Saturday, January 14, 2012

Adam as Father and God: An 1853 LDS Article

The following article appeared as an editorial (during the editorship of Samuel W. Richards) in The Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star 15/50 (10 December 1853): 801-804. I feature it here as an item of historical interest, since this piece has gotten a slight bit less attention than some other 'Adam-God' statements of the early 1850s, and at any rate I think it good that such statements be read in their fuller literary context. Note that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints no longer wholly endorses the theology here espoused.1 The article that follows is a reaction to the pushback and surprise that was felt by some readers about some things printed two issues previously; those items were a discourse by Brigham Young in which he expounded his 'Adam-God' thesis,2 and an editorial note to the effect that the Saints must remember to pay close attention to these latest messages received through the Lord's appointed servants.3 All inserts in square brackets are my own for reference; 2 Nephi 2 as a whole is important background on the LDS perception of the Eden narrative and the story of the Fall, and also D&C 27:11 for an identification of Adam, Michael, and the Ancient of Days.
Adam, the Father and God of the Human Family

The above sentiment appeared in Star No. 48, a little to the surprise of some of its readers; and while the sentiment may have appeared blasphemous to the ignorant, it has no doubt given rise to some serious reflections with the more candid and comprehensive mind. A few reasonable and Scriptural ideas upon this subject may be profitable at the present time.

Then Adam is really God! And why not? If there are Lords many and Gods many [cf. 1 Corinthians 8:5], as the Scriptures inform us, why should not our Father Adam be one of them? Did he not prove himself as worthy of that high appellation as any other being that ever lived upon the earth? Certainly he did, so far as history informs us, unless we can except the Son of God. We have no account in Scripture that Adam ever wilfully transgressed, when we consider him independent of the woman. The Apostle informs us distinctly that the woman was in the transgression, being deceived, but Adam was not deceived [1 Timothy 2:14]. Adam fell, but his fall became a matter of necessity after the woman had transgressed. Her punishment was banishment from the Garden, and Adam was necessitated to fall, and go with her, in order to obey the first great command given unto them - to multiply and replenish the earth [Genesis 1:28]; or, in the language of the Prophet Lehi, "Adam fell that men might be." [2 Nephi 2:15] The fall of Adam, therefore, was virtually required at his hands, that he might keep the first great command, and that the purposes of God might not fail, while at the same time the justice of God might be made manifest in the punishment incurred by the transgression of the woman, for whom the man is ever held responsible in the government of God.

The Scriptures inform us that Christ was as a lamb slain from before the foundation of the world [Revelation 13:8]. If, therefore, the plan of salvation was matured before the foundation of the world, and Jesus was ordained to come into the world, and die at the time appointed, in order to perfect that plan, we must of necessity conclude that the plan of the fall was also matured in the councils of eternity, and that it was as necessary for the exalting and perfecting of intelligences, as the redemption. Without it they could not have known good and evil here, and without knowing good and evil they could not become Gods, neither could their children. No wonder the woman was tempted when it was said unto her - "Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." [Genesis 3:5] No wonder Father Adam fell, and accompanied the woman, sharing in all the miseries of the curse, that he might be the father of an innumerable race of beings who would be capable of becoming Gods.

With these considerations before us, we can begin to see how it is that we are under obligations to our father Adam, as to a God. He endured the sufferings and the curse that we might be; and we are, that we might become Gods. Through him the justice of God was made manifest. Jesus came into the world, endured, and suffered, to perfect our advantages for becoming Gods, and through him the mercy of God abounded. By the first man, Adam, came death, the triumph of evil; and by the second, came life everlasting, the triumph of good [cf. Romans 5:17]. Each was necessary in the order he appeared; if the first Adam had not performed his part, the second could not have had his work to do. Both acted the part assigned to them, in a most God-like manner, and the Great Eloheim accepted the work at their hands as His own, "for by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things, both spiritual and temporal: firstly, spiritual - secondly, temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, firstly, temporal - and secondly, spiritual, which is the last of my work." [D&C 29:31-32] Thus the great I AM owns all things - the temporal and the spiritual, the justice and the mercy, to be His own work. Then why may not Adam be a God, as well as any of his sons, inasmuch as he performed the work to which the Great Eloheim appointed him?

In ancient times they were called Gods unto whom the word of God came [John 10:35], because of which Moses became a God unto Pharoah. The Almighty was not so jealous of His Godly title but that He could say to Moses - "See, I have made thee a God to Pharoah." [Exodus 7:1] And if John's saying be true, God has purposed to make him that overcometh, a pillar in the temple of God, and to "write upon him the name of my God." [Revelation 3:12] "His name shall be in their foreheads." [Revelation 14:1]

This is the hope of all Saints who have a just conception of the future; and why should we not be willing for father Adam to inherit all things, as well as for ourselves? He is the first, the Father of all the human family, and his glory will be above all, for he will be God over all, necessarily, standing as he will through all eternity at the head of those who are the redeemed of his great family. Though all the sons should, through their faithfulness, become Gods, they would still know that the Son was not greater than the Father.

Were we to trace this subject in all its bearings, we should find the principles of the Godhead planted in every righteous and well-organized family upon the earth, and that they only require cultivation to cause their expansion and development to be equal to anything we can now conceive of as adding power and glory to the God of all worlds. The Great Eloheim rules over all worlds. He is God over them, because of His right and power to rule, govern, and control. The exercise of this power is a natural right in the order of Priesthood, which belongs to every Patriarch, or Father, in the human family, so long as he rules subordinately to the laws of Heaven. According to the order of that God by whom we are ruled, a man is not only permitted to hold full jurisdiction over his own family, but he is held responsible for any violation, by them, of the revealed will of Heaven. A man that controls a work, is the only one that can be held responsible for that work. It would be most unjust to require responsibility where there is no power to govern and control. Every man who has a family, and power to control them, is exercising the rights and power of a God, though it may be in a very small capacity. There are two grand principles, by virtue of which all intelligent beings have a legitimate right to govern and hold dominion; these are, by begetting children from their own loins, and by winning the hearts of others to voluntarily desire their righteous exercise of power extended over them. These constitute a sure foundation for an eternal throne - a kingdom as perpetual as God's. No usurped power, to be maintained by the shedding of blood, is connected with such a government. It is upon this foundation that the throne of Michael is established as Father, Patriarch, God; and it is for all his children who come into this world, to learn and fully understand the eternity of that relationship.

Could we view our first Parent in his true position, we should find him acting in a similar capacity to the whole family of man, as each father does to his individual family, controlling, at his pleasure, all things which relate to the great object of their being - their exaltation to thrones and Godlike powers. We can conceive, from Scripture, principle, and analogy, that Adam's watch-care is ever over mankind; that by his own approbation and direction Gospel dispensations have been revealed from heaven to earth in different ages of the world; that he was the first that ever held the keys of Gospel power upon the earth, and by his supervision they have been handed down from age to age, whenever they have been among men; that under his direction a Deluge once swept the earth of the wickedness which was upon it, and laws were given to Israel, as a nation, to lead them to Christ; and that he will in the end call men to judgment for the privileges which have been extended to them in this world.

Hear what the Prophet Daniel says upon this subject - "I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days (Adam) did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the judgment was set, and the books were opened. . . . . . . . And behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." - (Dan. vii. 9, 10, 13, 14.)

Again, the word of the Lord through the Prophet Joseph, gives additional importance, if possible, to the part which Adam acts relating to his children, which reads as follows - "But, behold, verily I say unto you, before the earth shall pass away, Michael, mine archangel, shall sound his trump, and then shall all the dead awake, for their graves shall be opened, and they shall come forth; yea, even all." [D&C 29:26]

From the foregoing we are enabled to draw important conclusions, that before the coming of the Lord Jesus in the clouds of heaven, to take the reins of government upon the earth, Adam comes and gathers around him all that have ever held the keys of power under him upon the earth, in any of the dispensations thereof to man; he calls forth the dead from their graves, at the sound of his trump; he brings them to judgment, and they render unto him an account of their several stewardships; the books are opened that a righteous judgment may be rendered by him who now sits upon his throne, not only as the Father, but the Judge, of men; and in that capacity thousands minister unto him. An august assemblage are now gathered in one grand council around the great Patriarch of all Patriarchs, consisting of his sons, who have been faithful in that which was committed to them; and all this preparatory to that great event, when the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven should be given to the Saints of the Most High. Daniel saw that the Saints possessed the kingdom, by virtue of which Adam was once more in possession of the dominion given unto him before the fall, which was over every living thing that moved upon the earth, which rendered him the universal Sovereign and Lord of all.

At this important period, when Adam is reinstated with full power upon the earth, seated upon his throne, as Daniel saw him - a glorious and an immortal God, one like the Son of Man comes in the clouds of heaven (as oftimes represen[ted] by the Apostles), to the Ancient of days, and receives from him dominion, glory, and a kingdom; or in other words, Michael, having accomplished the work committed to him, pertaining to this world, delivers up an account of his stewardship of the same, to that character represented as Yahovah in the creation of the world, who reigns in unison with those upon the earth, until his work is fully accomplished - till the last great contest with the enemy, who has been released for a little season, is won; then he in turn delivers up the kingdom to the great Eloheim, that in the language of the Apostle, "God may be all in all." [1 Corinthians 15:28]

This final surrender, we are to bear in mind, does not detract from the God-like power and dominion of our first Parent, nor of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Patriarchal order of government, each and every ruler is independent in his sphere, his rule extending to those below, and not to those above him, in the same order. While the God of unnumbered worlds is acknowledged to be his God and Father, Adam still maintains his exalted position at the head of all those who are saved from among the whole family of man; and he will be God over all those who are made Gods from among men. Each and every God will be honoured and adored by those over whom he reigns as a God, without any violation of the laws of heaven - without any encroachment upon that command which saith, "thou shalt have no other Gods before me," [Exodus 20:3] for the glory and honour of all true Gods constitute the glory, honour, power, and dominion of the great Eloheim, according to His own order of government.

We can conceive of no higher, or more perfect order of government than that which is embraced in Patriarchal authority. By virtue of this order, all Gods, whether in heaven or on earth, exercise a righteous power, and possess a just dominion. In this order, all are both subjects and rulers, each possessing Almighty rights and powers - Almighty rulers over those who have descended from them, at the same time rendering all honour and power to those from whom they have descended. What a glorious system of order is here portrayed - one in which an innumerable succession of Gods, Patriarchs, and rulers, can reign forever in the greatest possible harmony that can be comprehended by intelligences, while each is independent in his position, as is all intelligence. As the great Eloheim is supreme and Almighty over all His children and kingdoms, so is Adam as great a ruler, or God, in his sphere, over his children, and the kingdom which they possess. The earth and all things upon it were created for Adam, and it was given to him of his Father to have dominion over it. In that dominion he will be sustained throughout all eternity.

In relation to this earth alone and its inhabitants, Michael and Gabriel have perhaps held the greatest keys of dominion and power. They were, both in their day, Fathers of all living, and had dominion given unto them over all things. Gabriel, or Noah, held the keys of this power under Michael, and to him he will render an account of all things before Michael renders an account of his stewardship to Him whose dominion reaches over many worlds, and who is God over all Gods. These two important personages have ever been watchful of the interests of their children, hence we find them ministering from time to time to holy men upon the earth - Gabriel often appearing unto Daniel, and opening to his view the most wonderful visions of the future, by which he could act as a God to the people, outvie the wisdom of the astrologers, and so control the elements that the burning furnace could have no power over him; Michael also coming to the release of Gabriel, when he was withstood one and twenty days from answering Daniel's prayer [Daniel 10:13].

We also read of Michael disputing with the Devil about the body of Moses, probably because the Devil was not willing that Moses should be translated, inasmuch as he had sinned; but even in this, Michael was the great deliverer [Jude 1:9]. Again we read that Michael shall stand up for the children of his people in a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, and at that time every one that shall be found written in the book shall be delivered, and those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake [Daniel 12:1-2].

From these and many other Scriptures, we find that those important personages are clothed upon with no mean authority, and that Michael has power to deliver men from the power of the Devil, which is death; that by the sound of his own trump - the trump of the archangel, the nations of the dead shall awake and come forth to judgment, and there render an account to the ANCIENT OF DAYS seated upon his burning throne. Then shall the nations know that he is their Judge, their Lawgiver, and their God, and upon his decree hangs the destiny of the assembled dead. Yes, our Judge will be a kind and compassionate Father, by whom none can pass, but through whom all glory, dominion, and power, will be ascribed to the great ETERNAL.
A few questions for discussion:
  1. How does this article's exposition of 'Adam-God' ideas compare to other discussions of Adam-God by, e.g., Brigham Young and others?
  2. Early on, the author labors to distance Adam from any connection with sin or disobedience. How does his treatment fit into the history of LDS treatments of the Fall?
  3. How does the author's perception of the Fall and his discussion of its position in salvation-history relate to discourse about the Fall in the broader Christian tradition?
  4. What appears to be the relationship between 'Eloheim', 'Yahovah', and 'Michael/Adam', as the author conceives of it?
  5. The author states that "we are under obligations to our father Adam, as to a God". What sort of 'obligations' would we have to Adam at the present moment, if the author is correct?
  6. In the theology of the author, what might be our relation to "the Great Eloheim"?
  7. What might the author be inclined to say if pressed to talk further about the present-day role and status of Gabriel/Noah?
  8. In light of the author's discussion of other issues, how might the author conceive of his own statements about humans "becoming Gods"?
  9. The author uses language of "control" on numerous occasions throughout the article when he describes the power that a Patriarch has over his subjects. How does this language relate to the concept of free agency?
  10. How does the author envision gender relations? What reception might his vision have in a modern-day LDS ward?
  11. How does the author envision family dynamics? What might the author think of a 'typical' LDS household today?
  12. How does the author's approach to various biblical passages quoted or alluded to, compare to other LDS and/or Christian interpretations?
  13. What in the article still comports with modern-day LDS teaching, and what does not?

1 Spencer W. Kimball said: "We hope that you who teach in the various organizations, whether on the campuses or in our chapels, will always teach the orthodox truth. We warn you against the dissemination of doctrines which are not according to the scriptures and which are alleged to have been taught by some of the General Authorities of past generations. Such, for instance, is the Adam-God theory. We denounce that theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine." See Official Report of the One Hundred Forty-Sixth Semi-Annual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Held in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, October 1, 2, 3, 1976 (Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1977), 115.
2 [Brigham Young], "Adam, Our Father and God", The Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star 15/48 (26 November 1853): 769-770; excerpted from Brigham Young's 9 April 1852 talk as printed in Journal of Discourses 1:46-53 (excerpted portion on 50-51). The most famous quote from this talk, as reprinted here on page 769, is: "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." A close second, appearing on page 770, is Brigham Young's statement that "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", which should be read in light of the earlier statement (pp. 769-770): "When the virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who is the Father? He is the first of the human family; and when he took a tabernacle, it was begotten by his Father in heaven, after the same manner as the tabernacles of Cain, Abel, and the rest of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve; from the fruits of the earth, the first earthly tabernacles were originated by the Father, and so on in succession."
3 "Our Father Adam", The Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star 15/48 (26 November 1853): 780. The statement is as follows: "OUR FATHER ADAM. - The extract from the Journal of Discourses may startle some of our readers, but we would wish them to recollect that in this last dispensation God will send forth, by His servants, things new as well as old, until man is perfected in the truth. And we would here take occasion to remark, that it would be well if all our readers would secure a copy of the Journal of Discourses as it is issued, and also of every standard work of the Church; and not only secure these works, but attentively read them, and thoroughly study the principles they contain. Those of the Saints who fail to obtain the standard publications of the Church, will not be likely to prove very intelligent Saints, and will be very liable to wake up some day, and find themselves wonderfully behind the times, and consequently will not be able to stand the day of trial, which will come upon all the world. Without the intelligence that comes through the Holy Priesthood, the Saints cannot gain salvation, and this intelligence is given in the various publications of the Church. Who then will endanger his salvation by being behind the times? Not the wise, certainly."

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