There is something we can learn from the first story of the Bible — from our first parents Adam and Eve — that is perfectly relevant to marriages and families today.
But before we get to that story, consider for a moment the overriding importance of marriage relationships. That one relationship has more to do with our happiness than any other, and it also may have more to do with our parenting than any other factor. We like the old cliché that says to men, “The best thing you can do for your kids is to love their mother,” and that says to women, “The best thing you can do for your kids is to love their father.”
There are a lot of wonderful single parents, but those lucky enough to share parenting with a spouse should be aware that prioritizing and putting every effort into “marriaging” is as important as working hard on parenting. And if you wonder which one to work on first, pick marriaging, because good marriage relationships almost always improve parenting and relationships with the children, whereas good parenting does not necessarily help us in our marriaging.
Now, what do Adam and Eve have to do with any of this?
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the story of the Garden of Eden is very different from the interpretation of the rest of the Judeo-Christian world. Mormons see Adam leaving the garden as a necessary part of God’s plan and view Eve as wise enough to realize that partaking of the “forbidden fruit” was the trigger to the mortality that is this earth’s purpose (see "Fall of Adam" under Gospel Topics on lds.org).
And Mormons are not the only ones. An acquaintance of ours, New York Times columnist Bruce Feiler, has written a new book intriguingly called "The First Love Story: Adam, Eve and Us," which is enlightening on many levels.
Feiler also sees Eve as the hero of the story, the one who figured it out and who loves Adam enough to share the fruit with him. He sees the account as a love story with the two protagonists again and again choosing each other and remaining together through every kind of tribulation, sharing their joys and their sorrows, and facing together the burdens of overwhelming parenting crises, including the murder of one of their sons by another.
Speaking for ourselves, the most powerful part of the story is that God makes Adam and Eve equal. In fact, he makes them more than equal, he makes them one. Consider the possibility that the word “rib” in the Genesis account may be a bit mistranslated. The original Hebrew word “tsela” occurs in many other places in the Bible and translates better as “side” than as “rib,” suggesting that Eve and Adam were created side by side as equals — as two individuals who were separate and different but equal, with each needing the other to complete themselves.
Feiler even takes that possibility a step further — and we are paraphrasing and interpreting now — that perhaps Adam, the first human, was initially created as both male and female, and that God then separated humanity into two complementing parts, a man and a woman, who could come together to partner and to procreate and to parent the population of the planet.
Whether or not that was the way it worked, we love the symbolism of “side by side” and of the oneness that it suggests. Rather than one being taken from the other, both come about as equal parts of one whole, needing each other to be complete and to find their full selves.
One reason we like that concept is that “oneness” is a very different — and we think a much better — thing than equality. The idea of equality implies a kind of competition, two people running a race, each trying to win, but crossing the finish line in a dead heat, exactly equal with each other. Who is better? Which role is dominant? Who was made for who? Which set of roles, capacities, abilities and tendencies is more important? Equality becomes a judgment.
But when we think in terms of oneness — of two halves of one whole — each needing and complementing each other and each being incomplete without the other, the idea and the feeling of oneness begins to emerge, and the synergy of the yin and the yang begins to manifest itself. Benjamin Franklin put it this way “A single man is like half a pair of scissors.”
So, what is a message of Adam and Eve that married couples perhaps do not think enough about? Simply that love is the most important thing, and that our natural and original state was a oneness that we should strive to regain.