Friday, April 10, 2009

The Seven Deadly Heresies - Part 6 (The Adam/God Theory)

It really has been a long time since I posted something substantive. Seriously, it has been about six or seven months. Now that I have gotten around to it, I want to continue from the previous postings of The Seven Deadly Heresies series from last year. As in previous posts, the Seven Deadly Heresies are taken from Elder Bruce R. McConkie's (in)famous talk (see here).

Effectively speaking, we are really on the downhill part of our clime after BRM took on blasphemies like organic evolution, eternal progression of God, and second chance salvation. Without further adieu, Elder McConkie's sixth heresy:

Heresy six: 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.
The source of the Adam/God theory comes from this Brigham Young quote:

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, the 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.

Simply a Misreading?

I see some major issues with the simple approach by some apologists that BY was simply misunderstood. First, BY expected his associates to accept the doctrine or at least sit back and not complain if that person did not agree. Of the well-known conflicts between BY and Orson Pratt, the Adam-God theory was contentious.

In a great article by the Journal of Mormon Thought, Volume 13 Number 2, Summer 1980, page 13, the battle lines are drawn out:

The President took issue with Pratt's acceptance of Adam's having been created out of the dust of this earth. Young maintained "Adam came from another world & brought Eve with him partook of the fruits of the Earth begat children & they ware Earthly & had mortal bodies & if we are faithful we should become Gods as [Adam] was." Apostle Wilford Woodruff recorded that President "told Brother Pratt to lay aside his Philosofical reasoning & get revelation from God to govern & enlighten his mind more...[he] said [Pratt's] Phylosophy injured him in a measure...."

Pratt was not the only unwilling member to embrace certain of Young's views. Yet his calling as an Apostle placed him at the forefront of dissent. Following a strong Adam-God statement delivered during the October 1854 General Conference, one member observed, "[T]here were some that did not believe the sayings of the Prophet Brigham. Even our beloved Brother Orson Pratt told me he did not believe it."
Secondly, BY also claimed in the Deseret News, 18 June 1873, p. 308, that he was taught the doctrine by Joseph Smith.

How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which I revealed to them, and which God revealed to me—namely that Adam is our Father and God—I do not know, I do not inquire, I care nothing about it. Our Father Adam helped to make this earth, it was created expressly for him, and after it was made he and his companions came here. He brought one of his wives with him, and she was called Eve, because she was the first woman upon the earth. 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 who ever will come upon the earth. I have been found fault with by the ministers of religion because I have said that they were ignorant. But I could not find any man on the earth who could tell me this, although it is one of the simplest things in the world, until I met and talked with Joseph Smith.
Current State of the Doctrine

Besides Elder McConkie's statements from The Seven Deadly Heresies, we have this statement from President Spencer W. Kimball from the October 1976 General Conference:

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.
Now for the crux of this post. Based on my reading, BY claimed that he received this truth from Joseph Smith and by revelation. Spencer W. Kimball as successor with the appropriate keys as prophet, seer, and revelator, discredited the doctrine. My questions are (1) If Brigham Young did receive this by revelation, then where does this leave us?; (2) Does Spencer W. Kimball's use of priesthood keys take precedent?; (3) Is there any way that we can reconcile the two sides?; (4) Is it possible that we just don't know and the revelations as now received are not clear on this point? I say this under the assumption that many of our current methods of instruction are symbolic in nature (the temple).

For more information, check out as a great source for other theories.


Bruce in Montana said...

Brigham Young taught this doctrine for over 20 years. He was quite clear who taught it to him...Joseph Smith.
The saints could not live up to it so it's importance was de-emphasized.
Eliza Snow said it was the most important doctrine that we can know.
Heresy indeed.

Jeremy said...

Many of BY's statements have been quite perplexing to me, but this one (and those related to it) cetainly take the cake.

I don't claim to understand it in its entirty, but I have read a significant amount on it and my views have evolved over the years. I suggest to anyone wanting to know more about this to read an interpretation by Elden Watson that can be found at:

Watson asserts that BY's statements, when understood properly, are indeed in line with scripture. One of the points made is that BY believed 'Adam' was another name for Heavenly Father, and was used interchangebly. This would explain many of his statements.

Although the article is around 30 pages long, it's fairly easy to read and very informative. I recommend seriously taking the time to read it. I would be interested to hear anyone's views on it after reading it.

nshumate said...

Brigham Young taught this doctrine for over 20 years. He was quite clear who taught it to him...Joseph Smith.

Retroactively. When Brigham first introduced the idea, he explained it as something he discovered for himself -- he "reckoned" or "figured" it. It was only as time went on that he attributed it either to direct revelation or to Joseph Smith.

Maybe he felt that the Adam-God doctrine was a necessary conclusion to what the historical record shows. But I don't see it and I don't believe it.

nshumate said...

Sorry. That next-to-last sentence should read " what the historical record shows Joseph taught."

Nate said...

I'll add a little controversy:

The post asks,
(2) Does Spencer W. Kimball's use of priesthood keys take precedent?

If we are to assume that BY got these teachings by revelation, can this really happen? The teachings are generally directed to what is the fundamental nature of God. As such, one can only be either right or wrong.

I don't buy into any of the apologists attempts to reconcile these teachings with current understanding. BY was pretty much unambiguous.

So the question is, what is right? If BY was right, what does that mean for us now (especially in light of later priesthood overruling)?

If he was wrong, what does that mean for the church? Is SWK's later talk the equivalent of the Lord not allowing his people to be led astray? (that seems like it could be a more compelling of an argument for an apologist to make than the ones attempting to reconcile doctrine--except for the fact that some people were led astray in some fashion)

Jeremy said...

Nate, with regards to the priesthood change in teh 70's, I like McConkie's statement that whatever was said before that time we can forget. Whatever McConkie said contrarywise to the new revelation is now completely moot. A new revelation has been received and that takes full precedence - prima facie evidence of truth, man.

Regarding BY's statements, it sounds like you may not have taken the time to read that article that I cited above. You may change your stance after reading it.

Andrew I. Miller said...

My feelings are mixed. I think it's fairly clear what President Young taught and I find his ideas quite appealing. On the other hand, I'm not so sure his ideas can be reconciled with scripture and Pres. Kimball and others have denounced them. I think it is conceivable that Pres. Young was wrong or that Pres. Kimball was wrong. For now, however, I am keeping an open mind and withholding judgment.

Nate said...

your right Jer...I didn't read the cited article. Maybe I'll get to it someday.

My problem is that I don't care enough about the doctrine itself, I only care about the issue in regard to what this occurrence of doctrinal conflict means in terms of the nature of revelation for the Church.

Anti's try to use this as a tool to lead people to the conclusion of: false prophet=false church.

The difference between me and someone that would look at this and apostatize, is that I can see numerous plausible explanations that don't lead to that conclusion, even if the past doctrine is completely false (or even if the current understanding is false...meaning that our current revelation is not entirely accurate).

Maybe that is why i've never tried to reconcile the teachings.

Bookslinger said...

In other places and times, BY taught that Adam and Eve were the chilren of immortal beings, ie, that "God did not make Adam like an adobe brick". I read that BY claimed that two immortal physical beings came to earth, and begat two immortal physical children: Adam and Eve. The preceding is in "Discourses of Brigham Young" so it would also likely be in Journal of Discourses. (Search on "adobe brick".)

That alone contradicts BY's own Adam-God statements. So I wonder which teaching came first.

But this question has often occurred to me: prior to the fall, Adam and Eve still had _physical_ bodies, so if they were not literally constructed out of the dust of the earth like adobe bricks, who were their physical/biological parents?

But, such ponderings may qualify to be included under the header "looking beyond the mark."

Tony said...

You should read Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1 where President Joseph Fielding Smith clearly goes into that statement. It has helped me truly understand it better, and even accept it.

Anonymous said...