Cover image: “The Beguiling” by Rose Datoc Dall.
Dearest Daughters and Granddaughters,
I have watched each of you come into the world, crying and astonished, blinking and lovely and with an absolute veil over the memory of who you were. We could only look at you in your wonder and imagine the great origins from which you came.
Then, of course, the world did a number on you—as it does to all mortals—and especially to women. For centuries women have been demeaned and belittled, cast into limitations and called subordinate. For too long women were oppressed, ignored, treated as an object or judged as emotional or less intelligent.
Men were to lead out. Women were to follow. Men could solve problems. Women could cheer and serve refreshments while they did. While it has been much less so in the time you have lived, we do have an inheritance from a world that has not regarded women the way God does. I think you would be awed if you could get a glimpse of your true power.
Surely the Adversary has laughed to see half the human race believing they are less than they are. He has laughed a second time to see women or men disdain each other as if they were enemies vying for a prize where there is only one winner.
If you believe this shrunken view of yourself, you cannot entirely be who you were meant to be (whose scope I can’t begin to imagine). I don’t want you to believe the invisible shafts that can hit your identity from a world long conditioned to not comprehend the nature of women.
Thus, I want you to know a secret about Eve, our prototype, something I think everybody needs to know, which I will share shortly. But first, let’s picture her. She is called our “glorious Mother Eve”1 in the Doctrine and Covenants and no one gives a better summary of the purpose of our life than she does. “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.”2
President 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.’”3
“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.”4
Here’s an additional view of Eve from Zebedee Coltrin, telling of an experience he had when he was with Joseph Smith. He wrote:
“Once after returning from a mission to Kirtland, I met Brother Joseph, who asked me if I did not wish to go with him to a conference at New Portage, Ohio…Next morning at New Portage, I noticed that Joseph seemed to have a far off look in his eyes, or was looking at a distance. Presently, he…said, ‘Let’s take a walk.’
“We went to a place where there was some beautiful grass…President Joseph Smith then said, ‘Let us pray.’
“We all three prayed in turn—Joseph, Oliver and me. Brother Joseph then said, ‘Now brethren, we will see some visions.’
“Joseph lay down on the ground on his back and stretched out his arms, and we laid on them. The heavens gradually opened, and we saw a golden throne, on a circular foundation, and on the throne sat a man and a woman, having white hair and clothed in white garments. Their heads were white as snow, and their faces shone with immortal youth. They were the two most beautiful and perfect specimens of mankind I ever saw. Joseph said, “They are our first parents, Adam and Eve.’
“Adam was a large broad shouldered man, and Eve, as a woman, was as large in proportion.”5
Adam is Alone
So with this better understanding of Eve, let’s look at when we first know Adam. He is alone in the garden, and God said, to him, that this situation is decidedly “not good.” He needs the woman Eve to be completed, “It is not good that the man should be alone.”6
In fact, to underscore that this relationship between man and woman is unlike any other, she is not made of the dust of the earth like all of the other creatures God has made. She is made of him. They are the same material. They are meant to understand and be one with each other, to be co-equals, as Adam is with no one else.
Though this description of Eve being created from a rib is metaphorical, Adam gives an underlying truth, “She is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.”7 This married pair were dependent on each other and meant to be united as no other of God’s creations were with them. In all the earth, this is a unique relationship because they are made of the very same material.
They have a joint commission and it takes two of them, working together, to fulfill it.
Eve is an ezer
Since Adam has been alone, in creating Eve, the Lord has created a “help meet” for him. Here is where we sometimes get into trouble. It is in misunderstanding the idea of “help” or as it is sometimes translated “helper” that we run aground in estimating who Eve is and, by implication, all women. We sometimes suppose that this means that she is a subordinate assistant or that she is meant to be domestic help or that she is meant only to cater to the needs of others. Yet, “help” is much bigger and more powerful than this. In Hebrew, help is the word “ezer”.
In all of scripture, there are only two who are explicitly referred to as “ezer”—and that is Eve and God, Himself. When God is called “ezer”, it is often in times of great peril, when enemies are ranged against the Children of Israel and their very lives are on the line. In those instances, God as ezer, arrives as strength, power, rescuer, and protector. He is the vital strength, the necessary power. He is critically needed. There is no survival without Him.
When the word ezer is used in the Bible, “it carries no implication regarding the relationship or relative status of the individuals involved.” Ezer also has no narrow qualifications, no prescribed limits, no cultural restrictions.”8 To place restrictions or subordination on Eve because she is ezer is simply a faulty cultural construct.
Ezer is used in the Bible twice for Eve and sixteen times for God. As Donald W. Parry and Jay A. Parry noted, “No others—including kings, queens, ranking military officers, prophets, or priests are presented as help. Moreover, the vastly powerful and commanding pharaoh of Egypt, together with his officials and representatives, is specifically depicted as not being a help.”9… The prophets reveal that God is a help because he sustains and preserves the lives of his people.”10
Let’s look at just some of those times when God is ezer or help. The first mention of it is in Exodus 18, where Moses names his son Eliezer, meaning My God is a Help “for the God of my father, said he, was mine help [ezer], and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.”11 When we are talking about the army of Exodus, the most powerful nation on earth at the time, this is no small rescue.
Moses again praises God as a help against the enemies of the Children of Israel. This is help in very difficult conditions. Here are two examples. “Hear, O Lord, the voice of Judah’ bring him unto his people: let his hands be sufficient for him; and be an help [ezer] against his foes.”12
Or what of this, “Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help [ezer].”13 Or in another translation, “He is your shield and helper [ezer] and your glorious sword.”
Then there are these beautiful Psalms where the Lord is a strength when needed. “Make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help [ezer] and my deliverer.”14 “O Israel, trust thou in the Lord: he is their help [ezer] and shield.”15
The Lord is humanity’s help in this song of ascent, as the singer looks to the temple: “I will lift up mind eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help [ezer]. My help [ezer] cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”16
The Lord as an ezer preserves life and preserves the soul in this Psalm.
We also see a significant moment in the Old Testament when the Children of Israel come to battle against the Philistines, where they are badly outnumbered and apparently doomed to defeat and even destruction if the Lord did not intervene. They had twice been defeated by the Philistines at this same location.
The prophet Samuel pleads for the Lord’s help, He miraculously intervenes, and the Children of Israel are victorious. To remember that it was the Lord who helped them, they raised a monument on the field. It was called the Eben-ezer, which means “Stone of Help” thus branding it in their memories forever. “Hitherto has the Lord helped us.”17
When we sing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and repeat the line, “Here I raise my Eben-ezer, by that great help I’ve come,“ this is the moment we are remembering. God came as an ezer to save them.
In the Bible, the Hebrew words that are used in particular places are designed to resonate with one another, one reminding us of the other places where the word is used again. Thus the ezer or help connection is not casual or offhand, especially when it is used to describe only two in a positive light—Eve and God. Protector. Rescuer. Strength. Power.
The Parrys note, “All sixteen scriptural passages that establish that the Lord is a help are connected implicitly or explicitly, to God’s sustaining the life of his human creations. He is a help because he protects his creative works from mortal destruction, death and the grave. He preserves them during periods of trouble and keeps them alive during famines. He crushes their foes and strikes down their adversaries. He increases them and their children. Unlike mortals “in whom there is no help” (Ps. 146:3), the Lord is a help who preserves needy mortals, the bowed-down old man, the stranger, the widow, and the fatherless. The Lord is a help who ransoms his mortals from the power of the grave and redeems them from death.”18
In both verses (Genesis 2: 18, 20) where Eve is called an ezer, the term is qualified by the word kenegdo which is often translated as “suitable for him” but also has the sense of being “a power or strength equal to.” Some have suggested that it means, “I will make a power or strength corresponding to man” or that it should be rendered “equal to man.” At any rate, there is certainly no sense of subservience or of a lesser place where Eve is concerned.
So how about that verse in Genesis 3:16, “and he shall rule over thee”, speaking of Adam and Eve. Diana Webb notes, “Bruce Hafen, of the Seventy, said, ‘over in “rule over” uses the Hebrew bet, which means ruling with, not ruling over.’ Elder L. Tom Perry puts the icing on the cake when he tells us, “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.”19
Eve was not a shrinking violet, a silent assistant, or minor player in Eden or in the dreary world. She was indeed “our glorious Mother Eve.”
When asked in that proverbial party game, who would you most like to meet from history, one of my daughters always answers, “Eve.” That would be a glorious meeting, but now, because of the refreshing good news of the restoration, we can at least see her in her power with more perception, and seeing her, see ourselves as women too.
That is my hope for you dear daughters and granddaughters.
1 Doctrine and Covenants 138:39
2 Moses 5:11
3 2 Nephi 2:25
4 Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness”. General Conference, Oct. 1993. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1993/10/the-great-plan-of-happiness? lang=en
5 Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet, p. 28
6 Genesis 2:18
7 Genesis 2:23
9 Isaiah 30:1-5
10 Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry. Symbols and Shadows: Unlocking a Deeper Understanding of the Atonement https://www.gospelink.com/library/document/132427?highlight=1
11 Exodus 18:4
12 Deuteronomy 33:7
13 Deuteronomy 33:29
14 Psalm 70:5
15 Psalm 115:9
16 Psalm 121:1,2
17 1 Samuel 7:12
18 Parry and Parry. Symbols and Shadows: Unlocking a Deeper Understanding of the Atonement.
19 Diana Webb, Understanding Eve: the Mother of All Living , https://meridianmag.wpengine.com/understanding- eve-the-mother-of-all-living/