Posts Tagged ‘Brigham Young’
I was looking for a quote today that goes something like this: “The only beings to visit our planet are those who were once inhabitants here” (Update: Jeremy at the Seerstone provided the scripture as D&C 130:5). My search landed me on an article in the New Era from 1971 by Kent Nielsen. Like Truman Madsen who just passed away, Dr. Nielsen is an emeritus professor of philosophy from BYU. The article is entitled, “People on other worlds,” and is still fascinating although it was written almost forty years ago.
After a brief review of the basic cosmological configuration of our planetary neighbors, we are introduced to the simple math calculations used to deduce that we are not alone in our universe. There are uncountable billions and billions of stars and galaxies throughout space. If only one star in a million should have inhabitable planets, that would give us over 100,000 systems in our galaxy alone. Galaxies like ours exist in the billions. We are not the only life in this universe.
People on other worlds
Even with the advances of science in discovering planets around other suns that conceivably could harbor conditions favorable to human life, we simply have no way of knowing that there are any people out there besides us. Or do we? Latter-day Saints have known for over 170 years about the existence of people on other worlds. In fact, we also know that people from other worlds visit the earth and have been doing so for many years to deliver important messages.
Can you imagine the impact it would have upon civilization if our scientists announced that they have detected an approaching spacecraft from outer space? How would we be prepared for the visit of extra-terrestrial beings? I suspect that Latter-day Saints would take it all in stride. After all, we claim to have been the recipients of such visits for a long time. No, the visitors did not require the use of a spacecraft to reach our planet. Their method of travel is currently beyond us.
Prophets taught of other worlds
Brigham Young said, “…there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are now passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be to all eternity.” The Apostle Paul knew that God had created other worlds. He wrote, “God…hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…by whom also he made the worlds.” Moses and Enoch revealed more in the Pearl of Great Price:
The Lord said to Moses, “The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works.” Enoch said, “And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations…” Joseph Smith’s witness is similar.
God created countless worlds
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” What an amazing testimony! But wait, there’s more.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man. … he was once a man like us … God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth. …If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and … God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. … And where was there ever a father without first being a son? … If Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also?” Now that is deep doctrine!
Purpose of all these worlds
We don’t seem to talk much about this doctrine any more – that God was once a man as we are now. We tend to focus more on the idea that man can become like God. We are not alone in this teaching as it gives hope and motivation to many people besides Latter-day Saints who believe it. But the idea that God was once like us and passed through a period of mortality and testing is a bit much for some people to accept. President Hinckley even downplayed it in a news interview.
Nevertheless, as far as I know, it remains a basic fundamental doctrine of our church that helps to explain the purpose of life and all the potential inhabitable worlds that have been created. The worlds were created specifically to provide a home on which the posterity of the Gods could be tested and proven. Yes, we believe in multiple Gods, but limit our worship to our own Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ his son. We just do not teach about other Gods in our curriculum today.
Believed but not taught
I have often wondered about this unique way we have of doing things in our church. There are many things which we believe and are written about in historical sermons of former priesthood leaders. And yet, we do not include them in what we teach to investigators, new members, or even long-time members for that matter. However, just like the idea of a mother in heaven we do occasionally sing about our distinctive beliefs. A favorite hymn contains these words:
“If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
D’ye think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?”
We are Gods in embryo
We are of the race of Gods. We are of his species. God looks likes us. We look like him. He has two arms, two legs and a head with two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth. As Jesus said, “If ye have seen me, ye have seen the Father.” We are his sons and daughters and he loves us. The people who populate the other worlds out there are also his sons and daughters and look just like you and me. There are no green, bug-eyed monsters. They are also of the race of Gods.
The people who are out there are in different stages of their existence. Like us, some are passing through a temporal period. Others are living in worlds that have been celestialized and yet others inhabit a lower kingdom of glory. This process of living and dying and being resurrected has been going on forever. I can’t fathom that with my limited mortal brain but I know it is true. You and I are a part of that process of seeking to be like God and to inherit a glorious exaltation.
Space travel to the earth
Could a person from outer space ever come to visit the earth? Any Latter-day Saint knows the answer. Of course, visitors from outer space can come to earth! They’ve been doing it for many thousands of years. God and angels visited Adam. They visited prophets in the Old Testament and Apostles in the New Testament. The Book of Mormon has numerous accounts of angelic visitations and of the visit of Jesus Christ to the ancient American people. It is quite common!
In the spring of 1820, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ visited the boy prophet Joseph Smith in upstate New York. Angels came to deliver keys of the priesthoodto Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland temple in 1836. In our temporal existence we may not be able to travel to worlds beyond out own solar system but other beings in advanced phases of existence are not so limited. When Moroni appeared to Joseph, he saw “a conduit open right up into heaven.” Awesome!
Communication from space
Scientists have been listening for communication from space for years but they have yet to hear anything to indicate intelligent life. On the other hand, Latter-day Saints are very familiar with the process of receiving messages from outer space, transmitted by means that transcend beyond the normal method of communication. This is more than a future possibility. It is a present fact! Beings from outer space have been making great efforts to communicate with us every day.
They have been sending messages that are filled with wisdom and great intelligence. These are messages that come from superior beings, who have evolved way beyond our limited mortal capacities to think and to understand. They live in dimensions that we cannot begin to fathom. But they are willing to share with us knowledge that will transform our lives if we will just listen and apply what they say. Their intelligence is far beyond ours and yet is beneficent and kind.
They are coming to visit us
What’s even more astounding to realize is that these same intelligent beings will be visiting us very soon. The millennium is simply a period of time when earthly civilization will be brought under the government of superior beings from another world who will visit earth frequently to direct our affairs. “Christ and the resurrected Saints will reign over the earth during the thousand year period. They will not probably dwell upon the earth but will visit it when they please…”
But these beings who come from outer space, or another world, will not be aliens. They will be our brethren, who have lived upon this earth in mortality. What’s more, we expect a return of portions of this earth that have been broken off in times past when cataclysmic events sheared off that portion of the earth on which they resided. First the Ten Tribes, then the City of Enoch and last the portion that contains the Garden of Eden. Don’t believe it? Look it up in our history!
Summary and conclusion
The earth has received many visitors from outer space over the years. They do not come in spaceships and they do not wear spacesuits. They come from a plane of existence that we can only dream about and not yet comprehend. These are intelligent and magnificent beings that are glorified and exalted in their appearance and in their character. They love us. We are their children and their brethren. They have come to bring us messages of great joy if we but listen.
Visions of angels and Gods from other worlds are not something that I have experienced but I know such things have occurred. The influence of these beneficent beings fills the immensity of space and dwells here among us. These Gods have given us gifts that help us communicate with them. One of these gifts is the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is real and is the means by which God reveals truth to the mind and heart of man. Of this I and millions of others are unique witnesses.
And now, a few words of instruction from Brother Brigham on the subject of the evil spirits in the world around us. The occasion was the funeral of President Jedediah M. Grant on December 4, 1856. The Source is the Journal of Discourses, vol 4, pp. 129-134.
“…when I die…I do not wish any of you to cry and feel badly, but prepare yourselves to fight the devils while you live, and after you pass through the veil…there we will do a great deal more than we can here.
“Brother Grant can now do ten times more than if he was in the flesh…He is in the spirit world. He has conquered death and hell…He is no more subject to the devils…he commands them, and they must go at his bidding; he can move them just as I can move my hand.
The righteous have power over evil spirits
“When men overcome…they have power over all disembodied evil spirits…Those evil spirits are under the command and control of every man that has had the Priesthood on him, and has honored it in the flesh, just as much as my hand is under my control.
“Do you not think that brother Jedediah can do more good than he could here? When he was here the devils had power over his flesh, he warred with them and fought them, and said that they were around him by millions, and he fought them until he overcame them.
“The spirits that afflict us and plant disease in our bodies, pain in the system, and finally death, have control over us so far as the flesh is concerned. But when the spirit is unlocked from the body it is free from the power of death and Satan; and when that body comes up again, it also, with the spirit, will gain the victory over death, hell, and the grave.
The devils control spirits, not bodies
“When the spirit leaves the tabernacle of flesh and goes into the spirit world, it has control over every evil influence with which it comes in contact, and when it takes up the body again, then the body also, with the spirit, will have control over every evil spirit that is in a tabernacle, if there is any such being, just as far as the spirit that has the Priesthood had control over evil spirits.
“Perhaps you do not understand me. Take a spirit that has gone into the spirit world, does it have control over corruptible bodies? No. It can only act in the capacity of a spirit. As to the devils inhabiting these earthly bodies, it cannot control them, it only controls spirits.
“But when the spirit is again united to the body, that spirit and body unitedly have control over the evil bodies, those controlled by the devil and given over to the devils, if there is any such thing. Resurrected beings have control over matter as well as spirit.
Spirits of the departed all around us
“We are surrounded with more evil spirits than good ones… The spirits of the just and unjust are here. The spirits that were cast out of heaven, which you know are recorded to have been one-third part, were thrust down to this earth, and have been here all the time, with Lucifer, the Son of the Morning, at their head.
“You and I have yet to deal with evil spirits, but Jedediah has control over them. When we have done with the flesh, and have departed to the spirit world, you will find that we are independent of those evil spirits. But while you are in the flesh you will suffer by them, and cannot control them, only by your faith in the name of Jesus Christ and by the keys of the eternal Priesthood.
“Where do you suppose the spirits of our departed friends are? Where they ought to be; they are here…they are controlling the fallen spirits here, or somewhere else. They could not control the spirits of evil men while here, only by faith, but now one of our departed brethren can control millions of disembodied evil spirits; while they were in the flesh they were afflicted by them.”
What I have learned from these remarks
The early leaders of the church spoke plainly and frankly about the influence of the evil spirits upon us. I do not find that we speak as much about this doctrine any more. We are warned against the influence of the adversary in general. Has this belief or teaching about the power of the evil spirits fallen out of favor? Are we too concerned that the world will ridicule our belief?
I also learned that we have power over evil spirits, both through faith and through the authority of the priesthood. In Brigham’s remarks I learned that the evil spirits can inhabit mortal men but that they do not control their bodies, only their spirits. The devils have control or power over our bodies only to afflict and torment us with disease, sickness and temptation.
It is also evident that the spirits of the departed are all around us. We are more likely to encounter the influence of wicked spirits as the righteous are busily engaged in good works. It is the wicked disembodied spirits who hang around that cause trouble by attempting to take possession of mortal tabernacles, even if for only a few moments, overpowering our own spirits.
Additional reading: George Richie on disembodied spirits
This is version two of this essay. In the first version I severely denounced and criticized those who believed the Adam-God theory. I cited several modern prophets who were very clear in their denunciation of a belief in the theory. I stated that Brigham Young was either misquoted or misunderstood. I especially relished listening to Elder McConkie‘s talk on The Seven Deadly Heresies once again as part of my research. I miss Elder McConkie.
Today, I confess before you the error of my ways. I am now a believer in the Adam-God theory, but not the one that many people claim to be true. You’ll note that I still don’t call it a doctrine as some do, because that implies that it is something that pertains to our salvation. An understanding of this information is not necessary for our salvation. However, as I have studied, pondered and prayed about this over the past few days, I feel I have been richly blessed with personal insights about the material.
In this essay I hope to set forth the differences between the two theories and will rely heavily on the Elden Watson essay found on his website. I have now read it through twice, making notes and pondering the ideas that he set forth. I am completely in agreement with his views and find his explanations of the matter to be perfectly acceptable. There were many things I found there that I had heard or learned previously but did not have a source to which I could point. I do now. For the opposing viewpoint of the misunderstood theory, I cite David Buerger‘s essay.
The false version
From David’s essay, “Young clearly believed that Adam was the father of the spirits of mankind in addition to being the first procreator of mankind’s physical bodies; that Adam came to this earth as a resurrected and exalted being; that he “fell” to a mortal state of existence in order to procreate mortal bodies; and that Adam was the spiritual and physical father of Jesus Christ.” I counted at least seven false statements in that summary, but this is what many people think of when they are asked about the Adam-God theory. This is NOT what Brigham tried to teach.
Because of this false understanding, our critics have criticized and lambasted us. I can understand why. If someone tried to tell me that what David wrote was what we believed, I would have to tell them that such statements are the most contrived and foolish ideas that I have ever heard. For some reason, apostate polygamous groups have clung to this false version and continue to circulate it as their idea of truth. It is so contradictory to accepted doctrines that it does not lead to faith and in fact, hinders one in an ability to exercise faith in God and Christ.
That is why President Kimball said in 1976, “We hope that you who teach in the various organizations, whether on the campuses or in our Chapels, will always teach the orthodox truth. 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.”
The correct version
God, our Heavenly Father, who we now ordinarily refer to as Elohim, is the father of our spirits and was literally the father of the physical, but immortal body of Adam. It was God the Father that came to this earth as a resurrected and exalted being with our Mother in Heaven. They did not “fall” to a mortal state in order to give birth to Adam and Eve. A man cannot be resurrected and then become mortal again. Adam was not the spiritual and physical father of Jesus Christ. God our Heavenly Father fulfilled that mission. Except for Mother in Heaven, most of these concepts are taught by our missionaries and in our Primary classes. They are very clear.
What Brigham tried to teach was really very simple and it’s not a big deal, or at least it’s not to me. I still maintain that he was misunderstood by many, and therefore what was taught by some leaders of the early church was in error. Whether or not he was misquoted is a matter you will have to decide for yourself. In some places he may have been. In others he was perhaps not as clear as he could have been. Nevertheless, what he taught was fascinating and enlightening.
You can find a detailed description of these fundamental doctrines in Eldon Watson’s essay that help establish the truths that we believe and which Brigham taught:
- Adam was not a resurrected being
- Adam died
- Adam is not God
- Adam is subordinate to Jesus Christ
- Adam and Eve were unmarried when they came into the Garden of Eden
- Adam is a son of God
Cast of characters in the Garden of Eden
God the Father
Analysis of the most misunderstood quote
“Now hear it, 0 inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the Garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days, about whom holy men have written and spoken-He is our father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.” (Brigham Young, JD1:50)
There was another record of this talk made by Wilford Woodruff that is different from the version found in the Journal of Discourses. In it, you can find a very critical and missing phrase just before, “He helped to make…” It is, “…and eat of the fruit of the garden until he could beget a tabernacle.” The tabernacle being referred to is the body of Adam. “Father Adam,” was Brigham’s way of indicating God our Heavenly Father. He believed Adam was one of his names. The last line of the quote is referring to “Father Adam” again. He is saying that God is our father.
If this is the first time that this has been pointed out to you then I refer you to Elden Watson’s essay in which he discusses Brigham’s belief that one of God’s names was Adam. He discusses them in his essay as Adam Sr. and Adam Jr. I know, that seems a little strange, but it works for me. It is unfortunate that Brigham wasn’t clearer about who he was referring to when he said “Father Adam.” Reread that quote and put Elohim in the place of father Adam as you read. Be sure to add the additional phrase from Wilford Woodruff in the right spot. That makes it clear.
Summary but no conclusion
In this essay I have tried to set forth my understanding of what Brigham Young really meant when he made some of the quotes that have caused so much trouble for so many over the years. Although I have concluded the matter in my own mind, I will leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions. I invite you to a careful reading of Elden Watson’s essay. He leads us carefully through the scriptures and quotes in such a way that makes it easy to understand and accept.
I reiterate here as I have in the beginning that understanding the Adam-God theory is not at all necessary to our eternal salvation. If you have gone all your life and have never heard about the interpretation that I have labeled the correct version above, it would not affect you one way or the other. However, if you have accepted and believe what I have labeled the false version, which was summarized by the quote from David Buerger, then that just might be a problem.
I’m trying to not be dogmatic about this but I do feel strongly that those who think that Brigham believed and taught the Adam-God theory as defined by Buerger, with the help of Mike Quinn, are mistaken. None of us will be able to ask Brigham what he really believed and taught until we meet him in the Spirit world. I intend to do so. But until then, I will accept the orthodox teachings on the subject that I have tried to outline in the “correct version” section above.
1. LightPlanet – Adam-God theory
3. Elden Watson – Adam-God
4. FAIR – Adam-God
5. Wikipedia entry on Adam-God theory – Did Brigham Young really teach it as doctrine?
6. The David Buerger essay in Dialogue, Spring 1982. I disagree with the conclusions.