Few persons in all eternity have been more directly involved in the plan of salvation—the creation, the fall, and the ultimate redemption of the children of God—than the man Adam. His ministry among the sons and daughters of earth stretches from the distant past of premortality to the distant future of resurrection, judgment, and beyond.
As Michael, the archangel, Adam led the forces of God against the armies of Lucifer in the War in Heaven. Under the direction of Elohim and Jehovah, he assisted in the creation of the earth. After taking physical bodies, Adam and Eve brought mortality into being through partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. With the fall of our first parents came blood and posterity and probation and death, as well as the need for redemption through a Savior, a “last Adam.” (1 Cor. 15:45.) To Adam the gospel was first preached, and upon him the priesthood was first bestowed. From Adam and Eve the message of the gospel of salvation went forth to all the world. Following his death, which occurred almost a millennium after he entered mortality, Adam’s watch-care over his posterity continued. Revelations have come and angels have ministered under his direction. Priesthood has been conferred and keys delivered at his behest.
Adam’s role in the eternal plan of God began in our premortal first estate. There he was known as Michael, literally one “who is like God.” Indeed, “by his diligence and obedience there, as one of the spirit sons of God, he attained a stature and power second only to that of Christ, the Firstborn. None of all our Father’s children equalled him in intelligence and might, save Jesus only.”1 He was “called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God” (Alma 13:3) to perform his labors on earth. Michael stood with Jehovah in defense of the plan of the Father, the plan of salvation, this in opposition to the amendatory offering of Lucifer, a “son of the morning.” (2 Ne. 24:12; D&C 76:25–27.) “The contention in heaven was,” Joseph Smith explained, that “Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he could save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down, with all who put up their heads for him.”2 Or, as the Revelator saw in vision: “There was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought against Michael;
“And the dragon prevailed not against Michael. … Neither was there place found in heaven for the great dragon, who was cast out; that old serpent called the devil, and also called Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth; and his angels were cast out with him.” (JST, Rev. 12:6–8.)
Michael was directly involved in the preparation of the physical world in which he and his posterity would undergo a mortal probation. Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote: “Christ and Mary, Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, and a host of mighty men and equally glorious women comprised that group of ‘the noble and great ones,’ to whom the Lord Jesus said: ‘We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell.’ (Abr. 3:22–24; emphasis added.) This we know: Christ, under the Father, is the Creator; Michael, his companion and associate, presided over much of the creative work; and with them, as Abraham saw, were many of the noble and great ones.”3 The Prophet Joseph Smith thus taught that “the Priesthood was first given to Adam; 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, as in Gen. 1:26, 27, 28.”4
When it came time to begin our second estate, it was appropriate for God our Father to call upon Michael to receive a tabernacle of flesh and become earth’s first inhabitant. Luke’s genealogy of Jesus ends with a noble description of Adam, “the son of God.” (Luke 3:38.) In the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis, we read of the line of great patriarchs from Adam to Enoch: “This is the genealogy of the sons of Adam, who was the son of God, with whom God himself conversed.” (Gen. 6:23; compare Moses 6:22.) Adam’s very name means “man” or “man-kind,” and his position as the “first man of all men” (Moses 1:34) suggests the eminence of his premortal status.
In the morn of creation, Adam, Eve, and all forms of life existed in a paradisiacal condition. All things were physical. They were spiritual in the sense that they were not mortal, not subject to death. (See 1 Cor. 15:44; Alma 11:45; D&C 88:27.)5 In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God. Adam was made “lord or governor of all things on earth, and at the same time [enjoyed] communion … with his Maker, without a vail to separate between.”6 Our first parents would have remained in this state indefinitely had not circumstances changed. (See 2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 4:9.) Those circumstances did change as a result of Adam and Eve’s partaking of the forbidden fruit.
The Latter-day Saint view of the scenes in Eden is remarkably optimistic when compared to traditional Christian views. We believe that Adam and Eve went into the Garden of Eden to fall, that their actions helped “open the way of the world,”7 and that the Fall was as much a part of the foreordained plan of the Father as was the very Atonement. “Adam did only what he had to do,” President Joseph Fielding Smith said. “He partook of that fruit for one good reason, and that was to open the door to bring you and me and everyone else into this world, for Adam and Eve could have remained in the Garden of Eden; they could have been there to this day, if Eve hadn’t done something.”8
Because the Fall (like the Creation and the Atonement) is one of the three pillars of eternity, and because mortality, death, human experience, sin, and thus the need for redemption grow out of the Fall, we look upon what Adam and Eve did with great appreciation rather than with disdain. “The fall had a twofold direction—downward, yet forward. It brought man into the world and set his feet upon progression’s highway.”9 As Enoch declared, “Because that Adam fell, we are.” (Moses 6:48; compare 2 Ne. 2:25.)
In addition, the Fall opened the door to sin and death. This life became a probationary estate, a time for men and women to prepare to meet God. (See 2 Ne. 2:21; Alma 12:24; Alma 34:32; Alma 42:4.) With the Fall came also a veil of separation between God and mankind; mortals “were shut out from his presence.” (Moses 5:4.) After being cast from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were taught the gospel by the ministration of angels, by the voice of God, and through the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moses 5:1–12, 58.)
The veil separating Adam from the immediate presence of the Eternal Father did not, however, remove Adam’s memory of life in Eden. As Joseph Smith clarified, Adam’s transgression “did not deprive him of the previous [Edenic] knowledge with which he was endowed relative to the existence and glory of his Creator. … Though he was cast out from the garden of Eden, his knowledge of the existence of God was not lost, neither did God cease to manifest his will unto him.”10 President John Taylor asked: “How did Adam get his information of the things of God?” He then answered: “He got it through the gospel of Jesus Christ. … God came to him in the garden and talked with him … ; and he was the first man upon this earth that had the gospel and the holy priesthood; and if he had it not, he could not have known anything about God or his revelations.”11
Latter-day Saints stand alone in the religious world in certifying that Christ’s gospel is eternal—that Christian prophets have taught Christian doctrine and administered Christian ordinances since the dawn of time.12 Adam was earth’s first Christian. He exercised faith in the redemption of Christ, was baptized in water, received the gift of the Holy Ghost, was “quickened in the inner man,” and was received into the order of the Son of God. (Moses 6:64–67.) Further, Adam and Eve entered into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage and thus placed themselves on that pathway that leads to life eternal.13 “Father Adam was called of God,” President Wilford Woodruff explained,” and ordained to the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood—ordained to the highest office and gift of God to man on the earth.”14
As they received the gospel from the lips of God and angels, Adam and Eve taught the same to their children and grandchildren. Some of their posterity rejected the light of heaven, “loved Satan more than God,” and thus turned away from the truth. Our first parents mourned over the choices of their loved ones (see Moses 5:13, 18, 27–28), but their mourning was not as those who have no hope; they “ceased not to call upon God” (Moses 5:16).
Three years prior to his death, Adam gathered his righteous posterity together in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman (the place where he and Eve had settled after their expulsion from Eden15). Seven generations of faithful patriarchs with their families met to receive prophetic counsel at the feet of him who had come to be known as the “Ancient of Days.” There he bestowed upon them his last blessing. In describing a vision he had of this sacred occasion, the Prophet Joseph 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. This is why Adam blessed his posterity; he wanted to bring them into the presence of God.”16
Adam was the Lord’s prophet-leader over the earth for his own day, but he also stands as earth’s presiding high priest, the man who, under Christ, holds the keys of authority for the blessing of mankind and the perpetuation of righteousness in the earth. “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.”17 On another occasion the Prophet Joseph added that Adam was “the first to hold the spiritual blessings, to whom was made known the plan of ordinances for the salvation of his posterity unto the end, and to whom Christ was first revealed, and through whom Christ has been revealed from heaven, and will continue to be revealed from henceforth. Adam holds the keys of the dispensation of the fullness of times; i.e., the dispensation of all the times have been and will be revealed through him from the beginning to Christ, and from Christ to the end of the dispensations that are to be revealed.”18 A modern revelation thus states that Jehovah has “appointed Michael your prince, and established his feet, and set him upon high, and given unto him the keys of salvation under the counsel and direction of the Holy One, who is without beginning of days or end of life.” (D&C 78:16.)
The Ancient of Days lived some 930 years on this earth. (See Moses 6:12.) His death fulfilled the divine decree that in the day he ate of the forbidden fruit—in this case, day means a period of time as measured by the Lord—he would “surely die.” (Moses 3:17; Abr. 5:13.) At death Adam entered the postmortal world of spirits and became a part of that abode of the righteous known as paradise. (See 2 Ne. 9:13; Alma 40:12; Moro. 10:34.) As Adam passed from time into eternity, his must have been a glorious reunion with holy beings. There he ministered and labored among his faithful descendants for some three thousand years. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that Adam “presides over the spirits of all men,”19 and so his ministry and administrative responsibilities would have continued beyond death’s door.
Just as the War in Heaven continues, in a sense, into our own time, even so Adam’s efforts to thwart and oppose Satan, the “son of the morning,” have continued since Adam’s mortal death. In the context of counseling the Saints to avoid speaking evil of responsible persons, Jude, the brother of our Lord, observed that “Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” (Jude 1:9.)
This passage appears to be a reference to a rather obscure pseudepigraphic work known as the Assumption of Moses. We know that the man Moses was translated. It appears that Satan, as one who has broad power in the material world, sought Moses’ death in order to gain control over his body, so that Moses “would not have a tangible body in which to come—along with Elijah, who also was taken up without tasting death—to confer the keys of the priesthood upon Peter, James, and John” on the Mount of Transfiguration.20 In our own day Michael, on the banks of the Susquehanna River, detected “the devil when he appeared as an angel of light.” (D&C 128:20.) We wonder how many other occasions there may have been in earth’s history when Michael, the archangel, has stood to rebuke and set the bounds of Lucifer the archdeceiver.
There is one other occasion in which Michael as a disembodied spirit may have played a particularly significant role in the plan of our Father. Luke records that on the night of Atonement, following the Last Supper, Jesus bowed in awful alienation and grief in the Garden of Gethsemane beneath the load of the world’s sins. He uttered his soul-cry: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
“And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.” (Luke 22:42–43.) An angel sent from the courts of glory. An angel sent to assist, to support, to sustain the sinless Son of Man in the depths of his greatest agony. “The angelic ministrant is not named,” Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote. “If we might indulge in speculation, we would suggest that the angel who came into this second Eden was the same person who dwelt in the first Eden. At least Adam, who is Michael, the archangel—the head of the whole heavenly hierarchy of angelic ministrants—seems the logical one to give aid and comfort to his Lord on such a solemn occasion. Adam fell, and Christ redeemed men from the fall; theirs was a joint enterprise, both parts of which were essential for the salvation of the Father’s children.”21
President Joseph F. Smith, who was privileged to glimpse in vision the world of the disembodied at the time Jesus entered therein, wrote: “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,
“And our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God.” (D&C 138:38–39.) Adam and Eve were among that group who “waited and conversed, rejoicing in the hour of their deliverance from the chains of death.” When the Lord of Life appeared, he taught and organized his righteous forces and empowered them to take the message of salvation to the wicked, “the ungodly and the unrepentant.” The Master ministered to his own “and gave them power to come forth, after his resurrection from the dead, to enter into his Father’s kingdom, there to be crowned with immortality and eternal life.” (D&C 138:18, 20, 51.)
We do not know when Adam came forth in the first resurrection and entered celestial glory—whether it was, like many of his prophetic colleagues, at the time of Christ’s rise from the tomb (see D&C 133:54–55), or whether he remained in the spirit world for a season to oversee or participate in the work of redemption for the dead. That Adam did eventually rise to glory, to sit with his descendants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see D&C 132:37), and that he shall come forth to dwell in the everlasting burnings associated with celestial glory (see D&C 137:5) is abundantly clear from latter-day revelation. Following Adam’s resurrection, “Adam’s base of operation would be from wherever such righteous resurrected beings go to await the time when this earth will become celestialized and become their eternal home. Again we should remember that Adam’s priesthood keys go with him—from the premortal world, through his mortal ministry, into the post-earth spirit world, and into the resurrection.”22
In what would be, without modern revelation, a rather mysterious passage in the book of Daniel, reference is made to an unusual gathering of people. “I saw in the night visions,” Daniel wrote, “and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
“And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (Dan. 7:13–14.)
Latter-day revelation informs us that the location of this gathering is Daviess County, Missouri, in that area we have come to know as Adam-ondi-Ahman (D&C 116), the same place where Adam met and counseled with and prophesied to his numerous posterity three years before his death. Of this council, a meeting that will be a preliminary appearance of the Savior (prior to his coming in glory), the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Daniel in his seventh chapter speaks of the Ancient of Days; he means the oldest man, our Father Adam, Michael, he will call his children together and hold a council with them to prepare them for the coming of the Son of Man. 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 in this grand council. … The Son of Man stands before him, and there is given him glory and dominion. Adam delivers up his stewardship to Christ, that which was delivered to him as holding the keys of the universe, but retains his standing as head of the human family.”23
President Joseph Fielding Smith offered the following explanation: “This gathering of the children of Adam, where the thousands, and the tens of thousands are assembled in the judgment, will be one of the greatest events this troubled earth has ever seen. At this conference, or council, all who have held keys of dispensations will render a report of their stewardship. Adam will do likewise, and then he will surrender to Christ all authority. Then Adam will be confirmed in his calling as the prince over his posterity and will be officially installed and crowned eternally in this presiding calling. Then Christ will be received as King of kings, and Lord of lords. We do not know how long a time this gathering will be in session, or how many sessions may be held at this grand council. It is sufficient to know that it is a gathering of the Priesthood of God from the beginning of this earth down to the present, in which reports will be made and all who have been given dispensations (talents) will declare their keys and ministry and make report of their stewardship according to the parable. (See Matt. 25:14–30.) Judgment will be rendered unto them for this is a gathering of the righteous, those who have held and who hold keys of authority in the Kingdom of God upon this earth. … This will precede the great day of destruction of the wicked and will be the preparation for the Millennial Reign.”24
When the Lord Jesus returns in triumphant glory to initiate the “end of the world, or the destruction of the wicked” (JS—M 1:4), the first resurrection, which began with the resurrection of Christ, will resume. Here again Michael-Adam will play a significant role. “Before the earth shall pass away, Michael, mine archangel, shall sound his trump, and then shall all the dead awake, for their graves shall be opened, and they shall come forth.” (D&C 29:26.)
In discussing the nature of the keys restored to earth by various angels, Elder Bruce R. McConkie noted that “the holy priesthood will be used in eternity as well as in time. It is not only the power and authority to save men here and now; it is also the power by which the worlds were made and by which all things are. It also could well be that Adam, who brought mortality and death into the world, was also permitted to restore the power that brings immortality and life to his descendants. Christ, of course, in the ultimate sense holds the keys of the resurrection and of raising souls in immortality, but, as we also know, it is his practice to operate through his servants, and righteous persons will, in due course, participate in calling their loved ones forth in the resurrection.”25
At the end of the earth—meaning at the end of the Millennium (D&C 88:101; JS—M 1:55)—the final great battle between good and evil, known as the “battle of the great God” (D&C 88:114) or the battle of Gog and Magog,26 will take place. And once again, the mighty Michael, the eternal captain of Jehovah’s army, will come face to face with his foe, Satan. “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.
“This is the glory of God, and the sanctified; and they shall not any more see death.” (D&C 88:114–16.) Michael’s final victory is in preparation for the celestialization of the earth.
All too often Adam’s place and role in the plan of salvation have been misunderstood. To many in the religious world he is an enigma; to others, a myth. Some despise him for his actions in Eden. The praise he receives from some others takes the strange form of adoration and even worship. But to misunderstand Adam is to misunderstand our own identity as well as our relationship to the Lord and his plan.
The gospel light has shone forth, and modern seers have made known great and marvelous things pertaining to the past and the future (see Mosiah 8:17); people need not wander in darkness as to who they are, whose they are, and what they may become. Searching the revelations and attuning ourselves to the living oracles in our own day will prepare us for a time when further light and knowledge concerning the Adamic dispensation will be given (see D&C 107:57), a time when the faithful will know “things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—things most precious” (D&C 101:33–34). A knowledge of the origin and destiny of man—as typified in the life and labors of our father Adam—is the legacy of Latter-day Saints.