Adam and Eve: Obscuring a Plain and Precious Truth?

The LDS doctrine of God differs from that of others in a number of ways. Probably the most prominent difference is our belief that God the Father has a body of flesh and bones, presumably similar to the resurrected Jesus. This gives added meaning to our belief in Jesus's divine Sonship. Church doctrine also teaches that we are all the spirit children of God. A more obscure doctrine concerns the relationship of Adam and Eve (and by extension, all of us) to God--that Adam and Eve are physical children of God. I say "obscure" because I was unaware of it until three-fourths of the way through my mission. It is beyond the scope of this post to give a thorough historical tracing of this doctrine. Rather, I want to provide an overview of the support for this doctrine and some of my own observations. (I have touched on this topic before, here.)


I do not know exactly when this doctrine originated. Some cite this statement of Joseph Smith in support of the doctrine:
"Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way." (TPJS, p. 373)

The idea that Adam was a physical son of God is a reasonable extension of this statement, but technically this statement was about the plurality of gods, not Adam's creation. Brigham Young was probably more responsible for bringing this doctrine out into the open. He denied that Adam was literally made of dust and insisted that Adam had a physical father, which was intimately tied into Brigham's Adam-God teachings.

It appears that in the decades following Brigham Young's death, the teaching that Adam was a physical child of God was retained by stripping it away from, and discarding, Adam-God. A 1910 Church manual stated:
Man has descended from God: In fact, he is of the same race as the Gods. His descent has not been from a lower form of life, but from the Highest Form of Life; in other words, man is, in the most literal sense, a child of God. This is not only true of the spirit of man, but of his body also. There never was a time, probably, in all the eternities of the past, when there was not men or children of God. This world is only one of many worlds which have been created by the Father through His Only Begotten. (Church Manual, Course of Study for Priests, 1910, under the subject "The Creation of Man")

Joseph F. Smith made this statement in 1913:
I know that my Redeemer liveth; . . . I know that God is a being with body, parts, and passions and that His Son is in His own likeness, and that man is created in the image of God. The Son, Jesus Christ, grew and developed into manhood the same as you or I, as likewise did God, His Father grow and develop to the Supreme Being that He now is. Man was born of woman; Christ the Savior, was born of woman and God, the Father, was born of woman. Adam, our early parent, was also born of woman into this world, the same as Jesus and you and I. (Deseret Evening News, Dec. 27, 1913, Sec. III, p. 7. Also quoted in Deseret News: Church Section, Sep. 19, 1936, pp. 2 & 8)

In a 1912 letter to a mission president that dealt with a controversial speech by Brigham Young, the First Presidency under Joseph F. Smith included this statement:
But President Young went on to show that our father Adam, -- that is, our earthly father, -- the progenitor of the race of man, stands at our head, being "Michael the Archangel, the Ancient of Days," and that he was not fashioned from earth like an adobe, but "begotten by his Father in Heaven." Adam is called in the Bible "the son of God" (Luke 3:38). (James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, Vol.4, 265-267)

Further support might be drawn from the 1909 First Presidency statement, "Origin of Man" (also under Joseph F. Smith). This document affirms our spiritual relationship with God, but also contains statements that could easily be interpreted as supporting a physical relationship as well. (This document is available on the sidebar as part of the BYU Evolution Packet.)

Perhaps the most influential proponent in modern times has been Elder Bruce R. McConkie who wrote:
Father Adam, the first man, is also a son of God (Luke 3:38; Moses 6:22), a fact that does not change the great truth that Christ is the Only Begotten in the flesh, for Adam's entrance into this world was in immortality. He came here before death had its beginning, with its consequent mortal or flesh-status of existence. ("Son of God" in Mormon Doctrine)

This does not represent an exhaustive list of statements by Church leaders or publications that support this doctrine, but these are probably the most prominent.

Scriptural Support

As should be clear from the above discussion, the chief scriptural support for this concept comes from the New Testament and the Pearl of Great Price. A listing of Jesus's genealogy in Luke states, "Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God." (Luke 3:38, italics in KJV and indicate wording inserted by the translators.) In his commentary on the New Testament, Elder McConkie affirmed that these words meant what they said. This scripture was also cited by the First Presidency in the letter quoted above. Also in the context of genealogy, the Book of Moses states, "And this is the genealogy of the sons of Adam, who was the son of God, with whom God, himself, conversed" (Moses 6:22). No doubt some see the statement in the Book of Moses as the restoration of a "plain and precious" truth, yet there are facts that would seem to obscure its plainess.

The Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price is taken from Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible. According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Joseph translated Genesis 1-17 (maybe even through 24) and then switched to work exclusively on the New Testament. After finishing the New Testament, the Old Testament was then completed. The JST corresponding to Luke 3:38 alters the words "Adam, who was the son of God" to read "Adam, who was formed of God, and the first man upon the earth." Since Joseph's alteration of Luke occured after he wrote Moses 6:22, it seems reasonable to question whether he intended the literal interpretation that some have made of these verses.

Chapter 6 of the Book of Moses, itself, suggests a figurative interpretation because after Adam is baptized he is told "Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons. Amen." (Moses 6:68) Here, Adam's sonship is equated with the sonship (or daughterhood) that is offered to all of us. In a number of places, the scriptures refer to the status of a "son of God" as something one becomes through the Atonement (see John 1:12, 11:30, 34:3, and 45:8, for one example). A counter-argument to this might be that while Moses 6:22 has reference to Adam's physical relationship to God the Father, the other scriptures have reference to becoming a son of Christ, as explained by King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon.

Another scripture cited in support of this doctrine is Moses 6:8 which says, "Now this prophecy Adam spake, as he was moved upon by the Holy Ghost, and a genealogy was kept of the children of God." Again, the term "children of God" is usually used in scripture to refer to God's covenant people. Some also equate the word "firstborn" with Adam's physical birth in Abraham 1:3, but other readings seem equally legitimate.

Interestingly, there is at least one scripture that contradicts this doctrine. Speaking of Christ, D&C 93:10 says, "The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him." Since God the Father is the father of our spirits, in what sense did Jesus make men if Adam is a physical son of God? Elder McConkie's solution to this scripture is to invoke the principle of divine investiture of authority--the actions and words of the Father can be attributed to the Son, and vice versa. (The Promised Messiah, p.63. Elder McConkie also gives an extended treatment to how one becomes a son of God. One is first adopted into the family of Christ, and then into the family of Elohim. See chapter 20.)

Current Treatment

Although this doctrine has appeared in talks and Church publications from time to time, it seems to be almost absent from current Church teaching. "The Family: A Proclamation on the Family," and Church manuals such as True to the Faith and Gospel Principles emphasize our spiritual relationship with God but say nothing of any physical relationship.
You are a literal child of God, spiritually begotten in the premortal life. As His child, you can be assured that you have divine, eternal potential and that He will help you in your sincere efforts to reach that potential. ("God the Father" in True to the Faith, p.74)
In fact, none of the Church Educational System (CES) Institute student manuals dealing with the Old Testament, New Testament, Pearl of Great Price, nor the more general "Doctrines of the Gospel" manual, contain commentary on Luke 3:38 or Moses 6:22 affirming the doctrine. (In most cases there is not any commentary on these scriptures at all.)

A search of the Ensign reveals only a handful of references to Luke 3:38 or Moses 6:22, none of which are contained in an article or talk by a General Authority. As far as I can determine, there have not been any General Conference statements in at least the last 25 years supporting the doctrine either. In the October 1980 conference, Elder Mark E. Petersen gave a talk in which he specifically criticized Adam-God. In the course of the talk he said:
Yet God our Eternal Father had only one son in the flesh, who was Jesus Christ. Then was Adam our God, or did God become Adam? Ridiculous! Adam was neither God nor the Only Begotten Son of God. He was a child of God in the spirit as we all are. Jesus was the firstborn in the spirit, and the only one born to God in the flesh.

This is one example of an Apostle emphasizing Adam's (and by extension, our) spiritual relationship with God, but leaving any physical relationship untouched (or in this case apparently denied.)


The concept that Adam and Eve were physically born of Heavenly Parents is a natural extrapolation of our mortal experience and fits reasonably well within the overall structure of Mormon theology. It has been believed and taught by some of the best men of this dispensation. However, although I am not aware that the doctrine has ever been specifically repudiated, the dearth of support for it from LDS leaders for almost a generation leads me to conclude that it is considered an unsettled, and perhaps speculative, matter by current leadership.

[Update: In his 1976 book, Adam: Who Is He?, Elder Mark E. Petersen refers to Luke 3:38 in three places (pages 5, 13, 59), although without much elaboration. His 1980 talk notwithstanding, it is possible that he believed the doctrine.]


I think on some matters the Lord simply has asked those who know not to comment. Personally I think that the creation account is much more naturalistic and anthropological than some think. That is, far closer to Brigham Young than to Orson Pratt or our Protestant friends. But at the same time I think it safe to say that Brigham pushed things further than was probably justified.

It'll be interesting to see what the truth is. 

Posted by Clark

7/24/2005 10:25:00 PM  

Clark, your comment more nearly expresses my view of the matter than anything else I have seen. Shortly after joining the Church in 1963 I read the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith  and the Discourses of Brigham Young. It revolutionized my understanding of doctrine, particularly those concerning the origin of Adam. In fact, it was this doctrine that led to my final rejection of evolution as that term is understood in the popular culture. I wish I knew why this doctrine has not been taught more in recent decades. If it was ever true, it is still true regardless of whether it was ever "official" Church doctrine.

So why is the current generation of living prophets downplaying it? Are they afraid that the membership will defect to the polygamist cults if it is taught? Or are they afraid that traditional Christian denominations won't accept us as genuinely Christian?

Jared, thank you for this post. It is one of the most informative I have ever seen on this topic. Tell me, did the Brigham Young manual we recently used in PH/RS touch on this? I know that most of that manual was lifted straight out of Widtsoe's Discourses of Brigham Young, but I suspect that this particular teaching is one of those that was edited out of the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young manual. 

Posted by John W. Redelfs

7/25/2005 02:34:00 AM  

It should be noted that God tells Adam in Moses 6 that he (Adam) was born of flesh, water and spirit. This naturally leads one to ask "Born of who?" Moses also says, as you pointed out, "Born of God." It's a weak argument, but the most straightforward reading. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

7/25/2005 08:44:00 AM  


Actually that scripture poses more of a problem.

"58 Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying:
59 That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye [Adam, or his children, or both?] were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;
60 For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified;"

If these verses are about Adam then they are saying he had blood before the fall. Since these are things he is supposed to teach his children, the pronoun "ye" could refer to Adam's posterity, but not Adam himself. If it does refer to Adam (which is suggested by the reference to becoming a living soul from dust), then we have to ask about what the talk of being born with blood is all about.

These verses provide nice symbolism regarding the atonement, but add confusion to the issue of Adam's creation.

7/25/2005 09:06:00 AM  

Good point. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

7/25/2005 01:50:00 PM  

I don't think they necessarily entail he had blood before the fall. The question is more what was involved with the fall and how much it parallels our fall.

7/25/2005 09:31:00 PM  


I tend to agree with you. I'm just making the point that you can run into problems when you squeeze meaning out of these scriptures by reading them too literally.


I flipped through the Brigham Young manual. The index isn't very good (I heard they had to produce the thing in a hurry), and nothing in the TOC looked promising. The searches I refer to in my post include those done on lds.org where I chose "all documents," so I should have picked it up if it was there. But then, that assumes I searched using the right terms. 

Posted by Jared

7/26/2005 06:53:00 AM  

Of course Adam, according to the temple, was born before he went into the Garde, which I take to mean an immortal existence. Maybe he was born with blood after all on the world which this new world was patterned after. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

7/26/2005 09:44:00 AM  

your blog is great! i wish more people in the church would educate themselves about evolution rather than just accepting the idea that it "goes against God" and so mustn't be true. my husband and i are both scientists and see evolution as a beautiful method whereby He can bring about His purposes. my belief regarding adam being created from "the dust of the earth" has always been to think of the dust of his ancestors -- there's no reason we can't have evolved from lesser species and been granted awareness, consciousness, spirit and soul with the arrival of adam. evolution dictates that through slow, gradual changes, one species becomes another -- is there any reason why adam could not have been the first of us to arrive after many years of evolutionary changes to the human form? i don't think so. here's an article you might find interesting...http://bioagnews.byu.edu/newsrelease.asp?id=119

keep up the good work!!!

8/11/2005 08:00:00 AM  

Great post, Jared. I think a prominent endorsement of the doctrine of a procreating God that is just beyond your 25-year line, but still rather recent, is the talk Our Great Potential  by President Kimball in the April 1977 General Conference priesthood meeting.

Regarding the view of the current leadership, I'll recall this post of mine. 

Posted by Christian Y. Cardall

8/14/2005 08:47:00 PM  

I couldn't find any statment in the Kimball '77 talk about Adam being the physical offspring of God, but maybe I missed it. This was the closest thing I found, and it doesn't really say that:

"Then he proceeded to create a world for them and sent them as spirits to obtain a mortal body, for which he made preparation."

Seemed like the major point being emphasized was the ability to create a spirit...

Posted by Anonymous

3/17/2006 10:30:00 PM  



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