The Adam-God Doctrine
The Adam-God doctrine was a natural outgrowth of the doctrine of a plurality of Gods. Although this doctrine was not publicly taught until 1852, Adam was held in high esteem at the very beginning of the Mormon church. Apostle John A. Widtsoe said that "In Joseph Smith's philosophy of existence Adam and Eve were raised to a foremost place among the children of men, second only to the Savior. Their act was to be acclaimed. They were the greatest figures of the ages. The so-called 'fall' became a necessary, honorable act in carrying out the plan of the Almighty" (Joseph Smith—Seeker After Truth, p. 160).
Joseph Fielding Smith also said that "the fall of man came as a blessing in disguise, ... I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin.... it is not always a sin to transgress a law" (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 114-15).
Sterling W. Sill, a member of the First Quorum of Seventy, made the same point in colorful language:
This old sectarian doctrine, built around the idea of man's natural depravity and weakness inherited from Adam, is at the root of innumerable problems among us. Adam was one of the greatest men who has ever lived upon the earth....
Under Christ Adam yet stands at our head.... Adam fell, but he fell in the right direction. He fell toward the goal....
Adam fell, but he fell upward. Jesus says to us, "Come up higher" (Deseret News, Church Section, July 31, 1965, p. 7).
In his thesis, Owen Kendall White, Jr., makes some further observations:
Mormonism rejects the notion that man's condition is best described as "depravity." Nowhere within Mormon theology is its optimism concerning man's natural condition more clearly apparent
than in this denial of the Christian doctrine of original sin.... In contrast with the orthodox Christian notion that the fall resulted in a condition of human depravity, the Mormon view asserts that the fall was a necessary condition for man to realize his ultimate potential.... to the Mormon the fall is a fall upward rather than downward.... Rather than the view of literalistic Christian orthodoxy where Adam is conceived as the cause of human suffering, ... Mormonism holds Adam in very high esteem....
Within Mormon angelology Adam is Michael the Archangel, the Ancient of Days. He assisted in the creation process and will assist in the resurrecting of the dead. He holds positions of importance next to the members of the Godhead. Indeed, Adam was so highly regarded within early Mormonism that Brigham Young elevated him to the status of God ("The Social Psychological Basis of Mormon New-Orthodoxy," Master's thesis, by Owen Kendall White, Jr., University of Utah, June 1967, pp. 101-4).
On April 9, 1852, Brigham Young publicly preached the Adam-God doctrine. In this sermon he declared:
Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! 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 ... 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 (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, pp. 50-51).
This sermon was reprinted in The Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star on November 26, 1853 (vol.15, pp. 769-70). The fact that the Mormon people understood Brigham Young to mean just what he said concerning Adam being God is verified by other articles which appeared in the church's own Millennial Star. On December 10, 1853, an article entitled, "Adam, the Father and God of the Human Family" appeared in the Millennial Star. In this article the following statements are found:
"The above sentiment appeared in Star No.48, a little to the surprise of some of its readers: and while the sentiment may have appeared blasphemous to the Ignorant; it has no doubt
A photograph of the Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, page 50. Brigham Young declares that Adam is "our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do."
given rise to some serious reflections with the more candid and comprehensive mind ... Adam is really God! And why not?" (Millennial Star, vol.15, p. 801).
On page 825 of the same volume the following appeared: "It has been said that Adam is the God and Father of the human family, and persons are perhaps in fear and great trouble of mind, lest they have to acknowledge him as such in some future day. For our part we would much rather acknowledge Adam to be our Father, than hunt for another, and take up with the devil."
In volume 17, page 195, of the Millennial Star this statement was made: "...every Knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that he is the God of the whole earth. Then will the words of the Prophet Brigham, when speaking of Adam, be fully realized—'He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.' "
Elder James A. Little confessed: "I believe in the principle of obedience; and if I am told that Adam is our Father and our God, I just believe it" (Millennial Star, vol. 16, p. 530).
Brigham Young's Adam-God doctrine met with opposition both within and without the church. In October 1857 he stated: "Some have grumbled because I believe our God to be so near to us as Father Adam. There are many who know that doctrine to be true" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p. 331).
That the Adam-God doctrine was causing dissension in the Mormon church is evident from the articles that appeared in the Millennial Star. One article admitted that some of the officers had not met in council for three years because of the Adam-God doctrine:
...some of the officers have not met in council for three years. They are lacking faith on one principle—the last "cat that was let out of the bag." Polygamy has been got over pretty well, that cloud has vanished away, but they are troubled about Adam being our Father and God. There is a very intelligent person investigating our principles, ... and can get along very well with everything else but the last "cat," and as soon as he can see that clearly, he will become a "Mormon." I instructed him to write to Liverpool upon it (Millennial Star, vol. 16, p. 482).
An answer to this problem appeared on page 534 of the same volume: "Concerning the item of doctrine alluded to by Elder Caffall and others, viz., that Adam is our Father and God, I have to say do not trouble yourselves, neither let the Saints be troubled about this matter.... If, as Elder Caffall remarked, there are those who are waiting at the door of the Church for the objection to be removed, tell such, the Prophet and Apostle Brigham
Young has declared it, and that it is the word of the Lord" (Millennial Star, vol. 16, p. 534).
In his journal and autobiography, Joseph Lee Robinson commented that he feared Apostle Orson Pratt would apostatize because of his opposition to the Adam-God doctrine:
"Oct. 6th attend Conference, a very interesting Conference, for at this meeting President Brigham Young said thus, that Adam and Eve, ware [sic] the names of the first man and woman, of every Earth that was ever organized, and that Adam and Eve were the natural father and mother of every spirit that comes to this planet, or that receives, tabernacles on this plannet [sic], concequently [sic] we are brothers and sisters, and that Adam was, God our Eternal Father, this as Brother Heber remarked was letting the cat out of the Bag, and it came to pass, I believed every word ... our Beloved Brother Orson Prat[t] told me he did not believe it. He said he could prove by the Scriptures it was not correct. I felt very sorry to hear professor, Orson Prat[t] say that, I feared lest he should apostetize [sic] ..." (Journal of Joseph Lee Robinson, Microfilm copy in LDS Genealogical Library).
According to the "Minutes of the School of the Prophets," held in Provo, Utah, the Apostle Lyman as well as Orson Pratt opposed Brigham Young's Adam-God doctrine. Under the date of June 8, 1868, we read:
The doctrine preached by Prest Young for a few years back wherein he says that Adam is our God—the God we worship—that most of the people believe this ... Amasa Lyman stumbled on this he did not believe it—he did not believe in the atonement of Jesus—Orson Pratt has also told the Prest that he does not believe it—this is not the way to act—we should not suffer ourselves to entertain one doubt—we are not accountable on points of Doctrine if the President makes a statement it is not our prerogative to dispute it ("Minutes of the School of the Prophets," Provo, Utah, 1868-71, p. 38 of typed copy at Utah State Historical Society).
In spite of the opposition, Brigham Young continued to teach the Adam-God doctrine. In 1873, just a few years before his death, he declared:
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.... Our Father Adam helped to make this earth, ... he and his companions came here. He brought one of his wives with him.... Our Father Adam is the man who stands at the gate and
A photograph of the Deseret News, June 18, 1873. Brigham Young claimed that "God revealed" to him that "Adam is our Father and God."
holds the keys of everlasting life and salvation to all his children who have or who ever will come upon the earth.... We say that Father Adam came here and helped to made the earth. Who is he? He is Michael.... He was the first man on the earth, and its framer and maker. He, with the help of his brethren, brought it into existence. 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. I have the privilege of extending my work, and to its increase there will be no end. I want my children that were born to me in the spirit world to come here and take tabernacles of flesh, that their spirits may have a house, a tabernacle or a dwelling place as mine has, and where is the mystery?" (Deseret News, June 18, 1873).
There are four important points that should be noted concerning the Adam-God doctrine.
Not Created of the Dust of This Earth
In a sermon delivered in 1852, Brigham Young stated: "When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body... . He helped to make and organize this world" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 50). Brigham Young also taught: "You believe Adam was made of the dust of this earth. This I do not believe, though it is supposed that it is so written in the Bible; ... I have publicly declared that I do not believe that portion of the Bible as the Christian world do [sic]," (vol. 2, p. 6). "Adam was made from the dust of an earth, but not from the dust of this earth. He was made as you and I are made, and no person was ever made upon any other principle" (vol. 3, p. 319).
Rodney Turner, of Brigham Young University, adds the following comment concerning this matter: "Apparently President Young means that Adam was provided with a physical body through the normal pattern of conception, embryonic development, and birth, since that is [the] method by which 'you and I are made'" (The Position of Adam in Latter-day Saint Scripture and Theology," M.A. thesis, BYU, August 1953, p. 20).
The Only God with Whom We Have to Do
Brigham Young stated: "He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 50). In the book Women of Mormondom, page 196, we read: "When Brigham Young proclaimed to the nations that Adam was our Father and God, and Eve, his partner, the Mother
of a world—both in a mortal and celestial sense—he made the most important revelation ever oracled to the race since the days of Adam himself." The reader will also remember that we quoted this statement from the "Minutes of the School of the Prophets": "...Prest Young ... says that Adam is our God—the God we worship—that most of the people believe this...."
The Father of Our Spirits
Brigham Young also taught that Adam was the Father of our spirits. In 1873 he stated: "... Father Adam came here and helped make the earth.... Then he said, 'I want my children who are in the spirit world to come and live here.... I want my children that were born to me in the spirit world to come here and take tabernacles of flesh ..." (Deseret News, June 18, 1873). Joseph Lee Robinson explained that Brigham Young taught that "Adam and Eve were the natural father and mother of every spirit that comes to this plannet [sic], or that receives, tabernacles on this planet, ... and that Adam was God our Eternal Father...." On page 180 of Women of Mormondom we are told that "Adam and Eve are the names of the fathers and mothers of worlds.... These were father and mother of a world of spirits who had been born to them in heaven."
The Father of Jesus Christ
Since Brigham Young was teaching that Adam was the father of our spirits, it was very easy to teach that Adam was also the father of Jesus. In a discourse delivered April 9, 1852, Brigham Young declared:
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 ... 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 over-righteous of mankind. However, I have told you the truth as far as I have gone.... 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 (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, pp. 50-51).
John A. Widtsoe, who recently served as an Apostle, denied that Brigham Young taught Adam was the Father of Christ. He claimed that only "Enemies of the Church or stupid people" could reach such a conclusion. It is very easy to show that
Apostle Widtsoe's statement is false, for the evidence shows that many good Mormons in Utah held to this belief. For instance, Hosea Stout, who was a prominent Mormon, recorded the following in his diary under the date of April 9, 1852: "Another meeting this evening. President B. Young taught that Adam was the father of Jesus and the only God to us. That he came to this world in a resurected [sic] body &C more hereafter" (On the Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout, University of Utah Press, 1964, vol. 2, p. 435).
In the Women of Mormondom we read: "Adam is our Father and God. He is the God of the earth. So says Brigham Young.... He is the father of our elder brother, Jesus Christ—the father of him who shall also come as Messiah to reign. He is the father of the spirits as well as the tabernacles of the sons and daughters of man. Adam!" (Women of Mormondom, p. 179).
Heber C. Kimball, first counselor to Brigham Young, claimed 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 ..." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 1).
In 1856 the Mormons published a hymnal which contained a hymn entitled, "We Believe In Our God." This hymn plainly taught that Adam was the father of Christ:
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, who, in love
To his brethren and sisters, came down from above
To die to redeem them from death, and to teach
To mortals and spirits the Gospel we preach.
(Sacred Hymns and Spiritual Songs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Liverpool, 1856, p. 375, as quoted in "The Position of Adam in Latter-day Saint Scripture and Theology," p. 16.)
George Q. Cannon, a member of the First Presidency, seemed to believe that Adam was the father of Christ. His son recorded the following in his journal:
...Father [George Q. Cannon]... asked me what I understood concerning Mary conceiving the Savior; and as I found no answer, he asked what was to prevent Father Adam from visiting and overshadowing the mother of Jesus. "Then," said I, "He must have been a resurrected Being." "Yes," said he, "and
though Christ is said to have been the first fruits of them that slept, yet the Savior said he did nothing but what He had seen His Father do, for He had power to lay down His life and take it up again. Adam, though made of dust, was made, as Pres. Young said, of the dust of another planet than this." I was very much instructed by the conversation and this day's services ("Daily Journal of Abraham H. Cannon," March 10, 1888, vol.. 10, pp. 178-79; original at Brigham Young University).
Under the date of June 23, 1889, Abraham Cannon recorded that George Q. Cannon taught that "Jesus Christ is Jehovah" and "Adam is His Father and our God" (vol. 11, p. 39).
The information given above certainly shows that Brigham Young did teach that Jesus was the son of Adam, and it was not just "Enemies of the Church, or stupid people" who believed that he taught this doctrine. The most devastating evidence, however, comes from the "Journal of L. John Nuttall," who was "a special secretary to President Young." On Wednesday, February 7, 1877, L. John Nuttall recorded in his journal that Brigham Young taught that Jesus was the son of Adam:
Wed 7... Prest Young was filled with the spirit of God & revelation & said, ... This is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent... Adam was an immortal being when he came on this earth ... 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 Savior) 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 to Mary and she conceived ...(" Journal of L. John Nuttall," vol. 1, pp. 18-21, taken from a typed copy at Brigham Young University).
When the Mormon church was accused of teaching that "Adam is God ... and that Jesus is his son," the Mormon historian B. H. Roberts replied: "As a matter of fact, the 'Mormon' Church does not teach that doctrine. A few men in the 'Mormon' Church have held such views: and several of them quite prominent in the councils of the Church, ... Brigham Young and others may have taught that doctrine ..." (Deseret News, July 23, 1921).
Brigham Young's Adam-God doctrine has brought much confusion into the Mormon church. Wilford Woodruff, the fourth president of the church, once stated:
Cease troubling yourselves about who God is; who Adam is, who Christ is, who Jehovah is. For heaven's sake, let these things alone ... 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 (Millennial Star, vol. 57, pp. 355-56).
In all fairness to the Mormon leaders it should be stated that they no longer teach the Adam-God doctrine, even though some members of the church still believe it. Anyone who is caught teaching this doctrine is liable to be excommunicated. This, however, shows the inconsistency of the Mormon church, for they say that Brigham Young was a prophet, and at the same time they will excommunicate a person for believing in his teachings.
Even before the turn of the century the Mormon leaders seemed to be ashamed of the Adam-God doctrine. On November 28, 1898, George Q. Cannon, a member of the First Presidency, stated that Brigham Young had taught some things concerning Adam and Jesus, but they felt it was not "wise to advocate these matters":
I was stopped yesterday afternoon by a young man, who wanted to know whether Adam was the Father of our Lord and Savior—whether he was the being we worshipped, etc. Now, we can get ourselves very easily puzzled, if we choose to do so, by speculating upon doctrines and principles of this character. The Lord has said through His Prophet that there are two personages in the Godhead. That ought to be sufficient for us at the present time.... Concerning the doctrine in regard to Adam and the Savior, the Prophet Brigham Young taught some things concerning that; but the First Presidency and the twelve do not think it wise to advocate these matters (Proceedings of the First Sunday School Convention of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, 1899, as quoted in "The Position of Adam in Latter-day Saint Scripture and Theology," pp. 69-70).
Even though the Mormon leaders were trying to put down Brigham Young's Adam-God doctrine, many Mormons continued to believe it. Rodney Turner cites Charles W. Penrose, a member of the First Presidency, as making this statement in 1916: "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" ("The Position of Adam in Latter-day Saint Scripture and Theology," p. 81). On the same page of his thesis, Rodney Turner cites Penrose as saying:
"...the notion has taken hold of some of our brethren that Adam is the being that we should worship."
In a letter dated May 11, 1966, Apostle LeGrand Richards wrote: "Your third question: 'Is the Adam God Doctrine, as taught in the Journal of Discourses, true?' Answer: No." Some of the Mormon leaders now claim that Brigham Young was misquoted. This claim is completely untrue. Rodney Turner, who now teaches religion at Brigham Young University, feels that it is impossible to maintain such a position:
Was Brigham Young Misquoted? 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.... 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, BYU, pp. 45-47).
On page 58 of the same thesis, Rodney Turner declares: "A careful, detached study of his available statements, as found in the official publications of the Church, will admit of no other conclusion than that the identification of Adam with God the Father by President Brigham Young is an irrefutable fact."