Monday, December 22, 2008

The Dichotomy of Eve

*This is a compilation of a few posts from earlier in this month, so if some of it sounds familiar, that's why. This is also posted at Feminist Mormon Housewives.

Also, I may or may not have time to respond to comments. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, etc. etc. etc. Hope you have a good one.

One of the doctrines that appealed most to me as an investigator of the Church was the Second Article of Faith: We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

This varied greatly from my Protestant and fleeting Catholic teachings I’d grown up with that we are all sinners because of Adam and Eve, and lest we never accept Christ into our hearts we are doomed to eternal damnation because of something some guy did millions of years ago (or however long you believe it to be).

I loved this. And my heart pitter-pattered even more when I heard this tidbit: Eve wasn’t taken from Adam’s head as to be at his head, nor from his feet as to insinuate she would be at his feet, but rather from his rib, his side. Equals. Yay! I loved telling family and friends this.

Then there’s Moses 5:10-11:

“And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: 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.

“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.”

Eve. Without Eve, we wouldn’t know good. We revere Eve for her foresight. For her transgression. For knowing that it would be better to know good from evil than remain in such an innocent state wherein they could never progress. President Faust states in What It Means to Be a Daughter of God in the 1999 November Ensign,

“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Eve. In the Garden of Eden, she and Adam were instructed not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, they were also reminded, ‘Thou mayest choose for thyself.’ The choice was really between a continuation of their comfortable existence in Eden, where they would never progress, or a momentous exit into mortality with its opposites: pain, trials, and physical death in contrast to joy, growth, and the potential for eternal life. In contemplating this choice, we are told, ‘And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, … and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.’ And thus began their earthly probation and parenthood.

“After the choice was made, Adam voiced this grateful expression: ‘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.’ “Eve made an even greater statement of visionary wisdom after leaving the Garden of Eden: ‘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.’ If it hadn’t been for Eve, none of us would be here.”
Sounds great, right? There’s a problem though, and it starts with scriptures such as “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.”

Erm…where’d Eve go?

The problem is furthered in the Bible: “Let the woman learn in silence, with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1 Timothy 2:11-14)

Anyone who has been to the temple understands that the teaching of subjection still exists. Some of you will say that a righteous priesthood holder would never put his foot down and proclaim his God given authority, but the fact remains that he has it. The man is the head. The priesthood holder gets the revelation. His wife can pray and discuss issues with him, but ultimately he makes the decision. That isn’t a partnership. It’s not even compromise. It’s a parent-child relationship, and Adam and Eve set the pattern. It all seems to stem from Paul’s writing in 1 Timothy.

By initially being more obedient to God, Adam is given greater access to God. No matter what Eve thinks now, she has to listen to Adam who would have counseled her to reject the fruit. Apparently she’s only allowed to be right in that one thing. Lucky for her she wasn’t taught beforehand to listen to her husband. Lucky for her she didn’t even ask. She didn’t have to. No covenants had been made yet.

Ahhhh, innocence.

Does anyone else see a disconnect here?

I don’t covet the priesthood, just a place at the table; a chance and the right to have just as much access to God as my husband. Real equality. Not something that resembles it, but something that is equal despite what Eve did. I don’t want to pay for what she did.

Spin it as you will, in the end it is a patriarchal order which, by definition, puts the man at the head of the family – read: in charge. Last say. An understood clearer connection with God all by virtue of a Y chromosome.

And yet we go on and on about how holy women are despite these teachings. The more I hear about our inherent holiness the more condescended to I feel. The more we insist there is no distinction is to bring more attention to the actual distinction. I understand that men are generally stronger, taller, etc. than women. I get that women are generally physically weaker, more nurturing, shorter than men. I’m not speaking of physical inequalities: I’m speaking to mental and spiritual equalities, equalities that we should understand to fundamentally exist.
I have a hard time believing my God would make me inferior to men, and this makes the Bible and scripture sometimes incredibly difficult to read. I am His daughter. I am to feel loved and in peace. Like I matter. Sometimes I don’t feel like I really do.

Is the patriarchal pattern a consequence of Eve?

Scripture would tell us yes; the Church would say no - but as my scriptural notes attest we are still rationalizing, still insisting the priesthood trumps all, and as men hold the priesthood and not women (except for the temple), I am somehow inferior. And no, I’m not looking for inversion of roles. If the priesthood is not complete without the woman in marriage, if neither man without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord, than I say these things ought to be reflected in the family order.

I have felt respected in our church, but I’ve also felt very much like I don’t matter. I am not the only one, and so we need to address this rather than dismiss it as silly feminism that seeks to destroy not only gender roles but the basic foundation of God’s plan. That just adds salt to an already open wound.


melancholy said...

Hi Lisa,
I really enjoy your blog. I'm wondering, and hope you don't mind me asking: As a liberal Mormon, what is your view on exaltation - men becoming gods?

Cindy said...

My husband and I were married civilly 13 years ago. For years I hoped he would come around and want to go through the temple. For him, he's happy with keeping it simple, taking the kids to church, holding smaller calling, not being so orthodox about it all. After so many years I had to come to terms with it and move on with my life, I was tired of beating myself up about it and just wanted some peace. Today it's things like you've wrote of, my subservient role to my husband in the church, among other things, that keeps me from wanting to take that final step, whether it be with my husband or by myself. (Although I sometimes wonder if I should just have faith and "take one for the team" so to speak.) Most of the time I'm happy with things the way they are and I don't dwell on the eternities too much, but then I look at my kids and hear their questions about our family and I stare head on at the fact that this is going to be a source of confusion for them when they become adults and could seriously affect their view of the church and their testimonies.

Lisa said...

melancholy: First, welcome :) I'm glad you enjoy it.

As for your question - I'm not sure I follow (perhaps I can blame it on being sick? haha). Could you clarify?

Cindy: You're new too, aren't you? Welcome :)

I've had the same thoughts and fears, though probably in a different place than you're in.

I don't want to discourage people from attending the temple so much. Yes, there are things that bother me. I'm also told that things have changed, the woman's role in the temple has eased, bettered through the years.

Will it change some more? I imagine it will. I'm not sure how.

It really comes down to personal prayer, study, and what your heart is telling you. Your children will have questions if your husband doesn't want to go. They'll have questions period, I imagine. What does your husband think of it all?

Anyway, I know the fears of your children's testimonies and view of the church being slighted because of their parents. I feel it too.