Leaving Eden by Annie Henrie

Gospel Doctrine Lesson #4Moses 4-6

Moses 4-6 cover the events in the Garden of Eden and the aftermath. Our first parents go from living in a physical paradise communing with God to being cast from God’s presence into the world. As Latter-Day Saints, we spend a lot of time studying these events in our Sunday School lessons and temple worship. Many lessons, books, articles and essays have been written about what happened in Eden speculating and asserting whether the events are literal or metaphorical, the nature of the fruit, who knew what when, sin vs transgression, etc. Studying and applying the lessons from Eden is bigger than one Sunday School class or blog post. Since the events of Eden are well known to most Latter-Day Saints, I’m going to focus on Eve and leaving Eden.

In D&C 138, Joseph F. Smith shares a vision he had of the heavenly “mighty and great ones” and amongst them was “…our glorious Mother Eve…” Our theology regarding Eve, is one that distinguishes us from other Christian denominations. “Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall.”[1] Eve’s body of flesh and bone is one of the final acts in the creation story. “…this is our theology…that the crowning creation and the glory of the human experience came with the creation of Eve.”[2]

I wonder how much time while in the Eden, Eve spent studying the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. Did she feel the desire of her soul to expand? A feeling that she was destined for more? Did she know instinctively that something had to change? Though the garden was beautiful and nurturing, it had its limitations. “…all that which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin” (2 Ne. 2:22-23).

By the time she encounters Satan, has Eve reached the threshold of what Eden could offer? I don’t know. But we do know Eve partook.

Satan uses truths and half-truths to beguile Eve in an attempt to thwart God’s plan – the plan for all of us to become as the gods. During their interaction, Satan reveals an important attribute of the gods, “Ye shall not surely die; for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Mose 4:11). Our eyes need to be open that we may know good and evil to put off the natural man and become as the gods.

Eve, nonetheless, has transgressed. In her conversation with the Lord about partaking she is told the consequences of her choices. “[Eve], I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Moses 4:22). Many have used this scripture (and its corollary in Genesis) to oppress and subjugate women and undermine their contributions. Elder and Sister Hafen clarify what “rule over thee” actually means in an article they wrote for the Ensign..

“The concept of interdependent, equal partners is well-grounded in the doctrine of the restored gospel. Eve was Adam’s ‘help meet’ (Genesis 2:18). The original Hebrew for meet means that Eve was adequate for, or equal to, Adam. She wasn’t his servant or his subordinate. And the Hebrew for help in “help meet” is ezer, a term meaning that Eve drew on heavenly powers when she supplied their marriage with the spiritual instincts uniquely available to women as a gender gift…Genesis 3:16 states that Adam is to ‘rule over’ Eve, but this doesn’t make Adam a dictator. A ruler can be a measuring tool that sets standards. Then Adam would live so that others may measure the rightness of their conduct by watching his. Being a ruler is not so much a privilege of power as an obligation to practice what a man preaches. Also, over in “rule over” uses the Hebrew bet, which means ruling with, not ruling over.”[3]*

Adam is to rule with Eve as equals. The consequence of the Fall isn’t the subordination of Eve and her daughters and the elevation of Adam and his sons. The consequence for both Eve and Adam is the expulsion from Eden and the complexities of mortality. I believe when God says to Eve that her desires will be directed to Adam and that Adam will rule with her, God is teaching her about partnering. Eve acted alone when she took of the fruit. Her choice had significant consequences that impacted her and Adam. By having her desires directed towards another, her attention is moved from solely her wants and needs to also hold someone else’s. There’s wisdom in counseling with your partner before making significant decision/actions, like eating forbidden fruit. Furthermore, the work of ruling with another provides opportunities to develop godly attributes such as listening, advocating, compromising, supporting and forgiving, etc.

God then shows an “…increase of love toward [them] whom [God] hast reproved…” (D&C 121:43) by making coats of skin to protect Adam and Eve in the lone and dreary world. I’m deeply moved by this act of parental love. I think about it as I put on the garment. A reminder that though I may be in the lone and dreary world, I am a daughter of Heavenly Parents who have given and will give me all I need to become like Them.

What is waiting for Adam and Eve outside of the garden? Children and further knowledge through angelic instructors and by their own experiences – to learn to work and live by faith, to experience deep sorrow and great joy. “And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (Moses 5:11).

“Just as Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden of Eden, spiritual maturity requires that we have experience in this world. It is experience that helps us know good from evil. It is experience that helps us recognize the promptings of the Spirit.” [4] I think we all have a metaphorical Eden that we must leave in order to fully engage in the process of exaltation. These metaphorical Edens are universal and unique unto us. Staying in a metaphorical Eden looks like not letting go of the relationship, ideology, expectations, habit, etc. we need to in order to grow in the ways our spirit is urging. Leaving Eden comes from living an examined life, doing the hard things, risking growth at the expense of perfectionism. It’s letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. [5]

I find more times than not, staying in the garden is a response to pain. We’ve been hurt before, so we’re going to protect ourselves by staying in an environment that grants us the illusion of control. As we learn from Eve, sorrow is part of the mortal journey. It’s one of the ways we develop our godly attributes. We can use the tools we have been given. Have faith in the plan. Utilize the atonement. And risk.

  • Since publishing this post, I’ve learned from Hebrew scholars that the Hafens’ translation is inaccurate. Meridian Magazine has an interesting article explaining the current consensus of scholars -“A modern English translation makes the meaning of this difficult phrase clear: ‘You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.’ Looking at the verse in context, it is evident that the Lord is not telling the couple how they should treat each other, but rather describing a tragic tendency in mortal marriages that they must avoid.” This information doesn’t change what I said in response to the Hafens’ statement. I think it supports it and gives a further understanding that a relationship of control and domination is not of God.  


[1] Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” October 1993
[2] Jeffrey R. Holland speaking to Harvard Law School, March 20, 2012
[3] Elder Bruce C. Hafen and Marie K. Hafen, “Crossing Thresholds and Becoming Equal Partners,” Ensign, August 2007.
[4] Janette Hales Beckham, “Making Faith a Reality,” October 1997
[5] Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Further Must Reads on Eve and the Fall:

Beverly Campbell’s book, Eve and the Choice Made in Eden
Valerie M. Hudson’s essay, “The Two Trees
Valerie M. Hudson and Richard B. Miller’s Ensign article, “Equal Partnership in Marriage

Additional Quotes About Eve:

President Russell M. Nelson: “We and all mankind are forever blessed because of Eve’s great courage and wisdom. By partaking of the fruit first, she did what needed to be done. Adam was wise enough to do likewise.”

President Henry B. Eyring: “By revelation, Eve recognized the way home to God. She knew that the Atonement of Jesus Christ made eternal life possible in families. She was sure, as you can be, that as she kept her covenants with her Heavenly Father, the Redeemer and the Holy Ghost would see her and her family through whatever sorrows and disappointments would come. She knew she could trust in Them.”

President Dallin H. Oaks: “It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same. And thus Eve and ‘Adam fell that men might be’ (2 Ne. 2:25).”

Joseph Fielding Smith said, “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. … This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin … for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 1:114–15).

Sheri Dew: “Eve set the pattern. In addition to bearing children, she mothered all of mankind when she made the most courageous decision any woman has ever made and with Adam opened the way for us to progress. She set an example of womanhood for men to respect and women to follow…Eve, for the joy of helping initiate the human family, endured the Fall. She loved us enough to help lead us.”

Neill F. Marriott: “Mothers literally make room in their bodies to nurture an unborn baby—and hopefully a place in their hearts as they raise them—but nurturing is not limited to bearing children. Eve was called a “mother” before she had children. I believe that ‘to mother’ means ‘to give life.’ Think of the many ways you give life. It could mean giving emotional life to the hopeless or spiritual life to the doubter. With the help of the Holy Ghost, we can create an emotionally healing place for the discriminated against, the rejected, and the stranger. In these tender yet powerful ways, we build the kingdom of God.”