The Doctrine and Covenants and Adam’s Place in History
Updated: May 14, 2021
by Trent Dee Stephens PhD Last updated 14 May 2021
This essay was, in part, presented as a Sacrament talk given by me, as Sunday School President, in the Century Ward, Pocatello, Idaho East Stake, 27 December 2020. I have been, among many other Church callings, a bishop twice and a temple worker, but no calling is as satisfying to me as Gospel Doctrine teacher. Sunday School President comes in a distant second, because that calling allows me to teach on occasion.
This year’s (2021) Come Follow Me curriculum is the Doctrine and Covenants. It is, in my opinion, the least commonly read and most poorly understood book among the Standard Works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When I was a young boy, we had four separate books of scripture in our home: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. The last two were small, thin, blue volumes, which always intrigued me, the Pearl of Great Price because of its mysterious pictures and the Doctrine and Covenants because of its mysterious title. I wondered what Doctors had to do with Church scripture. While I was on my mission, I read the Doctrine and Covenants cover-to-cover six times and I came to love much more deeply the profound doctrines expounded in that book. I glued extra, blank pages into my triple combination so I could write copious notes about the truths revealed in that precious book. Those notes included a very long equation equating spirit, light, truth and etc., as revealed and taught mainly in the Doctrine and Covenants. You may want to construct your own equation during your studies this year.
Section 1 outlines the revelatory nature of the book’s content. The book contains, among many other revelations and pronouncements, detailed instructions for Church organization (section 20), including the baptismal and sacrament prayers, given on the eve of the Church’s formal foundation in April 1830. It contains the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple (section 109) and a glorious although short speech by Joseph Smith on the physical nature of spirits (section 131).
The first paragraph of the Introduction to this year’s study states,
“The aim of all gospel learning and teaching is to deepen our conversion to Jesus Christ and help us become more like Him. For this reason, when we study the gospel, we’re not just looking for new information; we want to become a 'new creature' (2 Corinthians 5:17). This means relying on Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to help us change our hearts, our views, our actions, and our very natures.”
The study of the Doctrine and Covenants will be a great help this year in accomplishing that goal of becoming a new creature. One concept that teaches us our relationship to God and the Savior, and which is replete in the Doctrine and Covenants is that of a premortal existence.
The Disney-Pixar movie Soul, which was released on Disney Plus on Christmas Day 2020, is about the premortal existence of souls or spirits. Where did that idea come from? It is perfectly logical if one considers eternity. However, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church that believes in and teaches the doctrine of the premortal existence of spirits. I wondered if one or more of the Disney-Pixar creators is/are members of the Church. It turns out that Edwin Earl "Ed" Catmull, the retired president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios, is a member of the Church although apparently not an active participant at present. Born in West Virginia, he grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah and graduated from the University of Utah in physics and computer science.
This concept of pre-mortality is extensively taught in the Doctrine and Covenants.
In my book, The Infinite Fall (Cedar Fort, March 2021), I discuss the following concepts of the premortal existence in the Introduction and in Chapter three:
"In their marvelous recent book, The Christ Who Heals, Fiona and Terryl Givens, described some key differences between the theology of the fall and atonement of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that of other Christian churches. They stated that,
'For the unfailing plan initiated in heavenly councils that foresaw a necessary immersion in mortal experience, a Christianity stripped of premortal existence becomes instead a story that is primarily about recuperation, repair, and rehabilitation. The loss of this truth about pre-earthly councils and covenants acted as a falling domino that set in motion an entire series of catastrophic changes to the Christian understanding of God, humans, and Christ’s role in our redemption.'”1
It was this “Christianity stripped of premortal existence” that viewed with horror the truths of geology and biology being revealed in the nineteenth and later centuries. Only with an understanding of those premortal heavenly councils and the truly infinite nature of the fall can we begin to reconcile the truths concerning our place in heaven and nature. It is my opinion that members of The Church of Jesus Christ who fall away over issues of science vs religion often fail to appreciate this important difference between our theology and that of “mainstream” Christianity. I highly recommend the Givens’ book as an in-depth historical account of this difference.
Guido Reni's Michael tramples Satan (in Santa Maria della Concezione Church, Rome, 1636).
We have learned through modern revelation that Adam’s premortal and post-mortal name was and will be Michael the Archangel. These three concepts: that Adam had a premortal existence, that he was Michael in that existence, and that he continued as Michael in his post-mortal existence, are key to understanding who Adam is and how truly powerful he is as an infinite, immortal being. The term “archangel” is derived from the Greek word, ἀρχάγγελος, meaning chief angel, principal angel, or “angel of origin,” which may also be interpreted as “First Angel.”
Michael’s name shows up nine times in the Doctrine and Covenants. The first mention is part of that marvelous revelation concerning Christ’s second coming as recorded in section 27:
“…the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, … Elias, …John [the Baptist], …Elijah, …Joseph and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, … Peter, and James, and John…And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days. And also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world.”4
Second, we are told in Doctrine and Covenants section 29 that Michael, Adam, will participate in the resurrection. “But, behold, verily I say unto you, 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—yea, even all.”5
Thus, Michael, Adam, the First Angel, will be a major player in the resurrection, the result of the atonement. First Thessalonians 4:16 refers to the same event, although in a more obscure manner, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first…”
Thirdly, we read in Doctrine and Covenants section 78 that the Lord God,
“…hath 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.”6 So Adam, the facilitator of the fall, is described here as having “the keys of salvation.”
The fourth through seventh references are in Doctrine and Covenants section 88,
“…the seventh angel [Michael] shall sound his trump; and he shall stand forth upon the land and upon the sea, and swear in the name of him who sitteth upon the throne, that there shall be time no longer; and Satan shall be bound, that old serpent, who is called the devil, and shall not be loosed for the space of a thousand years. And then he shall be loosed for a little season, that he may gather together his armies.”7
This verse tells us that Michael, Adam, is in charge of time – at least the end time. We are further told in Doctrine and Covenants section 88 that the Great War between good and evil, which began in the premortal world [see Revelation 12:7], will resume at the end of the world.
“And Michael, the seventh angel, even the archangel, shall gather together his armies, even the hosts of heaven. And the devil shall gather together his armies; even the hosts of hell, and shall come up to battle against Michael and his armies. For Michael shall fight their battles, and shall overcome him who seeketh the throne of him who sitteth upon the throne, even the Lamb.”8
So Michael is not only the first angel but also the seventh, the last angel.
Eighth, we are instructed in Doctrine and Covenants section 107 that,
“Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing. And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.”9
Ninth, in Doctrine and Covenants section 128, Michael is praised along with many others in Joseph Smith’s poetic tribute to the restoration.
“Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion: Behold, thy God reigneth! As the dews of Carmel, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon them!”
“And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book! The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light! The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!”
“And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!”10
Alonzo Gaskill discussed this incident when, “…on the banks of the Susquehanna, [Michael detected]…the devil when he appeared as an angel of light!” He stated, “One contemporary of Joseph and Oliver [one Addison Everett] said that he heard the Prophet say that this Satanic appearance happened as these two brethren were running from a mob. It is conjectured by this same source that in their frightened and exhausted state, Lucifer tried to deceive them by giving them a false revelation.”11 It is interesting here that Gaskill did not mention Michael’s intervention in the incident, but went on to discuss how to detect the devil when he appears as an angel of light as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 129:8. If we literally read between the lines of sections 128 and 129, it appears that it was Michael who taught Joseph this principle.
In contrast to the nine references to Michael in the Doctrine and Covenants, Michael is mentioned only five times in all of ancient scripture: two in the New Testament and three in the Old Testament. In each case, his reference is in the context of a major conflict between the forces of good and evil. These accounts will be discussed in another blog: "Who is Adam?"
In addition to Michael’s great power as the defender of God’s plan against the designs of Satan, whose object it is to destroy that plan, Michael, Adam, also helped create the very earth upon which this struggle takes place. In the October 1996 General Conference, Elder Richard G. Scott, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated, “Adam was Michael who helped create the earth—a glorious, superb individual. Eve was his equal—a full, powerfully contributing partner.”12
It is very important to our understanding of our parent’s nobility to appreciate what Elder Scott said about them. “Adam was…a glorious, superb [and we may add super-human] individual. [and] Eve was his equal…”12 Aside from Christ himself, Adam was the most powerful, spiritual being to ever live, and his wife, Eve was his equal partner. If we want role models to emulate, these two parents of humanity are it.
Because of modern revelation, we now know that Michael (Adam) was the commanding general of the great premortal host that defeated Satan’s army and cast them out of heaven. We also now know that Michael assisted the Savior in creating the earth, under God’s direction. We know that Michael was designated as the “First Man,” Adam, the father and leader of all humanity on the Earth, the Ancient of Days. We know that after Adam’s life on earth ended, he returned to his role as Michael, apparently battled against Satan and assisted Joseph Smith in detecting Satan on the banks of the Susquehanna. We also know that, at the end of time, Michael will, once again and for the last time, lead God’s forces in defeating the hosts of Satan. He will then play a major role in the resurrection.
Adam stands at the head of the human family, not just because he is Adam, the Ancient of Days, but also because he is Michael the mighty Archangel. He, and his equally noble wife, Eve, thus stand in a place of honor and dignity throughout all eternity – the true “First Family.”
Givens, Fiona, and Givens, Terryl, The Christ Who Heals, How God Restored the Truth that Saves Us, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, UT, 2017 p 16
Doctrine and Covenants 27:2
Doctrine and Covenants 27:3
Doctrine and Covenants 27:5
Doctrine and Covenants 29:26
Doctrine and Covenants 78:15-16
Doctrine and Covenants 88:110-111
Doctrine and Covenants 88:112-115
Doctrine and Covenants 107:53-54
Doctrine and Covenants 128:19-21
Gaskill , Alonzo L., Doctrine and Covenants 129:8 and the Reality of Satan’s Physicality, Religious Educator, 8:31-54, 2007
Scott, Richard G., The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness, General Conference, October 1996