I am looking through the scriptures for references to parents this morning. I know that’s only kind of a successful way to see what the scriptures might teach me about mothering. But, I did have this question come into my mind: What’s the purpose, or benefit, of describing Adam and Eve as “our first parents” rather than “the first people on earth?”
For example, when Alma is teaching his son in Alma chapter 42, he says,
“For behold, after the Lord God sent our first parents forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground, from whence they were taken…”
And Antionah in Alma 12,
“…lest our first parents should enter and partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and live forever?”
And 2 Nephi 2:15
“And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air…”
So seriously, why would they refer to Adam and Eve as the first parents, even “our” first parents, rather than other terms like first man and woman or first people, and so on?
Maybe it’s a Book of Mormon thing:
“yea, even that old serpent that did beguile our first parents…”
“but behold, they were put into the heart of Gadianton by that same being who did entice our first parents to partake of the forbidden fruit—”
2 Nephi 9:9,
“like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents…”
1 Nephi 5:11
“and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents…”
“even that same liar who beguiled our first parents…”
Yep, that’s a Book of Mormon thing. Interesting.
They also refer to Lehi & Sariah as their first parents from Jerusalem, and when learning about the Jaredites, the first parents who came from the tower.
There’s also a bit of debate about how parents’ actions affect children. Lehi asks God that if Laman & Lemuel don’t teach their children about the gospel, that future sins of the kids will be answered on the heads of the parents (2 Nephi 4). Later missionaries to the Lamanites say that the state of the Lamanites is because of the tradition of their fathers (for example, their hatred towards the Nephites). But, of course, they can learn and change and repent. Ideally, this notion would mean that the Lamanites were innocent, while also being in a fallen, God-less state. One of the Nephites-turned-Lamanites argues that this attitude implies that these descendants are guilty, and this is wrong because no child is guilty because of the works of a parent (Alma 30).
So back to my original question, what effect does it have to refer to Adam and Eve as our first parents? Is it because of this question of guilt and tradition? Is it because that is simply how they thought about humanity? They also refer to the first people to leave the tower as parents and the first people to leave Jerusalem as parents. Should this teach us something about how they saw their ancestry — of a male and female, not just of a male? Yet, later accounts of lineage don’t focus on mothers at all (“pure descendant of Nephi,” for example). What can we learn from this language?