“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22
In the beginning, God created a world where man and woman were perfectly equal. Both were created in the image of God, neither above the other. There were no gender roles – no “you must do this because you are a man and you must do that because you are a woman.”
Then Satan came and threw a wrench into everything.
We talk about the results of Satan’s meddling as a “fall”. A fall implies a transition to a lesser state. The fall introduced sin and death into the world. It also introduced gender roles. Far from being the will of God, gender roles are a telestial invention, yet another messed up part of living in this lone and dreary world. God is good, and a good Being does not subjugate half of humanity to the other half for all eternity just because a pair of people ate a fruit they were told not to eat. 
When God describes the condition of the newly fallen world to Adam and Eve, God isn’t describing the blessed and eternal state of how things should be. What we get is a recitation of the state of mortality – the warning label on Earth life.
Here are some of the effects of the fall that we see in the scriptural account:
- Adam is told that he will have to sweat and toil in order to eat
- Eve is told that she will have pain in childbirth
- Eve is told that Adam will seek to rule over her
- Sin is introduced into the world
- Death is introduced into the world
The Good News is that Jesus came to reverse the effects of the fall and to restore us to the equality that existed at the time of the creation. We talk a lot at church about how Jesus saves us from sin and death. We also understand that advances in science are gifts from God to improve our lives. Many fewer people have to scrape out an existence of subsistence farming. Many fewer people experience pain and death in childbirth. We rightly rejoice in these developments.
We see the other effects of the fall mitigated, yet people still insist that female subjugation is the will of God.
How do we ascertain the will of God toward women? By observing the example of Jesus Christ, who is God With Us.  Jesus said “the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works.” 
Jesus rejected gender roles. He treated women with the dignity, equality, and respect that is owed to individuals who bear the image of God. Three of the most striking examples are how he related to Mary of Bethany when she wanted to learn the word, how he replied to a congregant who praised His mother Mary for her fertility, and how He described Himself.
Mary of Bethany
Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, wanted to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn the word of God. We often read the story as a domestic squabble between sisters about who was going to do the dishes, but the story is much more revolutionary than that. At the time, the privilege of sitting at the feet of a Rabbi and learning the Torah was reserved solely for men. Mary was transgressing the gender role society had imposed upon her. Martha approached Jesus confidently, sure that Jesus would back up her attempt to enforce gender roles on Mary – because after all, everyone knew gender roles came from God. Jesus responded radically. While he was, as always, kind and loving to all parties involved, he made it clear that Mary was not doing anything wrong by seeking to do something that society, even religious society, had reserved for men. He praised Mary for her choice. “Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” 
The congregant who praised Mary of Nazareth
Jesus preached a sermon that those assembled received with joy. At the end of the sermon, a woman in the congregation was so moved that she exclaimed about Jesus “Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.”  This unnamed woman expressed her joy at the message of Jesus by praising the breasts and uterus of Mary – reducing her to a reproductive object. Basically, Mary was praiseworthy because she was fertile and produced a righteous son. Jesus responded, again kindly and gently, that praiseworthiness is not a result of fertility. It is a result of righteousness. “[R]ather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.”  A woman’s honor does not come from her body, her fertility, or the life choices of her children.
How Jesus described Himself
When Jesus described His despair at the wickedness of society, lamenting that He wishes He could have done more to save them, He used maternal imagery. ” O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”  The Son of God chose to describe His love for humanity in terms society would deem female. If gender roles came from God, why would God made flesh transgress them?
When Jesus taught us how to pray, one of the things He instructed us to pray for is “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  As we see from the life and ministry of Jesus, assigning people to roles and tasks based on gender is not the will of God. And when we become Christians, we are to reject those roles. We are reminded that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” 
If someone were to assert that God requires all men to be farmers because God told Adam at the fall that he would till the earth, we would laugh at the ridiculous argument. Asserting that God requires women to be subordinate to men and to devote their pursuits solely to hearth and home because of what God told Eve is equally ridiculous. It’s convenient to those in power, but it is in contradiction to the example of Jesus, who was perfect.
We can’t baptize inequality and call it good. Declaring gender roles to be the will of God is taking the name of God in vain. Gender roles came about as a product of a fallen world. Jesus came to remove the effects of the fall, so insisting that God requires adherence to gender roles is a rejection of the marvelous atoning power of Christ.
 Not to mention, in Mormon theology, we’re taught that Eve did a good thing, not a bad thing, so punishing her, and by extension all other women, for doing a good thing is illogical and ridiculous. It also flies in the face of the spirit of the Second Article of Faith. If men aren’t punished for what Adam did, why would women be punished for what Eve did?
 Matthew 1:23 – One of the names of Jesus is Emmanuel, which means God With Us
 John 14:10
 Luke 10:42
 Luke 11:27
 Luke 11:28
 Matthew 23:37
 Matthew 6:10
 Galatians 3:28, emphasis added
Trudy, thank you for your cogent analysis of scriptural texts on this topic. Gender roles are absolutely not of God. Those of us who experience the oppression inherent in them suffer the effects of this erroneous idea daily. Thank you for standing for truth and righteousness in such a bold, brilliant way. Your words are powerful.
I love your take here, Trudy! Your point about nobody telling all men to be farmers because Adam tilled the earth in particular made me smile and say “Yessss!!”
Jesus responded, again kindly and gently, that praiseworthiness is not a result of fertility. It is a result of righteousness. “[R]ather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.”  A woman’s honor does not come from her body, her fertility, or the life choices of her children”
Brilliant, helpful, and wise, Trudy!
Amen! However, we still have a problem with the fall ushering death into the world. This basic concept creates lots of problems in faith for kids when they are presented with the evidence that organisms have been dying for millennia. I think that perhaps another take is that the fall introduced the possibility for a spiritual death, which Christ removed for us.
I love this, Trudy. I think that in rejecting biblical scholarship, we are able to make the scriptures say what we want them to say. When we look into the context of Jesus’ time and what he was saying, we see that Jesus had a radical message about inclusion that transgressed social boundaries.
I love your thoughts and agree with them. But how do we reconcile the fact that before the fall, Adam shows dominion by naming the animals and naming eve, and he is given dominion over the garden in a way Eve is not.
A few random thoughts that might help reconcile this part of the story: The word “Adam” is used as a both a name and a title in the scriptures. Sometimes it is referring to Adam the man, sometimes it is referring to the male gender, and sometimes it is referring to all of humanity. Going back to the Hebrew helps a bit in figuring out which is used where but in the bible we currently use it is super confusing at best. In the creation story sometimes “Adam” includes Adam and Eve together. I know the naming of the animals appears to happen before Eve is created so I’m not sure about that but When it talks about Adam being given dominion over the garden I imagine it referring to both Adam and Eve.
In regard to Adam naming Eve it’s important to remember that the order of events is different in the temple and various places in scripture. While the temple has him naming her as soon as she’s created, the scriptures tell us this naming happened after they’ve eaten of the fruit and after their eyes are open. When God asks Adam what her name is and Adam replies God tells him he’s correct. It even states that’s what God called her first. I think that shows that Adam isn’t actually naming her but with his eyes open now recognizes her and understands her power and divine nature. So “Eve” is used as both a name and title just like “Adam”.
Also, interesting side note to consider: Adam says her name is Eve because she is the mother of all living. Many think this refers to the fact that women will bear the babies but at this point she hasn’t had children yet. So what is it actually referring to? Since Eve partook of the fruit first and convinced Adam to eat she ushered in mortal life and opened both of their eyes. So it is through that act and sacrifice that she became the mother of all, including in a way, Adam. When the story is seen in that way women’s contributions to the plan are both physical and spiritual. Eve has power not only to physically co-create life but also to officiate in the spiritual progression of mankind.
Thanks for this analysis, Julia.
Thank you for your post. As I read it, I felt that it helped confirm some thoughts I’ve had about the temple.
I’m still not a big fan of the temple, but after a friend indicated her interpretations diverge from traditional church culture, I had a few thoughts that have made temple attendance at least slightly easier for me. After reading your post I feel more confident of those thoughts, and feel that I should share the ones that seem to apply to this topic.
It is suggestive to me that immediately after the fall, women are subjected to their husbands. I appreciate that we are reminded that the world we now live in (which includes the current state of the church) is a fallen and telestial world. It is interesting to note that we move upwards to the next level only after both women and men are prepared to officiate in ordinances of the melchizedek priesthood. Finally, I appreciate that as we are prepared for the celestial kingdom, we must all be united together in a circle where everyone loves and accepts each other without any unkind feelings – no more animosity, dominion, or judgment.
While I think we as a world, and especially as a church, have a long way to go before we get there, I (sometimes at least) feel there is hope for overcoming this effect of the fall too. Your post helped remind me of that hope, and I appreciate that.
I’ve been reading the exponent for a while now and haven’t commented before but this is so spot on that I just had to let you know how much I appreciated it. It put some thoughts together for me in an organized way and gave me some new insights into old stories. Great thoughts about the Mary and Martha story and I love the part about not all men being expected to be farmers. Exactly! Thanks so much for your insights! I’m excited to pass this one on to others.
Amen to this! I’ve always wondered in the temple—why on earth am I being punished for Eve’s transgression? Seems a bit weird to me….
I am really interested to read more about the culture around sitting at the rabbi’s feet for learning. Could you post the source for that?
But before Eve was put under sweat, toil, and Adam’s rule over her, she did one crucial thing that earned her this sentence–something that was worth all this pain: she busted things UP. She broke rules. She took initiative to transgress for the benefit of all mankind when Adam didn’t (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1993/10/the-great-plan-of-happiness?lang=eng), then she got Adam to transgress because he was stuck in his comfort zone and would’ve stayed in the garden rather than take the risks needed to set the Plan in motion. In other words, we wouldn’t be here if Eve hadn’t been a rebel. So for the plan to stay in motion, the sisters of the church sometimes need to take initiative and do difficult, even rebellious, things, even things that push the men outside their comfort zones when they are getting too cozy inside the status quo. We might have to make them take a few bitter bites with us in order to keep the kingdom moving in the right direction.
Love this comment!
Love this post! I especially love your explanation of the congregant who praised Mary of Nazareth. At first I thought, “But the woman was just trying to give praise where praise was due to Mary in raising a righteous son, when women and mother’s were overlooked.” But I love that Jesus knows AND SAYS that his mother’s value lies farther than just her mothering of him.
Thank you Trudy