"Adam-God" - Brigham Young's Theory or Divine Doctrine?
By Bill McKeever
On April 9, 1852, Brigham Young, the second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), rose to the pulpit of the Salt Lake Tabernacle and announced, "It is my intention to preach several discourses this evening, but how many I do not know." During his speech President Young explained that he was going to speak on the character of the "well-beloved Son of God, upon which subject the Elders of Israel have conflicting views."
At that particular moment it is doubtful that any of the people present realized that their prophet was about to give one of the most controversial sermons, not only of his life, but perhaps in the entire history of his church. Following a long one-paragraph introduction, Young proclaimed that Adam was Michael the Archangel, and that he was also the Ancient of Days. Young went on to conclude that Adam was, in fact, "our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do." In this message, Mormonism's second president explained that Eve was only one of Adam's wives and that Jesus Christ "was not begotten by the Holy Ghost." Instead, Young said, He "was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven."
For years Mormon authorities have attempted to downplay the severity of Young's statements. It is not uncommon to hear Latter-day Saints excuse Young's conclusions by saying he was either misunderstood or even misquoted. This thought has been echoed by numerous Latter-day Saints who feel uncomfortable admitting their prophet may have really believed such teachings. However, there is plenty of evidence available to prove neither was the case. Young was speaking under the authority of a Mormon Prophet and was not just making a public statement regarding his personal opinions.
Doctrine or Theory?
LDS Presidents Joseph Fielding Smith and Spencer W. Kimball attributed their predecessor's ideas to being merely a "theory." In his book Doctrines of Salvation, Smith discounted Young's message by saying, "in all probability the sermon was erroneously transcribed!" (1:96).
During a Priesthood session of conference in October of 1976, Spencer W. Kimball labeled Brigham's teaching "false doctrine." He stated, "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 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" (Church News, 10/9/76). In light of all the evidence to the contrary, to say the Adam-God teaching was only alleged to have been taught causes tremendous credibility problems on the part of Kimball.
It would be difficult for the Mormon to prove Young was only theorizing by the simple fact that Young, in this sermon, clearly claims his teachings to be "doctrine." In his conference address on April 9th, Young closed this topic with the following warning, "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." A fair question to ask would be, "Since Joseph Fielding Smith and Spencer W. Kimball did not believe what Young had to say on this matter, does that mean Smith and Kimball are damned?" If Young was truly a prophet of God, would this mean all Latter-day Saints who reject the Adam-God teaching are also damned?
Certainly Brigham was not misunderstood since his first counselor, Heber C. Kimball, declared on June 29, 1856,
"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, to redeem his brethren; his life was taken, his blood shed, that our sins might be remitted. That Son called twelve men and ordained them to be Apostles, and when he departed the keys of the kingdom were deposited with three of those twelve, viz.: Peter, James, and John" (Journal of Discourses 4:1).
It is evident that the one sent to redeem the world is none other than Jesus Christ. If we are to accept Kimball's statement that the "one God" who sent him was in fact, "the first man," we have no choice but to conclude it was Adam who sent Jesus to redeem the world.
In his journal dated February 19, 1854, Wilford Woodruff, who would later become Mormonism's fourth president, wrote that Brigham Young "said that our God was Father Adam. He was the Father of the Savior Jesus Christ -- Our God was no more or less than ADAM, Michael the Arkangel (sic)."
History shows that Orson Pratt's understanding of what Brigham was teaching actually caused a severe rift in LDS leadership. Pratt strongly disagreed with Young's doctrine and made it clear he had "no confidence in it" (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1980, pg. 30).
Mormons must insist Brigham Young was a true prophet if they wish to demonstrate an unbroken chain of succession in their leadership. To do so, however, is utterly inconsistent. For example, in his "Seven Deadly Heresies" speech of 1980, LDS Apostle Bruce McConkie taught "anyone who has received the temple endowment and who yet believes the Adam-God theory does not deserve to be saved." Using this rationale, a Mormon can't even be sure Brigham was a saved individual. Young received his temple endowment, and Young believed Adam was God.
In a letter dated February 19, 1981, McConkie again expounded this thought when he wrote, "...people who teach false doctrine in the fundamental and basic things will lose their souls. The nature and kind of being that God is, is one of these fundamentals" (pg. 7). Again, if the Adam-God doctrine is false, as leaders such as Kimball and McConkie agree, then we must conclude that Brigham's soul is lost.
Just Brigham's Opinion?
Some have argued that Brigham Young was merely touting his own personal opinion and never meant for this teaching to be accepted as doctrine. "Because this sermon is not a part of the "standard works," some say, "it should not be accepted as doctrinal truth." As pointed out earlier, the problem with such an assumption lies in the fact that Brigham Young said those who make light of this teaching will "prove their salvation or damnation." Apparently Young took this teaching very seriously.
Let it also be noted that just four years before his death, Brigham Young declared it was God Himself who gave him the Adam-God doctrine. Apparently Young's position on the matter was still an issue with some LDS members; otherwise he would not have had to ask, "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.) How can a Latter-day Saint maintain this was just Brigham's opinion when he insisted God gave him the teaching?
Some have excused Young's statements by claiming he was not speaking as a prophet because he did not begin his sermon with "Thus saith the Lord." However, LDS leaders have long said such a testing standard is incorrect. J. Reuben Clark, a former member of the LDS First Presidency, said, "There are those who insist that unless the Prophet of the Lord declares, 'Thus saith the Lord,' the message may not be taken as a revelation. This is a false testing standard" (Church News 7/31/54, p.10).
Apparently Young was confident with his message for on January 2, 1870, he said, "I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture" (Journal of Discourses 13:95). Brigham would repeat this again in October of the same year (Journal of Discourses 13:264).
How Could Young Come Up With Such an Idea?
It may surprise some, but Brigham Young's Adam-God connection is in harmony with the teachings of Joseph Smith. It was Joseph Smith who declared that Adam was, in fact, the Ancient of Days. Doctrine and Covenants 27:11; 116:1; 138:38 all state that Adam is the Ancient of Days.
Joseph Smith even attempted to get the Bible to concur with this thought when he said, "Daniel in his seventh chapter speaks of the Ancient of Days, he means the oldest man, our Father Adam..." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 157). Smith was referring to Daniel 7:13 which reads, "I saw the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days and they brought him near before him."
In order to properly interpret Daniel we must compare it to a similar account given in Revelation chapter five. Here we find the lamb as it had been slain, Jesus Christ, approaching the one who sits on the throne and takes the seals of judgment. Since John 5:22 states that it is the Father who has committed all judgment unto the Son, a proper understanding of this passage would conclude that it is God the Father, not Adam, who sits on the throne. If Mormons choose to insist that it is Adam sitting on the throne, they are, in fact, equating Adam to God. According to Joseph Smith, Brigham was right!
Brigham Young places the honest Latter-day Saint on the horns of a dilemma. If the Mormon wishes to claim Young as a true prophet, he must also accept his Adam-God teaching since a true prophet must have a correct theology concerning God (Deut. 13:1-3). If Young's teaching is not accepted, then the Mormon must conclude that Brigham Young was a false prophet. The Mormon can't have it both ways.
The Bible tells us in Romans 5:12 that it was through Adam that sin entered into the world. The first Adam represents man's failure to abide by God's law. The second Adam, Jesus Christ, makes it possible for man to pass from that dead, sinful state and be made alive. As Paul so eloquently pointed out, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Cor. 15:22). Our prayer is that the Mormon people see they are being led by false prophets and turn to the True Prophet of the Christian faith, Jesus Christ (Acts 3:22, 23). Jesus Christ is the living prophet we are commanded to listen to and believe. He is "God manifest in the flesh." Our trust should be in Christ, not the inconsistent and unbiblical teachings of the prophets of Mormonism.
Brigham Young's 1852 Adam-God Sermon
My next sermon will be to both Saint and sinner. One thing has remained a mystery in this kingdom up to this day. It is in regard to the character of the well-beloved Son of God, upon which subject the Elders of Israel have conflicting views. Our God and Father in heaven, is a being of tabernacle, or, in other words, He has a body, with parts the same as you and I have; and is capable of showing forth His works to organized beings, as, for instance, in the world in which we live, it is the result of the knowledge and infinite wisdom that dwell in His organized body. His son Jesus Christ has become a personage of tabernacle, and has a body like his father. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of the Lord, and issues forth from Himself, and may properly be called God's minister to execute His will in immensity; being called to govern by His influence and power; but He is not a person of tabernacle as we are, and as our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ are. The question has been, and is often, asked, who it was that begat the Son of the Virgin Mary. The infidel world have concluded that if what the Apostles wrote about his father and mother be true, and the present marriage discipline acknowledged by Christendom be correct, then Christians must believe that God is the father of an illegitimate son, in the person of Jesus Christ! The infidel fraternity teach that to their disciples. I will tell you how it is. Our Father in Heaven begat all the spirits that ever were, or ever will be, upon this earth; and they were born spirits in the eternal world. Then the Lord by His power and wisdom organized the mortal tabernacle of man. We were made first spiritual, and afterwards temporal.
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. They came here, organized the raw material, and arranged in their order the herbs of the field, the trees, the apple, the peach, the plum, the pear, and every other fruit that is desirable and good for man; the seed was brought from another sphere, and planted in this earth. The thistle, and thorn, the brier, and the obnoxious weed did not appear until after the earth was cursed. When Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit, their bodies became mortal from its effects, and therefore their offspring were mortal. 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, after the same manner as the tabernacles of Cain, Abel, and the rest of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve; from the fruits of the earth, the first earthly tabernacles were originated by the Father, and so on in succession. 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. I have heard men preach upon the divinity of Christ, and exhaust all the wisdom they possessed. All Scripturalists, and approved theologians who were considered exemplary for piety and education, have undertaken to expound on this subject, in every age of the Christian era; and after they have done all, they are obliged to conclude by exclaiming "great is the mystery of godliness," and tell nothing.
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 forever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. I will repeat a little anecdote. I was in conversation with a certain learned professor upon this subject, when I replied, to this idea--"if the Son was begotten by the Holy Ghost, it would be very dangerous to baptize and confirm females, and give the Holy Ghost to them, lest he should beget children, to be palmed upon the Elders by the people, bringing the Elders into great difficulties."
Treasure up these things in your hearts. In the Bible, you have read the things I have told you to-night; but you have not known what you did read. I have told you no more than you are conversant with; but what do the people in Christendom, with the Bible in their hands, know about this subject? Comparatively nothing.
The Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star on Adam-God
Over a year later, the Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star (no. 48, vol. 15, November 26, 1853) quoted Brigham's Adam-God sermon from the Journal of Discourses. It then counseled Mormons to take the Adam-God teaching and the Journal of Discourses very seriously:
Our Father Adam.—The extract from the Journal of Discourses may startle some of our readers, but we would wish them to recollect that in this last dispensation God will send forth, by His servants, things new as well as old, until man is perfected in the truth. And we would here take occasion to remark, that it would be well if all our readers would secure a copy of the Journal of Discourses as it is issued, and also of every standard work of the Church; and not only secure these works, but attentively read them, and thoroughly study the principles they contain. Those of the Saints who fail to obtain the standard publications of the Church, will not be likely to prove very intelligent Saints, and will be very liable to wake up some day, and find themselves wonderfully behind the times, and consequently will not be able to stand the day of trial, which will come upon all the world. Without the intelligence that comes through the Holy Priesthood, the Saints cannot gain salvation, and this intelligence is given in the various publications of the Church. Who then will endanger his salvation by being behind the times? Not the wise, certainly.
Two weeks later (no. 50, vol. 15. December 10, 1853), the Millenial Star tried to diffuse the alarm with an article called, "Adam, The Father and God of the Human Family":
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 given rise to some serious reflections with the more candid and comprehensive mind...