From the Archives: Joseph E. Taylor on Adam-God-Savior

By February 11, 2008

In 1888, the Deseret News Weekly published a talk by Joseph E. Taylor apparently given in the Logan Temple. I found interesting how Taylor connects the dots between Adam-God and multiple probations using statements from Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. The full article can be found here beginning on page 19.

First, Taylor poses the question of Adam’s death.

But it is often asked, “Did Adam lie in the grave until he was redeemed therefrom through the death and resurrection of the Only Begotten?…It might be well at this point to enquire who was the Savior of the world, and what relation did he bear to our father Adam?

Taylor proceeds to quote Brigham Young’s famous discourse on Adam-God from the first volume of the Journal of Discourses that “Adam is our father and our God”. He makes the point here and in other places that the forbidden fruit changed their physical makeup to enable them to have mortal posterity. Having established, then, that Adam is the father of Jesus Christ, Taylor then quotes Joseph Smith’s King Follett discourse,

Jesus said, ‘As the Father hath power in himself, so hath the son power.’ To do what? Why what the Father did. what are you going to do? The answer is obvious in a manner, to lay down His body and take it up again…What did Jesus do? Why I do the things I saw My Father do…My Father worked out His Kingdom with fear and trembling; and I must do the same.

Taylor concludes, then, that

All that Father Adam did upon this earth, from the time that he took up his abode in the Garden of Eden, was done for His posterity’s sake and the success of His former mission as the Savior of a world, and afterwards, or now, as the Father of a world only added to the glory which he already possessed. If, as the Savior of a world, he had the power to lay down his life and take it up again, therefore as the Father of a world which is altogether an advanced condition, we necessarily conclude that the grave was powerless to hold him after that mission was completed.

I’ve been interested recently in how pieces of discourses and doctrinal points can be brought together to form a complex (or in some cases, not so complex) theology. I grew up in a framework of doctrine and theology that was heavily influenced by the writings of Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie as perhaps most of us have been. That’s a construct that still exists in large measure. It’s interesting that some elements of Joseph E. Taylor’s construct continue to this day while others do not. Those that do continue may be linked in different ways. On God the Father having been a Savior, Truman G. Madsen said,

Again, the relationship is exact. If Christ himself was uniquely begotten and was the firstborn in the spirit, and if he was the Christ not only of this earth but also, as the Prophet taught later, of the galaxy, so before him the Father himself was a Redeemer, having worked out the salvation of souls of whom he was a brother, not a father. This is deep water. The conclusion is drawn by Joseph Smith in his King Follett discourse. [1]

On the forming of children, the Priesthood/Relief Society Manual on Brigham Young quotes Pres. Young that,

Then he [the Father] commenced the work of creating earthly tabernacles, precisely as he had been created in this flesh himself, by partaking of the coarse material that was organized and composed this earth,…consequently the tabernacles of his children were organized from the coarse materials of this earth (DBY, 50). [2]

According to an orthodox construct (as I construct it orthodoxly :), one might read the above quote in the following manner: The Father, with his perfect body, partook of the “coarse” material and begat the bodies of Adam and Eve. These materials, presumably, were from an unfallen earth, and so, the physical bodies of Adam and Eve were in a like, unfallen, eternal state.  Later, Adam and Eve would go on to partake of the forbidden fruit and have mortal posterity.

Joseph E. Taylor, reading this quote with his construct, may have understood it differently, that The Father (Adam) partook of the forbidden fruit (material from this earth) and fell.  Thus his mortal offspring were created from the “coarse materials”.

Though elements of Taylor’s view persist, others (Adam-God) do not. Those that do may be connected in a different way than how Taylor connected them.

Whose writings, or what circumstances have influenced your constructions of doctrine?

[1] Madsen, Truman G. Joseph Smith The Prophet(Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989), 13.[2] Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1997), 50.


  1. Like you, I grew up a McConkie man. I left on my mission in 85, and about that time Mormon Doctrine was like a standard work and people knew it better than the scriptures.

    Lately I have been influenced by BH Roberts, and the bloggernacle.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — February 11, 2008 @ 8:34 am

  2. This appears to be standard Brighamesque Adam-God, though I don’t remember Brigham ever appealing to the KFD. Still, all the aspects are there. The only additional Brigham angle would be to add how human’s fit into the chain.

    All that said, stripped of its literalism, I love the idea that in entering this world humans become “mortal by eating the fruits of the earth, which was earthy.” I like the slow transformation towards earthiness and lack of blame.

    I’m not sure if there is any particular brand of thought that has influenced me more than others, except in a reactionary sense. The most important has been the examples of folks that have done good history, even when doing so wasn’t favored.

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 11, 2008 @ 11:34 am

  3. …I guess I should have been more clear. It is the method to approaching problems that I have found inspiring by good history (and good science for that matter – my doctoral training in the sciences has done a lot as well). And I guess it isn’t really in the face of any particular opposition that it matters more.

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 11, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

  4. I don’t know that I have a “construction of doctrine” firmly set in my mind. One of my favorite aspects of Mormonism is that (at least in my thinking, which I suppose could be called my construction of doctrine) a variety of beliefs can be tolerated. I consider myself fairly open to divergent beliefs, theologically speaking.

    Comment by Christopher — February 11, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

  5. I think that growing up and on my mission, I was very influenced by Talmage’s construction of the Godhead (my parents were not big McConkie-ites). Within weeks after getting home from my mission, I read the articles in Line Upon Line and all of my old certainties crumbled. Now not realy committed to either model, but I’m fascinated by both and the concomitant dissonance that some modern LDS experience when learning that our current conceptions of the Godhead did not emerge fully explicated with JS.

    Comment by David G. — February 11, 2008 @ 2:50 pm

  6. Chris, I share you’re feelings. I suspect that you’ve arrived at that way of thinking about doctrine as a result of having learned more about differing and developing views. But I may be wrong. I think that fundamentally, Mormonism provides for that variety you mentioned, though based on some of the writings that influenced me early on and the way I used to think and talk because of them, you wouldn’t have known it.

    I love the statement attributed to Joseph Smith that, “I never thought it was right to call up a man and try him because he erred in doctrine; it looks too much like Methodism and not like Latter-day Saintism…I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be trammeled.? (Words of Joseph Smith, 183).

    Comment by Jared — February 11, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

  7. Jared, you’re spot on. I was influenced growing up by what my father taught me, and assumed that what he taught was doctrinally-orthodox Mormon belief. Only as a curious missionary did I come to recognize that version of Mormon belief as JFS II and BRM-influenced neo-orthodoxy. I embraced it further as I read more and more McConkie. I think that there was a feeling of comfort in being so sure of what consituted “true doctrine.”

    It has only been in my studies since I returned from my mission and started to recognize the wide-range of beliefs expressed by various GAs, self-described theologians, and philosophers that I have come to fully appreciate the sentiment expressed by JS in the quote you cite.

    Comment by Christopher — February 11, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

  8. I read Blake Ostler’s first volume of “Exploring Mormon Thought” about 7 months into my mission and the way Blake approaches issues has influenced my thinking on Mormon thought more than any other contemporary writer I think.

    Comment by The Yellow Dart — February 11, 2008 @ 7:26 pm

  9. Yellow Dart,

    That’s interesting. Can you give any ways or summaries of how his writings have influenced you? Are there certain issues or ways of dealing with matters that he has given that have especially resonated with you?

    Comment by Jared — February 11, 2008 @ 8:05 pm

  10. RE: JS quote posted in #6.
    Rack ’em!

    Comment by tb — February 13, 2008 @ 11:05 am


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