Reading D&C 107 as a Daughter of Eve
by V.H. Cassler
D&C 107 contains many interesting elements. We learn Noah was ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood when he was but age 10, for example. We learn quite a lot about various levels of hierarchy in the Church, differences between the lesser and greater priesthoods, and the mandates of various offices in the priesthood. We also learn about the privileges of those ordained to these priesthoods, such as communing with the Church of the Firstborn or even Heavenly Father and Jesus.
However, on the surface, 107 appears to be a profoundly “womanless” section of the D&C. Whereas many sections of the D&C seem equally applicable in their exhortations to both women and men, even if women are not explicitly mentioned, it is much harder to say that about section 107. There just seems no place for them at all.
Of course, women are used to being completely overlooked in scripture, and may find this unremarkable. After all, scripture is mostly heavenly men speaking to men on earth about men’s ecclesiastical responsibilities. Perhaps men need more explicit guidance in these things; after all, negotiating hierarchies, which are meant to defuse competition, is tricky business among men. Questions of authority, power, keys, and so forth might need to be settled among men in very clear fashion by God in order for the work of men in the kingdom of God on earth to proceed unhindered.
However, the older I’ve become, the more I see beneath the surface to things implied by womanless scripture that have relevance not only to women, but also to the subject of male-female relations in the family of Adam and Eve. I would like to offer two examples of reading women into D&C 107. After all, if we can read women into this most womanless of sections, that offers hope that we can cease seeing the scriptures as primarily messages from men to men. This would be spiritually helpful for both men and women, as many interpret this not only as suggesting a hierarchy between men and women, but also a separation between church and family. We know from the doctrine of the Church that there is no hierarchy between men and women. We also know that in the hereafter, the family is the form of divine governance, not the church. This suggests that we are likely to suffer from misconceptions if we take seemingly womanless sections such as 107 on a purely superficial level. Let’s look a little deeper, then.
I. D&C 107:27, 32
“And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other . . . And in case that any decision of these quorums is made in unrighteousness, it may be brought before a general assembly of the several quorums . . .”
The first example centers around the form of decision-making in the highest spiritual councils. Astonishingly, it is to be unanimity, that rarest of decision-making rules in human affairs! Consider what President Henry B. Eyring recounted about his first exposure to a meeting of the Brethren when Harold B. Lee was prophet:
This is the strangest conversation I have ever heard. Here are the prophets of God and they are disagreeing with an openness that I had never seen in business. [Then] I saw the most incredible thing. Here are these gifted people with different opinions and suddenly the opinions just began to line up . . . I had seen unity some out of a wonderful, open exchange that I had never seen in all my studies of government of business or anywhere else . . . Then [I] was surprised again. President Lee said, “I think we will bring this matter up again some other time. I sense there is someone in the room who is not yet settled. And he went on to the next item. [At] the end of the meeting, [I] witnessed a member of the Twelve walk past President Lee and say, “Thank you.” This is the true Church of Jesus Christ . . . We can be open. We can be direct. We can talk about differences in a way that you can’t anywhere else, because we are all just looking for the truth.” (Church News, Oct 20, 2007, p. 6)
Every time I read that account, it stops me in my tracks. Look past all the hierarchical language in D&C 107, and at the very highest levels the quorums adhere to a strict rule of unanimity, where even the conflicted feelings of one person can stop a decision from going forward until those are resolved. Indeed, I feel that this same system of decision-making is what exists—must exist–at the highest level of Heaven, also.
The higher and the holier the quorum, the more precious and inviolable the principle of unanimity becomes. And I see women here.
I see them here in two senses. The first and most obvious is that the very highest quorum of all is the couple married in the new and everlasting covenant, who stand as “patriarch and matriarch” to their family (James E. Faust, “The Prophetic Voice,” Ensign, May 1996, p.4). As do Adam and Eve. As do Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. The system of divine governance is the system of family government, and the highest quorum is comprised of the husband and wife, the eternal companions from whom spring all human life (Ezra Taft Benson, “What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children About the Temple,” Ensign 15 (August 1985): 9.)
If so, it can only be that husband and wife are to pattern their decision-making according to the principle of unanimity. Husbands do not have the “final say” in decisions made by the husband-wife governing council. He does not preside over her. “The husband’s patriarchal duty as one who presides in the home is not to rule over others but to ensure that the marriage and the family prosper. . . . The husband is accountable for growth and happiness in his marriage, but this accountability does not give him authority over his wife. Both are in charge” (Randy Keyes, “Counseling Together in Marriage, Ensign, June 2012, p. 14).
There is a second sense in which I read women in these verses. If the purpose of the Church is to bring souls to Christ, then it is an auxiliary or appendage to the family. The Church is a servant of the family, for that is how God’s kingdom is organized in Heaven. This explains why there may not be a church in the hereafter. As Elder Holland has remarked, “There might be wards and stakes in heaven—I don’t know anything about them—or there may well be some other organization that we don’t know much about. What we do know will exist in heaven is families. And most of what has been revealed about our afterlife, our eternal life, our celestial life, focuses on family organization” (Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, LDS Church, February 9, 2008, p. 12).
If the purpose of the Church is to serve the family, and if the co-presidency of the family is the husband-wife eternal companionship operating according to the principle of unanimity, then in an important sense the all-male quorums discussed in D&C 107 are, in some way, overseen by the highest quorum of all—the mixed family government of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles ultimately answer not only to Heavenly Father, but to Heavenly Mother as well. Thus it makes perfect sense that the Church has increasingly sought to include Her representatives on the highest councils of the Church, such as the Priesthood and Family Executive Council (https://www.thechurchnews.com/leaders-and-ministry/2021-08-05/inside-church-headquarters-photo-gallery-summary-points-220912 ).
II. D&C 107:40
“The order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son . . . “
Again, if we are not seeing what lies beneath, we may see this statement as being of import only to men. Ordination to the priesthood was originally meant to be a solely family affair, with no church intercession needed. Adam ordained Seth and many other of his male posterity to the priesthood. In a spiritually healthy society, all it takes are righteous fathers and righteous sons for the priesthood to continue through time.
But we know from sacred sources that this is not all that continues through time. There is a priestesshood that also persists on earth as it does in heaven. And yes, this priestesshood is passed from mother to daughter, as the priesthood is passed from father to son. The priestesshood also involves keys. Remember the parable offered by President Boyd K. Packer back in 1993:
“Once a man received as his inheritance two keys. The first key, he was told, would open a vault which he must protect at all cost. The second key was to a safe within the vault which contained a priceless treasure. He was to open this safe and freely use the precious things which were stored therein . . . The man went alone to the vault. His first key opened the door. He tried to unlock the treasure with the other key, but he could not, for there were two locks on the safe. His key alone would not open it. No matter how he tried, he could not open it. He was puzzled. He had been given the keys. He knew the treasure was rightfully his. He had obeyed instructions, but he could not open the safe. In due time, there came a woman into the vault. She, too, held a key. It was noticeably different from the key he held. Her key fit the other lock. It humbled him to learn that he could not obtain his rightful inheritance without her.”
The power of the priestesshood is symbolized by biological motherhood, but its power is larger than even that exquisite symbol. It is one of the two great powers in the universe. Just as men are apprentices to their Heavenly Father, so women are apprentices to their Heavenly Mother. Women have their own great work to perform in the Plan of Salvation, which proceeds in parallel with–but not under–the work of men in the Plan. There is a great maternal legacy, unseen on the surface, but implied in D&C 107 that parallels the legacy that Adam gave to his sons and grandsons and great-grandsons whom he ordained. Eve, too, passed on the priestesshood and its power to her daughters, and her daughters passed it to her granddaughters, and so forth. The maternal line is as important as the paternal line in the spiritual scheme of things.
With the priestesshood, women are also entitled to the same spiritual privileges as men, as enumerated in D&C 107, such as communing with the Church of the Firstborn, and even with Heavenly Father and Jesus (and, of course, Heavenly Mother). Implied in sacred rites is the idea these privileges may even be somewhat more accessible to women on earth than to men. When reading scriptures as a woman, we must always remember that superficial absence of any mention of women in sacred texts does not translate into absence in fact. We must always read with what we know of Heaven at the forefront of our minds
The fullest, truest expression of Priesthood power comes only with the uniting of priesthood and priestesshood. That uniting takes place in crowning ordinance of mortality: the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. In turn, this co-presidency establishes the family order of government on earth as patterned after that same heavenly order. And that co-presidency, as we have seen, is an equal partnership of husband and wife making decisions according to the principle of unanimity.
In conclusion, then, D&C 107 is not a womanless section, after all. With eyes to see, we read Heavenly Mother and Her daughters woven into its verses. Isn’t that the way it always is? For those who see the bigger, truer picture—which, in spiritual matters, always includes women—there is an esoteric woman-ful message observable within the woman-less message on the surface. My sisters, there is something especially for you in D&C 107. Look for it.
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Valerie M. Hudson is a University Distinguished Professor and holds the George H.W. Bush Chair in the Department of International Affairs at The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, where she directs the Program on Women, Peace, and Security. Hudson was named to the list of Foreign Policy magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers for 2009, and in 2015 was recognized as Distinguished Scholar of Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA/ISA) and awarded an inaugural Andrew Carnegie Fellowship as well as an inaugural Fulbright Distinguished Chair in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Australian National University (2017). Her scholarly books include Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population, Sex and World Peace, The Hillary Doctrine, and The first Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide, as well as a book on religious doctrine entitled Women in Eternity, Women of Zion. Hudson is a co-founder and editorial board member of the online journal of commentary from the Church of Jesus Christ faith community called SquareTwo, the president of the Utah Valley Institute of Cystic Fibrosis, served in the 11th Special Forces US Army Reserve as a wheeled vehicle and power generator mechanic, is a cofounder of the Latter-day Saint National Security Society, and has been a La Leche League Leader for over 30 years. She is married to David Cassler and is the mother of eight children.