Former prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Brigham Young once said, “Adam is our father and our god, and the only god with whom we have to do.” A more recent apostle, Bruce R. McConkie, declared that Brigham Young falsely taught that Adam was the “father of spirits” and that this was false doctrine. According to him, anybody who believes this should be excommunicated.
Some people take this to mean that Brigham Young, speaking as the prophet of God, and declaring this doctrine with the infallibility-invoking precursor “thus saith the Lord,” must have taught false doctrine. So he was a false prophet.
But Bruce R. McConkie was not denying the truth of the Adam-God doctrine. He was merely saying that Brigham Young’s opinion of the prophecy, that Adam was a father not only to the human race but to their spirits, was erroneous. Brigham Young never said “thus saith the Lord” with regards to that opinion.
When Brigham Young said “thus saith the Lord,” he merely said that “Adam is our father and our god, and the only god with whom we have to do. I just read the entry for Adam-God in Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine and I assure you that this apostle was not rescinding the Adam-God doctrine. He defends it quite plainly in his compendium of LDS theology.
To understand how Latter-day Saints believe that we can become “gods” you MUST understand how Adam is our father and our god. Let me explain.
First of all, there is a patriarchal priesthood order that binds all humans. Priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God. And one of the powers of the priesthood is to deliver messages to and receives messages from God. When I say God with a capital G I mean Heavenly Father. This is the man who talks to Adam and Eve up until the Fall. After the Fall, all manifestations of deity are Jehovah, or Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ is our high priest according to Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews.
So what exactly is a high priest? You see, ancient Jews believed that in order to talk to God you had to go to your high priest. They didn’t just pray to God like everyone now does. The high priest was their intercessor before God.
But Jesus, as our presiding high priest, is an intercessor that doesn’t have to offer sacrifice for himself before he offers sacrifice for others. And this he only had to do once when he died on the cross. Before Jesus was anointed as the Messiah, Jews were looking for a human sacrifice to end the practice of sacrificing lambs. Jesus was the Lamb of God (or Lamb of Heavenly Father).
So when Jesus is your high priest you can talk to God whenever you want. That is why we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. We don’t have to go through a mortal human being who has the high priesthood. Jesus is our presiding high priest.
And Adam is our presiding high priest under Jesus. But we’ll get to that in just a second.
Jesus is a member of the Godhead and is one in purpose with Heavenly Father. He is God’s son literally in the flesh and he is also God a.k.a. Heavenly Father’s firstborn spirit. We are all his spirit brothers. Jesus, as our eldest brother, has the power to act in the name of the Father in a perfect way. Like they are the same person. This is called divine investiture. He can speak as if he is the Father. He and the Father are one. That is why he is a member of the Godhead, along with the Holy Ghost. Jesus, like the Holy Ghost, and ultimately like the Father, is fully God in and of himself.
So what does this have to do with Adam? Well, Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus was Jehovah in the Old Testament. Jehovah is the name of the preexistent soul of Jesus. We all lived with God in the preexistence. And Jesus, or Jehovah, was a god even in the preexistence. While Heavenly Father overlooked the creation of this Earth and presided over it, Jesus did the actual work. Heavenly Father, the one true God, has created worlds without number. But he let his firstborn spirit, Jehovah (Jesus Christ), create OUR Earth. And Michael the Archangel helped him.
Now here is the catch. Adam was Michael the Archangel in the preexistence. So Adam literally helped Jesus do the manual labor of creating our Earth in the preexistence. Adam also had a taste of godhood in the preexistence.
Furthermore, as former prophet and president Lorenzo Snow taught, Latter-day Saints believe that “as man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.” Joseph Smith plainly taught that our God, our Heavenly Father, once dwelt on an earth with a body of flesh and bones. Many anti-Mormons claim this means that God used to be a Mormon on some other god’s planet and gained exaltation from some other god and became our God. But this is simply not true.
You see, there is only one God the Father who created worlds without number and who let Jesus and Michael create this Earth and who will eventually allow all his spirit children who are saved in the highest degree of celestial kingdom to have their own spirit children who inhabit their own worlds that they will create under the direction of the one God the Father (just like Jesus and Michael created THIS Earth under the direction of the one and only God).
In the King James Version (and even in the Catholic Douay-Rheims Version) Revelation 1:6 reads “[Jesus] hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father…” I substitute “And” with “Jesus” because if you read the verse before, they are clearly talking about Jesus. Many false translations of the Bible make this read “unto Jesus and his Father” or “unto Jesus’s Father” or something along those lines. But the King James Version got it right. Jesus can’t be making us kings and priests unto himself and his own Father. They are talking about a Father of God the Father!
Anti-Mormons claim Latter-day Saints thus believe, because of our interpretation of this scripture, that we believe there are other gods who appointed our God. For Joseph Smith taught that if God the Father of Jesus had a father, then he probably also had a father. There was never a father without first being a son of another father. But this does not mean that the one and only God had a father who was a god!
You see, the ancient Greeks believed 3 different cosmogonies: first, that the very first god was time itself like a river flowing; second, that the very first god was eternal time who is more like a pond which we throw rocks in to cause ripples; and third, that the first gods were primal matter and love. Most Greeks knew that primal matter, earth, hell, and love were the primordial gods. And they were created by Father Time of the first cosmogony who mated with a goddess that he created named Ananke, or inevitability. Inevitability was the mother of all primordial gods.
So what does this paganism have to do with Christianity? Well, Latter-day Saints believe that we have a Heavenly Mother just like we have a Heavenly Father. In Genesis 1:27, God creates mankind in the image of God — male and female. You see, males and females were part of God’s plan from the very beginning. In the beginning, God was a spirit surrounded by nothing. He knew everything because he knew that he existed and that’s all there was to know. But in order for God to learn everything he knows now, he had to learn it. We’ll get to that in just a second.
First, when God was just a spirit surrounded by nothing he already had the morphology of a human being because human beings were part of God’s plan from the beginning. And he already had a wife because husbands and wives (i.e. males and females) were part of God’s plan from the beginning. But God had no actual beginning. Primordial godhood goes back in time forever. There is an eternity in the past just like there is an eternity in the future. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And there are infinite eternities in the one, eternal round of God’s existence. But you can imagine time not existing? Time, in a way, is God’s father. And time itself is now an exalted being — a god. So the LDS doctrine of patriarchal priesthood forces Christians in the latter days to reach out to ALL exalted beings. Including Adam.
Now, remember I said that in order for God to know everything he knows now he had to learn it? God spent an eternity watching everything in time so he could know everything that was going to happen. And God, a spirit, had to learn everything about mortality by becoming a mortal. This is where Adam’s high priesthood comes into play.
We are all spirit children of the one and only God. And Mormons believe that spirit cannot be created or destroyed. We were in the beginning with God, just like Jesus (John 1:1, Doctrine and Covenants 93:23,29). There really is only one spirit, and that is God. And we are spirit children of God. We don’t remember being God, but we do remember being with God once he put us into our respective spheres. Otherwise there is no existence. God becomes his spirit children because they were created from Him. We descended from God. We are divine in nature. And we have a divine potential. We can return to live with God. To be in God’s presence we must be like him.
But first we have to pass through mortality. And God himself had to learn about mortality by BECOMING Adam. If you read the account in Genesis carefully, Adam was the only person on the Earth for a short while. While we all already existed in the preexistence, the Bible’s creation story begins “in the beginning” (Genesis 1:1). Adam was the man that Heavenly Father was and THIS EARTH was the earth he dwelt on — not some other god’s earth. Adam quickly gained a companion. Male and female was mankind created — in the image of God. God is male and female. We have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother.
Now, we talked about how Adam, or Michael the Archangel, tasted of godhood in the preexistence. He helped Jesus create this Earth. And, as God’s first son on the Earth in the beginning which happened in the beginning of time according to Genesis 1:1 he roamed the Earth simultaneously with God and Heavenly Mother creating spirit children in the preexistence. But Adam was Michael in the preexistence. Michael helped create this Earth BEFORE the beginning. You have to understand this circular logic to fully grasp the Adam-God doctrine. Put it this way: The grand beginning is still happening because it took an eternity. We have our agency in this life, and God in the beginning is watching us and learning everything that has happened and is going to happen. The grand beginning, which lasted an eternity, is currently happening but at the same time it has ALREADY happened. God ALREADY KNOWS what’s going to happen. The Bible many times mentions God’s foreknowledge. He is an eternal being. And he acquired this eternal nature from his father — time itself.
Adam is the son of God almost more than Jesus, because Adam had no earthly father AND no earthly mother.
Finally, to fully grasp the Adam-God doctrine, read 2 Nephi 2:25, 26. Jesus comes in the MERIDIAN of time, though he is the FIRSTBORN spirit. Jesus was literally the first spirit-man. God, a spirit, BECAME Jesus by CREATING him. Jesus was foreordained FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD to be the redeemer. So the life of Jesus was in God’s mind from the very beginning. That is why Jesus is our presiding high priest. That is why we pray in the name of Jesus to talk to God.
Adam is the presiding high priest under Jesus because the FALL, which led to the multiplication of man and the creation of mankind — the human race — was also foreordained from the foundation of the world. In the beginning, God created the Earth (i.e. Jesus and Michael created the Earth), and formed Adam from the dust of the ground.
Adam is our father in the sense that he is our literal father by virtue of ancestry. He is our god because he is an exalted being (literally a god) who is presiding high priest under Jesus. And he is the only god with whom we have to do because he is the god that brought sin into the world and caused mankind to come about. God BECAME Adam and learned everything there was to know about mortality. God became Jesus as Jesus was the first spirit-man. We were all in the beginning with God so thus God became all of us too. There is only one spirit, or rather there WAS only one spirit in the beginning but the works of God continue and worlds and lives abound. We can someday have our own spirit children and create our own worlds under the direction of the one and only God.
The only point Brigham Young was mistaken about was that Adam was the father of spirits.