The Courage of Eve

When Adam was introduced to the Garden of Eden, he was shown all the animals and gave them each a name. In doing so, two things became readily apparent: every animal had a partner but he did not, and in fact, none of these animals were suitable—or meet—to be his helper. Thus Eve was created as his help meet and he named her Chavva— which means in Hebrew, “giver of life.”

Eve was also given the title, “Mother of all Living” (Genesis 3:20) even though she would not and could not have children until after the Fall. This implies that her role of nurturing and fostering life was more than just a physical reproductive ability to have children. She was the mother of ALL living—flowers and trees, beasts and even Adam. These were her domain to beautify, promote, encourage, and foster. There is both sweet and terrible irony in this title. Despite being the mother of all living, through her actions she introduced mortality and eventually death to all living. Yet also, through her choice, she made it possible for all to come to the earth, prove our allegiance, and then enjoy immortality and even Eternal Life.

She traded up for all of us.

The action of partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge is considered a transgression rather than a sin for good reason. Adam and Eve were in no way prepared to comprehend the subtlety or deception that Satan employed. They knew the penalty for disobedience was death—but what was that? They had never seen death. They had never known falsehood. When Satan presented himself to them his arguments were taken at face value. And with his cunning, Satan knew just which argument to use.

After having no success with Adam, Satan approached the innocent Eve with a promise certain to win her cooperation: “Then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” ( Moses 4:11).

Eve knew God. They had walked and talked together in the Garden. She knew that God is wise and loving; He is power and beauty and wisdom and all that is good. The desire to be like Heavenly Father and Jesus drove her to partake of the fruit. And so she did and coaxed Adam into partaking also.

Immediately afterwards, Adam and Eve were filled with shame—for the first time they felt naked and not knowing else to do, they took fig leaves and fashioned them into a covering. This might hide their sense of physical exposure and shame, but they soon found when the Lord arrived that it was no real remedy.

Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden, away from all the abundance they had known and the presence of God that they had enjoyed. A flaming sword was placed to block their return. Then they received curses of sorrow. Eve’s sentence was pronounced:

“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).

But God would not forsake them in the lone and dreary world. Before sending them off, He made them clothes—not the flimsy fig leaves that they had come up with, but garments that would really cover their nakedness.

We may guess that the animal chosen for this purpose may very well have been a lamb; we may presume that it was a domestic animal, as was later required in the Law of Moses for sacrifices.  And this event must have had a powerful impact upon Eve. I imagine that throughout her life, whenever they made sacrifices, she would always reflect back on that day, on that first sacrifice. I imagine that she might feel like this:

Today we made sacrifice, a lamb–white wool and soft, like clouds billowing over hills the sun burned hot.

I ached when I saw crimson stain the wool, the blood of life poured out, the body quivering then stilled. I wept tears that remembered a first time, a first shedding of lamb’s blood.

We were children then, not knowing what we’d done, partaking of forbidden fruit. No longer to walk with God in the cool of the Garden; His voice would not reach our ears; our eyes would be blind to His presence.

Children, we thought our hands could fashion a remedy of leaves to hide our shame, to cover our nakedness and make the thing undone.

Then the lamb was led forth from Eden, I knew not why; the crimson flow of blood that met the blade I could not fathom. But the stillness as of sleep, the silence and the stillness would not cease; thus I learned of death.

When the lambskin was worked into a garment; then I learned the price of my transgression. For my sin to be redeemed, for my shame to be covered, required the sacrifice of life, of blood.

And God himself, my Friend, He had who walked and laughed and sang with me in the Garden—He would pay the price.

Despite these traumatic events, I am in awe that Eve would have the courage and wisdom to carry on, and even to say, “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).

Solstice*

Came Joseph’s son into the winter’s night
When earth had turned its furthest from the light;
When darkness had o’ercrept the bounds of day

Into men’s souls. But coals of yesterday
Still glow, as Lucy stirs them to stay warm.
She wraps her son in wool and love—no harm
Shall him befall. No harm, not for awhile.

There’s time enough to coo and grab and smile
And make first faltering steps, then walk upright.
To take infant delight in ways that might
To those less wise, more learned, futile seem:

To grasp the shafts of sun that freely stream
In ribbons through the leaves and light the dust.
To clutch fistfuls of light with perfect trust.
Although to kill that light his life was shed,

The fire rekindled in men’s hearts shall spread
And turn the world once more unto the Son.
For Brother Joseph’s work shall not be done
Until that perfect summer’s day of light.

*Joseph Smith was born December 23, 1805, at the time of the winter solstice; he was martyred June 27, 1844, at the time of the summer solstice.

The Parable of the Dollar Bill

I was walking along one day, when I thought I heard a voice. It was just a tiny voice. I looked around, and looked some more, but couldn’t see anyone, or where the voice might be coming from. Then I heard it again. As I listened closely, I discovered that the voice was coming from my wallet.

“Ooh, don’t touch me, you’re old and faded and wrinkled,” and “Stay away from me—you smell like garlic.”

Well, you won’t believe this, but inside my wallet were three one dollar bills. One was old and wrinkled, one seemed just ordinary (although I had bought pizza for lunch, so it’s possible that it smelled of garlic), and the third one was fresh and crisp, straight from the bank vault. The new one was the one making noise. It was evident that the new dollar bill did not approve of its company.

But I had to laugh! It was so silly.

A dollar is a dollar is a dollar. It doesn’t matter if it’s old or new, wrinkled and torn, clean or garlic scented. A dollar is still a dollar. And what is a dollar anyway? It’s just a piece of paper. And as a piece of paper, it’s not worth much. It has writing all over it, so you can’t use it for a letter. And you can’t burn it, either—too many chemicals. Plus, if you’re at the beach and you spill your root beer, a dollar bill won’t help because it’s not absorbent.

Nonetheless, we all love to have lots of dollar bills in our pockets. Because a dollar is more than just bad paper. It says on it “Good for all debts, public and private,” and it is signed by the Secretary of the Treasury. The words and the signature constitute a promise by the United States government, that when a dollar bill is presented at a store or bank or pizza parlor, it will be worth a dollar’s worth of stuff.

In order to make sure that they can keep that promise, the government has such places as Fort Knox, full of gold, ready to back up their word. Everybody knows that and so you can take a dollar bill anywhere in the world and the people there will know what it is worth and trust its value.

But aren’t we like the foolish dollar bill? Don’t we tend to rank and rate ourselves and others by external qualities? But really, a child of God is a child of God—isn’t it just silly to think otherwise?

Like the dollar bill, in and of ourselves, we are not good for much. Merely a handful of dust.

Moses knew. He had grown up as a prince in the royal court of Pharaoh. The Egyptian civilization had flourished for thousands of years and had obtained the pinnacle of power, wealth, and learning. If anyone wanted to compare personal quality and worth, certainly Moses had the advantage. Nonetheless, after beholding the power and glory of God, Moses realized that “Man is nothing.” The things he had known before that seemed so worthwhile and amazing were nothing, “which thing [he] had never supposed” (Moses 1:10).

King Benjamin, likewise, admonishes us:

“I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness.”

Satan loves to remind us that we are nothing, but he forgets the other half—remembering the greatness of God, and that we must not do.

For, just as the dollar bill has its guarantee and Fort Knox to back it up, we have God’s promise that He will share everything that He has with us. Worlds without end, power and glory—that kind of adds up. Moreover, Heavenly Father swore an oath to seal that promise and gave His Son to make that promise possible.

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him (D&C 18:10).

Our worth is great in the eyes of God. The miracle that makes life worth living, that makes life sweet and gives us hope for all eternity, is that God loves us. Each of us! We were created in His image; we bear His name. Doesn’t every other measure of worth pale in significance to that?

Nonetheless, times come when we feel inadequate and heaven seems distant. At those times it is so tempting to find a landmark—some tangible reference point to prove to ourselves that we are still in the running. Our human instinct drives us to look around and define ourselves as a function of those around us, either lesser or greater.

Such valuations are counterfeit and doomed to fail, for they are based upon changeable metrics. I believe they may also constitute a sin, for every time we compare ourselves to others, we are devaluing at least two children of God; we are rejecting the real worth that God has given us and them, for something small and inglorious.

Trying to secure some portion of worth on our own is futile; for we have nothing real and lasting to back up a self-imagined worth. On the other hand, realizing our true worth is very liberating and enabling.

So often we think that the question life asks us is, “What are you worth?” The fact of the matter is, our worth is absolutely guaranteed by our Heavenly Father. We cannot increase or diminish our value in His eyes, any more than a dollar bill can somehow become worth more or less than 100 cents. The real question that life demands of each of us is:

What will you do with that tremendous worth that God has placed in you?

Well, you can take a dollar bill and buy a chocolate bar and eat it and it’s gone. (Except for the permanent reminder on your hips.) Or you can buy a book—with only a dollar, you’ll have to check the last-gasp sale rack at Barnes & Noble—and learn something that you will own forever.

Or you can buy enough rice to feed a hungry child in Africa for a day and gain “treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matthew 6:20).

In the same way, we must take the gift of time, talent, and abundance that the Lord has given us in this life, and figure out how to spend it.

Will we choose to live our lives in a self-serving way?

Will we seek pleasure? Our own comfort? Our own glory?

Or will we live the life that God asks, serving, developing our talents, perfecting our weaknesses?

It is hard to give up the habit of seeking a sense of worth by comparing ourselves with others.  But we must, for there are really only two people that we may righteously compare ourselves to. 1) The Savior—He is our exemplar, and comparing ourselves with Him shows us what we need to work on. 2) The person I or you used to be—this is how we see how far we have come.

In the end, these comparisons are all that will matter, and they will matter forever.

 

A Sonnet by Michelangelo

Christ on the Cross by Michelangelo

 

The course of my life has already reached,

Across a stormy sea and in a fragile ship,

The common port, where we must give

An account of our every evil act or good deed.

 

The impassioned fantasy, which made

Art an idol and Lord over me,

Was, I now realize, full of error,

Like all else that men desire against their will.

 

What will become of my amorous thoughts, once so vain and gay,

Now that I draw near to my double death?

Of one death I am certain, and the other threatens me.

 

There is no painting nor sculpture now which quiets

The soul turned toward that divine Love

Which on the cross opened to take us in Its arms.

The Renaissance Reader, ed. by Bondanella & Musa published by Meridian