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Adamic Language

by John S. Robertson

The concept of the Adamic language grew among Latter-day Saints out of statements from scripture, comments of early Church leaders, and subsequent tradition. It does not play a central doctrinal role, and there is no official Church position delineating its nature or status.

The scriptures state that this language, written and spoken by Adam and his children, was "pure and undefiled" (Moses 6:5-6). Brigham Young taught that it continued from Adam to Babel, at which time the Lord "caused the people to forget their own mother tongue,…scatter[ing] them abroad upon the face of the whole earth," except possibly for Jared and his family in the Book of Mormon (JD 3:100; cf. Gen. 11:1-9; Mosiah 28:17). This statement reflects the widely held Mormon belief that the founding members of the jaredite civilization preserved the Adamic language at their immigration to the new world (Ether 1:33-43; 3:24-28). Thus, the description by the brother of Jared of his apocalyptic vision was rendered linguistically inaccessible without divine interpretive help, since "the language which ye shall write I [God] have confounded" (Ether 3:21-28).

In the early years of the Church, some words of the Adamic language may have been revealed to Joseph Smith (JD 2:342), and other early Church leaders, including Brigham Young (HC 1:297) and Elizabeth Ann Whitney (Woman's Exponent 7 [Nov. 1, 1878], p. 83), who were said to have spoken it in tongues. More recently President Ezra Taft Benson alluded to its possible universal reinstatement to resolve linguistic diversity (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City, 1988], p. 93; cf. Brigham Young JD 3:100).

Similarly, Zephaniah 3:9, possibly referring to the future of the Adamic language, says, "I will turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord." The word pure comes from the Hebrew berurah, from barar, "to cleanse" or purify; also "to choose."

Because it is generally held that a language reflects its culture, possibly the erosion of the purity of the Adamic culture after Babel led to a concomitant loss of purity of expression in its mirroring language.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Adamic Language

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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