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Imagine the Garden of Eden, the most beautiful site on planet Earth. In my mind, I picture a tropical setting of lush green vegetation where produce grows year-round and giant flowers bloom in vibrant rainbow-palette hues. The sun is warm and comforting, but never stifling. A soft wind tickles the leaves of the shade trees. Life in this heaven-on-earth is simple, pure, and perceivably perfect.
I imagine Mother Eve must have been a vision to behold. No mummy tummy or sleep-deprived bags darkening her eyes. No chronic pain, years of back-bending manual labor, or mental illness tampering with her brain. I imagine her exceedingly innocent, as guileless as a wide-eyed baby fawn in a meadow. With no mortal experience but that impeccable garden paradise, how could she be anything but flawless?
How long do you think she lived with Adam in this utopia? Did Heavenly Father walk and talk with our first parents, training them for their earthly season, for eons or just days before the father of lies came to disrupt their euphoria? Had God prepared them for the encounter, or did Satan stalk abruptly into the meadow like a mountain lion, eyeing the fawn with dangerous, calculating eyes? What would Eve’s future have been if she had remained in that static space? Did she feel content in the garden, or did she have a concept of the need for “opposition in all things” in order to help her (and us) progress from temporal probation to exaltation? I have so very many questions for her.
Regardless of her state of mind, as Satan enticed Eve with the fruit, she was presented with an alternative to her peaceful existence—joy and sadness, sickness and health, light and darkness. A small bite. A colossal choice. Wisdom exchanged for innocence. Progression for pain. Mother Eve was the first mortal woman to face such heavy decisions with crucial eternal consequences. Perhaps we cannot relate to her idyllic time in the garden up to this pivotal moment, but who among us has not been faced with a challenge that takes every ounce of our strength to confront? Each of us must make choices that test us to our very core, yet we can take comfort in Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s poignant reminder: “When life is hard, remember—we are not the first to ask, ‘Is there no other way?’”
The desperation in Eve’s question causes a deep ache of sympathy to fill my chest. Oh, the weight of that choice! Though we cannot know at present if she fully comprehended the extent of the travail that lay ahead, I do not believe she was without inspiration. Perhaps with the phantom echoes of innumerable sobs and endless laughter from her future posterity ringing in her ears, Eve opened the door to all human life with four simple, yet courageous words: “Then I will eat.”
I wonder if Mother Eve could have seen the highs and lows that her posterity would face, if she would have still made the same decision. That one small bite brought about the scriptural promise of compounded joy and pain for all mankind. Was it “fair” for Adam and Eve to make a decision that would dramatically affect their posterity without our consent?
Rest assured, we signed up for this life. All of this life. The delights, the discouragements, the sunrises and sunsets, the mess and the miracle that is mortality! Regardless of whether our first parents’ choice was “equitable” as it affected all mankind, we can take comfort in knowing that if we came to Earth, that means we accepted the mixed bag of experiences that would come throughout our probationary state. It was through the gift of agency that each of us chose to follow God’s eternal plan of happiness, come what may.
President Russell M. Nelson has said, “The joy we feel has very little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” No matter the origins of our challenges, we can determine to believe that the way we choose to respond to pain is an essential part of God’s plan for our progression. We cannot transition from Eden to eternity without it.
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments!
The following was taken from the book Is There No Other Way currently on sale at cedarfort.com.