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Part Three: Women and The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

If you missed parts one and two, they can be found here: Part One, Part Two

Previously, I have written about the symbols of veils; the meaning of the word 'perfect' and how women play an indispensable part in it; why women are women from their eternal origins; the keys, stewardship, and powers that women were endowed with from the pre-earth life; how those said powers and keys are intensified and renewed through the sealing ordinances of the temple; and we discussed just how much more there is that we really know nothing about.

In this article, I will focus on some very interesting scholarship from Dr. V.H. Cassler. She is the senior editor of a very intriguing and faithful online LDS scholarly journal called, Square Two. I refer to her from the outset to reduce redundant reference.

Let's renew, again, the dive.

Last time, we discussed veils and their powerful symbolism. There are critics of this idea that veils are a symbol of power. Nevertheless, some wonderful work by Jeffrey Bradshaw can open one's eyes as to the power and relationship the veil might have with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil:

"... an interesting Jewish tradition about the placement of the two trees is the idea that the foliage of
the Tree of Knowledge hid the Tree of Life from direct view and that “God did not specifically prohibit eating from the Tree of Life because the Tree of Knowledge formed a hedge around it; only after one had partaken of the latter and cleared a path for himself could one come close to the Tree of Life.” In other words, although both trees were located, relatively speaking, in the central portion of Eden, one had to “pass through” the Tree of Knowledge that was “not precisely in the middle” before one could see and gain access to the Tree of Life that was “precisely in the middle of the garden.”... 
Ephrem the Syrian, a fourth-century Christian, called the Tree of Knowledge “the veil for the sanctuary.” He pictured Paradise as a great mountain, with the Tree of Knowledge providing a permeable boundary partway up the slopes. The Tree of Knowledge, Ephrem concluded, “acts as a sanctuary curtain [i.e., veil] hiding the Holy of Holies, which is the Tree of Life higher up.”" (1)

In short, one must pass through the tree of knowledge in order to access the tree of life.

A quick study of 'knowledge of good and evil' in the scriptures yields another interesting insight. Namely, we learn in Moroni 7:16 that "the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil". To draw the parallel, is there a relationship between the Light of Christ and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and evil? In other words, both give knowledge of good and evil in order to make one wise. Surely there is some sort of relationship here.

There are even more parallels between the two concepts. If the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was in fact a hedge around the Tree of Life to serve as a veil, then those who passed through such would indeed have knowledge of Good and Evil. Does this sound familiar? It should:

“Every child of Heavenly Father born in the world is given at birth, as a free gift, the Light of Christ. You have felt that. It is the sense of what is right and what is wrong and what is true and what is false. That has been with you since your journey in life began.” - Henry B. Eyring (2)

I admit it is speculative, but "truth is reason", therefore, could it possibly be that the Tree of Knowledge represents the Light of Christ and the veil one passes through at birth when they receive it?


Note how the Light of Christ is a free gift given to every person when they enter into this world (much more can be said about the Light of Christ, but it lays outside the scope of this article). When one understands the relationship the Light of Christ has with the Holy Ghost, the term 'gift' that Henry B. Eyring used is interesting. We consider it an ordinance when one receives the gift of the Holy Ghost. What about when one receives the Light of Christ at birth?

Moses 6:59, therefore, holds the following mystery. Every living soul "must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten". At the beginning of this verse it mentions how all "were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit". Being born again is being ritually and symbolically ran through the same substances that brought us into this world. Who first administers the symbols water, the Spirit, and blood to every living soul? Women do so in the long 9-month process of every soul that is born.

Is it too much of a stretch, therefore, to refer to birth and the whole process that leads up to that an 'ordinance' or a sacrament? Jeffrey R. Holland uses very 'ordinance' like language here:

"Sexual intimacy... [is] symbolic of a union between mortals and deity, between otherwise ordinary and fallible humans uniting for a rare and special moment with God himself and all the powers by which he gives life in this wide universe of ours. In this latter sense, human intimacy is a sacrament, a very special kind of symbol... Indeed, if our definition of sacrament is that act of claiming and sharing and exercising God's own inestimable power, then I know of virtually no other divine privilege so routinely given to us all… than the miraculous and majestic power of transmitting life, the unspeakable, unfathomable, unbroken power of procreation. There are those special moments in your lives when the other, more formal ordinances of the gospel--the sacraments, if you will--allow you to feel the grace and grandeur of God's power…[b]ut I know of nothing so earth-shatteringly powerful and yet so universally and unstintingly given to us as the God-given power available in every one of us from our early teen years on to create a human body, that wonder of all wonders, a genetically and spiritually unique being never seen before in the history of the world and never to be duplicated again in all the ages of eternity--a child, your child--with eyes and ears and fingers and toes and a future of unspeakable grandeur." (bold added for emphasis)(3)

I believe the idea is pretty plain here and can be stated plainly. Birth is an ordinance. It is a less formal but powerful one as Elder Holland clearly states above.

In part one, I wrote of how we are not used to speaking of women holding keys and powers and rights of administration. I believe that this is, partly, the 'keys' being referred to in D&C 132:64. I contend that as men are the ones who confer the gift of the Holy Ghost, it is not a stretch to suggest that women confer the light of Christ in the ordinance of birth. Who better to confer such than those who eternally have a close affinity to the actual light, the part of truth that shines (see parts one and two for clarification)?

Dr. V.H. Cassler sums it all up so well:

"[In the organization of eternity, we find that mothers] escort every soul through the veil to mortal life and full agency... Just as the doorway through the veil into this life is administered and guarded over by the women, the daughters of God, so the doorway through the veil that brings us home is administered and guarded over by the sons of God. And those of God’s children that have accepted the gift of the Second Tree from the hands of the sons of God will pass through that veil and back to that celestial home where they will have the opportunity to be reunited with their Parents once more." (4)

This all can, perhaps, open the eyes of our understanding to what exactly Nephi sees and what he means when he beholds the Vision of the Tree of Life:

"And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.
And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.
And he said unto me: What desirest thou?
And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof...
And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked...
And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.
And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins...
And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh...
And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul." (1 Nephi 11:8-23)

In a classic study, Dr. Daniel C. Peterson points out some interesting details between the woman and the tree. Note how the description surrounding Mary and the Tree of Life are identical. In verse 8, the tree is said to exceedingly white. Mary is also said to be "exceedingly fair and white" (see verse 13). We can surmise from this that women, at least divine women, are to find their meaning in the holy symbol of the tree of life.

Wait a second? I know what you are thinking. "I thought women were represented by the Tree of Knowledge and men were represented by the Tree of Life." It is an interesting dilemma, but one that can be solved.

In part two, I discussed the meaning of the word 'perfect' as it is used in the New Testament. If you remember, in quick summary, it means full initiation into the ordinances of the temple. In beautiful simplicity, the woman holds the keys to man's perfection and the man holds the keys to the woman's perfection. Neither can be made perfect without the other.

A woman veils her face as a symbol of her power. That power takes the form of "the power of godliness" as the man and the woman combine to represent the tree of life through the ordinances of exaltation. Even further, if birth is an ordinance, then it is highly consistent with the idea of the resurrection being a holy priesthood ordinance as well.(5) Man and woman are to serve as one another's 'help meet' (as discussed in part one, the Hebrew means a divine means of help or strength that we come face to face with). Once man and woman stand in their glorified and resurrected state they are then a tree of life. It is this same tree of life that Alma writes will be a seed that can grow to be "a tree springing up unto everlasting life" (see Alma 32:41). It is this same tree that those who "overcometh" will partake of in the end (see Revelation 2:7). It is this same tree that the Psalms compares all the righteous too in Psalms 1:3.

"Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." (see Revelation 22:14)


To merge these three parts together causes my heart to sing and my spirit to rejoice even unto the consuming of my flesh. There is still so much we do not understand, but "God is giving away the spiritual secrets of the universe" (6). We can finally let go of our sometimes over-exaltation of ecclesiastical authority and begin to have our minds open to the actual work of the priesthood. It is the interweaving of keys, powers, authority, and stewardship from men and women. 

Women give the gift of perfection unto their husbands. Women hold keys and power that are in many ways superior to those which men hold. Women perform ordinances for all mankind that literally are accompanied by the same exact symbols that accompanied the Savior during the excruciating atonement he made for all mankind. Women are like Mary in that they are mothers "after the manner of the flesh" (see 1 Nephi 11:18), which hints at "truth eternal,  [which] tells [us we've] a mother there":

"El means God and Elohim means Gods. If one accepts the doctrine that a man and woman must be sealed to each other to attain godhood (D&C 132: 19-20), this plural name for God is what might be expected. It seems to support the idea that God is a sealed couple, El and Elah, who jointly constitute Elohim. As expected, we find a plural verb, na’aseh, coupled with the plural noun Elohim when the Gods say, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: … male and female” (Gen 1: 26-27). In this reading, it is not Adam, nor is it Eve, who is formed in the image of God. It is Adam and Eve as a couple who are the image of the Elohim. The Elohim appear 2,602 times in the Old Testament, so if we understand this plural generally to represent Mother as well as Father in Heaven, we will see that Mother is ubiquitous in scripture. And if we read plurals in this way, Mother also appears 432 times as Adonai, another plural name for God that means Lords." (6)

If you wish for further reading on this topic, I recommend the following:


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