True heroes are needed for our society, today more than ever. Wikipedia defines a hero as someone who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through an impressive feat of ingenuity, bravery, or strength, often sacrificing his or her own personal concerns for some greater good. In my life, I have found heroes in family, friends, mentors, and various historical figures.
Eve, the “mother of all living,” is one of my personal heroes. Maligned throughout time as gullible, inferior, weak, and sinful, Eve has been blamed for all that’s wrong in the world. These misconceptions have unjustly permeated the treatment of women for millennia, setting the stage for discrimination and pain. Why were women not allowed to read, own property, attend a university, or even vote in many parts of the world until the last couple of centuries? Why were they identified as the weaker sex, without voice or power? Our exemplar, Jesus Christ, consistently demonstrated respectful interactions with the women in his life, yet this example was not always emulated.
Though not a religious scholar, I enjoy the writings of scriptorians. The Latter-day Saints scholar Jolene Edmunds Rockwood, who received a masters from Harvard Divinity School, helped me in my quest to better comprehend Eve’s role in the creation story. An expert in ancient languages, Rockwood investigates the roots of words found in Genesis which describe Eve’s relationship to Adam, and her insights are illuminating and inspiring.
For example, in Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good that man should be alone, I will make him an help meet for him.” This has often been interpreted that Eve was created as an assistant or subordinate to Adam. Rockwood looks at the Hebrew phrase “help meet” and finds that a more accurate translation is someone who is “a power or strength equal to.” That allows us to recognize Eve as an equal partner with Adam.
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Anyone who does crossword puzzles will know that the clue “utopia” is usually solved with the word “Eden.” In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived in a very protected, innocent, and perfect environment without stress, disease, predators, or problems. Ideal, some may say — but is it a place to mature and grow? Usually growth comes from challenges and hardships. Rockwood further explains that Eve made a thoughtful decision to choose life and growth when she partook of the symbolic fruit. Eve knew that life outside Eden would involve pain and sorrow, but would be coupled with joy and development. The “fall” would allow her to experience life more fully and to bear children.
In Moses 5:11 of the Pearl of Great Price (an additional book revered by LDS members as scripture), Eve says, “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….” Yes, there would be sweat on the brow and offspring who disobeyed, but I believe Eve wanted more from life than to sit in a beautiful garden and smell the flowers.
Russell M. Nelson, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wrote, “We and all mankind are forever blessed because of Eve’s great courage and wisdom. By partaking of the fruit first, she did what needed to be done. Adam was wise enough to do likewise.”
What would women’s role in history have been if Eve’s strength and courage had been recognized for what it was? Because of her difficult choice and sacrifice, I celebrate her as a hero for today.