A few weeks ago I discovered something amazing which has been fueling my personal study ever since. It begins, like our story, in the Garden of Eden—Adam and Eve’s paradise, the place where man walked in the presence of God and had every single need cared for. Most of us know that our Parents lived there as immortals for a presumably long time, perhaps even thousands of years. Or maybe only a few weeks. Since they had no fear of death, who could even count their days? And they could have continued living there forever as husband and wife, communing with God in paradise. But that all changed.
Adam, Eve, and Eden
One day, Satan comes to the Garden with the intent of destroying (what he thinks is) God’s plan for mankind. He first appeals to Adam, but fails. Then he goes to Eve and using a softer approach tempts her. Like her husband, she initially denies the Devil’s request to eat the fruit, saying “God hath said—Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” To this the Serpent hisses, “Ye shall not surely die!” He explains, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Moses 4: 9-11). Sensing the truth in this, Eve realizes she now has a choice: eat the fruit and be cast out so she might become like God, or refuse the fruit and remain in paradise without the chance to become like Him.
I like to imagine that in that crucial moment Eve saw a glimpse of what was at stake. Perhaps she had a fleeting image of us—the rest of God’s children—and understood that without her none of us would ever be able to experience mortal life or become like our Father. So what does she do? Eve makes what I think is one of the bravest decisions in history: she looks around at the garden, takes a deep breath, and eats the fruit. At that moment Eve gained two things: first, the ability to give life through motherhood, and second, the ability to gain knowledge and become like God. This is what she chose.
After this, Eve goes to Adam and explains to him what she has done. Adam realizes now what is at stake (thanks to the loving counsel of his wife), and realizes that he too now has a choice: remain in Eden without his wife, or eat the fruit and join her in parenthood and mortality. Again here I picture the first man looking at his wife, looking around at his home (Eden), and back into his wife’s eyes, then tenderly taking the fruit and biting into it. At this second crucial moment Adam chose Eve over paradise, mortality over immortality, and fatherhood over innocence and a carefree life.
Have you ever thought about what an incredible theme this is? Until recently I had always appreciated the Genesis story from a standpoint of “I’m so glad they chose mortality because I’d never have been born or had a family,” but I’d never before thought about the weight of their sacrifice. Adam and Eve gave up Eden (their home!) with all it was—paradise, the presence of God, an easy, worry-free life—because they loved each other, they loved us, and they loved God. They knew that it was the only way, that even though mortality would be full of heartache, pain, and tribulation, it was worth it because being like God is worth it. And who is God? Sure, He’s the most intelligent being of all, but He’s more than that: He’s a parent! “Father” is his favorite title! So that is what Eve and Adam chose—they chose to sacrifice the easy life in order to become parents.
But this theme of sacrifice doesn’t stop there. It is an overarching theme throughout all of holy writ. Next example: Abraham. He wanted nothing more in the whole world than to become a father (see Genesis 15). So the Lord grants his request, gives him Isaac, but then tells him to sacrifice the boy. What? Luckily for him, Abraham didn’t have to end up sacrificing his son, but he learned that he was ready to sacrifice his heart to the will of the Lord.
The Girl with the Pearl Necklace
After studying and pondering this topic of sacrifice for a while I shared it with a friend who then offered up a wonderful illustrative story. I found it on this website and modified it to better match my friend’s telling. Enjoy:
There once was a little girl who worked hard to buy her own dime-store pearl necklace, and she loved those pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere–Sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.
She had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night when he finished the story, he asked her, “Do you love me?” “Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you.” “Then give me your pearls.” “Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess–the white horse from my collection. The one with the pink tail. Remember, Daddy? The one you gave me. She’s my favorite.” “That’s okay, Honey. Daddy loves you. Good night.” And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.
About a week later, after the story time, the father asked again, “Do you love me?” “Daddy, you know I love you.” “Then give me your pearls.” “Oh Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my babydoll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper.” “That’s okay. Sleep well. God bless you, little one. Daddy loves you.” And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.
A few nights later when her daddy came in, the little girl was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed Indian-style. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek. “What is it, honey? What’s the matter?” The precious girl didn’t say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, “Here, Daddy. It’s for you.” With tears gathering in his own eyes, the kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to his daughter. He had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store trinket so he could give her a genuine treasure.
I love this story because it further illustrates the necessity of self sacrifice for our own true happiness. We let ourselves get held down by these anchors we feel make us safe, but if we never allow ourselves to get out of the harbor how can we ever explore?
Then there’s Lucifer…
There’s another character who can teach us a lot about sacrifice. His name was once Lucifer but we now call him by the names Satan, Devil, Father of Lies, Son of Perdition, etc. You get it. How did he gain these titles? How did he fall so far, when he once sat near the throne of God and was a “son of the morning”? How did he become the King of Hell?
Simple: He was unwilling to sacrifice.
Now, don’t get me wrong—there’s more to it than that. He was/is impure of heart, rebellious, and all sorts of jealous and terrible, but for me one big part of his rebellion was his own unwillingness to sacrifice.
Of the several accounts given of Satan’s fall (in Anglo Saxon poetry, apocryphal texts, the Koran, and in LDS scriptures), I will focus on the telling in Moses 4:1-2. It begins:
And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan,whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
Did you read between the lines and catch what I’ve been yammering on about for several pages? Lucifer here offers to be the savior of mankind, but he says “I’ll do it, but what about this better plan? It’s going to be 100% effective.” But secretly, what he is not saying is “If I save you all, none of you will have agency or be able to become like God, and since there will really be no one to save, I won’t even have to suffer or care about you.” He was unwilling to sacrifice for us, for God, or for anyone, yet he wanted all the honor.
Conversely, the Savior was humble and willing to sacrifice everything for us and for God. Back to Moses, verse two:
But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
Once again, it comes back to sacrifice.
But why sacrifice?
I believe that when we sacrifice for others or for God, we learn to love that person more than the thing we sacrificed. Think of a mother: she loves her child more than anything in the world because she has sacrificed everything for him or her. Mom gave nine months of pregnancy woes (or in the case of adoption, a lot of worrying, time, and money), painful labor, and tons of money and time spent caring for and raising the child, not to mention the sacrifice of personal, professional, or educational pursuits. Mothers love because they sacrifice. Same with fathers—for example, my dad was once a ‘68 Camero-driving, professional guitar-playing, surfing, cool dude, and he gave it all up to become a loving, awesome father and one of the greatest examples of humility and sacrifice I have ever known (and now he’s cooler than ever :D).
So. What is the personal application here? Well, aside from the just mentioned truths of sacrifice resulting in love (I didn’t even mention the best example—the Savior—who sacrificed himself for all of us and thus loves and understands us more than anyone else could), I think there’s a great application here for people in my scenario: young single adults.
Perhaps the biggest immediate application of this lesson is that I need to be willing to give up Eden. By this I mean that—let’s face it, bachelorhood is not really that hard. It’s easy to care only for myself, to do what I want when I want. I can get a job I like regardless of earning potential, go to sleep and wake up when I want, eat out on a whim, etc. Yeah, I want to find a girlfriend who becomes my best friend and ends up being my wife—clearly that’s the goal that I claim I want (being alone sucks), but am I really willing to sacrifice what I need for this to happen? In a sense (at least for me) the single life is a sort of Eden: it’s simple, I’m taken care of, and it’s relatively stress-free. It’s easy. Dating (and eventually marriage and family) is far scarier, more difficult, and requires a ton of sacrifices. But it’s worth it!
So what do I need to do? Find a more stable job? Be willing to leave the safety zone of not dating, be willing accept rejection so that I can also find acceptance? Perhaps it just means I have to change my heart so I’m less clingy to my ways, my things, and my will.
Basically, Eve, Adam, Abraham, my parents, and the Savior all had to sacrifice (or be willing to sacrifice) all that they had in order to experience the rich rewards of parenthood, family life, and the ability to become like God. I.e. “Adam fell that man might be, and men are that they might find joy.”
What’s my Eden? What’s yours? Do you agree? What’s holding us back?
If you have any insights or more examples, please email or post them. I would like to continue to learn about this, as it’s only a recently-acquired insight.