Friday, July 7, 2017

Queering Eve


 

A key doctrine in Mormon theology is the Fall of Adam and Eve. In the Garden of Eden, God said “Ye shall not eat of [the fruit of that tree], neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” (Genesis 3:3). But the serpent tempted Eve, who ate, and Adam followed suit soon after. While we Mormons share the concept of fallen humanity with other Christian sects, Mormons have a unique perspective: we consider the Fall to be an essential part of God’s plan for us. The Garden of Eden was never meant to be humanity’s home, but was merely a rest stop between creation and mortality. It would be the site of a critical decision that would begin Adam and Eve’s learning process on Earth; therefore the net gain from eating the forbidden fruit far outweighed any drawbacks. In fact, had they remained in the garden, they wouldn’t have progressed much at all in life:  
If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. (2 Nephi 2:22–23
Adam was, quite frankly, a daddy’s boy. God gave him a commandment and he was content to obey. When Satan presented him with the fruit, he never considered eating it.1 And Adam’s single-minded, perfect obedience to God nearly screwed over all of humanity. Eve was the one who figured it out, or at least intuited what needed to be done. She realized that knowledge could only be obtained through life experience, that real human progress couldn’t happen in a peaceful paradise. Obeying God was getting in the way of eternal happiness. So Eve partook of the fruit, and got Adam to partake, and all our modern prophets have extolled the decision. Take Joseph Fielding Smith, for instance:
 One of these days, if I ever get to where I can speak to Mother Eve, I want to thank her for tempting Adam to partake of the fruit. He accepted the temptation, with the result that children came into this world. … If she hadn’t had that influence over Adam, and if Adam had done according to the commandment first given to him, they would still be in the Garden of Eden and we would not be here at all. We wouldn’t have come into this world. So the commentators made a great mistake when they put in the Bible … “man’s shameful fall.”
What are we to take away from our first parents’ example? Usually we think of the Fall as a long-finished fact and leave it at that: “Oh, how wonderful that Adam and Eve did that however many millennia ago!” But I contend that there is another lesson to be learned here. Sometimes God’s commandments actually get in the way of our eternal progress, and we will need to make a decision between obeying God and developing into the person He wants us to become.

“Heresy!” you cry. Well, yes, but it may just be a true one. There is great comfort in the words of our hymn, “Keep the commandments. In this there is safety; in this there is peace.” But too much peace and too much safety, and we become like Adam and Eve, trapped in a coddling, paradisiacal bubble. No amount of commandment-keeping will keep out all of mortality’s troubles, but that doesn’t stop most people from trying. We want peace over the growing pains of life.

This doesn’t mean that we seek out trouble, and it certainly shouldn’t give us a license to sin whenever we find commandments inconvenient. Progressive disobedience is the exception that makes the rule rather than a way of life. But in some instances God seems to allow us to exercise our agency, together with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, to choose for ourselves what is best for our own progress. Perhaps that is why Joseph Smith added in an extra phrase to the Genesis narrative: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Moses 3:17, emphasis added).

Queer Mormons have long had impossible decisions to make. Do we stay in the safety and peace of the Gospel, enjoying all these wonderful blessings from God? Or do we venture forth from His protection into the lone and dreary world to find our mate who has already partaken of the fruit? Is it good to remain a lone man in the Garden of Eden, or do we intend to obey all of God’s commandments and start our own families? Perhaps some will hear in my words the “temptations” of Eve beckoning them to fecund life. Or maybe I’m more like Satan, spinning false doctrines to lead people astray. Of course, in the story of the Fall, Adam could listen to either one to get where he needed to go.   

I’ll add in a word of caution: Falling hurts. Adam was sentenced to hard labor, while Eve got labor pains. They lost their paradise and were expelled from God’s presence. Queer Mormons lose their ordinances, their Church membership, and ultimately the Celestial kingdom, eternal families, and God. Adam and Eve gained children, and the whole human race shouts for joy over their decision. When queer Mormons form families, illicit though they may be, will our descendants shout for joy as well?

We know that gay sex and gay marriage bring spiritual death. In the day thou lovest thou shalt surely die. Adam and Eve were saved by the Grace of Jesus Christ and gained everything back. Will Jesus come for us queer Mormons too?

Eve gets the final word here in a statement that is deliciously paradoxical:
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. (Moses 5:11)



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Notes:
1) Mormons have many accounts of the Fall in our scriptures and temple ceremonies. I count at least five. Some details may be unfamiliar to those who only adhere to the Genesis account.


Art Work: Eve and the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge by J. Kirk. Richards

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