Adam-God Theory

What is the "Adam-God theory"?

The "Adam-God theory" is a set of teachings by Brigham Young adopted by many in the Church during his lifetime.[1] The theory includes many ideas about the plan of salvation, but its most prominent claim is that Heavenly Father and Adam are the same person.[2]

Though many referred to the idea as a "doctrine" at the time,[3] it is best characterized as "Adam-God theory" because it is non-canonical, was taught for just a few decades in the early Church, and is no longer taught.[4]

Is Adam actually God?

No, probably not. Church leaders have consistently condemned the idea that Adam is God for over a century.[5]

When was the theory of Adam-God first taught?

Adam-God theory was first taught by Brigham Young on April 9, 1852 in a sermon delivered at the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. Brigham taught that Adam is "our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do" and was a different person from Elohim.[6]

Where did Brigham say he received these teachings from?

On at least three occasions, Brigham said that his Adam-God teachings were based on what he learned from Joseph.[7] Helen Mar Kimball, one of Joseph Smith's plural wives, also claimed that Joseph taught that Adam was God.[8]

Timeline of the Adam God Theory

Brigham Young Era

April 9, 1852

Brigham Young's[BIO] gives his first public sermon on Adam-God theory.[9]

March 4, 1854

Dan Jones[BIO]publishes an article explaining Adam-God in the Welsh periodical Udgorn Seion (English: Zion’s Trumpet).[10]

October 8, 1854

Brigham Young reiterates the core ideas of Adam-God theory in the October 1854 General Conference.[11] According to Wilford Woodruff,[BIO] this was the "greatest sermon that ever was delivered to the Latter-day Saints."[12]


Orson Pratt[BIO] expresses opposition to Adam-God theory during his mission to the United Kingdom in 1852.[13] The next year, Orson Pratt publishes criticism of Adam-God theory in the May [14]and October issues [15] of his periodical The Seer. This controversy was recorded by Wilford Woodruff in his journal.[16]

April 4-5, 1860

Orson Pratt apologizes to Brigham and other Church leaders for publicly opposing Adam-God theory.[17] He agrees to submit his writings in advance to Church leadership for doctrinal inspection.[18]


The RLDS Church begins including Adam-God theory as a criticism against the LDS Church and Brigham Young being Joseph Smith's true successor.[19]

July 4, 1868

Orson Pratt confesses he was wrong for "opposing doctrines revealed" to Brigham Young and the Salt Lake School of the Prophets.[20]


Brigham Young, L. John Nuttall,[BIO] and Wilford Woodruff work on perfecting the "Lecture at the Veil."[21] This lecture was part of the temple endowment ceremony in the St. George Temple and explained core concepts of Adam-God theory.[22]

August 15, 1876

Brigham Young preaches his last sermon that references Adam-God.[23]

August 29, 1877

Brigham Young dies.

Post-Brigham Era

February 1880

The RLDS Church claims that the LDS Church is not the same Church Joseph Smith founded due to "the doctrine of Adam-god worship."[24]

January 9, 1897

In a letter dated January 9, 1897, Joseph F. Smith[BIO] says that teaching Adam-God theory is "in no sense binding upon the Church nor upon the consciences of any of the members thereof."[25]

December 1897

Ephraim H. Nye,[BIO] a mission president in California,[26] asks Church leadership about Adam's relationship to God the Father. The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve refrain from offering guidance.

September 1902

Charles W. Penrose[BIO] teaches readers of the Church's periodical the Improvement Era that "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never formulated or adopted any theory concerning the subject treated upon by President Young as to Adam."[27]

March 20, 1905

Hyrum Albert Cluff[BIO] is tasked by local Church leaders in Mexico to discourage members in his ward from teaching Adam-God theory, and to put any ward members who teach it on probation.[28]

June 30, 1916

In a formal statement of doctrine entitled "The Father and the Son," the First Presidency of Joseph F. Smith clearly defines the identities of Elohim/God the Father, Jehovah/Jesus Christ, and Michael/Adam.[29]


The book Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie[BIO] is published with an entry called "Adam-God Theory." It states that this theory is taught by "cultist and other enemies of the restored truth."[30]

October 1976

President Spencer W. Kimball[BIO] explicitly condemns the "Adam-God theory" as a "false doctrine."[31][32]

January 2002

President Gordon B. Hinckley,[BIO] when queried by the media concerning Brigham's teachings concerning Adam-God, responds that "We don't speculate on that a lot. Brigham Young said if you went to Heaven and saw God it would be Adam and Eve. I don't know what he meant by that."[33]

Expand Timeline

Did other Church leaders believe in it at the time?

Yes. Many other Church leaders at the time, including eleven of the apostles, also supported and taught the theory.[34] Brigham and others began incorporating Adam-God theory in the temple endowment.[35]

Throughout the 1850s and 1860s, various articles and documents supporting Adam-God theory were published among Church members in the British Isles.[36]It appears that Church members in Utah were less interested in the theory.[37]

What did the theory consist of?

In addition to stating that Adam is Heavenly Father, the theory taught some ideas that still exist in some form in the Church today. For example, the teaching that the Father of Jesus Christ was previously a Savior in another world[38] is still taught, however "the Father" is Elohim[39] rather than Adam (see below).[40]

Teachings of Adam-God Theory Compared with Current Teachings

Adam-God Theory

Current Teachings

Adam and Eve, who were resurrected and exalted beings,[41] were transplanted from another world.[42]

Adam and Eve came to earth from the spirit world.[43]

God the Father (Adam) was a Savior on a previous earth like Jesus would be on ours.[44][45]

Heavenly Father (Elohim) was a Savior on a previous earth like Jesus would be on ours.[46]

Adam and Eve had spirit children after their exaltation.[47]

Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother had spirit children.[48]

Elohim is the grandfather of God, Jehovah (not Jesus [49]) is the Father of Adam,[50]Adam is our God and our Heavenly Father.[51]

Elohim is our God and our Heavenly Father. He is the father of both Jehovah (Jesus) and Adam.[52][53]

Faithful men and women will go on to be exalted parents of human families.[54][55]

Faithful men and women will go on to be exalted parents of human families.[56]

Expand Table

When did the Church stop teaching it?

The Church moved away from Adam-God after Brigham Young died in 1877.[57] However, after Brigham's death, some Latter-day Saints continued to believe this theory.[58]

Did the Church ever denounce Adam-God theory?

Yes. In the October 1976 General Conference, President Spencer W. Kimball specifically denounced the Adam-God theory,[59] though one source reports that his remarks were deliberately nuanced.[60]

In 2002, President Gordon B. Hinckley said in an interview that "Brigham Young said if you went to Heaven and saw God it would be Adam and Eve. I don't know what he meant by that."[61]

Was Adam-God theory taught as a private "mystery" or "deep doctrine" or was it a public thing?

Brigham seemed to acknowledge that the theory was "considerable of a mystery to a good many,"[62] but he did teach it in public in his capacity as leader of the Church.[63]

Adam-God teachings were published in Church magazines,[64] hymnals,[65] sermons,[66] private gatherings,[67] and in teachings in the St. George Temple.[68]

Adam-God was taught in the temple?

Yes. In the St. George Temple there was a portion of the endowment that was referred to as the "Lecture at the Veil"[69] which explained the creation, the exaltation of Adam and his descendants, Adam and Eve being the parents of our spirits, and the mission of Jesus as the Savior.[70][71]

Was this ever an "official" doctrine?

Sort of. Adam-God theory was publicly asserted by leaders of the Church. It was referred to as a "doctrine" by Brigham Young and other leaders,[72] and key ideas were taught in the St. George Temple.[73][74] However, it was never canonized or placed into Latter-day Saint scripture.

Was "Adam-God" ever canonized?

No. Even in Brigham Young's time, it was not accepted as the unanimous belief of both the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It was never presented to the body of the Church to be approved.[75][76] In 1897 Joseph F. Smith stated that the teaching was "in no sense binding upon the Church nor upon the consciences of any of the members."[77][78]

So was Adam-God just a pet theory or did he claim it was an actual revelation?

Brigham Young indicated that he received it from God[79] and that it was taught by Joseph Smith,[80]but he also sometimes indicated that it was just an educated guess.[81][82] Heber C. Kimball, who Brigham regarded as his "prophet,"[83] claimed that it was revealed to him by God.[84]

On the subject of understanding the nature of God, Brigham taught that "it is as much my right to differ from other men, as it is theirs to differ from me, in points of doctrine and principle."[85] He often instructed the Saints to think for themselves.[86]

Did anyone oppose the teaching, and were there any consequences for their disagreement?

Yes, Orson Pratt[BIO] opposed the Adam-God teachings and publicly debated Church leaders about its doctrinal status.[87] This caused concern among Church members that he might leave the Church.[88] On April 4, 1860, Pratt apologized to Brigham Young and other leaders for publicly opposing the doctrine.[89] The next day, Pratt agreed to submit his writings for doctrinal inspection before publication.[90][91] Following these meetings, Orson stopped publicly opposing Adam-God theory.[92]

Did teaching Adam-God ideas continue after Brigham Young's death?

Some Church members continued to believe Adam-God theory[93] and occasionally teach it, but the First Presidency and the Twelve no longer taught it after Brigham died, and some would privately reject it.[94]

Twelve years after Brigham Young's death, Edward Bunker, a bishop in Bunkerville, Nevada, disagreed with the idea that Adam was God.[95]This led the Stake Presidency to write a letter to the First Presidency asking how to address the matter.[96]

Examples of Church Leaders Denouncing the Adam-God Theory


Church Leader

Statements Disagreeing with Adam-God

January 9, 1897

Joseph F. Smith[BIO]

In a letter to Alfred Saxey, Joseph F. Smith wrote that Brigham "no doubt expressed his personal opinion or views upon the subject" adding that "What he said was not given as a revelation or commandment from the Lord." [97][98]

February 27, 1902

Joseph F. Smith

"The full truth concerning [Adam-God doctrine] has not been revealed to us; and until it is revealed all wild speculations, sweeping assertions and dogmatic declarations relative thereto, are out of place and improper. We disapprove of them and especially the public expression of such views."[99]

July 16, 1902

Joseph F. Smith

Joseph F. Smith, in a letter to Lille Golsan, denied that Adam was the "God we worship throughout eternity."[100]

November 1909

First Presidency

In their doctrinal exposition entitled "The Origin of Man," the First Presidency stated that "Adam, our great progenitor, 'the first man,' was, like Christ, a pre-existent spirit, and like Christ he took upon him an appropriate body, the body of a man, and so became a 'living soul.'"[101]

June 30, 1916

First Presidency

In their doctrinal exposition entitled "The Father and the Son," the First Presidency stated that "Elohim is literally the Father of the spirit of Jesus Christ and also of the body in which Jesus Christ performed His mission in the flesh. . . . Jehovah . . . is Jesus Christ the Son of Elohim."[102]

April 1922

Charles W. Penrose[BIO]

During the April 1922 General Conference, Charles W. Penrose argued against Adam-God theory, saying that Adam could not be God as Adam "prayed to the Eternal Father as we do."[103]

February 1931

Heber J. Grant[BIO]

"Since Adam had not passed through the resurrection his spirit and body were not inseparably connected, hence it was possible for him to become mortal by partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil."[104]

April 1942

Joseph Fielding Smith[BIO]

During the April 1942 General Conference, Joseph Fielding Smith taught that Adam is subordinate to Jesus: "while Adam will preside over his posterity as Michael, the prince, and as he will hold the keys of salvation, as he does, all' of that will be under the direction of Jesus Christ, the Holy One of Israel, for Christ is greater than Adam."[105]

March 20, 1949

Milton R. Hunter[BIO]

"The idea that Adam is the God of this world or that he was transplanted here from another planet is false and misleading" and that Latter-day Saint "scriptures prove [proponents of Adam-God] false and the theory of Adam's being transplanted would involve a belief in reincarnation, which the church condemns as being untrue."[106]


Bruce R. McConkie[BIO]

In an entry on Adam-God theory in his book Mormon Doctrine, McConkie referred to people who taught it as "Cultists and other enemies of the restored faith." [107]

April 1965

Joseph Fielding Smith

"We learn by virtue of the law of primogeniture, that all who are saved in the kingdom of God will be subject to Adam, for by divine appointment he holds these keys under the direction of Jesus Christ. "[108]

May 11, 1966

LeGrand Richards[BIO]

"We look upon Adam as the great patriarch of the race, the Ancient of Days referred to by Daniel in the 7th chapter of Daniel... he was with Elohim the Father, and Jehovah, (Jesus) in the creation of the earth... But we all lived in the spirit world before we were born, and Adam is not our God. We do not pray to him. We pray to the father through His Son, Jesus Christ."[109]

May 13, 1966

Hugh B. Brown[BIO]

"The Adam-God doctrine is not the doctrine of the Church."[110]

April 1975

Vaughn J. Featherstone[BIO]

Vaughn J. Featherstone called Adam-God a "theory" and that those who believed it "don’t have time to study faith and repentance. Maybe they ought to get back to basics."[111]


Mark E. Petersen[BIO]

Mark E. Petersen wrote that Adam-God is "ridiculous" and "is contrary to the word of the Lord" and that "To say that Adam is God is, of course, opposed utterly and completely to the scriptures as well as to our Articles of Faith." [112]

October 1976

Spencer W. Kimball[BIO]

"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."[113] Notably, President Kimball did not say that Brigham Young was misquoted or taught false doctrine.[114]


Mark E. Petersen

"Adam was not our God, nor was he our Savior. But he was the humble servant of both in his status as an angel."[115]

June 1, 1980

Bruce R. McConkie

"There are those who believe or say they believe that Adam is our father and our god, . . . . 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."[116]

February 19, 1981

Bruce R. McConkie

McConkie wrote that Brigham Young did teach that "Adam was the father of our spirits, and all the related things that the cultists ascribe to him" but that those teachings are "not true. He expressed views that are out of harmony with the gospel."[117][118]

c. 1980s

Bruce R. McConkie

"Among several small, quarrelling, cultist groups there are many similar heretical views. A number of different organizations worship Adam as God."[119]

January 2002

Gordon B. Hinckley[BIO]

"We don't speculate on that a lot. Brigham Young said if you went to Heaven and saw God it would be Adam and Eve. I don't know what he meant by that."[120]

Expand Table

What if I like the Adam-God theory and want to believe it? Can it be reconciled with current Church teachings?

Adam being God has been specifically denounced by the Church.[121] However, current Latter-day Saint theology does leave room for some ideas featured in Adam-God theory. (See table.)

Components of Adam-God Theory and their Status in the Modern Church

Component of Adam-God Theory

Church Response

We had Heavenly Parents and a premortal life. Adam and Eve, after their exaltation, birthed the spirits of all who would later come to earth.[122]

While the teaching that Adam and Eve are our Heavenly Parents is rejected, the teaching that we have Heavenly Parents is accepted.[123]

Earth was created from preexisting matter.[124]


Adam and Eve were our first parents.[126]

Accepted. [127]

Adam is the "Ancient of Days."[128]


Jesus is the foreordained Savior of his Father's children.[130]


We will be exalted if we follow the pattern of Adam and Eve.[132]


Adam is our God and Father.[134]


Elohim is the spiritual grandfather of Adam. Jehovah (not to be identified with Jesus Christ) is the spiritual father of Adam[136]


Adam is the Father of Jesus' spirit and body.[138]


Expand Table

Who is Adam in Latter-day Saint theology?

Adam is the first man[140] and a spirit son of God.[141] In the Doctrine and Covenants he is identified as the archangel Michael.[142][143]

The Doctrine & Covenants also identifies Adam as the "Ancient of Days."[144] The Book of Daniel[145] calls him a "prince" who Christ has "set him upon high."[146]

What did Joseph teach about Adam?

In Nauvoo, Joseph Smith taught that Adam presided over all of mankind,[147] that God set Adam to watch over and reveal the saving ordinances on this earth,[148] that "Ahman" is a name for God and a title that is shared by Adam and other figures,[149] that the Father of Jesus laid down his life and was resurrected,[150] and that Heavenly Father has a father just as Christ does.[151]

Is there scriptural support for the idea that Adam is God?

Not really. There is no text in the Bible or other Latter-day Saint scriptures that indicates Adam is Heavenly Father.[152] There are several texts in Latter-day Saint scripture that show God being an authority over Adam. These include accounts of Adam transgressing,[153] offering sacrifice,[154] being commanded to repent and be baptized,[155] his mortality being a "probationary period,"[156] and having a subordinate priesthood role to Jesus.[157]

However, there is ambiguity in Daniel 7:22-25[158] about whether the "Ancient of Days"[159] is a different person from the "Most High."[160][161] This could be interpreted to support the idea that Adam is God.[162]

God Breathing Life into Adam by Franz Xaver Karl Palko, ca. 1760

Do mainstream Christian interpretations believe that Adam is the "Ancient of Days"?

Some do,[163] but most do not. Many biblical commentators, in both Joseph Smith's time[164] and today,[165] believe that the "Ancient of Days" in Daniel 7 is God (the Father).[166] In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the "Ancient of Days" is Jesus.[167] Some scholars have argued that the "Ancient of Days" is the archangel Michael[168] or at least some high-ranking angel in God's court.[169]At least one nineteenth-century theologian argued that the Ancient of Days is not a person, but a reference to the Jewish people.[170]

Are there LDS schism groups that teach Adam-God theory?

Yes. Today, many fundamentalist groups believe in the Adam-God theory today and some have written books and articles defending it.[171]

However, two prominent schism groups—the RLDS Church[172] and James J. Strang[BIO][173] and his followers[174]—stated that they did not believe Adam was God.

How have other members tried to explain Brigham Young's Adam-God teachings?

Church leaders and scholars have varied in their explanations for why Brigham taught the theory and how to reconcile it with normal Church teachings (see below).

Explanations from Church leaders about Brigham Young and the Adam-God Theory



Joseph F. Smith[BIO]

Brigham Young was expressing his personal opinion.[175]

Joseph Fielding Smith[BIO]

Brigham Young never taught that Adam was God.[176]

Mark E. Petersen[BIO]

Brigham Young was misquoted.[177]

Bruce R. McConkie[BIO]

Brigham Young did teach Adam-God theory but was in error.[178]

Elden Watson[BIO]

Brigham Young used "Adam" as another name for God the Father. The Adam we're familiar with was a separate person.[179]

Hugh W. Nibley[BIO]

The relationship between Adam and God and the related theology is misunderstood.[180][181]

Gordon B. Hinckley[BIO]

We do not know what Brigham Young meant.[182]

Matthew B. Brown[BIO]

Brigham Young did teach Adam-God theory but was in error.[183]

Brian C. Hales[BIO]

The relationship between Adam and God and the related theology may not be fully understood.[184][185]

Jonathan A. Stapley[BIO]

Brigham Young taught Adam-God theory as a revision to Joseph Smith's teachings.[186]

Daniel C. Peterson[BIO]

The relationship between Adam and God is not clearly understood.[187]

Expand Table

Has the Church ever offered any explanations for Brigham's Adam-God theory in a curriculum or essay?

No. The Church has not referenced Brigham Young's Adam-God theory in its curriculum or its Gospel Topics Essays.

Does it matter whether Heavenly Father is really Elohim or Adam?

Probably. God has many names and titles,[188] so "Adam" could be one of them.[189] However, the name or title of God is less important than developing a relationship with God and Jesus Christ.[190]

The Facts

  • Adam-God theory is a belief that Adam and Heavenly Father are the same person.

  • Adam-God theory was taught authoritatively by Brigham Young and apostles of his day, and was adopted in many official ways.

  • The idea that Adam is God was never canonized and is now denounced by the Church.

  • Some aspects of Adam-God theory, like our premortal lives with Heavenly Parents or the foreordination of Jesus as Savior, are compatible with the gospel and still taught today.

Our Take

Prophets communicate with God and serve as a liason and teacher for the rest of us. But Brigham Young was a prophet and it seems like he was wrong about Adam-God theory. Though some parts of the theory are accepted today, it's clear from many years of additional Church teachings that the part about Heavenly Father being Adam is incorrect. Was Brigham just mistaken? Was he misunderstood? What does this say about his role as prophet?

There is abundant historical data that makes it clear that Brigham Young believed and taught the "Adam-God" theory—but while some records indicate that he was certain about the doctrine, other records indicate that he was merely "guessing" and "believed it to be true." It was accepted by nearly all the apostles and was even taught in the St. George Temple, but for some reason it was never canonized.

There are several ways to try and make sense of this, but none are entirely satisfying. Brigham may have been mistaken, expressing an opinion, or misunderstanding revelation. We might not have enough context or understanding of what Brigham meant to come to a conclusion. It's also possible that Brigham had a revelatory basis for his beliefs. Maybe it's even possible that Brigham was right in some way, but the Saints weren't ready to understand what he meant.

It's okay to be bothered by this episode of Church history and its implications. It's also okay to withhold judgement when we don't have the full picture. It's unclear what a loving Heavenly Father meant to happen here, but we have many testimonies and evidences of Him and His love for us.

What's Your Take?

280 characters remaining
These takes are curated for a general audience and may contain minor edits when posted.
  • Timothy B.
    My take is that I believe Brigham Young was alluding to the fact that Adam is our God in the same sense that the Bible teaches that certain individuals were construed to be "a God." to others. For instance, we see this show up with Moses. Ex 4:16 and Ex 7:1.
  • Julia
    My take on Adam is he was the first prophet and the first man to hold the priesthood; making him a sort of spiritual father to us all. Adam began the Lord's work on Earth after it was consecrated in the dedication ceremony described in Genesis. But wasn't the only human around.
  • Ken
    Very interesting article. Well done.
  • Russell C.
    Your conclusions articulate my thoughts and impressions very well. We have much to learn and part of that is humility with our limited understanding and zeal to learn more - eventually.
  • Jorge
    Prophets are human beings and are, for the most part, fallible. However, they are infallible in the revelation they receive for guiding the Church as a whole and helping us in living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Adam-God is not a principle of the Gospel nor Church administration.