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REVIEW OF VLACHOS ON ADAM-GOD

by
©Robert F. Smith
2nd edition, 1987

Revised and extended comments on C. A. Vlachos, ABrigham Young=s False Teaching: Adam is
God,@ Journal of Pastoral Practice, III/2 (1979):93-121, later reprinted as an Ex-Mormons for
Jesus (EMFJ) tract.

Pp. 93-96 based on a false premise due to failure to study biblical precedent in depth or breadth:
Paul gave Aadvice@ on occasion, whether as a prophet, or having no inspiration of God ( I Cor
7:6,14 [cf. D&C 74],25, II Cor 8:8,10, 11:17-21), and yet those pieces of frank human advice are
included in Ascripture.@ Why? Haggai apparently made a prediction which did not come to pass
(2:7-9,21ff).1 Jonah attempted to escape his call, and was petulant and angry at God for not
destroying Nineveh! How may a prophet not always speak or act as such? Could I Kings
13:1-32 throw some light on that question?

The many claimed inconsistencies or contradictions in the Bible must also be dealt with,
e.g., do Deut 13:1-5 and 18:18-22 jibe? The tests seem quite different. Hundreds of other
examples of such problems (aporias) can be found in Holy Writ. Do the rules of the Agame@ thus
change in the process? How does Vlachos navigate such rocks and shoals? He tells us nothing
about his hermeneutical rules, except by implication B the implication being that he employs a
failed hermeneutic, if he employs one at all.

Indeed, Joseph Smith and BrighamYoung constantly asserted the limitations of their
prophetic offices2 in ways which obviate the straw man erected here by Vlachos. Later, we saw
B. R. McConkie frankly asserting the falsity of certain positions of Brigham Young on blood
atonement, negro priesthood, eternal progression, and Adam-God. Those familiar with the
patterns of biblical prophecy and with the controversy over the LDS Manifesto of 1890 versus the
Mormon laws of polygyny will be unsurprised at any of this seeming fluidity. This does not of
course provide more than useful perspective. Whether Brigham Young was in fact a prophet of
God is a separate issue, which must be dealt with via different means than those so zealously
employed by Vlachos, the unofficial views of O. Pratt, O. Hyde, and J. Taylor to the contrary
notwithstanding. As Brigham once said: ANo man=s opinion is worth a straw.@3

1
So Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity, 2nd ed., pp. 18-19; polygynous David was a
Aprophet@ (II Sam 23:2, The Psalter, Acts 2:30); polygynous Moses was a Aprophet@ (Deut 18:18, Hos
12:13); and so was polygynous Abraham (Gen 20:7).
2
B. H. Roberts, ed., History of the Church, IV:478, V:181,231-232,265; Journal of Discourses,
3:45, 7:277, 8:59, 9:122,150, 13:171, 14:204.
3
Cf. J. Reuben Clark Jr., AWhen are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the
Claim of Scripture?@ Church News, July 31, 1954, reprinted in Dialogue, XII/2 (Summer 1979):68-81; see
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R.F. SMITH REVIEW OF VLACHOS, JPP, III/2

In addition, Vlachos employs highly misleading quotations from the KJV, such as ALord
God of Israel@ (p. 96), which, although he conventionally and properly capitalizes LORD where
the actual KJV and Massoretic Hebrew qeri have it as a substitute for the Tetragrammaton
(YHWH - Yahweh), fails to convey any hint of an issue so often dealt with by the Mormon
doctrine of God beginning with Joseph Smith himself, i.e., various names or titles apply to various
gods in a henotheistic or summotheistic way in portions of the multiverse, particular gods having
specific jurisdiction in a somewhat fluid manner in keeping with the Mormon concept of
apotheosis and delegation of authority. Presumably the presiding god carries the appropriate title,
whether AAdam,@ AYahweh,@ or AElohim.@ For not one of these terms is a name in origin. In any
case, in LDS Temple rites of passage, each is a different person.

One might carry the issue into the rather speculative realm by applying ancient motifs of
incarnation and cyclic death-rebirth in a context of Saturn & Jupiter or Kronos & Zeus, and their
less well-known counterparts worldwide,4 thus putting Young=s words into an Oriental mode of
thought. President Young obviously understood the quite revolutionary nature of his words. If
an intentional false prophet, why did he not attempt to hide the newness of the doctrine under
matter-of-fact eisegesis? Indeed, do his words have even a shred of validity? Can Jesus=
self-identification as ben >Adam be taken literally as Ason of Adam@?5

It is centuries now since Arius and Athanasius wrangled over the nature of preexistence
and Godhead, but not so long since maverick Episcopal Bishop James Pike accused Christendom
of Atritheism,@6 an estimate of Christianity shared by strongly monotheistic Rabbinic Judaism.
W. F. Albright, however, saw no such basic dichotomy, what with assumptions of hypostatic union
and the exhibition of differing aspects of one God, though he forthrightly states that polytheism
was the norm for the Patriarchs B as for the Vedas.7

also D&C 18:2-4, 68:2-4, 50:13-24.


4
See G. de Santillana & H. von Dechend, Hamlet=s Mill, on the most ancient and comprehensive
myth of all in which the golden age is someday to return with the rebirth of Saturn-Kronos[-Jesus], son of
Jupiter-Zeus, son of Saturn-Kronos!! Cf. Zurvan- akarana, as well as Varuna/Mitra/Rudra-Shiva (R.
Zaehner, Hinduism, pp. 24-35).
5
J. B. Cortés and F. M. Gatti, AThe Son of Man or The Son of Adam,@ Biblica, 49 (1968): 457-502.
Adam = Egyptian Itm (ZÄS, 46:140; TSBA, 9:176; Hist. de l=Orient, I:209 n32; BE, 35:16-21; pLeiden,
verso XIII:6), T m (PSBA, 5:152).
6
Time, Oct 23, 1964, pp. 87-88.
7
Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity, 1957, p. 394; however, R. B. Y. Scott questions the
basis for hypostasis in his Proverbs, Anchor Bible 81, p. 72.

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R.F. SMITH REVIEW OF VLACHOS, JPP, III/2

There are other ways of interpreting the Bible, and Mormons find plenty of justification for
Jesus as the executive who is given all power at the right hand of his Father (I Cor 8:4-6; Matt
26:64, 28:18). If such jurisdictional grants can be made to Jesus, and by Jesus to his loyal
followers (Acts 17:30-31, I Cor 6:2-4, II Peter 1:4), then Mormon premises of human progress
toward godhood certainly might be made to entertain a special status for Adam, as for Jesus (the
Second-Adam, Rom 5:14, I Cor 15:20-23,45-49), at least as far as physical descent is concerned
(Mary the Second-Eve, John 2:4, 19:26, in the Jerusalem Bible as an allusion to Gen 3:15,20).

I do not pretend to know whether such assertions could be true or false, nor whether they
possess positivistic meaning or coherence, but I consider it most improper to allow theological
preconceptions to warp one=s judgment or to erase the need for perspective.

Regardless of vehement statements by Mark E. Petersen, Spencer W. Kimball, and Joseph


Fielding Smith, Jr., therefore, we are left with a fundamental dispute over doctrine among the LDS
general authorities past and present. That they might disagree is nothing new. The New
Testament apostles had their own disagreements, but only more radical theologians and ignorant
lay observers nowadays declare this to mean that New Testament theology is sham. At least
Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were closer to the biblical text, having studied Hebrew, than
their modern counterparts in Mormondom B none of whom have been trained as theologians. The
LDS Church has taken no official position on the matter (unlike polygyny), and it is logically
possible that, if we do not assume the conflicting statements to be speculation, either S. W.
Kimball (and J. F. Smith Jr) or B. Young could be a false prophet, i.e., time sequence is irrelevant.
Moreover, the dilemma may stem as much from our conceptual and terminological ignorance.
AGod the Father,@ for example, can be understood only from context or definition to refer to one of
several distinct personages in debate hereinunder consideration (see note Ag@ for II Tim 1:2,18, in
the Jerusalem Bible, showing the similar ambiguity for ALord@).

In any case, it is improper or dishonest of Vlachos to suggest that the statement of Joseph
Fielding Smith Jr quoted on pp. 100-101 was spoken ex cathedra by an LDS President. Smith
wrote it years before, as an apostle, clearly indicating the position to be his own personal belief (AI
maintain@). In an article of this kind, the provenance and character of each statement must be
clearly indicated, else must we find all of Saint Peter=s doctrines erroneous merely because we find
an error here or there B such is the consequence of Vlachos= failed hermeneutic.

Again, the reader is Aset up@ via unofficial statements. If I had not known that The Seer
was published from 1853 to 1854, and that Orson Pratt=s too radical statement on the status of
normative Christianity has been consistently moderated by LDS presidents from Joseph Smith and
Brigham Young to modern times, then I would be an excellent victim for Vlachos= flawed
interpretation of LDS history. For the same reason, one is moved to question the integrity of
Vlachos= citations: He appears to have used, without acknowledgment, secondary sources which
cite the primary sources in his footnotes, e.g., the Rodney Turner thesis, as well as Juanita Brooks=
and R. G. Cleland=s edition of the Lee Diaries (n. 50).

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R.F. SMITH REVIEW OF VLACHOS, JPP, III/2

Then there is the blatantly faulty logic of Vlachos and of several of the LDS general
authorities in suggesting that a fallible human, if he be a prophet of God, is incapable of error. As
I have pointed out, this might be asserted by the careless and immature person in the heat of
controversy, or may be part of a Asacred deposit of the faith@ (as in Roman Catholic dogma since
Vatican I, or in Protestant fundamentalism), but it is not biblical, nor did Joseph Smith support
such nonsense. Again, Saints Peter and James were not excommunicated from the New
Testament Church, nor was their opponent Saint Paul, though some one among them was clearly
teaching false doctrine!! No doubt the Judaizing members of the Twelve in Jerusalem considered
their own statements to be authentic and inspired for a time, the very word of God. Subjective
truth is not necessarily objective truth, and, if one generation of general authorities seeks to follow
B. Young, or another to follow O. Pratt, this tells us little about the ultimate questions to be asked
in a context where biblical prophets are also found to disagree. Does this make the Bible false?
Only if the fallacious premise of infallibility is accepted (Athe call to perfection@ is the formal name
of this fallacy).

Even more fundamental are the questions of the nature and origin of life itself, and even
naturalistic philosophers (eschewing the smug and narrow approach of a Vlachos) frankly lay out
three primary approaches: (1) archebiosis, i.e., emergence of organic from inorganic by natural
processes, (2) special creation by a creator/Creator, or (3) transmission of amino acids, spores, or
the like, via meteorite or other means of locomotion, to Earth from a life source in another system.8
The latter approach would seem to appeal most directly to Mormonism, has the greatest range of
variables, and is gaining popularity in scientific circles just now B what with the discovery and
confirmation of extra-terrestrial amino acids in several meteorites (reports Sept 10, 1979 at the
Univ. of Maryland). In addition, it is not difficult to place Genesis 1:1-3 (a single sentence9),
Romans 1:20, Colossians 1:16-17, Hebrews 11:1-3, etc., into a perspective suggested by W. F.
Albright in one of his last pieces10 B an approach in no way supportive of creatio ex nihilo, but in
every way supportive of the Mormon concept of creation as organization in stages, i.e., first
invisible (prototypic-spiritual), then visible (temporal-material).

Contrary to Vlachos= stated assumption (p. 119), a Mormon does not truly face a dilemma
in having to judge between one general authority or another, since Mormonism asserts that all such
controversy is subject to personal revelation as the primary epistemological base, thus removing
the issue from the vicious cycle of appeals to human logic and reason (so Moroni 10:5). Brigham
himself said of blind obedience and blind faith:

8
Hunter Mead, Types and Problems of Philosophy, 3rd ed., pp. 96ff.
9
W. S. LaSor in Christianity Today, Oct 20, 1978, p. 79; E. A. Speiser, Genesis, Anchor Bible 1
(Doubleday, 1964), 3,5,11-13.
10
Albright, ANeglected Factors in the Greek Intellectual Revolution,@ Proceedings of the American
Philosophical Society, 116/3 (June 9, 1972):234-236.

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R.F. SMITH REVIEW OF VLACHOS, JPP, III/2

I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they
will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful
they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the
hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the
purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to
their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelation of Jesus, that they are
led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the
Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord
dictates, or not.11

Thus, when a prophet speaks the thinking has only begun. On the other hand, Vlachos is
attempting to foist upon Mormons the theological foundations of non-biblical, evangelical
fundamentalist belief in a closed system of verification based only on eisegetic reference to
propositional revelation (sola scriptura), i.e., the Bible as seen through Platonic and neo-Platonic
philosophy,12 rather than an appeal to the interpretive powers of the Holy Spirit (II Timothy
3:15-16, II Peter 1:20-21). It is difficult to account for Vlachos= suppression of this major facet of
Mormon doctrine and of biblical Christianity.

Vlachos= article contains other errors, including an incorrect estimate of the numerical
membership of the RLDS Church (p. 113 n49) as Aclose to a million members.@ The true number
is less than a quarter of that, ca. 216,500 currently, and static, though the World Almanac and Book
of Facts for 1977 and 1978 put it at half that (156,687)!! Carelessness is Vlachos= hallmark, but
his EMFJ tract did at least eliminate this last, glaring error.

A Note on Corporate Mormonism & Tribal Mormonism

Comments of Prof. Jan Shipps, quoted in Sunstone Review, 2/8 (Aug 1982):9, col. 3, calling
Mormonism a Aform of Christianity which has as its primary experience the corporate experience.
Individuality B probably added by Paul B is erased in Mormonism. This is Christianity as if Greek
thought had never touched it, the direct carrying of the Old Testament experience into the modern
day. * * *
AIts corporate nature distinguishes it from all other forms of Christianity as far as I know.@

P. 10, tribal Mormonism  divided into apostolic (LDS), lineal (RLDS), and Apatriarchal@
(fundamentalist-polygynous) factions. (Cf. Prof. John Gager of Yale, who expressed a similar
view in his lecture at the Mormon History Association Annual Meeting in 1982).

11
B. Young in Journal of Discourses, 9:150.
12
Norbert Samuelson in Harvard Theological Review, 65:1-27; cf. James Barr, Fundamentalism.