Elder Mark E. Petersen and the Adam-God Theory

Note: this the second of a six-part sub-series of blogs focusing on the Adam-God theory.

Elder Mark E. Petersen wrote a book about Adam as part of a series of short books, each focusing on one Old Testament or Book of Mormon prophet. This series of books on ancient prophets have not been considered particularly profound or scholarly, but still fine overviews of their subjects. Elder Petersen was one of the most prolific authors in the Church, having written and had published some forty-three books. In his study of the first man and prophet Adam, he took occasion to include a chapter covering the Adam-God theory. In preparing this chapter he included some information on the accuracy of a quotation that was later found to be incorrect. In a later, second edition of his popular book, he revised some wording to correct his earlier error. The quotations below, as taken from Determining Doctrine, are given in an order which helps readers understand this revision of Elder Petersen’s book. Issues regarding the verbatim accuracy of the text of the Journal of Discourses have been covered in an earlier blog (#19):

Mark E. Petersen:

Elder Charles C. Rich, of the Council of the Twelve, was present on a day when President Young gave an address that was wrongly reported as saying Adam was Deity.  In the copy of the Journal of Discourses that he had, Elder Rich referred to the misquotation as it appears in the Journal of Discourses, and in his own hand he wrote the following as the correct statement made by President Young: “Jesus our elder Brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character who talked with Adam in the Garden of Eden, and who is our Heavenly Father.” (This signed statement is in the hands of the Church Historian.)

Some of the [shorthand] reporters at the Tabernacle in those days were not as skilled as others, and admittedly made mistakes, such as the misquotation of President Young as above, which was corrected by Brother Rich and which has caused some persons in the Church to go astray.  The erroneously reported statement had been mistakenly made to read: “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.” (JD, 1:151.) On the face of it the mistake is obvious and was quickly noted by Elder Rich, who was present and heard the sermon.  Hence the correction that he made. (Adam: Who Is He?, 1st ed. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976], 16-17.)

Ronald O. Barney, Senior Archivist, LDS Church Historical Department (1990):

Dear Brother ____

We have received your recent letter inquiring into the circumstances surrounding an Elder Charles C. Rich statement quoted by Elder Mark E. Petersen in his book Adam, Who Is He? concerning the purported Adam-God statement made by President Brigham Young.

The edition of Elder Petersen’s book from which you quote is the 1976 edition.  Upon further investigation Elder Petersen discovered the incongruity you have described in your letter concerning the whereabouts of Elder Charles C. Rich at the time President Young’s sermon was given.  In the subsequent 1979 edition of Adam: Who Is He? Elder Petersen revised his account of Elder Rich’s statement….

Questions concerning this matter have been raised at other times.  We have attempted to locate the copy of the Journal of Discourses mentioned by Elder Petersen without success.

Sincerely,

Ronald O. Barney

Archivist, Sr.

Mark E. Petersen:

Elder Charles C. Rich was not present on the day when President Young gave an address that was wrongly reported as saying Adam was our Father in heaven. (See JD 1:51.) The sermon was delivered April 9, 1852, and Elder Rich returned April 21. In a copy of the Journal of Discourses Elder Ben E. Rich, son of Elder Charles C. Rich, referred to the misquotation as it appears in the Journal of Discourses, and in his own hand corrected the statement to read as follows: “Jesus our Elder Brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character who talked with Adam in the Garden of Eden, and who is our Father in heaven.” In this same statement Ben E. Rich wrote “As corrected above is what Prest. Young said, as testified to me by my father, C. C. Rich.” (This signed statement is in the hands of the Church Historical Department.)

Some of the reporters at the Tabernacle in those days were not so skilled as others, and admittedly made mistakes, such as the misquotation of President Young as above, which was corrected by Brother Rich and which has caused some persons in the Church to go astray. (Adam: Who Is He? 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979], 16.)

Mark E. Petersen:

It is interesting to recall that the Book of Mormon says that Christ, not Adam, is the God of this land, even though Adam lived in what is now Missouri, USA. (See Ether 2:12.)

It is most appropriate here to quote President Joseph Fielding Smith in his classic statement: “If I ever say anything contrary to the scriptures, the scriptures prevail.” This applies to all, even to Brigham Young. (Mark E. Petersen, Adam: Who Is He? 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979], 15.)

Mark E. Petersen:

I have had members of apostate cults come to me and bear their testimonies.  They say that they have read and studied the revelations of self-styled prophets and have prayed about them and have received testimonies from the Holy Spirit that these so-called revelations were true.  They have told me that they have even felt a burning in their bosoms as a sign of the truth of these things.

Yet the men who reportedly get these revelations were out of harmony with the Church, out of harmony with the Spirit of God, and their “revelations” were not of God.

But how could people get these alleged testimonies of the truth of these obviously erroneous revelations?  They got them from Lucifer, who can appear as an angel of light, who can give false and lying revelations, and who can so mislead people that they are duped into believing that these alleged revelations and testimonies are true; so they turn their backs upon the actual truth to accept these falsehoods. (“Revelation,” Address to religious educators, 24 August 1954. Cited in Charge to Religious Educators, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: Church Educational System and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982], 134.)

[Cross posted at truthwillprevail.xyz]

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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.”

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