Today, I’m studying the talk Lessons from Eve, by Russell M. Nelson. This talk was given in the October 1987 General Conference.
I am always both excited and ambivalent to read about Eve.
Excited because I love her! I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because of this, I never really knew that Eve was anything but a hero. Her choice, to partake of the fruit, ushered in mortality – for all of us. If she hadn’t made the choice to partake, Adam and Eve would still be in the garden right now, and we would be waiting for their choice to take on mortality so we could have a chance to be here!
Ambivalent because I love her! And I’m a woman. And sometimes I feel a little nervous to read/hear what a man will say about a woman. But President Nelson, when he gave this talk, was an apostle of God. Throughout his talk, he spoke of Eve with great respect and understanding.
I will organize this blog post the same way he organized his talk – the five fundamental lessons from Eve.
Lesson One – She Labored Beside Her Companion
In the story of the creation, Heavenly Father creates Eve from the rib of Adam. Now, I don’t know the details of the Lord’s creation of man and woman. Was the explanation that Heavenly Father gave to Moses (as recorded in Genesis) 100% literal? I don’t know, but I do know that Heavenly Father probably didn’t even explain every single detail to Moses.
So – here’s the thing. Heavenly Father was speaking to Moses. I’m not convinced that Moses had a deep level of understanding of astrophysics, chemistry, botany, biology. He was raised by the daughter of Pharaoh in ancient Egypt! I’m not saying that Moses was a stupid man, but I just don’t think that God could have him come to the burning bush and then understand every single detail of how the world was created.
Instead, I have always thought that Moses was taught what he needed to know in a way that he could understand. This does not make God a liar! God just understood his audience.
Here’s an example: When I was in elementary school and middle school, in math, I learned that you can’t solve for the square root of negative one. If I tried to find the square root of negative one on my calculator, then the answer was “error.”
Then, in high school, when I was taking algebra, we did a unit of study about how the square root of negative one is an imaginary number! Even though the answer to the square root of negative one could not be found on the number line as a real number, didn’t mean that it didn’t exist. There was now the possibility of an answer to the problem that before taking Algebra I was deemed something that we could not do – an error.
Did imaginary numbers make my math teachers in elementary and middle school liars? No. They were teaching me the basics.
Now, to think about this example in the context of the creation of the world. I suppose that if the Lord was showing how he created the world to Einstein, he would explain things differently.
Yet he revealed the creation to Moses, and that is the account that we have today. Why would the Lord reveal the creation to Moses and not to someone who might understand the workings on the creation better? My guess is – it doesn’t matter.
As President Nelson explained:
“The very purpose of creation was to provide bodies, to enable these eagerly awaiting spirits to enjoy mortal life and experiences.” – Russell M. Nelson
The story of creation, then, answers the question of why…not how. And, for now, the why is much more important.
Keeping the why in mind, now think back on how Heavenly Father taught that he created Eve from the rib of Adam. Again a quote from President Nelson:
“I presume another bone could have been used, but the rib, coming as it does from the side, seems to denote partnership. The rib signifies neither dominion nor subservience, but a lateral relationship as partners, to work and to live, side by side.” – Russell M. Nelson
Adam and Eve are partners. They didn’t compete with one another. They worked together on a team for a common purpose.
One more thing:
“Adam held the priesthood. Eve served in matriarchal partnership with the patriarchal priesthood.” – Russell M. Nelson
For the most part, the concept of “patriarchy” has a negative connotation in this modern time. The Lord never intended for His priesthood – which is patriarchal – to be the vehicle for abuse or unrighteous dominion.
Instead, the patriarchal priesthood, like Adam with Eve, works in partnership with matriarchy. You can’t have a father without a mother! It’s impossible. The very purpose of the creation of the world was to provide bodies to the children of God – who prior to the creation existed only as spirits. God knew that in order for this to happen, he would need to create a mother. So he did. And she labored alongside her husband – equal in value and purpose – each with a different role to fulfill so that this huge task could be accomplished.
Lesson Two – As Adam Bore Responsibilities of Fatherhood, So Eve Bore the Responsibilities of Motherhood
Again, we must remember God’s work and His glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of men and women. This is why He created the earth – so we could obtain bodies. Though our bodies are mortal, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can be saved and then inherit immortality and eternal life.
That’s the big-picture, macro level goal we’re working on here right now. With this in mind, we can then begin to understand the micro-level, too. The same purpose applies to our lives no matter how “small” or inconsequential the tasks of our lives seem to be.
We have responsibilities.
Generally – men bear the responsibilities of fatherhood and women bear the responsibilities of motherhood. Generally!
Some of us are mothers. This means that we need to take motherhood seriously. It’s why we are here. It is the most important thing we will do in our lives. It will bring us fulfillment and joy.
Now, this is just a blog post, so I don’t want to get too much into the weeds – other than to say that motherhood is a lot more than changing diapers, cleaning, and cooking. Motherhood means reading to our children, laughing with them, developing our individual talents (without our children!) so that we don’t feel depleted, exercising and maintaining good health…it can mean that we like to bake or we hate it. Motherhood can mean that we send our kids to public school or we homeschool them. Motherhood can mean that we work for others full-time or part-time, or it can mean that we don’t work for others, but of course we are all still working! Motherhood can mean that we are class-moms or not! (I was never a class mom. Instead, as I told my kids, I drew them books. Class-momming was not my forte). Motherhood looks different in different parts of the world. Motherhood looks different at different times in our lives. The only way that motherhood is the same for each and every one of us is – we are trying our very best. We are praying about our children, our situations, our strengths, our weaknesses, our needs, our riches, and then we are making decisions on how to “mother.”
I love this quote by President Nelson (about his wife, the mother of their children):
I’m glad Sister Nelson has not tried to be a “supermom.” But she has been a “soothing” mom. This she has done simply by being herself.” – Russell M. Nelson, emphasis added
This she has done simply by being herself! Even though I know that I simply need to be myself, I still need this reminder.
Recently, I’ve been a little worried – we have been moving a lot recently. And I have kids from the ages of 17 to 7. Really, we’ve been moving a lot. My sister’s family – a military family – has had more stability than we have. It has me so worried about my kids sometimes.
The worry and fear causes me to question the choices that I’ve made – with the Spirit – and then I find myself expressing my worries to the Lord. I may have “expressed” these worries a few nights ago. As I did, I felt a gentle reminder: Don’t worry. Your children NEED you.
My children need me and they need the experiences that come with me. I think that this is true for us all. We can be the best mothers simply by being ourselves, and remaining confident that our children need what we can offer them – not what is being offered by other (good!) mothers around us.
Of course, not all of us are mothers. President Nelson stated:
“For you childless sisters and those without companions, remember the eternal timetable of the Lord is much longer than the lonely hours of your preparation or the total of this mortal life. These are only as microseconds when compared to eternity. Your willingness and worthiness are surely known to Him. The spiritual rewards of motherhood are available to all women. Nurturing the young, comforting the frightened, protecting the vulnerable, teaching and giving encouragement need not—and should not—be limited to our own children.” – Russell M. Nelson
One of the kindest, most nurturing women I’ve ever met was not a mother. I worked with her in a Young Women’s presidency. She did so much for the young women in our ward. And she did so much with her nieces and nephews. And, as a parent, I can say that I’m grateful for these kinds of relationships that my own children have with other good, nurturing adults. Though I do so much for my own children, I know that they need other positive relationships, too.
Lesson Three – Eve and Her Partner Worshipped the Lord in Prayer
A few days ago, I studied the talk “Joy Cometh in the Morning.” I love the promise that joy comes in the morning, and right now, I’m working through a long, dark night which requires so much faith. Yet I forget that prayer will change the night to day! I truly believe in the power of prayer, yet I let my prayers become so casual. Why is that?!
President Nelson pleaded:
“I plead with the women of the Church to accept individual responsibility to know and to love the Lord. Communicate with him. He will impress upon your mind inspiration and personal revelation to give you strength.” – Russell M. Nelson
Eve and Adam prayed together. We don’t know much about Eve, but I know that she was a seeker. Her desire for knowledge is what led her to partake of the fruit in the first place. Because she was a seeker, I think that it is safe to presume that she was also a pray-er – not only in companionship with her husband, but also individually.
Prayer helps us to keep an eye of faith. Prayer will calm our trouble souls. Prayer is also the work we need to do in order for Heavenly Father to give us blessings He is willing to grant.
Lesson Four – Eve and Her Husband Heeded Divine Commandments of Obedience and Sacrifice
So often we think of Eve as being the one who transgressed by partaking of the fruit. But she is an example of obedience!
Eve and Adam learned about the connection between sacrifice and obedience. President Nelson teaches us about the result:
“As we comply with these and other commandments, something wonderful happens to us. We become disciplined! We become disciples! We become more sacred and holy—like our Lord!” – Russell M. Nelson
There is nothing more that I want than to be a disciple of Christ. I am grateful to know that the mother of all living was an obedient disciple of Christ who sacrificed so much in order to be obedient. We are all beneficiaries of her discipleship.
Lesson Five – Adam and Eve Taught the Gospel to their Children
In order to teach, we must know. President Nelson stated:
“Study the scriptures and internalize them. Teach faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then let your commitment to the mission of the Church be evident in all you do.” – Russell M. Nelson
I really think that this lesson could be combined with Lesson Two – bearing the responsibilities of motherhood.
Adam and Eve received the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. Sometimes it seems like we focus a lot on the “multiply” aspect of this commandment. Have children.
But the phrase “and replenish” keeps ringing through my head. The idea of replenishment is more than simply multiplying. Instead, replenishment implies that we are also nourishing. I’m having trouble expressing this.
I bought a house plant a few years ago. I set it on my windowsill with the intention of repotting it. The plant sat on the windowsill for days, weeks, and months.
For those initial days, weeks, and months it was doing fine. I still watered it, and it was growing. But over time, the plant was suffering. I tried watering it more, but the plant didn’t respond well. I tried placing it in a spot with more sunlight, but still the plant struggled. Nothing I did was helping.
I finally realized that for nearly two years it had been sitting in its original plastic pot (that it was in when I bought it! Yikes!) and though the plant had been growing, though the leaves had been multiplying, nothing was being replenished. And over time, the soil became depleted, which had a deleterious effect.
I got a bigger pot, some brand new potting soil, and transplanted my tender, dying plant. I worried that it was too late, but it was worth a shot.
And wouldn’t you know, in just a few days the plant looked amazing!!! Then it really grew. I mean, it took off growing! I couldn’t keep it on the windowsill or in the kitchen.
All because the nutrients had been replenished.
In my mind, our command to “multiply and replenish” the earth is the same. Not only are we supposed to have children, but we are supposed to create an environment that will “replenish” our societies and our world. This is best done when we teach our children the gospel.
This is a long post, so I’ll wrap it up.
I’m so thankful that we know the story of Eve – though it is so short and often so misunderstood. I’m so grateful to know that it was a woman that was brave enough to seek knowledge and make a choice that would even put her at odds with God in order for her and her husband to progress.
I’m also grateful to know that this was a part of the plan. Heavenly Father honors our agency so much that He wouldn’t force Adam and Eve into mortality. He would let them choose, and they both did.
I’m grateful that we are led by a living prophet who not only understands these stories, but champions them! He loves his wife. He is grateful for Eve. I’m so grateful to know that President Nelson doesn’t bear his priesthood in an abusive or oppressive way, but understands that it works in lock-step with motherhood and womanhood.
There is just so much more I could say about this subject, but I must stop for now. Thanks for reading. And thanks for being patient with me and my rambling thoughts. 🙂