Can Anyone Articulate Adam-God?

I will confess, again, that my interest in Mormonism’s history tapers off dramatically after about 1846. In some recent work on Joseph Smith’s divine anthropology, I have returned to Adam-God issues, which I had laid to rest a decade or so ago after a quick review of the literature had suggested that a) Brigham Young did in fact teach something that was later discountenanced, and b) it only left much of an echo among Mormon sectarians and fundamentalists on the one hand and evangelical critics on the other. As my belief in Mormonism does not depend on Brigham Young never saying anything strange, I did not find Adam-God sufficiently compelling to turn a more serious eye toward it. Even now, as I turn to it with a more scholarly interest, I find it rather a tempest in a teapot. What has struck me more than anything is what appears to me to be a lack of any clear, reproducible definition of what this Adam-God doctrine is. Without such a definition, connecting it to or disambiguating it from Joseph Smith’s divine anthropology is exceedingly difficult.

So, what do people say? Can anyone offer a clear, reproducible definition of Adam-God sufficient to distinguish it from Smith’s teachings? Is it all emphasis, or are there substantive differences? Feel free to use evidence to back up your claims if you desire. For those interested the current standard treatment is Buerger’s from Dialogue in the 1980s. It’s a good read and well-researched, but it also lacks a reliable definition of Adam-God.

I am not particularly interested in debating Adam-God, just in defining it. Evans can delete polemics about Adam-God if he so desires. And for those not yet innoculated against Adam-God, we can provide something for people at a later date; interested parties can email admin, as per Stapley’s offer. For now, I would say there are large numbers of devout, non-fundamentalist believers whose faith is unaffected by Adam-God, despite being aware of it in all its gory, if poorly defined, details.

NB: Someone asked for clarification about the doctrinal status of Adam-God. Several prophets in the twentieth century have clearly stated that the church does not endorse this doctrine. There is no reason to worry that we as Mormons are required or encouraged to believe that the being we call Elohim and worship as God the Father is in fact Father Adam.

I will soon summarize the actual responses to the question posed, which are relatively few in number.


  1. Jeff G had a long series of posts digging into A/G at his old blog (before he took it all down). I’ll bet he could add a lot to this discussion.

  2. You should listen to Paul Toscano’s Mormon Stories interview with John Dehlin. It’s been a while since I listened to it, and I remember not particularly agreeing with his views of theology, but I know he speaks of this, and in fact agrees with it. I’ll listen again tonight and see if I can offer a synopsis.

  3. If I remember correctly from my various readings here is how Brigham saw and preached things… (and please correct me where I remember wrong all).

    The lineage of Gods as Brigham taught it went something like this:

    Elohim = Great-grandfather
    Jehovah = Grand-Father
    Adam = The Father
    Jesus = The Son

    The idea was that the Father, Adam, came to this earth in his resurrected body with “one of his wives” Eve. As they partook of earthly food their resurrected bodies became corrupted, “fell”, and became mortal. That couple started the human species on his view.

    I believe that Brigham assumed the Father had been a Savior on a previous planet too and that is why he was already resurrected.

    Brigham reportedly preached this general idea privately at first, then publicly, and in his later years he sorta backed down to a “not so sure” attitude about it all.

  4. Yeah, the key to understanding it is NOT, under any circumstances making Jesus=Jehovah. That just messes things up.

    It’s easiest to understand in reference to the creation narrative as presented in the temple.

    Adam is Michael, God the Father. Jesus is his son, which is not a member of creation 3. After that we have Jehovah and Eloheim, and Brigham believed Jehovah to be Micheal’s God the Father.

    I think it probably makes most sense to also think of it in terms of the King Follett discourse. Joseph said that the the Head of the Gods choose our God to rule over this world. In other words, Jehovah, the head of the Eloheim, choose Michael to rule over this world. At least this was probably Brigham’s take on Joseph’s speech.

    Thus, Adam is the father of our bodies and spirits. Adam didn’t sin. Adam didn’t die. Jesus, the son of Adam came to save us, but not Adam from sin and death.

  5. Additionally, I would suggest that one cannot fully understand the temple ceremony as Brigham laid it out (with penalties and all) without viewing it from a Adam-God framework. (It should also be noted that the original temple ceremony had Jesus and Jehovah be separate characters.) Over course, the current ceremony is different from Brigham’s in a number of respects.

  6. Christian says:

    Your question presupposes that Brigham’s inarticulate speeches on this matter can be accurately characterized as “Adam-God.” GIGO.

  7. angrymormonliberal says:

    Don’t miss Eliza R. Snow’s poem ‘The Ultimatum of Human Life’ which has this striking little passage

    When god a patrimony shall bestow
    Upon his sons and daughters here below.
    Adam, your God, like you on earth, has been
    Subject to sorrow in a world of sin:
    Through long gradation he arose to be
    Cloth’d with the Godhead’s might and majesty.

    This was the independent verification of the Adam-God doctrine for me. However, it’s not as clear as I perceived it when I first read it.

    Here’s a link to the whole poem

  8. Although these attempts are admirable, they so far seem to validate the underlying theme of smb’s post: that Adam-God is not sufficiently defined for in-depth analysis.

  9. Christian says:

    If you force the interpretation of Snow’s poem that way as if she was addressing the reader directly, I guess you can verify your preconceptions. But the more reasonable reading is that the phrase addresses Adam directly.

    Adam means many. Anyone dimly acquainted with the temple is accustomed to being addressed as Adam.

    The passage tells Adam, meaning all of us, that our God, like us on earth, has been subject to sorrow in a world of sin.

    Isn’t it blithering obvious? Our God that she’s talking about, is Jesus Christ. Through long gradation he arose to be Coth’d with the Godhead’s might and majesty.

  10. It’s true that there is no “from the ground up” expose on A/G put forth by BY. Rather, we can only try to put something together which is internally consistent from BY’s perspective. Doing this requires that we drop a few doctrine which were popularized after his death, such as Jesus=Jehovah. If anybody is looking for something more clear-cut than this, it’s not going to happen.

  11. Thanks for posing this question, Sam. I, too, have always been frustrated with the lack of a clear definition for this speculation.

    I look forward to all the responses.

  12. First, I recognize that this is an issue that many struggle with. I’m sorry that some of the early apologetic angles compound the problem. If anyone is struggling, feel free to email the address on the contact info page.

    As for a working definition goes. It is the set of beliefs championed by Brigham including that:

    Adam and Eve were exalted beings before this world was, embodied, and our spirit parents. Adam is Jesus’s dad spiritually and in the flesh. Adam and Eve came to earth as exalted beings but by eating earthy foods become earthy themselves.

    Related to this core set of doctrines are the ideas that Jesus was also a resurrected being before this world and that humans can also progress through multiple incarnations to be a savior and ultimately an Adam/Father.

  13. Mephibosheth says:

    So true. I remember when I first read Buerger’s article thinking that many if not most of his purported references to Adam-God doctrine could be just as easily interpreted as the divine potential of man.

  14. JS,

    I know that BY held that Jesus lived and died before coming to this world, but did he really say that Jesus was resurrected as well? In my mind, I thought that Jesus being born on this earth pretty much was his resurrection from a past life. Perhaps that might have been my own personal twist on the issue. Anyways, multiple incarnation is indeed central to the A/G doctrine.

  15. Christian says:

    Rather, we can only try to put something together which is internally consistent from BY’s perspective.

    If you want to cobble together a doctrine based on the clear intent of someone who isn’t here to speak for himself, and based on the tea leaves of an inarticulate document, perhaps you should ask the Florida Supreme Court.

  16. Snow White says:

    Wow. I haven’t really researched this topic, as it sounded like Brigham Young was confused about doctrine. Has this idea been confirmed by any other prophet? If the veracity of his claims isn’t going to be addressed here can someone post a link to some good information about it? It never occured to me that it might be serios doctrine, so I never bothered looking into it. Thanks!

  17. Jeff G., Pratt claimed that he taught it.

    Snow White, FAIR has a brief review of the common typical approaches (some of which are deeply flawed – but their job is to give the options).

    As to whether or not BY taught it, there is really little doubt. Watson’s theory, which he tried to get McConkie to endorse and back peddle on his pronouncements that BY was simply mistaken simply doesn’t consider all the evidence. The SLC School of the Prophets is quite explicit.

  18. Snow White,

    Not only have Brigham’s speculations not been confirmed by later prophets, they were in fact specifically denied (see President Kimball’s remarks on the subject). In other words, Brigham got that particular theological speculation wrong. I see that as no big deal (we’re all entitled to guesses, right?) but others seem to freak out that a president of the church might not have been infallible…

  19. re # 16, SWK repudiated Adam-God in fairly straightforward terms, I believe.

  20. Christian says:

    The SLC School of the Prophets is quite explicit.

    That’s nice, but was it coherent, unlike Brigham Young’s speech on the matter? Was it unambiguous, unlike Eliza Snow’s poem cited above?

  21. I don’t think we should hold out for any clearer definition than we find for other deities. Consider:

    -Jesus is God the son, unless he is talking as God the father, or is simply being the father of our salvation, or he is God the son and the father, the two being one.
    -Jehovah is the premortal Jesus, or God the father, or God the father’s father.
    -Eloheim is God the father, or simply “gods”.
    -Adam was a person, or a myth, or God the father, or simply “many”.

    My point is that if we are liberal enough with our definitions, we can reconcile pretty much any quote we come across if only by making doctrine claims mean nothing since they, in fact, mean anything and everything.

  22. It should also be noted that Brigham and H.C. Kimball thought that the temple ceremonies were for the Church of the First Born and that the “First Born” was the first man, Adam.

    Christian, to answer you question, yes, Brigham was quite clear in his claims. He taught it explicitly in a number of sermons and had a big fat stand-off against Orson Pratt over the issue.

  23. It is also important to note that many modern beliefs come to us via Adam-God. Some of those things were unique to the belief system (e.g., Elder Brotherism) others were found elsewhere and merely popularized by it (spirit birth and MiH).

    Christian, from the tone of your comment, I’m guessing that you haven’t actually read the source material in question. That is fine, I don’t think that it is particularly important to the modern Church. But you might want to dial down the sarcasm.

  24. Steve Evans says:

    “Evans can delete polemics about Adam-God if he so desires.”

    (rubs hands expectantly)

  25. Jeff, I’m a little sketchy on the claims of #22. Do you have a contemporary source for that?

  26. Personally this is a repudiated (false) doctrine as far as I am concerned. SWK spoke out against it as did many other GA’s.

  27. bbell, I don’t think anyone here is saying that it is the doctrine of the modern Church.

  28. In my opinion, this is an area best left alone on public forums. If one approaches this subject prayerfully and in private, when their spiritually prepared, then that is a different matter.

    I consider it “temple material”.

    I also think of the the following scripture:

    …no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish
    Mosiah 8:13 Also, D&C 19:22

  29. “For those interested the current standard treatment is Buerger’s from Dialogue in the 1980s”

    This is available online here.

  30. Oh, I know J. Just stating my opinion on the whole matter. I am trying to imagine anyone defending it…. Not happening

  31. Aw man, I don’t have my notebooks with me. I’m pretty sure the Kimball quote is from JD, and the BY quote as well. Let me try and google some stuff.

    BY said that the ordinances of the temple are specifically for the church of the first born. Not very interesting, I know. (JD 8:154)

    Heber said that the church of the first born is the first born church. Not exactly as I remembered it. (JD 5:129-130)

    One can also read Abraham 1: 1-4 as saying that Adam is the first born. Of course none of these sources are terribly unambiguous, so take from it what you may.

    I just remember from my studies that “Church of the First Born” had a very special meaning to the early leaders from Nauvoo onward. That, at least, is how I read Joseph’s introduction of the endowment on May 6, 1842.

  32. I just want to say thanks to those who are already giving me the opportunity to delete their comments today. Christian, I’m looking at you.

  33. That’s good stuff.

  34. Christian says:

    On the off chance that you’re referring to my comments in #9 and #15, then you are gravely mistaken. #9 is based on my reading of the poem immediately above and #15 is based on my reading of the BY’s teachings as recorded in the Journal of Discourses. The source that I have not read is the “SLC School of the Prophets,” which #22 asserts is very clear. I would like to see it for myself; I’d not heard of it.

    It is also important to note that many modern beliefs come to us via Adam-God.

    The closest thing I can think of that fits that description is the little blue anti-evolution book that Reed Benson continues to circulate in spite of the BYU administration telling him to stop, but I’d hardly call that an important belief.

  35. Christian, it turns out I can delete people when they’re just plain-vanilla jerks, too! ZAP! Just like that. You should get a blog someday — admin really is fun.

  36. Christian says:

    Enjoy your little priestcraft, Evans, but others here know what you’ve done, and that this isn’t a real discussion..

  37. I’ve been assembling source material on this topic for some time, and am in the process of preparing my own essay that addresses the question. When I’m done, I’ll e-mail it to you, Sam.

    I will say this: It is my opinion that the official “repudiations” of the so-called “Adam/God Doctrine” by President Kimball and others are based on a failure to understand what Brigham Young was actually trying to say; they are repudiations, rather, of the pervasive folk beliefs that developed over the years, and specifically of the fundamentalist interpretations championed by those who branched off from the church at the time of the Manifesto.

    The simple version of my interpretation is that the father of the body of Jesus was also the father of the body of Adam (and Eve) — the progenitors of the human race upon this planet. And that father (along with his “Eve”) had previously, on a different planet, at a different time, played the role subsequently reprised by our own “Adam and Eve” on this planet; for this particular mortal probationary period. So, in a very real sense, an “Adam” is the only God with whom we have to do. And he is part of a repeating cycle of Adams/Eves/Saviors who continue to be the prominent “roles” in the script that is used for each subsequent creation.

    Looking at it in this fashion is the only way to reconcile the seeming contradictions between Brigham Young’s teachings about “Adam/God” and the ritual which plays out in the temple ceremony — which ritual Brigham was well-versed in, and whose form he played a major role in establishing.

  38. Christian, it’s not priestcraft to delete trolls like you. It’s all kinds of wonderful. Thanks for playing.

  39. Matt Rasmussen says:

    #27 J. Stapley: I don’t think anyone here is saying that it is the doctrine of the modern Church.

    I’m with bbell on this. Why muddy the waters by dragging it up? It’s so convoluted that it’s not even interesting.

    Is is possible for Sam to edit his original post to note that Kimball and others denounced it as false? Then someone new to the gospel wouldn’t think it’s something we believe.

  40. Christian, are you familiar with the MA thesis done at BYU by Rodney Turner?

    “The Position of Adam in Latter-day Saint Scripture and Theology,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, August, 1953

    Turner (who went on to teach in the RelEd department) concluded that BY wasn’t misquoted and indeed taught something nebulous along these lines.
    His advisors were Hugh Nibley and Sidney Sperry. Those are good credentials. Nibley even referred obliquely to “sorting out this Adam mess” once…

  41. Nitsav, Christian would like you to know that he finds your comment interesting, but as he’s been put into comment moderation he’s currently unable to reply. Oh, and that I’m committing evil priestcraft by not letting him comment anymore. :(

  42. Will: Just remember that there are significant differences between Brigham’s temple ceremony and the temple ceremony after 1900, specifically the lecture at the veil.

  43. Correction: my evil priestcraft consists in deleting his comments — which were decidedly non-polemical as to the issues of A-G. Apologies to all, lest you think Christian was moderated for being all polemical about Adam-God. He wasn’t; he was moderated for being an ignorant jerkwad.

  44. Ben (#42),

    I am aware of the differences to which you allude. However, I don’t believe that the differences are such to contradict the solution I propose.

    The important aspects (in my estimation) have not changed substantially since the beginning: the account of creation, the players involved, the organization of the bodies of Adam and Eve, etc.

  45. It is not really surprising that there is some ambiguity surrounding Adam-God. After all, there is ambiguity surrounding everything that has to do with heaven. This is the rule, not the exception.

    As to a definition of Adam-God, when I was at BYU I found books like the The Adam-God Maze (less-so the book by Tholson) to be helpful in this regard. That book used to be online, but I don’t see it anymore.

    To me, the most central tenets of Adam-God are that Adam is the father of our spirits, that he started off the process of giving us physical bodies by coming to earth for awhile, and that Adam is the example for all of us about what it means to be a God. From this we are to understand that begetting spirits, organizing worlds for those spirits, starting off the process of giving them physical bodies, and then nurturing them along on the path to salvation is the work of God our father. At least, that is the essence of the doctrine as I understand it.

  46. Heheh. This Evans troll-control subplot is making this thread far more amusing than expected.

  47. Steve is the only admin with whom we have to do, Geoff.

  48. Will,

    You need to drop the idea that Jesus is Jehovah. In the original ceremony, there were 4 characters rather than 3. In his 1854 sermon (I’m pretty sure it was early October) Brigham clearly says that Adam, the same Adam from the Bible, is God, the Father of Jesus.

    I also dabbled with your theory, but it doesn’t work. Drop the idea of Jesus as Jehovah, since Brigham didn’t believe it at all. He didn’t reject it, for it simply hadn’t come up yet.

  49. Re #43, I ♥ moderation.

    I wanted to add that I think all the attempts to “normalize” what Brigham was preaching are doomed to failure. Collier’s The Teachings of President Brigham Young offer plenty of examples of things that just don’t work with the explanations like that suggested by Will above.

  50. I have to be brief, as I am working, but I want to say I think it is very important to study Adam God theory andit is not just dragging it up. I think it gives us a basis to see how revelation and speculation work at a prophet level and helps us understand that yes mistakes can be made, can be dealt with. Further, I think there are some central teachings of the church that are heavily mixed with Adam God and it is a very necassary (and as of yet undone) effort of the church to sort out what is and is not doctrinal, based on the underlying assumptions. (For example, spirit birth, creation theory, jesus = jehovah)

    Also, I did a study of every time BY mentions Adam in the JD, and thought it was a while ago, It seemed to me BY was not consistent in teaching this, as though he were not 100% committed to it.

  51. Steve is the only admin with whom we have to do, Geoff.

    Yeah, well, as one who got a new Dell XPS410 last summer, wiped the Vista Home Premium off of it, then installed (with great difficulty, I might add) XP Professional in its place, and who is now being compelled (because of the incompatibility of the motherboard/firewire card/video capture/XP Pro) to load Vista once again . . . and when attempting to load back the Vista Home Premium on the top of XP Pro, discovered that doing so will necessitate a clean install — which I cannot abide . . . and who must, of necessity, now go and purchase Vista Ultimate Upgrade and load it over my XP Pro . . . . . . . well, I think it is clear in my mind at this moment that Bill Gates is the only god with whom we have to do in this world.


  52. This has got to be the best resource I have ever seen on the subject.

    It clearly shows which doctrines are associated with, or even the product of A/G thinking.

  53. Jeff G (#48):

    You need to drop the idea that Jesus is Jehovah. In the original ceremony, there were 4 characters rather than 3. In his 1854 sermon (I’m pretty sure it was early October) Brigham clearly says that Adam, the same Adam from the Bible, is God, the Father of Jesus.

    I also dabbled with your theory, but it doesn’t work. Drop the idea of Jesus as Jehovah, since Brigham didn’t believe it at all. He didn’t reject it, for it simply hadn’t come up yet.

    Mmmmmm . . . well, it could be that what I thought was a script for the pre-1900 ceremony is, in fact, not. Because now I must confess ignorance to the 4-character creation scenario. So, you may indeed be right that my theory is deficient. Obviously, I need to find a reliable source for the pre-1900 script before I proceed any further.

    Now where did I put that Staples discount card . . . . . .

  54. As a commentary to the link Jeff provided (#52), from a historiographical perspective it is junk. It provides some interesting lists of places to look, but many of the sources are retrospective, most don’t provide bibliographic information and it doesn’t include most of the more compelling sources.

  55. Will,

    The 4 character scenarios are from the Nauvoo ceremony and can only be found in a few diaries.

    JS is absolutely right about that list. Nevertheless, for thinks that A/G is a really isolated doctrine, or that it is based on 1 or 2 isolated quotes, it’s a great start.

  56. Why is there an iceberg on the header of this blog?

  57. Kevin Barney says:

    Sam MB, I appreciate the post. Much like you and Ben, I’ve never really cared enough about Adam God to get deeply into it, so I always feel a little bit tentative when people ask me questions about it. This is a very useful thread.

  58. Randy B. says:

    “Why is there an iceberg in the header of this blog?”

    Always winter, never Christmas.

  59. Randy B. says:

    (looks for place to hide from the only admin with whom I have to do)

  60. I find this discussion interesting but I wonder what we do with the facts that not only Brigham Young but many other members and later prophets believed there was something to this Adam-God theory/doctrine. John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff believed it. Woodruff even made a trip to Bunkerville to sort out the mess. Joseph F. Smith believed it at one time, or at least his diary indicates such. The Lecture at the Veil was quite clear. Orson Pratt was threated with excommunication for going against this teaching, etc. And what of Brigham statement that his one regret was revealing to much about the nature of God. I know many good LDS, some well known that think there is truth to this. I guess what Im saying is we shouldnt be in rush to toss it out because we dont understand it or Because of SWK or Joseph Fielding Smith’s comments.

    I agree that the Jehovah-Jesus nexus is a real problem for us when approaching Brigham’s teachings. Jesus as Jehovah is more a result of Talmage’s Jesus the Christ than any teaching by Joseph or Brigham.

    As for myself I think that the teaching fits nicely with the idea that Adam and Eve represent us in the temple. Brigham was teaching that when exalted we would actually do what Adam and Eve. It personalizes God and makes him more understandable and presents him as having such a great love he would fall that we might be.

    I am curious what people find confusing about the idea other than it is different than what we are usually taught. I have no strong feelings either way.

  61. Kevin,

    I’m in accord with you in terms of the relative unimportance of the whole Adam/God “controversy.” To me, the single most intriguing factor is the level of seeming certainty and the self-assured boldness with which Brigham Young introduced the concept. Regardless of what he really meant, it is clear that he felt that he had been the recipient of some epiphanic knowledge.

    Now, if he simply had a bad peyote or mushroom trip while camping out one night … that’s cool, too. I don’t require my prophets and apostles to always be right. Most of the time is good enough for me. After all, why should I hold them to a standard that I can’t come close to matching? I sustain the office in every case, and although I may also revere the man the vast majority of the time, I refuse to require perfection of anyone subject to the vicissitudes of this fleeting existence.

    I’m fairly confident that part of our test in this life is in attempting to master the simple process of sorting out, for ourselves, the wheat from the chaff. In the case of Brigham Young, I estimate a wheat to chaff ratio of about 10 to 1. That’s not bad at all in my book.

  62. Will,

    but if it is true it tells much about what our future lives may or may no be like. Something, harps and hymns aside, we seem to know little about. Which is why I partly think life after death books are so popular in mormon circles.

    Then again, maybe Brigham was really off which then makes us wonder how far off he was on other things such as Priesthood and blacks. And what of all the prophets are they that wrong as Brigham was? So what do we believe.

  63. Oh man. Even I can feel the itch starting to develop on Steve’s “priestcraft” finger. It’s only a matter of time before that finger needs some scratchin’.

  64. (fingers twitch involuntarily)

    Reminds me of a line from my favorite movie, Major Payne:

    It’s been two whole weeks since I killed me a man, and already I’m starting to feel the itch. Only problem is, I ain’t got nothin’ to scratch.

  65. CS Eric says:

    Randy B (#58, #59),

    That was going to be my answer, too. But then I remembered the last time that story was associated with BCC. What seemed like a joke to me at the time got personal, and, well, M* hasn’t really been the same since.

  66. Mark IV says:

    Bannin’ is my bidness. And bidness is gooood.

  67. Joshua (#62):

    Then again, maybe Brigham was really off which then makes us wonder how far off he was on other things such as Priesthood and blacks. And what of all the prophets are they that wrong as Brigham was? So what do we believe.

    Well, I thought I was pretty clear in how I view what you seem to regard as a messy conundrum:

    I’m fairly confident that part of our test in this life is in attempting to master the simple process of sorting out, for ourselves, the wheat from the chaff.

    I believe the truth taught by prophets, as confirmed by personal revelation. That’s how I operate, per Brigham Young’s explicit instructions:

    “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 135).

    If I think my leaders, at any given moment, are mistaken on something, it is not for me to reach out my hand and steady the ark. Rather, I simply mind myself, that I am “walking in the path the Lord dictates.” I have learned to have an abiding confidence that, although the ship may lurch to and fro on occasion, in course of time the helm is adjusted as necessary to keep it on its appointed course.

  68. A good resource book on the subject is “Understanding Adam God Teachings: A Comprehensive Resource of Adam God Materials” by Drew Briney. It claims to have every major statement on the subject gathered into a 600+ page book. It is self-published, but can be purchased from Pioneer Book in Provo, Utah. Sam Weller’s in Salt Lake City probably has it too.

  69. cadams, I haven’t seen it, but I have heard that the editing in that volume is abominable.

    All, let’s try to keep this thread on Sam’s discussion of defining Adam-God.

  70. My understanding is different than Jeff G. on a number of issues. Perhaps he has encountered the same sources I bring up below and has a different take on them?

    1) #5 “It should also be noted that the original temple ceremony had Jesus and Jehovah be separate characters.”

    The Nauvoo Endowment Companies p. xxxix lists the ceremonial roles and lists who portrayed which role. Under “Upper Department actors” roles for Eloheim, Jehovah, and Michael. Nowhere is there a separate listing for Jesus.

    So if the temple ceremony ever separated the roles (according to the apostate sources Buerger relies on) it would have been a modification to the original ceremony that didn’t have any lasting power.

    2) #4 “I think it probably makes most sense to also think of it in terms of the King Follett discourse.”

    I would have to be convinced first that KFD should be read as a backdrop to A-G. Brigham Young was out of town campaigning for Joseph when the KFD was given. The KFD was put on the back burner until Lorenzo Snow ascended to the Presidency and started popularizing his couplet. That made it safe for subsequent dusting off the KFD cob webs by the likes of JFS I.

    3) #4 “NOT, under any circumstances making Jesus=Jehovah. That just messes things up”

    Well this was historically messed up all the time, starting in Nauvoo. What you are really arguing seems to be that the 4 role version of A-G is the definitional one, the final one, the canonical one. The way I see it, there were multiple versions of A-G possible and everyone was free to speculate their own preferred version of it.

  71. Well, I was trying to get at Brigham’s understanding of what he was saying. Even if the 4 character ceremony was only in Nauvoo (I remember there being 2 sources for this, one an expose by an anti and another more friendly source.) it is quite clear that Brigham did not equate Jehovah with Jesus. There can really be no doubt on this. Of course if one wants to say, “but Jesus really is Jehovah, what now?” that’s a different question for a different day, in my opinion.

    As for the KFD, I wasn’t trying to find confirmation in the KFD for A/G theory. Rather, I was trying to illustrate how Brigham probably understood KFD. It is quite clear from the record that Brigham took the KFD as support for the idea that Joseph believed and taught the A/G doctrine. Whether Joseph actually did believe and teach it is, again, a different matter.

  72. I’m really wishing I had my notebook with me now.

  73. Here are some of my notes about Adam-God that might be germane to this topic.

    I do not think we can fully unpack Brigham’s Adam-God theory, nor should we ignore when Brigham taught more conventionally.

    I personally believe Brigham taught at least two versions of Adam God.

    1) the Two (or multiple) Adams version (3 actors)

    2) The Jehovah-does-not-equal-Jesus (4 actors) version.

    In his Dialogue article Buerger covers both, but I think the evidence I found in the Nauvoo Endowment Companies tips the balance on two counts. Nevertheless ambiguity remains and I can’t totally rule out that Brigham Young’s views didn’t evolve over time.

    There is an analogy to how Adam-God beliefs were spread to how Joseph Smith introduced polygamy in Nauvoo. Both Joseph (polygamy) and Brigham (Adam-God) tried to introduce the item publicly but were met with initial resistance, leading to a public de-emphasis. Both went on to continue promoting the innovations privately to their inner circles and mixed it in with temple activity. Before polygamy went public, belief or non belief was not a test of orthodoxy. Adam-God never did have enough momentum to become commonly consented to like polygamy eventually did. Another point of contrast would be that Joseph Smith had greater problems with his inner group dissenters and had to excommunicate them while Brigham was able to continue to get along with Orson. Accepting Adam-God was never as urgent as accepting polygamy.

    Here let me note that Brigham’s inner group was not necessarily the hierarchy, just like Joseph’s only included 9 of the 12, 1 of the First Presidency, and also rank and file members of the Church. If you look into Quinn’s BYU Studies Prayer Circle article you can see how this might be.

    Let me muse that some of these prayer circles were like having a church within a church. Back in the day one might think of oneself as an elitist who could handle the stronger beliefs and speculations of the general authority that lead their group. Besides prayer circles there were other ways to form private study groups like attempts to restart the School of the Prophets.

    So the Mormon fundamentalists didn’t just spot the few public mid-1850 sermons of Brigham Young and reinvent their beliefs on Adam-God; it is more like they inherited those beliefs. Adam-God beliefs didn’t die suddenly with Brigham Young, but it took until 1910ish when Brigham’s generation was replaced in the Twelve by the likes of Penrose and Talmage who ended up reforming the speculation: After them the apologetic treated Adam as a god in a limited sense, divine investure (sp?) came into vogue, and name-titles got standardized.

    What I am suggesting is that most of Brigham’s peers in the Twelve were actually on board to some degree or another with the Adam-God theory.

    * I do think that the current temple ceremony does contain a remnant of Adam/God teachings, but I don’t want to insist on that, because I only see through the glass darkly and some of that is more a reflection than it is inspiration.
    * It should be called the Adam/God paradox, not Adam/God doctrine or even theory
    * It works if we can equivocate over what/who is meant by Adam, in an analogous way to what we do with the term God.
    * Thus if you try to analyze it using sophic modes of thinking (Orson Pratt, Mormon fundamentalists) then it either comes up contradicting other basic principles or is recast with a literal, authoritative definiteness that it doesn’t deserve.

    * Using a mantic line of inquiry fares quite a bit better. I think there is a lot of crossover between Brigham’s mode of thought and Nibley’s and Barker’s recovery of second temple thought. I am not a big expert on the Enoch literature, but—

    1. There is stuff in the lit that could be used to support an Enoch/God theory. Enoch is little Yahweh and sometimes the little is dropped.
    2. Likewise there are connections between Michael and Yahweh. Sometimes Michael is the combative/war making aspect or mode of Yahweh, sometimes he is a subordinate of Yahweh.
    3. Then it becomes clear that there was a robust name changing theology. A name wasn’t just a arbitrary label but its existence or instantiation had to accompanied with the underlying properties and essence of that name. Taking on a new name allowed you to *become* the person you were trying to emulate in some quasi-literal sense.

    Tie those concept in with the idea that Adam was not Adam’s original name, but the name he was given in hopes that he could become like the prior righteous (been there, done that) person of the same name. This concept is evident in one of Brigham Young’s Nauvoo temple lectures.

  74. Jeff, I think you want the “Lecture at the Veil,” but I am going to have to agree with Keller’s assessment. Regarding 19th century Adam-God interpretations of the KFD, see this post at the JI.

  75. #71

    I would be interested if there were Nauvoo exposes that support the four actor version. I assumed that those came from the Endowment House Utah period, but I could be wrong.

    Assuming you are right, the next step for me would be to figure out where Nauvoo Endowment Companies culled its information from. I suspect those sources trump exposes where they disagree.

    You could be right about Brigham being aware of the KFD, but I assume he picked up his views through Joseph’s private tutoring and Brigham’s own speculation. But if “it is quite clear from the record that Brigham took the KFD as support” I will discard such assumptions.

  76. While I certainly consider the Lecture at the Veil a significant source, that wasn’t the source I was looking for in the 4 character ceremony, if that’s what you are thinking.

    As for the 2-Adam theory, I’ve never seen anything in Brigham’s thought that would suggest such a thing. I think that Brigham literally thought Jesus to be the son of Adam/God, and that the latter was subordinate to Jehovah and Eloheim inasmuch as these later characters represent individual rather than titles or offices.

  77. On at least 3 separate occasions Brigham asserted that he learned A/G from Joseph. I also know that he read KFD as supportive of his position, something which nobody else could see in it. The only problem is I can’t remember off the top of my head whether the people who read the KFD in a non-A/G way were contemporaries of Brigham or rather authors who were treating the A/G theory in our time.

  78. Jeff G., I have at least one very clear account of BY stating that he didn’t receive it from Joseph in a very reliable context (and perhaps, a couple more if I remember correctly).

  79. Christopher Bradford (Grasshopper) says:

    Brigham Young’s October 8, 1854 general conference address Manuel cited above is his clearest exposition of the teaching. (By the way, you can find some of this at Google Books in Fred Collier’s President Brigham Young’s Doctrine on Deity. A link to a portion of what I’m citing below: )

    Here are a few passages that are even clearer than what Manuel cited:

    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. I reckon that Father Adam was a resurrected being, with his wives and posterity, and in the Celestial Kingdom they were crowned with Glory Immortality and Eternal Lives, with Thrones, Principalities and Powers: and it was said to him It is your right to organize the elements; and to your Creations and Posterity there shall be no end, but you shall add Kingdom to Kingdom, and Throne to Throne; and still behold the vast eternity of unorganized matter.

    Adam then was a resurrected being; and I reckon,

    Our spirits and the spirits of all the human family were begotten by Adam, and born of Eve.

    “How are we going to know this?”

    I reckon it.

    And I reckon that Adam came into the Garden of Eden, and did actually eat of the fruit that he himself planted; and I reckon there was a previous understanding, and the whole plan was previously calculated, before the Garden of Eden was made, that he would reduce his posterity to sin, misery, darkness, wickedness, wretchedness, and to the power of the Devil, that they might be prepared for an Exaltation, for without this they could not receive one.

    Adam planted the Garden of Eden, 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 beget bodies, for their spiritual children.

    But, I reckon that Father Adam, and Mother Eve had the children of the human family prepared to come here and take bodies; and when they come to take bodies, they enter into the bodies prepared for them, and that body gets an exaltation with the spirit, when they are prepared to be crowned in Fathers Kingdom.

    “What, into Adam’s Kingdom?”


    I tell you, when you see your Father in the Heavens, you will see Adam; when you see your Mother that bear your spirit, you will see Mother Eve.

    That seems like a relatively clear explanation to me of what Brigham Young thought of this in late 1854.

  80. JS,

    Have you read those three sources where Brigham says that Joseph believed A/G? In other words, are you trying to show that BY contradicted himself, or that he actually and uniformly claimed the opposite of what I am saying?

  81. It’s interesting to note also that A-G implies a non-evolution stance regarding the origin of man. At least as I understand it.

  82. Jeff, I don’t remember the accounts off the top of my head were BY claimed Joseph provenance; but in a context where he felt like he could freely speak, he claimed the contrary. I bring that up as it would seem to make an interpretational difference.

  83. Thanks Chris! I did leave many things out.

  84. J,

    Here are the three sources I had in mind:
    April 4, 1860 Minutes of Meeting form Office Journal
    Dec 16, 1867 Wilford Woodruff Journal
    May 14, 1876 (This one I’m not sure about)

  85. The Office Journal reference appears to not be applicable, though the WW Journal does. I’m referencing the Minutes of the SLC School of the Prophets, June 9, 1873.

    The Office Journal ref actually highlights Orson Pratt’s claim that his own beliefs were based on Joseph’s teachings, which greatly subverts any claim that Joseph was involved with Adam-God.

  86. Thomas Parkin says:

    Maybe someone with some background can help me:

    I’ve always wondered how much internal pressure Brigham felt to continue broadening the borders of radical doctrine, following in the footsteps of Joseph’s final years. I wonder if he considered, to some degree, the introduction of radical doctrine as a kind of essential characteristic of his position. I wonder if there was a sense that Joseph’s increasingly radical direction was typical of learning line upon line: that new revelation must by definition create a wider seperation from tradition. To the degree that this ever widening gulf was sensed as neccesary, how might that sense figure into the ways doctrine was speculated upon and accepted or rejected.

    The tension between Brigham’s tendancy to speculate and his tendancy to dogmatic pronouncements seems really unfortunate. But, since I find that same tension in myself, it’s not hard for me to forgive.


  87. Eric Russell says:

    I think JFS and SWK liked to be doctrine clarifiers and in the face of doctrine they didn’t understand or weren’t familiar with, they just denied. That’s what I think.

  88. StillConfused says:

    #3 represents some freaky stuff. Do people nowadays believe that? That seems to be contrary to other teachings that I have heard in certain places.

  89. J,

    I know that Collier likes to argue that Pratt was indeed arguing from Joseph’s teachings, specifically his pre-Nauvoo teachings. Brigham, on the other hand, was going off of Joseph’s Nauvoo teachings in which Pratt had participated relatively little. What’s your perspective on this?

  90. Jeff, I don’t think Collier is a good historian – I understand that he is a reliable editor, but his scholarship can be sketchy. If Brigham taught it in Nauvoo, there would be significant attestations to that effect.

    StillConfused (#88), only fundies. It is contrary to the teachings of the Church.

  91. #87,

    My understanding is that JFS understood Adam God and had both a public opinion and different personal one.


    The statements I have read have Brigham Young attributing Adam God to Joseph.

    I find it interesting that Nibley in The Message of the JS Papyri hints at Adam being God. I also know that he personally believed such to be the case but that says nothing of its truth.

  92. JG,

    As for the 2-Adam theory, I’ve never seen anything in Brigham’s thought that would suggest such a thing.

    Try journal accounts of Dec. 28, 1845, which in my opinion qualify as the earliest expression of Adam/God. I hesitate to quote them here. The accounts include Minutes by William Clayton, Heber C. Kimball’s diary (kept by Clayton), the Seventies Record, Book B, and John D. Lee’s Diary. All of these are excerpted in The Nauvoo Endowment Companies

  93. Christopher Bradford: Thanks for that quote, both for the direct statement from BY on the doctrine and his explicit statements that he “reckons”. Pretty clear from that he was speculating. Though I have to say the more I read in this thread the more I find that while the ideas of A/G are odd, they’re not quite as odd as I’d always assumed.

  94. Just out of curiosity, how many of the sources being discussed here are available outside of a visit to LDS archives? I am particularly interested in where one finds the Minutes of the SLC School of the Prophets.

  95. Eric Russell says:

    Joshua Madson,

    I am unfamiliar with this “different personal one.” Is there some source to which I may be directed to familiarize myself with it?

  96. Kari, the SLC School of the Prophet minutes are actually not available at the LDS Archives. Extracts are available in the Arrington Collection at USU and some photocopies in various collections elsewhere, e.g., Scott Kenny’s papers at UU/BYU.

    The Office Journal is available in transcript from Collier. The Woodruff Journal is available from Signature. The JD is ubiquitous.

  97. Sorry for delay. Very busy at work.
    I will add more explicit reference to the later rejection of the doctrine and will try to summarize what actually has been offered here. of the copious posts, only very few have actually tried to articulate it, and there are some problems with those articulations that I hope to have time to address over the weekend given work schedules.

  98. I have at least one very clear account of BY stating that he didn’t receive it from Joseph in a very reliable context (and perhaps, a couple more if I remember correctly).

    Which account is that? (thank you!)

  99. I will tell you what I think about it, and as the [Southerners] say I reckon, and as the Yankees say I guess

    You can’t get much more explicit than that.

    “How are we going to know this?”

    I reckon it.

    By that reckoning, it’s not even a theory. It’s a guess.

  100. The December 28, 1845 sermon by BY is a familiar reworking of the dual names of archangels (e.g. Michael/Adam). It presupposes the plurality of worlds and invokes a vaguely kabbalistic onomastics (read KFD on James/Jacob/Jakobos for evidence of Smith’s belief in this onomastics), but it’s nowhere near a clear exposition of Adam-God. You’ll want to compare it to W.W. Phelps’s letter of Dec 25, 1844 to Wm Smith (reprinted in T&S for January 1845) to see a more robust announcement of Smith’s divine anthropology. Both are some distance from BY’s ultimate expositions. [error in dates fixed]

  101. Here is some text from the Oct. 1854 sermon that supports the two Adams version:

    Every world has had an Adam, and an Eve: named so, simply because the first man is always called Adam, and the first woman Eve; and the oldest Son has always had the privilege of being ordained, appointed and called to be the heir of the family, if he does not rebel against the Father, and he is the Saviour of the family.

    Earlier on Dec. 28, 1845 (TNEC p. 204)

    In the first place, the name of the man is given. A New name Adam signifies the first man or Eve the woman. Adam[’s] name was more Ancient than he was[;] it was a name [of a man] long before him who enjoyed the priesthood

    So there is at least two references that denote the name “Adam” in transferable.

  102. Sam,

    I agree with you that Dec. 1845 expressions are not a complete exposition of Adam-God, but I think they qualify as the springboard or kernel for such speculation, which could very easily could have taken a different direction than Brigham Young later took it.

    The kernel appears to have survived all subsequent developments, leading me to suggest it is the essential feature of the Adam-God paradox and the other speculation non-essential. In other words, the central questions are 1) How is Adam a symbolic of us as mortals? and 2) How is Adam symbolic of an exalted being (like God)?

    I think that is what Heber C. Kimball was getting at the week before (Dec. 21, 1845)

    We have been taken as it were from the earth, and have travelled until we have entered the Celestial Kingdom and what is it for, it is to personify Adam. And you discover that our God is like one of us, for he created us in his own image[.] Every man that ever came upon this earth, or any other earth will take the course we have taken

  103. Keller, I agree that central to the puzzle of Adam-God is the meaning of a name. I am inclined to see Orson Pratt’s Ahman revelation reminiscence as similar, and the KEP are almost archetypal here. Phelps has a lot to say here. I’m trying to finish a critical edition of Paracletes that importantly informs this debate. His Christmas 1844 [error fixed] letter is also very much worth reading.

    I think, though, that the Adam as title/holy name is another strand in Smith’s divine anthropology but the BY AG doctrine that we are hoping to define is less related to the holy name of Adam. KFD/SitG and Phelps are much more direct antecedents to BY’s AG.

  104. C,

    I am not an expert on how the word “reckon” was used in the thimes of BY. But it’s meanings seem to imply that it is much more than a “guess.” It may even be the outcome of a computation of known facts.

    Merriam Webster’s definition of reckon:
    As a transitive verb

    a: count

    b: estimate, compute

    c: to determine by reference to a fixed basis

    2: to regard or think of as : consider

    3 chiefly dialect: think, suppose

    As an intransitive verb

    1: to settle accounts

    2: to make a calculation

    a: judge
    b chiefly dialect : suppose, think

    4: to accept something as certain : place reliance

    Therefore, one must be careful to suppose BY is saying his teaching is a mere guess. Especially after the statements he made concerning those teachings.

  105. I suppose if you’re a fundie who really wants to believe in Adam-God, “reckon” becomes a lot more certain than most people think it is.

  106. Sam, sounds like you are ahead of me on the relevant sources. By chance, do you mean Phelps Dec. 25, 1844 letter? I can’t find one for 1845.


  107. “But it’s meanings seem to imply that it is much more than a “guess.””

    Manuel, I know what the word *can* mean.

    But Brigham Young explicitly said in that exact talk that he meant nothing more or less than “guess.” He didn’t mean count, estimate, compute, to determine by reference to a fixed basis, regard or think of as, consider. He meant “Guess.” See the quote in #79.

  108. Oops. 1844. My bad.

  109. I think the problem with the Adam-God theory is the very fact that it cannot be defined. Brigham Young never defined it fully, or said what he meant by it. He never reconciled it with other doctrine he taught that is in conflict with it. He never elaborated on it. So it is very hard for us to nail it down when we aren’t really sure what Brigham meant when he said the things he did. Unfortunately, Brigham isn’t around any longer to ask him what he meant by it. There may be truth in it, we just don’t understand it. None of the Twelve who were Brigham’s contemporaries seemed to take hold of it either.

    Unless Brigham somehow confused Elohim and Michael (which I don’t think he did), these two beings are, in fact, two different beings, a fact that Joseph (and later refined by Brigham) made clear in the temple endowment.

  110. Let me throw another quotation into the mix from Quinn’s BYU Studies article on Prayer Circles. It makes the point that God is like Adam. The context in which it comes up is a lot like the Dec. 28, 1845 context.

    Even the revelation of 19 January 1841 which spoke of William Law’s receiving the keys by which he may ask and receive blessings (D&C 124:97) did not refer to the true order of prayer. Joseph Smith’s remarks to a theological lyceum at Nauvoo, Illinois in 1841 indicate that the 1841 revelation had reference to the manner in which deity is named. “The Great God has a name by which he will be called which is Ahman also in asking have reference to a personage like Adam–for God made Adam just in his own image. Now this is a key for you to know how to ask & obtain.”

  111. But Brigham Young explicitly said in that exact talk that he meant nothing more or less than “guess.”

    Sorry C, but I am going to have to disagree with you. I have read that talk many times and that section many times. I don’t see where he “explicitly said he meant nothing more or less than a guess.”

    It may be your interpretation of the passage, but nothing more.

  112. Steve Evans,

    I am sorry to hear your view that nobody except fundamentalists can have a more objective view of the use of the word reckon by BY.

    I strongly disagree with you.

    And I am surprised that your use of an intentionally derogatory pejorative slang term used to refer to religious fundamentalists of any denomination is welcome in this blog, while some other comments and quotes have been deleted.

  113. Manuel, your dog doesn’t hunt very well here. You say you’ve read this “many times” (no doubt!), but the quote from BY says, “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…”

    From this, reckon clearly means one’s thoughts on a topic or a guess. As for taking offense at my fundie comment, I guess you’ll just have to prove me wrong about being a fundamentalist, then. But don’t pretend your reading is “more objective,” because that view is laughable in light of the context.

  114. I didn’t take offense, I said I was surprised insults to commenters from permabloggers are OK here.

    I guess to you it is a matter of laughter, and I guess that line trumps all the other lines he explicitly states this is a doctrine that most saints would not be able to understand.

    By the way… I fervently oppose polygamy and most other teachings by BY including the Priesthood ban and Temple Ceremony discrimination of saints of African descent. Just to make it clear about your accusations of my “fundamentalism.”

  115. Believe me, Manuel is no fundamentalist.

  116. Manuel, to me yes — this is a matter of laughter. A-G has been clearly and repeatedly disavowed and repudiated by subsequent Presidents of the Church. That makes it utterly defunct as doctrine and little more than a bizarre blip on the radar. Those who cling to it and love to plumb its depths as a doctrine of salvation are, in my estimation, nuts.

  117. Well Steve, I agree with you that this is definitely not a doctrine necessary for anyone’s salvation.

    But while you have pointed to fundamentalism, I think it is important to recognize it a litte further than just a bizarre blip, since it is the root for a major religious movement that has to do with our very own Church history.

    Righteous saints died believing some personalized version of this peculiar construction of the nature of God. And I think seeing the teaching from every angle is fascinating and shouldn’t cause so much scorn and finger pointing.

  118. I don’t see how the multiple Adam thing relates to Adam-God at all (aside from Watson’s bizarre formulation). I read Adam as first human on many worlds in Joseph expansion of the Bible narrative. E.g., Moses 1:

    33 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.

    34 And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.

  119. over a hundred comments thus far, and I haven’t even been tempted to comment until now – That has to be a record.

    Manuel, you are wrong. BY said it as clearly as can be said; he was not speaking through revelation; he was reckoning (South) or guessing (North). I’ve lived in the South. “I reckon” means “I think” or “I guess” or “I feel”. It NEVER means, “I speak authoritatively with no room for question.”

    That’s why I’ve not been tempted to comment until now: It’s all about a speculative guess that since has been repudiated – and an unclear one, at that. I think there are elements that can be instructive, but I don’t like how the bulk of the elements lead to even wilder speculation and denial and extrapolation. In this case, I reckon it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie.

  120. Steve is arguing a little strongly with you, Manuel. You have a valid point.

    Keller, that’s part of this broader quest for God’s name, specifically Ahman and related. These are part of Smith’s divine (and perhaps salvific) onomastics, but not closely related to Adam-God. Relevant to your point (but again not really Adam-God) is the notion of a seer stone containing a sacred and self-referential name, specifically gazelem.

    Ray, your point is valid. I am mostly interested in completing my chapter on Smith’s divine anthropology but find the space hopelessly muddled by “Adam-God,” which is terribly nebulous and imprecise. I’m interested to get a sense for whether there’s any reproducible definition I could reference in my clarifications of the meaning of Smith’s divine anthropology. I think the real tragedy of Adam-God is that it distracts us from the fundamental meaning and spiritual and emotional valences of Smith’s views and revelations.

    At this point, we have Adam having a body that became corrupted by eating fruit, but this was a common teaching, a way to physicalize mortality while accounting for a body before and after the Fall. We have Adam was a prior Savior in another world, but how reliable is the textual evidence for this specific claim as opposed to the more general amplification of the notion that divine beings perform acts of salvation, or is the latter a tenet of Adam-God, in which case this can be tracked back to Joseph Smith? We have Adam exalted before his birth, but this occurs in the setting of Smith’s teaching that patriarchs and participants in the council are superhuman beings, and exaltation may be a more general designation? Do we really have Adam as the LORD-GOD of the Old Testament, or with Phelps and Smith does this refer to Smith’s “head” God, and do all of them slide back and forth across scales of being and meaning, using these terms loosely as titles, allowing LORD-GOD to refer simultaneously to the “head” and his devoted godly children?
    I’m still not convinced we have arrived at a definition of Adam-God. Maybe that’s fine and we should just forget about it, but as a cultural historian, I continue to have a sense that there’s something Young was trying to communicate on a human level that’s useful, even if it is doctrinally bankrupt. And minimally I’m interested in tracing the ramifications of Smith’s divine anthropology through his closest followers.

  121. Manuel, point taken in your #117. I’m try to be less pointy with the fingers on this.

  122. I wrote #119 while #117 was posting. I can’t argue with #117.

  123. Sorry, I guess I am in serious hot water and my posts are being meticulously verified! LOl

    Hiram = Manuel


    Well guys, it is hard to communicate here.

    My take on the Adam God doctrine:

    Elohim = Grandfather
    Yahovah = Grandfather’s “Associate”
    Michael = Adam = Yahovah Michael = Heavenly Father
    Us = Eventually an Adam or Eve in a world of our own where we will provide tabernacles for our spiritual children. The elder child will be the Saviour of the family.

    Regards y’all.

  124. Here is a proposal for a definition for Adam/God.

    A teaching that affirms all the following:
    1) God, the Father of our spirits, was and is an Adam.
    2) Adam, the being that fell in the Garden of Eden, was and is a god.

    A more compact definition might be

    A teaching that affirms that Adam, the being that fell in the Garden of Eden, is also God,the Father of our spirits.

    But the second definition doesn’t allow the equivocation I needed for “mantic line of inquiry” in # 73 or the Talmage/Penrose reformulation that Adam is god in a limited, power of attorney sense. Maybe that is the point?

  125. Wow. Lots of comments and drama and I just got here.

    1. It seems to me that while BY was out of town when the KFD was given it was viewed as significant enough he’d have heard of it quickly. I personally don’t think this was the first presentation of the ideas. Anyway, I’d be very surprised were Brigham not exposed to the ideas in an expansive way.

    I think, however, that more work could be done here.

    2. While I rather like the two Adam theory I agree there’s no way it explains much. Didn’t part of the origin of that and especially it’s later “popularization” (and I recognize that’s a bad term) come first via Pratt and later JFS?

    3. The whole Merkabah mysticism connection is, I believe, pretty important as are related LDS scriptural texts like Mosiah 15. I think other esoteric texts around the 19th century (such as Kabbalistic, Gnostic, Christian Cabalistic, etc.) are relevant as well.

    4. The idea that public pressure made Brigham go underground with his teaching and that explains some inconsistencies seems dubious. (IMO) On the other hand I think the inconsistencies in his thought are exaggerated quite often.

    5. Could someone give better sources for the 4 actor version? I’m a bit dubious that this is secure enough to be terribly trustworthy.

    6. What’s in the KFD that ties to A/G is the common infinite regress reading of the KFD. The infinite regress is, of course, one key facet of A/G.

    7. J. Stapley, which quote are you thinking of where BY denied the JS connection. Certainly he said inconsistent things like that about sources. But I don’t recall that one. (Although it’s been years since I last looked into this)

  126. Sam, this is very insightful:

    Keller, that’s part of this broader quest for God’s name, specifically Ahman and related. These are part of Smith’s divine (and perhaps salvific) onomastics, but not closely related to Adam-God. Relevant to your point (but again not really Adam-God) is the notion of a seer stone containing a sacred and self-referential name, specifically gazelem.

    You are right on the context I originally thought Quinn’s quote was important. I brought this quote up in my M* posts on seer stones, Rev. 2:17, and rituals for obtaining revelation.

  127. Sam, what part of Smith’s theology can account for Adam being the father of our spirits and the father of Jesus in the flesh? Or that Jesus and he were resurrected beings? I think you are needlessly obfuscating Brigham’s teachings. Of course there are roots to be found all over the place.

    Clark, I don’t think it has every been published.

  128. Here is a nice image of a page from the June 18, 1873 Deseret News.

    Starting with the first underlined section, it contains a claim by Brigham Young that Joseph Smith taught him this principle:

    How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which is 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 ever will come upon the earth.

    I have been found fault with by the ministers of religion because I have said they were ignorant.

    But I could not find any man on earth who could tell me this, though it is one of the simplest things in the world, until I met and talked with Joseph Smith. (Brigham Young, Deseret News, June 18, 1873, emphasis added)

  129. Christopher Bradford (Grasshopper) says:

    On the issue of Brigham’s use of the term “reckon”: I think in the Oct 1854 conference talk he means something like “educated guess”, not just “wild guess”. It may be important to note that on several occasions Brigham affirmed that he received this understanding by revelation and from God. While his views on these things and their relative importance varied over the course of his life, he certainly found them important enough to repeat several times and even defend them in meetings of the apostles and First Presidency (or maybe he just liked to argue with Orson Pratt).

    With Sam MB, I, too, “continue to have a sense that there’s something Young was trying to communicate on a human level that’s useful, even if it is doctrinally bankrupt”.

  130. Learning a lot about A-G here. Thanks for all of the information, everyone.

    In defense of Christian, he is a nice guy in real life. He’s very smart and very good to his family, nuclear and extended. He has a good heart, a deep love of God and a strong testimony. He’s just a bit strident in his debating tactics. No one is perfect.

  131. Agree with 129. The whole reckon thing is a red herring in that Brigham claimed it was doctrine in numerous discourses throughout his life. This was not in his mind, at least, a guess.

    I also agree with previous commenters that in my own reading of the source material that the interchangeability of titles is key to understanding Brigham. Adam is an office/title just as savior, and Jehovah is. These are titles that individuals hold at different times. In a BYU religion class of mine, it was Joseph Fielding McKonkie who was fond of teaching Adam’s physical father was God literally. So what is the big deal about having Adam actually be God. Is it that he fell? Or that he is too personal. Many religions think the LDS anthropomorphic God is too personal. Is a God that falls and is that much more like us too personal for us?

    I frankly dont think anyone who either believes Adam-God or delves into is a nut. I would be wary of saying such things because you may never know how many very respected LDS actually believe such things. In my own experience, I have been surprised how many people believe a form of Adam-God. Nevertheless, I agree that its not a very necessary for your salvation type question.

    I still dont get why so many think it is odd or nuts. Is it really that much different than other doctrines we believe?

    I tend to read Brigham and others as teaching:

    Elohim represents a council of Gods

    Jehovah is their representative who has already done as Adam and is his Father. He watches over Adam and instructs him to make sure things are done right.

    Adam is an exalted man who is our God and Father. He may or may not have been a savior on another world. Nevertheless he partakes of physical matter causing a fall which allows physical procreation.

    Jesus is Adam’s Son bot spiritually and physically

    or thats how I read it

  132. So what is the big deal about having Adam actually be God.

    To me the oddest thing about believing Adam=God is Adam worshiping himself, praying to himself, disobeying himself. It is right up there with Jesus getting baptized, throwing his voice from the heavens to pronounce himself his own son and then descending in the form of a dove upon himself. Makes no sense whatsoever to me.

  133. Joshua Madson says:


    He wouldnt be worshiping himself. He would be worshiping his Father who held the title of Jehovah while he was on the earth.

    As I understand those whole believe Adam-God. It is at Adam Ondi Ahman where Adam is recognized as God and takes his place as Jehovah.

  134. Blinks. Shakes head. Begins reading thread over from beginning.

  135. I find the two-Adam theory seriously under-motivated. The only thing going for it is that is allows people to walk the fine line between fundie and anti. If A/G is true, then either Brigham was wrong about the Adam-Christ relationship as the antis suggest, or the modern prophets are wrong about that relationship as the fundies suggest. This is the only difference which keeps people from saying that since Christ, Savior, God, Holy Ghost or any other office/title applies to more than one person.

    Regarding “reckon”, Brigham claimed A/G to be revelation on so many other occasions, who cares why he said “reckon” in 1854.

    While I think I got a pretty good handle on A/G, I can share a lot of Sam frustrations. Of course mine have more to do with OT references to “Lord”, “Jehovah”, “God”, “Eloheim” and so on. But then again, this seems to be as much a problem for any theory. My feeling is that Brigham would have said that OT authors spoke with limited light in many cases and simply refused to defend each usage of each name.

    Here are what I think are the main point of A/G:

    -Adam is God the father.
    -Adam is the Father of Jesus.
    -There are other gods above Adam, but there are largely irrelevant to us.
    I think everything else from there is just kind of filling in the gaps the best one can. Any compromise on these 3 points however, especially the first two, doesn’t do Brigham justice.


    Regarding the 4 character ceremony, I guess I have been a little inaccurate. In the creation, there were always only three characters. The 4th character, Jesus, was the one who brought the gospel rather than the Apostles. The Apostles were added later in order to help Brigham’s apostolic claim to succession.

  136. Stapley, my problem is that #128 and many other references are denominated Adam-God but seem to be little beyond a minor rephrasing of Smith’s divine anthropology. Adam as a special being of great power in the council of the Gods who had to have a body to exist in Eden but did so before bodies were mortal. Adam as the patriarch of this world (where God really was interchangeable with patriarch in the divine anthropology). Adam, as the first man, being the physical father of everyone born on earth, including Jesus. All this Adam as Savior stuff seems to just be rephrasing Adam fell that men might be, an attempt to squeeze Adam’s mission into the soteriological framework Smith established in the Sermon in the Grove.

    If that’s the case, Adam-God becomes the decision that the “head” is remote instead of proximate (“Grandfather” instead of LORD-GOD). But that’s not what we generally claim. I have a sense that people are using Adam-God’s strange language to try to distance themselves from the plurality doctrine, making it face forward rather than bidirectionally.

    From the evidence I have so far seen, BY proposed that entities from the council of the Gods, perhaps even the head, oversaw his transition in the Garden. He was not obeying himself.

    The other thing we don’t mention is whether Smith forced Young there with his interpretation of Ancient of Days (clearly an El/Yahweh figure) as Adam, to whom the Son of Man would “report” in the Daniel Apocalypse.

    I am comfortable saying that the heresy is the deemphasis of the head and personally do not want to deemphasize the head, but this seems to me a matter of emphasis rather than substance if the divine anthropology is to be accepted.

  137. Sam, I think that this deemphasis is definitely seen in the BY’s comments in #128. If you read the SitG, and then that comment, it is quite related. But comment #128 doesn’t grasp Adam-God really. Adam-God is about multiple mortalities and the Fatherhood of our spirits.

  138. Ishould add that by the 1970’s Brigham had privately declared that he regretted giving so much Adam-God detail to the public, and charged other believers to adjust their teachings to “the hearts of the hearers.”

  139. Well now all this is interesting, and I’m not really qualified to speak to much of it.

    So here’s my take on the whole matter from a less nuanced buy probably more mainstream position. I don’t care. The current version of the endowment clearly teaches that Adam was Michael.

    Regardless of how we slice it, whether Michael was a God prior to mortality on this earth, he is certainly a God now. Michael’s relationship to Jehovah is probably one of subordinate partner, or perhaps counselor. I consider the probability of Michael as a descendent or ascendent of Jehovah slim. I think both are probably descendent of Elohim. In both cases we are lacking sufficient information to make proper judgments.

    I think the real problem here is this: so many times we in the church assume that because we’ve heard that this is the TRUE church it means we have ALL the truth. Which is a patently ridiculous statement, either on the face or upon examination. Anyone with any sense would reject the notion of this or any other church having all of the truth about God.

    The early saints, I think, were quite ambitious in their desires to learn all the mysteries of the kingdom, and some were a bit eager to share them with each other. Since that time we have become much more guarded with what we share with the outside world, having learned by bitter experience that certain types of doctrine will be openly mocked. The AG paradox/theory/doctrine is one of them.

    I personally have a broad number of insights about doctrine and spiritual experiences, but I have long quit sharing many of those insights because I have learned that when I do, I no longer am given to receive more of those insights. I desire the intelligence and light and knowledge that God offers to me, but apparently it is not my place to share these things with the world. I think this is true with many people, including many prophets.

    It is strictly my opinion that one day we will be blessed with a prophet who will be permitted to share all that he knows regarding the kingdom of heaven and many of us will be astonished at the detail, how well it fits with what we have previously been told, and how well it clarifies previous tidbits. Until then, we can only wait.

  140. Renato Marini says:

    Since the original question was asking for comments on the definition of the Adam-God theory, not of its defensibility, I would say the following.
    BY tried to build on the doctrine taught by JS that God was once a man and he(BY) convinced himself that there is a fixed pattern for the path to exaltation. This pattern includes: (a) living a mortal life as a normal man, redeemed by a Savior, (b) become a resurrected being and beget spiritual sons & daughters, (c) play the role of Adam & Eve to provide physical bodies for their spirit children, and (d) provide a Savior for them.
    According to this pattern, each man of this earth who lives a “celestial” life here, will become first an Heavenly Father and then an Adam. Those who live “terrestrial” or “telestial” lives will not do so.
    The role of Savior in unique because only One can be the Firstborn in the spirit and the Only Begotten in the flesh, in a Heavenly Family. This role creates a bug in the whole scenario because Christ must be the Firstborn of Adam-Father: this idea is totally in disagreement with all Scriptures.
    I think this was the theology BY was developing, but he was not able to match it with Scriptures.

  141. I didn’t get a chance to listen to Toscano’s interview last night, forgot about my son’s court of honor. And by the time I get to it this thread will have flamed out.

    As I read through all the comments, the following thought kept coming to my mind.

    I do not personally believe in Adam as a literal being. I am very much an evolutionist, and believe the creation story and the temple ceremony are to be viewed as allegory. As such, I differ significantly in my beliefs than all of the early Saints, BY included, as well as many current Saints. Because of this, I find the doctrine to be interesting intellectually, but wholly irrelevant to my life. It is my opinion that any serious discussion of Adam-God must be based upon the belief that Adam was a literal person, otherwise in whatever form it takes it is unimportant.

    Now, if Adam really was a literal being, and BY said that this doctrine was revealed to him, do we have some responsibility to attempt to understand it? And what are the implications to this, particularly when subsequent prophets, by revelation I reckon, have declared this doctrine false?

    How wrong am I in my thinking? Steve, am I nuts? ;)

  142. As a point of clarification, I don’t need to hear how wrong I am to believe that evolution is correct, and I certainly didn’t mean my comments to start a discussion of the merits of evolution. I am interested in the necessity of believing in a literal Adam as a basis of the A-G doctrine.

  143. Sam,

    Stapley is right. The key elements in BY’s A-G that are not traceable to JS are that the very person who reportedly was literally Adam on this earth is our in fact our Heavenly Father, the literal (read: viviparous spirit birth) Father of the spirits of all humans on this planet. The other elements include the notion of him showing up here in his resurrected body only to have it transform into a mortal body. In other words, BY thought and taught (at least for a while) that Adam on this planet was God the Father — the very Father we and Jesus now pray to — who condescended to be our first mortal parent. The idea of a regress of Father’s before him is not all that key in my opinion.

  144. Yes, Kari, you are nuts.

  145. Regarding “reckon”, Brigham claimed A/G to be revelation on so many other occasions, who cares why he said “reckon” in 1854.

    Well, how about we quote those statements, and pick them apart, instead of the Reckon one.

    Also, where did BY make these claims?

  146. But Geoff, don’t you think the regress of Fathers was important to makes sense of the Temple ceremony and Adam’s communication with his God (as evidenced by Jami’s confusion in #132)?

    Kari, I find your comment interesting. In view of the fact that BY’s teachings on this subject have been denounced by the brethren, why do you think you feel a compunction to take them seriously enough to change your views on a literal Adam?

    Adam as symbolic would actually work quite well with Keller’s comments in #101 and 102. I’m rather partial to a symbolic Adam, myself. (there are only a few places where I just can’t make it fit…)


    I am not sure we really know what BY ment in AG. I think it could be interpreted that Adam is the father of Jesus in the same way Adam is our father. Also, that Adam is “our father and our God” in the same way he is the physical father of Jesus (via Mary) Adam has inherited Eternal Life and therefore is the only God that we are temporally related to (“the only God with whom we have to do”). This assumes that Christ had no temporal offspring (sorry Da Vinci Code) .

  148. BiV,

    I certainly didn’t mean to imply I have the compunction to believe in literal Adam or the A-G doctrine. I find the A-G doctrine intellectually interesting only. I am interested in why BY and early Saints would develop this way of thinking of Adam. The doctrine only has real theological meaning, IMO, if Adam is a literal being. And since I don’t believe in a literal Adam, the doctrine has no meaning to me in any doctrinal sense.

    My second paragraph is probably best discussed elsewhere, but I’ll rephrase. If I am a person who believes that Adam is a literal being, then shouldn’t I feel some compunction to understand the doctrine better, or do I just ignore it because, as Steve commented earlier, subsequent leaders of the church have denounced the doctrine? If that is the case, it then raises the issue (definitely discussed better in a different post) of how we deal with conflicting “revelations” as they relate to doctrinal matters. If more recent prophets have denounced the doctrine, is the implication that BY received false revelation? Do we treat A-G like polygamy, that it was appropriate for the time, but is no longer required/necessary? Do we just attribute the doctrine to BY “speaking as a man” — despite his claims of revelation — in the same vein we think of JFS’s and BRM’s comments on race and priesthood?

  149. Jeff #135,

    Regarding the 4 character ceremony, I guess I have been a little inaccurate. In the creation, there were always only three characters. The 4th character, Jesus, was the one who brought the gospel rather than the Apostles. The Apostles were added later in order to help Brigham’s apostolic claim to succession.

    Can you be more specific about your sources for this? Your suggestion intrigues me. If Brigham Young changed the ceremony to include Peter, James, and John; such changes were already in place in late 1845-1846 as TNEC and I don’t recall any earlier sources that would be relevant.

    In my mind, I would link Peter, James, and John with Joseph Smith rather than Brigham because they perform a similar role in the endowment that they did in bestowing apostolic keys to Joseph and Oliver in real life. There is a late reminiscence by Addison Pratt that shows that Joseph Smith considered the Peter, James, and John visit to him and Oliver as an “endowment.”

  150. I will second Joshua’s 131.

    It also seems to me that our doctrine on “mother in heaven”, popularized by Eliza Snow, also comes out of Adam/God doctrine.

  151. Keller,

    Like I said, I don’t have my notebook with me right now, so I can’t say much about my sources at the moment. I know how annoying that is.


    Same story. I don’t have my notebook so I can’t give too many sources for BY’s claiming that A/G was revelation. Here is one, but I know there are others (I should also note that this is exactly what Sam wanted to avoid in this thread):

    “How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which is revealed to them, and which God revealed to me — namely that Adam is our father and God…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 ever will come upon the earth” (Sermon delivered on June 8, 1873. Printed in the Deseret Weekly News, June 18, 1873.)”

  152. Geoff (143) those components all seem to me to be easily, even trivially, derived from Smith’s teachings with the addition of trying to work through the philosophical problem of Adam’s embodiment before the Fall, which Orson Pratt suggests was under active discussion in Nauvoo in 1844 or 1845 at the latest. The question in this model is what to do with the “head” of Smith’s divine anthropology. Is he the remote Grandfather or the LORD-GOD of the Old Testament? So when we analyze Adam-God, are we trying to eliminate the solution to Adam’s prelapsarian embodiment, or are we concerned about the status of the “head” God? If the latter, then it’s not really a story about Adam, it’s a story about interrelationships in the cosmic chain of patriarchs, which is an important motif in earliest Mormonism. And here Phelps is a key witness. Very early he makes the “head” the LORD-GOD, even as he leaves open the correspondence between different patriarchs.

    As for Kari’s series of comments, I think you’re missing the point if you believe there is nothing of spiritual import or power in the teachings of Smith and Young if you don’t believe in a literal Adam. That statement demonstrates not only a belief in evolution generally but in the strictly dichotomous view of religion and belief that has grown up around evolution. One need not lead to the other, and one’s life can be enriched by trying to puzzle through the human valences of these doctrines.

  153. Kari, how about we chalk it up to the evolutionary process of learning line-upon-line, precept-upon-precept? *grin*

    BTW, if one believes in the Fall narrative as symbolic or figurative, this becomes a very different discussion. The main reason I have stayed out of this discussion is that I just don’t accept the Fall narrative as literal – which leads me to view the *doctrinal* basis and justification for A-G as suspect at its foundation.

    Having said that, if Joseph and then Brigham were trying to teach symbolic and figurative principles within the narrative restrictions of the Fall narrative as literal (that was the accepted understanding of the masses whom they were trying to teach), I can understand how difficult that effort would have been – and how convoluted it would appear – and how BY would have regretted the effort eventually.

    Fwiw, I also might be missing the message altogether if the Fall narrative is a correct description of a literal event.

  154. Jeff (151) these are the classic statements of A-G which to me are essentially inseparable from Smith’s divine anthropology. This is a statement of generational scope in Smith’s eternal family model.

    And Stapley, this thread has re-convinced me that Paracletes is in fact a missing link in the transition from Smith’s teachings to Young’s modifications. It really does appear to me to be fundamentally a story about the “head” God.

    And for the record, I do not advocate or believe in the Mormon sectarian doctrine of Adam-God. I’m interested in it on scholarly grounds as an interpretation of Smith’s prior teachings that can tell us a lot about the worldview of mid to late 19th century LDS, what the echoes of Smith’s teachings might have been for that group. And the fact that Young taught something distinctive about this in no way affects my testimony or commitment to the church.

  155. JS remarks:

    I should add that by the 1970’s Brigham had privately declared that he regretted giving so much Adam-God detail to the public, and charged other believers to adjust their teachings to “the hearts of the hearers.”

    And I think this is a key to understand why Brigham’s remarks (and those who sought to align their beliefs with Brigham) occasionally lapsed into making more traditional statements about Adam. They wanted to have their cake and eat it to.

    Depending on rhetorical purposes the same narrative could serve different needs. When speakers were in the fortunate fall mode, Eve’s partaking of the fruit was the most brilliant, enlightened thing that could be done. When speakers were defending patriarchal notions, Eve was shamefully in the wrong for not being obedient to her husband.

    I think Brigham wanted his statements to interpreted anti-intentionally. That is why I think the four actor version really contains non-essentials mixed with essentials. Many of Brigham’s texts can be read with the symbolic Adam (or two Adams) paradigm. The four actor version only surfaces when certain logical paths are followed, but before long it starts losing coherency. It is like working with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle where focusing in to observe one property of a wave/particle simultaneously and inversely obscures another property.

    God is considerable more complex than wave/particles.

  156. #153 was meant to say that, while I think there is valid reason for trying to understand what BY believed about A-G, I just don’t think there is much merit in trying to do so *within the restrictions of interpreting the Fall narrative as literal*.

  157. Regarding my #149

    Addison Pratt should be Addison Everett

  158. I should add that by the 1970’s Brigham had privately declared that he regretted giving so much Adam-God detail to the public

    No wonder SWK stated that BY’s A-G was incorrect. BY came for a little known post-mortal visit. ;)

  159. C,

    I posted the claims by BY but they were deleted from this blog.

    Good luck!

  160. smb, sorry mate, I simply dissagree. Christians in general believed that Adam had a body in the garden. Just because BY innovated on well established principles doesn’t mean those established principles 1) are indicative of AG. 2) that there is a necessary and logical necessity of AG.

    Note that there really isn’t a Head God in AG. What does Paracletes have to do with that?

  161. larryco_ says:

    Although many here have said that BY was just guessing at A/G, when he took the step of making it a part of the “lecture at the veil” in the St. George temple (see Unpublished Revelations by Collier for content), he certainly upped the ante.

  162. smb,

    I am confused by why you think this “Head God” thing is crucial in this discussion. I am under the impression that BY believed in an infinite regress of Gods to begin with and thus no ultimate Head God (can anyone verify that assumption?). It seems fairly clear that BY taught spirits have a beginning (specifically through viviparous spirit birth) whereas JS taught spirits were beginningless. (BH Roberts tried to reconcile the two via his now-popular tripartite model). So the fact that Joseph clearly spoke of a Head God does not mean BY believed there was such a being in the ultimate sense. Is that what your argument is leaning on here?

  163. I think you’re missing the point if you believe there is nothing of spiritual import or power in the teachings of Smith and Young if you don’t believe in a literal Adam.

    I think you misunderstand what I am saying (or I misunderstand you). I am speaking of only the Adam-God theory and not the general teachings of JS or BY. I do not believe that A-G has any spiritual import or power unless one also believes in a literal Adam. I don’t believe in a literal Adam, and as such I don’t think A-G is of any importance outside of intellectual curiosity.

    Additionally, I don’t understand how A-G can be of any spiritual import if one believes our more recent prophets who have stated that A-G is in error.

    Thank you for your comments. I do believe that our spiritual growth is very much an evolutionary process. I also agree that the discussion would be very different if we view Adam/Eve/Creation/Garden as allegorical, rather than literal. I just don’t think that BY thought of this as allegory, nor was he attempting to teach by allegory. From what I have read, it appears to me that what he said about A-G was meant to be literal. An attempt to explain his A-G statements as allegory is just our attempt to explain what he said in our own modern terms, and with our own understanding.

  164. Just to mention the obvious, but the statements about Adam-ondi-Ahman and Adam as the Ancient of Days in Daniel clearly end up with Joseph teaching something like A/G even if not quite the form BY taught. So BY tying the doctrine to JS isn’t that far out of line.

    Then add in the discussion found in the Nauvoo Expositor that God was liable to fall with his creation and there are strong hints the doctrine was known at that time. While other elements of Law’s comments in the Expositor can be tied to the KFD I don’t think that one can.

  165. Clark, I don’t think Law was stating what you imply he might be stating. If he had such knowledge, it would be a sure thing that the Twelve would have had it en mass.

    Just to reiterate, the SitG, clearly and most explicitly anticipates a hierarchy of humans, and with other Nauvoo (and earlier) teachings, Adam was at the top. This was standard fair in Nauvoo and well documented. This, however, does not logically necessitate or anticipate AG.

  166. Joshua Madson says:


    I agree on the Adam-ondi-Ahman. I have always found it interesting that Adam reveals everything to his posterity, Jesus shows up, and they praise Adam not Jesus. It is almost analogous to being at General Conference, Jesus appears, and we all praise the prophet.

    The ancient of Days tie to Adam certainly can be read as Adam-God particularly Jesus being brought before the throne of the Ancient of Days or Adam.

    I think that Brigham certainly believed his ideas were an outgrowth of Josephs.

  167. J. Stapley, that’s kind of my point. If Law had this then it’s sure the 12 did which would confirm Young. The question is that if Law didn’t mean Joseph was teaching God could fall with his creation what did he mean?

    My point is though that folks put this big gap between BY and JS when there is far less of one than it first appears. The big issue is the parentage of Jesus and the cosmological place of Jesus.

    Once again the Ancient of Days is important given that folks were familiar with the Biblical commentaries of the era which equated the Father with the Ancient of Days. Admittedly I see no evidence Joseph understood the Trinity so some of the subtleties would be lost. But still.

  168. But Clark, the Twelve regarded AG as coming from Brigham.

  169. You miss the point. I’m not saying A/G ala BY was taught by JS. I’m saying many elements clearly are there in prototype. The move by BY wasn’t a huge leap. There’s not the gap between JS and BY that some suggest.

  170. Here is Collier’s attempt to put A/G on Joseph (beginning with about page 229.

    Many people have stated that spirit birth and heavenly mother originate with A/G, but it should be noted that Joseph taught these doctrines, if I’m not mistaken.

  171. Steve Evans says:

    Can’t we just say that the answer to the post’s title is, “no”?

  172. Jeff, we don’t have any contemporary accounts that Joseph taught either. We have good evidence for MiH, but he taught quite a bit against spirit birth.

  173. George Jackson says:

    I’m not so sure that Adam God can be pinned down to some lineage of Gods clearly that goes Elohim->Jehovah->Adam->Jesus. I’d like to see documentation on that theory. As far as I know from many years of study on the subject, there is no such teaching. As I understand it (and I do not believe this), Brigham Young taught that, Adam/Michael is the Father of our Spirits, and that he was the same person that we call Heavenly Father, and that he came to this earth, ate the fruit, and fell to become the mortal Adam. And that Elohim is his Father, who is not directly the Father of our Spirits. There are plenty of Apologetics to suggest that this is NOT what he meant when he said what he said, but if you look at his discourses without trying to find hidden meaning in them, then that is pretty much it.

    And of course, the biggest heresy there (according to modern Church doctrine, as well as what I believe) is that Adam who fell is not the same person that Fathered our Spirits. What names you call these people isn’t really the issue, so much as their identities. And from modern Church doctrine, we know we have a Heavenly Father, the Father of our Spirits, who is not the same person that came to people this earth that fell into a mortality here.

    But everybody should give Brigham Young a break, because those were the formative years in the doctrines of this Church. And many doctrines in this Church are still in their formative stages and will be abandoned and/or modified as time goes on. Brigham Young’s theology is one of those things that was abandoned.

  174. A/G: The idea that God the Father, father of Jesus, is the same person who came to earth and ate the fruit as Adam.

    I don’t know what Sam wants in addition to the above. Brigham clearly taught it and if Joseph did teach it, he was very, very quite about it.

  175. I don’t see true infinite regress in Young, though I’d be glad for someone to show me compelling evidence. For Smith the head appears to have been LORD-GOD, for Young the head was a more remote and uncertain identification. For both, Adam was a progressed and progressive supernatural being responsible for and steward of earth. He became human, complexly, and was patriarch (hence god) of all on the earth, including Jesus, who, according to Mormon exegesis of Daniel’s Apocalypse, would minister to Adam as Ancient of Days.

    re 174, i just have this nagging sense that BY was actually trying to say that the Adam who came to Eden was a god who was the patriarchal steward of earth, including its savior, and the LORD-GOD references in the OT are as likely to refer to Adam in this capacity as the world’s patriarch (which was synonymous with god in the divine anthropology) as to Joseph Smith’s “head” God. Phrased this way, I think it’s clear how easily he made the leap from divine anthropology as fixed by the Paracletes witness in 1845 to what we now term AG. It was really just a matter of redefining the scope of the “head,” which was notoriously flexible in the early annunciations of the divine anthropology. Was it the LORD-GOD, or was it Grandfather vs. the totality of the patriarchal chain (what some have called infinite regress).

    Running out of time again. Much thanks to all who have contributed to attempts to articulate AG.

  176. Christopher Bradford (Grasshopper) says:

    Kari wrote:

    I do not believe that A-G has any spiritual import or power unless one also believes in a literal Adam. I don’t believe in a literal Adam, and as such I don’t think A-G is of any importance outside of intellectual curiosity.

    Does your perspective on this change if we are to consider ourselves Adams and Eves as human beings? If I consider A-G in this sense, I can find some very interesting things of spiritual import and power.

  177. By that reckoning, it’s not even a theory. It’s a guess.

    Well, a suppose or a calculation.

    I think a revisit of the Enoch cycle and the masks of God is a better place to go before trying to work through this.

    Ask yourself if we are all sons of Adam the way we are all children of Abraham.

  178. Does your perspective on this change if we are to consider ourselves Adams and Eves as human beings? If I consider A-G in this sense, I can find some very interesting things of spiritual import and power.

    Yes, but then we are getting away from what I think BY meant, in a literal sense, and we are forcing an allegorical reading of the Garden story.

  179. Mark D. says:

    C. Bradford,

    In the Adam-God theory, each person is a prospective Adam or Eve who if exalted will have a very large number of spirit children, create a world, and become a literal Adam or Eve for it – each exalted couple thus becoming the lineal progenitors physically of all the children they were parents of spiritually.

    If you drop a literal Adam/Eve for each world who are both the spiritual parents and the physical progenitors of all of their descendants, one is not really talking about an Adam-God theory (or what Brigham Young taught on the subject) at all.

    That doesn’t mean identification with Adam or Eve is not a useful concept – just that without those elements, identification with the Adam-God theory is dubious. Any theory where Adam and Eve were not exalted before their advent on this earth bears little in common with what goes by the name of “Adam-God”.

  180. Note Kari that Brigham seems to have taken an allegorical reading of the garden story. See his lecture at the veil for instance.

    As others said, the merkabah literature and some related gnostic texts probably ought be read. Say what one will but the multiple Adams are pretty important there and you get places with multiple people being God (and in fashion paralleling Mosiah 15).

    The idea of Adam as a title for first man (see Abr 1) is pretty mainstream. Even McConkie had a fairly developed theology of that. Once Adam is a title then you can read a lot literally without necessarily buying into everything about Adam applying to the same guy. I don’t think this is is mere apologetics. It has a long exegesical history.

    Now I’m not saying one can do this with Young. But all we have to do with Young is say he got one minor thing wrong. And let’s not forget Young’s famous statement about passing by the Gods and Angels in a heavenly ascent which also ties directly in with Merkabah literature.

  181. BTW – for those who want a primer this is a nice brief overview of the ideas in Kabbalism and Gnosticism. One should note that by the 12th century there definitely were three Adams. The heavenly Adam, the Adam of the garden and the fallen or earthly Adam.

  182. Just to add. The reason I was curious about the four actors in the original endowment is that could provide some prima facie support for a kind of literalist misreading of some Kabbalistic commentaries since there Adam Kadmon has four worlds – one for each of the letters of the tetragrammatron. There represent seeing, hearing, smell, and speaking. Which, if you think about it, could be significant. (Well, minus the third one)

    All this Adam speculation has a long history. A lot of people think that Paul’s discussion of the pre-existent Christ is borrowed from the primitive notions of Adam Kadmon at the time.

    An other point of comparison in all this is Joseph’s modification of Genesis 1 & 2 with the comments that the first creation was a spiritual creation but nothing had been created yet. (Moses 3:5)

    Anyway, the point is that we have these spiritual creations (easily taken Platonically as either pre-existing Ideas or at least plans in someone’s mind) as well as all these confusions over Adam. Christ as Adam. The Father as Adam. Adam as the image of the ineffable En-Sof (sort of a Jewish version of the neoPlatonic One) Then we have different ideas in the different sorts of Kabbalism. In the Kabbalism of the 12th century Zohar Adam Kadmon creates the earthly Adam (who then falls). (Thus some apologist arguments for the two Adam theory) Lurianical Kabbalism has Adam Kadmon as the mediator between the En-Sof and the Sefiroth and is a tad different.

    BTW – one might also wish to check out On the Origin of the World from the Nag Hammadi library.

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