Elder Bruce R. McConkie and the Adam-God theory (part 3)

Note: this is the third of a three-part series on Elder McConkie and the Adam-God theory, and is part of a larger six-part series reviewing explanations about the theory by Elders Lee, Petersen, and McConkie. The six-part series is in turn part of a larger blog series on Determining Doctrinal Authority in Mormonism. The final and sixth blog on the theory is next (#25). Extra attention has been given to this false theory because it provides opportunity to examine in-depth and in detail the true position of Adam in the plan of salvation and also some of the exceptions, subtleties and nuances within the fallible yet inspired nature of prophets of God.

Below is further frank and clear explanation from Elder Bruce R. McConkie on the Adam-God theory, some of which is and some of which is not found in Determining Doctrine. Also given is a spiritual experience from the ministry of Elder McConkie about the theory. Further commentary about President Brigham Young follows, concluding with true teachings from him about Adam:

Bruce R. McConkie:

[Summary of facets of the Adam-God theory:]

(1) The false claim that Adam is our Father and our God;

(2) That Adam lived on a prior earth as a mortal and had been resurrected;

(3) That Adam and Eve are the parents of our spirits;

(4) That Adam created this earth as a home for his spirit children;

(5) That he and Eve came here to provide mortal bodies for their spirit children;

(6) That they came here as resurrected beings and were not made from the dust of this earth, but of the prior earth on which they had their mortal probation;

(7) That they did not die but returned to the celestial realm from whence they came where they now preside in glory and dominion;

(8) That Adam is the Father of the mortal body of Christ;

(9) That all persons who gain exaltation will, after their resurrection, create an earth, have spirit children, and then go down on the earth they have created, there to be an Adam and an Eve in providing mortal bodies for their spirit children.

This doctrine was diametrically opposed, not only to the scriptures, but to the philosophizing’s of Orson Pratt [that particles of intelligence should be worshipped], which also were unscriptural.

Many have supposed that President Young taught only portions of the above recitation and that he was misquoted in what he did say. This simply is not true. He preached enough sermons on the subject to fill a volume; they cover at least the 25-year period from 1852 to his death in 1877; and they are correctly transcribed and accurately represent his views.1

It is true that for many years our enemies used quotations from the famous 1852 sermon only. These quotations are capable of dual interpretation, and our apologists [defenders] have spent their time trying to show how the statements in this 1852 sermon conform to the over-all patriarchal system. Now, however, literally hundreds of quotations from Brigham Young and those around him have been dredged up, which we can no longer brush aside as in the past.

In the 1852 sermon he said that Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. “Jesus, our elder brother,” he said, “was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven.” In the past our brethren have always maintained that this had reference, not to Adam but to Elohim. The fact is, as subsequent sermons attest, Brigham Young meant that Adam was the Father of Christ.

It was in this 1852 sermon that President Young made the famous declaration: “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.”

The best illustration of which I know that explains what President Young should have meant was given by President Charles W. Penrose.

President Penrose said: “As to Adam, he taught that he was God in the sense of being at the head of the human family. That he was Michael, the Ancient of Days, and in the resurrection would be at the head. In that way the whole human family will be related to him as his children, and in the Patriarchal order he will be the personage with whom they will have to do, and the only one in that capacity. President Young taught faith in that Eternal Being to whom Adam and all of his race should bow in humble reverence, who is our Eternal Father and the Father of our elder brother, Jesus Christ, and is the Great Elohim.”

“And it should be understood that the views entertained by that great leader and inspired servant of the Lord, were not expressed as principles to be accepted by mankind as essential to salvation. . . . That which President Young put forth in the discourse referred to, is not preached either to the Latter-day Saints or to the world as a part of the creed of the Church.”

“The views then expressed were uttered in a single sermon, which created so much comment that the speaker did not afterwards enter into further details or explanations.

President Penrose explained the sermon this way:

The substance of President Young’s declaration was, that the person who was placed in the Garden of Eden and became the great progenitor of the human race, is “our Father and our God.” He said further, “and is the only God with whom we have to do.” Careful reading of the entire address will show that President Young comprehended much more on this subject than he then made known, and that he regarded our Father Adam as the being who will stand, in eternity, at the head of the human family as the great Patriarch and ruler over all his posterity, and the Parent with whom they will have personal association and intercourse, as the representation and embodiment to them of all that constitutes the individuality of the Godhead.

President Joseph Fielding Smith and Elder John A. Widtsoe and a number of the other Brethren have taken a similar approach. Even the First Presidency of the Church (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund) in a widely circulated letter to Samuel O. Bennion, which sets forth in a marvelous way what we do believe about Adam, fell into the trap of trying to explain away the statements of President Young and make them seem to be in harmony with the true doctrine.

The trouble with all this is that we are not dealing with “a single sermon,” and Brigham Young did not mean what all of us wish he had meant. . . .

There are also [Adam-God] quotations from Heber C. Kimball, Orson F. Whitney, L. John Nuttall, W. W. Phelps, John Jaques, Eliza R. Snow and many others.

Our enemies publish the minutes (including Photostats in the handwriting of Thomas Bullock) of a seven and one-half hour meeting of the Council of the Twelve on April 5, 1860. The meeting considered at length the views of Brigham Young and Orson Pratt about Deity. Nine of the Twelve were present. Six spoke against Brother Pratt. He alone opposed the Adam-God views of President Young. The views of the other two (Ezra Taft Benson and Franklin D. Richards) are not recorded.

There is, of course, no question as to the true doctrine relative to Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael. The scriptures themselves are clear. The First Presidency in the days of President Joseph F. Smith made several express and pointed explanations, including the Doctrinal Exposition on the Father and the Son published in 1916.

Our problem is that over the years we have attempted to cover up and explain away things that have now become common knowledge. Our credibility is completely destroyed when we claim that Brigham Young was misquoted or meant something other than what his words clearly mean. (Bruce R. McConkie Correspondence, 1983.)

As a member of the First Council of the Seventy, Elder McConkie enjoyed a marvelous spiritual experience in which it was made known to him that the theory was false and that the interpretations that anti-Mormons and fundamentalist cultists placed on Brigham Young’s teachings were false doctrine. While Elder McConkie’s personal spiritual experience does not of itself constitute and define the position of the Church, it is certainly in full and complete harmony with it. Such rare disclosures are uplifting, edifying, enlightening, and helpful.

Bruce R. McConkie:

In the second mission-wide conference, I was talking with some power and fluency about this doctrine, explaining that these interpretations were false and defining how and where the Church stood on Adam and on the members of the Godhead. In the midst of this discussion, under circumstances where I was far more fluent and expressive than my normal capacity allows, it suddenly seemed to me as though a pillar of light extended up from me endlessly and the clear, unmistakable impression came from the Spirit of the Lord that what I was teaching was true, that the interpretations made by various people of Brigham Young’s quotations was totally false [doctrine], and that if I felt so inclined I was perfectly at liberty to speak in the Lord’s name as to the truths I was then declaring. I did not so speak, reasoning that under the circumstances there had been so much sensational and unusual matter presented to these particular missionaries that I did not want to say something outside the usual bounds. As I look back, it seems to me that this experience was given primarily for my benefit and enlightenment. (Cited in Joseph Fielding McConkie, The Bruce R. McConkie Story: Reflections of a Son [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003], 366-67.)

If it so happened, unlikely that it may seem, that President Brigham Young went out of this mortal life and passed through the veil into the spirit world, still believing or theorizing that Adam or Michael was God our Father in Heaven or Elohim, then we can rest assured that he was soon thereafter disabused of that false notion.

When Jesus died on the cross after suffering for the sins of all of Adam’s children (see Alma 40:18), he himself then passed through the veil and “the Son of God appeared” in the midst of an “innumerable company of the spirits of the just” that included “Adam” and all other ancient prophets and faithful/righteous men and women. There, “our Redeemer spent his time during his sojourn in the world of spirits, instructing and preparing the faithful spirits of the prophets.” There and then in the spirit world, in a great conference, Jesus instructed and prepared and taught the prophets, including Adam, the first mortal man, who was not His father.

So, teaching and instruction continues in the spirit world, even for prophets and apostles. By President Joseph F. Smith’s day the ancient prophets, including Adam, had long since been resurrected (soon after Jesus) and gone on to their exaltation, and the great and noble prophets of our dispensation who had died were then there: “The Prophet Joseph Smith, and my father, Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and other choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work.” (D&C 138) Would not these prophets also be taught and instructed, including Brother Brigham? As Elder McConkie stated—“in due course all the faithful brethren, whether in this life or in the spirit world, will have a perfect understanding and be united wholly and totally where the concepts are concerned” (Bruce R. McConkie Correspondence, 1972). If we don’t get it right in this life, they correct us in the next.

Confirming these truths is a personal experience in the life of J. Arthur Horne, who served for many years as a patriarch in the Seattle, Washington, area until he passed away in the late 1960s. Being a righteous and spiritual man of great faith, and having questions about the early death of a son, he prayed fervently and then in a special spiritual experience was given the opportunity to interview President Brigham Young, who had long since passed away. After asking various questions and receiving answers: “Now I asked the question that had been praying on my mind: ‘What do you do over there [in the spirit world], Brother Young? He sat back in his chair and threw one leg over the other. ‘Oh, mostly studying and preaching,’ he said.”

Studying—learning, being taught—and preaching. Again, if Brother Brigham still entertained any notions that Adam/Michael was God the father when he crossed the veil into the spirit world, such would have been quickly dispelled by his studies. He would have been corrected in his views, by Joseph Smith himself if necessary, for Brother Joseph presides in the spirit world as dispensation head. As President Joseph Fielding Smith said, Brother Brigham “will have to make his own explanations on the points there involved”—he will have to or has accounted for any errant teachings the same as anyone else. We will all be judged for what we believe and teach. Best to get it right—from the scriptures.

Selected doctrinally correct teachings about Adam from President Brigham Young:

“We believe in God the Father and in Jesus Christ our elder brother. We believe that God is a person of tabernacle, possing in an infinitely higher degree all the perfections and qualifications of his mortal children. We believe that he made Adam after his own image and likeness…” (Journal of Discourses, 10:230-31.)

“Adam was as conversant with his Father who placed him upon this earth as we are conversant with our earthly parents. The Father frequently came to visit his son Adam, and talked and walked with him…” (Journal of Discourses, 9:148.)

“The Bible declares God [the Father] has a corporeal body; that in his likeness, precisely, He created Adam.” (Journal of Discourses, 1:238.)

“We are the children of Adam and Even. So we also and they [Adam and Eve] are the children of our heavenly Father,…” (Journal of Discourses, 13:311.)

“His mother Mary bore him… According to the flesh he [Jesus Christ] was of the seed of Adam and Eve.” (Journal of Discourses, 6:95-96.)

“I want to tell you, each and every one of you, that you are well acquainted with God our heavenly Father, or the great Elohim. You are all well acquainted with Him, for there is not a soul of you but what has lived in His house and dwelt with Him year after year; and yet you are seeking to become acquainted with Him, when the fact is, you have merely forgotten what you did know. I told you a little last Sabbath about forgetting things.

“There is not a person here to-day but what is a son or a daughter of that Being. In the spirit world their spirits were first begotten and brought forth, and they lived there with their parents for ages before they came here. This, perhaps, is hard for many to believe, but it is the greatest nonsense in the world not to believe it. If you do not believe it, cease to call Him Father; and when you pray, pray to some other character.” (Journal of Discourses 4:216.)

Some excellent counsel about truth and error from President Young:

“I want to say to my friends that we believe in all good. If you can find a truth in heaven, earth or hell, it belongs to our doctrine. We believe it; it is ours; we claim it. Is that right? If you find an error here, I ask you to leave it, pass it by, let it alone, do not embrace it in your faith, do not practice it in your lives. I say to all, to my brethren and sisters and to strangers, if we teach anything that is good, receive it, I beseech you. If we have any good in our doctrine, believe it and embrace it, it will do you good. If we have errors, do not embrace them. I have been trying, for almost forty years, to tell the people how to be saved. I have always made this proposition to every man I have conversed with on the subject of truth and error, ‘If I have errors, I will give ten errors for a truth. Do you want to trade?’” (Journal of Discourses 13:335.)

It should go without saying that the principles taught by Elder McConkie and others that have been quoted relating to the Adam-God theory, are applicable to anything else incorrect that President Young or others of his day may have taught.

For instance, Brigham Young is sometimes referenced as teaching that those who become Sons of Perdition and are cast out into outer darkness, either do not receive a body in the resurrection, or die after being resurrected, and they go through a process of dissolution/annihilation or dissolving back into spirit element; thus they are no longer a living spirit or any other kind of being having agency, but become eligible, as the eons and ages pass, to be born again as a spirit child of God.

Presidents Brigham Young, George A. Smith, Heber C. Kimball, and others are also quoted as teaching a convoluted concept of blood atonement. The true doctrine of blood atonement is that by the shedding of His blood in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, Jesus Christ suffered for the sins of all mankind so that they can be saved if they will repent and follow Him. The false doctrine of blood atonement is that there are certain sins so serious, so grievous and heinous, that the sinners own blood must be shed to atone for their sins if they are to receive forgiveness.

These notions are found in the Journal of Discourses and other outlets from earlier times. Again, wherein they are out of harmony or contradict the scriptures, the principles taught by prophets and apostles in the quotations found in these blogs apply. Such incorrect ideas are not doctrines of the Church. The scriptures prevail over such old quotations in matters of doctrine (see blog 19).

As to the fate of sons of Perdition, President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

Speaking of the Sons of Perdition, the Lord says this: “And the end thereof, either the place thereof, nor the torment, no man knows; neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man except to them who are made partakers thereof.” I don’t think that Pres. Young is going to be a partaker thereof.” . . . I give you one passage of scripture which declares definitely that they remain as though there had been no redemption [see D&C 76:45-48]; . . . The Prophet [Joseph Smith] says that they will endure. President Joseph F. Smith has said that. President John Taylor has said it. . . . They will endure. Their bodies and spirits will be united. . . . The fact is anyway, that they remain—their spirits and bodies. Now if the Lord revealed something to President Young about their final destiny and that they’re going to be annihilated or the spirit and body dissolved, go back into the elements to be created over again someway, President Young didn’t say that the Lord had revealed anything to him, and these scriptures say, “no man knows” and no man will know but those who partake of it. So I don’t know. I don’t know their destiny. I don’t know what’s going to become of them finally, only that they have their spirits and bodies, and the scriptures say they can’t die again. Now we do have that and in the words of the Prophet also—that they cannot die.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, “The Fundamentals of the Gospel,” unpublished lecture given at BYU, August 25, 1954, 11-12.)

In regards to blood atonement, Elder McConkie wrote:

You note that I and President Joseph Fielding Smith and some of our early church leaders have said [things] and written about this doctrine and you asked if the doctrine of blood atonement is an official doctrine of the Church today.

If by blood atonement is meant the atoning sacrifice of Christ, the answer is Yes. If by blood atonement is meant the shedding of the blood of men to atone in some way for their own sins, the answer is No.

We believe that the blood of Christ, shed in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary, cleanses all men from sin on condition of repentance. As expressed by a Book of Mormon scripture: “Salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” (Mosiah 3:18.)

We do not believe that it is necessary for men in this day to shed their own blood to receive a remission of sins. This is said with a full awareness of what I and others have written and said on this subject in times past.

In order to understand what Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Charles W. Penrose and others have said, we must mention that there are some sins for which the blood of Christ alone does not cleanse a person. These include blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (as defined by the Church) and that murder which is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice. However, and this cannot be stressed too strongly, this law has not been given to the Church at any time in this dispensation. It has no application whatever to anyone now living whether he is a member or a nonmember of the Church.

There simply is no such thing among us as a doctrine of blood atonement that grants a remission of sins or confers any other benefit upon a person because his own blood is shed for sins. Let me say categorically and unequivocally that this doctrine can only operate in a day when there is no separation of Church and State and when the power to take life is vested in the ruling theocracy as was the case in the day of Moses. From the day of Joseph Smith to the present there has been no single instance of so-called blood atonement under any pretext.

Anything I have written or anything said by anyone else must be understood in the light of the foregoing limitation. Brigham Young and the others were speaking of a theoretical principle that operated in ages past and not in either their or our day. As I recall, Brigham Young’s illustrations were taken from the day of Moses and the history of ancient Israel and could not be applied today.

This is no such a doctrine as blood atonement in the Church today nor has there been at any time. Any statements to the contrary are either idle speculation or pure fantasy. It is certainly not the current teaching of the Church and I have never in over 61 years of regular church attendance heard a single sermon on the subject or even a discussion in any church class.

You asked if the statements of our leaders of the past, including those found in the Journal of Discourses, represent the official stand of the Church. The answer, as indicated in the comments above set forth, is that they do not. The statements pertain to a theoretical principle that has been neither revealed to nor practiced by us. (Bruce R. McConkie Correspondence, 1978.)

Now, when it comes to anti-Mormon critics and fundamentalist cultists, none of these quotations and statements thoroughly explaining the true doctrines of the gospel will mean anything or help to correct their views and purposes. They cling to old false and incorrect notions with all their strength and resolve; they find them simply too useful as a means of destroying the faith of the uneducated, unwary, new converts, doubters, and curious nonmembers. For them the fact that they are not believed or taught by the Church is an inconvenience easily ignored or disputed. In their minds, any tool that might weaken or destroy another’s soul is too good to pass up.

Thankfully, the Adam-God theory and other errant doctrines that occasionally percolate up from the past or blow with the latest wind of false doctrine are gradually losing their effectiveness and presence today—they are gradually losing their steam. Whatever the issue raised by the devil, the safe course is to stay in the mainstream of the Church, hold to the iron rod, and follow the living prophets.

I think of Orson F. Whitney, a supremely gifted and talented church leader of the past, with few equals and no superiors in certain ways. Yet, even as a bishop, he became caught up in the mysteries, was beguiled by a self-proclaimed prophet, and believed in reincarnation and exalted parents giving birth to resurrected babies, for the better part of 25 years. It took him two years of humble heartfelt and sincere repentance to overcome those false notions and then more years on a sort of unofficial probation before he could become “doctrinally” worthy to be called as an Apostle of the Lord. Yet he succeeded admirably. May others so ensnared in any errant or false doctrines do likewise.

[Cross posted with truthwillprevail.xyz]

  1. As was shown in the first blog in this series, this statement is now known to be inaccurate and in doubt. 

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About Dennis B. Horne

Dennis B. Horne grew up in south Davis County and he served in the Independence Missouri mission. He attended BYU and Weber State Universities, earning a degree in Communications. After working in television broadcasting for a number of years he became a technical writer for the LDS Church Material Management Department. He became an independent researcher/author because of his love of church history and doctrine. This pursuit led him to write a biography of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, an edited publication of the diaries of Abraham H. Cannon, and biographies of President Lorenzo Snow and Orson F. Whitney. He also wrote about callings to serve in the church, the doctrine of giving healing blessings, and a compilation of the teachings of prophets and apostles about how to determine doctrinal authority. He has twice presented at the BYU Church History Symposium. His articles occasionally appear at “truth will prevail,” “Interpreter,” and “FAIRMormon.”

6 thoughts on “Elder Bruce R. McConkie and the Adam-God theory (part 3)

  1. Having now read all six parts of your series examining the Adam-God theory, and fully agreeing with the position of the Church on the subject which you present in your sixth part, I would nevertheless like to say a few things in favor of Brigham Young. Dr. Hugh Nibley said of President Brigham Young:

    “It has been common practice to dismiss any saying of his of which one disapproves (and he makes no effort to please) by observing that he said so much on so many things that he was bound to contradict himself, and therefore need not be taken too seriously all the time. No view could be more ill-advised, for there never was a man more undeviatingly consistent and rational in thought and utterance.” (Hugh Nibly, BYUS 11:1:62)

    You have presented under the heading [Summary of facets of the Adam-God theory:] nine different false claims that were taught by Brigham Young. You clarify that statements supporting the fact that he repeatedly made these false statements are numerous, happened over an extended period of 25 years, that he was not misquoted, that the quotes are correctly transcribed, and that they accurately represent his views.

    Now, in view of Dr. Hugh Nibley’s statement above I ask, can’t you recognize an undeviating pattern of consistency in Brigham Young’s false views? Let’s look briefly at each of them.

    (1) The false claim that Adam is our Father and our God;
    … If Adam is not , then who is our Father and our God? Why, it is our Heavenly Father.
    (2) That Adam lived on a prior earth as a mortal and had been resurrected;
    … If Adam did not , then who did live on a prior earth as a mortal and had been resurrected ? Why, it was our Heavenly Father.
    (3) That Adam and Eve are the parents of our spirits;
    … If Adam and Eve were not the parents of our spirits, then who was? Why, it was our Heavenly Father and our Heavenly Mother.
    (4) That Adam created this earth as a home for his spirit children;
    … If Adam did not create this earth as a home for his spirit children, then who did? Why, it was our Heavenly Father.
    (5) That he and Eve came here to provide mortal bodies for their spirit children;
    … If it was not Adam and Eve who came here to provide mortal bodies for their spirit children, then who did? Why, it was our Heavenly Father and our Heavenly Mother.
    (6) That they came here as resurrected beings and were not made from the dust of this earth, but of the prior earth on which they had their mortal probation;
    … If Adam and Even did not come here as resurrected beings and were not made from the dust of this earth, but of the prior earth on which they had their mortal probation, then who did? Why, our Heavenly Father and our Heavenly Mother.
    (7) That they did not die but returned to the celestial realm from whence they came where they now preside in glory and dominion;
    … If Adam and Even did not die, then who was it who returned to the celestial realm from whence they came where they now preside in glory and dominion,?Why, it was our Heavenly Father and our Heavenly Mother.
    (8) That Adam is the Father of the mortal body of Christ;
    … If Adam was not the Father of the mortal body of Christ, then who was? Why, it was our Heavenly Father.
    (9) That all persons who gain exaltation will, after their resurrection, create an earth, have spirit children, and then go down on the earth they have created, there to be an Adam and an Eve in providing mortal bodies for their spirit children.
    … If all persons who gain their exaltation and who will, after their resurrection, create an earth, have spirit children, and then go down on the earth they have created but will not become an Adam and an Eve to provide mortal bodies for their spirit children, then what will they become in order to provide mortal bodies for their spirit children? Why they will become a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother.

    Is it not abundantly clear that Brigham was fully consistent in the (supposedly) false doctrines he taught and that they did in fact accurately represent his views? None are so blind as they who will not see.

    • Hi Elden,
      I think there may be a little confusion here. I personally didn’t actually present/write anything under those brackets, I just used them to introduce the quote since I started in the middle of the document written by Elder McConkie. Every single word beneath those brackets is Elder McConkie’s, from the (1) down to the parenthesis that say (Bruce R. McConkie Correspondence, 1983). He wrote that list, not me; he wrote those explanations and reasoning, not me.
      I am familiar with the quotation from Nibley, and I have read much in his fine book, Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints. I am also aware of other Nibley quotations about Adam’s many titles, etc. I am not aware of any direct on-point explanations of the A-G theory by Nibley. I happen to really really like both Nibley’s and McConkie’s works. They were great scholars, as you know. It would have been interesting to listen to them discuss this theory and Brother Brigham if such occasion had ever presented itself. I admit to a little jealously that you were privileged to discuss doctrine in person with Elder McConkie whereas I never was. Thanks for sharing those discussions.
      Although I have provided some brief introductory material, mostly all I have done with these bogs is quote Elder McConkie, as above. (Except for some added material in this one.) That is why it said “Elder Bruce R. McConkie:” with the colon, marking where the quote begins, and using the brackets to try to give readers some help for why a list starts the quote.
      Without going back and checking these three blogs, off the top of my head I can count at least 5 separate documents wherein Elder McConkie reviews the same explanation of the A-G theory. We have lengthy detailed explanations from him that simply boil down to Brigham Young contradicted Brigham Young in this matter. I don’t know how else to interpret them. Above is a quotation from President Joseph Fielding Smith point out where President Young taught something about the fate of sons of Perdition that did not square with section 76. We also have statements from Bruce that he knew Brigham Young was a prophet of God–a great prophet of God–but still fallible and subject to speaking in error. That is in accord with the essays the church has published.
      I myself have had it made known to me by the Holy Spirit that President Young was a prophet of God and that his revelation in the D&C is the word of God. I have no doubt whatsoever. Neither did Bruce. But I also agree with Bruce that Brigham’s many (non-verbatim) quotations on this subject do not square with the canonized revelations that we will be judged out of.
      As for the two Adam’s idea, I just can’t see it in anything Bruce wrote, and your explanation that when he mentioned that verse in Abraham during his talk about using the new scriptures seems weak to me. I don’t say that to offend, but that is my reaction based on my study of his written explanations after your October 1982 discussion with him, and, the fact that I have never seen any general authority ever give the meaning you mention, to that verse. It is always given as meaning “Adam” is a title that applies to others who fall and start a new race of the children of God on other earths as Adam and Eve did on this one.
      But big deal; I am not going to get bent out of shape over any of this. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts on these matters, they are certainly worthy of thought and consideration.
      I love Elder McConkie’s teachings and powers of expression and gifts in explaining scripture and doctrine (though he did not speak officially for the church), and Nibley was pretty amazing as well. I hope many people eventually come across these blogs, either here or at truthwillprevail.xyz. I knew long before I decided to post this material that it would offend certain people (not meaning you). They took offense at Elder McConkie’s uncompromising teachings while he lived and they do now when he is gone.
      Months ago I read in the Deseret News where President Russell M. Nelson spoke of his conversations with Elder McConkie as rare privileges, only having one year to learn from him before he died.

  2. I want to mention something about Thomas Jefferson that may seem irrelevant to this discussion but is very relevant. A Harvard University historian correctly observed that Jefferson loved to “play” with ideas. In my research studies of Jefferson I had made the same observation but had never articulated this observation until the Harvard University historian said it. I had made this observation about Jefferson because in my B.A. and M.A., I had majored in philosophy and had enjoyed with other students this “playing” with ideas many times. Therefore, when the Harvard University historian said that Jefferson liked to play with ideas, I immediately recognized that.

    One example of an incredibly stupid idea that Jefferson played with, was: the idea that a constitution should be written for every generation because every generation deserved its own constitution. Jefferson concluded that a constitution should, therefore, be written every 19 years. More than a dozen times I have read Jefferson’s paragraph on how he arrived at 19 years (on how often a constitution should be written), and agree with his main biographer Dumas Malone that the paragraph – unlike the rest of Jefferson’s gifted writing – could not be understood. In a fun discussion with James Madison about this political idea, Madison replied that writing a constitution every 19 years would cause chaos in the nation. Jefferson agreed with Madison. An historian would make a huge blunder if he wrote a book saying that Thomas Jefferson’s main political philosophy was that a constitution should be written every 19 years for every generation. THIS IDEA IS NOT, NOT, NOT a real part of Jefferson’s belief system. Jefferson merely “played” with the idea. An overwhelming number of American historians know this. In fact, I don’t know of any historian who thinks that Jefferson did any more than “play” with the idea.

    When I joined the Church at age 19, I was fascinated with how the Gospel resolved philosophical and theological issues debated for CENTURIES: For example, apostate Christianity – saying that God created everything out of nothing – debated for centuries how evil could exist in a universe created out of nothing. Joseph Smith resolved this centuries-old debates by saying that God organized matter rather than created it out of nothing – and that evil has always existed (and thus was not created by God).

    This new Gospel that I was learning in the Church stimulated my curiosity about all kinds of theological and philosophical questions that have never been answered by anyone else, and in a few cases have not been answered in the Church.

    How is the above relevant to the Adam-God theory and other false doctrines that some believe, were allegedly taught by early church leaders? Can you imagine how exciting it must have been for Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other early church leaders to learn Gospel truths in a state of great apostasy? This apostasy was so bad that so-called Christianity (apostate Christianity) believed God had no body; the Holy Ghost gave no more revelation; and – worst of all – all those who never had the chance to accept Christ, were damned – making God into a sadist who purposely created people to never know of His Son and to be damned for eternity for that ignorance. The harsh and false criticism of Adam and Eve by apostate Christianity almost seems trivial when compared to apostate Christianity’s perverted version of the godhead.

    Along comes Joseph Smith, who corrects all of the perverted doctrines of apostate Christianity. Can you imagine how excited Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, other church leaders, AND OTHER CHURCH MEMBERS must have been to learn of these glorious truths revealed to the prophet Joseph? Can you imagine how early church leaders and many early church members began pondering about all kinds of theological and philosophical questions? What fun discussions they must have had! And some of the ideas that they “played” with, were as stupid as Jefferson’s idea of writing a new constitution every 19 years – such as the Adam-God theory.

    Some of this “playing” with all kinds of theological and philosophical questions, may have occurred in impromptu talks. Or what’s more likely, some of this “playing” with all kinds of theological and philosophical questions, may have occurred in LISTENERS’ notes on these notes because listeners’ thinking went in the wrong direction, away from what the speaker intended.

    I will never forget an experience I had in a high priest group. A high priest wrongly said that ALL general authorities just give their personal views all the time when they visit stakes. I asked him which general authority he had heard do this. He said Elder Bruce R. McConkie. I asked him if he had any other general authorities do this. He said no, just Elder Bruce R. McConkie:. Thus, in 10 seconds his accusation against ALL general authorities had been reduced to an accusation against one general authority: Elder Bruce R. McConkie

    Then I asked this critical high priest how often he had Elder Bruce R. McConkie give only his personal views. The high priest said, “Once.” Thus, this high priest’s accusation that all general authorities give only their views at stake conferences, had been reduced to one general authority ONE TIME.

    Then I asked what did Elder Bruce R. McConkie say that ONE TIME. The critical high priest said that Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that progression between kingdoms (celestial, terrestrial, and telestial) was a false doctrine. This high priest believed that progression between kingdoms (celestial, terrestrial, and telestial) was a true doctrine. I explained to this high priest that at least 2 church presidents had declared progression between kingdoms to be a false doctrine, and that Elder Bruce R. McConkie had given a talk at BYU on false doctrines in the Church including progression between kingdoms.

    Thus, because the high priest disliked Elder McConkie’s saying that progress between kingdoms was a false doctrine, the high priest had accused all general authorities of giving their personal views all the time when they visit stakes. This example shows the unreliability of many listeners, especially UNinspired listeners.

    Because records of early church leaders’ talks are often just the notes of listeners (including listeners who believe ideas they’ve played with, but have not been doctrinally established), we need to be skeptical of listener’s notes – as we’ve cautioned to do when reading the Journal of Discourses.

    If an early church leader in an impromptu talk did discuss an idea he was “playing” with, the listener – having the scriptures and the Gift of the Holy Ghost – was expected to know the difference between doctrine and “playing” with ideas. Because many listeners are Uninspired, we can understand why church leaders no longer “play” with ideas PUBLICLY. That may have been a lesson that early church leaders needed to learn: that listeners could not be trusted to know the difference between doctrine and “playing” with ideas. Certainly today’s general authorities are very reluctant to “play” with ideas PUBLICLY.

  3. Dennis,
    Yes, you made it abundantly clear in your article that those statements were made by Elder McConkie, including all of the 9 statements and the abundance of instances verifying them. It was however you (Dennis) whom I was asking if you could see the consistency in Brigham Young’s false (?) statements. None of Elder McConkie’s statements are incorrect and I can fully respect his desires not to stir up a veritable hornet’s nest by saying anything more. I was trying to rescue Brigham Young from the dark cloud cast over him by the accusation that he taught false doctrine. I have several times been asked, if Brigham Young repeatedly taught false doctrine about something so critical as the very nature of God, how can we believe anything else he ever said? After President Spencer W. Kimball made his statement in conference that the Adam-God theory was false, we went to him and asked him exactly what he meant because we didn’t want to be teaching any false doctrine on the subject. President Kimball told us that he did not say that Brigham Young didn’t made those statements attributed to him, and he did not say that Brigham Young was wrong. What he did say was that the Adam-God theory is wrong and he said the Adam-God theory is the apostate and anti-Mormon interpretation of what they think Brigham Young meant by his statements. That is wrong!
    I hope this explains to some degree my intensity in attempting to justify Brigham Young.

    • Elden,
      I definitely missed your point that you were aiming those questions at me. My only answer is that I have read a bunch of quotations from Brigham teaching that Adam is God and a bunch (that I have quoted above) that Elohim is God and Adam/Michael is Adam. I don’t see much consistency there, but so what. The best explanations of those inconsistencies that I have seen are those from these apostles in these 6 blog parts. Insightful and convincing and powerful stuff.
      I guess I don’t get very concerned about trying to rescue Pres. Young from his occasional unimportant false teachings because they were a tiny part of his over-all body of true discourses (something you know as well as anybody alive), and because I have delved into church history long and deeply enough to learn that most every church leader/GA, especially those of earlier days, have taught some false things on occasion, some of them echoing Brigham. God does the best he can with His fallible mortal children who sometimes mess it up. But on other occasions, when His Spirit is on them, they speak what Jesus Himself would say if He were present and give forth His mind and will without question or doubt.
      Also, the fact is that the body of the church did not accept or come to believe that Adam was God so a case simply cannot be made that Brother Brigham led the church astray. The priesthood and its keys are with us today and operating globally. And yes, Pres. Kimball was right in declaring that the interpretation anti-Mormons place on those particular quotations from Pres. Young is false. Thanks again for sharing that nugget.
      If people chose to believe Brigham was not a true prophet because he occasionally erred in his teachings, that decision will have eternal consequences for them. No prophet has ever been a robot fax machine hooked to heaven.
      See these quotatons for further info on this subject:

  4. You and I feel quite differently. You don’t get concerned about President Young’s “occasional unimportant false teachings,” While I believe that teachings about the very nature of God to be deeply significant, and anything but unimportant. Also, you just cited Elder McConkie as saying these teachings were anything but occasional, occurring repeatedly over a period of 25 years, with enough sermons to fill a volume.
    You can put me down as one who is unwilling to cry “Brigham Young taught false doctrine,” because Brigham Young was (and is) the Lord’s anointed, and I personally believe the teaching of false doctrine to be a sin. Of course we all know what the Lord has to say about that:

    D&C 121:16
    16 Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them.

    I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

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