When Brigham Young first taught in initial outlines of what is now known as the “Adam-God Doctrine” (or the “Adam-God Theory”—the preferred term by those who want to downplay its status within LDS doctrinal development) some commented that with this theological position the cat was truly “out of the bag!” It came as a huge surprise to almost all who heard him preach it, but soon most leaders and members came to accept it and even like it very much. Indeed, although never presented to the Church membership for approval or made official through insertion in scripture (unless one wants to think of the lecture given before the veil in the temple as “scripture”?) it is hard to deny that for several decades of the Nineteenth Century the doctrine spelled out the dominant understanding among Latter-day Saints of God(s) and roles for humans who would some day become exalted beings. Later distancing from the teaching led leaders to downplay its status or even outright deny that it was ever taught (using the rhetoric that Brigham Young was misunderstood and/or his statements were deliberately taken out of context by Church enemies), but this simply isn’t the case. It was taught; it was influential; most prominent leaders believed it with many claiming that its truth had been confirmed to them by the Spirit.
So what is this doctrine? What is its history—not only its rise but also its falling out of favor and even later being outright preached against? Are there any remnants of this doctrine alive in today’s Mormonism, even if they are no longer associated with the full teaching? The rise and fall of the Adam-God Doctrine also presents a classic case of doctrinal evolution (as well as fuzziness!) that contradicts the image many Latter-day Saints have of prophetic revelation coming through in perfectly clear ways. So how might Latter-day Saints frame this messier view of revelation that does not deny an important role for prophetic leadership?
In this episode, panelists Danielle Mooney, Brian Stuy, and Geoff Nelson join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a discussion of all these things. What is the teaching? When did it flourish? What aspects are still influencing Mormonism today?
We look forward to your listening and then joining in the discussion below!
David John Buerger, “The Adam-God Doctrine,” Dialogue 15, no 1 (Spring 1982).
Terrific overview article
Mormon Matters Episodes 105/106: “Mormon ‘Doctrine’ and Other Fuzzy Things.” Discussion of what doctrine is, how it evolves, its status within Mormonism, and possible framings for the nature of prophetic revelation
Website with quotations related to Adam-God.
Thank you, Antonio Trevisan Teixeira for the link!
Listeners, What else should we link to here?