The Book of Mormon and Adam and Eve Historicity
The story of Adam and Eve is one of the most famous of the Bible, and is told in both of the creation stories in Genesis (Chapter 1 and 2) to explain the beginning of life on Earth. In the traditional view, Adam and Eve were created by God in about 4,000 BCE, and are the original ancestors to every man, woman, and child on Earth today.
Everyone reading this almost certainly already knows the story, but this event crucial to the idea of the “fall of man” which necessitates the atonement of Christ within Christianity. The story of Adam and Eve is also important for explaining the eventual population of the world, which will be important throughout the Bible as lineage plays a role in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
The Adam and Eve story is considered by all secular scholars and even many biblical scholars to be an etiological myth written to explain the origin of humans, which can be further illustrated by looking at advancements in science, history, and the text of the Bible itself.
Within Mormonism, the Adam and Eve story must be a literal event with a real, historical Adam and Eve due to the extensive use and expansion of Adam and Eve in the Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham, and the Doctrine and Covenants. Not only is the Adam and Eve story well known to the writer of the Book of Mormon, but Joseph Smith cites Adam as the “Ancient of days” spoken of in the Bible in multiple revelations, which almost every biblical scholar believes without hesitation is actually referring to God, not Adam.
Furthermore, Joseph Smith claims to see Adam in a vision (D&C 137:5), Joseph F. Smith claims to see Adam and Eve in another vision (D&C 138:38-39), and Joseph Smith claims to reveal the location of where Adam and Eve lived after expulsion from the Garden of Eden: Adam-ondi-Ahman in Missouri, where the early Saints had settled in 1838. All of these events need a historical Adam to bolster Joseph Smith's claim as a prophet, but if Adam and Eve was indeed a etiological myth, the entire truth claims of Mormonism become mythical along with it.
Problems with Adam and Eve Historicity
As summarized above, the Adam and Eve story cannot be a literal, historical event given what we know today about evolution, genetics, DNA, and biblical scholarship. All secular scholars and many biblical scholars believe that Adam and Eve's account is a mythical story created to explain the origins of humans and to serve as an introduction to the Bible. The traditional view of the Bible dates when the Adam and Eve story would have occurred to about 4,000 BCE, but most biblical scholars now agree that the Pentateuch was not compiled until much later. As the documentary hypothesis has evolved the dates have moved a bit, with many scholars now believing that Genesis was not compiled until the 6th or, more likely, 5th century BCE. (Davies, G.I, "Introduction to the Pentateuch")
But the Adam and Eve story can be shown to not be historical from a few different methods that I would like to quickly summarize here:
Evolution: The study of the evolution of humans (Homo sapiens) shows that modern day humans likely began to evolve in Africa about 315,000 years ago. However, our human evolution likely began alongside of apelike species millions of years ago, which is confirmed through DNA along with looking at the changes in fossils over time. For example, humans today share 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees and bonobos. (Science Magazine)
While many like to discount the idea of evolution by calling it a theory, it has been proven through scientific methods over the years, and as technology and our knowledge has increased, the picture has only gotten more detailed – the overreaching conclusions have not changed. (Wikipedia Overview of Evolution Timeline)
Fossil Records: Looking at fossil records, as early as 3.5 million years ago there is evidence that one hominim species, Au. Afarensis, was already walking on two limbs. Since that time, fossils show continuous changes to the skeletons of human beings until we arrive to humans in more modern times.
This is intended to just be a quick overview, but I highly recommend reading overviews on the evolution of humans to understand that there is zero evidence for the idea that a man and women simply began in our current human state with the ability to speak in an Adamic language. In fact, there is an abundance of evidence against this idea, which can be easily understood by anyone interested in learning more by reading some basic overviews on human evolution. While a lot of apologists for the church imply that these issues are too complicated for people who aren’t experts to understand, I assure you that you are more than capable of understanding the implications of evolution and fossils on the Adam and Eve story. (Brittanica Overview of Fossil Records)
DNA: Along with the evidence that humans have evolved over millions of years to the Homo sapiens we are today, we can look at DNA evidence to give us a wealth of information about our pasts. While the Bible’s Adam and Eve story in Genesis is traditionally believed to have happened about 6,000 years ago, a quick DNA test through 23 and Me will show that our ancestors can be traced back tens of thousands of years earlier.
For example, in my own 23 and Me DNA results, I have less than 2% of Neanderthal DNA. These Neanderthals are dated to have disappeared 40,000 years ago, meaning that my DNA can be traced back to at least 34,000 years prior to the Adam and Eve story occurring. Not only do I show Neanderthal DNA, but 23 and Me also gives me traits I inherited from that Neanderthal DNA. In my case, I am told that I have:
A worse sense of direction
Difficulty discarding rarely-used possessions.
Less likely to have a fear of heights.
A better sprinter than distance runner.
All four of those traits area absolutely correct - the first two (and strongest matches in variants) have been told to me repeatedly throughout my life. I have a horrible sense of direction and I have always loved to collect things, and have a hard time getting rid of stuff that I haven't touched or looked at in years.
I highly recommend anyone interested in DNA and genealogy to check out a DNA service such as 23 and Me because the results are fascinating and you learn so much about your ancestry along with the uses of DNA to explain your heritage. As you can see above, eve the Neanderthal traits are incredible to learn, and again are great proof of the power of DNA to understand our history and what makes us who we are.
Looking at DNA in more general terms, scientists can now date us closer to a genetic “Adam and Eve,” but even that creates more problems for the Adam and Eve story. First, the "genetic Adam and Eve" still dates to about 135,000 years ago. The bigger problem, however, is that the “ancient "Adam" and ancient "Eve" probably didn't even live near each other, let alone mate.” (Live Science)
Along with fossil evidence showing that humans likely evolved from Africa, DNA from human fossils also confirms that the earliest humans likely left Africa at least 200,000 years ago. (Live Science) What is really cool about these studies is that DNA is confirming the results found from studies in archaeology, which an indicator that the two methods are on the right track.
Just like with evolution, while many seek to downplay the importance and accuracy of DNA (and we’ll get to that in more detail with the Book of Mormon and DNA), the bottom line is that it has been proven more conclusive every day. As geneticist Jamie Hanis Handy noted in a great podcast on the church’s DNA and the Book of Mormon essay (Mormon Stories Podcast), the advances in DNA are only making the picture sharper as if going from a 1 megapixel camera twenty years ago to today’s 100 megapixel cameras. The DNA evidence is a problem for Adam and Eve historicity that is only getting stronger with time – it is a field that has strong enough consensus that it is used every day in courts, science, and research to understand both who we are and where we came from.
Ancient Origin Myths: The Epic of Gilgamesh has many parallels to the Bible, most notably the global flood myth which will be covered in the next section. But it should be noted that there are also parallels to the Adam and Eve story. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, there is the story of Enkidu and Shamhat. “In both, a man is created from the soil by a god, and lives in a natural setting amongst the animals. He is introduced to a woman who tempts him. In both stories the man accepts food from the woman, covers his nakedness, and must leave his former realm, unable to return. The presence of a snake that steals a plant of immortality from the hero later in the epic is another point of similarity.” (Epic of Gilgamesh Parallels to the Bible)
Biblical scholarship: One of the clearest ways to understand that the Adam and Eve story is not historical and is a late addition to the Bible is by looking at the Bible itself. The creation story that details the Garden of Eden is the Jahwish/Yahwist source (J source) in Genesis 2, which was originally believed to have been written in the 7th century BCE, but is now understood to have been written between the 6th and 5th century BCE due to reasons we will state below. (Baden, Joel S. J, E, and the redaction of the Pentateuch) There are two ways this is important to understanding how the Adam and Eve story was understood as an origin myth to the writers of Genesis.
The first is to note that the Adam and Eve account includes many elements of a fable including a talking snake, a man that is created out of dust, a woman created by putting the man in a deep sleep to take a rib, living to the age of 930 (Genesis 5:5), and the name Adam simply meaning “man” in Hebrew. This is a more simplistic way to look at the story of Adam and Eve, but you can see these elements of a fable throughout the story, which would indicate that the story was not meant to be taken anciently as literal history, but as an origin story to help explain where we came from.
The second, and more important, reason that we can tell the Adam and Eve story is not an ancient, historical event is by looking at how early prophets spoke of Adam and Eve. Historian John Hamer noted that if you look at the Bible you can see where the story of Adam and Eve becomes known to the ancient prophets and writers. This is crucial not just for understanding the dating of the Adam and Eve story, but how people in Old Testament times understood the Adam and Eve story.
If you look at the early writers of the Old Testament (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah, etc) and look for references to Adam and Eve, there are zero mentions of the story in their writings. By contrast, there are 116 mentions of Moses and 100 mentions of David, showing that these writers were aware of many early stories of the Bible yet had no knowledge of the Adam and Eve story.
Outside of Genesis, there is just one mention of Adam and Eve in Deuteronomy (part of the Pentateuch that was compiled around the same time), and then one mention in the later books of Job (6th century BCE) and Chronicles (4th century BCE). That no earlier prophets mention such a vital event is a clear indicator that the Adam and Eve story appears late and was unknown to the Old Testament writers, and the fact that is barely gets mentioned once it is known would highlight that early writers did not believe it was literal history, but mythical.
In other words, the story of Adam and Eve today is considered one of the most important events in our history as it necessitates the atonement and is central to the Book of Mormon, yet it was unknown to early prophets. (Infants on Thrones podcast: Seven Deadly Heresies - The Adam and Eve conversation is about 56 minutes in) As John Hamer notes in his conclusion, “not only does it not work with this robust theory of evolution, all of the entire fossil record and everything else (genetics, DNA, and all the things that completely track with [those theories]), but the story itself within the Bible itself doesn’t portray itself as the most ancient thing even though as the Bible is now edited it comes first.”
The story of Adam and Eve cannot be reconciled with the vast evidence we have whether it’s genetics, DNA, archaeology, or biblical scholarship to be a literal, historical event. Many religions have found ways to work with the Adam and Eve story being an etiological myth, but as we will see, this becomes much trickier within Mormonism because of the extensive use and expansion of the story as a literal, historical event.
Problems with the Book of Mormon and Adam and Eve
As we mentioned in the summary, the Adam and Eve story is only mentioned in the OId Testament twice beyond the first five books – in the books of Job and Chronicles. The problem is that the Adam and Eve story was not known to the earlier writers such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc, and as such was not included in their writings even as mentions of David and Moses numbered over 100. Put another way, if the Adam and Eve story was historical, why would such a monumental event effectively disappear after it happened while other figures from the Old Testament are mentioned repeatedly throughout?
In the New Testament, mentions of Adam and Eve become more numerous which makes sense given that the Pentateuch was well known by this time. Skipping references to Adam that establish lineage, which is the case in Luke and Jude, we want to note that most of the references to Adam in the New Testament are establishing some early Christian theology which is evident from Paul’s epistles.
A few of Paul’s references to Adam are as follows:
Romans 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
1 Corinthians 11:8 Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man.
1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
However in the Book of Mormon, there are 26 mentions/references of Adam along with 28 mentions in the Doctrine and Covenants. This is problematic in that the teachings of the church not only insist on a literal Adam and Eve, but Joseph Smith even expands on the story in the Book of Mormon which is then written back into Joseph Smith’s revision of Genesis which later becomes the Book of Moses.
The Book of Mormon states that Nephi killed Laban for the brass plates around 600-592 BC, which puts it around the time that the Pentateuch was likely compiled according to the documentary hypothesis. While it is entirely anachronistic to have brass plates with the Bible engraved on it that were written in Egyptian, the timing makes it possible that they could have heard of Adam and Eve by this point even if it is impossible that those books would have been on metal plates by that time.
But the bigger problem is that the Book of Ether, which would have originated around 2200 BCE, speaks of Adam. From Ether 1:
3 And as I suppose that the first part of this record, which speaks concerning the creation of the world, and also of Adam, and an account from that time even to the great tower, and whatsoever things transpired among the children of men until that time, is had among the Jews—
4 Therefore I do not write those things which transpired from the days of Adam until that time; but they are had upon the plates; and whoso findeth them, the same will have power that he may get the full account.
As we will note throughout these sections on biblical scholarship and the Book of Mormon, the writers of the Book of Mormon are aware of ideas that would never have been known in the time the events would have taken place. While we often hear of the anachronistic items/animals in the Book of Mormon such as horses, steel, chariots, etc, the more problematic anachronisms come from the writer of the Book of Mormon having a 19th century worldview of the Bible before some of the material was even written or any form of Christianity had actually developed yet.
But the problem goes beyond the Book of Mormon, as the Book of Abraham references Adam twice in chapter 1 and then retells the Yahwist/Jahwist (J source) version of the Garden of Eden story in chapter 5, implementing Joseph Smith’s change in theology from a single God to a plurality of gods. This again treats Adam and Eve as a literal history, but again the Book of Abraham would have been written before 1650 BCE, which is a thousand years before the Adam and Eve story was known.
Beyond the scriptures, Joseph Smith himself claimed to see Adam in a vision at the Kirtland temple. In D&C 137, Joseph Smith records a vision where he states “I saw father Adam, and Abraham and Michael.” This vision is problematic not just for its use of of a literal Adam, but because Joseph Smith would later declare that Adam and Michael are one and the same, yet he claims to see both.
Following Joseph Smith’s vision, future prophet Joseph F. Smith also claims to see Adam and Eve in another vision (D&C 138:38-39):
“38 Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days and father of all.”
Again, this vision is a problem for biblical scholarship beyond just Adam’s historicity, which we will cover below.
Last, the church refers to a spot in Missouri as Adam-ondi-Ahman, which is where Joseph Smith claimed Adam and Eve went after being expelled from the Garden of Eden. This has a number of problems even if we believe Adam and Eve were a literal event, but if it was not a historical event, how could Joseph Smith receive a revelation that Adam and Eve happened to live in the very spot that the early Saints were settling in Missouri at the time?
Complicating the problems even further is that this revelation, D&C 116, incorrectly labels Adam as the “Ancient of Days,” which is likely where the Adam-God doctrine originated. D&C 116 is a short entry, but states:
Spring Hill is named by the Lord Adam-ondi-Ahman, because, said he, it is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet.”
The problem is that the “Ancient of Days” referred to in Daniel is God – not Adam. This is pretty clear when reading Daniel 7 in context:
9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
This is an even bigger problem than the Book of Mormon because Joseph Smith is not only relying on a literal Adam character against the evidence, but he is placing Adam into the Bible via revelation from God that is simply incorrect. Perhaps even more problematic is that Joseph Smith never makes the connection of Adam being the “Ancient of Days” until Sidney Rigdon proclaims it in the May 1834 Evening and Morning Star when he writes:
In the 24 chapter of Isaiah, and 23 verse, the prophet, after having described one of the greatest desolations ever pronounced on the head of any generation of men, says, "Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously."We have before seen that this reign was to last a thousand years; and his ancients, before whom he was to reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, gloriously, were all the redeemed from among men, of every tongue, language, kindred, and people.
According to Daniel, he (Jesus) was to come to the ancient of days: here he is said to reign before his ancients, that is, all the saints from our father Adam, down; for who could the ancient of days be but our father Adam? surely none other: he was the first who lived in days, and must be the ancient of days. And to whom would the Savior come, but to the father of all the race, and then receive his kingdom, in which he was to reign before, or with his ancients gloriously? Let it here be remarked, that it is said to be in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, where the Lord is to reign before his ancients gloriously."
This is a misreading of the Bible which is why there is almost no non-LDS scholar that would entertain the idea of Adam being the “Ancient of Days,” as that would put Adam in a higher position than Jesus (in Daniel the Son of God goes to the Ancient of Days, indicating that the Ancient of Days would be above the Son of God), which would indicate that Adam is indeed part of the Godhead as would be taught by Brigham Young in the temple.
Keep in mind that Joseph Smith never made this connection during the production of the Book of Mormon nor did he make this connection when translating the Bible as he revised Daniel. Yet after Sidney Rigdon makes this claim in May 1834, Joseph Smith begins teaching the same idea soon after.
The vision referenced above was in January 1836, but Joseph Smith actually added this concept into a revelation when changing it prior to the Doctrine and Covenants being released in 1835. In D&C 27, Joseph Smith makes vast changes to the original revelation which was about only drinking wine with sacrament that was “made new among you.” In these changes, Joseph Smith seeks to create a line of authority from Adam down to Joseph Smith along with the keys of the priesthood. Within these changes is the following text in the voice of God: “And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days.”
Here Joseph Smith is changing an 1830 revelation to include his new theology in 1835 that was developed after Sidney Rigdon taught it to him. Joseph Smith also learned of the idea of a Melchizedek priesthood through Sidney Rigdon, which was also added into prior revelations in the same manner.
What we’re seeing here is Joseph Smith expanding on the Adam and Eve story in a literal way that simply goes against all evidence that we discussed above, but also retrofitting these ideas in 1835 that were clearly not developed or thought of in 1830. That is a problem, along with Joseph Smith claiming to see both Adam and Michael in the 1836 vision when he proclaims in 1835 they are the same person.
At the end of the day, the theology of Joseph Smith gets very messy once you look at how it progressed and changed as he learned from both the people and ideas around him. This is very apparent when looking at the creation and evolution of Joseph Smith’s First Vision and the priesthood restoration has a lot of similarities with changing revelations to backdate theological changes.
The Adam and Eve story simply cannot be a literal, historical event, however, which makes Joseph Smith’s claims in the voice of God highly problematic. Furthermore, Joseph’s declaration that Adam is the Ancient of Days and “father of all” is what eventually becomes the Adam-God doctrine, which is a very problematic teaching from prophet Brigham Young that Adam is our 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. They came here, organized the raw material, and arranged in their order the herbs of the field, the trees, the apple, the peach, the plum, the pear, and every other fruit that is desirable and good for man; the seed was brought from another sphere, and planted in this earth. The thistle, the thorn, the brier, and the obnoxious weed did not appear until after the earth was cursed. When Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit, their bodies became mortal from its effects, and therefore their offspring were mortal.” (Brigham Young April 1852 General Conference, Journal of Discourses 1:50-51)
Church leaders today disavow the Adam-God doctrine, but it was also taught in the temple as divine truth and the last paragraph of the ‘Lecture at the Veil’ illustrates the point that these ideas originated with Joseph Smith’s teachings and revelations (note: while we do not post current temple scripts or pictures, because this has been disavowed by the church it is not considered sacred by the church today and I feel is fair to post in order to show how these ideas originated):
“Father Adam's oldest son, Jesus the Savior, who is the heir of the family, is Father Adam's first begotten in the spirit world and the only begotten according to the flesh (as it is written), Adam in his divinity having gone back into the spirit world and come in the spirit to Mary, and she conceived. For when Adam and Eve got through with their work in this earth, they did not lay their bodies down in the dust but returned to the spirit world, from whence they came.” (Journal of L. John Nuttall, secretary to Brigham Young, 7 February 1877)
There is not a single area of Mormonism that does not require a literal Adam whether we’re looking at the Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham, Book of Moses, Doctrine and Covenants, or even the endowment ceremony. If Adam and Eve are not historical figures but instead are etiological myths as the evidence points to, then every teaching that relies on a literal Adam becomes non-historical along with it.
Apologetic Response to the Adam and Eve Problems in Mormonism
The church teaches that Adam and Eve are literal, historical characters who were the first man and woman about 6,000 years ago. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie makes this clear in a 1981 speech to BYU:
The fall of Adam and the atonement of Christ are linked together—inseparably, everlastingly, never to be parted. They are as much a part of the same body as are the head and the heart, and each plays its part in the eternal scheme of things. The fall of Adam brought temporal and spiritual death into the world, and the atonement of Christ ransomed men from these two deaths by bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. This makes the fall as essential a part of the plan of salvation as the very atonement itself.
In 2015, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland made this statement at the April 2015 General Conference:
In our increasingly secular society, it is as uncommon as it is unfashionable to speak of Adam and Eve or the Garden of Eden or of a “fortunate fall” into mortality. Nevertheless, the simple truth is that we cannot fully comprehend the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ and we will not adequately appreciate the unique purpose of His birth or His death—in other words, there is no way to truly celebrate Christmas or Easter—without understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it.
I do not know the details of what happened on this planet before that, but I do know these two were created under the divine hand of God, that for a time they lived alone in a paradisiacal setting where there was neither human death nor future family, and that through a sequence of choices they transgressed a commandment of God which required that they leave their garden setting but which allowed them to have children before facing physical death.
These statements become an irreconcilable problem if Adam is not a literal character, which is evident by the areas we highlighted above such as archaeology, DNA, genetics/evolution, and biblical scholarship. There is simply no evidence to point to a literal Adam and Eve from a secular point of view, and the biblical scholarship makes clear that the story was not known to early prophets until it was added when the Pentateuch was compiled between 600-500BCE.
The apologetics for belief in a literal Adam and Eve extend beyond Mormonism, but we will focus on Mormonism because of the literal necessity that is created between the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants as covered above.
FAIR Mormon concedes that “the Church consistently insists that there is a historical Adam,” which is certainly true, but then they offer that members can take a metaphorical approach as well. From FAIR:
“Beyond the existence of a historical Adam, the rest of it can be understood literally or metaphorically, or more commonly as a mixture of these extreme positions”
The problem here is that where FAIR cites metaphorical use of the Adam and Eve story is the rib of Adam being used to create woman. They cite Spencer W. Kimball stating that “Modern prophets have taught that the creation of woman from the rib of the man is to be taken figuratively.”
FAIR takes this quote to say that members can take both a literal and metaphorical view, and that “as we find the approach that resonates with our own understanding and our own spiritual witness, I think that as long as we try to answer the question of what the scriptures are trying to teach us, we will do reasonably well. It is only when we try to assert something through the text that was never intended that we run into trouble.”
The problem here is the last sentence, because Joseph Smith is absolutely asserting that the Adam and Eve story as a literal, historical event when it was likely never meant to be received that way by the Israelites in their day. They did not have the same concept of history as we do in ancient times, but in this case Joseph Smith took the Adam and Eve story from the Bible and expanded it both in the Book of Mormon and his revelations as well, and that is where, as FAIR states, he ‘ran into trouble.’
FAIR then maintains that the “issue of the first man” is a “flexible” concept, and that “Part of the LDS view of Adam comes from this historical figure as a historical figure. But part of the LDS view comes from the ways in which Adam is just like ourselves - and often this comparison, intended by the text, is presented as metaphor.”
Again, the text is not presented as a metaphor within the Book of Mormon or Doctrine and Covenants. If we are to say the rib is a metaphor, then surely the talking serpent is well. And if you then concede those two elements are metaphorical, surely you can see the problem with insisting that Adam, who we are told lived to 930 years old and whose name means “man” in Hebrew, is hard to contend is literal.
FAIR then gives a brief list of ideas that “might be more essential than others and non-negotiable when working out evolution.” I’m summarizing here, but their list includes:
• Adam and Eve being literal historical people
• Adam being the first in a line of priesthood-holding patriarchs
• Adam's "fall" being what started the around 6000 years of the earth's temporal existence
• Adam and Eve being the first of God's spirit children
• The perfection of the God(s) that made us.
We’ve covered this above, but Adam and Eve cannot be historical people given the reasons we outlined above, which also directly contradicts the idea of a 6,000 temporal existence of the Earth. We can point to DNA tests that can go back 40-60,000 years without any interruptions – even if we accept the possibility that there were pre-Adamites that roamed the Earth, there is still zero evidence through DNA, migrations, genetics, etc that there was any change 6,000 years ago that led to us all being born through Adam and Eve as the pre-Adamites simply went extinct.
Remember that the need in Mormonism for a 6,000 year old temporal existence comes via revelation from God to Joseph Smith. From D&C 77:
6 Q[uestion]. What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals?
A[nswer]. We are to understand that it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence.
7 Q. What are we to understand by the seven seals with which it was sealed?
A. We are to understand that the first seal contains the things of the first thousand years, and the second also of the second thousand years, and so on until the seventh.
As FAIR noted above, it was when Joseph Smith tried to “assert something through the text that was never intended that we run into trouble,” which can be seen in the expansion of Adam as a literal, historical figure. Furthermore, if Adam is not a historical person, then Adam would not be the first priesthood holder nor would he be the first of God’s spirit children – those are both developments that are made after insisting on a literal Adam and Eve story.
Joseph Smith’s assertions also lead him to proclaim that the place Adam and Eve lived just happened to be in the same spot in Missouri that the Saints settled in, which is simply impossible given what we know about the origins of humans. Humans began in Africa, and there is simply no evidence in any way to suggest that human life began in America, let alone Missouri.
This problem gets even more complicated when we look into the fact that Joseph Smith proclaimed that Adam was the “Ancient of Days” only after Sidney Rigdon wrote about it in 1834, which leads to the Adam-God doctrine in the church as Daniel 7 is clearly referring to God as the “Ancient of Days.”
Regarding the “Ancient of Days” issue regarding D&C 116, FAIR does have a write-up although their response is more geared towards the problem that Joseph Smith creates by stating that the “Ancient of Days” is Adam which leads to the Adam-God doctrine, famously taught throughout Brigham Young’s life - even being included in the temple ceremony.
FAIR begins their response by stating “The real question should be how does one justify their interpretation of Ancient of Days in Daniel as only God.”
The author of the response then cites one non-LDS scholar who contends that the phrase “Ancient of Days… in reference to God...is unprecedented in the Hebrew texts."
If this were the case, why did Joseph Smith not make any note or change when revising Daniel in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible? Furthermore, if you read Daniel 7 in context as we highlighted above, it is referring to God. Furthermore, the phrase “Ancient of Days” only appears in Daniel so the use of that phrase is unprecedented in the Bible as a whole.
We will cover this in many other subjects as you continue through these pages, but this is an area where apologists are defending an idea that simply goes against all evidence and consensus. If you do some quick Google searches about the “Ancient of Days,” they all will refer to God because if you read Daniel 7 it is quite obviously God that is being spoken of. In other words, the only way Adam is the "Ancient of Days" is if he is God, which was taught as revelation from God by Brigham Young, but has since been disavowed. And that's a massive problem that is often brushed away as Brigham "speaking as a man" when he clearly believed he was speaking as a prophet of God.
The problem for apologetic responses to the Adam and Eve problem is that Joseph Smith and other prophets have doubled and tripled down on a literal, historical Adam and Eve that there is simply no good way out. While FAIR contends you can hold both a historical and metaphorical Adam and Eve, the scriptures produced by Joseph Smith cannot be historical or true if Adam and Eve were not real, historical people.
The story of Adam and Eve story was written for the understanding of the people of the time (600-500 BCE), but the historical information about its creation was not known to Joseph Smith when he produced the scriptures of Mormonism. Because Joseph smith doubled down on the literal nature that was likely never intended and then expanded the Adam and Eve story within the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and temple ceremony, he created a very difficult problem for the truth claims of Mormonism.
The evidence is clear that Adam and Eve cannot be historical whether we look at it through the lens of DNA, archaeology, genetics, or biblical scholarship. This is an irreconcilable problem when Joseph Smith claimed revelations from God that built upon a literal Adam and Eve story, called Adam the “Ancient of Days” which almost every scholar cites definitively as God, and made Adam and Eve a central part of the temple ceremony,
The Jaredite plates speak of Adam at a time when no other living prophet was aware of the Adam and Eve story, which shows that the writer of the Book of Mormon was aware of events that would be anachronistic to the times of the Jaredites, and the revelation to Joseph Smith claiming the “Ancient of Days” was Adam shows a fundamental misreading of the Bible cited by Joseph that originated with the writings of Sidney Rigdon, not a revelation from God, just a year earlier in 1834.
While we focus so often on the more common problems with the truth claims of Mormonism, the issues with biblical scholarship are just as damning to the truth claims if not more so. Adam and Eve play such a central role in Mormonism due to Joseph Smith’s teachings and revelations that they are a vital part of the temple ceremony, leading to the story of Adam being our God being taught to every member as part of the “Lecture at the Veil” under the prophet Brigham Young.
A literal Adam and Eve story is necessary to the truth claims of Mormonism from the Book of Mormon, Abraham, Moses, and all through the Doctrine and Covenants. There is not a single aspect of Mormonism that does not rely on a historical Adam and Eve. As genetics, archaeology, and biblical scholarship all continue to confirm that there was not a literal Adam and Eve that lived 6,000 years ago, it creates a problem at the very foundation of Mormonism’s historical truth claims that the scriptures are historical and the revelations from God.
I know this is a difficult process and how crushing it is to learn a religion you were raised with or converted to is not true. But if the church is true, then you should be able to read through our materials without any fear. As Apostle James Talmage said, "The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding." I don't think I could say it better myself, and I hope members will take it to heart and read these pages with an open mind.
Next section: The Global Flood and the Scriptures of Mormonism
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