Firesides/28 November 2010 - Sweden/15

Response to questions about Adam-God


1: BoM translation2: Polygamy and Polyandry3: Polygamy forced?4: Book of Abraham5: "Lying for Lord"6: Mark Hofmann7: Blood atonement8: First Vision9: Sanitized history10: "Not all truth is useful"11: Angelic affidavits12: Blacks and priesthood13: Temple concerns14: Evidence of Vikings15: Adam-God16: Kinderhook

The attendees of The "Swedish Rescue" fireside ask the following question:

Could I please ask you a short question?

Regarding the Adam-God theory:

  • I’ve heard answers [regarding] how Brigham might have thought about it, but my question is, how come it divided the church at the time?
  • There were a lot of Apostles and leaders that didn’t agree to what Brigham had to say.
  • What is church opinion on Adam-God out there in Utah?
  • Why didn’t they clear it up...that Adam is not Heavenly Father?

  • Question: What is the Church's opinion of Adam-God?
    Answer: Adam is not God our Father. The Church formally rejected that teaching.
  • Adam-God. Again, complicated question...Bottom line, the Church position today is that while Michael was Adam, and as Adam was the father of the human race, and through the process of exaltation can become celestialized, Adam is not God our father.

    —Brother Turley's response to this question at the Sweden fireside.
    • Question: Why did the Adam-God theory divide the Church at the time it was preached? Why would Apostles and leaders disagree with what Brigham was saying?
      Answer: The Church has never taught that even the President of the Church is infallible.

    [T]o be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.

    I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.

    —Dieter F. Uchdorf, "Come, Join With Us," general conference, October 2013.

    Brigham Young taught frequently that he was subject to error:

    …it is not the place for any person to correct any person who is superior to them, but ask the Father in the name of Jesus to bind him up from speaking false principles. I have known many times I have preached wrong.

    —Brigham Young, in Thomas Bullock minutes, 8 May 1854, Church Historical Department.

    He later said:

    Why do you not open the windows of heaven and get revelation for yourself? and not go whining around and saying, “do you not think that you may be mistaken? Can a Prophet or an Apostle be mistaken?” Do not ask me any such question, for I will acknowledge that all the time, but I do not acknowledge that I designedly lead this people astray one hair’s breadth from the truth, and I do not knowingly do a wrong, though I may commit many wrongs, and so may you. But I overlook your weaknesses, and I know by experience that the Saints lift their hearts to God that I may be led right. If I am thus borne off by your prayers and faith, with my own, and suffered to lead you wrong, it proves that your faith is vain. Do not worry.

    —A Series of Instructions and Remarks by President Brigham Young at a Special Council, Tabernacle, March 22, 1858 (Salt Lake City, 1858), pamphlet in Frederick Kesler Collection, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

    President J. Rueben Clark said:

    There have been rare occasions when even the President of the Church in his preaching and teaching has not been “moved upon by the Holy Ghost.” You will recall the Prophet Joseph declared that a prophet is not always a prophet….This has happened about matters of doctrine (usually of a highly speculative character) where a subsequent President of the Church and the people themselves have felt that in declaring the doctrine, the announcer was not “moved upon by the Holy Ghost.

    How shall the Church know when these adventurous expeditions of the brethren into these highly speculative principles and doctrines meet the requirements of the statutes that the announcers thereof have been “moved upon by the Holy Ghost”? The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are “moved upon by the Holy Ghost”; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest.

    — J. Reuben Clark, “When Are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture,” address given to seminary and institute teachers, at BYU, on July 7, 1954, published in Church News (31 July 1954): 9–10.
    • Novel Church doctrine must be endorsed by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

    Said Brigham Young:

    In trying all matters of doctrine, to make a decision valid, it is necessary to obtain a unanimous voice, faith and decision. In the capacity of a Quorum, the three First Presidents must be one in their voice; the Twelve Apostles must be unanimous in their voice, to obtain a righteous decision upon any matter that may come before them, as you may read in the Doctrine and Covenants. Whenever you see these Quorums unanimous in their declaration, you may set it down as true. Let the Elders get together, being faithful and true; and when they agree upon any point, you may know that it is true.

    —Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 9:91–92.
    • Brigham Young himself described a situation very much like that which occurred with his ideas about Adam-God:

    How do you know that your humble servant is really, honestly, guiding and counseling you aright, and directing the affairs of the kingdom aright? . . . How do you know but I am teaching false doctrine? How do you know that I am not counseling you wrong? How do you know but I will lead you to destruction? . . . Live so that you can discern between the truth and error, between light and darkness, between the things of God and those not of God, for by the revelations of the Lord, and these alone, can you and I understand the things of God . . . But to return to my question to the Saints, "How are you going to know about the will and commands of heaven?" By the Spirit of revelation; that is the only way you can know. How do I know but what I am doing wrong? How do I know but what we will take a course for our utter ruin?. . . But how do you know that I may not yet do wrong? How do you know but I will bring in false doctrine and teach the people lies that they may be damned? . . . If I were to preach false doctrine here, it would not be an hour after the people got out, before it would begin to fly from one to another, and they would remark, "I do not quite like that! It does not look exactly right! What did Brother Brigham mean? That did not sound quite right, it was not exactly the thing!" All these observations would be made by the people, yes, even by the sisters. It would not sit well on the stomach, that is, on the spiritual stomach . . . It would not sit well on the mind . . . And I will defy any man to preach false doctrine without being detected; and we need not go to the Elders of Israel, the children who have been born in these mountains possess enough of the Spirit to detect it.

    — Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 14:204 (13 August 1871).
    • Adam-God demonstrates that this system worked and works in the Church. The President of the Church is not infallible. The Lord protects the Church from the weaknesses of mortal leaders by requiring unanimity among councils of authorized servants. Each member of those councils has the duty to receive revelation for themselves: they are not to be "yes-men" who accept whatever the President of the Church proposes unless God reveals it to them as well. As one researcher noted:

    On 29 January 1860 the First Presidency of the LDS Church—consisting of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Daniel H. Wells—issued a formal statement against some of Elder Orson Pratt’s teachings. And in this public rebuttal they said, “With regard to . . . Adam’s having been formed ‘out of the ground’ and ‘from the dust of the ground,’ etc., it is deemed wisest to let that subject remain without further explanation at present.”...

    This was a perfect opportunity for the uppermost presiding quorum of the Church to make a formal declaration with regard to Adam–God ideas. But they chose not to. This course of action hints at the status of the Adam–God teachings among the nineteenth century Saints and their leaders.

    —Matthew Brown, "Brigham Young's Teachings on Adam," 7. (Full article here.)
    • Doctrine is established by the united leaders, not a single one.

    At the same time it should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such.”

    —D. Todd Christofferson, "The Doctrine of Christ,", general conference, April 2012.
    • Question: Why didn't they clear up the confusion that Adam is not Heavenly Father back in Brigham Young's time?
      Answer: (1) The Church clarified its position in 1897 and again in 1902.

    President Woodruff . . . partially outlined what I should say. . . . I am happy to know that he and I are in accord on the subject. . . . [In his April 1852 discourse] Pres[ident] 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 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 nor upon the consciences of any of the members thereof.

    —Joseph F. Smith, letter to to A. Saxey, 7 January 1897,1–2, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never formulated or adopted any theory concerning the subject treated upon by President Young as to Adam.

    —Charles W. Penrose, "Our Father Adam," Improvement Era (September 1902), 873. reprinted in Charles W. Penrose, "Our Father Adam," Millennial Star 64 no. 50 (11 December 1902), 785–790. (this paragraph from p. 789).

    (2) Part of the problem is that Brigham and other members did not have access to the full text of the Pearl of Great Price.

    Unfortunately, [the members] only had the 1851 version of the Pearl of Great Price to work with. It did not contain a full text of the Book of Moses....The full version of the Book of Moses would have effectively discounted several Adam–God Theory elements. It is noteworthy that the year after Brigham Young died John Taylor directed none other than Orson Pratt to publish the full Book of Moses in the first American edition of the Pearl of Great Price. It was canonized as a standard for doctrinal judgment just two years later.
    —Matthew Brown, "Brigham Young's Teachings on Adam," 12. (Full article here.)
    • Question: What did Brigham Young preach about Adam and God?
      Answer:

    Based on Brigham's remarks, and others he made in public and in private, it is apparent that Brigham Young believed that:

    • Adam was the father of the spirits of mankind, as well as being the first parent of our physical bodies.
    • Adam and Eve came to this earth as resurrected, exalted personages.
    • Adam and Eve fell and became mortal in order to create physical bodies for their spirit children.
    • Adam was the spiritual and physical father of Jesus Christ.

    Brigham claimed to have received these beliefs by revelation, and, on at least three occasions, claimed that he learned it from Joseph Smith. While this doctrine was never canonized, Brigham expected other contemporary Church leaders to accept it, or at least not preach against it. (Orson Pratt did not believe it, and he and Brigham had a number of heated conversations on the subject.)

    The lack of unanimity seems to have led Brigham to moderate some of his statements:

    When Brigham Young first introduced the public to his Adam–God teachings in April of 1852 he claimed that they would prove a person’s “salvation or damnation.”Just two and a half years later his rhetoric changed dramatically. In General Conference, once again, he gave an Adam–God talk but this time he said, “I propose to speak upon a subject that 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, or that they should give themselves any trouble about them whatever.” After specifying that “these are my views with regard to the gods, and eternities” and saying, “I will tell you what I think about it” he used a very significant term—thirteen times. He said, “I will tell you what I reckon.” His exact words were: “I will tell you what I think about it, and as the [Southerners] say, ‘I reckon.’ And as the Yankees say, ‘I guess’; but I will tell you what I reckon.”

    It should be pointed out here that Brigham Young was a northern Yankee from New York state—not a Southerner. He may have deliberately chosen to employ the term ‘reckon’ instead of ‘guess.’ And what did Brigham Young admit that he was guessing about in this sermon? The very elements of the Adam–God Theory that are the most problematic.

    —Matthew Brown, "Brigham Young's Teachings on Adam," 12. (Full article here, italics added.)

    |extlink=http://www.fairlds.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2009_Brigham_Youngs_Teachings_On_Adam.pdf |extsubject=Brigham Young’s Teachings on Adam |extsummary=On the 9th of April 1852 President Brigham Young stepped up to the pulpit in the old tabernacle on Temple Square and informed a group of Elders, who had gathered there for General Conference, that he was going to straighten them out on an issue which they had been debating about. The topic of disagreement centered upon who was the Father of Jesus Christ in the flesh—Elohim or the Holy Ghost. President Young surprised the people who were in attendance by announcing that it was neither one of them. |extauthor=Matthew B. Brown |extpublication=2009 FAIR Conference Proceedings