One of these stories that simply can't be told without the aid of symbolism is the story of creation, especially the creation of our first parents Adam and Eve. What woman hasn't questioned her own worth based on our imperfect understanding of the account of Eve's creation? "Woman was formed as an afterthought to comfort Adam in his loneliness?" we sometimes interpret. "She was made out of his puny little rib?" I can remember asking. A rib...apparently something so unnecessary for Adam that it could be safely removed and cause him no trouble. Why didn't God just make Eve out of the dust of the earth like He did with Adam? (Hint: it is probably significant that the story wasn't told that way)
Stories like these troubled Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others of the Woman's Rights Movement so much that it prompted them to write their own version of the Bible. Lucy Stone, of that same movement, learned Greek and Hebrew to see if she could get at the original meaning and intent behind the words in scripture. She believed God's word was meant to be more favorable to women than what she was always taught by the male clergy.
Thanks to the restored gospel we have so much more insight into the story of Adam and Eve than ever before. But the story of their creation is still symbolically protected; that is, we might only be able to grasp at its meaning through personal revelation. However, we have patterns and clues with which to work.
CLUE: President Spencer W. Kimball taught that Eve was not literally created from Adam's rib. He said, "The story of the rib, of course, is figurative." (The Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood, Ensign, March 1976, pg. 71)
PATTERN: When we look at the creation of the earth we might notice something. The first three days of creation were spent dividing things. Day was divided from night on the first day. On the second day the waters above (atmosphere/sky) were divided from the waters beneath (sea). And on the third day the dry land was separated out, dividing dry land from seas and oceans. Notice how God did not just take a murky little patch of mud and from it form the dry land. There was a distinct division of land and water. I do not believe God literally took the rib of Adam and with it formed woman. I am more apt to believe there was a distinct division of female from male. Division is part of the pattern of creation.
CLUE: We can take a look at the Hebrew word from which "rib" was translated...I am given to understand that this Hebrew word is "tsela." That same word "tsela" is never used to mean "rib" anywhere else in the Bible. In Daniel 7:5 the word "ribs" is translated from a completely different Hebrew root word. The word "tsela" is more appropriately translated "side."
CLUE: Another clue is the yin yang - what is probably a seed of ancient truth planted in the Eastern traditions. It is believed that without these two complementary parts of a whole that same whole would be to no effect, or nullified. That makes me think of the word "void." According to the philosophy of the yin yang we need to have the separation of a whole divided into either opposing or complementary parts to have such things as movement, action and the creation of life.
I WONDER... when the Lord God said, "it is not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18), what if by aloneness He was referring to that state of singleness that existed before "man" was divided into male and female? This same theme is repeated throughout world mythology...duality from oneness; creation by division. Without the division of female from male there would be no life-giving union of marriage, the "at-one-ment," the being "of one flesh," or that sealing/welding unity that we strive for through temple marriage.
This point is brought even further home through Lehi, who spoke of the need for the fall of Adam. Lehi taught his son Jacob about the need for "an opposition in all things" - a reference to the duality that was introduced in the Garden of Eden. Without this duality (think of the two opposite parts of the yin-yang) "righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death..." (2 Nephi 2:11, emphasis mine)
What exactly happened in the Garden of Eden? (Keep in mind that this part of the account in the Garden was probably figurative of the earlier, spiritual creation of "man") Was Eve really formed out of Adam's rib? Or is the account a symbolic description of two eternal complements, male and female, as somehow being created by division of a primordial whole?
CLUE: Bruce R. McConkie said something in his very last General Conference address that struck me as interesting. He said, "If there had been no fall of Adam, by which cometh death, there could have been no atonement of Christ, by which cometh life." I'd always heard that the Atonement was necessary to reverse/undo the effects of the Fall, but I'd never truly realized also that the Fall was necessary so that an Atonement could be made and thereby bring about life. The Fall divided, the Atonement brought the power to bring back together, and the coming back together brings life. It fits perfectly with the creation of Adam and Eve. A division of femaleness and maleness was necessary so that a coming back together of the two could bring life. Just as the Fall denotes division and separation from God, the account of the creation of Adam and Eve (from the clues I have seen) denotes separation and division of man from woman. The Atonement was necessary for the bringing back together of God and man that we know as "eternal life." The coming together of man and woman is necessary to bring forth mortal life.
Woman, in this light, no longer springs from a spare part of the male man in order to exist to ease his loneliness. She is an integral half of the "whole man" that has eternally existed and whose goals and worth should, therefore, be the same as his. Neither of us is complete without the other. In other words, there is no "fulness" without the other. Paul knew this: "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:11)." That would not resonate quite as powerfully if the male man had been spiritually created alone and independent of the female, or if she had been added later. It sounds like the concept of their existence is very much like the yin yang. Male would not be male if there were no female, and vice versa.
Another aspect of the pattern of creation that we are told about in Genesis is that, after the first three days of dividing things in order to lend structure, over the next three days God then filled the structure. He created the sun to fill the daytime and the moon and stars to fill the nighttime. Both the waters beneath (seas) and the firmament above (sky) were filled with life in the form of sea-creatures and fowl. Then the dry land was filled with beasts and, finally, man. In this manner the earth was filled. What was declared at the beginning of creation as "without form, and void" was now given form and filled." (Joseph Smith said the word "void" should read "empty" or "desolate.")
It follows that we can imagine the creation of man, after being separated into male and female, and how they would yet require being filled in order for their creation to be considered complete. As I WONDER about this part of creation... I draw upon phrases such as "fill the measure of their creation," "filled with the Holy Ghost," "filled with joy" and "filled with the love of Christ." And finally, to attain the goal of our mortality, which is to return to the presence of the Father and receive of "His fulness." Perhaps part of the meaning of this "fulness" is the coming back together of those two halves (male and female) in eternally-lasting unifying marriage. Then we will be made "whole" again, "sealed up"; the circle will be complete, perfect and full.
Keep in mind, we have been talking about the spiritual creation of Adam and Eve. Their physical creation is a whole different story...a story for another day.
What say ye?