Lawrence Wright reports Gordon B. Hinckley saying he does not know what Brigham Young meant in some of his Adam-God teachings.

Jan 22, 2002
Lawrence Wright

Lawrence Wright, "Lives of the Saints," The New Yorker, January 21, 2002, accessed February 20, 2022

The New Yorker
Eve, Brigham Young, Gordon B. Hinckley, Lawrence Wright, Adam
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Hinckley showed me a small bronze figure of a pioneer standing beside a grave. "Here's a little statue somebody made of that event, portraying my grandfather's burial of his wife in a coffin he made somewhere, we know not where. And afterward he picked up his eleven-month-old daughter and carried her to this valley." Hinckley's voice grew thick. "Now, that's my background in this Church, and it's real, and it's pragmatic, and it's Mormonism."

In the Mormon scheme, every person is a potential divinity. The adage "As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be" expresses the Mormon belief that God was once a human being, with a wife and children. But Hinckley did not seem interested in discussing matters of theology. When I asked him to characterize God's connubial relationship, he replied, "We don't speculate on that a lot. Brigham Young said if you went to Heaven and saw God it would be Adam and Eve. I don't know what he meant by that." Pointing to a grim-faced portrait of the Lion of the Lord, as Young was called, he said, "There he is, right there. I'm not going to worry about what he said about those things."

I asked whether Mormon theology was a form of polytheism.

"I don't have the remotest idea what you mean," he said impatiently.

"More than one god."

"Yes, but that's a very loose term," he replied. "We believe in eternal progression." By that he meant that human beings can evolve toward godhood by following the Mormon path. "You want to be a reporter always?" he said. "You want to be a scrub forever, through all eternity? We believe that life, eternal life, is real, that it's purposeful, that it has meaning, that it can be realized. I wouldn't describe us as polytheistic."

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