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mofem theology: valerie hudson and the two trees

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.

Two Hearkenings

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.

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4 Responses to “mofem theology: valerie hudson and the two trees”

  1. L. Kate

    this is probably the most convincing argument for the motherhood-priesthood association, and I’ve heard plenty. Issue is, women practice this priesthood exclusively in their 20s-30s (40s?) childbearing years, and only after being assisted by the male fertilization. Meanwhile, in the Church boys practice their priesthood from 12 onward and are able to do so without women. Sure, they say the priesthood is “fuller” with a “righteous woman by his side” – but that is something that is more percieved than an actual fact. Unmarried men are not seen as priesthood-handicapped, where a pregnant woman without a man involved.. well we only accept that in one scenario don’t we.

    Is there an actual example of men NEEDING women to activate their priesthood? Or of women practicing their priesthood equivalent without the male role?

    Reply
  2. Abel

    Amy,
    I started off reading this wondering if it would be a one-sided, sexist based fodder statement – more because of this site to which it is posted that for any other reason. Instead, I was moved by its carefully crafted, and spiritually enlightening symbolism and message. I can’t say that it contains the entire truth – especially having only read it once, and not having had the time to pray about it yet, but there are great truths to be found in it, and I enjoyed the spirit I felt while reading it. This is so close to how I have felt regarding the equality of gifts between a man and a woman, sealed in the house of the Lord and keeping their covenants. They both have their own unique, personal, and tailor suited gifts, and neither one is greater than the other. This gave me a bit more to add to my previous understanding, and I truly felt the spirit through most of it. I completely disagree with L. Kate above however. Talk about missing the mark on that one. I have no idea how her statement came from your story. It would appear that some people can twist beautiful, spiritual things into anything they want them to mean. I just wanted to say that this article you shared meant something to me, and I appreciate the link to FAIR. I didn’t even know it existed before today. Thank you, and I hope and pray that you find the righteous acceptance and appreciation that you seek, if that is what you are seeking of course. Have a great week. ^_^

    Reply
  3. marcus

    O.K. So here is another scenario. Eve hearkened unto the serpent and then Adam hearkened unto Eve. No one, however hearkened unto God. In some way, Adam at least was obeying God’s command to cleave unto his wife. So God reverses the order – As Adam will hearken unto God, Eve will hearken unto him. Starting with God as the source (not Satan) and working from man to woman, whereas the first chain of events went from Satan to woman to man. There is a chiasmus to this. Satan-Eve-Man-God-Man-Eve-Satan. You might ask how does Satan finally hearken to woman. Remember the promise to Eve that her “seed” would crush his head – who is Jesus Christ, the great high priest of the Priesthood. Without woman there is no man (or woman for that matter) to hold the priesthood and its saving ordinances. Begs the question – which came first the chicken or the egg. Also, as I look at the chiastic nature of these events, we could add God as the beginning and the end. Certainly, our return to his presence depends on the woman’s seed which crushes Satan.

    Reply
  4. parenting adhd children

    Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon every day.
    It’s always useful to read content from other writers and practice something from their web sites.

    Reply

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