Historical Inquiry on Mormon Theology

Importance of Adam in Mormon Theology

The Book of Mormon mentions the transgression of Adam (LDS Mosiah 3:11; 2 Nephi 2:22).

The Doctrine and Covenants in additional material placed in the first (1835) edition has the following material relating to Old Testament Adam and applying the name Michael to Adam:

1. "And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days." (See LDS D&C 27:11; RLDS 26:2, not in early text)

2. "who hath appointed Michael, your prince, and established his feet, and set him upon high; and given to him the keys of salvation under the counsel and direction of the Holy One, who is without beginning of days or end of life" (see LDS D&C 78:16; RLDS D&C 77:3, not in early text)

For early text see H. Michael Marquardt, The Joseph Smith Revelations: Text and Commentary (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999), 72, 195-96.

The above additional wording to two revelatory texts indicates the belief of the church that Adam is Michael [the Archangel], the father of all [mankind], the prince of all [mankind], the ancient of days and he has given to him the keys of salvation under the Holy One.

Joseph Smith taught by 8 August 1839 that "the Keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent.-When they are revealed from Heaven it is by Adam[']s Authority" (Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph [Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, 1980], 8. See Joseph Smith et al., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B,H, Roberts [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1959], 3:386 and The Essential Joseph Smith [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1995], 124).

Brigham Young Advanced a Doctrine: Adam is our God

The following is an excerpt from a discourse given by President Brigham Young given during a Priesthood Session of General Conference held in Great Salt Lake City, Utah Territory on 9 April 1852:

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.

When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who is the Father? He is the first of the human family; and when he took a tabernacle, it was begotten by his Father in heaven, after the same manner as the tabernacles of Cain, Abel, and the rest of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve; from the fruits of the earth, the first earthly tabernacles were originated by the Father, and so on in succession.

I could tell you much more about this; but were I to tell you the whole truth, blasphemy would be nothing to it, in the estimation of the superstitious and over-righteous of mankind. However, I have told you the truth as far as I have gone. I have heard men preach upon the divinity of Christ, and exhaust all the wisdom they possessed. All Scripturalists, and approved theologians who were considered exemplary for piety and education, have undertaken to expound on this subject, in every age of the Christian era; and after they have done all, they are obliged to conclude by exclaiming "great is the mystery of godliness," and tell nothing.

It is true that the earth was organized by three distinct characters, namely, Eloheim, Yahovah, and Michael, these three forming a quorum, as in all heavenly bodies, and in organizing element, perfectly represented in the Deity, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Again, they will try to tell how the divinity of Jesus is joined to his humanity, and exhaust all their mental faculties, and wind up with this profound language, as describing the soul of man, "it is an immaterial substance!" What a learned idea! Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven. Now, let all who may hear these doctrines, pause before they make light of them, or treat them with indifference, for they will prove their salvation or damnation.

(Journal of Discourses 1:50-51, original printed emphasis included, [Liverpool: Published by F.D. Richards and S.W. Richards, 1854, completed volume]).

The discourse presented by Brigham Young on 9 April 1852 was heard by church priesthood members at conference time:

1. Apostle Wilford Woodruff recorded in his journal that President Young preached, "And Adam is Michael or God And all the God that we have any thing to do with" (Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff's Journal [Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983], 4:129, entry of 9 April 1852, original in LDS archives, Salt Lake City, Utah; also in Susan Staker, ed., Waiting for the World's End: The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993], 150).

2. Hosea Stout wrote, "Another meeting this evening. President B. Young taught that Adam was the father of Jesus and the only God to us. That he came to this world in a resur[r]ected body &c more hereafter" (Juanita Brooks, ed., On The Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout [Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press and Utah State Historical Society, 1964], 2:435, original in Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah).

3. Samuel Holister Rogers a few days later mentioned, "He [Brigham Young] said that Adam was the only God that we would have, and that Christ was not begotten of the Holy Ghost, but of the Father Adam . . ." (entry of 16 April 1852, typed copy, original in Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah).

4. Lorenzo Brown: "All male members met at 6 PM. House full. Pres. Young preached some new doctrine respecting Adam etc. Excellent discourse I thought" (Diary of Lorenzo Brown, entry of 10 April 1852, typed copy, original in L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah).

Note: This discourse given at the Priesthood Session of the General Conference was not published in Utah Territory but excerpts were published in England in the Millennial Star and the complete discourse appeared in the Journal of Discourses, volume 1. The Deseret News printed the minutes of this 9 April 1852 priesthood meeting: "6 P.M. The Elders and brethren assembled in the Tabernacle, which was completely crowded. After the usual introductory exercises, President Young preached several sermons on various subjects, the Holy Ghost resting upon him in great power, while he revealed some of the precious things of the kingdom." (Deseret News, 17 April 1852, Great Salt Lake City, Utah Territory; See also Millennial Star 14:356).

At a General Conference session held on 8 October 1854 Brigham Young preached. The following are excerpts from his discourse:

Note: <angled brackets> = word(s) added in original; strikeout = word(s) crossed out in original; and [brackets] = included to point out misspelled words [sic] or for clarification; some of the misspelled words may be typographical.

I tell you more, Adam was <is> the father of our spirits. He lived upon an earth; he did abide his creation, and did honor his calling and preisthood [priesthood], and obeyed his master or Lord, and probably many of his wives did also <the same>, and they lived, and died upon an earth, and <then> were resurrected again to immortality and eternal life. . . .

Many inquire who is this saviour? I will tell you what I think about it, and what the revelations say as the [Southerners] say I re[c]kon, and as the Yankys [Yankees] say I guess; but I will tell you what I reakon [reckon]. I reakon that father Adam was a ressurrected being, with his wives and posterity, and in the Celestial kingdom they wer[e] crowed with glory immortality and eternal lives, with throwns [thrones,] principalities and powers: and it was said to him it is your right to organise the elements; and to your creations and posterity there shall be no end, but you shall add kingdom to kingdom, <and> thrown [throne] to thrown [throne]; and still behold the vast eternity of unorganised matter. Adam then was a ressurected being; and I reakon, Our spirits and the spirits of all the human family were begotten by Adam, and born of Eve. . . .

Adam planted the Garden of Eden, and <and he with his wife Eve> partook of the fruit of this earth, until their systems were charged with the nature of earth, and then they could begget bodies, for their spiritual childeren. If the spirit does not enter into the embrio [embryo] man that is forming in the womb of the woman, the result will be faulse [false] conception. A living intellegent being cannot be produced. Adam and Eve begot the first mortal bodies on this earth, and from that commencement every spirit that was ever beggotten in eternity for this earth will enter bodies thus prepared for them here, until the winding up scene, and that will not be until the last <of these> spirits enters an earthly tabernacle.

(Transcribed from a typed copy of the discourse. The original is in the Brigham Young Collection, LDS archives. This general conference discourse was unpublished in the lifetime of Brigham Young. An edited version has been published in Fred C. Collier, comp. and ed., The Teachings of President Brigham Young Vol. 3, 1852-1854 [Salt Lake City: Collier's Publishing Co., 1987], 343-68; also in The Essential Brigham Young [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992], 86-103).

Keziah Downs Pratt (1812-1877) wrote to her husband Parley P. Pratt on October 18, 1854 concerning the sermon of Brigham Young.

The conference closed on Sunday afternoon with a brilliant address by Pres. B. Young to a very large audience outside the Tabernacle. - He commenced by saying that he was going to talk about things which did not immediately concern us, i.e., a plurality of Gods and a plurality of worlds; he said that both existed, but that of course need not concern us - we have to be aminable only to one God, and to live only upon one world. He would not make Moses into a liar by saying that Adam was not made out of the dust of the earth - but he said that Adam was not made out of the dust of this earth - that he was a resurrected being and Eve also, and that we were all begotten by him in the spirit, and that Eve was the mother oof us all and that we were every one of us black and white, brothers and sisters previous to taking our earthly tabernacles. ...

He then talked a little on the subject of the resurrection, spoke of Christ having power to lay down his life and power to take it up again, but he said that He did not use the power of taking it up again, for an Angel rolled away the stone and ressurrected him. So it would be with Joseph Smith he would be resurrected by some one, and then the keys would be given to him, and he would ressurrect the Apostles, and give them the keys, and they would ressurrect others, and so on. Oh, hear it all ye ends of the eath you will never one soul of you - black or white, bond or free, Jew or gentile - get a resurrection from the dead in any other way than through Joeph Smith, and I wish my voice could be heard to he ends of the earth.

(Transcribed from a typed copy of letter, in MS 5037, also in MS 278, LDS Church History Library, Salt Lake City)

At a meeting of the Council of the Twelve held in 1860 Apostle Orson Hyde said:

To acknowledge that this is the Kingdom of God, and that there is a presiding power, and to admit that he can advance incorrect doctrine, is to lay the ax at the root of the tree[.] Will He suffer his mouthpiece to go into error? No. He would remove him, and place another there. bro[ther]. Brigham [Young] may err in the price of a horse, or a House and lot, but in the revelations from God, where is the man that has given thus saith the Lord when it was not so? I cannot find one instance.(Minutes of the Meeting of the Council of the Twelve in Historian's upper room; Great Salt Lake City; 5 April 1860, LDS archives, typed copy)

Apostle John Taylor, President of the Quorum of the Twelve:

Pres[ident] Taylor said . . . when we get to God our Father we are told to approach him in the name of Jesus[.] Adam is the father of our bodies who is to say he is not the father of our spirits.

(L. John Nutall 1879 Diary, loose sheets at the end of 1879 diary, dated 13 Jan. 1880, L. John Nuttall Papers, Vault MSS 790, Special Collections and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah).

Wilford Woodruff, President of the Church

In a discourse given on 7 April 1895 President Wilford Woodruff said:

How much longer I shall talk to this people I do not know; but I want to say this to all Israel: Cease troubling yourselves about who God is; who Adam is, who Christ is, who Jehovah is. For heaven's sake, let these things alone. Why trouble yourselves about these things? God has revealed Himself, and when the 121st section of the Doctrine and Covenants is fulfilled, whether there be one God or many gods they will be revealed to the children of men, as well as all thrones and dominions, principalities, and powers. Then why trouble yourselves about these things? God is God. Christ is Christ. The Holy Ghost is the Holy Ghost. That should be enough for you and me to know. If we want to know any more, wait till we get where God is in person. I say this because we are troubled every little while with inquiries from Elders anxious to know who God is, who Christ is, and who Adam is. I say to the Elders of Israel, stop this. Humble yourselves before the Lord; seek for light, for truth, and for a knowledge of the common things of the kingdom of God. The Lord is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever. He changes not. The Son of God is the same. He is the Savior of the world. He is our advocate with the Father. We have had letter after letter from Elders abroad wanting to know concerning these things. Adam is the first man. He was placed in the Garden of Eden, and is our great progenitor. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, are the same yesterday, to-day and forever. That should be sufficient for us to know.

(Brain H. Stuy, comp. and ed., Collected Discourses [np: B.H.S. Publishing, 1991], 4:292).

Under the Presidency of Joseph F. Smith the following letter was sent responding to what others said concerning the Journal of Discourses publication of Brigham Young's 9 April 1852 discourse on Adam:

Salt Lake City, Utah

February 20, 1912

Pres[iden]t. Samuel O. Bennion
Independence, [Missouri]

Dear Brother:

Your question concerning Adam has not been answered before because of pressure of important business. We now respond briefly, but, we hope, plainly. You speak of "the assertion made by Brigham Young that Jesus was begotten of the Father in the flesh by our father Adam, and that Adam is the father of Jesus Christ and not the Holy Ghost," and you say that Elders are challenged by certain critics to prove this.

If you will carefully examine the sermon to which you refer, in the Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, you will discover that, while President Young denied that Jesus was "begotten of the Holy Ghost," he did not affirm, in so many words, that "Adam is the father of Jesus Christ in the flesh." He said, "Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden and who is our Father in Heaven. Who is our "Father in Heaven"? Here is what President Young said about him; "Our Father in heaven begat all the spirits that ever were or ever will be upon this earth and they were born spirits in the eternal world. Then the Lord by his power and wisdom organized the mortal tabernacle of man." Was He in the Garden of Eden? Surely He gave commandments to Adam and Eve; He was their Father in Heaven; they worshiped Him and taught their children after the fall to worship and obey Him in the name of the Son who was to come.

But President Young went on to show that our father Adam, -- that is, our earthly father, -- the progenitor of the race of man, stands at our head, being "Michael the Archangel, the Ancient of Days," and that he was not fashioned from earth like an adobe, but "begotten by his Father in Heaven." Adam is called in the Bible "the son of God" (Luke 3:38). It was our Father in Heaven who begat the spirit of him who was "the Firstborn" of all the spirits that come to this earth, and who was, also his Father by the Virgin Mary, making him "the only begotten in the flesh." Read Luke 1:26-35. Where is Jesus called "the only begotten of the Holy Ghost?" He is always singled out as "the only begotten of the Father." (John 1:14; 3:16, 18, &c) The Holy Ghost came upon Mary, and her conception was under that influence, even of the spirit of life; our Father in Heaven was the Father of the Son of Mary, to whom the Savior prayed, as did our earthly father Adam.

When President Young asked, "who is the Father?" he was speaking of Adam as the father of our earthly bodies, who is at our head, as revealed in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 107, verses 53-56. In that sense he is one of the gods referred to in numerous scriptures, and particularly by Christ (John 10:34-36). He is the great Patriarch, the Ancient of Days, who will stand in his place as "a prince over us forever," and with whom we shall "have to do," as each family will have to do with its head, according to the holy patriarchal order. Our father, Adam, perfected and glorified as a God, will be the being who will carry out the behests of the great Elohim in relation to his posterity. (See Daniel 7:9-14.)

While, as Paul puts it, "there be gods many and Lords many (whether in heaven or in earth), unto us there is but one God the Father, of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ by whom are all things." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worships Him, and Him alone, who is the Father of Jesus Christ, whom He worshiped, whom Adam worshiped, and who is God the Eternal Father of us all.

Your brethren,


First Presidency.

(James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1970], 4:266-67, letter of 20 Feb. 1912).

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