This video discusses the Adam God Theory, which was briefly taught a few times by Brigham Young. While some possible reasons behind his comments are given, the most important aspects of the video are how this has never been a doctrine of the Church and why this doesn’t make Brigham Young a ‘false prophet’ in any way, shape or form.
So, on this video I’m going to talk about the Adam-God theory, a very confusing set of statements made by Brigham Young along the way. Out of 1500 sermons, he’s explicitly talked about this 6 different times, so not a lot, but the times he did talk about it was very confusing. Most of the time he talked about things the way we understand them today, and so there were a lot of contradictions along the way. But also I want to talk how the critics attack this, which they do heavily, but there are a lot of faulty assumptions that are being made. I want to talk about this in the video. Why we shouldn’t be concerned about it upfront, then wrestle with what was said, addressing the critics, and talking about the concept of infallible prophets, and then also talk about possible understandings or interpretations on what Brigham Young was saying.
First of all, let me start with this quote from BYU professor Stephen Robinson in his book Are Mormons Christians? “Yet another way in which anti-Mormon critics often misrepresent LDS doctrine is in the presentation of anomalies as though they were doctrine of the Church. Anomalies occur in every field of human endeavor, even in science. An anomaly is something unexpected that cannot be explained by the existing laws or theories, but which does not constitute evidence for changing the laws and theories. An anomaly is a glitch… A classic example of an anomaly in the LDS tradition is the so-called ‘Adam-God theory.’ During the latter half of the 19th century, Brigham Young made some remarks about the relationship between Adam and God that the Latter-Day Saints have never been able to understand. The reported statements conflict with LDS teachings before and after Brigham Young, as well as with statements of President Young himself during the same period of time.”
“So how do Latter-Day Saints deal with the phenomenon? We don’t. We simply set it aside. It is an anomaly. On occasion, my colleagues and I at Brigham Young University have tried to figure out what Brigham Young might have actually said and what it might have meant, but the attempts have always failed. The reported statements simply do not compute. We cannot make sense out of them. This is not a matter of believing it or disbelieving it. We simply don’t know what ‘it’ is. If Brigham Young were here, we could ask him what he actually said and what he meant by it, but he’s not here. For the Latter-day Saints, however, the point is moot, since whatever Brigham Young said, true or false, was never presented to the Church for a sustaining vote. It was not then and it is not now doctrine of the Church, and the Church has merely set the phenomenon aside as an anomaly.”
So this is one of the big attacks critics make is that this is what is taught as a doctrine. The video that I did on what constitutes doctrine, it’s called Doctrines, Opinions, Practices, Sorting It All Out. It’s a great video talking about this. One of the quotes in that was from the Church Newsroom website in 2007 clarifying church doctrine. “Not every statement made by a church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four standard works of scripture, official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.”
President Kimball in the October 1976 General Conferences is very clear on this. He said, “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.
Now, specifically, Brigham Young when he introduced this concept of Adam and God being possibly the same person was in an 1852 sermon. Here it is. These are the famous quotes. Now, before I share this. Think of Brigham Young. Brigham Young was a bold, outspoken leader. He was who the Lord needed for the trek west and settling the frontier, but he spoke his mind. He had fiery rhetoric, and so that came with Brigham, and we needed his personality for what he did to establish the kingdom then. But also, like I said, some of these quotes are strong in this talk.
He says, “He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days. He is our Father and our God and the only God with whom we have to do. 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, and when he took a tabernacle it was begotten by his Father in heaven, from the fruits of this earth the first earthly tabernacles were originated by the Father.
“Jesus our elder brother was begotten in the flesh by the same character who was in the Garden of Eden and who was our Father in heaven.” Kind of confusing. “Now, let all who may hear these doctrines pause before they make light of them or treat them with indifference,” and the critics point this out, “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, based upon these remarks and others that he made in public and in private, Brigham Young may have possibly believed these four things, possibly in the sense that there are many statements to the contrary: Adam was the father of the spirits of mankind as well as being the first parent of our physical bodies, Adam and Eve came to this earth as resurrected exalted personages, Adam and Eve fell and became mortal in order to create physical bodies for their spirit children, and fourth Adam was the spiritual and physical father of Jesus Christ. He was God the Father.
Now, in Brigham Young’s next sermon when he mentions this two and a half years later, it was extremely different. Now, some of the comments that he made were quite controversial even among leaders or some press spoke out against it heavily. Listen to the way he says this in this 1854 sermon. He says, “I propose to speak upon a subject that 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 or that they should give themselves any trouble about them whatsoever.” It’s very different than what he said in 1852 about this. “These are my views,” notice my views, “with regard to the gods and eternities. I will tell you what I think about it.” Then he used a very significant term 13 times. He said, “I will tell you what I reckon.” And what did he admit that he was guessing about in his sermon? The very elements of the Adam-God theory that are the most problematic, which are the ones I just shared with you.
I’d like to share this with you and again with critics who point this out that Brigham said he received this by revelation. Well, the LDS researcher Van Hale, I am going to share this. I thought he put it very well and I’ll link this piece that he put out on the Adam-God theory, but he says “No revelation was ever presented by Brigham Young on the Adam-God theory, nor does it appear that he ever claimed to have received a direct revelation on the subject. Opponents would challenge my claim with this quotation from President Young which critics use. He says, ‘How much unbelief exists in the minds of 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.”
Van says “It is not all certain that Brigham Young intended this to be an announcement of a direct revelation. It was his belief that God is the source of all truth in every field. To him, every truth known to any man has come by revelation from God, sometimes directly, but usually indirectly upon such natural principles as observation, study inquiry, and meditation. Since he believed that the Adam-God theory was true, no matter how he arrived at that conclusion, to him was revealed by God. But even if this is to be accepted as a claim of direct revelation, the extent of it seems to be namely that Adam is our Father and God.
“The more specific idea that God the Father became Adam may be Brigham Young’s own expansion or interpretation. There is, however, another possible interpretation that as the Lord made Moses a god to Pharaoh and as Paul,” and that’s in Exodus 7, “and as Paul was as Christ Jesus to the Galatians, Adam, our great progenitor, will preside over the human family as quote, ‘Father and God.'”
“This was the interpretation of Brigham Young’s statement advocated in 1853 by Samuel Richards, who first published Brigham Young’s initial sermon on the subject. His successor, Apostle Franklin D. Richards also advanced this interpretation, as have most of Brigham Young’s successors.”
And then the quote from President Woodruff through a letter that Joseph F. Smith wrote outlined by President Woodruff in 1897. “President Woodruff partially outlined what I should say. I am happy to know that he and I are in court on the subject. In his April 1852 discourse, President Young no doubt expressed his personal opinion or views upon the subject. What he said was not given as revelation or commandment from the Lord. 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 nor upon the consciousness of any of the members thereof.”
Okay, now I’m going to talk a little bit about how people have tried to maybe reconcile or harmonize with the teachings of the Church or just to try and understand maybe where Brigham Young was coming from. Number one, and Van already kind of mentioned this, was Adam as the patriarch of the human family. These different people, John Widtsoe, Joseph Fielding Smith, Charles Penrose, they thought of him as the presiding priesthood holder over all the human family, so in that sense he was our Father and our God.
Moses was called the God to Aaron and also to Pharaoh if you look in Exodus 4:16 or 7:1. Also, Michael, Adam was in D&C 78 verse 16, it says that he was our prince and was given the keys of salvation under the counsel and direction of the Holy One. So that’s one possibility, but it does ignore some of the other comments that Brigham made that seemed quite clear in his intent about Adam creating the spirits. So a little confusing.
Number two, scribal error is a possibility. Remember, there was no modern day recording equipment. There were 1500 sermons Brigham gave. Only six explicitly mentioned the Adam-God theory and only two are actually written. So it could’ve been scribal error.
Three could be, and I really like this one personally, is possibly Adam as a title. So Adam Senior and Adam Junior, and Elden Watson, who was actually the editor of the multi-volume Brigham Young addresses, this was his theory, was that there was a name title. Think of it like I said, God the Father as Adam Senior and then Adam that we think of as Adam Junior. Similar to how Elias was a title meaning forerunner and applied to various people. Now, one problem with this is Brigham never explained his teaching in this way, but he did talk about how Moses used “dark sayings” he called it, where he essentially taught maybe in parables to maybe intentionally veil the exact meaning of something. He used Eve being created through Adam’s rib as an example of that there. This could be a very interesting possibility that can reconcile a lot of things potentially, but that’s one idea.
So number four, Brigham was wrong. This is an approach championed by Van Hale. “Prophets can misunderstand complex doctrines on the subject, especially if there’s little or no revelation on it.” If you look on the screen here, I’m just going to read the highlighted spots here, because one of the challenges people will say, “Well, this means prophets are infallible.” Well, if you look here, what Van’s put together, I think this is very helpful. The question, “Can prophets differ in their views?” He says, “Most opponents who have made an issue of the Adam-God theory insist that true prophets have been infallible.”.
And if you look down, “Many devoted Christians who have examined this point have declared that the Bible in no way supports this assumption. Several subjects on which the authors of the Bible diverge include,” you can look at all the topics there. “No Latter-day Saint Christians who acknowledge these differences within the Bible have felt obligated to reject the biblical prophets because of their differences. Rather, they have proposed what they feel are valid explanations of them. As far as I’m concerned, the same explanations apply equally to Latter-day Saint prophets.” The two things, “prophets are not infallible, and two, their knowledge was fragmentary and incomplete.”
This is a quote from Reverend Dummelow. Quote, “We must not regard the Bible as an absolutely perfect book in which God is himself the author using human hands and brains only as a man might use a typewriter. God used men, not machines, men with like weaknesses and prejudice and passion as ourselves.” Apostle Paul, he claimed that only he knew in part and prophesied in part. If you remember, he talked about seeing through a glass darkly in this life.
So Brigham Young, and I love what Van did say here, it’s kind of just a fascinating little side note. He says, “Brigham Young believed that God the Father took upon himself mortality to begin the human race. God the Son took upon himself mortality to redeem the human race. I can understand how someone who believes the second statement could disbelieve the first one, but I am surprised that those who believe the second one do not hesitate to declare the first one absurd and blasphemous. Why is it any more absurd of blasphemous to believe that God the Father experienced mortality than it is to believe that God the Son did?
“The primary argument of those who do not accept the Adam-God theory is that it’s not scriptural. I concur with this. I do not believe that it can be supported from the Bible. To me, the biblical message is that Adam-God is our God, his Father is our Father.” There’s the quotes there, and this also seems to be the the message in our scripture as well, the Latter-day Saints modern day scripture.
Bruce R. McConkie in a letter to Eugene England in 1981 said, “Yes, President Young did teach that Adam was the father of our spirits. This, 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.
Which leads to the last of the five possibilities, that’s we don’t know the reason. This is really fascinating if you think about all of the times that Brigham spoke about God the Father and about Adam in those those times when he talked about it the way we’re used to talking about it today. There’s a list that was put together by a physics professor at BYU. I’ll link to this, and this is a great summary. Here are 13 points that any of the anti-church sites discussing the Adam-God theory ignore all these without exception as he says here.
If you want to just pause and look at the screen on here. I won’t take the time to read through it. Lots of different examples here that do make you kind of scratch your head and wonder do we have the full record here and does it make sense with some of these other things that Adam taught.
And then this last one, Brigham Young quote from an 1870 sermon, “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.” Sound familiar? That’s what I’m talking about.
The last quote I wanted to share from Fairmormon, and they do a great job on this topic, and I love the way they conclude this. “A final explanation is that Brigham Young believed and taught Adam-God, and what he taught was possibly true, but he didn’t see fit to explain all he knew or didn’t live long enough to develop the teaching into something that could be reconciled with LDS scripture and presented as official doctrine. In this view, we simply don’t know what Brigham Young meant, and modern leaders have warned us about accepting traditional explanations of Adam-God, so we should just leave that belief on the shelf until the Lord sees fit to reveal more about it.
I hope you found the video helpful. Subscribe for more.
Blog Post by Van Hale – What About the Adam God Theory: http://www.lightplanet.com/response/a…
Fairmormon Resources on the Adam God Theory: https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Mo…
BYU Physics Professor paper on Adam God Theory (mentioned in video): https://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/c…
Matt Brown’s Presentation at the 2009 Fairmormon Conference – Brigham Young’s Teachings On Adam: https://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content…
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.