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The Adam-God doctrine is the belief first espoused by Brigham Young which asserts that Adam, the first man, is Heavenly father. This development in Mormon thought stemmed from the need to answer Joseph Smith's teaching from the King Follet Discourse that God was once a man. Smith died before he could develop or explain this notion, and it was left up to those who came after him to make sense of this new teaching. Young's Adam-God doctrine provided an answer.

According to author David John Buerger, Brigham Young clearly taught that "Adam was the father of the spirits of mankind in addition to being the first procreator of mankind's physical bodies; that Adam came to this earth as a resurrected and exalted being; that he 'fell' to a mortal state of existence in order to procreate mortal bodies; and that Adam was the spiritual and physical father of Jesus Christ."[1]

"While not a doctrine believed by most LDS people today, there can be no doubt that Brigham Young believed and taught that Adam was God the Father, the God of this earth, and the Father of Jesus in the flesh. President Young taught this for over 20 years, claiming it was from the Lord, only to have later Mormon Prophet Spencer W. Kimball declare this false doctrine."[2] Mormon Mark Butler puts it bluntly:

"[T]he historical record does rather more than suggest Brigham Young taught Adam God. He gave a rather extensive discourse on the subject in General Conference on October 8, 1854. This caused a big controversy that kept it from becoming the doctrine of the Church and instead transformed it from official mystery to official denial to official heresy to official mystery again over the past one hundred and fifty years."[3]

McConkie states that if anyone teaches a false doctrine like Adam-God, then he will be damned:

"You talk about teaching false doctrine and being damned. Here is a list of false doctrines that if anyone teaches he will be damned. And there is not one of these that I have ever known to be taught in the Church, but I am giving you the list for a perspective because of what will follow. Teach that God is a Spirit, the sectarian trinity. Teach that salvation comes by grace alone, without works. Teach original guilt, or birth sin, as they express it. Teach infant baptism. Teach predestination. Teach that revelation and gifts and miracles have ceased. Teach the Adam-God theory (that does apply in the Church). Teach that we should practice plural marriage today. Now, any of those are doctrines that damn" (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, p.337).

Stephen E. Robinson summarizes a popular view toward the problem:

"So how do Latter-day Saints deal with the phenomenon? We don't; we simply set it aside. It is an anomaly." [4]


[edit] Evidence that it was taught

[edit] Public statements

[edit] April 9, 1852

"When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is MICHAEL, the Archangel, the ANCIENT OF DAYS! about whom holy men have written and spoken -- He is our FATHER and our GOD, and the only God with whom WE have to do. Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or nonÄprofessing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later. They came here, organized the raw material, and arranged in their order the herbs of the field, the trees, the apple, the peach, the plum, the pear, and every other fruit that is desirable and good for man; the seed was brought from another sphere, and planted in this earth. The thistle, the thorn, the brier, and the obnoxious weed did not appear until after the earth was cursed. When Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit, their bodies became mortal from its effects, and therefore their offspring were mortal." (Brigham Young, Journal of Disources, volume 1, p. 50) [1]

[edit] August 28, 1852

"After men have got their exaltations and their crowns -- have become Gods, even the song of God --are made Kings of kings and Lords of lords, they have the power then of propagating their species in spirit; and that is the first of their operations with regard to organizing a world. Power is then given to them to organize the elements, and then commence the organization of tabernacles. How can they do it? Have they to go to that earth? Yes, an Adam will have to go there, and he cannot do without Eve; he must have Eve to commence the work of generation, and they will go into the garden, and continue to eat and drink of the fruits of the corporeal world, until this grosser matter is diffused sufficiently through their celestial bodies to enable them, according to the established laws, to produce mortal tabernacles for their spiritual children. This is a key for you. The faithful will become Gods, even the sons of God; but this does not overthrow the idea that we have a father. Adam is my father; (this I will explain to you at some future time;) but it does not prove that he is not my father, if I become a God: it does not prove that I have not a father." (Brigham Young. Special Conference -Tabernacle. S.L.C. 28th August 1852. Journal of Discourses, volume 6, p. 275) [2]

[edit] October 8, 1854

[edit] 1873

"How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which I revealed to them, and which God revealed to me—namely that Adam is our Father and God." (Deseret News, June 18, 1873).

[edit] Admissions from Mormons

Bruce McConkie in a letter to Eugene England[5]:

"Yes, President Young did teach that Adam was the father of our spirits, and all the related things that the cultists ascribe to him. This [i.e., Brigham Young's teaching on Adam], however, is not true. He expressed views that are out of harmony with the gospel. But, be it known, Brigham Young also taught accurately and correctly, the status and position of Adam in the eternal scheme of things. What I am saying is, that Brigham Young, contradicted Brigham Young, and the issue becomes one of which Brigham Young we will believe. The answer is we will believe the expressions that accord with the teachings in the Standard Works." (Bruce R. McConkie's letter to Eugene England, p. 6) [3] [4]

Gordon B. Hinckley revealed his own knowledge of this in an interview with the New Yorker:

"'Brigham Young said if you went to Heaven and saw God it would be Adam and Eve. I don't know what he meant by that.' Pointing to a grim-faced portrait of the Lion of the Lord, as Young was called, Hinckley said, 'There he is, right there. I'm not going to worry about what he said about those things.'" [6]

Robert Millet admits that the doctrine was taught, but appeals to the fallability of prophets and denies that it meets what he thinks is the standard for "doctrine":

"If you want to know what constitutes the doctrine of the church... 1) Is this doctrine or idea found within the standard works…2) Is it found in what we would call official declarations or proclamations... 3) Is this a doctrine that is taught by the apostles or the first presidency in general conference or other official church gatherings today. 4) Is this found in the general handbooks of the church or in the approved curriculum material of the church. If it doesn't meet one of those four criteria it is not the doctrine of the church. To be sure Brigham Young and a few others taught that [Adam-God] for a period of years. But by the criteria I have just given you it would not qualify as being the doctrine of the church because frankly when President Young passed away that doctrine passed away with him. It has been formally addressed by Spencer W. Kimball in general conference as not being a doctrine that is sound and true. Now the immediate response I'll get from someone is 'wait a minute, Brigham Young was the president of the church at the time.' That's right. And he preached it in general conference. That is correct. My response to that would be, and this is a little tough sometimes, but I have pretty good authority on this one from President Hinckley, and it goes something like this, 'Latter-day Saints do not believe in either apostolic or prophetic infallibility.'[7] Now what does that mean? It means that while we love and sustain and uphold and revere our church leaders, as Joseph Smith once said, 'I never told you I was perfect.'[8] And he said if anyone should expect perfection from me I should expect it from them. So we believe it is perfectly possible for a person who even in a church position of that sort to say something that is in the long run proven not to be so, not to be true."[9]

[edit] Did the Adam-God doctrine pass away with Brigham Young?

As of April 1895 then-president Wilford Woodruff remained noncommittal about the Adam-God doctrine, "neither condemning the Adam-God doctrine, nor endorsing the Jehovah-Christ doctrine"[10]

"Before I sit down I want to say a word to the Elders of Israel on another subject.... Cease troubling yourselves about who God is; who Adam is, who Christ is, who Jehovah is. For heaven's sake, let these things alone. Why trouble yourselves about these things?... God is God. Christ is Christ. The Holy Ghost is the Holy Ghost. That should be enough for you and me to know. I say this because we are troubled every little while with inquiries from Elders anxious to know who God is, who Christ is, and who Adam is. I say to the Elders of Israel, stop this.... We have had letter after letter from Elders abroad wanting to know concerning these things. Adam is the first man. He was placed in the Garden of Eden, and is our great progenitor. God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are the same yesterday, today, and forever, that should be sufficient for us to know."[11]

Feeling the need to give doctrinal correction, Charles W. Penrose stated the following at the overflow meeting of the April 1915 General Conference:

"The Father told Him to go down and do certain things. He knew how to do them because He had seen the Father do them. He is the great eternal Christ, the Word of the living God, the Son of the Father, the first-born of all the children of God that afterwards tabernacled here on the earth. He was not Adam; Adam was not He: He gave commandments to Adam in the Garden. Adam worshiped the Father, and we worship the Father; we do not worship Adam. Adam is the head of the race, so far as the temporal body is concerned... But we are not to worship Adam: we worship the same being whom Adam worshiped. Adam worshiped the Father in the name of the Son, as you will see if you will take the Pearl of Great Price and read the writings of Moses about him and about Enoch."[12]

At the April 1916 General Conference Charles W. Penrose said:

"There still remains, I can tell by the letters I have alluded to, an idea among some of the people that Adam was and is the Almighty and Eternal God. He is the father of his race, of course, the great patriarch over the human family, and being begotten unto him, he is the father of us in our earthly condition, in our mortality, and stands as the primal patriarch. But God says He put him there... [T]he notion has taken hold of some of our brethren that Adam is the being that we should worship. This has been explained, I think, from this stand several times, but notwithstanding that, peculiar ideas get into people's minds, not always because they are stubborn and willful and wicked or that they desire anything that is wrong, but because it gets into their heads and it is a very hard job to get it out of their heads, like the Scotchman who asked the Lord to keep him in the right path so that he might not go 'wrong, for the Lord knew that if he once got anything into his head, it would be a mighty hard job to get it out of him.' That is the way it is with lots of our folks, not because they are all Scotchmen, however, the idea has obtained in the minds of some of the brethren and we ought to get right concerning it. I am sorry that has not been rectified long ago, because plain answers have been given to brethren and sisters who write and desire to know about it, and yet it still lingers, and contentions arise in regard to it, and there should be no contentions among the Latter-day Saints. It is all right for people to have their own views and express them, if they will do it in a proper spirit; it is all right for people to stand up for what they really believe to be true, but when this spirit of contention comes, then, as we are told in the Book of Mormon, it is of the devil. Now, if Adam, as claimed by some of our brethren, is the being that we should worship, to whom we should pray, who was that person that put Adam at the head of his race? ... I want to draw a clear distinction between these individuals that we may stop this discussion that is going on to no purpose. Who is Adam? Adam is our father, certainly. He is the great father of the race, but we have had fathers that corrected us at home and we gave them reverence. Yes, that is right, but do we worship them and pray to them? Oh, no. Then why should we want to pray to Adam, who away back in the remote centuries was at the head of his race and in that sense is our father? ... God help us to see and understand the truth and to avoid error! And don't let us be too strong in our feelings in regard to our opinions of matters."[13]

The 1916 First Presidency Statement, formally and officially endorsing the Jehovah-Christ doctrine, served as a definitive rejection of the Adam-God doctrine.

At the morning session of the first day of the October 1916 General Conference president Joseph F. Smith made it a point to reject the Adam-God doctrine, and alluded to "a question that is being foolishly asked today":

"We also accept without any question the doctrines we have been taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith and by the Son of God himself, that we pray to God, the Eternal Father, in the name of his only begotten Son, to whom also our father Adam and his posterity have prayed from the beginning. If Latter-day Saints will take these simple statements of fact, given to us in the doctrine of Christ and restored and renewed to us in the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, it would settle many a question that is being foolishly asked today. There are many things yet to be revealed. There are things to be revealed which God will make known in his own due time which we do not now understand. For my own part, there is as much already revealed as it seems possible for me to understand. If I could only grasp all that God has revealed, and comprehend it as I should and apply it in righteousness in my life, I think I should then be prepared for some thing more, if I was still worthy of it. Why, bless your souls, there are people among us that are worrying and fretting over things that have never been revealed to the children of men, and these very people do not even keep the word of wisdom, do not even pay their tithing, and as a rule, the man that does not pay his tithing and that does not keep the word of wisdom is the man that is everlastingly quizzing and asking questions about things he does not understand. If men would pay their tithing, if they would keep the word of wisdom, if they would say their prayers, if they would devote their lives to works of righteousness in the earth and study the gospel for themselves and obey it, they would have less necessity for asking questions, and don't forget the fact that they would know things better than they do."[14]

[edit] Misquoted?

Many claim that Brigham Young was misquoted. This has been so frequently claimed that Rodney Turner, a professor at BYU, felt he should address it in his M.A. thesis:

"It is the writer's opinion that the answer to this question is a categorical no. There is not the slightest evidence from Brigham Young, or any other source, that either his original remarks on April 9, 1852, or any of his subsequent statements were ever misquoted in the official publications of the Church...
"In the light of Brigham Young's attitude toward the errors of others, and in view of the division created by his remarks concerning Adam, it would be stretching one's credulity to the breaking point to believe that he would have remained silent had he been misquoted… Brigham Young would surely have referred to those misquotations at sometime or other—he never did… The complete absence of any real evidence to the contrary obliges the writer to conclude that Brigham Young has not been misquoted in the official publications of the Church..." ("The Position of Adam in Latter-day Saint Scripture and Theology," M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, August, 1953, pages 45-47)

[edit] Was Brigham Young merely "joking"?

Stephen E. Robinson suggests among other possibilities that the Adam-God teaching could have been a joke of Brigham Young[15]. Surely this is an insult to all the fundamentalist off-shoot groups!

[edit] Other notable quotes

[edit] Brigham contradicting himself?

[edit] Christian response

In 1903, Mormon Apostle John W. Taylor stated in conference:

"I remember many years ago, when I was a boy, hearing President Young state in Provo, where I lived, something like this: 'Some people may think I am not leading the Church aright. Now, I will tell you how you may know when I do not lead the Church aright. The Lord will just nip my wind; for He will never allow any man to lead this Church astray.'"[17]

When a person who claims to be the mouthpiece of God teaches something as doctrine for two decades, including from the pulpit of General Conference, which was then condemned by subsequent prophets as damnable heresy, does that qualify a person as being a false prophet? Since Since Mormon leaders have consistently taught that the prophet will never lead the people astray, you need to ask yourself some hard questions.

Speaking of Brigham Young, Mormon apologist Blake Ostler writes, “I personally believe that his theology was a disaster for the most part”. A disaster? Jesus said:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “ (Matthew 7:15-20)

Given that Adam-God and other key doctrines of Brigham Young have been condemned as heresy by subsequent Mormon leaders, isn't it time to conclude that Brigham Young is a “diseased tree”?

[edit] Notes

  1. Dialogue, Vol.15, No.1, p.45.
  3. This comment by Mark Butler was left on the blog post entitled, "Missionary Sophistry?"
  4. Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians?. In the chapter entitled, "The Exclusion by Misrepresentation". Available here:
  6. Interview in "Lives of the Saints", New Yorker, January 2002 Available here.
  7. The source of this quote is unknown. At the October 1992 General Conference Hinckley said, "Now, in conclusion, do you believe this body of men would ever lead this Church astray? Remember whose church this is. It carries the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who stands as its head. His is the power to remove any found remiss in his duty or who is teaching that which is not in harmony with His divine will" (Gordon B. Hinckley, "The Church Is on Course," Ensign, November 1992, p. 53). Thanks to Bill McKeever for providing this quote.
  8. Ironically, the quote actually reads: "I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 368.)
  9. From a dialog between Robert Millet and Greg Johnson held at Mt. Olympus Presbyterian, April 23, 2006.
  11. Millennial Star 57 (6 June 1895): 355-56. 58. Edward Stevenson Diary, 3 March and 28 February 1896, Church Archives.
  12. Charles W. Penrose, Conference Report, April 1915, Overflow Meeting., p. 40-41. Available online here.
  13. Charles W. Penrose, Conference Report, April 1916, p.15. Available online here.
  14. Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, October 1916, p. 6-7. Available online here.
  17. Conference Report, October 1903, Overflow Meeting, p. 97. Thanks to Bill McKeever for providing this quotation.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Non-Mormon

[edit] Mormon

[edit] Gospelink

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