One-Minute Answers by Stephen R. Gibson

Contents of One-Minute Answers

Is God Adam?

Question: Didn't Brigham Young teach that Adam is God?

From a number of sermon reports, diary entries, minutes, letters, artides and statements, it appears that Brigham Young held the view, at least for part of his life, that as God the Son came to earth and went through mortality to redeem mankind, God the Father also went through mortality to become the great progenitor of mankind.

It also appears that Brigham Young taught more than once that God the Father was known in this role as Adam, who came to this earth and brought one of his wives, Eve, with him. Simply stated, he once believed that God the Father became Adam to begin the human family; God the Son became Jesus Christ to redeem the human family.

President Young's first and strongest statement of this idea is found in an April 9, 1852 sermon (Journal of Discourses 1:50). In his subsequent comments on the subject, he emphasized that it is "considerable of a mystery," "that should not trouble us at all," and was not "necessary for the people to know" (see D 4:217; 7:238, 285; 11:43, 268).

Brigham Young's discussions of this subject were rare in comparison to his sermons espousing the traditional concept of God's role. His above theories were probably unknown to most Saints living at that time, as they are to most Latter-day Saints living today.

The greatest interest in this theory came after his death. Most Church authorities contemporary with President Young had little or nothing to say on the subject. The two best-known exceptions were Heber C. Kimball, who mentioned it in several sermons, and Apostle Orson Pratt, who openly voiced his rejection of the concept. Following President Young's death, with the exception of several obscure statements, no Church authority has advocated the idea.

During the last decade of the 19th Century, interest in the subject elicited response from such authorities as Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith. These men acknowledged that they were personally familiar with President Young's theory but discouraged teaching and speculating upon the subject. The status of the "Adam-God theory" was summed up in 1897 in a private letter outlined by President Wilford Woodruff and written by Apostle Joseph F. Smith:

President Young no doubt expressed his personal opinion or views upon the subject. What he said was not given as 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.

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, LDS Archives).

During the first quarter of this century, there arose a new generation of Church authorities who had not participated with Brigham Young in the councils of the Church and were therefore not personally familiar with his views. Among these, such men as B. H. Roberts, Charles W. Penrose and Anthon H. Lund began advocating the idea that Brigham Young had been misinterpreted. This has been the position taken by most leaders in this century. However, from the fruits of his research, in the 1980s Elder Bruce R. McConkie acknowledged the existence of Brigham Young's views on Adam, although he did not accept them.

Modern-day prophets have declared that the Adam-God theory is false. In 1976 President Spencer W. Kimball stated the following:

We wam 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 (Church News, Oct. 9, 1976).
It is certain that neither Brigham Young nor any of his successors ever considered the Adam-God theory to be an official or unofficial doctrine of the Church. It was never presented in priesthood councils, nor did Brigham Young declare that it was a direct revelation from God. There is also no evidence that general authorities of the Church ever supported actions taken against anyone who disbelieved the Adam-God theory.

Anti-Mormons have generally raised this theory to argue that Brigham Young believed in a different God than the God of the Bible, or even another God than that of current Latter-day Saints. This, however, is at least a partial misunderstanding of the issue.

Brigham Young frequently spoke of his God as the God of Israel, the God of the Bible. His point of difference was not who is God, but rather what God has done. He was simply claiming that God did something which most other Christians and Latter-day Saints believe He did not do.

It has not been uncommon for prophets and writers of sacred scripture to differ in their view of what God has done. It is clear that God has chosen to remain somewhat of a mystery, even to his prophets and apostles, and has not revealed much information concerning his activities prior to the creation of this earth. Paul expressed this in I Corinthians 13:9-12. Speaking of himself and other Christians, Paul declared that their gifts of knowledge and inspired messages were only partial, that they were looking to the future for perfect knowledge and the full revelation of God. He further compared their gospel understanding to the dim and imperfect image seen in the poor-grade mirrors produced at that time, but declared that eventually they would see God face to face.

Man's understanding of God then was only partial, but would one day be as complete as God's knowledge of himself (see also Num. 12:6-8). Many statements and incidents within the Bible support Paul's view.

Following are a few of many examples in which Biblical prophets and writers have differed regarding the acts of God.
Did the Lord cause David to number Israel?
2 Sam. 24:1
1 Chr. 21:1
Does God justify the ungodly?
Rom. 4:5
Ex. 23:7
Pr. 17:15
Does God punish children for the sins of their fathers?
Ex. 34:7
Due. 5:9
Ex. 20:5
Ez. 18:20
Does God repent or change?
Gen. 6:6 
Ex. 32:14
1 Sam. 15:35
Jer. 26:13
Amos 7:1-6
Num. 23:19
1 Sam. 15:29
Mal. 3:6
The Lord
Did the Lord deliver the Law or did angels?
Ex. 20
Deu. 5
Acts 7:53
Gal. 3:19
Heb. 2:2

The issue raised by these passages is not that these prophets and writers believed in different Gods, but rather that they differed regarding their understanding of what God has done. Thus, it is unrealistic to expect all prophets, authors of scripture or all General Authorities to have the same understanding of what God has done.

The fact that Brigham Young believed that God did something which is difficult to harmonize with the beliefs of former or succeeding prophets presents a problem only for those whose expectations for prophets bear little relationship to the Biblical profile of a prophet.

The following is suggested for further reading:

David John Buerger, "The Adam-God Doctrine," Dialogue 15 (Spring, 1982) pp. 14-58.

Van Hale, What About the Adam-God Theory (Sandy, Utah: Mormon Miscellaneous, 1982).