“What Modern Revelation Teaches about Adam,” Ensign, Jan. 1998, 20
Reading about Adam’s life from the Bible alone leaves many unanswered questions. How should we feel about our first parents? Should we bewail Adam and Eve for partaking of the forbidden fruit? What did they really know about the teachings and commandments of God?
Fortunately, the Lord has revealed information that helps answer such questions. These truths are found in the Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and Book of Mormon, and in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s statements in History of the Church and other writings. Indeed, these sacred writings teach that Adam and Eve were majestic and glorious forebears and that they were taught the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ “from the beginning” (Moses 5:58). These sources instruct us about Adam’s life before Eden, in Eden, in mortality, and in his postmortal state. We are fortunate to have this additional material, for when it is understood properly it renews hope and faith in God and instills confidence in the Bible text and in the prophets.
The Bible itself attests that life existed before the physical Creation of the earth (see Gen. 2:4–5). However, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned from the book of Moses that God did not just create some forms of life but that he “created all things … spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. … And I … had created all the children of men, … for in heaven created I them” (Moses 3:5). The Prophet taught that during this period of the spirit existence Adam received the priesthood: “He obtained the First Presidency, and held the keys of it from generation to generation. He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith , 157). He was chosen to be the head of the mortal family and was instructed in his role as our earthly progenitor (see Teachings, 158). These sources reveal that Adam and Eve were taught the gospel long before they were in Eden. Indeed, life before Eden was obviously a time of preparation for their important ministry. In the premortal realm, Adam was known as Michael1 and led the faithful angels of heaven against Lucifer. As a result, Lucifer was cast out of heaven to the earth (see Rev. 12:7–9).
The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith much more about the occurrences in the Garden of Eden than what has survived in the Bible. When Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden, he was privileged to have a tangible, physical body of flesh and bone. “And the Gods planted a garden, eastward in Eden, and there they put the man, whose spirit they had put into the body which they had formed” (Abr. 5:8). He was created in the “very fashion, image and likeness of God” (Teachings, 345).
As the first man, he was given the name of Adam (see Moses 1:33–34). He was still in the presence of God in Eden and continued the intimate relationship he enjoyed with his Father. He was instructed again about his role in the plan of salvation (see Moses 3:16–17; Abr. 5:12–13) and was permitted to name “all cattle, … fowl of the air, and … every beast of the field” in Eden (Moses 3:20). He was also introduced to Eve, who would become a “help meet for him” (i.e., suitable helper; Gen. 2:18).
Adam and Eve were married in Eden (see History of the Church, 2:320). Lehi said of their circumstances that “they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin” (2 Ne. 2:23). He also stated, “If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end” (2 Ne. 2:22).
When Eve was successfully tempted by Lucifer, Adam also subsequently transgressed the law that had preserved them in their Edenic state. The implications of the Fall are often misunderstood in the contemporary world.
One misperception the world has about the transgression of Adam and Eve is the concept of original sin. In short, this doctrine is that the Fall of Adam tainted every individual who is born into the human family. Thinking that all children inherit Adam’s sin and are thus cut off forever from God’s presence, some Christians practice infant baptism as a remedy.
Information supplied by the Prophet Joseph Smith, however, shows that the doctrine of original sin as it has been developed in the world is false. In the book of Moses we learn “that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world” (Moses 6:54). The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that in our infant state we are innocent before God because of the Atonement of Christ (see D&C 93:38). The Book of Mormon contains these words from the Lord Jesus Christ: “Little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me” (Moro. 8:8). The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that “men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (A of F 1:2).
Our Father in Heaven knew Adam and Eve would fall. In fact, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that Adam “was made to open the way of the world” (Teachings, 12). Lehi tells us, “Adam fell that man might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:25). Modern scripture makes it clear that it was the will of the Father, as part of his plan, that Adam and Eve transgress and thus be moved out of Eden.2 Satan thus unwittingly furthered the plan, “for he knew not the mind of God” (Moses 4:6).
After the Fall, Adam and Eve were given coats of skins to cover their bodies (see Gen. 3:21). It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for atonement is kaphar, which means to “cover” or “make propitiation.”3 By wearing their coats of skins, they would be reminded that the Atonement covered their sins.
Having experienced the change to mortal bodies, Adam and Eve were driven from Eden and began to till the earth and raise flocks. President Brigham Young and others reported that the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri,4 and that the nearby valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman was, at least for a period, “the land where Adam dwelt” (D&C 117:8).
It was now possible for Adam and Eve to have children, which they did. The sequence of events in Moses 5 indicates that sons and daughters were born to them even before Cain and Abel were born. Their children “began to divide two and two in the land, and to till the land, and to tend flocks and they also begat sons and daughters” (Moses 5:3). We know the names of only three sons: Cain, Abel, and Seth.
The book of Genesis does not record any aspect of the lives of the first family after their expulsion from the garden prior to the story of Cain and Abel (see Gen. 4:1–17), but the revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith show that Adam and Eve were taught the plan of salvation, including the Savior’s role and the significance of gospel ordinances. Though they were out of God’s presence and no longer walked and talked with him as they had done in Eden, “they heard [his] voice … from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, [but] they saw him not” (Moses 5:4).
Adam and Eve were instructed about proper worship and the offering or sacrifice of the firstlings of their flocks (see Moses 5:5). Their obedience to these commands brought additional instruction and enlightenment into their lives. “And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
“And the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
“Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore” (see Moses 5:6–8).
After being taught by an angel about the purpose of their offering sacrifices and the need for repentance and prayer, the “Holy Ghost fell upon Adam”; he then learned more about the mission of Jesus Christ and that he and his children, “even as many as will,” could be redeemed from the Fall (Moses 5:9). Under the influence of the Holy Ghost Adam rejoiced and “began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God” (Moses 5:10). Eve then “was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (Moses 5:11).
These declarations indicate that Adam and Eve saw their transgression in its proper and true perspective. They understood the necessity of the Fall and praised God for his great plan of happiness. No sorrow, regret, or shame is evident in these statements.
In the information provided by the Prophet Joseph Smith, Satan’s role is emphasized more than it is in the Bible. The biblical story of Adam and Eve mentions Satan in only six verses: Genesis 3:1–4, 13, and 15 [Gen. 3:1–4, 13, 15]. These verses are all in relation to the temptation in the garden. There are no subsequent references to Satan’s interference in their lives or the lives of their children after the Fall. By contrast, Moses 4 contains 14 verses (Moses 4:1–11, 19–21) that apply to Satan’s actions in Eden, and Moses 5 gives considerable detail about his influence within the ranks of Adam and Eve’s family in mortality.
After Adam and Eve instructed their family about the things that had been taught by the angel, Satan “came among [their children], saying: … Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish” (Moses 5:12–13). It is very instructive that even though Adam and Eve had earlier yielded to Satan’s influence in Eden, these words were not used to describe them but rather to describe their disobedient sons and daughters.
In Moses 5 we learn that Cain and Abel are born after Lucifer’s philosophy of “believe it not” is entrenched among the children of Adam (see Moses 5:16–17). Further, we see that it is through Satan’s efforts that Cain is enticed to rebel against the counsels of the Lord and to slay his brother: “Cain loved Satan more than God. And Satan commanded him, saying: Make an offering unto the Lord” (Moses 5:18). The Prophet Joseph Smith adds further light by saying that Cain’s sacrifice was offered without faith (see Teachings, 58). Although Cain’s sacrifice was not accepted, the Lord mercifully extended an opportunity to Cain to repent (see Moses 5:22–25). Cain rejected that opportunity and immediately made a covenant with Satan to take Abel’s life (Moses 5:29–32). As a result of Cain’s disobedience, he was “shut out from the presence of the Lord, … with his wife [who was one of his brother’s daughters; see Moses 5:28] and [with] many of his brethren dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden” (Moses 5:41). After this event, other children of Adam and Eve made covenants with Satan (see Moses 5:49–51). “And Adam and his wife mourned before the Lord, because of Cain and his brethren” (Moses 5:27).
Being able to read about Adam and Eve’s response to these sad family events helps us become better acquainted with their struggles in raising their family. Knowing that Adam and Eve were real people helps us relate better to them and to our own feelings, on occasion, of frustration and sorrow. Further, it is heartening to note that our times of sorrow are very brief compared to Adam’s trials in his 930 years in mortality (see Gen. 5:5).5
Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, we learn that Adam continued to teach and call his children to repentance. In the midst of much turmoil throughout their family, Seth was born (see Moses 6:2). He chose righteousness, and Adam blessed and ordained him at age 69 (see D&C 107:42). Genesis 5:3 [Gen. 5:3] says Seth was in the likeness and image of his father, and Doctrine and Covenants 107:43 [D&C 107:43] adds that he could be “distinguished from [his father] only by his age.”6 Further, we learn through the Prophet that Adam and his family kept a book of remembrance that contained a genealogical record and probably other things important to their family. It was kept in the language of Adam, a pure and undefiled tongue (see Moses 6:5–7).
Through the Prophet Joseph Smith we learn that Enoch taught about Adam’s instruction to his family and about his participation in the priesthood’s saving ordinances. Enoch reports that God called upon Adam “by his own voice” and taught him regarding repentance, baptism, the importance of the name of Jesus Christ, the gift of the Holy Ghost, forgiveness, original guilt, agency, the Fall, being born again, and the mission of the Comforter—all of which are identified as “the plan of salvation unto all men” (see Moses 6:51–62).
When Adam learned that the way back to God’s presence was through Jesus Christ and that he should be baptized “in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men” (Moses 6:52), he was baptized (see Moses 6:64). Then “the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man.
“And he heard a voice out of heaven, saying: Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever;
“And thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.
“Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons. Amen” (Moses 6:65–68).
These events clearly show that even in Adam’s time the Savior’s central role in the plan was known and that compliance with divine instruction and participation in prescribed priesthood ordinances was required to be born of God. To become once again a child of God requires a change from a state of sin to a state of righteousness, becoming a new creature, as it were (see Mosiah 27:25–26). The result can be that we, like Adam, are permitted to enjoy the presence of God.
In order for Adam to fulfill his role as patriarch of the human family and provide ordinances for their salvation, it was necessary for him to hold the priesthood with all its attendant keys. The Prophet Joseph Smith said that Adam stood next to Christ in priesthood authority relative to those who have lived on earth: “How have we come at the Priesthood in the last days? It came down in regular succession. Peter, James, and John had it given to them and they gave it to others. Christ is the Great High Priest; Adam next” (Teachings, 158). Adam “held its keys from generation to generation” with “Adam receiving his Presidency and authority from the Lord” (Teachings, 169; see also D&C 78:15–16). “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. … He (Adam) is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men, and all that have had the keys must stand before him,” said Joseph Smith (Teachings, 157).
It is evident that the Prophet Joseph Smith was aware of Adam’s important priesthood role and that he himself served under Adam’s direction, who served under the Lord Jesus Christ.
After Adam’s many, many years of great and noble faithfulness, near the end of his life another great event occurred. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I saw Adam in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman. He called together his children and blessed them with a patriarchal blessing. The Lord appeared in their midst, and he (Adam) blessed them all, and foretold what should befall them to the latest generation” (Teachings, 158). The Prophet recorded that this event took place three years prior to Adam’s death and that Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, all of whom had been ordained by Adam, were present. These righteous descendants were “high priests” in the order of the priesthood established “in the days of Adam” (see D&C 107:41–53). This meeting was also attended by the “residue of his posterity who were righteous” (D&C 107:53).
“And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.
“And the Lord administered comfort unto Adam, and said unto him: I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever.
“And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation” (D&C 107:54–56).
Adam later died. Then, in these last days, the Prophet Joseph Smith reported that he saw Adam in the celestial kingdom (see D&C 137:5). However, Adam’s great work is not done and continues today.
One of Adam’s duties in his postmortal role as father of the human race is to help prepare his posterity for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Daniel 7:22 [Dan. 7:22] speaks of the return of the Ancient of Days, which the Prophet Joseph Smith said “means the oldest man, our Father Adam, Michael, [who] will call his children together and hold a council with them to prepare them for the coming of the Son of Man” (Teachings, 157). This preparatory council will be held at Adam-ondi-Ahman (see D&C 116:1; Teachings, 122) and will be attended by the Savior (see Teachings, 158).
After the Millennium, Satan will be loosed for a period known as the “little season” (D&C 88:111); then Adam as the archangel and commander of the Lord’s heavenly hosts will lead them against Lucifer and his legions and defeat them. To the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed:
“Michael, the seventh angel, even the archangel, shall gather together his armies, even the hosts of heaven.
“And the devil shall gather together his armies; even the hosts of hell, and shall come up to battle against Michael and his armies.
“And then cometh the battle of the great God; and the devil and his armies shall be cast away into their own place, that they shall not have power over the saints any more at all.
“For Michael shall fight their battles, and shall overcome him who seeketh the throne of him who sitteth upon the throne, even the Lamb” (D&C 88:112–15).
This will be the last, great battle, resulting in Satan’s having no more power over the Saints. As we ponder Adam’s role, we see that Adam is a great opposer to Satan. Even before Eden, Satan was defeated and cast out of heaven to the earth by Adam and priesthood power and priesthood forces.7 Because of the holy priesthood, Adam will forever have ascendancy over Satan.
Of Adam’s everlasting role as the grand mortal patriarch of the human family, the Prophet Joseph Smith said that God established the ordinances of the gospel to be the same forever and set Adam to oversee their dispensation to his children. Yet, in all things Adam acts under the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ and although he holds presiding responsibility for all dispensations affecting his posterity, he himself does not receive a fulness until the kingdom is presented to the Father by the Lord Jesus Christ at the last day (see Teachings, 169). This event will occur after Adam has called forth all his posterity in the resurrection (see D&C 29:26; D&C 138:51).
In summary, it is evident that the Bible is missing much great and marvelous information about our remarkable forebear Adam. The additional truths provided by the Prophet Joseph Smith reveal anew events about our first mortal parent. Adam and Eve emerge from relative obscurity into marvelous light. And as we see the application of gospel principles and ordinances in their lives and see how in the true spirit of parenthood they followed the Lord’s path and have shown us the way, we have greater faith and confidence in God and in his prophets.
The left column lists the Bible’s teachings about Adam; the right column lists additional information restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
What the Bible Teaches
What Latter-day Revelation Adds
• Adam dwelt with God as a spirit (see Teachings, 158).
• He was chosen to be the mortal head of the human family (see Teachings, 158).
• He received the priesthood keys of the First Presidency before the world was formed (see Teachings, 157).
• Adam was created and was placed in the garden (see Gen. 2:7–8).
• He was the first man (see 1 Cor. 15:45).
• He gave names to all living creatures (see Gen. 2:19–20).
• Eve was created (see Gen. 2:21–22).
• Adam and Eve were married in the Garden of Eden (see History of the Church, 2:320).
• Adam and Eve transgressed (see Gen. 3:1–6).
• They fell “that men might be” (2 Ne. 2:25; see also Teachings, 12).
• They made aprons and hid from the Lord (see Gen. 3:7–8).
• God instructed Adam and Eve (see Gen. 3:16–17).
• The Lord gave them coats of skins (see Gen. 3:21).
• They were driven from Eden (see Gen. 3:23–24).
• Their transgression brought death into the world (see 1 Cor. 15:22).
• They suffered spiritual death (see D&C 29:41).
• They kept records (see Gen. 5:1).
• They had a pure and undefiled language (see Moses 6:6).
• They were commanded to worship and offer sacrifice (see Moses 5:5).
• He received the Holy Ghost (see Moses 5:9).
• They comprehended reasons for the Fall and rejoiced (see Moses 5:10–11).
• They had children (see Gen. 4:1–2, 25).
• They taught the gospel to their children (see Moses 5:12).
• They experienced sorrow because of their children’s transgressions (see Moses 5:27).
• They were forgiven of their transgression in Eden (see Moses 6:53).
• Adam was baptized and born of the Spirit (see Moses 6:64–65).
• He was given the priesthood in mortality (see Teachings, 157).
• He ordained righteous brethren to important callings in the priesthood (see D&C 107:39–53).
• Adam lived 930 years in mortality (see Gen. 5:5).
• He dwelt at Adam-ondi-Ahman (see D&C 117:8).
• As a prophet he was a type, or foreshadowing, of Christ (see Rom. 5:14).
• Three years before his death, he gathered and blessed his posterity (see D&C 107:53–57).
• He stands next to Jesus Christ in priesthood authority (see Teachings, 158).
• Under Jesus Christ, Adam holds the keys of all dispensations (see History of the Church, 4:207–8).
• Adam directs the restoration of ordinances even in our time (see History of the Church, 4:207).
• He was seen in the celestial kingdom by the Prophet Joseph Smith (see D&C 137:5).
• Prior to the Lord’s Second Coming, Adam will be at Adam-ondi-Ahman (see Teachings, 157).