Adam-God theory

From Academic Kids

The Adam-God theory (also called the Adam-God doctrine) is a teaching by Brigham Young, that Adam "is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do." (1 J.D. 50-51). Some of Young's contemporaries interpreted the doctrine as stating that Adam was the God of this earth and the father of Jesus, and as so interpreted, the doctrine was unpopular and confusing even among some contemporary Latter-day Saint leaders such as Orson Pratt and Amasa Lyman, and by some of the Mormon public, who took a more pragmatic view on the teaching.

However, the Adam-God theory has been rejected as false doctrine by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest sect of Mormonism. Among modern apologists and other Latter-day Saints, it is common to interpret Young's statements consistently with modern Latter-day Saint ideas that Adam was a god (not the God) prior to this earth's creation, that he helped God the Father create the earth, and that he "fell" so that with Eve, he could provide a physical lineage for his offspring, in which sense he is our father (see arguments below). Latter-day Saints also believe that Adam is responsible directly to Elohim for the Earth as well as has responsibility for the keys of the priesthood held on this earth and that he will receive them back one day to deliver them up to Jesus Christ and Elohim.

While rejected by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the doctrine has enthusiastic acceptance among several smaller fundamentalist Mormon organizations within the Latter Day Saint movement, most of which accepted the doctrine in the 1920s and 1930s.

Contents

Young's Adam-God Teaching

Statements and Controversy

Young's earliest statements about the Adam-God theory were made in the 1850's, during a period of revivalism known as the Mormon Reformation in Utah. Brigham Young first taught the doctrine in a sermon on April 9, 1852, when he stated:

"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.... 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....
"It is true that the earth was organized by three distinct characters, namely, Eloheim, Yahovah, and Michael....
"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." (1 J.D. 50-51).

After this sermon, Young's close associate Hosea Stout wrote in his diary: "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." (Diary of Hosea Stout, vol. 2, p. 435 (April 9, 1852)).

Despite objections by some other leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at that time that the doctrine was misunderstood by the membership at large, Young continued teaching the doctrine. Young never fully explained Adam-God theory, and said that most would misunderstand his teachings in the matter. Speaking of the doctrine nine years later, Young stated:

"Some years ago (9 to be exact) 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 holds it in derision." (Manuscript Addresses of Brigham Young, Oct 8, 1861).

Adam as the father of Jesus Christ

Many 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. Many also believe that Eve was a wife from a previous planet or earth. Young's statements on this subject are somewhat ambiguous, and some have rejected this interpretation.

The distinction between Father Adam and Father Elohim

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" (who 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, when discussing the Adam-God theory, 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)).

Official Interpretations

The Doctrine Taught in Temples

In 1877, while Brigham Young was beginning to standardize the Endowment ceremony for use in the Saint George temple, Young introduced the Adam-God theory to the temple as part of the Endowment's "Lecture at the Veil". The final draft of the Lecture, made after Young's death, is kept private in LDS Church Archives; however, the Young's personal secretary recorded Young's dictation of the lecture 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, Feb. 7, 1877 in BYU Special Collections).

The Theory as a Doctrine

It is important to note that Young did not consider the Adam-God theory official Church doctrine. He made it very clear that he considered it non-essential to salvation. No revelation was ever to the Church or was it ever promoted in official statements.

Young knew that the doctrine had become a stumbling block to some members of the Church and decided not to clarify or further confuse the matter. He said, 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]).

According to one researcher on the subject, “those familiar with LDS history and practice are well aware that official doctrine must meet certain requirements which were not met by the Adam-God theory. The fact is it was never a part of the LDS canon, never presented in an official statement, never the subject of any known revelation, and never declared church doctrine by any recognized Church authority.”

In a private letter outlined by President Wilford Woodruff and written by Apostle Joseph F. Smith on the subject states:

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).

The doctrine or theory was never advocated or taught in any official statement by the leadership of the Church (occasionally, doctrinal clarifications were and are issued by the First Presidency and by the Quorum of the Twelve. (It is important to note that new scripture may be added by common consent of the membership of the Church).

There is one case where the theory is referred to in a statement titled, "Instructions to the Saints," which appeared in the Deseret News. The statement was to clarify the doctrinal differences taught by Apostle Orson Pratt and President Young. Rather than stating what Church doctrine was on the matter, the statement simply said, "It is deemed wisest to let that subject (the Adam-God Theory) remain without further explanation at present" (Messages of the First Presidency 2:222).

Contemporary Interpretations

Evidence For Adam is God Interpretation

During the life of Brigham Young, however, and for some time later, many devout Latter-day Saints believed and taught that Adam was the father of Jesus Christ. Heber C. Kimball, a member of the First Presidency under Brigham Young, stated 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..." (4 J.D., p.1). 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).

There was also a Mormon hymn published in 1856 entitled "We Believe in Our God", that 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).

Evidence Against Adam is God Interpretation

It is evident, however that most contemporaries believed in yet another interpretation not widely referred to by modern Mormon apologists.

This theory states that as Adam stands at the head of the human family, he has become our god. 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."

According to some researchers, "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)."

Franklin D. Richards who took Samuel W. Richards place also promoted this interpretation (see MS, March 31, 1855).

Other presidents of the Church have also taught this interpretation.

No More Clarification by Young

In any case, Young seems to have decided to let the issue rest and not to explain more. He stated:

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 of 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. (JD 4:217; see also JD4:271; 7:238; 7:285; 11:43, 268).
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; 10:231; 13:309).

Modern Interpretations

Denounced as False Doctrine

After Young's death, the Adam-God theory, as popularly understood, was slowly disregarded by most Mormons, and was never adopted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as canon. Eventually, the doctrine was denounced as false. 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." Conference Report, p. 115 (October 1-3, 1976).

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, has no excuse whatever for being led astray by it. 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" (BYU Devotional, June 1, 1980).

Controversy Arises Again

As both Kimball and Young are revered as prophets, some apologists and devout Mormons believe that two prophets cannot disagree on a matter of doctrinal interpretations and have interpreted Kimball's statement not as a denunciation of Young's teachings, but as a denunciation of how some of Young's contemporaries interpreted his teachings.

Some have argued that the LDS church leadership does not openly discuss the historical evidences of Adam-God being taught because it undermines their claim that the President of the church will never be allowed by God to lead the church astray. If Young could be wrong about this matter, then the church President today could also be wrong in his teachings — in fact, he could be wrong about President Young being wrong. Those who believe this feel that to avoid this inevitable conclusion, the LDS church leadership have chosen to ignore the matter as much as possible.

The Adam-God doctrine, in various forms, however, is still accepted by many post-Utah-migration period Latter Day Saint splinter organizations.

Apologetics revisited

"A god - Two Adams 1"

Many apologetic and devout 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." 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 it 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.

"Our father - Two Adams 2"

To complement the above view, some Mormons also claim that Brigham Young used the name "Adam" for two distinct entities. 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. Proponents of this "Two Adam" theory often argue that Brigham Young's sermons were recorded with incorrect capitalization that was not in agreement with his teaching's. For example, proponents argue that a capital "F" for "Father Adam" or God of the Universe and a lower case "f" for "father Adam" or the first mortal man should have been carefully used by transcibers of Young's sermons. The same rule would apply for "God" and "god".

Scholarly Conclusions

"Who Knows..."

Regardless of interpretation, the mystery of Young's teachings in regard to exactly what he meant in the few statements he made on the subject apparently died with him and his close associates.

Most scholars believe that the few statements about the theory are inadequate to properly understand what was meant by the teachings.

Although not neccesarily an apologetic view, some have also argued the Adam-God theory was influenced by Hermeticism.

Other Latter Day Saint Sects Elaboration of the Teaching

FLDS

The Adam-God teaching is widely accepted as doctrine by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

School of the Prophets Sect

Robert Crossfield (also known as the Prophet Onias) claims to have received revelations that go into more depth about the Adam-God doctrine. These revelations, and many others, are to be found in the "Second Book of Commandments". This collection of revelations was first published in 1969 as the "Book of Onias". The few members and supporters of the "School of the Prophets", set up by the authority of these revelations, are the only ones who accept Robert Crossfield as a prophet.

Others

Other Mormonism groups, Latter Day Saints in general, and the current LDS church authorities do not accept his claims.

See also: Controversies regarding Mormonism

External links

References

  • Gary James Bergera, "The Orson Pratt-Brigham Young Controversies: Conflict Within the Quorums, 1853 to 1868," 13(2) Dialogue7-49 (Summer 1980).
  • Journal of Discourses (public domain)
  • Robert J. Matthews, Origin of Man: the Doctrinal Framework.
  • Scanned images (http://www.irr.org/mit/WDIST/wdist-adam-god.html) of various 19th century LDS publications with statements on Adam-god from Brigham Young and other LDS General Authorities
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