This post is the first in an on-going series to bring awareness to and explanation of various Mormon Feminist theories and theologies.
Former BYU political science professor, Valerie Hudson, gave a talk at the 2010 FAIR Conference entitled, The Two Trees. In her talk, Hudson proposes how motherhood and priesthood are symbolized through the biblical account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and how both are equitable and necessary.
In constructing her theology, Hudson draws upon common LDS beliefs and doctrines:
- the term “God” means an exalted man and an exalted woman
- our bodies are blessings we keep after we pass away
- the Fall of Adam was not a tragedy but an assension
- that Eve did not sin in partaking of the fruit
- Because there was no sin, Eve was not punished.
Two Trees, Two Gifts
In the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we learn of two trees placed before them. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. In the scriptural account, Eve first partakes of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and then gives to Adam to partake. Rather than read this story as one where Eve was beguiled and mistaken, Hudson suggests that Eve was foreordained to partake of the fruit of this First Tree. In offering the fruit to Adam, she ushered him, and subsequently all humankind, into mortality and agency. As Eve gave unto Adam, women give unto all humankind mortality and agency through the ordinances of pregnancy, birth, and lactation. In exchange, Adam and the sons of God may give unto Eve, and unto all humankind, the gift of the Second Tree–the Tree of Life–by exercising priesthood keys and ordinances. Eve and her daughters provide mortality through the First Tree, while Adam and his sons, as the priesthood holders, provide immortality through the Second Tree. Both Trees are essential in the Plan of Salvation.
As Adam hearkened unto Eve in partaking of the fruit of the First Tree, Eve was commanded to hearken unto Adam in order to eventually obtain the fruit of the Second Tree–life eternal and exaltation. Because women’s authority and power is as necessary in the Plan of Salvation as a man’s authority to exercise priesthood ordinances and keys, Hudson suggests a reexamination of the covenant in the endowment for women to hearken unto their husbands.
- Women hearken unto their husbands insofar as it pertains to their role as keeper of the Second Tree (i.e. pertaining to eternal salvation). Leading in family prayer, scripture study, baptism, etc., but not in domestic tasks or life decisions outside of the realm of priesthood keys.
- Just as Adam hearkened first to Eve, all men may have covenanted to hearken unto the daughters of God in bringing about their mortality and agency
- Because all mankind, including Jesus himself, hearken unto the woman to receive a physical body, women hearken unto the man to receive saving ordinances.
- The command for women to hearken unto their husbands is one of equality rather than power
Equality of Relationship
Because men and women exercise separate, though analogous, authority, relationships between husband and wife should be ones of equality. Hudson proclaims that the Restored Gospel is one of patriarchal order (passed from Father to son) rather than patriarchy (men rule over women). Husband and wife should lead the family as coequals–patriarch and matriarch–in their distinctive roles.