In the beginning, Adam and Eve lived in the garden with no cares or worries. Anything they could ever need or want was given to them, but with no opportunity to learn, to grow and to gain experience through a struggle. The Biblical account goes this way.
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5For 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. 6And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
The Christian world tends to come down hard on Eve, blaming her for the sorrow and misery of this world that her choice gave to us. The LDS church has a more expansive, compassionate view. Joseph Smith in a re-translation and expansion of the story captured in our book of Moses describes Eve’s interpretation of the experience as she looks back on her choice and the resulting consequences:
11 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.
This is an interesting story and a profound one. God gave Adam and Eve an explicit instruction not to eat of the fruit. Satan tempts Eve, but in his temptation he speaks truth, that if she eats the fruit she can grow wise. Rather than an outright rejection of the information, she ignores the source and considers only the content of the message. Eve digs into it and realizes this truth on her own, deeply and profoundly. Her path, the choice she has to make in that moment is to defy God in order to pursue wisdom and experience. And ultimately both Adam and Eve are blessed with the opportunity to bring forth seed, with the opportunity to learn through their troubles, the “joy of our redemption”.
I’m wondering if there is a broader lesson here. Most of the time we should live by and obey God’s commandments for us. We should be loyal to our family, our community, our leaders and especially our faith, sustaining and supporting their best efforts. But along the way, we need to do our own individual work, reading and studying scripture, coming to our own conclusions, praying and developing a relationship with God that is deep and independent of others. Learning to serve and care for others without compulsion, without relying upon a call from others. Life can be easy and comfortable when we follow the path laid out for us by our circumstance or our heritage especially as we lean on others for our strength. I was born a Mormon, raised in Arizona, studied engineering, worked for large companies my entire life, married with beautiful children. All this is good and beautiful. I’m loyal to my faith, I try to sustain my church leaders, I pay my tithing, do my hometeaching, try to read my scriptures and pray often.
But there are times, I’m learning, times for real growth. These times come when the right decision is to veer off paths others have laid out for me. The lesson of Eve is to choose courage. But there is danger here as well. Eve knew what she was doing, she felt it in her soul. Her action was motivated by care, thoughtfulness and love.
Bob Dylan said it best “To Live outside the law you must be honest”.
Mostly what I’m saying here is that I should also withhold judgment. When someone makes a decision that doesn’t make sense, when I see someone else choosing the “apostate path”. When I think I disagree. I have no idea what the full story is. I can’t get inside their head. It’s possible they are following the example of Eve. To live outside their law, but with a head and heart full of integrity.
I hope when the time is right I can have the courage to do the same. I hope I can allow my children the same privilege.