Part 28: CES Letter Prophet Questions [Section B]

by Sarah Allen


Last week, I focused heavily on the words of Brigham Young. I did this because he’s often seen as a stumbling block to members of the Church today due to some of the comments and policies we’ll be discussing in this set of questions/concerns. I wanted to point out that he frequently exhorted the Saints to pray to receive their own revelation concerning the things he said, and to reject the things he taught if they felt they didn’t come from God.

There are some other things we all need to know and understand about “Brother Brigham” before we can put these subjects in context, though. The first is that he had a very theatrical style, sort of like today’s televangelists. He was fond of the old “fire and brimstone” style of preaching that was so common in his day, where he’d exaggerate and threaten damnation and the Saints going to Hell if they turned away from the Gospel, that kind of thing. He would also often act out the things he was saying—like if he was talking about searching for something, he’d stand there at the pulpit, checking all of his pockets like he couldn’t find what he was looking for. The people loved it; it was like going to a show every time they watched him preach. It was very entertaining, and he would play up the theatrics while he was preaching in response to their reactions. But things like that don’t always translate very well when you’re reading them over a century later, so it’s hard to tell when he was being serious and when he was playing to the crowd or exaggerating for effect.

President Young was also very blunt. He did not beat around the bush, and he could be abrasive and somewhat authoritative, especially in his later years. He sometimes went off on rants when he felt he wasn’t being listened to. He had a notoriously contentious relationship with Emma Smith, among others, and used to claim she was going to Hell and that Joseph would have to go there to get her back. He was fiercely loyal to Joseph and to the restored Gospel, however, and he did not take criticism of them lightly.

He seems to be much like Peter as he tried to step into the Savior’s shoes to lead the Church after His death—they had many of the same personality traits (brashness, impetuousness, stubbornness, loyalty, etc.), they both made clear and obvious mistakes that their predecessors never did, and they were both willing to defend to the death the things of God.

Another important thing to remember about Brigham Young and his teachings is that many of them are taken out of the Journal of Discourses. For a long time, that was thought to be an accurate source, but we now know that isn’t true. The JoD was transcribed mainly by George Watt, a British immigrant who was trained in shorthand. In order to earn a living for himself once in Utah, he sought permission to transcribe, collect, and publish the sermons of President Young and some of the other Apostles and General Authorities of the Church. Other transcriptionists joined him in the endeavor. Those publications became known as the Journal of Discourses and were released over a period of approximately thirty years.

What they would do is record the sermons in real time in shorthand, go back later and transcribe them into longhand, and use the longhand transcripts for publishing.

Many transcriptionists who were trained in shorthand developed their own style over the years with individual quirks, flourishes, and further shortcuts, so most users of the technique had their own unique shorthand style. George Watt was no exception. The only person alive today who is “fluent” in Watt’s shorthand style is a Church historian and librarian named LaJean Purcell Carruth.

As she went back over the remaining original transcripts and compared them to the published manuscripts, she noticed quite a few changes. Sometimes it was just brief phrasing, but sometimes entire paragraphs were cut out or added, and many of those changes were apparently made without permission from the original speakers. Some sermons were reviewed prior to publication, but it appears they were the exception, not the rule. The review process was apparently sporadic and many sermons were not reviewed at all.

In one paper on this topic, she notes a time when Heber C. Kimball was so upset over the unauthorized alterations being made to his sermons that, from the pulpit in the middle of his sermon, he called out the transcriptionists there in the audience and told them not to insert anything of their own into his talk. There were other instances of Brigham Young getting upset over it as well.

But publishing standards were different back then, and transcriptionists felt justified in altering the words they were preparing for publication. In nearly every case, the changes themselves were made by Watt and the other reporters before the talks were reviewed—if they were reviewed at all—during the transfer from the shorthand transcript to the longhand one. Since the sermons were given weeks or months before they were prepared for publication, and the speakers weren’t giving prepared remarks but talking in the moment, there was no way for them to vet the material against what they’d originally said.

In a series of articles published on the Church’s website, Carruth stated:

When I began transcribing the original shorthand of sermons that were published in the Journal of Discourses, I compared the original shorthand records to the published versions; it was obvious that Watt and other shorthand reporters significantly changed the words of early Church leaders during the transcription process. (It is true that editors made some additional alterations; however, comparing the shorthand and extant longhand transcripts of Watt and others shows that most alterations between the shorthand and published text were made by the reporters themselves.) In other words, the sermons published in the Journal of Discourses and in the Deseret News often differ significantly from what speakers actually said according to the original shorthand record.

… For example, when we compare Watt’s shorthand to his longhand transcripts (and the resulting publication in the Journal of Discourses), it is clear that Watt made significant changes as he transcribed. He inserted words, phrases, and even extensive passages into his longhand that do not have any relation to the shorthand itself; these inserted passages’ style is often different from the style of the speaker he was transcribing. Also, comparing the shorthand transcripts and the Journal of Discourses shows that many cited scriptures were editorial additions, with no mention in the original shorthand itself. Changes to Brigham Young’s sermons thus changed the representation of his personality, not to mention his prophetic guidance.

That last line about changing his personality is important. The Brigham Young described by the woman who has spent countless hours transcribing his original words is very different from the Brigham Young we get in the JoD. He’s loving and cares deeply for the Saints, he’s humble and pleading, he openly and often acknowledges his personal failings, and instead of an arrogant, dictatorial speaker, he’s often rhetorical or pondering the concepts he’s discussing, putting himself in the same category as those he’s speaking to rather than above them. His personality is completely different in the shorthand transcripts vs the longhand ones. Even more than Brigham’s words, it was the man himself who was lost in those published sermons.

You can read this series of articles, as well an interview transcript she participated in from Latter-day Saint Perspectives, a more lengthy paper she and a colleague wrote, and find the collated collection of transcribed sermons here:

Over and over again, Carruth and Dirkmaat stress that what we have in the JoD is the gist of what was said at the time, but that we cannot use them as definitive, word-for-word quotes. For especially controversial topics like the Adam-God theory we’ll be discussing later in this post, the exact wording is vitally important, but we don’t have that. We don’t have the shorthand originals to compare the sermons to in many cases, unfortunately including those ones.

The point is, quoting anything from the Journal of Discourses should be done with a grain of salt and an acknowledgment that it may have been differently worded, or may not even have been said at all by the person supposedly saying it. [Note: I think I actually forgot to put that disclaimer on my post from last week, so I’m doing it now—just be careful when using it as a source.]

There’s another caveat regarding the JoD we should all be aware of, given again by Carruth:

Anyone studying the sermons published in the Journal of Discourses should keep in mind that almost all of them were delivered extemporaneously, without advance preparation or notes, as was then customary. Speakers presented their own ideas and experiences; at times, they seemed to be trying to figure things out as they spoke. Occasionally, Brigham Young would correct a speaker who he thought had spoken incorrectly. At the time of their delivery, the contents of the Journal of Discourses were intended to be just that: a collection of sermons for the edification of the Saints and not official statements of Church doctrine.

It’s important to know that these were often off-the-cuff remarks made by people who were speaking as moved upon by the Spirit rather than formal, prepared talks. They usually didn’t even have any notes. Everything they said was by memory, and memory is often faulty. These sermons are often as full of speculation and opinion as they are of doctrine. Many of them were given at smaller, less official gatherings more akin to a ward or stake conference than General Conference.

Nobody should be citing a stake conference talk as their primary source of official Church doctrine, even when it’s given by a visiting Apostle. You’d make a record of it, you’d share quotes that resonate with you, but it would never be your main source for the doctrine you’re sharing. You’d explain to those you’re sharing it with that it came from a stake conference, not somewhere more official, and your audience would understand that it might be wise counsel, but it’s not necessarily binding doctrine.

For a long time, though, the JoD was held up as binding doctrine by various people when it shouldn’t have been. Other non-authoritative sources like Doctrines of Salvation, Miracle of Forgiveness, or Mormon Doctrine have been held up similarly by those in the past as definitive source of various teachings that in reality are more opinion than official doctrine. There are some wonderful quotes and counsel given in those books and they are worth studying, but they are not official statements of doctrine. While the Church itself has never declared otherwise, some members certainly did take that view.

As a people and a Church, we seem to have finally realized the difference. That particular rough edge is being smoothed and polished away, like we talked about last week. Especially with the advent of the internet and the extremely widespread ability to cherry-pick quotes, remove them from all context and pass them around as declarations of doctrine, our leaders are becoming very careful in pointing out what is official doctrine and what is not. For over a century, that distinction wasn’t always clearly defined and that muddied the waters occasionally.

However, today’s definition of doctrine—things backed up by the scriptures and declared by multiple prophets and apostles over time—has been repeatedly given by our Church leadership since the late 1800s/early 1900s. Most of those clarifications have come in response to controversial statements such as those surrounding the infamous Adam-God theory. We’ll talk about some of those refutations later, but first, I wanted to discuss what Brigham Young actually said about this idea and some of the history surrounding it, because again, context is important.

To begin, this is how the CES Letter approaches the subject—and remember, the hostility is higher in this section than in some others:

President Brigham Young taught what is now known as “Adam–God theory.” He taught that Adam is “our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.” Brigham not only taught this doctrine over the pulpit in conferences in 1852 and 1854 but he also introduced this doctrine as the Lecture at the Veil in the endowment ceremony of the Temple.

Brigham also published this doctrine in the Deseret News on June 18, 1873:

“How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which I revealed to them, and which God revealed to me — namely that Adam is our father and God — I do not know, I do not inquire, I care nothing about it. Our Father Adam helped to make this earth, it was created expressly for him, and after it was made he and his companions came here. He brought one of his wives with him, and she was called Eve, because she was the first woman upon the earth. Our Father Adam is the man who stands at the gate and holds the keys of everlasting life and salvation to all his children who have or who ever will come upon the earth. I have been found fault with by the ministers of religion because I have said that they were ignorant. But I could not find any man on earth who could tell me this, although it is one of the simplest things in the world, until I met and talked with Joseph Smith.”

A few things need to be pointed out right off the bat. First, though Brigham referred to this idea as “doctrine,” it was not meant the way the word is meant in our church today. In the 1828 Webster’s dictionary entry for the word, it states that doctrine simply meant “whatever is taught.” Another definition was “learning; knowledge.” Though it could also mean “gospel truths” in a general sense, it did not mean official, canonized doctrines of the Church. When Brigham used that word, he meant “teachings,” not formal statements of revealed truth sustained by the body of the Church.

When he stated that it was “revealed” to him by God, he again meant something different than it first appears. Brigham believed that all knowledge of any kind came by revelation from God, through various teachers. If he came to believe something was true, it was though revelation. If he learned addition, that was a revelation from God as taught to him by his teacher. These quotes come from the JoD, so again, understand that the original wording may have been quite different, though the gist is the same:

  • Instead of considering that there is nothing known and understood, only as we know and understand things naturally, I take the other side of the question, and believe positively that there is nothing known except by the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, whether in theology, science, or art.(12:207)
  • “Well, Brother Brigham, have you had visions?” Yes, I have. “Have you had revelations?” Yes, I have them all the time, I live constantly by the principle of revelation. I never received one iota of intelligence, from the letter A to what I now know, I mean that, from the very start of my life to this time, I have never received one particle of intelligence only by revelation, no matter whether father or mother revealed it, or my sister, or neighbor.No person receives knowledge only upon the principle of revelation, that is, by having something revealed to them. “Do you have the revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ?” I will leave that for others to judge. If the Lord requires anything of this people, and speaks through me, I will tell them of it; but if He does not, still we all live by the principle of revelation. Who reveals? Everybody around us; we learn of each other. I have something which you have not, and you have something which I have not; I reveal what I have to you, and you reveal what you have to me. I believe that we are revelators to each other. (3:209)

As for Adam standing at the gate of the Celestial Kingdom, holding the keys of everlasting life and salvation? Brigham didn’t invent that. D&C 78:16 says that Adam/Michael is our prince, set upon high, who holds the keys of salvation under the counsel and direction of the Holy One. In D&C 137:1-5, Joseph received a revelation of the Celestial Kingdom. He saw the thrones of God the Father and of Jesus Christ beside the gate to the Kingdom, and Adam was there.

Heber C. Kimball provided additional details he learned from Joseph:

Joseph [Smith] saw until [the Twelve Apostles] had accomplished their work, and arrived at the gate of the celestial city; there Father Adam stood and opened the gate to them, and as they entered he embraced them one by one. … He then led them to the throne of God, and then the Savior embraced each one of them … and crowned each one of them [as kings and priests] in the presence of God.

Brigham stated several times over the years that Joseph is the one who first taught the Adam-God theory, so it seems that he later confused various teachings like this for the ideas he came to espouse, or used them as the basis for his own elaborations. It’s possible he just misremembered what Joseph taught, or that Joseph’s ideas were just a springboard for his own musings and speculations. There’s solid evidence that Heber C. Kimball was also a main source of inspiration for this theory, and that seems to have begun as Kimball was summarizing those revelations and discourse notes for a record about Joseph’s life and teachings.

If I had to guess, I’d say that Heber was looking through all of these notes and got the initial spark, and he and Brigham (who was his very close friend for decades) talked about it and speculated over it for years, until it gradually morphed into the Adam-God theory that Brigham began sharing with the Saints. But again, that’s just a guess. We really don’t know where it came from.

So, now that we’ve clarified all of that, let’s talk about the theory itself. The two main articles I used to outline this part are The Adam-God Doctrine by David John Buerger and Brigham Young’s Teachings on Adam by Matthew B. Brown. Both are solid summaries that are well worth the read. I also used FAIR’s page on the theory.

Essentially, the idea goes like this: Adam was born as a human on another planet, lived his life, died, and received exaltation in the next life. Once he reached that level, he created his own planet and spirit children of his own. At that point, he took one of his wives, Eve, down with him to Earth to provide physical bodies for their spirit children in the only way in which Brigham was familiar with having children. They fell asleep in the Garden of Eden, and when they awoke, they had no memory of their previous life. Because they were resurrected beings, they had to live and eat on the Earth for a while until their celestial nature wore off and they became mortal again. Under this theory, as the creator of both our spirits and our physical bodies, Adam is both our Father and our God.

This gets a little confusing, because early Church history and the scriptures themselves are full of discussions about big-G Gods versus little-G gods. These were exalted beings versus leaders or people who created things, but were otherwise mortal. For example, Moses was made a god over Pharaoh (Exodus 7:1), and Joseph once said, “God … will make me be god to you in His stead.”

Brigham also said (again from the JoD), “A man cannot find out himself without the light of revelation; he has to turn round and seek to the Lord his God, in order to find out himself. If you find out who Joseph was, you will know as much about God as you need to at present; for if He said, ‘I am a God to this people,’ He did not say that He was the only wise God. Jesus was a God to the people when he was upon earth, was so before he came to this earth, and is yet. Moses was a God to the children of Israel, and in this manner you may go right back to Father Adam.”

So, it seems that when he said that Adam was our God, he meant it more like Adam was at the head of the human race and therefore, he is our God. But at the same time, he was also saying that Adam is a resurrected being turned mortal as well as the creator of our spirits. It’s kind of like he’s half God the Father and half Adam, the first man, all rolled into one. It’s very confusing, and it doesn’t help matters that Brigham constantly contradicted himself from sermon to sermon.

However, it should be noted that Brigham did not believe that Adam was Elohim. The lineage is a little wacky, but he believed that Adam was the father/ancestor of Jesus Christ. Adam’s own father was Jehovah (who was somehow not Christ in this theory), and Jehovah’s father, Adam’s grandfather, was Elohim. They aided him in creating the Earth, and then watched over him in the garden and on Earth the way the scriptures teach.

Once Adam died, he resumed his place as our God, third in rank below Elohim and Jehovah. Sometime after making that particular comment, Brigham was apparently reminded of Alma 11:42-45, which teaches us that resurrected beings can’t die a second time. Whether he came across that passage on his own or someone pointed it out to him, I don’t know, but he changed his theory the next time he spoke about it and instead mentioned that Adam and Eve did not die, but “returned to the spirit world from whence they came.”

The idea morphed a little more over time, and as early as 1854, Brigham was walking it back. I first noticed the language being used while reading through the many quoted statements in Buerger’s paper, especially those between pages 8-11. I was already planning to highlight it for you guys when I read Brown’s paper and saw him say it was “probably the most important point that can be made with regard to this intriguing, complex, and somewhat perplexing subject.”

So, what are we talking about? The fact that—as far as can be determined when we don’t have the original transcripts—Brigham went from definitive declarations that this teaching would prove the salvation or damnation of the Saints in 1852 to saying repeatedly, “I reckon,” “I think,” “I believe,” “I understand,” “my opinion,” etc. At one point, he said, “… [T]his is for you to believe or disbelieve as you please, for if I were to say who he was I have no doubt but that there would be many that would say perhaps it is so and perhaps it is not….” At another point, he said that if he were tell them what he knew according to what he understood and believed, if he was wrong he would be glad if God or some man upon the earth would correct him and set him right and tell him what it is and how it is. He called the theory his “belief,” and said it didn’t matter to anyone’s salvation. At another time, he stated, “That is my opinion about it, and my opinion to me is just as good as yours is to you; and if you are of the same opinion you will be as satisfied as I am.”

By January 1860, he’d specifically asked the rest of the Twelve not to discuss the theory publicly. He continued teaching it in private to the Apostles, but mentioned it less and less frequently in public. Some of the Apostles believed him and some didn’t, just like with the Saints at large. It was controversial and he was getting blowback publicly and privately, and he seemed to think the better of discussing it so openly. At the same time he was making those controversial statements, he was also making statements that aligned perfectly with the scriptures and other revealed doctrine that we still hold today.

That’s what makes the situation so complicated. We don’t know what was going on in his head, and we don’t know when he was quoted accurately and when he wasn’t. He also contradicted himself on multiple occasions. Bruce R. McConkie once said:

Yes, President Young did teach that Adam was the father of our Spirits, and all the related things that the cultists ascribe to him. This, however, is not true. He expressed views that are out of harmony with the gospel. But, be it known, Brigham Young also taught accurately and correctly, the status and position of Adam in the eternal scheme of things. What I am saying is, that Brigham Young contradicted Brigham Young, and the issue becomes one of which Brigham Young we will believe. The answer is we will believe the expressions that accord with the teachings in the standard works. … I repeat: Brigham Young erred in some of his statements on the nature and kind of being that God is and as to the position of Adam in the plan of salvation, but Brigham Young also taught the truth in these fields on other occasions. And I repeat, that in his instance, he was a great prophet and has gone on to eternal reward.

It’s all very confusing as to what exactly what was going on. Are they just mangled quotes, or was this something he was once sure about only to later change his mind? Did he mean something he just didn’t express very well, or did he somehow not realize he was contradicting himself? We simply don’t know. There are a handful of times he taught the idea, and many more he didn’t, but we just don’t know what was going on or how he came to formulate that idea.

I’m going to engage in some light speculation of my own for a minute. Please understand that this is just a thought that occurred to me as I was reading the sources I used in this piece. I haven’t done any research whatsoever on it beyond this. But one of the things Carruth discovered while re-transcribing the shorthand transcripts is from a sermon Brigham gave on April 10, 1868 where he mentioned that he’d had a stroke sometime in or around 1842 (he calls it an “apoplexy”). [Note: The talk is actually kind of hilarious and amused me to no end, despite the serious nature of his health problems.]

This sermon is not in the JoD, and the only record of the talk that exists is the shorthand transcript by George Watt. That transcript is also the only place in recorded history where Brigham’s stroke was mentioned. Nobody alive today even knew it’d happened until she found that transcript. In the talk, he stated that he suffered permanent damage from the stroke, including long-lasting pain and stomach trouble.

According to the Mayo Clinic, other possible long-term complications from having a stroke include memory loss and cognitive difficulties, where you have trouble thinking, reasoning, remembering, making judgments, or understanding concepts. Now, I’m not suggesting that Brigham was senile by any means, but it’s within the realm of possibility that he was misremembering things Joseph had taught him, or that he was having trouble making the proper connections in his head between Joseph’s words and the scriptural doctrine. It’s possible that his mind just had trouble processing the teachings correctly, or that he later had trouble remembering exactly what Joseph had taught. That might explain why he’d teach one thing in one sermon and then in the next sermon, he’d turn around and teach the exact opposite. It might also explain why he was insistent that Joseph is the one who originally taught the Adam-God theory while no one else ever publicly backed him up on that.

Or it’s possible his mind was untouched by the stroke and he just got confused the way we all sometimes do, without any additional reasoning behind it. Maybe he was still working through those ideas in his head, and spoke them aloud before they were fully formulated. I don’t know. There are a hundred other possibilities it could be. I just thought it was an interesting idea that’d make sense, given the contradictions and complexities surrounding the Adam-God situation.

Anyway, back to the timeline. In February of 1877, just about six months before he died, Brigham had the Adam-God teachings inserted into the Lecture at the Veil in the St. George Temple. We do not know how many times it was performed, for how long, or whether it spread to other temples or not. Buerger explains that there are one or two accounts describing it after Brigham’s death, but that’s it. There’s no evidence it was taught at all in the temple beyond a few isolated times.

Jeremy continues:

Contrary to the teachings of Brigham Young, subsequent prophets and apostles have since renounced the Adam-God theory as false doctrine. President Spencer W. Kimball renounced the Adam-God theory in the October 1976 General Conference:

“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.” — Our Own Liahona

Along with President Spencer W. Kimball and similar statements from others, Elder Bruce R. McConkie made the following statement:

“The devil keeps this heresy [Adam-God theory] alive as a means of obtaining converts to cultism. It is contrary to the whole plan of salvation set forth in the scriptures, and anyone who has read the Book of Moses, and anyone who has received the temple endowment, has no excuse whatever for being led astray by it. Those who are so ensnared reject the living prophet and close their ears to the apostles of their day.” — Seven Deadly Heresies

Yep. And those are hardly the first. This theory was publicly repudiated by Church leadership as early as 1897 and privately in face-to-face meetings with Brigham well before that, as you can read about in Buerger’s paper. One early statement against it came in 1912 from the First Presidency in a private letter that was later publicly published in Joseph F. Smith’s Gospel Doctrine. It read, “Speculations as to the career of Adam before he came to the earth are of no real value. We learn by revelation that he was Michael, the Archangel, and that he stands at the head of his posterity on earth. Dogmatic assertions do not take the place of revelation, and we should be satisfied with that which is accepted as doctrine, and not discuss matters that, after all disputes, are merely matters of theory.”

Jeremy then wraps up this “question” with the following:

Ironically, Elder McConkie’s June 1980 condemnation asks you to trust him and President Kimball as today’s living prophet. Further, McConkie is pointing to the endowment ceremony as a source of factual information. What about the Saints of Brigham’s day who were following their living prophet? And what about the endowment ceremony of their day where Adam-God was being taught at the veil?

I don’t see anything ironic about trusting the prophet when you have a testimony that he’s called of God. If he makes an occasional mistake, so what? That just means he’s human. You don’t lose your faith in anyone else when they make a mistake or get something wrong unless it’s a serious betrayal, so why would it be any different for a prophet? Like Moroni said in Mormon 9:31, we should be thankful toward God when He shows us our prophets’ imperfections so that we can learn from them and become wiser ourselves than they were.

D&C 21:5 teaches us that we should receive the words of the prophet as if they were from God’s own mouth “with all patience and faith.” Why would we need to have patience and faith in the prophets? Because they aren’t perfect. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t still called of God, and it doesn’t mean we should discount and ignore their counsel.

Brigham once said, “Can a Prophet or an Apostle be mistaken? Do not ask me any such question, for I will acknowledge that all the time, but I do not acknowledge that I designedly lead this people astray one hair’s breadth from the truth, and I do not knowingly do a wrong, though I may commit many wrongs, and so may you. But I overlook your weaknesses, and I know by experience that the Saints lift their hearts to God that I may be led right.”

So, what happens when we follow the prophet’s counsel, and he made a mistake? The answer is simple: we’ll be blessed for our faithfulness regardless. Marion G. Romney told a story once about an interaction he had with President Heber J. Grant:

I remember years ago when I was a Bishop I had President [Heber J.] Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home. … Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: “My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.” Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.”

Jeremy’s last final quip (which he again repeats over and over again throughout this section) is:

Yesterday’s doctrine is today’s false doctrine and yesterday’s prophet is today’s heretic.

No, the Adam-God theory was not ever official Church doctrine. It was a teaching by one man who turned out to be incorrect. Not all teachings are doctrine, though they’re sometimes labeled as such. Because he was the leader of the Church it was disseminated far and wide, but it was never put to a sustaining vote, it was never repeated by other prophets, it was contradicted over the pulpit by the man himself as well as others, we don’t know the original words that were used, and it hasn’t been taught in about 145 years. Off-the-cuff remarks about something Brigham thought was true but was not directly revealed by God do not constitute Church doctrine. They constitute speculation, which was a common thing to engage in over the pulpit in the 1800s.

As for using Bruce R. McConkie’s words to label Brigham Young a heretic, maybe Jeremy should look at what else McConkie had to say about Brigham:

Brigham Young taught exactly what I am saying—but Brigham Young said a few things where he contradicted Brigham Young. All you have to do is choose the statements of Brigham Young that are in conformity with the revelations. And if Brigham Young were here to edit himself, he would do some book burning on these quotations that everybody likes to quote. Brigham Young happens to be one of the greatest men that ever lived and he ranks along with Joseph Smith; but even Brigham Young (and I) make a mistake or two in doctrine once in a while. Brigham Young, because he was the President of the Church, gets quoted.


Sources in this entry:


Sarah Allen is brand new in her affiliation with FAIR. By profession, she works in mortgage compliance and is a freelance copyeditor. A voracious reader, she loves studying the Gospel and the history of the restored Church. After watching some of her lose their testimonies, she became interested in helping others through their faith crises and began sharing what she learned through her studies. She’s grateful to those at FAIR who have given her the opportunity to share her testimony with a wider audience.

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