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Book of Moses Essays
#66: Moses Witnesses the Fall: (Moses 4)
The Challenges and Blessings of Celestial Marriage
(Moses 4:22–26)

This series is cross-posted with the permission of Book of Mormon Central
from their website at Pearl of Great Price Central


Eugène Delaplanche, 1836-1890: Eve, After Transgression, 1869

Figure 1. Eugène Delaplanche, 1836-1890: Eve, After Transgression, 1869.

Moses 4:22 records God’s words to Eve:

I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

The Suffering of Adam and Eve

In the poignant sculpture by Delaplanche pictured here, the vacant, tearless eyes and agonized posture of the solitary slumped figure bespeak the depth of Eve’s utter hopelessness immediately after her transgression. While scripture describes the results of transgression differently for Adam than for Eve, the ultimate effect of these consequences is essentially the same: a mortal life replete with the opposing experiences of good and evil, pleasure and pain.[1]

Adam and Eve’s common lot is reflected in the carefully chosen Hebrew words used to represent their suffering. As Umberto Cassuto observes:

Apparently, we have here a play upon words with reference to es [= tree]: it was with respect to es that the man and woman sinned, and it was with esebb [= pain] and issabbon [= toil, suffering] that they were punished. … The very fact that Scripture does not employ here the usual phrases found in connection with the suffering of childbirth … proves that it was some specific intention. … that these words were selected.”[2]

The same Hebrew term used to describe Adam and Eve’s sorrow recurs when Noah is “pained that the Lord had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at the heart.”[3]

The Blessings of Adam and Eve

Without the Fall, Adam and Eve would have not borne children.[4] Now Eve is told that as part of the repeated blessings of motherhood she must also undergo the recurrent pain incident to each childbirth. However, using the words of the apostle Paul, John Sailhamer reminds us that these birth pangs:

… are not merely a reminder of the … Fall; they are as well a sign of impending joy: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”[5]

By this we understand that not only the crushing of the serpent’s head, but also the blessings of spiritual rebirth for all mankind will come through the “seed of the woman,” namely Jesus Christ.

Should “Rule Over” Be Translated as “Rule With”?

After the Fall, God told Eve: “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”[6] This phrase has been the subject of much misunderstanding. In an honest effort to make sense of the troubling English translation of “rule over” in the King James Version, some have suggested that it should be read instead as “rule with.”[7] Unfortunately, the “rule with” translation does not hold up under scholarly scrutiny. For example, in her BYU Masters Thesis, RoseAnn Benson argued conclusively that the “rule with” translation should be abandoned. In every occurrence of the underlying Hebrew she examined, the phrase is best understood as “rule over,” as when a king rules over his subjects.[8]

How Then Should this Phrase Be Understood?

A closer look at this verse at the verse in context makes it evident that the Lord is not telling the couple how they should treat each other, but rather describing a tragic tendency in mortal marriages that they must avoid. This conclusion will be argued in more detail below.

When the Lord tells Eve “thy desire shall be to thy husband,” the Hebrew word for “desire” does not refer to a romantic attraction, but rather a contentious wish to “overcome or defeat another.”[9] In addition, the “rule” of the husband depicted in the Hebrew version of the phrase is not benevolent but controlling.[10] The sense of this terrible situation is well captured in a modern Bible translation: “You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.”[11] As further evidence for this interpretation, note that the same Hebrew terms for “desire” and “rule” that describe a relationship of competition and rancor will later reappear in God’s warning to Cain: “Satan desireth to have thee; … And thou shalt rule over him.”[12]

Bible scholar Victor Hamilton sees God’s words as a warning to Adam and Eve. Unless they are careful, the conditions of a fallen world may lead them “to break the relationship of equality and turn it into a relationship of servitude and domination. … Far from being a reign of co-equals over the remainder of God’s creation, the relationship [would then become] a fierce dispute, with each party trying to rule the other. The two who once reigned as one [would] attempt to rule each other.”[13]

This is a war that can never be “won,” since God’s intent was not for one party to dominate the other. The Hebrew word for “help meet”[14] means “a helper or strength corresponding to him” — or, in other words, a completing counterpart. “This term cannot be taken as demeaning because Hebrew ‘ezer, employed here to describe the intended role of the woman, is often used of God in His relation to man.”[15] President Howard W. Hunter said: “The Lord intended that the wife be … a companion equal and necessary in full partnership.”[16] Thus, in Moses 2, both man and woman are created in the image of God, and in Moses 3, they are described as corresponding strengths.[17]

Westermann observes further that there is more intended here than merely “help at work” or “the begetting of descendants”: “The man is created by God in such a way that he needs the help of a partner; hence mutual help is an essential part of human existence.”[18] Targum Yerushalmi captures this sense when it refers to the woman as the man’s “yoke-fellow.”[19]

After the Fall, God warned Adam and Eve — and us — of the sad consequences that would result if they turned their powers away from their originally intended, mutually fortifying purpose. Such a turning away would result in an equal match of opposing wills, each spouse contending for domination over the other.

A Christian phrasing of Adam’s punishment describes how such a struggle would spread beyond the couple to their children: “your family will be forever contending against you.”[20] Summarizing the unfortunate new state of affairs, Latter-day Saint author Lynn A. McKinlay observed that “the Fall of man and the continual source of degeneration in this world have resulted in the estrangement of parents from God, from each other, and from their children.”[21]

Like the blessing of childbirth, the experience of married love holds out a promise of happiness, yet its practice, in a fallen world, will be frequently mixed with sorrow “till God make men of some other mettle than earth.”[22] Unfortunately, as Joseph Smith observed, “[t]here has been no change in the constitution of man since he fell.”[23] “Sad experience” has shown “that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, [to] immediately exercise unrighteous dominion,”[24] a tendency which modern prophets have repeatedly condemned.[25]

Marriage As a School of Love

It might well be said that the continued application of the healing and sealing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ within and between families is “the essence of eternal life.”[26] Indeed, Martin Luther aptly described God’s purpose for marriage when he called it a “school of love.”[27] As couples and families learn to live together in intimacy, affection, and oneness, they experience the finest kind of preparation for eternal life that mortality can provide.[28]

President Spencer W. Kimball emphasized that in celestial marriage the “man and the wife are equals” and that the designation of “authority” to man “does not mean that he is superior.”[29] He explained that the role of the husband is to “preside” rather than to “rule”[30] and stressed the need for women to be “contributing and full” partners in marriage.[31] Going further, Elder Dallin H. Oaks further described the difference between presiding in Church organizations and in the home. As summarized by Elder Bruce C. Hafen:[32]

[Elder Oaks] quoted the “equal partners” principle from the Family Proclamation and then said this concept does not apply to a ward organization. The Relief Society president and her ward bishop, for example, are not equal partners in administering the affairs of the ward; however, that same Relief Society president is an equal partner with her husband in administering the affairs of their home. …

Elder Oaks also compared Adam and Eve’s relationship to each other with their relationship to the Lord. He said that “the word “obey” is used in describing our covenants with the Lord and [the word] “counsel” is used in expressing [a married couple’s] relationship with one another.” …

The point is a simple one: Marriage is a partnership of equals whose most essential roles both revolve around their families.

Hugh Nibley[33] observes further:

There is no patriarchy or matriarchy in the Garden; the two supervise each other. Adam is given no arbitrary power; Eve is to heed him only insofar as he obeys their Father — and who decides that? She must keep check on him as much as he does on her. It is, if you will, a system of checks and balances in which each party is as distinct and independent in its sphere as are the departments of government under the Constitution — and just as dependent on each other.

Indeed, Catherine Thomas observes that a primary objective of mortality seems to have been precisely “to foster the conditions in which the man and the woman may achieve interdependence,” thus affording us an opportunity to rise to “the challenge of not only perfecting ourselves individually but also perfecting ourselves in relationships. … Relationships were given to us to develop us in love.”[34]

The notion of the “interdependence” of husband and wife is perhaps best expressed through the scriptural concept of “cleaving”: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.”[35] The underlying meaning of the idea of two distinct entities becoming attached to one another while preserving their separate identities becomes clear, “if it is noted that the verb d-v-k [cleave, cling] is often used to describe human yearning for and devotion to God.”[36] Likewise “forsake” is often used in a biblical context to describe Israel’s departure from her covenant with the Lord.[37] Noting that Adam and Eve “symbolically represent all men and women,” Jolene Edmunds Rockwood observes:[38]

Male and female were created from one flesh; as separate individuals who are now companions to one another, they strive to again become as one in their relationship. Note that it is the man who leaves his parents and cleaves unto his wife.[39] In view of the patriarchal society in which this passage was written, one would instead expect to hear the reverse: a woman leaves her parents and cleaves unto her husband. Three important insights are, then, encapsulated in this summary statement: the woman is an independent and equal creation, marriage does not make her the possession of the man, and achieving oneness should be the common goal of both.

Of the great blessings that await all generations of women who have suffered, Elder James E. Talmage has written:

When the frailties and imperfections of mortality are left behind, in the glorified state of the blessed hereafter, husband and wife will administer in their respective stations, seeing and understanding alike, and cooperating to the full in the government of their family kingdom. Then shall woman be recompensed in rich measure for all the injustice that womanhood has endured in mortality. Then shall woman reign by Divine right, a queen in the resplendent realm of her glorified state, even as exalted man shall stand, priest and king unto the Most High God.[40]


Through partaking of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve have begun to know good and evil—in that respect becoming “as gods.”[41] While the serpent had painted a picture of a jealous God, the Lord’s actions after the Fall bear out His intent to further bless the couple. Now that the couple has made their free choice of mortality as the way forward, God will enable them to gain further experience by sending them out of the Garden under conditions that He had expressly designed to meet that purpose.[42] He will provide a Savior for them, and will make the Gospel with its covenants and ordinances available so that, through their faithfulness, they might be sanctified and return to His presence.[43]

Common misunderstandings of the phrase “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”[44] are in need of firm and prompt correction. It is a serious mistake to read the reference to the woman’s “desire” and the man’s “rule” prescriptively as a biblical marriage model to be followed, instead of descriptively as a tragic condition to be reversed. In other words, the verse is describing broken marriage relationships that would become a common tendency in the fallen world, with each spouse contending to “rule over” the other. It’s obvious that God did not intend Adam and Eve’s marriage to work that way. Instead, as the Proclamation on the Family explains, “fathers and mothers” — both then and now — “are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”[45]

Though pride and selfishness will threaten the desired state of oneness between husband and wife, the commandment for them to “cleave” to one another is never abrogated. The healing of the broken harmony between man and woman, joined in celestial marriage, is an essential prerequisite for their eventual joint exaltation.

This essay is adapted from Jeffrey M. Bradshaw. Temple Themes in the Book of Moses. 2014 update ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Publishing, 2014. English: ; Spanish:, pp. 130–134.


Notes on Figures

Figure 1. Photograph DSC00996, 28 June 2006, © Jeffrey M. Bradshaw.



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Arnold, Bill T. Genesis. New Cambridge Bible Commentary, ed. Ben Witherington, III. New York City, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Benson, Roseann. "The Marriage of Adam and Eve: An Ancient Covenant." Masters Thesis, Brigham Young University, 2003.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014.

Brodie, Thomas L. Genesis as Dialogue: A Literary, Historical, and Theological Commentary. Oxford, England: Oxford University Pres, 2001.

Cassuto, Umberto. 1944. A Commentary on the Book of Genesis. Vol. 1: From Adam to Noah. Translated by Israel Abrahams. 1st English ed. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1998.

Dennis, Lane T., Wayne Grudem, J. I. Packer, C. John Collins, Thomas R. Schreiner, and Justin Taylor. English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008.

England, Eugene. Why the Church is as True as the Gospel. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1986.

Etheridge, J. W., ed. The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch, with the Fragments of the Jerusalem Targum from the Chaldee. 2 vols. London, England: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1862, 1865. Reprint, Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2005. (accessed August 10, 2007).

Friedman, Richard Elliott, ed. Commentary on the Torah. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001.

Hafen, Bruce C. Covenant Hearts: Marriage and the Joy of Human Love. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005.

Hafen, Bruce C., and Marie K. Hafen. "Crossing thresholds and becoming equal partners." Ensign 37, August 2007, 24-29.

Hamilton, Victor P. The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1990.

Herbert, Máire, and Martin McNamara, eds. Irish Biblical Apocrypha: Selected Texts in Translation. Edinburgh, Scotland: T & T Clark, 1989.

Heschel, Abraham Joshua. 1962, 1965, 1995. Heavenly Torah as Refracted Through the Generations. 3 in 1 vols. Translated by Gordon Tucker. New York City, NY: Continuum International, 2007.

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Hinckley, Gordon B. "Women of the Church." Ensign 26, November 1996, 67-70.

———. Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 1997.

———. 1998. "Sunday Morning Session, 4 October 1998." In Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley. 2 vols. Vol. 1: 1995-1999, 206-13. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005.

———. 2002. "Priesthood Session, 6 April 2002." In Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley. 2 vols. Vol. 2: 2000-2004, 124-31. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005.

———. 2004. "Sunday Morning Session, 3 October 2004." In Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley. 2 vols. Vol. 2: 2000-2004, 257-63. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005.

Holland, Jeffrey R. 1988. Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2001.

Hudson, Valerie M., and Alma Don Sorenson. "Response to Professor Thomas." In Mormonism in Dialogue with Contemporary Christian Theologies, edited by Donald W. Musser and David L. Paulsen, 323-38. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2007.

Hunter, Howard W. The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1997.

Kimball, Spencer W. "The blessings and responsibilities of womanhood." Ensign 6, March 1976, 70-73. (accessed September 7, 2020).

———. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1982.

McKinlay, Lynn A. "Patriarchal order of the Priesthood." In The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, edited by Daniel H. Ludlow. 4 vols. Vol. 3, 1067. New York City, NY: Macmillan, 1992. (accessed November 26).

The NET Bible. In New English Translation Bible, Biblical Studies Foundation. (accessed August 12, 2017).

Nibley, Hugh W. 1980. "Patriarchy and matriarchy." In Old Testament and Related Studies, edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum and Don E. Norton. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 1, 87-113. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1986.

Rockwood, Jolene Edmunds. "Eve’s role in the creation and the fall from mortality." In Women and the Power Within, edited by Dawn Hall Anderson and Marie Cornwall, 49-62. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1991.

Sailhamer, John H. "Genesis." In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, 1-284. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990.

Sarna, Nahum M., ed. Genesis. The JPS Torah Commentary, ed. Nahum M. Sarna. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

Shakespeare, William. ca. 1598. "Much Ado about Nothing." In The Riverside Shakespeare, edited by G. Blakemore Evans, 327-64. Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin Company, 1974.

Smith, Joseph, Jr. 1938. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1969.

Talmage, James E. "The eternity of sex." Young Woman’s Journal 25, October 1914, 600-04. (accessed 27 September 2020).

Thomas, M. Catherine. "Women, priesthood, and the at-one-ment." In Spiritual Lightening: How the Power of the Gospel Can Enlighten Minds and Lighten Burdens, edited by M. Catherine Thomas, 47-58. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1996.

Wenham, Gordon J., ed. Genesis 1-15. Word Biblical Commentary 1: Nelson Reference and Electronic, 1987.

Westermann, Claus, ed. 1974. Genesis 1-11: A Continental Commentary 1st ed. Translated by John J. Scullion. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994.

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[1] H. W. Nibley, Patriarchy, pp. 89-90.
[2] U. Cassuto, Adam to Noah, p. 165.
[3] Moses 8:25. In another link with the story of Adam and Eve, note that in Noah’s naming (Moses 8:9), “the hope is held out that he will in some way alleviate the pain of toiling the ground” (T. D. Alexander, From Eden, p. 27).
[4] Moses 5:11; 2 Nephi 2:23.
[5] J. H. Sailhamer, Genesis, p. 26. See Romans 8:22; cf. Matthew 24:8.
[6] Moses 4:22; Genesis 3:16.
[7] For example, V. M. Hudson et al., Response, p. 332 n. 62.
[8] R. Benson, Marriage., pp. 72-73.
[9] J. H. Sailhamer, Genesis, p. 58; cf. B. T. Arnold, Genesis 2009, pp. 70-71. See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 266, 374.
[10] Contrast the implausible suggestion that “rule over” be translated “rule with” (V. M. Hudson et al., Response, p. 332 n. 62; R. Benson, Marriage., pp. 72-73). After having seriously considered this suggestion, RoseAnn Benson eventually abandons the effort to make the Hebrew text agree with the idea of a happy partnership between husband and wife in the fallen world, in the realization that every other occurrence the term is translated “rule over,” the most frequent exemplar being the case of a king ruling over his subjects (ibid., pp. 72-73).
[11] NET Bible, NET Bible, Genesis 3:22. Compare the translation of the English Standard Version: “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you” (L. T. Dennis et al., ESV).
[12] Moses 5:23. The same Hebrew terms for “desire” and “rule” that describe the tendency for marriage relationships in a fallen world to deteriorate into a state of competition and rancor reappear in God’s warning to Cain: “Satan desireth to have thee… And thou shalt rule over him” (Moses 5:23). The meaning is clear: Unless Cain is willing to make his escape from the bands of wickedness, he will be eternally locked together with Satan in the utterly destructive embrace of unrighteous dominion (see Doctrine and Covenants 121:39, 2 Nephi 4:18, and Alma 5:7, 10). Additionally, Cassuto notes that the Hebrew term used for the verb in “bruise his heel” (Moses 4:21) comes from a stem that is cognate with “desire” as it is used in the same verse (U. Cassuto, Adam to Noah, p. 161), thus evoking the mortal danger Cain will court if he capitulates to Satan’s craving to wound him, and also perhaps suggesting that he must act quickly to crush his opponent. This latter idea is consistent with Hamilton’s translation of the final clause of Moses 5:23: “you, you are to master it!” (V. P. Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, p. 228).
[13] V. P. Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, p. 202; cf. H. W. Nibley, Patriarchy; G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, pp. 81-82.
[14] Moses 3:18.
[15] N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 21.
[16] H. W. Hunter, Teachings 1997, November 1994, p. 152.
[17] R. E. Friedman, Commentary, p. 19. Brodie contrasts the positive picture of Woman at her creation with the highly negative Greek account of Hesiod (T. L. Brodie, Dialogue, p. 141).
[18] C. Westermann, Genesis 1-11, p. 227. Compare Ecclesiastes 4:10.
[19] J. W. Etheridge, Onkelos.
[20] M. Herbert et al., Irish Apocrypha, p. 6.
[21] L. A. McKinlay, Patriarchal Order.
[22] W. Shakespeare, Much Ado, 2:1:59, p. 338.
[23] J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 22 January 1834, p. 60. Brigham Young is reported to have said that although “there was no law in heaven or on earth that would compel a woman to stay with a man either in time or eternity,” “all those evil traditions and afflictions or passions that haunt the mind in this life will all be done away in the resurrection. You will find then that any man who gets a glory and exaltation will be so beautiful that any woman will be willing to have him, if it was right… [A]ll those evils will vanish to which we are subject in this life” (W. Woodruff, Waiting, 2 June 1857, p. 194, spelling and punctuation modernized).
[24] Doctrine and Covenants 121:39.
[25] E.g., G. B. Hinckley, Teachings (1997), November 1991 and 29 January 1984, pp. 1-2, 322-323, 326; G. B. Hinckley, Women of the Church, pp. 100-101; G. B. Hinckley, 4 October 1998, pp. 211-212; G. B. Hinckley, 6 April 2002, pp. 127-131; G. B. Hinckley, 3 October 2004, pp. 260-263.

Anticipating the great blessings that await all generations of women who have suffered abuse and mistreatment, Elder James E. Talmage promises that women will be “recompensed in rich measure for all the injustice that womanhood has endured in mortality” (J. E. Talmage, Eternity of Sex).

[26] L. A. McKinlay, Patriarchal Order.
[27] Cited in E. England, Church, p. 4.
[28] J. R. Holland, Souls.
[29] S. W. Kimball, Teachings (1982), 26 February 1977, p. 315.
[30] S. W. Kimball, Blessings, p. 72.
[31] S. W. Kimball, Teachings (1982), May 1976, p. 315. The qualifier “in love and righteousness” is added to the word “preside” in the The Family: A Proclamation to the World (G. B. Hinckley et al., The family: A proclamation to the world. Proclamation of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve presented at the General Relief Society Meeting, September 23, 1995).
[32] B. C. Hafen, Covenant, pp. 175-176, 177.
[33] H. W. Nibley, Patriarchy, p. 93.
[34] M. C. Thomas, Women, pp. 54, 55, 56. Elder Bruce C. Hafen also discusses the importance of husbands and wives becoming interdependent, equal partners in marriage, as contrasted with the ideas of independence or dependence. See B. C. Hafen, Covenant, p. 174; B. C. Hafen et al., Crossing, p. 26.
[35] Moses 3:24. See additional discussion in J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 184-185.
[36] N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 23. See also A. J. Heschel, Heavenly Torah, pp. 190-193.
[37] E.g., Jeremiah 1:6. See V. P. Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, p. 181.
[38] J. E. Rockwood, Eve’s Role, pp. 59-60.
[39] Genesis 2:24.
[40] J. E. Talmage, Eternity of Sex.
[41] See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, p. 253.
[42] Moses 4:22-25; Doctrine and Covenants 122:7.
[43] E.g., Moses 4:27; 5:5-9; 6:64-65.
[44] Moses 4:22.
[45] G. B. Hinckley et al., The family: A proclamation to the world. Proclamation of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve presented at the General Relief Society Meeting, September 23, 1995.

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