Brigham Young taught Adam was God
He was wrong.
How can he be trusted?
CES Letter Core Question
What were Brigham Young's Views on Adam and God?
President Brigham Young taught what is now known as “Adam–God theory.” He taught that Adam is “our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.” Brigham not only taught this doctrine over the pulpit in conferences in 1852 and 1854 but he also introduced this doctrine as the Lecture at the Veil in the endowment ceremony of the Temple.
Brigham also published this doctrine in the Deseret News on June 18, 1873:
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.
CES Letter, Page 62
TO THE CLAIM
CORRECT: Brigham Young taught Adam was God
Correct: He was wrong.
This was an anomaly for Brigham. He was right on most things.
Brigham Young taught contrasting ideas regarding the identity of God the Father. By isolating a few, The CES Letter creates the appearance of a new Church “doctrine,” which is simply not true.
Brigham Young never attempted to contextualize his controversial statements about Adam (the first man) with references to Adam from the scriptures and Joseph Smith’s revelations and plain statements. Without clarity, the Adam-god theory was never a Church doctrine and members of the Quorum of the Twelve (e.g. Orson Pratt) firmly held to the traditional teachings in spite of the controversy.
President Young never devoted an entire discourse to the subject. Of the 1,500 known discourses of Brigham Young, a few dozen provides hints regarding his belief in the identity of Adam.
Knowing the exact nature and name of God does not change our form or worship or expectations of exaltation. The CES Letter exaggerates the importance of these unanswered questions.
In the scriptures Adam is called a “prince” and “archangel” but never a king (D&C 27:11, D&C 107:54-55, D&C 29:26, D&C 88:112). In contrast, Christ is called the King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 17:14, 19:16).
D&C 88:114 states that Michael will fight the battle of the “great God” and verse 115 states: “For Michael shall fight their battles, and shall overcome him who seeketh the throne of him who sitteth upon the throne, even the Lamb.” By most accounts, the “Lamb” could only be Christ suggesting a subordinate role for Adam in that battle.
Moses 6:50-52 teaches plainly that God is not Adam:
“But God hath made known unto our fathers that all men must repent. And he called upon our father Adam by his own voice, saying: I am God; I made the world, and men before they were in the flesh. And he also said unto him: If thou wilt turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men, ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in his name, and whatsoever ye shall ask, it shall be given you.”
Joseph Smith taught that Adam received his authority from Christ:
“This then being the nature of the priesthood, every man holding the presidency of his dispensation and one man holding the presidency of them all even Adam and Adam receiving his presidency and authority from Christ, but cannot receive a fulness, until Christ shall present the kingdom to the Father which shall be at the end of the last dispensation.”
Respecting authority, Joseph Smith noted that "Christ is the Great High Priest, Adam next.” Joseph Smith also identified who was second to Adam:
“The Priesthood was first given to Adam: he obtained the First Presidency and held the keys of it, form generation to generation; he obtained it in the creation before the world was formed as in Gen. 1:26-28. He had dominion given him over every living creature. He is Michael, the Archangel, spoken of in the scriptures. Then to Noah who is Gabriel, he stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood.”
Brigham Young did not claim a full knowledge of God:
“The trouble between Orson Pratt & me is I do not know Enough & he knows to[o] much. I do not know evry thing. There is a mystery Concerning the God I worship which mystery will be removed when I Come to a full knowledge of God.”
The CES Letter fails to tell its readers that a comparison of the stenographer’s account of the quote “our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do” and to notes taken by Wilford Woodruff (as found in his journal entry for the date) reveals important discrepancies. The information provided by Woodruff potentially changes the meaning of Brigham’s Adam teachings that day.
Elder John A. Widstoe, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:
“Those who peddle the well-worn Adam-God myth, usually charge the Latter-day Saints with believing that: (1) Our Father in heaven, the Supreme God to whom we pray, is Adam, the first man; and (2) Adam was the father of Jesus Christ. A long series of absurd and false deductions are made from these propositions. Those who spread this untruth about the Latter-day Saints go back for authority to a sermon delivered by President Brigham Young ‘in the tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, April 9th, 1852.’ (Journal of Discourses, 1:50.)
Certain statements there made are confusing if read superficially, but very clear if read with their context. Enemies of President Brigham Young and of the Church have taken advantage of the opportunity and have used these statements repeatedly and widely to do injury to the reputation of President Young and the Mormon people. An honest reading of this sermon and of other reported discourses of President Brigham Young proves that the great second President of the Church held no such views as have been put into his mouth in the form of the Adam-God myth.
Elden Watson explained:
“Brigham Young believed that one of the names of God, our Heavenly Father is Adam, and in many of President Young's discourses he referred to God the Father using that name. There are therefore two Adams, and although President Young did not use the designation, it will be simpler for us in the following discussion to distinguish between the two individuals by referring to them as Adam Sr. (When referring to God, our Heavenly Father) and Adam Jr. (When referring to the embodied archangel, Michael, who partook of the forbidden fruit, fell, and became the father of Cain, Able and Seth etc.). It follows that there are also two Eves, and although in English the designation is never used with women, we shall distinguish between them as Eve Sr. and Eve Jr. This understanding allows us for the first time to correctly interpret a well known biblical passage… In interpreting Brigham Young's comments, one must therefore determine by the context of the discourse whether he was speaking of Adam Sr. or Adam Jr. This simple process will relieve 98% of the difficulties encountered in understanding Brigham Young's discourses on the topic of Adam.”