Adam in Evolution: an Update & Overview

I have recently been made aware of a serious flaw in my treatment of Adam (thanks Geoff). It has also been commented that juggling all these Adams around is getting confusing. So in order to 1) make my treatment more accurate and 2) simplify things a bit, I will write a brief update and overview of Adam.


In my analysis of Adam as first man I described two individuals which we called Mitochondrial Eve and Y-Chromosome Adam. This analysis was in error, for if we are to consider Adam and Eve the first man and woman on earth then they must necessarily be M.E. and Y.A. or their ancestors. This places Adam and Eve back to at least 160,000 years ago, an unacceptable proposition. This post was not in error.

When it comes to Adam as symbolic myth, M.E. and Y.A. have no role of much importance. Adam and Eve are all of us, individually speaking. When our first common ancestor was plays no roll at all in this analysis, and I stand by the results reach therein.

Things do need to be changed, however, in the case of Adam and (first) prophet. This is because our most recent common ancestor is definitely not Y.A. or M.E. Y.A. is found by tracing our way back only through males and their fathers until we have a set of one. This is what must be done if we are to accept Adam as the first human, but not if we merely want to be related to him.

The most recent common ancestor can be found in a MUCH more difficult process involving numerous variable and giving a very vague answer. It is done, logically, by tracing a person's ancestry through not only the father in the case of males and the mother in the case of women, but through both the father and mother. This can make a significant difference.

For example, suppose that a man has seven daughters and no sons. All of these daughters go on to be married and have many sons and daughters themselves. But the Y-Chromosome line of the original father will have ended with himself, not passing on his Y-Chromosome to any son of his own. No man gets any kind of y-Chromosome from their mother's father or mitochondria from their father's mother.

Instead of placing the most recent common ancestor at 160,000 years ago, or even 60,000 years ago, we place it anywhere from 3,000 BCE to 1,000 CE. Like I said, a very vague time frame, but this doesn't matter much because everyone of the ancestors of this most recent common ancestor would also be a common ancestor as well, just not the most recent one. In fact, ancestal lines to not come to one point, one individual in the past thereby including only his ancestors. Ancestral lines fan out, making numerous people in the past common ancestors of all of us. In fact the generation in which we find our MRCA (this is actually an achronym used in the scientific community, Christian ;0) might have actually included numerous MRCA's instead of one.

This makes two things very clear. First of all, this shows how fast mutation can spread through any given population. Sexual reproduction allows evolution to occurs much faster. Second of all, being the ancestor of everybody now living is no special feat. In fact, it is estimated that if we merely go back even further in time, less than 4,000 years in fact, everybody who was living at that time was either a common ancestor of everybody now living, or now has no surviving descendants. This is called the identical ancestors point. See here for a good mathematical analysis.

Now lets discuss these implication for the remaining versions of Adam. In Adam as (first) Prophet, if we place Adam in the fertile crescent at about 4,000 BCE, there is little doubt in my mind that he would be a common ancestor of all living today. He would also probably have been an ancestor of almost every body who the gospel would have reached all the way back until within a few generations of him. The only problem is that in this version of Adam, this doesn't mean much of anything. Lots of people from many places in the world could also claim the same thing.

With regards to Adam as God this becomes a bit more meaningful. For while we could be the descendants of many other people, these people were not God. This view of Adam would mean that we are all physical descendants of God. This also releaves us of requiring a descendant of Adam to have been introduced long ago, though such a move can still be made.


In our search for an Adam worth wanting we have discussed for basic versions of Adam: first man, symbolic myth, first prophet and Adam as God. It would be helpful to briefly enumerate the benefits and problems associated with each version.

1) Adam as first man. All human who lived with of after this Adam were descendants of him. He fell which caused all of his descendants to be born fallen as well.
Benefits: This is what the church and scriptures clearly teach. It makes the fall meaningful to us.
Problems: It simply cannot be sustained by anyone of the many sciences which come into play. There was no first man and the world has always been fallen.

2) Adam as symbolic myth. The name Adam actually refers to each man, Eve to each woman. Their fall is our fall from God's presence to the mortal world.
Benefits: Makes the story of the fall more personal to each individual. Fits well with science.
Problems: Contrary to LDS scriptures which clearly describe a historical Adam through which a priesthood line runs. Radical reinterpretation of the fall story is necessary.

3) Adam as first prophet. Adam was a man not that different from his peers, only in that he was the first great prophet. He was probably the first to receive the priesthood.
Benefits: Gives us a historical Adam that is a common ancestor of us all. Does not contradict science. Is fully compatible with Adam as symbolic myth as well.
Problems: His personal fall means nothing to anybody other than him. His being our common ancestor has no benefit or meaning other than perserving a story. Many elements of the fall story still requires a totally symbolic interpretation, such as the fruit.

4) Adam as God. Adam is our Heavenly Father who came down to earth in order to continue his seeds and do everything Jesus did other than effect an atonement. He ate the fruit of the earth until He became mortal and at the end of His life was translated.
benefits: His fall is very meaningful to us as a show of His condescension. Since we have rejected spirit birth this gives us a way to be literal sons and daughters of God in a way which JS intended. This version has been endorsed by prophetic authority.
Problems: There is significant doctrinal baggage which comes along with it. It exalts Adam over Christ. Moderm church authorities have spoken against it.

Let's now re-read Mc Conkie's objection:
Father Adam was the mightiest and most intelligent spirit son of God, save Jesus (Jehovah) only, among all the pre-existent hosts destined to come to this earth... When the populating of the earth was to commence, Adam came to fill his foreordained mission and stand as the first man of all men. He was placed in the Garden of Eden, fell in due course from his state of immortality and innocence, and became the first mortal flesh on earth...
As a mortal man, Adam held the priesthood, had the fulness of the gospel, heard the voice of God and saw his face, received the ministration of angels, held the keys of the kingdom, enjoyed the gifts of the Spirit, was an intelligent and wise as any man (save Jesus only) who has ever lived... He and other men of his day enjoyed abundant spiritual endowments and possessed physical bodies superior to those of any men now on earth. Many, including Adam, lived nearly a thousand years on earth.

While many statements made by Mc Conkie have not and indeed cannot be reconciled with evolution, the basic over all picture of Adam has held up rather nicely. We have established that even while accepting evolution we can also accept a version of Adam worth wanting. Which version is most appealing can be decided by each individual for himself.

While those who have been reading things over at my other site will know that I am somewhat partial to the fourth version of Adam, I don't expect anybody to share this view with me. I feel that most LDS will find Adam as first prophet most acceptable and so when I mention Adam in future posts and comments, this version (#3) is what I will be referring to.

Summary: All humans do share a common ancestor(s) who lived comparatively recently. This concept has no effect on the versions of Adam as first man and symbolic myth. It has some, though small, effects on Adam as first prophet, but has a very beneficial effect on Adam as God. Our analysis of Adam in evolution comes to a tentative conclusion, having found many versions of Adam worth wanting.


Jeffrey, this has been a good series on Adam. I find myself most in sympathy with the "Adam as myth" option. The "Adam as first prophet" still has some ambiguities about how spirit children of God fit in (though I guess, in fairness, "Adam as myth" does too). But since some scripture must be set aside to get "Adam as first prophet" (e.g. no death before the fall, Adam as "first flesh"), why not go a little further and do the same with the couple of scriptures indicating a historical Adam? I may not be remembering sufficiently, but it seems each of these concepts hinges on only a couple of references.  

Posted by Christian Y. Cardall

5/04/2005 04:05:00 AM  

The Adam as myth does have some appeal, some of which almost seems to be lost once we start talking about a historical Adam. I'm sure you would agree that most church members wouldn't be comfortable with it though. (What do you say Greg?)

With regards to the spirit children, I reject the all-or-nothingness which some people see in it. I would definitely maintain that some people before Adam were at least "partial" children of God if that makes any sense at all. Think about when somebody is in your family. Who do you include? Father, Son, Brother, Brother in law, Aunt, Cousin, Second Cousin, Great Grampa, Pets, Monkeys which we are distantly related to... and so on. The line is very vague at best, and I feel that a spiritual adoption can account for this. Adam would have been (maybe) the first full child of God, mostly due to his receiving the fullness of the priesthood and thus fullness of adoption.

If we don't have a historical Adam, where did the priesthood come from? That's a big one for me. Are we supposed to reject Adam's posterity (the patriarchs) as myth too? What about Enoch and his city? What about Noah? Though I think it absurd to believe in a world wide flood, it seems that we must accept at least a partial flood. What about Adam-ondi-Ahman? Though I'm not sure I would put it in the American continent, I'm don't want to throw it all away. What about Michael the Archangel? Did he play a part in the preexistence? Did he help Joseph in section 128?

Now if you can come up with good answers to these questions then you are certainly in business and I would love to hear them. But I still don't think people like Greg would be willing to simply say that everybody from Abraham on down to present hasn't been just partially wrong about Adam, but completely wrong. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

5/04/2005 09:26:00 AM  

Jeffrey, I agree that most Church members would not accept "Adam as [only] myth." And the question of who first held the priesthood is a great question to focus on an issue that's very important to Latter-day Saints. Anyone taking a hard line of "Adam as myth" would feel some pressure to come up with an alternate answer for that. But because we trace authority to Peter, James, and John, who received it from Jesus---whose historical reality is not disputed (even if his divinity is)---current priesthood authority is not in jeopardy.  

Posted by Christian Y. Cardall

5/04/2005 11:29:00 AM  



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