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What is the Adam-God theory in Mormonism?

Adam-God theory

The Adam-God theory is a controversial concept within Mormonism, the body of doctrine held by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The Adam-God concept was first proposed by Brigham Young, the successor to LDS founder Joseph Smith. Young insisted that Adam was God the Father, most notably in a sermon given in 1852:
“Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! about whom holy men have written and spoken—He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.”

“. . . Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven. Now, let all who may hear these doctrines, pause before they make light of them, or treat them with indifference, for they will prove their salvation or damnation.”

Cited from A Sermon by President Brigham Young, Delivered in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, April 9, 1852. Reported by G. D. Watt.

Even at the time it was first presented, the Adam-God theory was controversial. Yet Young and other LDS “prophets” defended it and continued to make references to the idea. However, the Adam-God theory never gained as much popularity as other LDS doctrines. In contrast to other distinctive aspects of Mormon theology, the Adam-God theory was never solidified as an official, formal teaching of the church. Modern LDS apologists attempt to brush aside Young’s teaching as a mis-recorded sermon, a misunderstanding, or simply an errant belief by one man.

Despite never being official dogma, the Adam-God theory still presents serious concerns for those attempting to defend LDS theology. Brigham Young was the successor to Mormon founder Joseph Smith, and his statements on this topic are clear. Either that makes Smith a false teacher, or it suggests an error in LDS teaching. This relates to a common problem with the LDS church, which is infamous for radical shifts in official doctrine over time. The two most well-known examples concern polygamy and restricting non-whites from priesthood. These are concepts about which LDS “prophets” made clear statements over the course of decades and which the church supported, only to be entirely rejected later for various reasons.

Depending on the source, the Adam-God theory will either be described as an example of a major doctrinal concern, a minor disagreement, or an obscure misunderstanding. These differences are ultimately irrelevant. Whether Brigham Young taught something incorrect about Adam and God is a proverbial drop in the bucket, since the core LDS concept of God is entirely false. LDS teaching holds that God was once a flesh-and-blood mortal being who ascended to godhood; the only controversial aspect of the Adam-God theory within Mormonism was Young’s identification of God with Adam.

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What is the Adam-God theory in Mormonism?
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This page last updated: September 15, 2022