I mentioned in my Sexism in the Garden post,
When telling the garden story, one person is always dumb. In the historical Christian telling, Eve was dumb because she was deceived by Satan. God punishes Eve by causing painful childbirth, and tells her she needs to submit to smart Adam who listened the first time.
A more modern telling of the story has Eve being much smarter than dumb Adam. Eve is heroic in seeing that mankind would not come without a fall, and Adam was just too dumb to see it. Mormons seem to have latched on to this more modern interpretation of the story. But in either interpretation of the story, one gender is always seen as the dumber sex. Isn’t there a way to tell the story without the expense of the other gender?
As I was in the temple this week, I wonder if we can really claim this modern telling. When asked why she partook of the forbidden fruit, Eve replies “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” If this is true, can we really claim that Eve knowingly partook because she foresaw the plan in action?
Positive interpretation of the fall
Unlike some Christians, Latter-day Saints generally do not see the fall of Adam and Eve as a serious sin or as an overwhelmingly negative event. Rather, the fall is viewed as “a necessary step in the plan of life and a great blessing to all of us. Because of the Fall, we are blessed with physical bodies, the right to choose between good and evil, and the opportunity to gain eternal life. None of these privileges would have been ours had Adam and Eve remained in the garden.” Latter-day Saint scripture reports that Adam and Eve later rejoiced that they had chosen to partake of the fruit, and the Book of Mormon teaches that the fall was necessary for humankind to exist and for them to develop and eventually experience joy, which is the ultimate purpose of existence: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” Furthermore, the LDS version of the fall of Adam and Eve emphasizes the fall was a part of God’s plan: “But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things,” as God had “foreordained” and prepared Jesus Christ to be slain “from the foundation of the world” in order to redeem mankind from the fall. In the early church, the idea that Eve’s promised hardships were passed on to all women was commonly accepted.:8
I’m not sure this interpretation is entirely consistent with what Eve said in the Garden, although we can all learn from sin and benefit from our mistakes. I’m sure that Eve can say play Monday Morning Quarterback and say “Gee, I guess it was all good that I sinned.” However, her original statement that she was beguiled doesn’t indicate that she knew at the time that this was “a necessary step in the plan of life and a great blessing to all of us.” She was fooled, not acting intelligently or rationally in line with the plan.
I had a mission president that said that perhaps if Eve had not succumbed to temptation, God would not have allowed painful childbirth as a consequence for sin. Perhaps Jesus wouldn’t have been needed to redeem mankind, and we would have all lived in the Garden forever in bliss. It was in consequence of Eve’s transgression that sin came into the world, and perhaps after God came to visit, he would have said, “Thanks for not partaking of the fruit. Now you can partake of it with my blessing.”
Is this modern interpretation in conflict with Eve’s response that she was “beguiled?” Do you view these ideas as conflicting? If not, how do you harmonize this?