"It's the mother's fault." This cliche has become a joke in our culture. Parenting has traditionally be viewed as the responsibility first of the mother. When the child "goes astray" somehow someone somewhere blames the mother.
The trend is ancient; within Western society it can be traced back to the story of Adam and Eve's Fall. Like the Greek story of Pandora opening the forbidden box and releasing upon the world every sorrow and sin known to humankind, orthodox Christianity took the Israelite story of the Gardem of Eden and forced on to it--and the character of Eve--"the mother of all living"--the same meaning. In short, we are all miserable because ourt first mother couldn't do as she had been told.
"The Book of Mormon" turned this interpratation of the Eden story on its head. The so-called "fall" became a good thing, a "fall upwards," a major step in the progresison of the human race.
It was Eve, being the first to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, who convinced Adam that he, too, had to eat the fruit if they were ever to be happy.
So it was that in Mormon theology, the first truly heroic act in human history was attribute to Eve. Moms everywhere were vindicated!
What follows is a chapter from the 1877 book "Women of Mormondon" written by Edward Tuliddge and containing writing from Eliza R. Snow and a host of other leading Mormon women of the time.
The prose is quaintly poetic (very,very much so), the flowery kind of writing popular in Victorian times. The theology is that of Utah Mormonism in the 1870's, which means it is centered around the Adam/God Doctrine that was taught by Brigham Young and was part of the LDS Mormon Temple Endowment until 1905. However, the chapter does present a very positive view of Eve, who in 19th century Utah Mormonism, was believed to have been Heavenly Mother herself.
What is interesting is that Eve's role is written of in the same terms as that of Christ's. As in the traditional doctrine of Jesus dying on the cross to bring eternal life to humanity, Eve is praised for being a Celestial Goddess (Heavenly Mother)who came down to earth and subjected herself to death by becoming mortal, in order that the human race might come into being. Mormonism transformed Eve from the sultury sinner of Catholic and Protestant theology into the strong mother who sacrifices herself out of love for her kids.
While there is certainly more to motherhood than self-sacrifice, and while individual women (and men) have value in and of themselves--whether or not they are "fruitful and multiply"--I think the Mormon interpretation of the Eve story is a vast improvement over that of orthodox Christianity.
As Mormon writer, Rodello Hunter (in her 1962 book "A Daughter of Zion) observed regarding Eve: "It took a lot of courage to bite into that apple."
The same can be said of every woman who has accepted the role of mother--either for her own biological offspring or for others.
Happy Mother's Day!
A Trinty of Mothers
(From "Women of Mormondom")
“A trinity of Mothers!
“The celestial Masonry of Womanhood!
“The other half of the grand patriarchal economy of the heavens and the earths!
“The book of patriarchal theology is full of new conceptions. Like the star-bespangled heavens--like the eternities which it mantles--is that wondrous theology! New to the world, but old as the universe. 'Tis the everlasting book of immortals, unsealed to mortal view, by these Mormon prophets.
“A trinity of Mothers--Eve, the Mother of a world; Sarah, the Mother of the covenant; Zion, the Mother of celestial sons and daughters--the Mother of the new creation of Messiah's reign, which shall give to earth the crown of her glory and the cup of joy all her ages of travail. Still tracing down the divine themes of Joseph; still faithfully following the methods of that vast patriarchal economy which shall be the base of a new order of society and of the temple of a new civilization.
“When Brigham Young proclaimed to the nations that Adam was our Father and God, and Eve, his partner, the Mother of a world--both in a mortal and a celestial sense--he made the most important revelation ever oracled to the race since the days of Adam himself. This grand patriarchal revelation is the very keystone of the "new creation" of the heavens and the earth. It gives new meaning to the whole system of theology--as much new meaning to the economy of salvation as to the economy of creation. By the understanding of the works of the Father, the works of the Son are illumined.
“The revelation was the "Let there be light" again pronounced. "And there was light!"
"‘And God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them; and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.’
“Here is the very object of man and woman's creation exposed in the primitive command. The first words of their genesis are, "Be fruitful and multiply."
“So far, it is of but trifling moment how our "first parents" were created; whether like a brick, with the spittle of the Creator and the dust of the earth, or by the more intelligible method of generation. The prime object of man and woman's creation was for the purposes of creation.
"Be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth, and subdue it,’ by countless millions of your offspring.
“Thus opened creation, and the womb of everlasting motherhood throbbed with divine ecstasy.
“It is the divine command still. All other maybe dark as a fable, of the genesis of the race, but this is not dark. Motherhood to this hour leaps for joy at this word of God, "Be fruitful;" and motherhood is sanctified as by the holiest sacrament of nature. We shall prefer Brigham's expounding of the dark passages of Genesis. Our first parents were not made up like mortal bricks. They came to be the Mother and the Father of a new creation of souls. We say Mother now, first, for we are tracing this everlasting theme of motherhood, in the Mormon economy, without which nothing of the woman part of the divine scheme can be known--next to nothing of patriarchal marriage, to which we are traveling, be expounded.
“Eve--immortal Eve--came down to earth to become the Mother of a race.
“How become the Mother of a world of mortals except by herself again becoming mortal? How become mortal only by transgressing the laws of immortality? How only by "eating of the forbidden fruit"--by partaking of the elements of a mortal earth, in which the seed of death was everywhere scattered?
“All orthodox theologians believe Adam and Eve to have been at first immortal, and all acknowledge the great command, "Be fruitful and multiply." That they were not about to become the parents of a world of immortals is evident, for they were on a mortal earth. That the earth was mortal all nature here today shows. The earth was to be subdued by teeming millions of mankind--the dying earth actually eaten, in a sense, a score of times, by the children of these grand parents.
“The fall is simple. Our immortal parents came down to fall; came down to transgress the laws of immortality; came down to give birth to mortal tabernacles for a world of spirits. The "forbidden tree," says Brigham, contained in its fruit the elements of death, or the elements of mortality, By eating of it, blood was again infused into the tabernacles of beings who had become immortal. The basis of mortal generation is blood. Without blood no mortal can be born. Even could immortals have been conceived on earth, the trees of life had made but the paradise of a few; but a mortal world was the object of creation then. Eve, then, came down to be the Mother of a world. Glorious Mother, capable of dying at the very beginning to give life to her offspring, that through mortality the eternal life of the Gods might be given to her sons and daughters. Motherhood the same from the beginning even to the end! The love of motherhood passing all understanding! Thus read our Mormon sisters the fall of their Mother. And the serpent tempted the woman with the forbidden fruit. Did woman hesitate a moment then? Did motherhood refuse the cup for her own sake, or did she, with infinite love, take it and drink for her children's sake? The Mother had plunged down, from the pinnacle of her celestial throne, to earth, to taste of death that her children might have everlasting, life. What! should Eve ask Adam to partake of the elements of death first, in such a sacrament! 'Twould have outraged motherhood! Eve partook of that supper of the Lord's death first. She ate of that body and drank of that blood.
“Be it to Adam's eternal credit that he stood by and let our Mother--our ever blessed Mother Eve--partake of the sacrifice before himself Adam followed the Mother's example, for he was great and grand--a Father worthy indeed of a world. He was wise, too: for the blood of life is the stream of mortality.
“What a psalm of everlasting praise to woman, that Eve fell first! A Goddess came down from her mansions of glory to bring the spirits of her children down after her, in their myriads of branches and their hundreds of generations! She was again a mortal Mother now. The first person in the trinity of Mothers.
“The Mormon sisterhood take up their themes of religion with their Mother Eve, and consent with her, at the very threshold of the temple, to bear the cross. Eve is ever with her daughters in the temple of the Lord their God.
“The Mormon daughters of Eve have also in this eleventh hour come down to earth, like her, to magnify the divine office of motherhood. She came down from her resurrected, they from their spirit, estate. Here, with her, in the divine providence of maternity, they begin to ascend the ladder to heaven, and to their exaltation in the courts of their Father and Mother God.
“Who shall number the blasphemies of the sectarian churches against our first grand parents? Ten thousand priests of the serpent have thundered anathemas upon the head of "accursed Adam." Appalling, often times, their pious rage. And Eve--the holiest, grandest of Mothers--has been made a very by-word to offset the frailties of the most wicked and abandoned.
“Very different is Mormon theology! The Mormons exalt the grand parents of our race. Not even is the name of Christ more sacred to them than the names of Adam and Eve. It was to them the poetess and high priestess addressed her hymn of invocation; and Brigham's proclamation that Adam is our Father and God is like a hallelujah chorus to their everlasting names. The very earth shall yet take it up; all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve shall yet shout it for joy, to the ends of the earth, in every tongue!” (From "Women of Mormondom," published in 1877)