Like stubborn Scotchmen, they couldn’t get Adam-God out of their heads

At the April 1916 General Conference Charles W. Penrose, a member of the First Presidency, stated:

“There still remains, I can tell by the letters I have alluded to, an idea among some of the people that Adam was and is the Almighty and Eternal God. He is the father of his race, of course, the great patriarch over the human family, and being begotten unto him, he is the father of us in our earthly condition, in our mortality, and stands as the primal patriarch. But God says He put him there… [T]he notion has taken hold of some of our brethren that Adam is the being that we should worship. This has been explained, I think, from this stand several times, but notwithstanding that, peculiar ideas get into people’s minds, not always because they are stubborn and willful and wicked or that they desire anything that is wrong, but because it gets into their heads and it is a very hard job to get it out of their heads, like the Scotchman who asked the Lord to keep him in the right path so that he might not go ‘wrong, for the Lord knew that if he once got anything into his head, it would be a mighty hard job to get it out of him.’ That is the way it is with lots of our folks, not because they are all Scotchmen, however, the idea has obtained in the minds of some of the brethren and we ought to get right concerning it. I am sorry that has not been rectified long ago, because plain answers have been given to brethren and sisters who write and desire to know about it, and yet it still lingers, and contentions arise in regard to it, and there should be no contentions among the Latter-day Saints. It is all right for people to have their own views and express them, if they will do it in a proper spirit; it is all right for people to stand up for what they really believe to be true, but when this spirit of contention comes, then, as we are told in the Book of Mormon, it is of the devil. Now, if Adam, as claimed by some of our brethren, is the being that we should worship, to whom we should pray, who was that person that put Adam at the head of his race? … I want to draw a clear distinction between these individuals that we may stop this discussion that is going on to no purpose. Who is Adam? Adam is our father, certainly. He is the great father of the race, but we have had fathers that corrected us at home and we gave them reverence. Yes, that is right, but do we worship them and pray to them? Oh, no. Then why should we want to pray to Adam, who away back in the remote centuries was at the head of his race and in that sense is our father? … God help us to see and understand the truth and to avoid error! And don’t let us be too strong in our feelings in regard to our opinions of matters.” (>>)

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8 Responses to Like stubborn Scotchmen, they couldn’t get Adam-God out of their heads

  1. falcon says:

    It seems to me, to really understand this (Adam-God controversy), a person has to “think Mormon”. I remember one time I was discussing a matter with an Amish friend regarding the approach to decision making within the sect. He saw my perplexed look and he said, “You have to be Amish to understand it.” I’ve learned that inconsistency in doctine, teaching and practice is a point of pride among Mormons. It’s embraced. It’s a sign of God’s on-going revelation. So if you “think Mormon”, it’s all perfectly logical. We orthodox Christians pride ourselves on systematic theology. Mormons don’t, it’s too confining. So if BY was still around, they’d be going with Adam-God. If JS was still around, they’d be into plural marrage. That is if they didn’t change their minds.

  2. Ralph says:

    I’m going to say something contentious for both sides of the fence. It’s just an idea, but let’s see how it goes.

    In this sermon, he never said that Adam and Heavenly Father were one and the same, however I will agree that some of the statements can be read that way, but when he says –

    It is true that the earth was organized by three distinct characters, namely, Eloheim, Yahovah, and Michael, these three forming a quorum…

    He has delineated that Michael (Adam) and Heavenly Father (Elohim) are indeed 2 separate persons. So what is Brigham Young talking about in the rest of the sermon? The truth is – NO GENERAL PERSON KNOWS. He said –

    I could tell you much more about this; but were I to tell you the whole truth, blasphemy would be nothing to it, in the estimation of the superstitious and over-righteous of mankind. However, I have told you the truth as far as I have gone.

    So this means that there is more to the ‘story’ than he has told us. As LDS we are taught that in the scriptures and the words of our prophets are all that is necessary for us to know for our salvation – and it ONLY is in regards to this earth. I believe that Brigham Young, being more spiritual than I and thus having more spiritual knowledge, has more information than this. So I think that as he was talking he ‘slipped out’ with a bit of this information/knowledge and did not finish discussing it as …to tell you the whole truth, blasphemy would be nothing to it.

    The thing that is controversial about it is that some members and non-LDS believe that he is saying that Adam and God (Heavenly Father) are one and the same. This is not true as I have quoted from his sermon. So he has let ‘slip’ a little ‘extra’ truth and knowledge that we are not ready for and thus it is being misunderstood. Which is why the LDS Church is not endorsing it as doctrine and telling members to keep away from it.

  3. Rick B says:

    Ralph, I see hear where BY does teach/say Adam IS OUR GOD.

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

    Then BY goes on to say,

    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.

    Now Ralph, lets just say your view is correct. BY also Did say as I showed, Adam was God, So From what BY said this will prove our salvation or damnation and he did say it is doctrine. So both my and your view cannot be correct, yet they are both shown as BY saying this, so why is it the LDS view about BY not teaching Adam God is always taken as Correct? If this was simply his mere Opinion, why did he say our salvation hangs upon it, and it is DOCTRINE, pretty strong words for mere opinion. Rick b

  4. Jeff B says:

    Adam is our God… and the only God with whom we have to do.

    So that means we are praying to Adam..

    Brigham was clear

  5. David says:

    I think I posted on this topic before but here it goes again. If Elohim is viewed as God the Grandfather, then a whole lot falls into place. The Bible is the story of one man, and mankind, evolving towards a level of godhood. Adam’s upline is helping him to establish his franchise on this planet. Elohim had his Father do the same for him. El-Adam is helping us achieve godhood. We are all following eternal principles to progress onwards to ever increasingly higher levels. In this way Mormonism is close to Hinduism. The eternal principles along with the physical universe itself (classical Mormonism is materialistic) is actually the closely thing to The Almighty. If “God” is actually a quorum then the use of the word god/God can mean the divine quorum or any particular god including Elohim or Adam.

  6. Megan says:

    Wow, there is A LOT to wrap my brain around in David’s comment. I’m going to have to do some digging on this one. It all sounds so confusing! Maybe because I didn’t grow up with this?
    At any rate, I don’t mean to be disrespectful but I had to laugh at David’s use of the word franchise. I assume he meant a privilege granted by a sovereign (had to go to for that one). All I could think of when I read the word “franchise” was in the context of a McDonald’s franchise. So maybe our planet is Adam’s Earth franchise? Just trying to provide a little humor.

  7. He has delineated that Michael (Adam) and Heavenly Father (Elohim) are indeed 2 separate persons. So what is Brigham Young talking about in the rest of the sermon?

    Ralph, it seems that you’re projecting modern Mormon theology onto Brigham. Early Mormonism didn’t make the Jehovah/Elohim distinction that was officially endorsed in the 1916 First Presidency Statement (which, notably, was promoted to combat the Adam-God theology that Brigham had spearheaded). Brigham’s breakdown of Michael, Jehovah, and Elohim terms was different. In his Adam-God model, Elohim wasn’t our Father. I’d invite you to read about “The Development of the Mormon Jehovah Doctrine” from Mormon Boyd Kirkland. I’d also invite you to read the BYU thesis by Mormon Rodney Turner on this subject. He lists an overwhelming list of external and internal evidences that shows people like you shouldn’t be shoving the historical fact of the Adam-God teaching into the category of ambiguity. The evidence is a whole lot more than one Conference sermon. You’d be surprised at the mountain of evidence available. If nothing online will convince you, then take a look at Mormon historian Gary James Bergera’s book, Conflict in the Quorum, where he talks about the spat Orson and Brigham got into over Adam-God (among other things).

    More and more Mormons are coming to admit that Brigham Young did indeed teach Adam-God and that he was simply wrong, and they are resorting to a view of prophetic fallibility which says that “true” prophets can authoritatively teach things as doctrine from Conference pulpit that are later condemned by Mormon leaders as deadly, damnable heresies. As BYU professor Robert Millet said in a SLC dialog:

    “To be sure Brigham Young and a few others taught that [Adam-God] for a period of years. But by the criteria I have just given you it would not qualify as being the doctrine of the church because frankly when President Young passed away that doctrine passed away with him. It has been formally addressed by Spencer W. Kimball in general conference as not being a doctrine that is sound and true. Now the immediate response I’ll get from someone is ‘wait a minute, Brigham Young was the president of the church at the time.’ That’s right. And he preached it in general conference. That is correct. My response to that would be, and this is a little tough sometimes, but I have pretty good authority on this one from President Hinckley, and it goes something like this, ‘Latter-day Saints do not believe in either apostolic or prophetic infallibility.’ Now what does that mean? It means that while we love and sustain and uphold and revere our church leaders, as Joseph Smith once said, ‘I never told you I was perfect.’ And he said if anyone should expect perfection from me I should expect it from them. So we believe it is perfectly possible for a person who even in a church position of that sort to say something that is in the long run proven not to be so, not to be true.”

    Of course, I think it’s a ridiculous idea that Adam-God theology simply died after Brigham. That’s why I posted this blog’s initial quote, showing that many Mormons couldn’t get it out their heads. Brother Brigham put it there. That’s a big reason the 1916 First Presidency Statement was needed.

  8. falcon says:

    Very interesting David. Your post made my eyes get wider and wider as I read. It makes sense to me and fits perfectly with Mormon type thinking/logic. It all fits together. Now the question is, did the prophets that followed B.Y. negate his “revelation” with their own. If they did I suppose they’ll take his name off that college down in Provo.

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