SANDY, Utah — "The Two Trees" was the simple title for Valerie Hudson-Cassler's presentation.
The message she hoped listeners received was more elaborate — "The beauty of the great plan of happiness puts men and women as equal partners in the great journey from our home in the premortal existence through mortality, and then returning back to our heavenly home," Hudson-Cassler said.
Hudson-Cassler was one of the final speakers at 12th Annual Mormon Apologetics Conference at the South Towne Exposition Center on Friday.
Hudson-Cassler, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University, started her remarks by saying she didn't join the Mormon church because she was a feminist, but she remains in the church because she is a feminist.
"I am continually amazed at the revolutionary doctrine of the LDS Church concerning women," said Hudson-Cassler, a convert of 30 years. "Now if we live up to the privileges and the knowledge that doctrine gives us, that is another story. But the doctrine itself is incredibly healing. I am so glad I found my way and that God led me to this church."
Using Powerpoint, scripture references and quotes from general authorities, she retold the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and discussed the important roles each had in opening the door to mortality. She explained why the fall was a blessing and that mankind was been blessed as a result.
The plan works because Adam and Eve stayed together as they left the garden, then working toward partaking of the second tree of eternal life, the one commonly referred to as the Tree of Life in Lehi's dream, she said.
"The most enjoyable part for me is when people get the idea — there are two trees and two people. It is not some strange coincidence, the trees are speaking to the two stewardships of men and women," Hudson-Cassler said. "When I see the little light bulbs sort of pop over people's heads, that is a great, great feeling. To see those two trees as two doors and how the role of woman and the role of men are in a sense represented by those two door ways. There are two gifts, two hearkenings, it's all there. It's putting it together in one piece that tends to make those light bulbs go off."
The plan is made even more beautiful, she said, by the companionship and love that exists in a family.
"That is the bedrock of the gospel. Take that away and the rest is just tinkling cymbals," Hudson-Cassler said. "Gender equality is the brick of Zion. Gender equality is how our heavenly parents live."
After her presentation, the author and her husband were surrounded by people who wanted to visit or get a book signed. Some women expressed emotional gratitude for Hudson-Cassler's remarks. She was just glad to share.
"It's a feeling unlike any other because it makes me feel that I had made promises before this life to be there for them (women) at a certain temporal point when hearing these things would make a difference," she said. "It's an incredible feeling to be the right person at the right time with the right information to help someone."
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