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Some people feel like this woman who said:
“If you can show me why the Fall matters—in this moment—then maybe I’ll listen. If not, the kids are crying, and I have reality to deal with.”
Hello friends, and welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and together today we’ll be talking about the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3-4 and Moses 4-5. James Ferrell said, “Here’s why the Fall matters today: While it is true that mankind fell from the presence of God with the Fall of Adam and Eve, the fall is repeated anew many times over, by each of us. And with every personal fall we give away something precious beyond measure—something surprising, even shocking: the very agency we fought to keep in the premortal world. Were it not for the Lord’s Atonement, we would be lost not only eternally but in each and every moment, enslaved to the anger, frustration, resentment, and despair that crush us as we fall. So the Fall is as much a modern event as an ancient one, as is the Lord’s Atonement, which is the lifting remedy that rescues us from the doom and gloom we may feel stuck within.” (James Ferrell, The Hidden Christ: Beneath the Surface of the Old Testament, Deseret Book).
Creation, fall, redemption. These are the three pillars of eternity, the story that was Adam and Eve’s and ours too. It is one grand picture. We think of a book like the Old Testament as being dusty and very far away from us, but in reality it is our first story. It is our story. We think of the war in heaven that first set Satan on his path to put men and women in bondage and chains as something that was handled and finished eons ago, but in reality, that war in heaven was just the first skirmish of a war that is raging ever hotter by the year.
Scot, when we first started Meridian Magazine we had a slogan that we used to introduce it. It read the War in Heaven is not over. It has just moved to a new location—earth. So, of course, we are intently interested in how our first parents dealt with this snake who came slithering into the garden.
We are drawing from two accounts today. One, of course, is Genesis and the other the book of Moses. When Joseph Smith began his new translation of the Bible, he began with Genesis, and this is when he received the revelation that became the eight chapters of the Book of Moses. Though he continued with the entire Bible to the book of Revelation, this book is one of the most expansive parts of his work and gives us much enhanced understanding of Adam and Eve that clarify things that are just not clear in Genesis alone. Between June 1830 and July 1833, he made the initial draft of his Bible translation, however the excerpt that we call the book of Moses was completed by February 1831.
In the book of Moses we see that Adam and Eve had become grandparents before they give birth to Cain. We see them making sacrifices to the Lord and get a glimpse of their expansive understanding of the purpose of the fall. This revelation to Joseph Smith changes our entire perspective on this pivotal experience in the garden.
The garden was a paradise that lived the terrestrial order. Adam and Eve were to dress and keep it. The Lord God placed two unique trees there—the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
In Moses 3: 16-17, we read:
16 And I, the Lord God, commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
The emphasis here is on agency. They must exercise their agency to continue their progression.
Joseph Fielding Smith gave this paraphrase of this scripture:
The Lord said to Adam, here is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you want to stay here, then you cannot eat of that fruit. If you want to stay here, then I forbid you to eat it. But you may act for yourself, and you may eat of it if you want to. And if you eat of it you will die. (J. F. Smith, Jr., Doctrines, 1:114).
It is important that they can freely choose, because they will take the consequences of being thrust into a desolate world where they will know pain, grief and death, but it is also the only way forward.
That choice will be critically important for all of God’s children who are destined to be cleansed and taught in a mortal probation. It will also bring two kinds of death. If Adam and Eve partake of the fruit, they will die spiritually in that they will be cast out of the presence of God where they would remain forever if Christ had not entered as the redeemer. They will also have physical bodies which will die.
The only way forward is to have mortality’s cleansing and wracking experiences, to experience weakness and sin and let that part of us die step by step with the Savior’s help. I love this scene from one of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia tales called The Silver Chair. A girl named Jill is transported to Narnia, ruled by a lion named Aslan who represents the Savior, though she doesn’t know this at first. Because of her own pride and foolishness she finds herself stranded, alone and terribly thirsty in a strange forest. At last, when she comes to a stream, the mighty lion Aslan is lying there. To her eyes, he is just a lion.
“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I am dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the Lion…
“Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?”
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.
There is no other stream to redemption besides through mortality, knowing good and evil, and being saved through the atonement of the Savior, Jesus Christ. The garden of Eden is lovely, but incomplete.
With the help of Jeffrey Bradshaw, let’s look closer at the two trees. What kind of tree was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? We don’t know but Bradshaw notes, “Jewish and Christian traditions often identify the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil as a fig tree, thus heightening the irony later on when Adam and Eve attempt to cover themselves with its leaves. The fruit of the fig tree is known for its abundance of seeds, thus an apron of green fig leaves is an appropriate symbol for Adam and Eve’s ability to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ after the Fall.
The Hebrew expression ‘knowledge of good and evil’ can mean knowledge of what is good and bad, or of happiness and misery—or, most arguably, of ‘everything,’ if ‘good and evil’ can be taken to mean the totality of all that is, was, or is yet to be.”
I once believed that if one were to experience the knowledge of good and evil, it would be the evil that was out there, that one would taste the bitterness of things imposed upon you by others. It is the world. That is true. We do face all of that in mortality, but just as true is that we also find the weakness, triviality, bitterness and small things that we have let become a part of ourselves. We taste that and we don’t like it. We yearn to be shed of these shadows in us. The Lord comes and says, “Here am I.” His atonement is to make us light again, to lift the things that are heavy and hurt
Now, let’s talk about the tree of life which is in the midst of the garden, and from beneath it flow four rivers that water the whole earth. The midst of the garden, is, of course, the center of the garden, but since rivers flow out from it, we can assume that it is a high place. The earth is brought to life from this tree and its significance is critical.
Bradshaw again notes: “Ancient commentators sometimes identify the symbolism of the Tree of Life with the olive tree. Its extremely long life makes it a fitting representation for eternal life, and the everyday use of the oil as a source of both nourishment for man and fuel for light evokes natural associations when used in conjunction with the ritual anointing of priests and kings, and the blessing of the sick.
He writes, “A variety of texts also associate the olive tree with the Garden of Eden. For example, ancient traditions recount that on his sickbed Adam requested Eve and Seth to return to the Garden to retrieve oil — presumably olive oil — from the ‘tree of his mercy.’ Recalling the story of the dove that returned to Noah’s ark with the olive branch in its mouth, one rabbinical opinion gives it that the ‘gates of the garden of Eden opened for the dove, and from there she brought it.’ Two days after a revelation describing how war was to be “poured out upon all nations,” Joseph Smith designated Doctrine and Covenants 88, by way of contrast, as the ‘olive leaf … plucked from the Tree of Paradise, the Lord’s message of peace to us.’” (Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, “The Symbolism of the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life”, Pearl of Great Price Central, https://www.pearlofgreatpricecentral.org/the-symbolism-of-the-tree-of-knowledge-and-the-tree-of-life/).
An olive tree, of course, reminds us of Gethsemane, which is the place of the olive press, a garden of olive trees where the atonement began. When the Savior was agonizing as he took upon himself our sins, weaknesses, sickness and heartache, he was crushed as the olive is crushed in making olive oil. That the tree of life is an olive tree is a beautiful tradition, but, of course, just a tradition. We don’t know what it is, but we do know that somehow it was a way to biological immortality and only those who were qualified were authorized to receive it.
Now, into this paradise comes the tempter, Satan. Until she partakes of the fruit, Eve does not know who he is. It is then and only then that she says, “I know thee now.” Yet, we know him. He has been a prominent figure for us since the council in heaven, where once he was the son of the morning, who fell from heaven and Moses gives us the story.
Moses 4 reads:
1 And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
2 But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
3 Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
4 And he became Satan yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.
Other prophets have described this fall. The ancient prophet Isaiah poetically described his vision of Lucifer’s premortal rebellion. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Isa. 14:12-15.)
John the Revelator, using symbolic language, also referred to this premortal rebellion of Lucifer and the tragic consequences of the War in Heaven when he wrote that “there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; and the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter” (Rev. 8:10-11).
Let’s clarify this moment when Satan steps forth. Some have promoted the idea that two opposing plans were presented in the Grand Council for the Father’s consideration. This isn’t true and is contrary to revealed word of God found both in the standard works and the writings of the prophets. God had a plan for the growth and advancement of His children and Satan rebelled, presenting instead a lie. He lied when he said “I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost.” It was not in his power to redeem anyone.
The Prophet Joseph said it was the Father who instituted and presented the plan. “God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirts and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself.
Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
Who created and presented the plan of salvation as it was adopted in the pre-existent councils in heaven? Did Christ offer one plan which would allow men their agency, and Lucifer sponsor another founded on compulsion?
Although we sometimes hear it said that there were two plans-Christ’s plan of freedom and agency, and Lucifer’s of slavery and compulsion-such teaching does not conform to the revealed word. Christ did not present a plan of redemption and salvation nor did Lucifer. There were not two plans up for consideration; there was only one; and that was the plan of the Father: originated, developed, presented, and put in force by him….
The chief cornerstone of the whole plan was to be the atoning sacrifice of a Redeemer, one of the Father’s spirit sons who was to be born into the world as his literal Son in the flesh. By this means was to be effected a resurrection, a reunion of body and spirit in immortality, the two never again to be separated. Bruce R. McConkie
When Moses records that Jesus was the Father’s ‘Beloved and Chosen from the beginning”, it is clear that he was chosen and foreordained to be the Savior of the world. The brother of Jared heard the premortal Christ say, “Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ (Ether 3:14). He is the firstborn, and in Hebrew understanding, that meant he was the birthright son with the birthright responsibility.
He is described in Abraham as “like unto God.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie continues:
Like unto God-how and in what way? Like him in length of days or the possession of progeny or the exalted nature of his tangible body? No, for the Son of the Father had yet to pass through a mortal probation, to overcome the world, to attain a resurrection, and to come back to his Father with his own glorious and tangible body. But like him in intelligence, in knowledge and understanding, in the possession of truth, in conformity to divine law, and therefore in power. Like him in plan and purpose, in desires for righteousness, in a willingness to serve his brethren, in all things that lead to that fulness of the glory of the Father which none can receive until they live in the eternal family unit as he does…. Like him as a Creator of worlds and planets innumerable.
Both mortally and premortally, Jesus did “not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him” (2 Ne. 26:24).
When God the Father asked, “Whom shall I send?” to execute His plan, we already knew. Our eyes were on Him as the one who was Chosen and “prepared from the foundation of the world”.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell characterized the Son this way as, “utterly incomparable in what He is, what He knows, what He has accomplished, and what He has experienced…. In intelligence and performance, He far surpasses the individual and the composite capacities and achievements of all who have lived, live now, and will yet live!… He rejoices in our genuine goodness and achievement, but any assessment of where we stand in relation to Him tells us that we do not stand at all! We kneel!”
His stepping forth and saying, “Here am I” was an agonizing obligation, and act of love and courage, and complete fidelity to His father. Could Satan be a greater contrast? According to Doctrine and Covenants 29, he was born before Adam, and we know that his name Lucifer literally means “the Shining One” and “lightbringer”. Apparently he had great talents and abilities. He was persuasive, impressive, and mighty in his sphere and he used all these remarkable abilities, not to support God, but to rebel “against the Only Begotten Son” (D&C 76:25). He wanted adulation, praise, attention and glory, and whenever you see these tendencies in the world or in yourself, you know where they came from.
He says that surely he will save all mankind, “wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1). He wanted sovereignty. He wanted importance and He wanted to remove God Himself from His place.
This grasping for God’s glory is ironic, because that is the very purpose God was already about—to give His children who would be willing to progress, even amidst all the sorrows of a fallen world his glory. We learn in Section 132 what the end is for God’s worthy sons and daughters. “Then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power.” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:20).
It seems like Satan’s philosophy is so self-deluded and self-seeking that all would be put off, but we cannot underestimate how sophisticated, appealing, multi-layered and nuanced it was. It drew a third part of the hosts of heaven. A third part does not necessarily mean a third. If you divided a group into three, one of them would be a part. So it’s hard to know, but certainly the attraction was vast. He always advertises his philosophy as easier, more fulfilling and immediate, less work, and above all virtuous because everyone is included whether they worked or did not. His plan is to save us all regardless of merit.
Satan’s method is “to destroy the agency of man” and that can be accomplished from any direction.” He can redefine what virtue is and looks like, especially as he is pretending to do it in the name of love. He can force people to conform to a certain philosophy, shaming or punishing them if they see if differently. He can lure people to throw away their agency with immediate gratification, peer pressure or to please others.
Or perhaps, most often, he can do what Nehor taught in the Book of Mormon to Alma’s people:
4 And he also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.
Suggesting to people that there is no sin, or that you and all others can be saved while “every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:16) is to lead people to utter and complete bondage. The commandments were given as a description of what happiness looks like, and to break them is to lead ourselves blindly to disarray and chains. It is ironic how many people cry out “I am free” as they resist God and then find themselves anything but free. What Satan wants is to “to blind men and lead them captive” or to capture their will that they lose agency, ultimately to destroy the world. We see what that looks like.
So Satan comes to the garden, described as having put it into the heart of a serpent, to tempt Adam and Eve. That he should be identified with a serpent is a lie from the start. We know from the story of the brazen serpent when Moses and the children of Israel are in the wilderness that the serpent is a symbol of Christ. From the beginning Satan is trying to hide his identity and disguise himself with one of the very symbols of Christ. This is always his technique. I am righteous. I am good. My philosophy that will put you in chains is for the good.
The serpent is described as “more subtil than any beast of the field” (Genesis 3:1). Subtle means crafty, sneaky and cunning.
He comes to Eve and asks if they can eat of every tree of the garden, Eve answers,
We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; But of the fruit of the tree which thou beholdest in the midst of the garden, God hath said—Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
And the serpent said unto the woman: 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” (Moses 4: 8-11).
This is a deep dilemma for Eve. They had been given two commandments that seemed, in fact, contradictory. In both Moses and Genesis, it is Adam who is told not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, before Eve is created. They are both told “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth”. It is clear that they cannot multiply and replenish in the garden, how do they solve this? Eve, is the mother of all living, and this surely had a special pull upon her.
E. Douglas Clark wonders if she pondered the commandment to “multiply and replenish the earth. Did she remember that the first commandment to multiply and replenish had been given to them both, but the second had come only directly to Adam? … Did she see that these two commandments were related? Did she begin to discern why the great gift of posterity had so far not been realized in the garden? Did she deduce that as long as they remained there, they could never keep the first great commandment?”
Clark argues that Eve “knew that Adam had been placed in a situation in which he could not, without, Eve’s help, achieve his potential, for the command not to eat the fruit had come only to him. It was up to her to take the step that Adam could not take. Only if she ate first would he have to eat in order to obey the first great command to multiply. She must eat so her husband could become what he had been created to be, the father of the human race. Eve must eat for his sake and for hers, for the sake of their marriage and mankind.” E. Douglas Clark Echoes of Eden: Eternal Lessons from Our First Parents, (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, Inc., 2010), 53.
The Book of Mormon gives us crucial information on this in 2 Nephi 2:
22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things 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.
23 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.
24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
When Eve partook of that fruit, it was part of God’s plan, and it had to be done this way so that entering as difficult a place as the world could be her choice. When she gave the fruit to Adam, he also ate so as to fulfill the higher law of staying with his wife and being able to fulfill his role in multiplying and replenishing the earth.
The scripture continues:
25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
It was a plan for our happiness, and Latter-day Saints look at the fall as a necessary and happy thing and at Eve as having done a courageous and important act. This knowledge from the restored gospel saves us from two ideas that have plighted and darkened the world since Eden. The first is that Eve was somehow morally deficient and weak in partaking of the fruit. That view has not only influenced the world’s outlook on Eve, but on all women who through the millennia have been regarded as lesser and disdained in their identity.
The second wrong idea from the traditional view of Eden is that because Adam sinned, every child born into this earth has that heavy burden of sin upon him or her. It suggests that our natures are inherently evil and that God disdains us. May I say with great power, this is not true.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said:
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).
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 (see Bruce R. McConkie, “Eve and the Fall,” Woman, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979, pp. 67–68).
Elder Oaks continued:
Joseph Smith taught that it was not a “sin,” because God had decreed it (see The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980, p. 63). Brigham Young declared, “We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least” (in Journal of Discourses, 13:145). Elder 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).
This suggested contrast between a sin and a transgression reminds us of the careful wording in the second article of faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (emphasis added). It also echoes a familiar distinction in the law. Some acts, like murder, are crimes because they are inherently wrong. Other acts, like operating without a license, are crimes only because they are legally prohibited. Under these distinctions, the act that produced the Fall was not a sin—inherently wrong—but a transgression—wrong because it was formally prohibited. These words are not always used to denote something different, but this distinction seems meaningful in the circumstances of the Fall. (Elder Dalllin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1993/10/the-great-plan-of-happiness?lang=eng )
After they had partaken of the fruit:
14 …they heard the voice of the Lord God, as they were walking in the garden, in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife went to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.
15 And I, the Lord God, called unto Adam, and said unto him: Where goest thou?
16 And he said: I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I beheld that I was naked, and I hid myself. (Moses 4).
You can almost hear Satan suggesting to them, “You are naked. Hide, quickly.” What he has introduced to Adam and Eve is shame. Before, a point had been made that they were naked and unashamed. Now a new self-consciousness accompanied by fear has entered their hearts, which is Satan’s tool as he tempts each one of us. The self-consciousness we feel, accompanied by the accusation that we are not enough, is not from the Lord.
They are already experiencing the consequences of good and evil. When God asks Adam, “Who told thee thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat?”, Adam shifts the responsibility to Eve. “The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat.” Eve follows the same pattern, but explains forthrightly, “The serpent beguiled me and I did eat.” (Moses 4:15-19).
This raises an interesting question. If Eve was doing an act necessary to procreate and multiply and replenish the earth, in what way was she beguiled?
We can see some things. She did not know who Satan was, but she listened to his voice. In his typical manner, he gave a mix of lies and truth. He told her that if she ate of the fruit “Ye shall not surely die” and also “then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Moses 4: 10,11). The first half was a lie and the second part was true. What she understood or didn’t in this discussion, we do not know.
What we do see, however, is that after her eyes are opened, she gives a deep explanation of why it was necessary. “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)
There are consequences for their fall. The serpent is cursed above all and “upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.” Some old paintings show the serpent in the garden with legs, but this cursing has special meaning. It means that he can never stand in the presence of God which is a gift given the faithful.
The Lord God tells Adam, that the ground is cursed “for thy sake”. One way to look at this is that it is a blessing to Adam that “by the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (Moses 4:25), because it is in this process of rigor against resistance that humanity will grow, wrestle with their weaknesses and overcome with the Lord’s help. It is not a favor to a child to shield them from hard things. The Lord was going to allow Adam and Eve to be there in the thick of it with dust on their faces and callouses on their hands—for their sake.
To the woman, the Lord God said, that “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception…and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” There are two schools of thought among Latter-day Saints about this phrase “rule over thee.”
One thing is a given. It is clear from modern prophets that in marriage the man and woman are equal partners. Elder L. Tom Perry, said, for instance “there is not a president and a vice-president in a family. We have co-presidents working together eternally for the good of their family…They are on equal footing. They plan and organize the affairs of the family jointly and unanimously as they move forward.” (L. Tom Perry, Church News, 10 April 2004:15).
Diana Webb notes, “In the phrase translated “he shall rule over thee,” the Hebrew conveys a very different meaning. It says “he shall rule bak,”which is the preposition b– attached to the feminine pronoun for “you.” When I learned Hebrew, I was taught that there is a scarcity of prepositions in the Hebrew language… The preposition b– in this phrase should read, “and he shall rule with you.” Other places in the Bible translate b– before rule as “rule over,” but it is clearly talking about a king and his subjects, or one people ruling over another.
“God has gone out of his way in this chapter and the ones before it to emphasize how the woman is to be an “equal” to the man—a “power” exactly corresponding to him. Together they are to have “dominion” over the earth and populate it. Eve will rule over this newly-created world with her husband. She will be his ezer—his rescuer, his deliverer, his strength.[i]
Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy concurs with this interpretation, teaching that the King James translation of Genesis 3:16 (“and he shall rule over thee”) is a mistranslation. In Hafen’s words, “over in ‘rule over’ uses the Hebrew bet, which means ruling with, not ruling over.” (Diana Webb, Biblical Lionesses).
Scholar Jeffrey Bradshaw sees this differently. He writes, “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.” (Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, “Was Adam meant to rule over or rule with Eve? https://ldsmag.com/was-adam-meant-to-rule-over-or-rule-with-eve/ )
Finally, a word on what the Lord did for their nakedness. We read, “I, the Lord God, make coats of skins, and clothed them.” When Adam and Eve are beyond Eden and in the world, to be naked means to be far from the atonement. It is be fragile, vulnerable, easily attacked, susceptible to the heat, the cold, the wind. It is to be susceptible to be acted upon. Naked is a symbol of being in sin.
Nephi tells us about the difference between being naked and being clothed as we stand before the judgment seat. “Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness”. What does the Lord do to protect and provide for us in our nakedness? He clothes us with his atonement. He “encircles us in the robes of his righteousness.” He protects and saves us in his loving embrace.
When the Lord clothed Adam and Eve, an animal from the garden gave its life to do that. What kind of animal? Again, we can only speculate, but it is likely to be a sheep, for surely it would be the perfect symbol of the Redeemer, who is the great, sacrificial Lamb of God.
How bewildering and overwhelming it would have been for Adam and Eve to enter the lone and dreary world, but they were also overjoyed that they were not forever cut off from the Lord and could be redeemed. Just as Eve had her perfect summary of the experience, so did Adam. He said, “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God” (Moses 5:10).
That’s all for today. Next week we’ll discuss Genesis 5 and Moses 6 called “Teach These Things Freely unto Your Children.” Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and Michaela Proctor Hutchins our producer. See you next week.
[i] Diana Webb, Biblical Lionesses, 183-184.