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The Adam-God Doctrine

There is a mountain of evidence that President Brigham Young, while President of the church, taught this doctrine. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie and President Gordon B. Hinckley have both admitted it as well. President Hinckley in The New Yorker:

“We don’t speculate on that a lot. Brigham Young said if you went to Heaven and saw God it would be Adam and Eve. I don’t know what he meant by that.”

So what is the doctrine that the President of the church taught?

He taught that Adam is God the Father. He came to this Earth, bringing along Eve, one of his plural wives. They became mortal by eating the fruit, established the human race, and eventually returned to heaven.

The first solid piece of evidence of the doctrine being taught was from General Conference in April 9, 1852. Brigham Young gave a sermon, recorded by his personal secretary, which ended up being included in the Journal of Discourses, which was accepted by Brigham Young and the rest of the First Presidency.

“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…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.”

The doctrine was, as you would expect, rather shocking to many church members at the time. President Young gave another sermon a few years later, which was printed in the Deseret Weekly News:

“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.”

Although it was controversial and surprising, the church leaders did support it at the time. We have records of Apostle Franklin D. Richards and Apostle Heber C. Kimball both proclaiming it as truth. Apostle Orson Pratt seems to have been the only one who disagreed with it.

In 1861, President Brigham Young had this to say:

“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.”

So what does the church believe now?

After Brigham Young’s death, the church slowly distanced itself from the revelation. In 1897, President Joseph F. Smith had this to say:

“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….

President Spencer W. Kimball:

“We denounce [the Adam–God] theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine.”

Why is this significant?

The First Presidency Message in the June 1981 Liahona was an address from President Ezra Taft Benson. It was called “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet.” And this was the fourth fundamental:

Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.

President Wilford Woodruff stated:

“I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God.”

President Marion G. Romney tells of this incident which happened to him:

“I remember years ago when I was a bishop I had President Heber J. Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home … Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: ‘My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.’ Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, ‘But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.’”

So which is it? Was President Brigham Young’s doctrine correct and perhaps we are just not ready to understand it? Or did the prophet of the church lead its members astray?

Next Step: Blood Atonement

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