19)." fn
91What all the texts I have read seem to indicate, finally, is that this story calls females and males to repent. fn Through their actions, Adam and Eve pervert (turn away from the original order) creation and must suffer the consequences—mortality. In other words, they really do have agency and are accountable for their state of being. And they must change that state through repentance. One real theme in the Adam and Eve story, then, is exile and return—salvation through repentance. Repentance, then, "exists to repair a breach in relations between the Gods and an individual." fn Repentance, meaning, literally, "to rethink," is the process that Adam, Eve, and we must go through to continually overcome ignorance as accountable humans.
91The title of this address, "The Repentance of Eve," is taken from a book called The Life of Adam and Eve fn by an unknown author. This text, originally written in Hebrew, dates back to one hundred years before Christ and essentially deals with the events recorded in "Gen. 1:0"Gen. 1:1"Gen. 1:2"Gen. 1:3"Gen. 1:4"Gen. 1:5Genesis 1-5. There are hundreds of texts claiming authorship by familiar biblical characters. Joseph Smith encouraged the Saints to consult these texts because they contain many truths. According to the Prophet, those who read with the Spirit can be enlightened by these works. ("D&C 91:1D&C 91.) This has certainly been the case with my reading. One verse from The Life of Adam and Eve particularly arrested my attention. In it, Adam and Eve have already been thrust from Paradise and are finishing a seven-day fast. They are both hungry, so Adam walks another seven days looking for food but can find none like the food eaten in the Garden. Full realization of the difficulty of mortality begins to burden Eve. In anguish for her part in Adam's suffering, she cries out to him: "Would you kill me? O that I would die! Then perhaps the Lord God will bring you again into Paradise, for it is because of me that the Lord God is angry with you." (2:1-3.)
92Adam explains to her that he cannot harm his own flesh. Adam does admit, however, that they should lament before the Lord "with a great penitence." (4:3.) Because of their penitence (their sad and humble regret for not keeping God's commands), Adam believes the Lord might pity them and provide a way of life: a pattern for acting and existing in a mortal world.
92For me, this outburst of Eve's is representative of the attitude both men and women have historically propagated about Eve and the nature of women. In this episode, Eve accepts the blame for their situation. I believe women, to this day, are made to feel responsible for what goes wrong in families and societies. We are often reminded, for example, that if women will do what they are supposed to, the evils in society will be reversed. Blame, in this context, implies guilt, shame, even crime. Certainly, in the above episode, Eve has become conscious of the difficult nature of mortality, and she is also aware that her choice brought her and, because of her, Adam into an environment full of trials. To be responsible, accountable, to feel the effects or consequences of choice, is agency. If "blame" means this (to be responsible, accountable, to feel the effects or consequences of choice), then Eve is to blame.
92Perhaps a verse from The First Book of Adam and Eve in The Forgotten Books of Eden will further illuminate this notion of blame as accountability. In chapter 13, the Lord explains why He warned, even commanded, Adam and Eve not to partake of the fruit of the tree. The Lord says:
93"Had I not been and spoken to thee, O Adam, concerning the tree, and had I left thee without a commandment, and thou hadst sinned—it would have been an offence on My part, for not having given thee any order; thou wouldst turn round and blame Me for it." fn
93In effect, in this passage the Lord is saying, "I gave you knowledge and you chose based on that knowledge." Certainly, this has not been the most common interpretation given to the events described in "Gen. 3:1Genesis 3.
93Indeed, traditional interpretations of Eve's part in the fall of man portray her as being selfish, easily tempted to do evil, and governed by the desires of the flesh. Eve, contrary to God's counsel, partakes of the fruit of the tree "in the midst of the garden," because the serpent convinces her she may become as the "gods, knowing good and evil." ("Gen. 3:3"Gen. 3:4"Gen. 3:5Genesis 3:3-5.) Eve's desire for the fruit increases because it will satisfy her hunger, is "pleasant" to her eyes, and will also make her wise. Once she has eaten of the fruit, she gives some to her husband. This woman, then, that God gave to Adam (because it is not good for man to be alone), makes a decision, the most important decision affecting mortality, without consulting Adam. (Of all the allegations against Eve, this one seems most insightful.) Lucifer has successfully separated Eve from her husband. Typical interpretations of this event also point out that Eve satisfies her hunger, her desire for pretty things, and her yearning for status and adventure while being seduced by the serpent—the symbol of evil and sexuality (the phallus). To top it all off, she is so blind in her desires, she does not consider what effect her actions will have on her companion. No matter, though. She will simply seduce him too. He can become fallen like her. Then when she must suffer the consequences for her actions, she cries. fn
93When the Lord calls out to Adam and Eve and asks: "Where art thou?" a rather charming exchange follows. Traditional readers seldom see the humor (the humanness) in this dialogue. Adam has discovered his nakedness and explains to God that he ate of the fruit. Nevertheless, Adam does not accept the responsibility for his own choice and blames Eve: "The woman . . . thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." Eve also blames another: "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." ("Gen. 3:12"Gen. 3:13Genesis 3:12-13.) The Lord, however, insists that both be held accountable for the part they played in this drama. Because Adam listened to his wife, he must labor all the days of his life in a world subject to corruption. Eve's desires are to be unto her husband; she will bring forth children in much pain, and, because she was the first to sin, her husband will rule over her. The real problem with this punishment, however, is that Adam and Eve represent every man and woman. Eve is the prototype. She defines womanhood.
94John A. Phillips's remarkable book Eve discusses the varied negative interpretations of Eve's behavior and what they have meant to the role of women in the various cultures that accept the story. "The introduction of Woman into the world," Phillips claims, is seen as having caused this earth to change "from a paradise into a problematic place where hard labor, birth, and death are facts of life." Eve is a trickster figure who introduces paradox, ambiguity, sin, and a preoccupation with sex into the life of Adam, who would prefer to keep all of God's commandments. fn Because language, the power of naming, is seen as the key to having dominion and power over creation, Adam is asked to name the woman and thereby define her role; he calls her Eve: "the mother of all living." fn Eve's expansive motherhood is limited and controlled. She, and, by implication, all women, must raise up seed to their husbands and to God.
94The religious communities which trace their view of the world back to the Adam and Eve story have shaped their views of women from this text. Ecclesiasticus, an apocryphal book, claims that "from woman was the beginning of sin, and because of her we all die." (25:23-24.) The Essenes, pious men from the Dead Sea community, would not take a wife for fear of being corrupted. The Aramaic and Arabic words for snake are similar to the Hebrew name for Eve. One Jewish mystic described Eve as the last of the animal creations and "the source of all lechery." Eve was the Devil's gateway into the world. fn Because womankind has from the days of Eve been considered susceptible to evil, of course it was through them that witchcraft came into the world, or so the Puritans thought.
95Despite the Savior's redemption of mankind from the Fall, and from the notions that men and women are punished for the sins of Adam and Eve, the New Testament epistles reflect typically negative attitudes towards women. In the second letter to the Corinthians, Paul warns the early-day Saints: "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." ("2 Cor. 11:32 Corinthians 11:3.) Paul also appears to uphold the implications of the Genesis narrative by claiming that "the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man." ("1 Cor. 11:8"1 Cor. 11:91 Corinthians 11:8-9.) Timothy claims: "I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." ("1 Tim. 2:12"1 Tim. 2:13"1 Tim. 2:14"1 Tim. 2:151 Timothy 2:12-15.) This is an offensive image of women; these scriptures even cause anger, frustration, and loss of self-esteem among righteous women.
95In his book, The Image, Kenneth Bolding warns modern man that "behavior depends on the image." fn If cultures and societies have become inured to the negative image of Eve and of women, what behavior can be expected from women? How can each woman continue to strive when she is seen as an appendage to man? What woman wants to be expendable, used, controlled, defined by men who seem unable to discern her spirit, men who are essentially, biologically, emotionally, and spiritually different from her?
95In one of The Forgotten Books of Eden, Adam and Eve are outside Eden in a dark cave. There is some humor in the work. Adam assumes that earth life will be lived in blackness. He is overwhelmed by the thought and cries out to the Lord. The Lord, however, gently explains to Adam that he is merely enduring what is called night; in twelve hours, day will come. In this same passage, however, a very telling exchange occurs between the Lord and Adam. Adam explains:
96"For, so long as we were in the garden, we neither saw nor even knew what darkness is. I was not hidden from Eve, neither was she hidden from me, until now that she cannot see me; and no darkness came upon us, to separate us from each other. . . . [N]ow since we came into this cave, darkness has come upon us, and parted us asunder, so that I do not see her, and she does not see me." fn
96Is this what the Fall, in part, is really about? Is this the pain of mortality: that men and women cannot see each other? Are we failing to understand the very essence of the male and female relations the Lord intended?
96Richard R. Niebuhr believes that the women's movement is basically an expression of a "deep woundedness," a "verbal and public sign of immeasurable pain." This pain, claims Niebuhr, is registering on the "seismograph of the spirit" and is representative of "dislocations in the deepest recesses of our being." fn No revolution in the history of human affairs is equal to the one now taking place to heal the separations felt between men and women.
96Bert Wilson, a noted folklorist at Brigham Young University, has collected many folk tales representative of the ways contemporary Mormon women perceive certain institutions. One typical tale concerns a woman with twelve children. One evening, her husband brings home a new wife without telling her. The first wife is instructed to fix a wedding supper and to make the bedroom ready for the evening. When these chores are completed, she is then sent to the attic to sleep with her twelve children. While in the attic, she has her children relieve themselves into a chamber pot. She then pours the contents between the planks of the ceiling of the bedroom downstairs. Following this act, she leaves home with her children, never to return again. fn What is important here is the attitude of the husband towards his wife, the implication of the attitude of men towards women in the kingdom. There is often a disturbing and sometimes inhuman disregard for women on the part of men—a lack of vision.
97I believe that, in part, women gather at conferences directed toward both faith and issues for two reasons. One reason is to share what it means to be a woman with women who understand—to bear one another's burdens. Perhaps this need to share with women comes because we are not seen or well regarded by the Adams who share our lives. I believe that, for the most part, women will always choose to love and be loved as the Lord would have us do. The second reason we come together is to re-create the image of male-female relations so that those who follow after us may re-create the world in a more healing setting. May I now share with you the image I feel we are trying to establish and how we must proceed?
97One of the most profound postulates of the restored gospel is this: Men and women are punished for their own sins and not for Adam or Eve's transgression. fn In Joseph Smith's revision of Genesis (Moses), Adam asks the Lord, "Why is it that men [and women] must repent and be baptized in water? And the Lord said unto Adam [and Eve]: Behold I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden." ("Moses 6:53Moses 6:53.) What is even more important to this discussion are the implications of this forgiveness to the children of Adam and Eve:
97"Hence came the saying abroad among the people, That the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world." ("Moses 6:54Moses 6:54.)
97Latter-day Saint theology clearly rejects the notion of original sin. Yet, we tend to take the punishments given in the garden as our own. As part of a creation text, these punishments merely describe the origin of the toil that is man's and the labor of childbirth. The notion of patriarchy, the subjection of Eve to Adam because of their transgression need not be answered on the heads of all men and women.
97There is, however, clearly a division of labor. When the division of labor is misunderstood, some men turn their faces away from home, believing that their work and glory come through positions in the Church or in the world. Being president of a corporation, author, artist, Church leader—toiling by the "sweat of his brow"—often becomes a man's measure of his place in creation. Some women also measure their worth by the work their companions do. Do we somehow value husbands more if they are elders quorum presidents, bishops, or better still, stake or mission presidents?
98In his national best seller, Habits of the Heart, Robert N. Bellah analyzes how Americans view marriage today. Of particular significance to my thesis is Bellah's description of Christian marriages. Often, because partners in a Christian marriage love Christ, their marriage is held together by sacrifice, obligation, and duty. fn What is missing in all of this, however, is love. It occurred to me, while reading this text, that the ability to truly love one's partner is a way of loving Christ. Real love does not require denial of one's essential self. Incorrect notions of sacrifice (a term meaning "to be made sacred" and not surrendering personal integrity or identity) have caused women to act inappropriately in love relationships. The fullness of love is given and received freely out of a sense of full identity.
98According to Bellah, the tendency to view relationships as fulfillments of individual needs is one of the by-products of individualism. How often do we hear phrases like: "He doesn't make me happy" or, "She gives me what I need"? In this line of reasoning, loving another is a way of loving self. And somehow, the notion of romantic love is all mixed up with self-love.
98M. Scott Peck, a popular psychologist, explains that the feeling of "falling in love" is "not an act of will"; there is no "conscious choice" involved. So often, falling in love isolates a couple; it excludes others. Real love, on the other hand, enlarges the capacity to love others. It is inclusive. Says Peck: "Real love is a permanently self-enlarging experience. Falling in love is not." fn
98"Falling in love" also suggests the notion that the most significant human relationships are determined by desire—sexual passion. It is here that men and women get very confused. Current research shows that when one is driven by passion, pushed by emotions beyond one's control, long-lasting relationships become difficult. Multiple sex partners deplete an individual. When the Lord commanded Adam and Eve to keep their desires focused on the other, He was indicating that profound passion occurs within the bounds that He has established. Chastity increases the power to connect with another in deeply emotional, sexual, and spiritual ways. Bridled passions, paradoxically, generate more excitement, fun, joy, giggles, because they are acts of will exchanged with another in an everlasting context.
99Closely connected with romantic love and sexual passion is the issue of personal validation. Does a woman validate her existence by means of the man she marries or the children she has? What happens in this situation when the husband leaves his family or children sin? Most often, the woman loses her sense of identity and worth. And if a woman does not marry, what then? The other possibility in this area of dependency is the notion of self-sacrifice. Often, in a false sacrificial role, many women literally lose themselves. Through too much giving, through adopting the role of caretaker or rescuer, they never find a true and unique identity. This is not what was meant by "help meet." This is bondage. In such a situation it is time for an exodus towards the sacred mountain, time to stand on holy ground and become complete. Perhaps it is time to repent.
99I would like to share with you a definition of sin. D. M. Dooling explains that "creation myths from everywhere show how man was produced from the wholeness of God in an incomplete form: 'Male and female created He them'. . . . Christians call this human incompleteness 'sin,' a word that comes from the same root as the word to be (Indo-European es, participial sont)." fn The notion of imperfection literally means to be "incomplete" or "unfinished." Ira Progoff, a depth psychologist, believes the genius of the Talmudic creation text comes from the fact that God did not complete his task when creating man:
99"He refrained from making man perfect, but left that as a task remaining to be done. He left it for man himself to do, specifically for man to achieve in his existence as an individual. The human being is therefore neither perfect nor complete according to his nature, as other, more limited species are. His life is open-ended in its possibilities, and this is precisely why man is the species that holds the possibility of carrying the evolution of life to further levels." fn
100The most profound realization of this truth came when the Savior stated: "I Am." ("Ex. 3:11"Ex. 3:12"Ex. 3:13"Ex. 3:14Exodus 3:11-14.) He has a complete identity. The qualities of love, humility, endurance, and power do not float somewhere out in space waiting to be discovered; they are characteristics housed within a personality. That is why we can say that Christ is the law ("3 Ne. 15:93 Nephi 15:9), that Christ is love ("1 Jn. 4:11 John 4). Jeremiah explains that Christ's real children have His law in their inward parts. ("Jer. 31:33Jeremiah 31:33.) Because Christ's attributes are constant, complete, He was able to atone for our sins. He did not feel guilt for them; He felt sorrow. A complete person can endure this life and its trials, can truly help another, because her identity is constant, sure. Identity becomes sure, however, only when a woman clearly understands the laws of the gospel, the law of sacrifice, the law of chastity, and the law of consecration, because she has studied and applied these laws to her own life. A sure identity comes by continually overcoming ignorance, by moving towards a condition of being complete through repentance.
100Karl Barth, a Protestant apologist, extends the notion of completeness to marriage. He believes that creation can never be "completed" if man exists without woman. Explains Barth: "the completion of man by creation of woman, is not only one secret but the secret, the heart of all the secrets of God the Creator. The whole inner basis of creation, God's whole covenant with man, which will later be established, realised and fulfilled historically, is prefigured in this event, in the completing of man's emergence by the coming of woman to man." fn The metaphor of "one flesh," the fact that this union is the primary relationship established by God in the beginning, demonstrates the first order of existence. In the eternal marriage covenant, a man and woman are commanded to "receive" the other—bone to bone and flesh to flesh.
100The heart of the everlasting covenant can be found in these notions of completeness. The message of the Sermon on the Mount, then, is clear. This clarity can, perhaps, best be seen in some translations other than the King James Version. The Savior invites humankind to "Be ye therefore true [or 'complete'] as your Father which is in Heaven is true [or 'complete'] (Anchor Bible, "Matt. 4:48Matthew 4:48.) The Greek word teleioi, from which the King James translators derived the word perfect, has various synonyms. Besides bearing the notion of being complete, the word also carries the meaning of being mature. This maturity comes to the initiate who becomes "pure in heart" ("Matt. 5:8Matthew 5:8) through participation in the rites of passage ordained by the Lord.
101The plan of salvation, the progression towards completion through successive initiatory experiences, is the message of the restoration. Repentance becomes the action we take to overcome those things which fragment our lives and prevent our connections with self, others, nature, and God. Marriage is the union of two complete individuals. This is why the Lord so frequently uses marriage as the symbol of His love for us. He is the Bridegroom; His Saints are the bride. The wedding feast is a metaphor for God's joy in our righteous covenant with Him.
101Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord uses family relationships to help us understand His function in our existence. God prefers the title Father. His work and His glory are to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life" of His children. ("Moses 1:39Moses 1:39.) Christ consecrates all of His talents as Maker, Redeemer, Savior, Advocate—all His light and truth—for the benefit of His bride and His children (metaphorically, Christ is both husband and father). I believe that the scriptures give us insight into what is meant by provider. A provider offers those experiences necessary for his wife and children to develop, to become all they can be.
101Just prior to my divorce, I was driving to work on a brittle winter day. My children were suffering; my soul could not be comforted. I cried unto the Lord. "I don't want to be tried; I don't want to be a God. All I want is a complete, righteous family." The Lord quickly responded saying: "That is all I want." That tender message has given me a vision of my own work. All that I am and ever hope to be I willingly give to my children and extended family. While teaching the book of Isaiah in my Old Testament class last winter, I realized something else about the Christ. In Isaiah, Christ describes His love for us at His second coming with these words:
102"Be glad with [Jerusalem], all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her:
102"That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breast of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.
102"For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees.
102"As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you." ("Isa. 66:10"Isa. 66:11"Isa. 66:12"Isa. 66:13Isaiah 66:10-13.)
102Christ's love is like a mother's love. My personal experiences with the Savior also let me know that He not only loves me as a unique woman, but He is interested in my particular life. I have also had blessings from my father, my oldest brother, my counselor and my bishop which provided detail about what Christ wants me to know about my life—blessings I am only starting to comprehend. I am loved and known. I also am coming to see that as I keep the laws intended for all mankind, my life, paradoxically, develops in unique ways. I discover my place in the Body of Christ. He has need of my witness, my talents. I can be a vehicle in the transformation of others. I can see this especially in my role as a professor.
102Jeremiah also saw something about our day. He explains that at the time when the law of God will be in our inward parts, at the time of the new covenant, the Lord will create "a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man." ("Jer. 31:22Jeremiah 31:22.) One Hebrew scholar explained to me that what is meant here is the notion of circumambulation. It is the ritual circle, the moving around towards completion. Works by Joseph Campbell and others validate this notion. We are moving towards a time of renewal, a time when a new vision of our connections with other peoples, with God, with family, with our own capacities is being born. fn Traditional readings of sacred texts have caused and are still causing wars: Protestant against Catholic, Muslim against Jew, Hindu against Muslim—even man against woman. A new heaven and a new earth are needed, are coming. And in this reality, women will play a major role, a healing role: not as despots, corporate bosses, honorary men, but as women who understand that those who stand at the foot of the cross and watch their daughters, husbands, and sons struggle to claim "I Am" can do so because we know who they are, who we are, and because we know that God is.
103There are metaphors all around us for how this is done. Eve can tell us. Joseph F. Smith saw her on the third of October, 1918. Eve was someone before this life. Like Adam, who was Michael (one of the creators of this earth), Eve had a great pre-mortal identity. She also exists now, carrying redemption to the dead. President Smith related this: "Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days, and father of all, and our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God." ("D&C 138:38"D&C 138:39D&C 138:38-39.) She is with God, there with Adam and her children. Each time any of us present a woman who is dead at the veil during an endowment ceremony, we do so in the name of Eve. She takes us all, as the mother of all living, into the presence of Father, if we are also true and faithful.
103The story of the Garden of Eden, as far as the man and woman are concerned, is a metaphor of great significance. There we are instructed how to become one flesh. Hugh Nibley explains the tale as a metaphor for a condition of checks and balances that must exist in male-female covenant relationships. Adam is to obey Christ as Eve is to obey Adam, through covenant. The discrimination being made here is not as evident as interpreters have indicated. Adam seems to be given a superior, legislative position in relationship to Eve with the words "rule over." The phrase, however, is modified by a qualifier: "in righteousness." Dr. Nibley explains that Adam and Eve are to "supervise each other. Adam is given no arbitrary power; Eve is to heed him only insofar as he obeys their Father—and who decides that? She must keep check on him as much as he does on her." fn The law of opposition, so necessary to creation and completion, finds powerful definition in this episode. Knowledge, wisdom, Godhood become possible only through relationship, through the resolution of contraries.
104In conclusion, I can say that in my experience with creation stories, one character must adhere to the given pattern—all of the commandments—while the other character challenges the pattern. This is part of the law of opposition. And Adam and Eve are symbols for this essential order in the universe. Throughout Genesis, this reality is made manifest. Abraham, in his desire to keep the law of the firstborn, chooses Ishmael to inherit the covenant blessings; Sarah challenges that rule because she understands the spirit of the law and Isaac's ability to fulfill the covenant. The same holds true in the case of Esau and Jacob. The Pharisees are perfect examples of men's using God's laws without understanding their intent. Man is not saved by law, especially when it is used to burden, abuse, and suppress.
104When God commanded that Adam and Eve not partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, He allowed first man and first woman to become accountable for their choices, He established agency and the opportunity for us to create our own natures in God's complete image. In love, we can journey to the Tree of Life, hand in hand, with divine connections, in relationship.
104Certainly, living as "one flesh" requires another kind of labor, an enduring, striving, working throughout life so that this kind of love can be born. The scriptures are rather sparse in examples of couples who have loved well within the covenant. Aside from Genesis and 1 Nephi, the scriptures are silent. Surely Alma had a wife, even daughters. And what of Moroni, Mormon, Jacob and the rest? Where are the examples to follow? Spencer W. Kimball, in his lovely poem, "When I Look Back," written to his wife, Camilla, describes an exemplary marriage. Through great trials, they "mingled" their years together to form "one pattern," a "finished tapestry" whose threads were spun with sorrow, disappointment, failure as well as joy.
105When I look back across our mingled years,
I know it is not just the joys we shared
That made our lives one pattern, but the tears
We shed together, and the rough, wild seas we fared.
Through all the disappointments we have faced,
Through this world's faults and failures, we have come
To heights of understanding that are based
More on the sorrows than the joys of home.
Young love is beautiful to contemplate
But old love is the finished tapestry
Stretched out from oaken floors to heaven's gate.
We wove on earth for all eternity
With threads made stronger by the steady beat
Of hearts that suffered but knew no defeat. fn
105I hope, as our lives grow to old age, that we may "mingle" years with another—that we too can say that we "knew no defeat" as we worked out our salvation with husbands, children, and our fellow beings.
The Repentance of Eve Notes
1. W. F. Albright and C. S. Mann, "Jesus and the Law," in The Anchor Bible (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971), vol. 26, Matthew, cvii-cx.
2. Carl G. Vaught, The Quest for Wholeness (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982), p. 4.
3. Phyllis Trible, "Eve and Adam: "Gen. 2:0"Gen. 2:1"Gen. 2:2"Gen. 2:3Genesis 2-3 Reread," in Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion, ed. Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1979), pp. 74-83.
4. Samuel Noah Kramer, "Mythology of Sumer and Akkad," in Mythologies of the Ancient World, ed. Samuel Noah Kramer (Garden City, N.J.: Anchor Books, 1961), pp. 102-3.
5. Trible, p. 80.
6. Ibid., pp. 76-80.
7. Mircea Eliade, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion (New York: Macmillan, 1987), s.v. "Repentance," by David E. Aune.
8. James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1985), vol. 1, The Life of Adam and Eve, p. 258.
9. The First Book of Adam and Eve 13:18, in The Forgotten Books of Eden (Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1927), bound with The Lost Books of the Bible.
10. See John A. Phillips, Eve (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984), for a history of this interpretation.
11. Ibid., pp. 19 and 16-37, respectively.
12. See Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality (New York: Harper and Row, 1963), pp. 5-19; and Phillips, p. 32.
13. Phillips, p. 51; p. 181, note 20; pp. 55-77, respectively.
14. Kenneth Boulding, The Image (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1973), p. 6.
15. The First Book of Adam and Eve 12:9-10.
16. Richard R. Niebuhr, "The Strife of Interpretation: The Moral Burden of Imagination," Parabola 10 (Summer 1985): 36-37.
17. William A. Wilson, "Folklore and History: Fact Amid the Legends," Utah Historical Quarterly 4 (1973): 55.
18. Joseph Smith, "Articles of Faith," Pearl of Great Price (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981), p. 60.
19. Robert N. Bellah et. al., Habits of the Heart (New York: Harper & Row, 1986), pp. 108-9.
20. M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), p. 89.
21. D. M. Dooling, "The Way Back," Parabola 10 (Summer 1985): 49.
22. Ira Progoff, "Form, Time and Opus: The Dialectic of the Creative Psyche," in Form als Aufgabe des Geistes, ed. Adolf Portmann, Eranos Jahr Buch 1965 (Zurich: Rhein Verlag, 1966), p. 265.
23. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. 3, part 1 (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1955), p. 295.
24. Joseph Campbell, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space (Toronto: St. James Press, Ltd., 1986), pp. 11-51.
25. Hugh W. Nibley, "Patriarchy and Matriarchy," in Blueprints for Living, ed. Maren M. Mouritsen (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1980), p. 48.
26. Spencer W. Kimball, "When I Look Back," Brigham Young University Studies 25 (Fall 1985): 162; used by permission.
27. Suzanne Evertsen Lundquist received her doctorate in English with an emphasis on Native American literature at the University of Michigan. She is assistant professor of English at Brigham Young University, where she has taught classes on the Old Testament, Native American sacred texts, and novels from the Third World. She has written extensively on her specialties. Her Church callings have included Gospel Doctrine teacher, chorister, Relief Society teacher, and membership on the activities committee of her Orem, Utah, ward. Sister Lundquist is a single parent with six children.