Monday, February 29, 2016

Eve, the Temple, and Fruit that is Bitter and Sweet

Another version of this post was written for Q.Noor (a modern temple dress start-up run by a friend of mine) and published there February 28th, 2016.

Me in my temple dress August 2015. Photo by Arielle Nelson.

I wanted to go on a mission. God told me no. I wanted to get married. God told me yes. Then my heart, made of glass as it were, was dropped from a skyscraper. To say it shattered wouldn’t be the most apt description, because what was left was a pile of fine, sparkling dust that grew as my heart was somehow dropped over and over and over again.

But I’ll let you in on a secret. Below both of these desires, mission and marriage, was another. I wanted to go to the temple. Badly.

God told me to wait.

I’d always had questions. Loads of them. What I didn’t have were the words to ask them or the courage to verbalize them. But after all this yes, no, wait runaround with God, I found myself in possession of both.

I wondered, asked, demanded at times if I was of worth. As a woman. If I had a valuable role to play. My life experiences up to that point had taught me that I didn’t.

In early fall of 2012 a friend gave me a priesthood blessing. I had requested it because the previously mentioned heartbreak was mutating into a case of depression that would stick around for the next three years. The blessing was comforting and inspired, but about halfway through it I found that my spiritual ears were being filled with something in addition to what was coming out of my friend’s mouth. An impression the Spirit was firmly repeating: “Study Eve.”

So I started.

Over the years that have passed since then I’ve seen many blessings come into my life from following that prompting. I worked on a play, and then a short film where our creative team featured Eve. I gave a talk about Eve in my singles’ ward during a time when many of my peers (myself included) were experiencing a lot of confusion about women in a Gospel context. This talk led to more opportunities to testify about Eve and her role, including this article. In Eve I found courage, royalty, revelation, and direction. She became my pre-eminent role model at a time when I desperately needed to know if God loved me, as a woman.  To sum up all that I’ve learned isn’t easy, but I guess it can be broken down into these two principles:

  • It was Eve’s role as both a woman and the mother of all living to enact the Fall. No one else could have done this.
  • Eve’s unique mission provides all women everywhere with an eternal feminine template. When her choice, the Fall, is juxtaposed against its partner, the Atonement, this template becomes more clear.

We know this don’t we? If you’re me at least, you inherently somehow knew before you read it, that partaking of the fruit was Eve’s choice to make. Does it ring as familiar to you as it does to me? Prophets have lauded Eve’s wisdom and courage since the restoration began.

Joseph Fielding Smith taught that “she partook of that fruit for one good reason, and that was to open the door to bring you and me and everyone else into this world, for Adam and Eve could have remained in the Garden of Eden; they could have been there to this day, if Eve hadn’t done something.”

This one is my personal favorite. Henry B. Eyring in the first general women’s meeting, April of 2014. Speaking to the women of the Church he said, “You have her example to follow. By revelation, Eve recognized the way home to God."

You mean that Eve acted on revelation? That she made an intentional choice? That she knew, at least in part, what she was doing? And that that revelation came to her—and not to Adam?

But why? Why would all of this come to a woman?

Consider for a moment, if you will, that her body was, in fact, an extension of the veil. She was the receptacle and growing place of the first generation of spirits to leave the Father’s presence after her and her husband. God titled her “the mother of all living.” He breathed the breath of lives into her. Doesn’t that make her the appropriate pre-ordained agent in that Garden?

Consider also that it was her choice, intentionally made, that created a need for the Atonement. Bruce R. McConkie taught this principle in his talk “The Three Pillars of Eternity.” Think about it. The vehicle through which we left the Father’s presence is the Fall. The vehicle through which we return is the Atonement. Sure the Atonement is the balm for sin, pride, illness, and a host of other maladies that afflict us here. But it is also a sacred doorway, the doorway we must pass through to be resurrected. Joseph Fielding Smith used this metaphor above, when he said that Eve opened the door to mortality. Think of that door as the Fall. And the Atonement is the other door. The one through which we re-enter the presence of God.

You can’t have one without the other for together they form the crucible of life. They form our testing ground.

Although I follow Christ, as his disciple, in many ways I follow Eve, as her daughter. The two, and their sacrifices, directly support each other. My role as a woman is a derivative of Eve’s. I create mortality. Christ, and members of “his order” (Alma 13:16) create it’s opposite: the resurrection, otherwise known as immortality.

“Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman.”

-M. Russell Ballard, “This is My Work and My Glory,” April 2013

Although we don’t have much revealed knowledge on this yet, it would appear that just as men play a key role in the conception of mortality, that women play an equally vital role in the conception of immortality.

Eve taught me that. She is a type of our Heavenly Mother, and a type of all women everywhere. As I continue to study her, my own role here in mortality and in the eternities becomes more clear. Because of Eve I can now write and say with certainty that I am of worth. That I have an important, eternally significant role to play. And that without me, the world would be missing something special.

In the spring of 2015, I finally got the divine go-ahead to receive my endowment. I went through the Provo Temple on August 6th. Despite a lot of preparation, many parts of my experience were jarring and confusing, and I left the temple with many more questions than I had entered with.  I was surrounded by friends and family members, but still I felt incredibly alone in that endowment room. I acknowledged then, as I do now, that I felt a powerful something that night. Something that testified to me that what was happening in the temple was good, in the highest sense of the word. But that awareness didn’t take away the searing ache I felt as it dawned on me that I would have to continue forward carrying the burden of questions.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Eve to make an appearance. I sat and watched her exodus from the garden. Her yielding to the will of God, as confusing and paradoxical a will as it sometimes is. And then I saw her putting her broken heart on the altar, and stumbling through her wilderness, and beginning her journey of reparation and healing.

I realized, as I had before, that her and I were on the same journey. And I remembered then, as I do now, her words in the book of Moses: “Were it not for our transgression we never should have… known… the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.” (5:11)

And so even though sometimes the temple still tastes like it is simultaneously the bitter and the sweet fruit, I see Eve there, and I trust that if we truly are on the same journey, that someday I will know clarity, I will know joy, and I too will know my Redeemer.