Adam–God doctrine

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Adam-God theory)
Jump to: navigation, search

The Adam–God doctrine (or Adam–God theory) was one of several theological doctrines taught in mid-19th century Mormonism by Brigham Young. Although widely rejected by main-stream Mormonism[1] it is part of the modern theology of some forms of Mormon fundamentalism. According to Young, he was taught by Joseph Smith[2] that Adam is "our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do".[3]

According to the doctrine, Adam was once a mortal man who became resurrected and exalted. From another planet[4] Adam brought Eve, one of his wives, with him to the earth, where they became mortal by eating the fruit of the Garden of Eden. After bearing mortal children and establishing the human race, they returned to their heavenly thrones where Adam serves as the god of this world. Later, as Young is generally understood to have taught[citation needed], Adam returned to the earth to become the literal father of Jesus[citation needed].

During the life of Brigham Young, elements of the Adam–God doctrine were taught in LDS church meetings, sung in church hymns, and featured as part of the church's Endowment ceremony. However, the doctrine was startling to Mormons when it was introduced, and it remained controversial. Several other Mormon leaders, the most vocal being Orson Pratt, rejected the doctrine in favor of other theological ideas. Soon after Young's death in 1877, the Adam–God doctrine fell out of favor within mainstream Mormonism, and was replaced by a theology more similar to that of Orson Pratt, as codified by turn-of-the century Mormon theologians James E. Talmage, B. H. Roberts and John A. Widtsoe. Spencer W. Kimball later announced that Mormonism does not and will not support this theory taught by some general authorities, "We hope that you who teach in the various organizations, whether on the campuses or in our chapels, will always teach the orthodox truth. We warn you against the dissemination of doctrines which are not according to the scriptures and which are alleged to have been taught by some of the General Authorities of past generations. Such, for instance, is the Adam-God theory. We denounce that theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine."[5] Mormons accept Adam as "the Ancient of Days and father of all." [6] They do not recognize him as Heavenly Father.


Though Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of Mormonism, never taught the Adam–God doctrine in any of his recorded public statements, he provided several teachings from which Adam–God adherents draw support. For example, Smith taught in an 1839 sermon that Adam was actually the archangel Michael who held the First Presidency in the premortal life.[7] In the same sermon, Smith taught that Adam holds "the keys of the universe",[8] so that it is through his authority that all priesthood "keys" (i.e., the abilities to unlock particular priesthood powers) are revealed from heaven.[9] In 1840, Smith taught that Adam is the one "through whom Christ has been revealed from heaven, and will continue to be revealed from henceforth."[10] And finally, Smith taught in his 1844 King Follett discourse that God was once a man "like one of us".[11]

Brigham Young and other adherents of the Adam–God doctrine claim that Smith was the originator of the doctrine,[12] and that Smith privately taught them the doctrine before his death in 1844.[13] However, the prevailing academic view is that the Adam–God doctrine taught by Young and others was an elaboration of Smith's vague references to Adam's unique role in Mormon doctrine.[14] Although Young is generally credited with originating the doctrine, the original source could also have been Young's counselor Heber C. Kimball.[15]

Description of the doctrine[edit]

The Adam–God doctrine teaches that Adam is the father of both the spirits and physical bodies of all humans born on earth, including Jesus.[16]

Under the Adam–God doctrine, Adam had a number of roles. First, he was a creator god who, with his wife Eve had become gods by living a mortal life, becoming resurrected, and earning their exaltation on another planet.[17] As a god before the creation of the earth, he was known as Michael, or the "Ancient of Days". Adherents teach that Michael sat on his throne with other wives than Eve, and that he was a polygamist. Michael was not the only creator god, however, as he was a member of a council of earth's creator gods, which also included the gods "Elohim" and "Jehovah".[18] Within this counsel, Jehovah and Michael were subordinate to Elohim, and created the earth under the direction of Elohim. Michael was selected by the heads of this counsel of gods to be the Father of this earth.[19]

Second, the doctrine teaches that Michael was the father of the spirits in heaven who are associated with this earth.[20] Through natural or sexual relations with at least Eve and possibly his other wives, Michael had fathered the spirits of spirit offspring in the preexistence.[20] These spirits included Jesus, his firstborn, and Lucifer (the fallen angel who Mormons believe is Satan).[21] Michael became the heavenly "Father", and formed a "Godhead" that included Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Third, the doctrine teaches that Michael came to the earth with one of his wives, where they became known as Adam and Eve,[20] and became the progenitor of the human race and the father of mortal bodies of all his spirit offspring, so that they could progress and achieve godhood like themselves.[22] The names "Adam" and "Eve" are titles that reflect their roles as the parents of humanity. The privilege of peopling the earth was part of Adam and Eve's eternal reward as exalted mortals from their prior planet.[23] To bear mortal children, Adam and Eve had to take on mortal bodies.[20] The bodies of Adam and Eve fell to a mortal state when they ate the fruits of the garden.[24]

Fourth, after Adam's second mortal life, the Adam–God doctrine teaches that Adam returned to his throne and reigned as the immortal God of this earth.[25] He is thus considered to be the Biblical god of Israel.[26]

Finally, the Adam–God doctrine teaches that Michael/Adam was the literal, biological father, with Mary of the mortal body of Jesus.[27]

History of the doctrine[edit]

Brigham Young's 1852 announcement[edit]

Whether or not Smith had secretly taught the doctrine, the first recorded explanation of the doctrine was by Brigham Young, who first taught the Adam–God doctrine at the church's spring General Conference on April 9, 1852. This sermon was recorded stenographically by George D. Watt, Young's private secretary, who was an expert in Pitman shorthand.[28] Watt published the sermon in 1854 in the British periodical Journal of Discourses, in a volume endorsed by Young and the church's First Presidency.[29]

In Watt's transcript of the sermon, Young said he intended to discuss "who it was that begat the Son of the Virgin Mary", a subject which he said "has remained a mystery in this kingdom up to this day".[30] The transcript reads:

"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 non-professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later.[30]

The transcript then reads: "When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who is the Father? He is the first of the human family".[31] Young explained that Adam "was begotten by his Father in heaven" in the same way that Adam begat his own sons and daughters, and that there were "three distinct characters, namely, Eloheim, Yahovah, and Michael".[32] Then, reiterating, he said that "Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the Garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven."[33]

He said, "I could tell you much more about this; but were I to tell you the whole truth, blasphemy would be nothing to it, in the estimation of the superstitious and overrighteous mankind.... Now, let all who may hear these doctrines, pause before they make light of them, or treat them with indifference, for they will prove their salvation or damnation."[34]

Further development by Young[edit]

In a special conference on August 28, 1852, Young explained in greater detail the mechanism by which celestial beings like Adam and Eve could give birth to mortal offspring. According to Young, when a couple first become gods and goddesses, they first begin to create spiritual offspring. Then, they begin creating "mortal tabernacles" in which those spirits can dwell, by going to a newly created world, where they:

"eat and drink of the fruits of the corporal 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" (Young 1852b, p. 13).

This is what Adam and Eve did, Young said, and "Adam is my Father (Young 1852b, p. 13).

On February 19, 1854, he reiterated the doctrine in a sermon.[35] He also reiterated the doctrine at the October 1854 General Conference,[36] in a sermon that was reported to have "held the vast audience as it were spellbound"[37] In the October conference, Young is reported as clarifying that Adam and Eve were "natural father and mother of every spirit that comes to this planet, or that receives tabernacles on this planet, consequently we are brother and sisters, and that Adam was God, our Eternal Father."[38]

When Young discussed the doctrine again in early 1857, he emphasized again that "to become acquainted with our Father and our God" was "one of the first principles of the doctrine of salvation", and that "no man can enjoy or be prepared for eternal life without that knowledge".[39] Nevertheless, he said:

"Whether Adam is the personage that we should consider Our Heavenly Father, or not, is considerable of a mystery to a good many. I do not care for one moment how that is; it is no matter whether we are to consider Him our God, or whether His Father, or his Grandfather, for in either case we are of one species of one family and Jesus Christ is also of our species.".[40]

Young continued... "How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which is revealed to them, and which God revealed to me -- namely that Adam is our father and God...Our Father Adam is the man who stands at the gate and holds the keys of everlasting life and salvation to all his children who have or ever will come upon the earth" (Sermon delivered on June 8, 1873. Printed in the Deseret Weekly News, June 18, 1873.)

Initial reactions to the doctrine[edit]

The reaction within the Mormon community to Young's Adam–God teachings was mixed. While many accepted the doctrine, others regarded it as misguided, or interpreted to adhere to their prior understanding.

Young's initial 1852 announcement of the doctrine was greeted by some as prophetic. For example, the Clerk of the Conference Thomas Bullock recorded that during Young's sermon, "the Holy Ghost rest[ed] upon him with great power".[41] In a session of General Conference the next day, Young's counselor stated his agreement that "the God and Father of Jesus Christ was Adam".[42] Another apostle, Franklin D. Richards, accepted the doctrine "that Adam is our Father and our God" as well, stating in a Conference held in June 1854 that "the Prophet and Apostle Brigham has declared it, and that it is the word of the Lord" (emphasis in original).[43]

Young's first counselor Heber C. Kimball adopted Young's views, and preached on June 29, 1856 that "I have learned by experience that there is but one God that pertains to this people, and He is the God that pertains to this earth—the first man. That first man sent his own Son to redeem the world.".[44]

A number of hymns acknowledging this doctrine were sung in local congregations. One in 1856 entitled "We Believe in Our God", stated:

We believe in our God the great Prince of His race,
The Archangel Michael, the Ancient of Days,
Our own Father Adam, earth's Lord, as is plain,
Who'll counsel and fight for his children again.
We believe in His Son, Jesus Christ..." (Sacred Hymns and Spiritual Songs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints p. 375) (Liverpool, 1856).

Another poem published in 1861, subtitled "A Chorous For The Latter Times", was prefaced by the following scriptural quotation:

"I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened." Daniel 7:9-10

The hymn itself, titled "Sons of Michael", stated:

Sons of Michael, he approaches!
Rise; the Eternal Father greet:
Bow, ye thousands, low before him;
Minister before his feet:
Hail the Patriarch's glad reign,
'Stablished now o'er sea and main!
Sons of Michael, 'tis his chariot
Rolls its burning wheels along!
Raise aloft your voices million
In a torrent power of song:
Hail our Head with music soft!
Raise sweet melodies aloft!
Mother of our generations!
Glorious by Great Michael's side;
Take thy children's adoration;
Endless with thy Lord preside:
Lo, to greet thee now advance
Thousands in the joyous dance!
Raise a chorus, sons of Michael,
Like old Ocean's roaring swell,
Till the mighty acclamation
Through rebounding space doth tell
That the Ancient One doth reign
In his Paradise again!

(Millennial Star 23:15 (13 April 1861) p. 240)

This hymn is still included in the current LDS Church hymnal[45] but its wording has been altered from the original.

Acceptance of the doctrine by mainstream Mormons continued for most of the 19th century. George Q. Cannon, another member of the First Presidency, when asked by his son about the conception of Jesus by Mary, asked "what was to prevent Father Adam from visiting and overshadowing the mother of Jesus." (March 10, 1888, Daily Journal of Abraham H. Cannon) (at Brigham Young University). Again, Cannon could have been referring to Elohim by the title Adam because Elohim was the first man in relation to this earth.

Resistance to the doctrine by Orson Pratt and others[edit]

However, some other prominent members of the church took issue with the doctrine. Most significantly, apostle and philosopher Orson Pratt disagreed with the doctrine, and expressed that disagreement publicly[46] and in private meetings with other apostles.[47] Pratt also published his disagreement in his East-coast publication The Seer.[48]

He stated that on the way to exaltation, one would have to "pass by" and "pay tribute to" various apostles and prophets, then Jesus, and “at length … Father Adam.”[49] He said many would be surprised and humiliated, after passing by Jesus, to find "Father Adam" standing there; however, he said, "those are ideas which do not concern us at present, although it is written in the Bible—'This is eternal life, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.'"[49]

Pratt continued to debate the issue in public forums for months, despite being rebuked privately and publicly by Brigham Young on more than one occasion (Bergera 1980, pp. 13–16), until 1860, when faced with possible disfellowshipment, he agreed to the language of a public confession as negotiated during a series of meeting among the church hierarchy (Bergera 1980).

A less open opposition to the doctrine may have been carried out by prominent Mormon editors Samuel W. Richards and Franklin D. Richards who, according to one researcher, interpreted the idea of Adam being "our God" or "our Father" as meaning merely that Adam, as the first mortal man, stands at the head of the human family. For instance, "the Lord made Moses a god to Pharaoh" (Exodus 7:1) and as Paul was "as Christ Jesus" to the Galatians (4:14). In this way, Adam as our great progenitor, will preside over the human family as "father and God."[50]

Adam–God in Young's later administration[edit]

After the public debates between Brigham Young and Orson Pratt subsided in 1860, Young continued to maintain his belief in the doctrine, but may have been somewhat bitter that the doctrine did not gain immediate acceptance. In 1861, he stated:

"Some years ago, I advanced a doctrine with regard to Adam being our father and God, that will be a curse to many of the Elders of Israel because of their folly. With regard to it they yet grovel in darkness and will. It is one of the most glorious revealments of the economy of heaven, yet the world hold derision. Had I revealed the doctrine of baptism from [sic.] the dead instead Joseph Smith there are men around me who would have ridiculed the idea until dooms day. But they are ignorant and stupid like the dumb ass." [51]

Nevertheless, Young and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles continued to discuss the doctrine in private.[52] In 1873, Young again alluded to the doctrine publicly, and indicated that when Adam came to the earth, he left behind many wives other than Eve at the place from which Adam came; however, he said he was "not disposed to give any farther knowledge concerning…[T]he great and glorious doctrine that pertains to this".[53]

Just before his death, Young took steps to ensure that the Adam–God theory was taught in LDS temples as part of the Endowment ceremony. In 1877, while Young was standardizing the Endowment ceremony for use in the St. George Utah Temple, Young introduced as part of the Endowment the “Lecture at the Veil.” The final draft of the Lecture, made after Young’s death, is kept private in the St. George Temple. There are those who believe that Young’s personal secretary recorded Young’s dictation of the lecture in his personal journal. A portion of that journal entry reads as follows:

"Adam was an immortal being when he came. on this earth he had lived on an earth similar to ours… and had begotten all the spirit that was to come to this earth. and Eve our common Mother who is the mother of all living bore those spirits in the celestial world…. Father Adam’s oldest son (Jesus the Saviour) who is the heir of the family is Father Adams first begotten in the spirit World. who according to the flesh is the only begotten as it is written. In his divinity he having gone back into the spirit World. and come in the spirit [glory] to Mary and she conceived for when Adam and Eve got through with their Work in this earth. they did not lay their bodies down in the dust, but returned to the spirit World from whence they came." (Journal of L. John Nuttall, personal secretary of Brigham Young, February 7, 1877 in BYU Special Collections).

Prefacing the paragraph quoted, L. John Nuttall records in his private journal for Wednesday 7 February 1877 that after serving that day in the St. George Temple and after taking his evening meal, he attended a meeting with President Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Erastus Snow, Brigham Young Jr, I.G. Bleak, and E. M. Greene. (See paragraphs 1A and 1B below.) This meeting was held in President Young’s private winter home in St. George, Utah. During the course of the meeting, President Young gave some teachings which Nuttall later recorded in his personal journal.

It appears that Nuttall recorded President Young’s instructions on the 8th, not on the 7th when they were delivered. The claim that Nuttall did not record President Young’s instructions on the same night they were delivered is made by Fred Collier. Collier notes that, after Nuttall had written the first sentence of paragraph 1B, “[a]t this point Nuttal stopped writing for the ink beginning the next sentence is much lighter and the same as that used for his diary entry of February 8.” Collier notes that Nuttall resumed his entry for February 7 with the word “Works” and continues with the rest of his journal entry as set forth in this section. It would appear that Nuttall wrote the majority of that entry on the following day, the 8th.

Six days before this private evening meeting, President Young had also given some instructions in the St. George Temple. Nuttall, who was serving at that time as the temple’s recorder, wrote down those instructions for safe keeping. (According to Nuttall’s journal entry for 1 February 1877 “President Young was present and gave some instructions not previously given, which I wrote for safe keeping and reference hereafter.”) It is claimed by some that the instructions recorded by Nuttall on 1 February 1877 included what has come to be called “the lecture at the veil” and that Nuttall and John Daniel Thomas McAllister had been specifically requested to record that particular lecture. It is further claimed that the teachings recorded six days later in Nuttall’s journal entry for 7 February 1877 are actually Nuttall’s record of the 1 February 1877 lecture. (E.g., G. Bergera, Conflict in the Quorum 258-260 (2002) Bergera states that President Young “dictated [the lecture] to one of his secretaries” and then sets out the text of Nuttall’s 7 February 1877 journal entry.) Below we will see why this last claim is most likely not true.

Nuttall’s 7 February 1877 journal entry begins as follows:

{1A} In the sealing room, in anointing where Josiah Guile Hardy and his wife Ann Lenston Hardy had their 2 anointings, also Matthew Clayton, also Sarah Johnson Macdonald anointed to A. F. Macdonald. His wife Elizabeth Graham Mc D. as proxy, Ranny Van Cott Macdonald was also anointed to A. F. Mcdonald, W. Woodruff anointing.
{1B} After supper went to President Young's. Present Prest. Young, W. Woodruff, E. Snow, B. Young, Jr., I. G. Bleak, E. M. Greene and myself. Works in the temple being under consideration, Prest. Young was filled with the spirit of God and revelation, and said when we got our washings and anointings under the hands of the Prophet Joseph at Nauvoo we had only one room to work in, with the exception of a little side room or office were we were washed and anointed, had our garments placed upon us and received our new name.

In this paragraph, Nuttall summarizes his activities of the day (performing various anointings in the St. George Temple) before he attended the evening meeting at President Young’s residence. Many writers about this topic do not discuss paragraph 1A or the first half of paragraph 1B.

Because Nuttall also notes that at this private evening meeting several matters or “Works” concerning the temple were considered by those present, many writers have assumed that this journal entry contains the “lecture at the veil.” For example, Theorists Robert Black and Fred Collier both assume that Nuttall’s reference to the “Works” in the temple refers to what Black chooses to call “the sermon before the Veil.” Unfortunately, they give no reasons for this assumption. Similarly, most other writers simply assume, without discussion, that the text of this journal entry represents President Young’s 1 February 1877 lecture delivered in the St. George Temple, despite the fact that Nuttall plainly states in the often omitted introductory sentences of his journal entry that this text was delivered on 7 February 1877 at the residence of President Young.

Many in the LDS community believe Young was misquoted or misunderstood. On January 9, 1897, President Joseph F. Smith said "With reference to Prest. B. Youngs remarks, in a discourse delivered in 1852. with reference to 'Adam being the only God with whom we have to do' &c. I will say:---Prest. Young no doubt expressed his personal opinion or views upon the subject. What he said was not given as a revelation or commandment from the Lord. The Doctrine was never submitted to the Councils of the Priesthood not to the Church for approval or ratification and was never formally or otherwise accepted by the Church. It is therefore in no sense binding upon the Church nor upon the consciences of any of the members thereof...." [54]

Other interpretations[edit]

Adam as the father of Jesus Christ[edit]

Those who accept the Adam–God doctrine believe that it includes the idea that Adam was the father of Jesus Christ through the Virgin Mary, or perhaps God the Father (Elohim), although Young seemed particularly exact not to confuse the identity of Elohim and Adam.

Distinction between Adam and Elohim[edit]

Though Young referred to Adam as the “Father” in his 1852 sermon and thereafter, it is clear that Young did not equate Adam with “Elohim” (whom modern Mormons usually identify as God the Father) for he stated in his sermon that “Eloheim, Yahovah, and Michael” were “three distinct characters”. Moreover, in 1873 he stated:

“We say that Father Adam came here and helped make the earth. Who is he? He is Michael, a great prince, and it was said to him by Eloheim, ‘Go ye and make an earth’…. Adam came here, and then they brought his wife…. Then he said, ‘I want my children who are in the spirit world to come and live here. I once dwelt upon an earth something like this, in a mortal state. I was faithful, I received my crown and exaltation.’” (Deseret News, p. 308 (June 18, 1873)).

Brigham Young's statements in light of Joseph Smith teachings[edit]

Joseph Smith explained that the title Eloheim is actually plural meaning Gods. "I will teach on the plurality of Gods.....Eloheim is from the word Eloi, God, in the singular number; and by adding the word heim it renders it Gods. It read first - "In the beginning the Head of the Gods brought forth the Gods" or as others have translated it "The Head of the Gods called the Gods together...."(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pp. 370–372) In light of this teaching there is no contradiction in Brigham Young's statements. Eloheim or the Gods along with Jehovah and Michael created the earth. The title Elohim could be applied to God the Father or God the Father's Father etc.

Doctrine was unofficial[edit]

There is some controversy as to whether or not Young considered the Adam–God theory to be official church doctrine. At the end of his 1852 sermon, he stated, "Now, let all who may hear these doctrines, pause before they make light of them, or treat them with indifference, for they will prove their salvation or damnation." (1 J.D. 51). Nevertheless, in 1854, after a great deal of controversy concerning the doctrine, Young minimized the importance of the doctrine, stating that the "subject ... does not immediately concern yours or my welfare... I do not pretend to say that the items of doctrine and ideas I shall advance are necessary for the people to know" (October 8, 1854, Historical Department of the Church [HDC]).

After 1854, Young also generally declined requests to elaborate on the doctrine. In 1860, the First Presidency issued a statement, entitled "Instructions to the Saints", regarding various disagreements between Young and apostle Orson Pratt on many doctrinal issues. The statement was meant to clear up any questions concerning the official position of the Church on these various doctrinal disagreements. Contrary to the opinions of many, this official document did not address the Adam–God theory. Instead, concerning Adam the statement said only that, "It is deemed wisest to let that subject remain without further explanation at present." (2 Messages of the First Presidency 222).

Although Brigham Young minimized the importance of this doctrine and declined to elaborate on the doctrine much further, there are those who contend that he continued to assert the doctrine until his death. They point out that in 1870, Young claimed that he had "never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve." (13 J.D. 95.) Unfortunately they fail to also point out that Young did not have the opportunity to review and correct all his sermons concerning Adam. Nevertheless, in 1873, Young lamented, "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).

After the death of Brigham Young, church leaders began to cast the various interpretations of this theory as mere speculation and denied that any particular interpretation was binding on the Church. In 1897, Joseph F. Smith, then a counselor in the First Presidency, wrote a private letter concerning Young's teachings on Adam, stating:

The doctrine was never submitted to the councils of the Priesthood nor to the church for approval or ratification, and was never formally or otherwise accepted by the church. It is therefore in no sense binding upon the Church. Brigham Young's ‘bare mention’ was ‘without indubitable evidence and authority being given of its truth.’ Only the scripture, the ‘accepted word of God,’ is the Church's standard (Letter to A. Saxey, January 7, 1897, HDC).

Adam as metaphor[edit]

Furthermore, the Hebrew word "Adam" has as one of its meanings "Man" and may have been used by Young, as in his 28 December 1845 speech in the Temple, to refer to God the Father (who in the Book of Moses is described as possessing the name-title "Man of Holiness").

Lastly, President Young's following statements seem to identify Heavenly Father as the Parent and Creator of Adam and Eve.

The world may in vain ask the question: "Who are we?" But the Gospel tells us that we are the sons and daughters of that God who we serve. Some say, "We are the children of Adam and Eve." So we are, and they are the children of our Heavenly Father. We are all the children of Adam and Eve, and they and we are the offspring of Him who dwells in the heavens, the highest Intelligence that dwells anywhere that we have any knowledge of. (JD 13:311. See also JD 1:238).
We have a God with ears, eyes, nose, mouth; He can and does speak. He has arms, hands, body, legs and feet; He talks and walks; and we are formed after His likeness. The good book--the Bible, tells us what kind of a character our Heavenly Father is. In the first chapter of Genesis and the 17th verse, speaking of the Lord creating men, it reads as plain as it can read, and He created man in His own image and likeness; and if He created Adam and Eve in His own image, the whole human family are like Him (JD 13:308-309).
We believe in God the Father and in Jesus Christ our elder brother. We believe that God is a person of tabernacle, possessing in an infinitely higher degree all the perfections and qualifications of his mortal children. We believe that he made Adam after his own image and likeness, as Moses testifies; and in this belief we differ from the professedly Christian world, who declare that “His center is everywhere, but his circumference is nowhere.” Their God has no body nor parts; our God possesses a body and parts, and was heard by Adam and Eve Walking in the garden in the cool of the day (JD 10:230-231).

He also identified the personage "Elohiem" (Not Michael) as "God our heavenly Father."

I want to tell you, each and every one of you, that you are well acquainted with God our heavenly Father, or the great Elohiem. You are well acquainted with Him, for these is not a soul of you but what has lived in His house and dwelt with Him year after year; and yet you are seeking to become acquainted with Him, when the fact is, you have merely forgotten what you did know... There is not a person here today but what is a son or a daughter of that Being. In the spirit world their spirits were first begotten and brought forth, and they lived there with their parents for ages before they came here. This, perhaps is hard for many to believe, but it is the greatest nonsense in the world not to believe it. If you do not believe it, cease to call Him Father; and when you pray, pray to some other character. (JD 9:216)

President Heber C. Kimball also distinguished between "our Father and God" and Adam.

We have been taught that our Father and God, from whom we sprang, called and appointed his servants to go and organize an earth, and, among the rest, he said to Adam, “You go along also and help all you can; you are going to inhabit it when it is organized, therefore go and assist in the good work.” It reads in the Scriptures that the Lord did it, but the true rendering is, that the Almighty sent Jehovah and Michael to do the work... Father Adam was instructed to multiply and replenish the earth, to make it beautiful and glorious, to make it, in short, like unto the garden from which the seeds were brought to plant the garden of Eden... God the Father made Adam the Lord of this creation in the beginning... (JD 10:235).

Adam as an exalted being, but not God the Father and not the father of Jesus[edit]

Many Mormon scholars have debated Young's precise meaning. Some think he meant that Adam was an eternal God-like being who was placed on this earth with a celestial body and the literal (physical) father of the human race (because of his parentage and immortal body Adam would thus be a god, and a literal Son of Eloheim born with an immortal body without blood—as opposed to Christ who was born "in the flesh" as a mortal being), who chose to partake of the forbidden fruit, Fall and mortality.

In Mormon theology, Christ is the only begotten Son of God "in the flesh." (5 Brigham Young Addresses, ¶12 (7 October 1866)) But Adam is also considered a Son of God, and therefore a "god" in his own right, due to his actions in premortality and in the Garden of Eden. Because Adam, an immortal being, partook of the forbidden fruit he became the "first flesh" or first mortal on earth, just as God had planned. And as the "first flesh", he is considered the mortal father of all mankind, including Jesus.

Many Latter Day Saints believe this is what Paul meant by his teaching of two Adams—that it took one "god" to bring mortality into the world (Adam), and a God (Christ) to make immortality possible. "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive... And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit" (1 Cor. 15, see also Romans 5:19, Luke 3:38). In essence the second Adam undid what the first Adam did - one was the father of us through mortality, and the second the Father of us all through his atonement and resurrection.

Because his actions are believed to be in accordance with the Will of God in the garden of Eden, Adam is revered in Mormonism rather than scorned for the Fall, as is prevalent today in mainstream Christianity[citation needed]. It has been explained that the fall had to be the result of a transgression of mankind, rather than the result of an act of God, so that mankind could not blame an unjust God for their fallen state.

Two Adams: Adam and Elohim[edit]

To complement the above view, some Mormons also claim that Brigham Young used the name "Adam" for two distinct entities.[55] It is argued that Brigham Young often distinguished between "Father Adam", referring to the God of the Universe, and "Adam" or "our father Adam", referring to Adam, the first mortal man. In many of Brigham Young's controversial discourses, including the alleged "Adam-God" discourse, he attempted to make that distinction that there were two Adams. For example, on 28 December 1845 Brigham Young made an explicit reference to a "more ancient" Adam after whom Michael received the name Adam. "Adam’s name was more ancient than he was. It was the name of a man long before him, who enjoyed the Priesthood." (Intimate Chronicle (William Clayton Journal) 238-239 (28 December 1845)). On 25 April 1855 Brigham Young spoke of Adam (Michael) as having lived for a long time with another Being whom Brigham Young explicitly calls "father Adam." "Well, you see from this that when you and I have been with and lived with the Lord, we shall know his voice. If father Adam were to come into this house and you were to see him go back and forth, would you know him? No, you would [ever] mistrust it was him unless he revealed himself. But by the time that you have lived with him [father Adam] as long as Adam had before he came here, you will know him and recognize his footsteps, but reading the history will not teach you these things."[56]

Official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints[edit]

After Young's death, the Adam–God theory, as popularly understood, was slowly disregarded by most mainstream Mormons in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and was never formally adopted by the denomination as part of the written scriptural canon.

Just before 1900, one of the last teachings on this occurred at a meeting in St George, Utah. The First Presidency had gone there to resolve a dispute being caused by Edward Bunker Sen and others of Bunkerville, Nevada. Church president Wilford Woodruff and counselor George Q. Cannon were there to put the issue to rest. The record states: "Pres Woodruff and Cannon showed...that Adam was an immortal being when he came to this earth and was made the same as all other men and Gods are made." [57] "The doctrine preached and contended for by Father Edward Bunker of Bunkerville was investigated, condemned and Father Bunker set right. Presidents Woodruff and Cannon present." [58]

Beginning around 1892 and forward, the church decided to no longer support the earlier teachings of Adam-God. In a letter written on January 9, 1897, Joseph F. Smith, a member of the First Presidency, said, "With reference to Prest. B. Youngs remarks, in a discourse delivered in 1852. with reference to 'Adam being the only God with whom we have to do' &c. I will say:---Prest. Young no doubt expressed his personal opinion or views upon the subject. What he said was not given as a revelation or commandment from the Lord. The Doctrine was never submitted to the Councils of the Priesthood not to the Church for approval or ratification and was never formally or otherwise accepted by the Church. It is therefore in no sense binding upon the Church nor upon the consciences of any of the members thereof...." [54]

In a private Council meeting held on April 4, 1897, President Woodruff said "Adam is our father and God and no use to discuss it with [the] Josephites or any one else."[59]

After the start of the 20th century the church openly took the position that it no longer needed to be taught.[60]

As early as 1902, apostle Charles W. Penrose stated, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never formulated or adopted any theory concerning the subject treated upon by President Young as to Adam."[61]

Eventually, the fundamentalist understandings of the doctrine was publicly denounced as false.[62] Latter-day Saint president Spencer W. Kimball stated, "We denounce [the Adam–God] theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine."[63][64]

In a private interview, Kimball reportedly clarified: "He said that he did not say that President Brigham Young did not make the statements which are attributed to him, nor did he claim that they were falsely reported. Neither did he say that Brigham Young taught false doctrine. What he did say and what he meant is that the Adam–God theory is false, and the Adam–God theory is that interpretation which is placed on Brigham Young's words by present day apostates and fundamentalists—their understanding of what Brigham Young meant is false."[65]

In 1976, the most common interpretation of the theory was rejected by the LDS Church as false doctrine. However, in branches of Mormon fundamentalism that are no longer affiliated with the LDS Church, but who closely follow the teachings of Brigham Young, the doctrine remains.

In 1980, Latter-day Saint apostle Bruce R. McConkie gave a talk elaborating upon the Adam–God theory:

"There are those who believe or say they believe that Adam is our father and our god, that he is the father of our spirits and our bodies, and that he is the one we worship.
"The devil keeps this heresy alive as a means of obtaining converts to cultism. It is contrary to the whole plan of salvation set forth in the scriptures, and anyone who has read the Book of Moses, and anyone who has received the temple endowment and who yet believes the Adam-God theory does not deserve to be saved.* Those who are so ensnared reject the living prophet and close their ears to the apostles of their day. 'We will follow those who went before,' they say. And having so determined, they soon are ready to enter polygamous relationships that destroy their souls.
"We worship the Father, in the name of the Son, by the power of the Holy Ghost; and Adam is their foremost servant, by whom the peopling of our planet was commenced."[66]

Reaction by Mormon fundamentalists[edit]

In response to some early denunciations of the doctrine, its proponents attributed the LDS Church's disavowal of the doctrine to what they perceived to be a general intellectual or spiritual retreat by the church from doctrines felt to be excessively challenging to their preconceptions. Along with the practice of plural marriage, belief in the Adam–God doctrine became a defining aspect of the Mormon fundamentalism movement.

Apostolic United Brethren[edit]

The Apostolic United Brethren (AUB), a fundamentalist Mormon group, accepts the Adam–God teaching, and their leader Joseph W. Musser wrote a book on it in the 1930s. In the book, Musser contended:

And let us here remind the reader that as long as belief in the Patriarchal order of marriage and other advanced principles of the Gospel was maintained, the minds of the Saints were open and receptive. ... But with the surrender of the glorious principle of Celestial Marriage—a union for time and eternity—came darkness, mental drowsiness, a detour from the Gospel path, until all sorts of speculation pertaining to the plan of Salvation was indulged in."[67]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McConkie (1981, p. 1) (Letter by written by Bruce R. McConkie, a Mormon Apostle, formally rejecting this doctrine)
  2. ^ Minutes of Meeting, at Historian's Office; Great Salt Lake City; 7 P.M. April 4, 1860 "It was Joseph's doctrine that Adam was God &c When in Luke Johnson's"
  3. ^ Young (1852, p. 50) (statement given in the General Conference of the LDS Church on 9 April 1852).
  4. ^ Journal of Discourses 7:285–290.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Roberts (1905, pp. 385–86) (Before the world was formed, the First Presidency "was first given to Adam....He is Michael the Archangel, spoken of in the Scriptures."); Quinn (1998, p. 234) (doctrine of Adam as Michael and as premortal First President cited as a precursor for the Adam–God doctrine).
  8. ^ Roberts (1905, p. 387) ("Adam delivers up his stewardship to Christ, that which was delivered to him as holding the keys of the universe, but retains his standing as head of the human family.").
  9. ^ Quinn (1998, p. 234) (Adam's assignment of the keys of the universe cited as a precursor for the Adam–God doctrine).
  10. ^ Roberts (1908, p. 207); Quinn (1998, p. 234) (Adam-as-mediator doctrine cited as a precursor for the Adam–God doctrine).
  11. ^ Larsen (1978, p. 8 (online ed.)) (God "once was a man like one of us and...God Himself, the Father of us all, once dwelled on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did in the flesh."); Quinn (1998, p. 234) (citing teaching that God is an exalted man as a precursor for the Adam–God doctrine).
  12. ^ Widmer (2000, p. 130); Collier (1999, pp. 228–42) (a Mormon fundamentalist author, arguing that Joseph Smith believed and taught the doctrine); Kraut (1972, pp. 80–97) (same); Christensen (1981, pp. 131–49) (same); Musser (1938, pp. 38, 43–46, 50–57) (same).
  13. ^ Collier (1999, p. 229 fn. 12) (citing minutes of meeting of the Quorum of Twelve, 4 April 1860, in which it was recorded: "It was Joseph's doctrine that Adam was God…God comes to earth and eats and partakes of fruit. Joseph could not reveal what was revealed to him, and if Joseph had it revealed, he was not told to reveal it."); Collier (1999, p. 360) (citing Wilford Woodruff Journal of 4 September 1860, in which George Q. Cannon said "that Adam is our Father [and] is a true doctrine revealed from God to Joseph & Brigham. For this same doctrine is taught in some of the old Jewish records which have never been in print...."); Collier (1999, p. 367) (citing Wilford Woodruff Journal of 16 December 1867, stating that "President Young said Adam was Michael the Archangel, & he was the Father of Jesus Christ & was our God & that Joseph taught this principle."); Collier (1999, p. 233) (citing an 1877 reminiscence of Anson Call, who said he heard Joseph Smith say: "now regarding Adam: He came here from another planet [as] an immortalized being and brought his wife, Eve, with him, and by eating of the fruits of the earth became subject to death and decay and he became of the earth, earthly, was made mortal and subject to death.").
  14. ^ Widmer (2000, p. 130); Quinn (1998, p. 234) ("Young's Adam–God teachings were an expansion of Joseph Smith's sermons in 1839-44"); Bergera (1980, p. 48) (stating that there exists "no reliable evidence contemporary to Smith's lifetime which lends support" to the view that Smith taught the Adam–God doctrine, and that Young "was not above inventing support for beliefs where none existed previously").
  15. ^ Bergera (1980, p. 48) (noting that Orson Pratt and contemporary historian T.B.H. Stenhouse both attributed the doctrine to Kimball).
  16. ^ Bergera (1980, p. 41) (describing the Adam–God doctrine as "that Adam was at once the spiritual as well as the physical father of all persons born on this world, including Jesus Christ").
  17. ^ Bergera (1980, p. 15).
  18. ^ Widmer (2000, pp. 131, 133) (describing Michael as a "lesser God in the Council of Gods".); Kirkland (1984, p. 38) (noting that in Joseph Smith's endowment ceremony, the gods involved in the creation were "Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael", but unlike in modern Mormon theology, this "Jehovah" was not identified as Jesus).
  19. ^ Widmer (2000, p. 131); Kirkland (1984, p. 38) (citing Joseph Smith's statement in Larson (1978, pp. 202–03)).
  20. ^ a b c d Widmer (2000, p. 131).
  21. ^ Widmer (2000, p. 131) (stating that Adam was the spiritual father of "Jehovah and Lucifer"; since the advent of 20th century Mormon theology, mainstream Mormons have identified Jehovah as Jesus).
  22. ^ Widmer (2000, p. 131); Bergera (1980, p. 15).
  23. ^ Bergera (1980, p. 15) (citing Woodruff (1982, 6 May 1855))).
  24. ^ Widmer (2000, p. 133).
  25. ^ Kirkland (1984, p. 39).
  26. ^ Kirkland (1984, pp. 39–41) (noting that in the late 19th century, several Mormon leaders who still adhered to the Adam–God doctrine began to adopt the modern Mormon belief that the Old Testament deity was Jesus).
  27. ^ Widmer (2000, p. 131); Bergera (1980, p. 41) (describing the Adam–God doctrine as "that Adam was at once the spiritual as well as the physical father of all persons born on this world, including Jesus Christ"); Kirkland (1984, p. 39) (Adam "later begot Jesus, his firstborn spirit son, in the flesh").
  28. ^ Watt (1977).
  29. ^ Young, Kimball & Richards (1853).
  30. ^ a b Young (1852, p. 50).
  31. ^ Young (1852, p. 50). The full text from the Journal of Discourses 1:51 reads as follows: "It is true that the earth was organized by three distinct characters, namely, Eloheim, Yahovah, and Michael, these three forming a quorum, as in all heavenly bodies, and in organizing element, perfectly represented in the Deity, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Again, they will try to tell how the divinity of Jesus is joined to his humanity, and exhaust all their mental faculties, and wind up with this profound language, as describing the soul of man, "it is an immaterial substance!" What a learned idea! Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven. Now, let all who may hear these doctrines, pause before they make light of them, or treat them with indifference, for they will prove their salvation or damnation. I have given you a few leading items upon this subject, but a great deal more remains to be told. Now, remember from this time forth, and for ever,that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost."
  32. ^ Young (1852, pp. 50–51).
  33. ^ Young (1852, p. 51). Watt's transcript of the sermon was the only known stenographic recording; however, several other witnesses summarized it in their journals. These recountings vary somewhat in wording. For example, attendee Samuel Hollister Rogers wrote several days later, confirming that Young said that when Adam went to the Garden, he "brought his wife or one of his wives with him", that "Adam was the only God that we would have, and that Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost, but of the Father Adam." 2 Brigham Young Addresses 12; Samuel Hollister Rogers Journal 145. Young's bodyguard Hosea Stout wrote that night in his diary that "President B. Young taught that Adam was the father of Jesus and the only God to us." 2 Diary of Hosea Stout 435 (April 9, 1852). Wilford Woodruff wrote that Young said God went to the Garden of Eden with "one of his wifes", that "Adam is Michael or God And all the God that we have any thing to do with", and "when the VIRGIN MARY was begotton with Child it was By the Father and in no other way ownly as we were begotton." 4 Journal of Wilford Woodruff 127-130, April 9, 1852.
  34. ^ Young (1852, p. 51).
  35. ^ Journal of Wilford Woodruff, February 19, 1854.
  36. ^ Journal of Joseph L. Robinson, October 6, 1854.
  37. ^ Minutes of the General Conference, Deseret News, October 12, 1853.
  38. ^ Journal of Joseph Lee Robinson, October 6, 1854. See also Diary of Thomas D. Brown, October 6, 1854, pp. 87-88 ("There are Lords many and there are Gods many, & the Father of our Spirits is the Father of Jesus Christ: He is the Father of Jesus Christ, Spirit & Body and he is the beginner of the bodies of all men"); John Pulsipher Papers, Mss 1041, p. 35-37, BYU Special Collections ("There are Lords many & Gods many But the God that we have to account to, is the father of our Spirits—Adam.").
  39. ^ JD 4:215
  40. ^ JD 4:217.
  41. ^ Thomas Bullock, Minutes of the LDS General Conference Deseret News, April 17, 1852, page 2
  42. ^ Journal of Wilford Woodruff, April 10, 1852.
  43. ^ Franklin D. Richards, reported in "MInutes of the Special General Council", Millennial Star 16:534, 26 August 1854.
  44. ^ Journal of Discourses 4:1
  45. ^ "Sons of Michael, He Approaches"; hymn 51.
  46. ^ Journal of Thomas Evans Jeremy Sr., September 30, 1852 ("Also he did not believe that Father Adam had flesh and bones, when he came to the garden of Eden, but he and his wife Eve were spirits, and that God formed their bodies out of the dust of the ground, and the (sic) became a living souls. He also said that he believed that Jesus Christ and Adam are brothers in the Spirit, and that Adam is not the God that he is praying unto."). See generally, Bergera 1980.
  47. ^ Journal of William Clayton, October 3, 1852.
  48. ^ Orson Pratt (March, October 1853), "The Pre-Existence of Man", The Seer, 1:3, 158–59:.
  49. ^ a b id.
  50. ^ Stephen E. Robinson, "The Apocalypse of Adam", BYU Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2, p. 131 ("this was the interpretation of Brigham Young's statement advocated in 1853 by Samuel W. Richards, who, as editor of the Millennial Star and President of the Church in the British Isles, first published President Young's initial sermon on the subject (Millennial Star, December 10, 1853).; arguing that Franklin D. Richards, who took Samuel W. Richards place also promoted this interpretation).
  51. ^ Quoted from Manuscript Addresses of Brigham Young. Watt, G.D., transcriber, October 8, 1861, with minor misspellings corrected.
  52. ^ Collier (1999, p. 229 fn. 12) (citing minutes of meeting of the Quorum of Twelve, 4 April 1860, in which it was recorded: "It was Joseph's doctrine that Adam was God…God comes to earth and eats and partakes of fruit. Joseph could not reveal what was revealed to him, and if Joseph had it revealed, he was not told to reveal it."). Collier (1999, p. 360) (citing Wilford Woodruff Journal of 4 September 1860, in which George Q. Cannon said "that Adam is our Father [and] is a true doctrine revealed from God to Joseph & Brigham. For this same doctrine is taught in some of the old Jewish records which have never been in print...."). Collier (1999, p. 367) (citing Wilford Woodruff Journal of 16 December 1867, stating that "President Young said Adam was Michael the Archangel, & he was the Father of Jesus Christ & was our God & that Joseph taught this principle.")
  53. ^ Brigham Young (August 31, 1863), Journal of Discourses 16:160.
  54. ^ a b Letter to the Honorable A. Saxey, Provo, Utah; CHO/d1325/Bk4/fd1.
  55. ^[unreliable source?]
  56. ^ Brigham Young Addresses ¶7 (25 April 1855; quoted in Tholson (1991)
  57. ^ Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, Vol II:740-741, June 11, 1892 (In Typescript pp 43-44). This does not mean that Adam is God the Father, it only means that Adam was created as a perfect and immortal human being. Obviously he cannot be creator and created being at the same time. See also Letter of Bishop Edward Bunker, Jr to Joseph F. Smith, February 9, 1902.
  58. ^ Journal of J. D. T. McAllister, p. 99; BYU, Mor/M270.1/m/v.6, June 11, 1892.
  59. ^ Brigham Young, Jr. Journal, April 4, 1897-February 2, 1899, Vol 30:107; CHO/Ms/f/326, December 16th 1897.
  60. ^ See for example the Proceedings of the First Sunday School Convention, November 28, 1898; Letter to Bishop Edward Bunker, February 27, 1902; Messages of the First Presidency, Vol 4:199-206; Journal of Thomas A. Clawson, 1912-1917, pp 69-70, April 8, 1912; Deseret News, B. H. Roberts, July 23, 1921; Utah Genealogical Magazine, Joseph Fielding Smith, pp 146-151, October 1930; Doctrines of Salvation, Vol 1:18, 76-77, 92, 1954
  61. ^ Charles W. Penrose, "Our Father Adam", Improvement Era (September 1902): 873. GospeLink ( reprinted in Charles W. Penrose, "Our Father Adam", Millennial Star (11 December 1902): 785–90. (this paragraph from p. 789).
  62. ^ Van Hale, "What About the Adam-God Theory?," Mormon Miscellaneous response series #3
  63. ^ Conference Report, p. 115 (October 1–3, 1976)
  64. ^ Spencer W. Kimball, “Our Own Liahona,” Ensign, November 1976, p. 77.
  65. ^ by Elden Watson.
  66. ^ BYU Devotional, June 1, 1980. This is what McConkie said in the audio recording of this sermon. The print version has subsequently been changed to "has no excuse whatever for being led astray by it." Compare PDF text with MP3 audio at 26:48:[1].
  67. ^ Musser, Joseph W. Michael, Our Father and Our God. Salt Lake City: Truth Publishing Company, 1963.


External links[edit]