May is the month that we celebrate mothers. Each of us comes from a long line of mothers that extends all the way to Eve. Mother Eve was the crowning creation of our Heavenly Father. She set the example of womanhood and motherhood for all of her daughters to follow. Sister Patricia T. Holland said:
Eve was given the identity of “the mother of all living”—years, decades, perhaps centuries before she ever bore a child. It would appear that her motherhood preceded her maternity, just as surely as the perfection of the Garden preceded the struggles of mortality. I believe mother is one of those very carefully chosen words, one of those rich words—with meaning after meaning after meaning. … I believe with all my heart that it is first and foremost a statement about our nature, not a head count of our children.
Through her example, we learn many things about mothers—including our own. We learn about the truly divine nature of women and womanhood. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have heard the stories of Eve my whole life. But I have gained a greater appreciation for Mother Eve as I more fully realize the powerful example she set for her daughters is still applicable thousands of years later. Here are 5 truths about mothers (and women) that I learned from Eve.
Woman is God’s Crowning Creation
Adam and Eve were the first people on earth. Theirs was truly a love story crafted by God Himself. After God created the heavens and the earth and placed all manner of plants and animals upon it, He created man and placed him in the Garden of Eden. But God was not done. The scriptures teach:
And I, the Lord God, caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; and he slept, and I took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh in the stead thereof;
And the rib which I, the Lord God, had taken from man, made I a woman, and brought her unto the man.
And Adam said: This I know now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. (See Moses 3:21-25.)
The symbolism of the rib illustrates the importance of Eve—and all women—in the world. Elder Russell M. Nelson said:
From the rib of Adam, Eve was formed (see Genesis 2:22; Moses 3:22; Abraham 5:16). … I presume another bone could have been used, but the rib, coming as it does from the side, seems to denote partnership. The rib signifies neither dominion nor subservience, but a lateral relationship as partners, to work and to live, side by side.
The late President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
Woman is God’s supreme creation. Only after the earth had been formed, after the day had been separated from the night, after the waters had been divided from the land, after vegetation and animal life had been created, and after man had been placed on the earth, was woman created; and only then was the work pronounced complete and good.
Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is none more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so, who honors and respects her body as a thing sacred and divine, who cultivates her mind and constantly enlarges the horizon of her understanding, who nurtures her spirit with everlasting truth.
Elder Richard G. Scott said:
… Women are the compassionate, self-sacrificing, loving power that binds together the human family.
Eve truly was God’s crowning creation. When we as women understand our own divine power, we can more fully use it as an unstoppable force for good in the world today.
Motherhood—Eve’s Divine Choice
Eve showed us that motherhood truly is a divine choice. In the beginning, Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden. Of this time, Elder Scott said:
When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, all that they needed for daily sustenance was abundantly given to them. They had no difficulties, challenges, or pain. Because they had never experienced hard times, they did not know they could be happy. They had never felt turmoil, so they could not feel peace.
But something was missing. God gave Adam and Eve two conflicting commandments. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said:
Of the second commandment, the late President James E. Faust explained:
In the Garden of Eden, she and Adam were instructed not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, they were also reminded, “Thou mayest choose for thyself.”
Elder Oaks said:
When Adam and Eve received the first commandment, they were in a transitional state, no longer in the spirit world but with physical bodies not yet subject to death and not yet capable of procreation. They could not fulfill the Father’s first commandment without transgressing the barrier between the bliss of the Garden of Eden and the terrible trials and wonderful opportunities of mortal life.
For reasons that have not been revealed, this transition, or “fall,” could not happen without a transgression—an exercise of moral agency amounting to a willful breaking of a law (see Moses 6:59).
Thus, Adam and Eve had a decision to make. President Faust explained:
The choice was really between a continuation of their comfortable existence in Eden, where they would never progress, or a momentous exit into mortality with its opposites: pain, trials, and physical death in contrast to joy, growth, and the potential for eternal life. In contemplating this choice, we are told, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, … 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.” And thus began their earthly probation and parenthood.
Eve is sometimes infamous in our day and age for her choice to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and for convincing Adam to do the same. But, President Faust said:
We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Eve. … Eve made an even greater statement of visionary wisdom after leaving the Garden of Eden: “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.” If it hadn’t been for Eve, none of us would be here.
Eve had made the divine choice to become a mother. She may not have fully understood the consequences of her actions, but she knew that she wanted to be a mother. It is a choice for which we owe a great debt. President Thomas S. Monson said:
Mother, who willingly made that personal journey into the valley of the shadow of death to take us by the hand and introduce us to birth—even to mortal life—deserves our undying gratitude. One writer summed up our love for mother when he declared, “God could not be everywhere, and so He gave us mothers.”
Motherhood is a Partnership
As President Monson’s quoted writer so eloquently declared, motherhood is truly a partnership with God. And motherhood is a partnership with fatherhood. They are inextricably intertwined. Elder Nelson said:
Marvelously, it takes a man and a woman to make a man or a woman. Without union of the sexes, neither can we exist, nor can we become perfect.
Mothers and fathers, women and men, have their own divine roles in this partnership. Elder M. Russell Ballard said:
God has revealed through his prophets that men are to receive the priesthood, become fathers, and with gentleness and pure, unfeigned love they are to lead and nurture their families in righteousness as the Savior leads the Church (see Ephesians 5:23). They have been given the primary responsibility for the temporal and physical needs of the family (see Doctrine & Covenants 83:2). Women have the power to bring children into the world and have been given the primary duty and opportunity as mothers to lead, nurture, and teach them in a loving, spiritual environment. In this divine partnership, husbands and wives support one another in their God-given capacities. By appointing different accountabilities to men and women, Heavenly Father provides the greatest opportunity for growth, service, and progress. He did not give different tasks to men and women simply to perpetuate the idea of a family; rather, He did so to ensure that the family can continue forever, the ultimate goal of our Heavenly Father’s eternal plan.
Eve taught us that her role was complementary to her husband. She was not in competition with him. Sister Linda K. Burton explained:
… The phrase help meet means “a helper suited to, worthy of, or corresponding to him.” For example, our two hands are similar to each other but not exactly the same. In fact, they are exact opposites, but they complement each other and are suited to each other. Working together, they are stronger.
In a chapter about families, the Church handbook contains this statement: “The nature of male and female spirits is such that they complete each other.” Please note that it does not say “compete with each other” but “complete each other”! We are here to help, lift, and rejoice with each other as we try to become our very best selves. Sister Barbara B. Smith wisely taught, “There is so much more of happiness to be had when we can rejoice in another’s successes and not just in our own.” When we seek to “complete” rather than “compete,” it is so much easier to cheer each other on!
Adam and Eve illustrated the power that comes from partnering with each other and God. Sister Sheri L. Dew explained:
The Lord’s pattern for couples … was established by our first parents. Together Adam and Eve labored, mourned, were obedient, had children…. Repeatedly the scriptures about Adam and Eve refer to the pronoun they.
… Their unique roles were interconnected. They counseled with one another, lifted burdens neither could have lifted alone, and then faced the wilderness, with all of its uncertainty, together.
God did not intend for us to walk alone in this journey through life. He intended us to walk side by side, husband and wife, to navigate the storms together. For those who, for one reason or another, walk alone with no spouse, God has not left us alone. We can always turn to Him, as His beloved daughters, to carry us through the challenging times.
Motherhood is a Divine Responsibility
Motherhood is a God-given responsibility for all women. But what exactly does this mean? Sister Dew said:
Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us.
Sister Holland said:
Some women give birth and raise children but never “mother” them. Others, whom I love with all my heart, “mother” all their lives but have never given birth. And all of us are Eve’s daughters, whether we are married or single, maternal or barren. We are created in the image of the Gods to become gods and goddesses. And we can provide something of that divine pattern, that maternal prototype, for each other and for those who come after us. Whatever our circumstance, we can reach out, touch, hold, lift, and nurture—but we cannot do it in isolation. We need a community of sisters stilling the soul and binding the wounds of fragmentation.
I know that God loves us individually and collectively as women, and that he has a mission for every one of us.
The truth about mothers, then, is that every woman has the capacity to be a mother. Sister Dew said:
… All around us are those who need to be loved and led.
Eve set the pattern. In addition to bearing children, she mothered all of mankind when she made the most courageous decision any woman has ever made and with Adam opened the way for us to progress. She set an example of womanhood for men to respect and women to follow, modeling the characteristics with which we as women have been endowed: heroic faith, a keen sensitivity to the Spirit, an abhorrence of evil, and complete selflessness. Like the Savior, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” Eve, for the joy of helping initiate the human family, endured the Fall. She loved us enough to help lead us.
As daughters of our Heavenly Father, and as daughters of Eve, we are all mothers and we have always been mothers. And we each have the responsibility to love and help lead the rising generation.
Eve truly did set the example of mothering for all women to follow. My mother set this example for me. Not only did she mother and raise her own 8 children, she also brought in other children who, from time to time, needed help. Now that her children are grown, she continues to love, nurture and mother as a teacher’s aide in a special needs classroom. One of my sisters has not yet had the opportunity to marry, but she mothers friends, neighbors and all other fellow travelers on the road of life who need her help. Another friend has had no children of her own, but lovingly cares for those of all ages who are in need of her talents as a speech pathologist. Another friend and her husband have yet been unable to have children of their own, but are now foster parents (and adopted a teenager).
My mom and mother-in-law both live thousands of miles away, but I have surrogate sisters, mothers and grandmothers who still love, nurture and care for me and my family both in times of need and in times of joy. All of these women are powerful examples of mothers, daughters of Eve who have followed in her footsteps. As we celebrate mothers—our own as well as those around us—let us remember the words of Sister Dew:
Few of us will reach our potential without the nurturing of both the mother who bore us and the mothers who bear with us.