4.17.2010

Eve in Eden: The Power of Agency


Agency has been a much studied topic of mine for the past year or so and so I'm guessing that is why all of the agency quotes stuck out to me  while reading, Eve and the Choice Made in Eden, by Beverly Campbell.  I have been struck all the more with how deeply God honors that precious gift of agency, the trust he has in all men (including women) to use that agency, and the power we receive as we properly use that gift.

"In mortality we fill our minds, our discussions, and our bookshelves with a search for insights into the qualities that will make us like unto God. The list becomes long and daunting and our hope of developing those qualities seems as a dream that cannot be realized. Yet He has given us the asnwer in these words: 'Then your eyes shall be opened , and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil' (Gen. 3:5)." (p.40) Wow! So, is she saying here that it is simply knowing good and evil that allows us to be as the gods? We all know it's more than that, and yet I think we don't appreciate just how much just having that knowledge, physical bodies and an earthly experience allow us that opportunity. A couple of pages later the author states, "Discernment, the ability to see beyond the literal to the divine essential, has ever been God's gift to women. . . . the Lord has such abiding faith in women's judgment and wisdom. By His very actions, He has shown women that He wants them to claim and properly act on this gift." (pp.41-42)

We all have heard time and time again how there must be an "opposition in all things." But from reading Eve, I got the sense that it is so much more than that. Adam and Eve had to have had knowledge before properly making any choice. "Without some knowledge of right and wrong, there can be no true exercise of agency." (p. 67) It was so enlightening for me to better understand how Adam and Eve were instructed in the garden by angels before partaking of the fruit. I loved how the author used Moses 4:12, "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat." Here the author is implying that Eve gained knowledge (and I will infer "line upon line") before making that decision. Adam and Eve were given choices, maybe one better than another, just as we are given every single day. I guess we could say that Eve "chose the better part." Why was it Eve instead of Adam who took the first bite, I don't know. What I do understand more clearly now is that "Eve was sufficiently prepared for a proper exercise of agency" (p. 75) and we are responsible for doing the same in our own lives.

As women, and mothers, we have the responsibility to learn for ourselves, to act for ourselves and on behalf of our families based on the truths that we learn. For a lack of a better plan I'm just going to quote some of my favorite passages from the book to sustain this point.

"Our conscience might be described as a memory, a residual awareness of who we really are, of our true identity. It is perhaps the best example of the fact that we can become aware of truths because we feel them rather than by knowing them because we perceive them through the physical sense." - Pres. Packer, pp. 71-72

"The prophets have warned that the women of the last dispensation . . . will need to fortify themselves against the onslaught of the adversary . . . We will need to find spiritual sustenance in sure and steady truths garnered from divine and correct sources. Not only will women need to seek truth for themselves, but they will need to speak up courageously and articulately as half-truths or faulty premises are presented to their sisters in the guise of progress and enlightenment . . . Women, particularly Latter-day Saint women, can and must identify truth." pp, 78-79 (italics added)

This quote tells us to pay strict attention to truths and watch out for the half-truths that are presented to us. There is much judging and criticism among women. I have learned through the years that what is right for one family, is not right for another. This does not mean that gospel truths are altered, but the way we live them are very personal and individual. We can only know the answers by seeking out the truths, knowing good and evil and then acting for ourselves based on the knowledge (spiritual and academic) that we obtain.

Women are to search out, learn, and articulate all spiritual truths, . . . they are to concern themselves with all matters relating to the gospel, and with all matters relating to salvation, to the heavens, and to the earth. p. 120 (italics added)

"Both men and women must have more confidence in women's thought processes and in their judgments." p.178

The more I've learned about agency, the more I have understood and realized just how much this great gift and power demonstrates Heavenly Father's love and trust in His children. Doesn't knowing that He trusts us to make the right decision, give us more faith that we actually will! This book opened my eyes to the fact (feminist or not) that Eve was a strong woman. I had never viewed her as weak before, but I hadn't ever really given it much thought either. It's just what she did. Similar with my own feminitity, I haven't given it much thougth (thus causing me to be more defensive when feminism has been discussed in the past). I just who I am and I've always been happy to be a woman, a mother. Though having not really thought about it more deeply (for fear of becoming too feministic, I guess) I have realized just how belittling I have been by not recognizing the full power I have in that role as an "agent unto [myself]."

There is so much more I have gained and want to write about from this excellent book. So much could be said about marriage, our missions in life, prayer and the protection we can recieve against Satan! My favorite chapter, and one I'm going to make my husband read, was the very last about women and guilt. Good stuff! Really it all comes down to the power of agency and using that agency to make the best choices we personally need to make in becoming closer to our Heavenly Father.

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