“Wherever,” says Gail Hamilton, “man pays reverence to woman – wherever any man feels the influence of woman purifying, chastening, abashing, strengthening him against temptation, shielding him from evil, ministering to his self respect, medicining his weariness, peopling his solitude, winning him from sordid prizes, enlivening his monotonous days with mirth or fancy or wit, flashing Heaven upon his earth and mellowing it all for spiritual–there is the element for marriage.
“Wherever woman pays reverence to man – wherever any woman rejoices in the strength of any man, feels him to be God’s agent upholding her weakness, confirming her purpose, and crowning her power wherever he reveals himself to her, just, upright, inflexible yet tolerant, merciful, benignant, not unruffled perhaps, but not overcome by the turbulence, and responding to all her gentleness, helping her to hold her soul steadfast in right; to stand firm against the encroachment of frivolity, vanity, impatience, fatigue and discouragement; helping to preserve her good nature, to develop her energy to consolidate her thoughts, to utilize her benevolence to exalt and illuminate her life – there is the essence of marriage.
“Its love is founded on respect and increases self-respect at the very moment of merging self in another. Its love is mutual, equally giving and receiving at every instance of action. There is neither dependence, but interdependence. You cannot weaken its bond; distance cannot sunder them; it is a love which vanquishes the grave and transfigures death itself into life.”
This was my favorite part of the April 1, 1873 edition of the Woman’s Exponent. It is a beautiful description of the relationship a husband and wife should have! Each building the other up, helping one another to fulfill their divinely appointed roles, standing together side-by-side to protect their family from that which would destroy it. This standard has been from the very beginning and is still in force today.
Eve was created as an help meet for Adam (Genesis 2:18). The original purpose and definition of the term “help meet” has changed over the ages, especially with various translations of the bible. Today most tend to think of an “help meet” in a derogatory way, one who is below or of lesser stature. In the original Hebrew text the word translated as “help” in English is the Hebrew word ezer. Ezer is the combination of two roots, one meaning “to be strong,” and the other meaning “to rescue” or “to save.” It is used twenty-one times in the Old Testament. The next word in the Hebrew text that accompanies ezer in Genesis 2: 18 is k’enegdo. It means “equal” and is used only once.1 Placing the meaning of these words into our English translation then, instead of reading, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make an help meet for him” we could say, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a companion of strength who has a saving power and is equal to him.” What a powerful description of Eve’s role! We as women have the same role today.
Although blessed with equal power, husband and wife complement each other in their different roles and responsibilities. In the The Family: A Proclamation to the World it states, “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. . . By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” Can you imagine what a different world we would be living in if every marriage focused on accomplishing those goals?
On pondering how husband and wife stand together to protect their families I recalled these two quotes about their roles.
“Now, fathers, I would remind you of the sacred nature of your calling. You have the power of the priesthood directly from the Lord to protect your home. There will be times when all that stands as a shield between your family and the adversary’s mischief will be that power. You will receive direction from the Lord by way of the gift of the Holy Ghost.The adversary is not actively disturbing our Church meetings—perhaps only occasionally. By and large we are free to assemble as we wish without much disruption. But he and those who follow him are persistent in attacking the home and the family.The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is that a man and his wife and their children might be happy at home, protected by the principles and laws of the gospel, sealed safely in the covenants of the everlasting priesthood.” (Boyd K. Packer, The Power of the Priesthood, April 2010 General Conference)
“I have said lately that women are like lionesses at the gate of the home. Whatever happens in that home and family happens because she cares about it and it matters to her. She guards that gate, and things matter to that family if they matter to her. . . Sisters, you are each like the lioness at the gate. This means that there has to be some prioritizing. I was taught years ago that when our priorities are out of order, we lose power. If we need power and influence to carry out our mission, then our priorities have to be straight.” (Julie B. Beck, BYU Women’s Conference, April 28, 2010)
Both of these talks were given in the April 2010 General Conference one right after the other. I do not think that is a mere coincidence! We cannot put off fulfilling our responsibilities as husband and wife, working together for our families and for each other.
Footnote 1. Strong’s Concordance of the Bible gives aid as the definition of ezer and that it comes from the root word azar. Azar means to surround, protect or aid.
Biblical scholar, R. David Freeman also published “Woman, a Power Equal to a Man,” in the Biblical Archaeology Review 9 back in 1983 in which he points out that the Hebrew word ezer is a combination of two roots: `-z-r, meaning “to rescue, to save,” and g-z-r, meaning “to be strong.”
Ezer appears twenty-one times in the Old Testament—twice in reference to Eve, three times in reference to nations to whom Israel appealed for military support, and sixteen times in reference to God as the helper of Israel. Knowing how ezer is used in other scriptures gives added insight to its meaning in Genesis 2:18.
Another good source of reference for Latter-day Saints is Beverly Campbell’s beautiful and scholarly book, Eve and the Choice Made in Eden.