The second prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was BRIGHAM YOUNG.
President Young was known as a pretty fiery guy. If he had something to say, you can bet he was going to say it. Most of the time that was great! Sometimes it wasn’t. And sometimes we really just have no idea what to do with what he says. One BYU professor, Stephen Robinson, said, “Anomalies occur in every field of human endeavor, even in science. An anomaly is something unexpected that cannot be explained by the existing laws or theories, but which does not constitute evidence for changing the laws and theories. An anomaly is a glitch…. A classic example of an anomaly in the LDS tradition is the so-called ‘Adam-God theory.’”
So essentially what we have is Brigham Young teaching a few different times that Adam—as in Adam and Eve—was God the Father in mortal form. In early statements, Brigham Young seemed pretty sure about this, but as time went on his language became a little less forceful and a little more opinion-based. For the sake of time I’m going to throw up a bunch of the stuff he said and if you’re interested you can pause the video and go through and read them.
Now when you just look at these quotes, it seems pretty clear where Brigham stood on the subject. And I’m personally just fine with the idea that Brigham Young was mistaken. But it’s also not that simple, because for every reference to Adam as God, there are even more references where Brigham Young teaches that Adam is just Adam, and God is God. Two separate beings.
Stephen Robinson said: “On occasion, my colleagues and I at Brigham Young University have tried to figure out what Brigham Young might have actually said and what it might have meant, but the attempts have always failed. The reported statements simply do not compute—we cannot make sense out of them. This is not a matter of believing it or disbelieving it; we simply don’t know what ‘it’ is.”
An apostle, Elder Bruce R. McConkie echoed that statement: “What I am saying is that Brigham Young, contradicted Brigham Young, and the issue becomes one of which Brigham Young we will believe. The answer is we will believe the expressions that accord with the teachings in the Standard Works.”
The fact is that the standard works do not teach that Adam was God the Father. It’s not a doctrine of the restored gospel. It wasn’t something Brigham Young presented to the Quorum of the Twelve, in fact, at least one of the apostles of Brigham’s day, Orson Pratt, pushed back against the teaching. A later prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, denounced it.
So the next question is, if prophets can make mistakes like this, then how can we trust that anything the prophets say is true? Keep in mind two things:
- First, these early saints, including Brigham Young, were all converts to the church. Everyone, especially converts, and especially in the early days of the Restoration, learn doctrine line upon line. That’s a lifetime process. We’re all ugly sharp rocks in a rock tumbler, and over time those edges get smoothed out. Nowadays there are checks in place to make sure that all official doctrine is unanimously agreed upon by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.
- Second, I reference another quote from Brigham Young: “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. … 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.”
We do believe God answers prayers. So if you run into something you’re not sure about, study it out in your mind and see if God has anything else to say about it. Even the Church’s official newsroom says:
Individual members are encouraged to independently strive to receive their own spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of Church doctrine. Moreover, the Church exhorts all people to approach the gospel not only intellectually but with the intellect and the spirit, a process in which reason and faith work together.
So that’s the notorious Adam-God theory. It was a thing, but … it’s not a thing. Let me know if you have questions, the link in the description to our website might answer them. I’ll also throw in a few other resources in the description, have a great day!
- More on Adam/God theory: https://bit.ly/2wgBvVG
- A video about this theory from our friend Jeff Roundy: https://bit.ly/2VGO9Yn