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I understand that Brigham Young, the second Prophet of the LDS Church, taught what is known as the Adam-God doctrine for much of his tenure as Prophet of the Church.

What are the specifics with regard to this teaching and where is it recorded? How long was it taught? Is it still part of Mormon Scripture/teaching/doctrine today?

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2 Answers 2

This idea spawns from a number of statements that Brigham Young purportedly made, either in public and in private. For example, he was recorded as having said something like this in the Journal of Discourses, but the LDS Church does not officially accept any of the Journal of Discourses or cite it for doctrine because of erroneous scribing and other things.

Additionally, it is evident that the original, doctrinal meaning of which Brigham was intending to speak, was lost from the time it was received by revelation from God to the time it was transmitted, or transcribed, erroneously.

Immediately upon understanding that many were confused on this teaching or idea, Brigham spoke again on the matter. Here, President Young reports that he inquired of this doctrine to Joseph Smith, his predecessor to the presidency, and, startled by the confusion from his statements, attempts to clear up some misconceptions.

Finally, on 19 Feb 1981, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve named Bruce R. McConkie wrote a letter to Eugene England on this topic, stating,

"Yes, President Young did teach that Adam was the father of our spirits, and all the related things that the [polygamous] cultists ascribe to him. This, however, is not true. He expressed views that are out of harmony with the gospel. But, be it known, Brigham Young also taught accurately and correctly, the status and position of Adam in the eternal scheme of things. 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."

(Note that we must still be careful extrapolating context when the audience was a specific person, not the world in general. It may not necessarily be the official view of the LDS Church.)

Clearly, a human made an error, but never has this doctrine been officially an accepted part of LDS teachings. In fact, today (I know from experience), this idea of "Adam being God" is not tolerated in Church schools or settings at all.

Enemies of the Church (see this page for documentation of this controversial yet accurate term; also see comments) will quickly take a glitch in history and blow it out of proportion, which understandably will cause others to believe that the prophet taught this "for much of his tenure as Prophet of the Church." At this point, I think the mis-understanding is clear.

The Godhead is made up of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. Jesus Christ is the Son of God who lived, died, and was resurrected, completing the Atonement for mankind. That is the LDS doctrine on that matter, and certainly is the most central and prominent feature of Mormon doctrine.

(I have also used FAIR's Wiki page on this topic as a source here.)

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Referring to people as "Enemies of the Church" is not appropriate in this forum. –  Narnian Dec 1 '11 at 13:17
Not to mention that the answer was good up until that sentence, but after that, it became a defensive statement. This site is a great forum for understanding and learning about beliefs that we don't necessarily hold, but it only works if we all respect the fact that we don't all believe the same thing. I think you perceived the question as an attack on the LDS Church, when, reviewing Narnian's questions historically, he was probably actually looking for a good answer. He accepts good answers even if he doesn't believe them. Again, your answer was good, up until that paragraph. –  David Stratton Dec 1 '11 at 14:00
@Matt Thanks for the update. –  Narnian Dec 1 '11 at 14:25
For the record, that is not a term I invented and does not, by default, carry a particular bias. Additionally, it appears numerous times in LDS (and non-LDS) documents: lds.org/search?lang=eng&query=%22enemies+of+the+church%22 –  Matt Dec 4 '11 at 1:43


Wikipedia gives the following information regarding the specifics of the Adam-God doctrine in [this article]:1

Brigham Young's 1852 announcement

...the first recorded explanation of the doctrine was by Brigham Young, who first taught the Adam–God doctrine at the church's spring General Conference on April 9, 1852. This sermon was recorded stenographically by George D. Watt, Young's private secretary, who was an expert in Pitman shorthand. Watt published the sermon in 1854 in the British periodical Journal of Discourses, in a volume endorsed by Young and the church's First Presidency.

In Watt's transcript of the sermon, Young said he intended to discuss "who it was that begat the Son of the Virgin Mary", a subject which he said "has remained a mystery in this kingdom up to this day". The transcript reads:

"When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is MICHAEL, the Archangel, the ANCIENT OF DAYS! about whom holy men have written and spoken—He is our FATHER and our GOD, and the only God with whom WE have to do. Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non-professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later.

Further development by Young

In a special conference on August 28, 1852, Young explained in greater detail the mechanism by which celestial beings like Adam and Eve could give birth to mortal offspring. According to Young, when a couple first become gods and goddesses, they first begin to create spiritual offspring. Then, they begin creating "mortal tabernacles" in which those spirits can dwell, by going to a newly-created world, where they:

"eat and drink of the fruits of the corporal world, until this grosser matter is diffused sufficiently through their celestial bodies, to enable them according to the established laws to produce mortal tabernacles for their spiritual children" (Young 1852b, p. 13). This is what Adam and Eve did, Young said, and "Adam is my Father (Young 1852b, p. 13).

On February 19, 1854, he reiterated the doctrine in a sermon. He also reiterated the doctrine at the October 1854 General Conference,[31] in a sermon that was reported to have "held the vast audience as it were spellbound"[32] In the October conference, Young is reported as clarifying that Adam and Eve were "natural father and mother of every spirit that comes to this planet, or that receives tabernacles on this planet, consequently we are brother and sisters, and that Adam was God, our Eternal Father."

When Young discussed the doctrine again in early 1857, he emphasized again that "to become acquainted with our Father and our God" was "one of the first principles of the doctrine of salvation", and that "no man can enjoy or be prepared for eternal life without that knowledge".[34] Nevertheless, he said:

"Whether Adam is the personage that we should consider Our Heavenly Father, or not, is considerable of a mystery to a good many. I do not care for one moment how that is; it is no matter whether we are to consider Him our God, or whether His Father, or his Grandfather, for in either case we are of one species of one family and Jesus Christ is also of our species.".[35] Young continued... "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.)

Just before his death, Young took steps to ensure that the Adam–God theory was taught in LDS temples as part of the Endowment ceremony.

This time period appears to be about 25 years, then.

Current Teachings

Today, the LDS Church does not hold to this doctrine in any fashion.

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