This is version two of this essay. In the first version I severely denounced and criticized those who believed the Adam-God theory. I cited several modern prophets who were very clear in their denunciation of a belief in the theory. I stated that Brigham Young was either misquoted or misunderstood. I especially relished listening to Elder McConkie‘s talk on The Seven Deadly Heresies once again as part of my research. I miss Elder McConkie.
Today, I confess before you the error of my ways. I am now a believer in the Adam-God theory, but not the one that many people claim to be true. You’ll note that I still don’t call it a doctrine as some do, because that implies that it is something that pertains to our salvation. An understanding of this information is not necessary for our salvation. However, as I have studied, pondered and prayed about this over the past few days, I feel I have been richly blessed with personal insights about the material.
In this essay I hope to set forth the differences between the two theories and will rely heavily on the Elden Watson essay found on his website. I have now read it through twice, making notes and pondering the ideas that he set forth. I am completely in agreement with his views and find his explanations of the matter to be perfectly acceptable. There were many things I found there that I had heard or learned previously but did not have a source to which I could point. I do now. For the opposing viewpoint of the misunderstood theory, I cite David Buerger‘s essay.
The false version
From David’s essay, “Young clearly believed that Adam was the father of the spirits of mankind in addition to being the first procreator of mankind’s physical bodies; that Adam came to this earth as a resurrected and exalted being; that he “fell” to a mortal state of existence in order to procreate mortal bodies; and that Adam was the spiritual and physical father of Jesus Christ.” I counted at least seven false statements in that summary, but this is what many people think of when they are asked about the Adam-God theory. This is NOT what Brigham tried to teach.
Because of this false understanding, our critics have criticized and lambasted us. I can understand why. If someone tried to tell me that what David wrote was what we believed, I would have to tell them that such statements are the most contrived and foolish ideas that I have ever heard. For some reason, apostate polygamous groups have clung to this false version and continue to circulate it as their idea of truth. It is so contradictory to accepted doctrines that it does not lead to faith and in fact, hinders one in an ability to exercise faith in God and Christ.
That is why President Kimball said in 1976, “We hope that you who teach in the various organizations, whether on the campuses or in our Chapels, will always teach the orthodox truth. 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.”
The correct version
God, our Heavenly Father, who we now ordinarily refer to as Elohim, is the father of our spirits and was literally the father of the physical, but immortal body of Adam. It was God the Father that came to this earth as a resurrected and exalted being with our Mother in Heaven. They did not “fall” to a mortal state in order to give birth to Adam and Eve. A man cannot be resurrected and then become mortal again. Adam was not the spiritual and physical father of Jesus Christ. God our Heavenly Father fulfilled that mission. Except for Mother in Heaven, most of these concepts are taught by our missionaries and in our Primary classes. They are very clear.
What Brigham tried to teach was really very simple and it’s not a big deal, or at least it’s not to me. I still maintain that he was misunderstood by many, and therefore what was taught by some leaders of the early church was in error. Whether or not he was misquoted is a matter you will have to decide for yourself. In some places he may have been. In others he was perhaps not as clear as he could have been. Nevertheless, what he taught was fascinating and enlightening.
You can find a detailed description of these fundamental doctrines in Eldon Watson’s essay that help establish the truths that we believe and which Brigham taught:
- Adam was not a resurrected being
- Adam died
- Adam is not God
- Adam is subordinate to Jesus Christ
- Adam and Eve were unmarried when they came into the Garden of Eden
- Adam is a son of God
Cast of characters in the Garden of Eden
God the Father
Analysis of the most misunderstood quote
“Now hear it, 0 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.” (Brigham Young, JD1:50)
There was another record of this talk made by Wilford Woodruff that is different from the version found in the Journal of Discourses. In it, you can find a very critical and missing phrase just before, “He helped to make…” It is, “…and eat of the fruit of the garden until he could beget a tabernacle.” The tabernacle being referred to is the body of Adam. “Father Adam,” was Brigham’s way of indicating God our Heavenly Father. He believed Adam was one of his names. The last line of the quote is referring to “Father Adam” again. He is saying that God is our father.
If this is the first time that this has been pointed out to you then I refer you to Elden Watson’s essay in which he discusses Brigham’s belief that one of God’s names was Adam. He discusses them in his essay as Adam Sr. and Adam Jr. I know, that seems a little strange, but it works for me. It is unfortunate that Brigham wasn’t clearer about who he was referring to when he said “Father Adam.” Reread that quote and put Elohim in the place of father Adam as you read. Be sure to add the additional phrase from Wilford Woodruff in the right spot. That makes it clear.
Summary but no conclusion
In this essay I have tried to set forth my understanding of what Brigham Young really meant when he made some of the quotes that have caused so much trouble for so many over the years. Although I have concluded the matter in my own mind, I will leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions. I invite you to a careful reading of Elden Watson’s essay. He leads us carefully through the scriptures and quotes in such a way that makes it easy to understand and accept.
I reiterate here as I have in the beginning that understanding the Adam-God theory is not at all necessary to our eternal salvation. If you have gone all your life and have never heard about the interpretation that I have labeled the correct version above, it would not affect you one way or the other. However, if you have accepted and believe what I have labeled the false version, which was summarized by the quote from David Buerger, then that just might be a problem.
I’m trying to not be dogmatic about this but I do feel strongly that those who think that Brigham believed and taught the Adam-God theory as defined by Buerger, with the help of Mike Quinn, are mistaken. None of us will be able to ask Brigham what he really believed and taught until we meet him in the Spirit world. I intend to do so. But until then, I will accept the orthodox teachings on the subject that I have tried to outline in the “correct version” section above.
1. LightPlanet – Adam-God theory
3. Elden Watson – Adam-God
4. FAIR – Adam-God
5. Wikipedia entry on Adam-God theory – Did Brigham Young really teach it as doctrine?
6. The David Buerger essay in Dialogue, Spring 1982. I disagree with the conclusions.