An Eve Choice


Mother Eve faced two incompatible directives – “to multiply and replenish the earth, that you may have joy and rejoicing in your posterity” and “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

Since Eve could not have a family without first becoming mortal, she had to carefully weigh the choices and consequences. One commandment is to do something (conceive, bear, and rear children) that will bring joy, while the other is to not do something (eat, becoming mortal) that will bring death (and sadness). She realized that there would be no joy without sadness first, and chose the path to mortality and obeying the higher law to fill the measure of her creation. Thus she earned the moniker of “mother of all living” by bringing both life and death into the world.

Women today face similar difficult choices. The church idealizes a certain plan, but there are always other options. What are we asked to do that will bring joy? But that we are told not to do that will enable us to do what is asked? One way this plays out in Mormondom is that we have perpetuated a longstanding tradition of not marrying “outside the covenant”. Youth and young adult lessons strongly emphasize temple marriage. When dating options dwindle and Sisters who are interested in marriage find themselves aging and single, they have to choose whether to expand their dating pool by looking outside the faith or continue searching and waiting.

In a church culture where girls are indoctrinated from a young age that marriage and family are not only the path to fulfillment, but also critical to her eternal salvation, the weight of singleness is often more than a heavy burden. In the United States, LDS women who decide to marry men who are not members of the church can be stigmatized. In other countries where I have lived, it is far more common for LDS women to marry outside the faith.

The natural desire for companionship, culturally formalized by joining two lives in marriage and raising a family is an almost universal human desire. A single woman who has this longing must decide – will she wait (possibly into the millenium) for a righteous available priesthood holder who will go with her to the temple to make eternal covenants? Or Will she find a man now who she will marry and raise a family with?

The prospect of joy and rejoicing in posterity is a righteous motivation. If God is good, all who live worthy lives will obtain blessings they ought to receive. Sisters who wish to marry and have children should be encouraged to find a good man and seek these blessings. Finding a companion and making a marriage work is difficult under any circumstances. Why do we compound this by restricting options and encouraging single martyrs who postpone their happiness until the next life if a certain option doesn’t open in this life?

Eve led the way for women along the convoluted path of life. Sometimes the right choice looks wrong from certain perspectives. Eating the fruit that God said not to eat must have been a heartbreaking choice. She knew she would have to leave Eden, and she know she would die. She has been despised and her daughters punished through much of earth’s history for her choice, yet without it we would have no life and no joy.


Chiaroscuro is a play of light and shadow. Finding noisy messy lovely life in all the shades between.

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10 Responses

  1. When I was in my mid-twenties, I mentioned to married friends that, at my age, I didn’t think it was important that I marry a returned missionary. They were shocked and horrified and told me not to give up. I wasn’t “giving up,” I just thought that by the time a man reached his mid-twenties or thirties, whether he happened to have been a missionary back when he was 19 was not terribly relevant to where he was in his life a decade later. These checklists seem to limit marital choices without being true indicators of character.

  2. Nancy Ross says:

    I like the framing of this as conflicting choices as opposed to a hierarchy of choices. I wonder if church leaders understand the ways in which they have created a culture that asks women to navigate an often difficult and competing set of choices?

  3. Libby says:

    I feel that’s the challenge of Mormonism: there is good and bad in every choice, and we have to make the choice regardless. It’s comforting that we have the example of Eve–at least in our tradition her choice is lauded as the right one.

  4. Caroline says:

    “Sisters who wish to marry and have children should be encouraged to find a good man and seek these blessings. ”

    I totally agree. I am the product of such a union — thank goodness my mom decided that marrying a good man was more important than holding out for a Mormon temple marriage that might have never come around.

  5. Jess R says:

    This really got me thinking. I’m in my late 20s, and seriously dating an Episcopalian. The reactions I’ve gotten have been mixed but the prevailing theme seems to be confusion. People don’t understand why I would want to date outside the church.

    Another issue is sex. As a Mormon you can marry young, or be stuck being celebate. And that opens up a whole other layer of complication of you start dating outside the church. I’d never made the connection to Eve’s choice. That is a great parallel.

  6. Violadiva says:

    Great posts this week, Chiaroscuro! Thank you so much for the thoughtful contributions!
    I wish more women knew they could have a happy, fulfilling married life with children to a man not of our faith rather than wait around lonely for a Mormon man to marry.
    I think of the consequences of both choices in the after life — one sends you there with an earthly posterity and a companion who may be receptive to temple ordinances in the next life, if not here. the other sends you to the next life alone. I wish women didn’t feel they had to do the braver, more righteous thing by staying single rather than marry a non member.

  7. Loving a Lutheran says:

    I have made the choice to date a wonderful Lutheran man, after being in an abusive marriage to an LDS man, and growing up in an abusive LDS home. I have thought of this Eve analogy, but it felt like self justification. You writing it helps me feel the inspiration in it and I will attempt to beat myself up less. But growing up in the Church I have been indoctrinated – I fear some catastrophe as soon as I marry a non member. My bishop has contributed to that fear by discouraging my relationship with a good man. I feel God guiding my life, guiding me out of abuse and into healing, including a whole new type of relationship- a healthy one with a loving Lutheran. I’ve been very conflicted. Thank you for your love and support through this post. I will likely read it over and over.

  8. Michelle says:

    The author needs to take the law of chastity into consideration. It’s amazing how fast the dating pool shrinks for a single never-married Mormon woman of any age who absolutely refuses to sleep with a man on the first date. Maybe that’s why single men (be they Christian, Mormon or none) don’t bother asking us out anymore. Why buy the cow…
    It is not good for man to be alone, yet God has no qualms about so many women. He led Eve to Adam and married them-basically an arranged marriage. Lucky Eve had ZERO competition when it came to catching her eternal spouse. No makeovers, dating apps or competition with “Steve” to win Adam’s affection. Why can’t God do that for me and all the rest of my amazing but still single fellow sisters?

    • Chiaroscuro says:

      I am sorry that has been your experience. Not all men will insist on sex, and clearly one who does not respect your boundaries is not for you. I wish you the best in finding a good, loving companion if that is what you desire.

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