Moral Choices Are Hard Because They Are Supposed to Be Hard

 

Witches can be right.
Giants can be good.
You decide what’s right.
You decide what’s good.
—”No One Is Alone” from Into the Woods

 

As I understand it, the main point of Stephen Sondheim’s magnificent musical, Into the Woods, is that moral decision making is hard. The scripts that our culture gives us are wrong. But they aren’t always wrong, or wrong in entirely predictable ways, so we can’t just reject them and do the opposite of what they say. We have to muddle through and make our own moral decisions, even though that means we will make mistakes.

This argument resonates with me a lot because, as a Latter-day Saint, I believe that this is also the main point of the founding myth of the Judeo-Christian world—the story of Adam and Eve—and a reasonably good description of the moral universe that we inhabit.

As I wrote recently in a review of Stephen Greenblatt’s new book about Adam and Eve, Mormons interpret the story radically differently than just about anybody else who considers it scripture. We break with about 3,000 years of tradition in seeing the choice that Adam and Eve made to eat the forbidden fruit as the right choice—the only choice consistent with God’s intentions, and the only choice that permitted the human race to exist.

Augustine actually considered this possibility in his book on Genesis, but he rejected it because he did not believe that God could possibly have given Adam and Eve conflicting commandments—to multiply and replenish the earth, on one hand, and to avoid doing the only thing that would allow them to do any multiplying and replenishing on the other.

But Latter-day Saints believe that this is exactly what God did. He gave Adam and Eve conflicting commandments and then sat back and watched them to see what they did. And when Satan came along, not everything he said was wrong. The fruit really would open their eyes. It actually was something that they needed to become as the gods (witches can be right). This was not a Kobayashi Maru type test, though. There actually was a right answer. But God needed Adam and Eve to find that answer themselves. And he needed it to be hard.

I believe that this is because God needed to teach us something about agency, which is that exercising it well is extremely difficult, and it is precisely because it is difficult that we have to go through this whole come-to-earth-and-get-a-body exercise to learn how to use it. We reached a point in the pre-existence where we could no longer progress because there, the only moral choice we ever had to make was to follow God or not to follow God.

Following a simple decision rule (obey God/don’t obey God) was not a good enough exercise for our moral muscles. It simplified moral reasoning down to just being good followers, which, ultimately only taught us to be good children. We needed the experience of making hard choices because that is what spiritual grown-ups do. And we needed a way to overcome the consequences for making bad ones.

Unlike most of the Judeo-Christian world, we do not see Adam and Eve’s choice as a simple moral test that they failed. We do not believe that they chose the pleasures of the flesh over the things of the spirit. We believe that they thought seriously about the multiple commandments that they were given, realized that they could not keep them both, prioritized one of them, made the right choice, and accepted the very real consequences for their actions. In other words, they were not disobedient children; they were morally competent adults.

Latter-day Saint scripture provides the basis for a very profound moral theology—one that recognizes the importance of meaningful agency and the inadequacy of simple cultural scripts and dualistic decision rules. It strikes me as starkly ironic, therefore, that we have developed a culture of simple cultural scripts and dualistic decision rules. If our own version of the Adam and Eve story tells us anything, it tells us that we cannot simply reduce all moral choices to a yes-or-no decision to obey stuff.

There are, of course, some moral choices that are easy: should I steal this watch or not steal this watch? Should I microwave this puppy or not microwave this puppy? That sort of thing. But these are not the ones that teach us how to be gods. Those decisions are much more difficult. They involve competing goods, partial evils, fine distinctions, and conflicting loyalties. And they involve consequences, sometimes very serious ones, no matter what we do.

Anybody can make a moral decision when only one principle is involved. But in the real moral universe that we inhabit, multiple principles are almost always involved. Witches are right (sometimes). Giants are good (occasionally). And our capacity for moral decision making has to be up to the task of determining when they are. That is largely what this life is all about.

Comments

  1. Excellent, as always Michael, but I’m going to register my predictable, qualified disagreement. Assuming that God’s aim really is to ” teach us something about agency,” then all that you say is correct. I am personally unconvinced, though, that God’s aim of “bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” is correctly premised upon the continual improvement of our skill at using our agency…unless said improvement might include also helping us learn the limits of agency, in which case I am in complete agreement with you.

    I’m not taking Augustine’s line; I think you are right that it is not only possible, but probably not at all uncommon, for God to reveal contradictory commandments to His creation. But I’m not so quick to dismiss the Kobayashi Maru option. After all, if God really has given out contradictory commandments, then that means there is no way, at least occasionally, to not disobey God, whatever your considered agency leads you to decide upon, and such disobedience always puts you, I think anyway, in a condition of sin. Which means, in our exercise of agency, we are, at least in those times when our moral agency might be most centrally called upon, doomed to fail, and thus out of necessity must seek God’s forgiveness for that which we are born into…and that sense of dependency upon God’s grace is, I suspect, a firmer foundation for seeking the gift of eternal life than receiving instruction in our use of agency. (Or so speaks the Lutheran me, anyway.)

  2. The hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make are the deeply complex ones. The choices between varying levels of good, or the choices to try and minimize varying but inevitable levels of bad, or the choices where I’m not at all sure what the consequences will be.

    It takes a certain level of deep introspection to reach a place where within myself I have to clearly acknowledge that my choice is going to hurt someone, even badly, and I desperately wish there was a way to avoid it, but to do so would betray something deeper within myself. And so I pray for forgiveness while knowingly accepting the consequences of that choice.

  3. In most conversations I am one to say Eve made the right decision. But I think it’s more complicated than that. I think we see a choice between turning to God or turning to self, where the turn to self is both necessary sometimes for some purposes for some period of time, and by definition sinful (the “turning away” definition). That God takes us back is a marvel. That we have to turn back is a requirement. That we can’t have it all all the time simultaneously makes for hard choices.

    I think this much is in essential agreement. (But maybe not?) The place I would explicitly disagree is with “starkly ironic” about a church culture of simple dualistic decision rules. I would say, rather, that the culture is fully expected and even required. The culture of an institutional church —any institutional church — is to play the “God” role in our own Eden narrative. We have to make the Eve and Adam decisions as we go, and we will always be existentially alone as we do. Don’t expect the Church or the church culture to help or make it easy.

  4. I appreciate Michael’s point that “we have developed a culture of simple cultural scripts and dualistic decision rules.” In a sense, this makes things “easy” for people. I have a binary choice, and it can either be 0 or 1 – there is no in-between. This also makes people feel very secure that there is a definite yes and a definite no, an obvious right and an obvious wrong.

    I don’t think life is that easy. I think the added complexity that LDS commentary and scripture brings to the Adam and Eve story make it much more rich, and I would say, an example for many moral choices. There are consequences, foreseen and unforeseen. There is complexity. And it’s not a black-hat / white-hat winner-vs-loser right-vs.-wrong decision.

    In other words – decisions in life aren’t supposed to always be obvious, contrary to how some have been taught and how some view the world.

  5. I think we see a choice between turning to God or turning to self, where the turn to self is both necessary sometimes for some purposes for some period of time, and by definition sinful (the “turning away” definition). That God takes us back is a marvel.

    I think is wonderfully put, Christian. That some choices may be necessary, even “right” insofar as our (hopefully inspired) agency dictates, doesn’t make them, in themselves, any less bad, any less a failure. Which, to my view, makes God’s grace all the more praiseworthy.

    We have to make the Eve and Adam decisions as we go, and we will always be existentially alone as we do.

    Also wonderfully put, I think.

  6. “Following a simple decision rule (obey God/don’t obey God) was not a good enough exercise for our moral muscles. It simplified moral reasoning down to just being good followers, which, ultimately only taught us to be good children. We needed the experience of making hard choices because that is what spiritual grown-ups do.”

    This reminds me of an excellent book by Alfie Kohn. In “Unconditional Parenting,” he says that if you train your children to be “good” for rewards and expect punishment when they are bad, all you will teach your children is to do what they are told. Do you want to raise your child to become an adult who simply does what they’re told? Or do you want your child to become an adult who is independent, creative, curious, moral, and compassionate? If the latter, your parenting style will be different. You’ll parent based on love and attention that is unconditional, not contingent upon whether your child does good or bad. That sounds more like God to me. He’s not trying to raise millions of blindly obedient children. He wants us to become, as you put it, spiritual grown-ups by learning to wrestle with our own choices, not be told what to do about everything. I agree it is ironic that the church enforces a reward/punishment culture that values obedience above everything. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.

  7. I wish we could get away from the concept that God “tests” anyone. We use it to try and remove the feeling that difficult things happen in life all the time. It adds to the idea of a malicious (but benevolent) God who occasionally decides to throw a poison needle covered brick at us to see if we’ll survive, to help us grow or see if we’ll still believe in them. And afterward, we’re supposed to be grateful for the experience, as if that makes us better than the ungrateful people who suffer and don’t grow.

    Everybody dies frustrated inside and that is beautiful

    We made the choice to dive into the refining of mortality in a Telestial world. It’s only one part in the process of becoming like God. We’ve no idea what other steps to refinement are in store, nor what we will become when we are finished, but the choice to continue is ours.

    Eve & Adam made a choice; not the best or worst choice but simply a choice. Nothing they could have done could have frustrated God’s plan for us. Their choices has long and short term effects for them and their progeny, but what they are becoming is between them and their makers, being far more than this one bump in the creation process.

  8. mikerharris says:

    One thought and one question:
    1) I believe the premises that God gave conflicting commandments to Adam and Eve is not Mormon doctrine. In current seminary and institute manuals it states, “The Lord said to Adam that if he wished to remain as he was in the garden, then he was not to eat the fruit, but if he desired to eat it and partake of death he was at liberty to do so” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr. [1963], 4:81). He further states, “Mortality was created through the eating of forbidden fruit, if you want to call it forbidden, but I think the Lord has made it clear that it was not forbidden. He merely said to Adam, if you want to stay here [in the garden] this is the situation. If so, don’t eat it.”
    2) Can you elaborate further on how does one decide what is right and good and yet not fall for moral relativism?
    Thanks.

  9. Thanks for this post, Mike. I agree with Russell and Carolyn and Christian’s comments. Like Russell, I’m not so sure that eating the fruit was the one right answer. The way I see it, it was a choice that was at once both obedient and disobedient, and God in his mercy and grace chose to forgive the disobedience and in our tradition we praise the obedience. But had she chosen the opposite, perhaps God would have praised her obedience and forgiven her disobedience.

    Like Carolyn and Christian express so well, an important part of learning moral reasoning is learning that you really can’t do right all the time—no matter what you choose you’re going to break some or other law or principle. So the key is not just getting really good at using agency until we can navigate a minefield of conflicting principles and find the right answer every time, the key is learning that even when we choose “right,” we’re also choosing wrong, cutting ourselves off from god and leaving a wake of destruction and pain behind us, so even as we learn to use agency, and get good at choosing right, our only hope is to rely on grace to heal the hurts and make things right.

    I’m glad you wrote this post.

  10. “Can you elaborate further on how does one decide what is right and good and yet not fall for moral relativism?”

    Nope, I can’t. Not for anybody else anyway. As I read our scriptures, this is perhaps the most important thing that we are here to figure out for ourselves. And it will be hard and we will often do it wrong.

  11. Michael, I think you’re short-changing our premortal experience. Our simplistic narrative as Latter-day Saints is that because we were in the presence of God, somehow our agency was restricted. But that is indeed a simplistic view. I’ve done a conservative estimate of how many of God’s children were assigned to this earth (see the recent Dialogue article, “The Source of God’s Authority”), including Satan’s third that never get to be born. I came up with over 300 billion. Think about that for a second. If that’s even close to true (and it’s likely an underestimate), then each of us had very little face time with our Father. In fact, considering Earth is just one of countless worlds God has created, he’s one very busy fellow. I would be surprised if I ever spent ten seconds alone with him.

    Of course, there is another possibility (which I explored in a recent Sunstone essay titled “The Tongue of Angels or the Mind of the Borg?”), namely, that our experience living “in the presence” of God was facilitated by some sort of spiritual/mental link (like the Borg) rather than face-to-face contact. If that’s the case, then the veil gives us our very first opportunity to be “alone with our thoughts,” as it were, although supposedly God can peek in anytime he wants.

    Regardless, I think our premortal experience was a lot more complex and filed with opportunities to exercise our agency than the simplistic Mormon cultural dogma suggests. And, of course, we know just about nothing about all this. It’s all speculation based on very sketchy and sometimes contradictory information.

  12. Mikerharris, How is it that “remember that I forbid it” [Moses 3:17 and the endowment liturgy] constitutes making it “clear that it was not forbidden”? I am not convinced that Mormon doctrine is a clear and consistent, let alone a static, thing. Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from contemplating the scripture as well as later commentaries and seminary and institute manuals.

  13. There is a common LDS teaching that “Obedience is the first law of Heaven.” Maybe this should be changed to “Discernment is the first law of Heaven.”

  14. Interesting, Michael. Seems we made an equivalent choice as Adam and Eve made–I wonder to what extent we knew when making the choice to come to earth that we were obeying God and at the same time making a choice to soon disobey Him? As rkt suggests, perhaps there were more opportunities to exercise agency there than we traditionally think.

  15. First thing, get rid of that damnable song which says “there’s a right and a wrong to ev’ry question.” In fact, I’d expand that to getting rid of any song that includes the word “ev’ry.”

  16. One thing I’ve always liked about the LDS version of the Adam/Eve narrative is precisely that it invites us to narratively step into their shoes. We all were naive spirits who eagerly chose to come to Earth, thinking that we would prove ourselves, we would seize this opportunity to grow and show how obedient to God we were. It’s kind of like when an eight-year-old gets baptized and two days afterwards they’re eagerly proclaiming “I haven’t sinned yet!!”

    And then the reality of just how messy telestial life and physical reality sets in. No matter how hard we try, each of us is faced with competing principles; each of us tastes of the fruit that is both desirable and destructive; each of us makes choices that lead to good and bad consequences.

  17. Thank you for this post–it sums up why I find church participation acutely painful.

    I want to discover a way to stay engaged in my Mormon community and family without feeling like I unavoidably perpetuate an obedience rather than discernment culture. How can I send my children to primary without insinuating that I think spirituality\morality is learned from mortals in a captive audience? How I do attend the temple without communicating to those who don’t that I perceive myself as separate and more worthy? How do I participate in temple ordinances without demonstrating a belief in female subjugation? How do I go to my son’s Priesthood Preview\Temple Preparation meeting without helping to lay the bricks that build another generation of youth that believe inequality between genders is normal and that God is only found in Mormon temples?

    On the flip side, what do I risk communicating when I don’t do these things? Abstinence from these things are often interpreted as unsupportive and uninvested. Just ask my spouse what he thinks about my not wanting to go to the temple–he’ll tell you I must not care enough about him or our children–that I’m not willing to do what it takes to be together forever. And what could my tender 11-yr-old boy possibly conclude if I didn’t go to his Priesthood\Temple Prep meeting besides that I just don’t care? I went–felt sick the whole time, and now feel as unresolved as ever about how to handle these situations.

    “There is a common LDS teaching that ‘Obedience is the first law of Heaven.’ Maybe this should be changed to ‘Discernment is the first law of Heaven.'”

    Tom Irvine, I am convinced that this one change would have the power to change the entire face of the institution. Amen to Mark B.’s suggestion to do away with music (and I would add curriculum) that teaches children that moral discernment is simple…so simple, in fact, that all you have to do is be obedient to men who are priesthood holders (or power holders, as I like to say. I think we’d start to see the power issues much more clearly if we started substituting “power” for “priesthood” in every instance. After all, we openly claim that priesthood is the power of God: power quorum, power meeting, power holders, etc. I feel nauseated just typing about it).

  18. I’m a believer in the value of ambiguities. As Latter-Day Saints–especially as 2018 Latter-Day Saints–we’re conditioned to spurn relativism, and to a certain wishy-washy degree I’m on board with that. I like Sartre’s thinking: that there’s no such thing as something being good for me that’s bad for you; that if it’s bad for you, it’s bad for me. At the same time, I agree with probably everyone here–that we’re all wired up differently. On Sunday, I’ll sit peaceably (though sometimes frustrated) with authoritarian, McKonkie-ite fellow church members who will cherry-pick the scriptures and cite verses that say this whole mortal project is about unquestioning obedience–“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them”–insisting that anything that rolls off the lips of an apostle is God’s command, exactly as God wants it.

    While I was at BYU, I was scandalized when a roommate reported that in his class with Hugh Nibley, Nibley said that there were two kinds of Mormons: Iron-Rod Mormons and Liahona Mormons. Being twenty-two, I was opposed to the idea of being categorized as one thing or another, but most of all I was indignant about the possibility that anyone might look for a shortcut or a loophole. If I had to toe the line, by golly everyone ELSE had to toe the line! It didn’t take very many years before I was with Nibley. I’m not one of the soldiers who snaps to, fixes bayonet, and marches into battle against some enemy. That has no meaning or relevance for me. It makes no gospel sense to me whatsoever. It has no resonance with my understanding of Christ. Enoch walked with God, Noah walked with God, and God invited Abraham on that same walk. Luther translated it as “wandeln”–to wander. Wandering with God. In other words, not just going with God in order to reach a destination, but first and foremost enjoying the company, and trusting that that company will get you to a good place. I like that. It echoes Isaiah 35.8, and those wayfarers, “though fools,” that “shall not err” on that path, in that divine company.

    The Church of Soldiers? Good for them. I don’t belong to that church. I belong to the Church of Wayfarers (or Fools). The two churches meet at the same time. The soldiers think everyone there is a soldier, and that it’s all about soldiering.

  19. Actually Tom Irvine, that idea that obedience is the first law of Heaven is fairly recent. I grew up in the church before obedience to leaders became the most important part of the gospel and was taught in seminary that love is the first law of heaven and if you manage that it sort of takes care of the rest. If we love God, we show that love by obedience, so see how the obedience is secondary?

    As far as the conflict between some modern discussion of whether or not not eating the fruit was a commandment or a suggestion with serious consequences, that is another doctrine that seems to be shifting over time. Back in the days of BY, it was clearly a commandment and Eve really screwed up. In fact she screwed up so bad that she fell in such a way that she was eternally put below Adam and all women are put below their husbands in hierarchy. While all men are punished for their own sins, all women are punished for Eve’s sins. Apparently not even Christ’s atonement can fix Eve’s being eternally punished. There are still remnants of BY’s beliefs in the temple ceremony.

    Personally, I think the story is symbolic of all of us choosing the crap life in mortality. It is all about the choice to live in the cold and dreary world and all of us made that choice when we decided to follow the plan of coming to earth and having a Savior. So, if it is properly symbolic, then Eve was just as informed of the choice as we were in the pre-existence. Eat the fruit and become mortal and live in the lone and dreary world and die as far as direct contact with God, so spiritual death.

  20. Thanks for this post, Mike. The post and your follow-up comments resonate with me. I often feel that the number one commandment taught in my neck of the woods isn’t “love your neighbor and love God” but “be obedient with exactness and fear me because God tells me exactly what to say.”

    I’m prefer the muddy ambiguity of wandering with God, who, like any good teacher, is letting me stumble as I get stronger on my own two feet.

  21. Dale Johnson says:

    O may take issue with some of Anna’s opinions, but this discussion was so cogent and lacked the verbosity that often afflicts my pronouncement that the vice of jealousy rises up. The difficulty associated with tough choices use exemplified by the phrase “If or was easy, everyone would be doing it.”

    Thanks again for your continuing thoughts we are blessed to consider by reading your writings

  22. Mean mama jones says:

    Anna, you sure have a depressing outlook on life.

  23. If even the ‘very elect will be deceived’, then we know what is moral and right is not always obvious.

  24. …or easy.

  25. Anna: See Journal of Discourses v2:302 and v23:145 for Brigham’s thoughts on Eve and the so-called fall. There’s much in the evolved endowment script that’s horrifically regrettable, but there were lots of hands involved in that across many decades, and it’s not Brigham that gives us the weird untemptable-Adam-gallantly-bailing-out-the-otherwise-doomed-Eve narrative. The flimsy evidence for that storyline comes from I Timothy 2.14 (the pastoral epistles being no earlier than mid-2nd-Century) and Paradise Lost, and I believe it was one of our Orsons (Hyde or Pratt—definitely not the later, vastly more progressive Whitney) who inflated and championed that idea. I know none of this is any comfort. I’d agree that Brigham has his share to account for, but his attitudes toward women were lightyears ahead of his time, AND lightyears ahead of (those of) most of today’s general authorities.

  26. Scanning through the replies, I’m thinking it’s possible one or two people may have thought, understandably, that the February 13, 2018 at 2:39 pm reply was written by the blogger, Michael Austin. That’s me, a different Michael. I apologize for any confusion.

  27. Rachel E O says:

    I’ve recently become a more regular BCC lurker (so much dissertating to procrastinate), and this post, along with the comments by Russell, Carolyn, Christian, JKC, and CJ, are the best things I’ve seen here in a while, at least for me personally. I clicked on the post because the title speaks to the deep conflict I have been feeling lately in my church membership — about whether or not I am doing the right thing, making the moral choice, in remaining a fully active, temple-recommend-holding member, and especially in raising my son within the Church, when I believe deep in my soul and with what I believe is inspiration from God that some Church policies, doctrines, and cultural norms are deeply morally wrong. I guess I’ve basically believed that for years now, but of course I also believe and appreciate all of the beautiful, morally praiseworthy things about the Church, and so I’ve managed the dissonance by basically consoling myself that bad will always come along with good, and where else will I go? (My reasoning is a bit more complicated than that, with various familial and social factors weighing in the balance, but that’s the gist of it.)

    For whatever reason, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to do that in recent months. My husband and I have visited a lot of other churches over the decade of our marriage (it has long been our habit to do so whenever we travel), and increasingly over the past year. My husband has taken a couple of churches in particular quite seriously (Society of Friends, Community of Christ). Basically, we feel we can no longer hide behind the question “where else will I go?” because we have found there *are* other places where we could raise our son in an environment that inculcates much more positive messages about religious authority, gender equality, LGBTQ issues, and more. I have therefore been feeling increasingly morally culpable for raising my son in an environment with much more negative norms around those matters.

    Simultaneously, I have found it increasingly difficult to morally justify tithing to the Church in the wake of the November 2015 exclusion policies toward same-sex couples and their children. I firmly believe in the principle of the tithe, but it feels wrong to tithe to an institution that has at the highest levels implemented and promulgated a policy that I believe runs so counter to some of the principles that I feel most called of God to embrace and emulate in my life — inclusion, empathy, agency, love, especially toward those most likely to be “despised and rejected of men.” I have, instead, through much prayer and pondering, increasingly come to believe that the most moral course of action would be to instead use my tithe either to support other religious institutions that do embrace and emulate those principles or to more directly aid the children of God — e.g. through the LDS Church Humanitarian Fund.

    In any event, I think the comments above have helped me to make some broader moral sense of this process I’m undergoing. Merging CJ’s comment with those from the OP, Russell, Carolyn, and Christian, it seems to me that for those of us who feel morally conflicted about our involvement in the Church, seeing ourselves as Adam and Eve figures can be revelatory. It can reveal to us that making such difficult, genuinely conflicting, you-can’t-have-it-all moral choices is precisely the purpose of our life here on earth. That there may be times when, to paraphrase and adapt Christian’s phrase, a turn away from the Church (whether that be a 180-degree turn or a 90-degree turn or a 10-degree turn) is “both necessary sometimes for some purposes for some period of time, and by definition sinful.” And so, to quote Carolyn, we “pray for forgiveness while knowingly accepting the consequences of that choice,” and then, to paraphrase Russell, we depend upon Christ’s grace – even, to cite Christian, in the midst of our existential loneliness.

    Of course, I could also use that logic to excuse myself in turning away instead from the revelations that I believe God has given me about the moral exigency of a partial, perhaps temporary turning away from the Church. Indeed, in part because of the potentially harmful/painful consequences for the Church and loved ones of making such a choice, I do think that turning away from the Church is, in a sense, sinful. And for a long season in my life, I think that has perhaps been the greater sin. But for me, in this season, it feels that the greater sin would be to not go where I feel that God is leading me, which entails a partial turning away from the Church (which right now, is probably only something like a 30-45-degree turn). And so I pray for forgiveness while knowingly accepting the consequences of that choice, not only further instructed in the principle of agency but also more dependent than ever on the grace of Jesus Christ.

  28. I’m not sure I agree that Eve made a conscious choice to eat the fruit. Talking about this as a “hard choice” implies that Eve had a full(ish) knowledge of her existance and the future, that she knew she wasn’t supposed to eat it, but also that eating it was the only way to fullfill God’s commandments to have children. I don’t find that interpretation anywhere in either scripture or the endownment liturgy (where even Adam approached it as, “you’ll be kicked out, and I’ll be alone”).

    I like the concept of agency requiring hard choices, and that morality isn’t black and white, but I’m not finding those symbols in the story of Adam and Eve.

  29. chompers, I don’t really think we have much to support the new-“ish” narrative about Eve’s courageous and conscious choice, either, but I think it’s certainly better than the previous one. Since the creation and fall stories are used to make decisions about how people treat each other, and what roles are ascribed to genders, the interpretations are extremely important. Have you considered alternative creative interpretations that don’t justify separation or subjugation of genders?