New Manual Sanitizes LDS History
Growing attention and controversy accompany a new teaching manual released in January 1998 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The manual is titled, Teachings of Presidents of the Church – Brigham Young, and is being used in 22 languages.1 However, in the April 15, 1998 Salt Lake Tribune some LDS historians expressed strong disapproval of the way the manual seriously distorts Mormon history and doctrine associated with Brigham Young.
The controversy swirls around what has been omitted from the life of Brigham Young in this manual. It avoids or covers up his polygamous marriages to 55 women, and his teaching that Adam, the first man, was our God, our Father and the Father of Jesus Christ. The manual also alters and distorts other doctrinal teaching of Brigahm Young. A number of leading LDS historians, including professors Valeen Tippetts Avery and Will Bagley, have expressed both puzzlement and strong displeasure at this apparent attempt to revise or suppress embarrassing aspects of Mormon history. History professor Nancy J. Taniguchi, herself the author of a book on Brigham Young, referred to is as "a religious tract, not history" while Bagley called it, "Homogenized pap," and a work that shows "contempt for the intelligence of the members."2
This article surveys some of the controversial teachings of Brigham Young omitted from the new manual, as well as examples of quotes in the manual that have been tampered with to alter the original meaning. Quotations of Brigham Young and other LDS leaders are taken from recognized and respected LDS historical sources.3 As much as possible, quotes are arranged in chronological order.
Brigham Young on Adam God
Over a period of 21 years Brigham Young taught that Adam was the God of this world, the creator of it, the Father of Jesus Christ, and our Heavenly Father. As the second Prophet, Seer, Revelator and President of the LDS Church, he taught this as essential church doctrine both in private and public discourse. In 1976, Spencer W. Kimball, twelfth president of the LDS church denounced Brigham Young’s Adam-god teaching and called it "false doctrine." Here are quotes from Brigham Young on the subject of Adam-God.
- "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. Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non-professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later .... When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who is the Father? He is the first of the human family; … 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. Now, let all who may hear these doctrines, pause before they make light of them, or treat them with indifference, for they will prove their salvation or damnation" (April 9, 1852, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, pages 50-51).
- "I purpose to speak upon a subject that does not immediately concern yours or my welfare. I expect in my remarks I will allude to things that you search after as being absolutely necessary for your salvation in the kingdom of God .… Father Adam and Mother Eve had the children of the human family prepared to come here and take bodies; … and that body gets an exaltation with the spirit, when they are prepared to be crowned in the Father’s kingdom. ‘What, into Adam’s kingdom?’ Yes .… I tell you, when you see your father in the heavens, you will see Adam. When you see your mother that bore your spirit, you will see Mother Eve." (October 8, 1854, Where Does It Say That?, pages 1-8, 1-9; Brigham Young Papers Mss, Call # Ms d 1234, Church Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City, Utah.)
- "Some have grumbled because I believe our God to be so near to us as Father Adam. There are many who know that doctrine to be true" (October 7, 1857, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 5, page 331).
- I will give you a few words of doctrine, upon which there has been much inquiry, and with regard to which considerable ignorance exists. Br. Watt will write it, but it is not my intention to have it published; therefore pay good attention, and store it up in your memories. Some years ago, I advanced a doctrine with regard to Adam being our father and God that will be a curse to many Elders of Israel because of their folly. With regard to it they yet grovel in darkness and will. It is one of the most glorious revealments of the economy of heaven, yet upon it the world hold it derision." ("A Few Words of Doctrine" reported by G.D. Watts, given by President Brigham Young in Great Salt Lake City, October 8th, 1861. A.M., photocopy of archive # Ms/d/1234/Bx 49/fd 8).
- "How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which I revealed to them, and which God revealed to me — namely that Adam is our Father and God —..." (Deseret News, June 18, 1873)
Comments recorded by other LDS leaders in their journals and diaries show that they clearly understood Brigham Young to be teaching that Adam is God (Heavenly Father). For example:
- Hosea Stout — "Another meeting this evening. President B. Young taught that Adam was the father of Jesus and the only God to us" (Hosea Stout, April 9, 1852 in On the Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout, 1844-1861, Vol. 2, edited by Juanita Brooks, University of Utah Press, 1982 reprint, page 435.
- Wilford Woodruff — "He [Brigham Young] said that our God was Father Adam He was the Father of the Savior Jesus Christ — Our God was no more or less that ADAM, Michael the Arkangel" Wilford Woodruff, February 19,1854 (Where Does It Say That?, page 1-8).
- Spencer W. Kimball — "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" (Deseret News, Church Section, October 9, 1976).4
Adam-God Never Taught?
It is clear from the above quotations that there is unambiguous historical evidence from multiple sources for Brigham Young’s Adam-God teaching. Therefore it is bizarre to find that the office of the First Presidency of the LDS Church denies this very fact:
"For clarification, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never taught the so-called Adam-God theory. Those purporting that this theory had a place at one time in official Church doctrine are misled." (Letter from the office of the First Presidency, dated September 18, 1989, signed by F. Michael Watson, Secretary to the First Presidency).
(An article from The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies — F.A.R.M.S. — a Mormon defense group affiliated with Brigham Young University, made a statement in a recent article along the same lines.)5
The Adam-God doctrine was perhaps one of Brigham Young’s most distinctive teachings and as such it figured prominently in many of his sermons. Yet, it is completely omitted from the manual designed to help Latter-day Saints "more fully appreciate the profound and inspired teachings of this great prophet" (Introduction, p. vi).
Is it responsible and honest for the leadership to alter historical information or withhold it from its members? And how much trust can be placed in a church that denies its own documented history?
Brigham Young the Polygamist
Another unique aspect of the life and teaching of Mormonism’s second prophet and president is his heavy emphasis and extensive practice of polygamy. After his first wife, Miriam Works, died, Brigham married over 50 other women, physically consummating those relationships and producing a vast progeny. Young had large houses built for these wives and his children, including The Beehive House, erected in 1854 in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is a major tourist attraction and the guides there explain that Young needed such a large house because of his multiple wives and their many children. According to a booklet provided with the tour, the Beehive House even had its own family store from which "the storekeeper dispensed with fairness the foods and materials for each of the families of Brigham Young."6
Polygamy Essential to Eternal Life
Young and other LDS leaders openly taught that Celestial marriage to plural wives was essential to the Latter-day Saints salvation. Brigham often referred to a man and his wives. Failure to practice "the principle" of plural marriage was considered at best a sign of spiritual weakness and inferiority, and at worst a threat to one’s very soul. What follows is a small sampling of statements made by Brigham Young.
- "Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned" (July 14, 1855, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, page 266).
- "The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy" (August 19, 1866, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, page 269).
- "There is a little matter I want to speak upon to you, my sisters. It is a subject that is very obnoxious to outsiders. … ‘Oh.’ Says one, ‘I know what you mean, my husband has two, four, or half a dozen wives.’ … This doctrine so hateful and annoying to the feelings of many, was revealed from heaven to Joseph Smith, and obedience is required to it by the Latter-day Saints, — this very principle will work out the moral salvation of the world. Do you believe it? It makes no difference whether you do or not, it is true" (August 9, 1868, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 12, page 261).
Polygamy was one of the central doctrines of the LDS Church during Brigham’s presidency, yet special care was taken to remove any hint of this teaching from the new church manual. Neither the chronology of Brigham’s life, nor the chapter summarizing his life and work give any indication he married over 50 women and championed the practice of polygamy from LDS pulpits.
This is especially significant outside the United States where many Latter-day Saints are unaware of this history. Furthermore, the manual does more than just avoid the subject of polygamy, it removes any references to polygamy by changing the words of Brigham Young. One of the primary sources for quotes from Brigham Young is the book Discourses of Brigham Young (DBY). It was compiled and arranged by Mormon apostle John A. Widtsoe in 1925 and has been reprinted in several different editions. The edition quoted in the new manual and in this article is the 1977 edition, published by Deseret Book. Quotes taken from this source that originally spoke of "wives" now appear in the new manual as "[wife]" and any reference to the doctrine of plurality of wives is omitted. For example:
Full quote found in Discourses of Brigham Young (DBY), 1977 edition, page 197, states:
"There are multitudes of pure and holy spirits waiting to take tabernacles, now what is our duty. To prepare tabernacles for them; to take a course that will not tend to drive those spirits into families of the wicked, where they will be trained in wickedness, debauchery, and every species of crime. It is the duty of every righteous man and woman to prepare tabernacles for all the spirits they can.
This is the reason why the doctrine of plurality of wives was revealed, that the noble spirits which are waiting for tabernacles might be brought forth."
Altered quote in Teachings of the Prophets — Brigham Young, 1997, page 164:
"There are multitudes of pure and holy spirits waiting to take tabernacles, now what is our duty. … To prepare tabernacles for them; to take a course that will not tend to drive those spirits into families of the wicked, where they will be trained in wickedness, debauchery, and every species of crime. It is the duty of every righteous man and woman to prepare tabernacles for all the spirits they can.
This is the reason why the doctrine of plurality of wives was revealed, that the noble spirits which are waiting for tabernacles might be brought forth."
The manual eliminates the paragraph referring to "doctrine of plurality of wives."
Original quote (DBY), 1977 edition, page 198:
"Now let me say to the First Presidency, to the Apostles, to all the Bishops in Israel, and to every quorum, and especially to those who are presiding officers, Set that example before your wives and your children …
Altered quote Brigham Young manual, 1997, page 164-5:
"Now let me say to the First Presidency, to the Apostles, to all the Bishops in Israel, and to every quorum, and especially to those who are presiding officers, Set that example before your [wife] and your children …"
Original quote (DBY), 1977 edition, page 198:
"Let the husband and father learn to bend his will to the will of God, and then instruct his wives and children in this lesson of self-government …"
Altered quote Brigham Young manual, 1997, page 165:
… Let the husband and father learn to bend his will to the will of God, and then instruct his [wife] and children in this lesson of self-government …"
Similar editing that eliminates references to multiple wives also occurs in the new manual on pages 166, 174, 229.
When asked about the alterations, Craig Manscill, chairman of the writing committee that produced the Brigham Young manual, said regarding the polygamy material, "Was it in the material that we reviewed? Oh, it was there. And did we ellipse in certain places? Of course we did. But we were following what our leaders had asked us to do." 7
The implications of this admission should raise a warning flag in the minds of those who care about truth. The present leaders of the Mormon church instructed the writers of this LDS teaching manual to distort and hide the truth, and the writers agreed to do so.
Apparently, current LDS leaders also asked the writing committee to distort Brigham Young’s sermons to make him appear to teach things he never in fact taught.
Consider the following paragraph from DBY, pages 399-400:
"There are many of the ordinances of the house of God that must be performed in a temple that is erected expressly for the purpose. There are other ordinances that we can administer without a temple. You know that there are some which you have received — baptism, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, such as the speaking in and interpretation of tongues, prophesying, healing, discerning of spirits, etc., and many blessings bestowed upon the people, we have the privilege of receiving without a temple. There are other blessings, that will not be received, and ordinances that will not be performed according to the law that the Lord has revealed, without their being done in a temple prepared for that purpose. We can, at the present time, go into the Endowment House and be baptized for the dead, receive our washings and anointing, etc., for there we have a font that has been erected, dedicated expressly for baptizing people for the remission of sins, for their health and for their dead friends; in this the Saints have the privilege of being baptized for their friends. We also have the privilege of sealing women to men, without a temple. This we can do in the Endowment House; but when we come to other sealing ordinances, ordinances pertaining to the holy Priesthood, to connect the chain of the Priesthood from Father Adam until now, by sealing children to their parents, being sealed for our forefathers, etc., they cannot be done without a temple. When the ordinances are carried out in the temples that will be erected, men will be sealed to their fathers, and those who have slept, clear up to Father Adam. This will have to be done because of the chain of the Priesthood being broken upon the earth."
Note how Brigham Young taught that certain practices did not need to take place in the temple: be baptized for the dead, receive our washings and anointing, and sealing women to men. The temple would be for sealingmen to their fathers since the chain of Priesthood authority in LDS teaching is passed down from male to male (women do not hold the Priesthood).
Now note how the LDS Church altered this paragraph for use in the new manual. They used substituted words to eliminate the reference of men being sealed to men and to hide the fact that Brigham referred to two different sets of ordinances. The writers also used ellipses to make this whole section teach something quite different from what Brigham originally intended.
"There are many of the ordinances of the house of God that must be performed in a temple that is erected expressly for the purpose. There are other ordinances that we can administer without a temple. You know that there are some which you have received — baptism, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost … , such as the speaking in and interpretation of tongues, prophesying, healing, discerning of spirits, etc., and many blessings bestowed upon the people, we have the privilege of receiving without a temple. There are other blessings, that will not be received, and ordinances that will not be performed according to the law that the Lord has revealed, without their being done in a temple prepared for that purpose. … We can, at the present time, go into the Endowment House and be baptized for the dead, receive our washings and anointing, etc., for there we have a font that has been erected, dedicated expressly for baptizing people for the remission of sins, for their health and for their dead friends; in this the Saints have the privilege of being baptized for their friends. We also have the privilege of sealing women to men, without a temple. This we can do in the Endowment House; but when we come to …other sealing ordinances [for the dead], ordinances pertaining to the holy Priesthood, to connect the chain of the Priesthood from Father Adam until now, by sealing children to their parents, being sealed for our forefathers, etc., they cannot be done without a temple. When the ordinances are carried out in the temples that will be erected, men [children] will be sealed to their fathers [parents], and those who have slept, clear up to Father Adam. This will have to be done because of the chain of the Priesthood being broken upon the earth" (Brigham Young manual, page 303).
The quote has been altered to make it appear that all ordinances, endowments and sealings take place in the temple, contrary to what Brigham was actually teaching. Similar tampering with Brigham’s teaching occur throughout the manual. Examples can be found on pages 171, 304, and 309.
The Salt Lake Tribune article cited Ron Priddis, Vice President of LDS publisher Signature Books, on the extent of misrepresentation in the new manual, "I’d say about 10 percent of the quotes are overtly lifted out of context, with about another 10% that are more subtly altered." In essence, 20%, or one fifth, of this manual’s content is historically inaccurate.
This disregard for candor and truthfulness is sure to raise questions about the trustworthiness of the LDS Church’s presentation of other historical matters. Can Church leaders and the 50,000 missionaries they train be trusted to present a true picture of Mormon origins? The fact is, many aspects of Mormon doctrine and history have been altered, omitted or otherwise revised.8 This helps make Mormonism more palatable and attractive to new and potential converts, but it does so at the expense of integrity and truth..
1. "Absence of Polygamy In LDS Manual Stirs Controversy," Salt Lake Tribune, 4/5/1998, C3.
3. Occasional spelling and capitalization changes have been made to enhance readability.
Consider the following quotes regarding LDS sources. "The Journal of Discourses deservedly ranks as one of the standard works of the Church, and every rightminded Saint will certainly welcome with joy every Number as it comes forth from the press as an additional reflector of "the light that shines from Zion's hill" (George Q. Cannon, Apostle , Journal of Discourses Preface. Vol. 8).
"...In most cases it appears that the speakers depended almost entirely upon inspiration from the Holy Ghost, and the subjects discussed were intended for the greatest benefit of the Saints." (Paragraph 2, Preface. Journal of Discourses Index.)
Brigham Young said of his own discourses:
"I know just as well what to teach this people and just what to say to them and what to do in order to bring them into the celestial kingdom, as I know the road to my office. It is just as plain and easy. The Lord is in our midst. He teaches the people continually. I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve" (Journal of Discourses, 13:95).
"I say now, when they are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible, and if you want to read revelation read the sayings of him who knows the mind of God" (Journal of Discourses 13:264).
4. This is significant for here we have one Mormon prophet denouncing as "false doctrine" the teaching of an earlier Mormon prophet. In light of this, can we truly trust the leaders of the Mormon Church when they claim "The Prophet will never lead the church astray"? (See Where Does It Say That?, pages 12-2, 12-4.)
5. "'Shall They Not Both Fall Into the Ditch?' What Certain Baptists Think They Know about the Restored Gospel," by Daniel C. Peterson, FARMS Review of Books, Vol. 10, No.1, 1998, p. 20. Peterson states: "And, although she would be extremely hard pressed to find a single passage anywhere saying so, Ms. Tanner confidently tells her video audience that Brigham Young "said that Adam was the God we pray to." Peterson implies, and the uninformed reader could easily conclude that there is little or no evidence that Brigham Young taught Adam-God. Peterson's statement brings to mind the saying, "We’re all entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts," and in the case of Young’s Adam-God teaching, the facts are clear: Brigham Young did teach as doctrine that Adam was to be viewed as our Father God and the Father of Jesus Christ.
6. The Beehive House, by S. Dilworth Young, p. 12, 1981.
7. "Absence of Polygamy In LDS Manual Stirs Controversy," Salt Lake Tribune, 4/5/1998, C3.