Expositions of Brigham Young’s Controversial Teachings


         Many opponents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints delight in dredging up obscure old quotes from General Authorities of past times which seem compromising or embarrassing in some way. Yet, almost always such enemies do not care to consider the context or the meaning attached to the statements they delight in quoting for slander. Since Brigham Young is so often picked on, and his position in the Church was completely paramount, this work will consider the controversial passages of Brigham Young that are often quoted by enemies of the Church and discuss their context and meaning.



“Now hear it, O 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, Journal of Discourses, 1: 51.)


  • In the same sermon, Brigham Young taught of a distinction between Elohim and Michael:

                            “It is true that the earth was organized by three distinct characters, namely, Eloheim, Yahovah, and Michael, 
                             these three forming a quorum,”
                             (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 1: 51.)


  • Brigham Young taught that Elohim was our Father in Heaven:

                             “I want to tell you, each and every one of you, that you are well acquainted with God our Heavenly Father, or
                              the great Elohim.”
                              (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 50.)


  • Joseph Smith taught the true priesthood hierarchy of the heavenly realm, which would certainly have been known to Brigham Young: 

                            “The Father called all spirits before Him at the creation of man, and organized them. He (Adam) is the head, 
                             and was told to multiply. The keys were first given to him, and by him to others. He will have to give an 
                             account of his stewardship, and they to him…Christ is the Great High Priest; Adam next.”
                             (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 158.)


  • As to Adam being “the only God with whom we have to do”, Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

                             “To believe that Adam is a god should not be strange to any person who accepts the Bible. When Jesus was
                              accused of blasphemy because he claimed to be the Son of God, he answered the Jews: ‘Is it not written in your
                              law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be
                              broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I
                              said, I am the Son of God?’ [John 10:34-36.]  Paul said, writing to the members of the Church in Rome: ‘For as 
                              many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.’[Rom. 8:14.] And to the Galatians he said: ‘And
                              because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.’[Gal. 4:6.] 
                              Joseph Smith taught a plurality of gods, and that man by obeying the commandments of God and keeping the whole 
                              law will eventually reach the power and exaltation by which he also will become a god. [D. & C. 132:17, 19-25,
                              29-32, 37, 49.]”
                              (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1: 97.)


  • President Joseph Fielding Smith further explained:

                              “This doctrine [of Adam being ‘the only God with whom we have to do’] was also taught by Joseph Smith, who said:
                              ‘The Priesthood was first given to Adam…. He obtained it in the creation, before the world was formed…. He had 
                               dominion given him over every living creature. He is Michael the Archangel, spoken of in the scriptures…. The
                               Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without 
                               beginning of days or end of years. The keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the gospel is sent. When they
                               are revealed from heaven, it is by Adam's authority…. Christ is the Great High Priest, Adam next.’ (Teachings of
                               the Prophet Joseph Smith
, pp. 157-158.)  If the keys of salvation have been committed to the hands of Adam, under
                               the direction of Jesus Christ, then is there anything out of place for President Brigham Young to declare that it 
                               is Adam with whom we have to do? And yet here is the acknowledgment of the superiority of Jesus Christ. This being
                               true, then the human family is immediately subject to Adam and he to the Redeemer of the world.”
                               (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1: 99.)


  • It is clear that much of the confusion which surrounds the so-called “Adam/God Theory” derives from the fact that President Young at times referred to God Almighty by the name-title, “Adam.” This, of course, is appropriate if we consider that “Adam” is a title for an ultimate progenitor of mankind, which God is in the ultimate sense. Also, it appears that there is uncertainty regarding the accuracy of the Journal of Discourses version of this sermon. In the Wilford Woodruff account of this sermon, Wilford (who was present at the meeting and transcribing the sermon) recorded that it was God, not Adam, who brought one of his wives with him into the Garden, both having celestial bodies, in order to commence the peopling of the earth.


“Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven.”
(Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 1: 51.)

                             “The dishonest inference has been drawn and advertised widely that President Young meant that Adam was the earthly
                              father of Jesus Christ. This deduction cannot be made fairly, in view of the context or of his other published
                              utterances on the subject. Adam and Eve were not the only persons in the Garden of Eden, for ‘they heard the voice
                              of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.’ (Gen. 3:8).”
                              (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 69.)



“Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.”
(Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 10: 110 - 111.)


  • It should be remembered that until 1978, blacks were not permitted to hold the priesthood.  This meant a withholding of temple ordinances for them, thus not allowing them to be sealed to their families (until 1978).
  • When Brigham Young said “death on the spot,” he was not referring to a physical execution, but rather was referring to the spiritual death that would befall a saint who married outside of the covenant. Joseph Fielding Smith explained the following about those who do not marry in the temple (which would be the case with a person marrying outside of the covenant) as “entering into the deaths”:

                             “Those who are married in the temple for all time and eternity obtain the blessing of eternal lives...Eternal lives
                              means eternal increase—the continuation, as the revelation says, of the seeds forever. To be married outside of the
                              temple is for time only. Death separates—that is an eternal separation, unless in the meantime they repent and are
                              fortunate enough to go to the temple and make amends.  Children born to them under the covenant—that is, to parents
                              married in the temple—are entitled to blessings which children outside of the covenant are not entitled to receive.
                              The Lord speaks of marriage outside of the temple as ‘entering into the deaths—eternal deaths.’ [D&C 132:24-25]
                              That doesn't mean they are going to die again. Every soul will get the resurrection. But after the resurrection
                              comes the segregation into kingdoms—celestial, terrestrial, telestial, and then to be cast out—which will come to
                              some—with the devil and his angels. Where they go, I don't know. The Lord has spoken of it as outer darkness. So
                              the Lord prepares places for all. Eternal deaths means that they are separately and singly forever.”
                              (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 4: 197. emphasis added)

  • The “this will always be so” part refers, not to the blacks specifically, but to those who are outside of the temple covenant in general.  This is really just a warning to not marry outside of the covenant.
  • As far as our relations to other races, Brigham Young taught: 

                         “Do all the good you can to your fellow creatures. You are flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. God has created of 
                          one blood all the nations and kingdoms of men that dwell upon all the face of the earth: black, white, copper-
                          colored, or whatever their color, customs, or religion, they have all sprung from the same origin; the blood of all 
                          is from the same element.”
                          (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 57.)




“You say, ‘That man ought to die for transgressing the law of God.’ Let me suppose a case. Suppose you found your brother in bed with your wife, and put a javelin through both of them, you would be justified, and they would atone for their sins, and be received into the kingdom of God. I would at once do so in such a case; and under such circumstances, I have no wife whom I love so well that I would not put a javelin through her heart, and I would do it with clean hands.”
(Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 3: 247.)


“This is loving our neighbour as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it. Any of you who understand the principles of eternity, if you have sinned a sin requiring the shedding of blood, except the sin unto death, would not be satisfied nor rest until your blood should be spilled, that you might gain that salvation you desire.”
(Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 4: 220.)

  • Though scary-sounding, the blood atonement teachings are easily explained. The following quotations below will suffice:

                             “Several early Church leaders, most notably Brigham Young, taught that in a complete theocracy the Lord could 
                              require the voluntary shedding of a murderer's blood - presumably by capital punishment - as part of the process of
                              Atonement for such grievous sin. This was referred to as ‘blood Atonement.’ Since such a theocracy has not been
                              operative in modern times, the practical effect of the idea was its use as a rhetorical device to heighten the
                              awareness of Latter-day Saints of the seriousness of murder and other major sins. This view is not a doctrine of the
                              Church and has never been practiced by the Church at any time.”
                              (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 131.)

                             “Under certain circumstances there are some serious sins for which the cleansing of Christ does not operate, and the 
                              law of God is that men must then have their own blood shed to atone for their sins. Murder, for instance, is one of
                              these sins; hence we find the Lord commanding capital punishment. Thus, also, if a person has so progressed in
                              righteousness that his calling and election has been made sure, if he has come to that position where he knows ‘by
                              revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood’ that he is sealed up unto eternal
                              life (D. & C. 131:5), then if he gains forgiveness for certain grievous sins, he must ‘be destroyed in the flesh,’
                              and ‘delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God.’ (D. & C. 132:19-27.)  
                              President Joseph Fielding Smith has written: ‘Man may commit certain grievous sins — according to his light and
                              knowledge — that will place him beyond the reach of the atoning blood of Christ. If then he would be saved, he must
                              make sacrifice of his Own life to atone — so far as in his power lies — for that sin, for the blood of Christ alone
                              under certain circumstances will not avail. . . . Joseph Smith taught that there were certain sins so grievous that
                              man may commit, that they will place the transgressors beyond the power of the atonement of Christ. If these offenses
                              are committed, then the blood of Christ will not cleanse them from their sins even though they repent. Therefore
                              their only hope is to have their own blood shed to atone, as far as possible, in their behalf’ (Doctrines of
                              Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 133-138.) This doctrine can only be practiced in its fulness in a day when the civil and
                              ecclesiastical laws are administered in the same hands
. It was, for instance, practiced in the days of Moses, but it
                              was not and could not be practiced in this dispensation, except that persons who understood its provisions could and 
                              did use their influence to get a form of capital punishment written into the laws of the various states of the union 
                              so that the blood of murderers could be shed.”
                              (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. p. 93. emphasis added) 




“Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned.”
(Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 3:266)


“The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.”
(Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 11: 269)


  • The context in which this second statement was given is crucial to understanding what President Young meant. President Young was speaking against those who “wish that the doctrine of polygamy was not taught and practiced by us”, which was the present policy of the Church. It was therefore a reaction against those who would seek to change the present policies of the Church by some other avenue other than revelation from God to his prophets. If the sermon is analyzed closely, it is clear that President Young was not saying that all must be polygamists, for he said, “It is the word of the Lord, and I wish to say to you, and all the world, that if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 11:269, emphasis added). The “at least in your faith” portion is key, since it indicates that the Saints were not necessarily required to be practicing polygamists, but they were required to be believing and supportive of its true principles. The same is true today. Therefore, the “moral of the story” is not that polygamy is essential, but that we can only be saved by following the doctrine and policy that the Church dispenses in our own generation. When Brigham Young said, “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy” (ibid.), he was meaning that those Saints of his generation must either enter into or be supportive of the practice of plural marriage, or they would be damned. And so it is with the followers of Christ in the present day: though we are not permitted to enter into plural marriages at the present time, we are bound and obligated to believe that plural marriage is a true principle. 



“[N]o man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are—I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent.”
(Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 7: 289)


  • This passage must be considered in light of the fact that Joseph Smith was God’s representative to the world for our generation, and so it follows that we must believe what he taught in order to be saved. It does not indicate that Joseph Smith will make the final judgment - that is reserved for Christ. But those of us who live in this dispensation which is headed by Joseph Smith must be followers of Joseph Smith in order to be saved in the highest degree of heaven. The same goes with other prophets throughout time. A person who lived in the time of Moses would have to be a follower of Moses if they expected to be led to the true God. One would expect the same for a person who lived in the days of Noah, or Isaiah, or the Apostle Peter. That same is true today. We cannot accept God without accepting his prophets.



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