A Mormon who recently discovered Brigham Young's "Adam-God" teachings, and asked questions about them, wrote [To Randy J - exmormon]:
"I'd like some 'current Mormon' perspective on these questions...but none seems to be coming."
I'm not a 'current Mormon,' but having been a Mormon for the first 42 years of my life, and having studied the issues somewhat, I can offer a few comments.
The typical 'current Mormon' stance towards the Adam-God doctrine is that Brigham Young did not teach any 'false doctrines,' but rather was simply misheard and misquoted by his scribes. The excuse given is that on the day Young gave a particular sermon outdoors, it was raining and thundering and the scribe thought Young said "Adam-God," when Young actually said "Elohim-God." That silly apologetic was propagated by the late Joseph Fielding Smith, and continues to be perpetuated by such naive LDS apologists as Woody Brison here on ARM, who claims to be a "seminary principal."
Of course, the truth is that Young could not possibly have been misquoted on that one occasion, because he taught the same concepts throughout his 25-year presidency, and his teachings incited lots of controversy and dissent, including that of Orson Pratt, which you have noted. Therefore, any LDS apologists (like Woody Brison) who continue to repeat the "misquoted" defense are in denial of the facts.
In a private letter to BYU professor Eugene England, the late Bruce R. McConkie admitted that Young taught the Adam-God doctrine; that Young was wrong on many points; and that Young would have to answer to God for his misguided teachings. (McConkie's letter is on-line at http://www.myplanet.net/mike/LDS/McConkie_England_letter.html )
However, Young himself claimed that Joseph Smith had taught him the Adam-God doctrine. It's likely that Smith did, because Adam-God fits in with Smith's other concepts which are still accepted in LDS theology, such as eternal progression, the premortal "spirit world," plural and celestial marriage, Elohim having literal sex with Mary to conceive the "half-God" Jesus, etc.
So, in light of that, why was the Adam-God doctrine disavowed? To understand that, one must first realize that 19th-century Mormon leaders taught and believed that Christ would return in about 1890, to usher in the "millenium," wherein the "Kingdom of God" would rule the whole world. Because the Mormons had built their "mountain kingdom" in Utah, and were, so they thought, safe from criticism or substantial opposition to their unorthodox teachings and practices, men like Brigham Young felt no compunction to "hold back" on expounding on the "meatiest" of Mormon doctrines like Adam-God when preaching to their flock. IOW, Young had no perception that the world, and the LDS Church, would continue into the 20th century, in their then-current incarnations. But when Young died in 1877---and Christ failed to return in 1890---and LDS leaders were forced to give up such practices as polygamy, as part of "the Great Accomodation" in the 1890's----then LDS leaders realized that if their church was going to survive into the 20th century, what with statehood and "Gentiles" upsetting their "kingdom," that they would have to downplay or disavow such unorthodox, highly criticized teachings as Adam-God.
Thus, the Adam-God teachings began to slowly disappear from church-published literature and the temple ceremony. After a couple of generations had passed away, so few mainstream Mormons were even aware of the doctrine that such apologists as Joseph Fielding Smith began their spin-doctoring lies, which most Mormons (like Woody Brison) ignorantly continue to trust in today.
Modern LDS leaders want their church to appear more like other orthodox protestant relgions, so they can attract more converts. Therefore, LDS leaders have stuck with the tactics of either denying that Adam-God was ever taught, or that the teachings were merely misquotes. What leaders ideally want is for Adam-God to never be mentioned, because they know that the more rank-and-file Mormons learn the facts, the more of them will apostasize for the reason you alluded to---if leaders cannot be relied upon on Adam-God, then why rely on them for anything else? And your position is logical and correct.
In his "King Follett Sermon," Joseph Smith stated that "It is the first principle of the gospel to know the character of God." If Brigham Young, who was the "prophet" for 30 years, misunderstood the character of the god whom he claimed to have regular communication with, then it logically follows that Young had no communication with any "god", and thus Young has no credibility to speak on religious matters. And since Young claimed that he got the Adam-God doctrine from Joseph Smith, then Smith's credibility is shot as well.
Most faithful Mormons will rationalize this issue away by saying something like "Okay, maybe Young was wrong on that, but that doesn't make him wrong on everything, and it doesn't make him a false prophet." It's okay to assume that stance, but the problem is that LDS dogma states that the reason the "true gospel" was "restored" was to correct the teachings of "uninspired" men who "had a form of Godliness," but who taught "the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture." IOW, Mormons who accept that Young taught false doctrines about the nature of God (as McConkie did) unwittingly place Young among the "uninspired" (non-Mormon) religionists who have no "authority" to preach correct doctrines. Thus, Mormons who admit that Young was wrong must concede that Mormon leaders have no more "inspiration" or moral authority to lead their disciples than any preachers of any other sects. That's what I came to realize, and that is one of the reasons why I am no longer a Mormon.
"Hi Randy, I thank you very much for your detailed and personal thoughts. I know that's where my thinking would one day take me if I kept it going (out) "
You're right there. That's why LDS leaders advise members against doing their own thinking---they're afraid you'll think your way out of the church. Reportedly, over 50,000 Mormons per year are doing just that.
"but having many 'spiritual experiences' involving the LDS faith..."
I had many 'spiritual experiences' while I was a Mormon too. I had as strong a 'testimony' as you'd ever want to hear. For years, I never failed to 'bear' it on fast Sundays. But after learning the facts about the church's origins and history, I had to admit that my 'faith' could not alter facts. Such as the fact that Brigham Young taught false doctrines about the nature of God, for instance.
"I cannot help but stay "in" while questioning everything that doesn't 'line up'. (I'm a questioner, and I pay detailed attention...more than most anyone I've met in the Church actually, no one ever seems to ask "wait a minute, what was that they just said, or that I just read"). "
I remained a member of the church for several years after beginning to 'question' it as well. And it took several incidents spanning years to make me finally realize that the church is bogus---the Negro issue, the changes in the temple endowment ceremony, the Mark Hofmann fiasco, the George P. Lee and Paul H. Dunn scandals, the "September Six" incident, Gordon B. Hinckley's dissembling remarks on the "God is an exalted man" doctrine, etc. Not to mention learning about Joseph Smith's 1820s "peep-stoning" career, his 1826 "glass-looking" trial, and the details of his sexual relationships with many women.
"It is most confusing to have had undeniable spiritual experiences, witnesses...and seen/known things I cannot even discuss...to know that 'actual prophets' have "messed up"."
What helped me in that regard was to realize that people of many religions besides Mormonism have similar 'spiritual experiences' which they believe confirms their faith as well. IOW, Mormonism doesn't 'hold the franchise' on spiritual experiences. I came to realize that people who are trying to 'sell' you on something use your emotions as a ploy, and that one's 'spiritual experiences' are nothing more than natural human emotions. Mormonism began as, and has always been, a sales organization. Its goal is growth, just like any other sales corporation. It preys upon peoples' emotional needs and fears, just as other sales products do. Just as intelligent people employ 'sales resistance' to keep from buying a bogus product, I learned to use my brain instead of my 'feelings' to determine the truth or falsehood of Mormonism. Regardless of how good I 'felt' about the church, I couldn't make myself alter facts of history, so I resigned.
There are many thousands of Mormons who don't believe in the church's teachings, but they remain silent so as not to make waves or possibly damage their family or job relationships. For many Mormons, leaving the social structure of the church is far more difficult than abandoning the beliefs. That's why there are groups such as the ExMormon Foundation, to help people make that transition.
"B.H. Roberts commented on the BOM copyright, he said that JS was just seeing his own 'thoughts' on the seer stone and that everything else was 'a-ok'."
I assume you're referring to the incident where Smith "saw" somebody in Toronto who was willing to pay $5000 for the BOM's copyright. Not only was he wrong, but that incident should activate your IBD (internal bullshit detector) to the fact that Smith was trying to make a fortune off the BOM. Sell the copyright to the "fullness of the gospel?" Riiiigggghhhhhtttt.
"However that trip to Salem looking for gold also fell through. "
Careful, your IBD (internal bullshit detector) is working. The Salem incident is just another of many which should alert rational people to Smith's incompetence. Just wait until you delve into the numerous changes Smith made in his "revelations from God."
"I'm not looking to criticize... "
There's nothing wrong with criticizing things that deserve criticism.
"however the more I research, the more I do see that the LDS Church is shifting away from the 'old teachings' and 'sanitizing' things "
Mormonism has been constantly changing since the day of its inception.
"ie. the Teachings of BY [recent Mormon church manual] not once talked about polygamy and wives was changed to wife. That's pretty blatant. "
Yes, and recent "Ensign" articles on the lives and "ministries" of Smith and Young failed to mention polygamy a single time. Look in the front of your BY manual, in the biographical overview, to see only his two legal wives listed.
All the other 50+ "plural wives" (which were illegal) are wiped from the history.
"I actually emailed the Curriculum Department person with a few questions on why things were portrayed as they were and he told me that this is simply what they were asked to do."
Yes, a newspaper article written after the BY manual was published said the same thing. And who was it that told the curriculum writers to delete all references to polygamy? Why, the General Authority overseers, of course. They don't want the younger generation or new converts to know anything about polygamy.
"I'm sure if I asked my bishop my "list" of questions that I'd be somehow on the wrong side of the fence. "
I daresay that you already know 100 times more about the Adam-God issue than your bishop does. If you bring it up, he'll probably respond with "Have you been reading anti-Mormon literature?" or "Are you having a problem with the Word of Wisdom?"
"But if there are no "Mormon" answers to these inconsistencies...why is that? "
Well, there are some "Mormon answers" to them. For instance, the only valid "Mormon answer" to the BY/Adam-God issue is that Young taught it, it was correct, that modern church leaders who disavow it are wrong, and the fundamentalists like Art Bulla who continue to propagate A/G are more honest than the mainstream Mormons (like Woody Brison) who deny or disavow it.
Or, If you don't want to become a Mormon fundamentalist, you can choose the option I chose---Young taught the doctrine, it was wrong, it made him a false prophet, and all of Mormonism is wrong along with Young. In my opinion, that is the only intellectually honest option to take. The choice you have is whether you want to be intellectually honest with yourself.
"The foundation of testimony is being 'sure', the missionaries teach it to converts, it's foundational. "
All that shows us is the fallacy of relying on our emotions for 'truth.' What you need to realize is that Joseph Smith was first a magician, and second, a salesman. He knew exactly how to use peoples' emotions to to make people believe his stories just as surely as David Copperfield uses peoples' emotions to make them believe he can pass through the Great Wall of China. Those same sales tactics have been repeated throughout the history of Mormonism; missionaries still learn them and use them to this day. The tactic essentially requires you to believe the unbelievable. That's what you must do to be a go od Mormon.
"Some of this 'inconsistent' stuff, to me, seems to be resting on a sandy foundation. "
To say the least.
"I'll keep looking for answers. Thanks. "
Randy J. Nov 2002