The culty and slightly racist  Primary song Follow the Prophet asserts that “Adam was a Prophet. First one that we know. In a land called Eden he helped things to grow. Adam served the Lord by following his ways. We are his descendents in the latter days.”
Being in Primary, I am subjected to this dubious song most Sundays.  When I heard that first verse, I remember thinking “Wait, what? Do we believe that Adam was a prophet? If so, on what basis?” I’m still not sure, and a little digging revealed that it is not a belief shared by other Christians. Muslims, however, do believe that Adam was a prophet because by their definition, after being expelled from Eden, Adam was sent as a messenger to the others living on earth which is how he meets the Islamic qualification for “prophet.” That story doesn’t really fit our doctrinal view of Adam who was looking for messengers when expelled from the garden. He wasn’t the preacher; he was the audience.
According to the Primary song, Adam was a prophet because he was a successful gardener. None of the traits ascribed to him in the song have anything to do with being a “prophet,” and they are all literally things that apply to both Adam and Eve and to my next door neighbor: gardening skills (her yard is like a cultivated parkland), serving the Lord (she’s an Evangelical, so according to some, she’s at least “pretending” to follow Jesus), and having descendents (I think?). Aside from the gardening skills, I qualify. Most other Christian sects consider Enoch to be the first prophet in the Bible, not Adam.
There appear to be several reasons that Adam’s designation as a “prophet” is suspect:
- The title “prophet” doesn’t appear until many generations later in scripture.
- Prophets warn an entire population, not just their own family, and are messengers for God. Adam only did this within his own family, so technically if there were no other people (if we ignore that Nephilim / race of Gods stuff), maybe he qualifies, but only on a technicality). Adam essentially did nothing more than anyone who has ever held family home evening.  Also, Jonah doesn’t qualify by this measure (Ninevah only, so he’s basically a missionary), and he’s also got a verse, but kids love to sing about people being swallowed by whales, so I get the appeal for including him.
- Different religions can’t seem to agree on what a prophet is exactly.
- Within Mormonism, there is a clear distinction between being a “Prophet” and a prophet. We can all be the latter, yes, even women (despite some harumphing and head patting from patriarchal leaders), but the former is a unique position.
Here’s what some random pastor on Quora said about Adam (not) being a prophet:
There is no Biblical text indicating that he was spoken through by the Holy Spirit. He was a prophet in the sense that he heard from God and spoke to God. But if this was sufficient then Eve would’ve been a prophet too. While there were prophecies through patriarchs and predecessors prior to the Mosaic covenant (God’s covenant with the Israelites through Moses) the role of prophet hadn’t been officially created yet. The role of the prophet is specifically to hear from God in order to guide the people. The people weren’t guided by Adam, they became wicked, including his own son. They weren’t guided by Noah, they all perished. They weren’t guided by Abraham either. He had a group that were led by him but there was no revealed law yet and the biblical text doesn’t say that God was giving Abraham regular revelations. . . . the official role of prophet begins after Moses (Deuteronomy 18: 16-18).Brian S. Holmes, Pastor, Teacher, Owner of MPoweredChristian.org
Personally, I think the argument that an “unsuccessful” prophet is not a prophet is kind of weak sauce, especially since he doesn’t even mention Enoch, who is considered the first prophet by most Christians, and they don’t come any more successful that he was (that’s verse two for the Follow the Prophet crowd ). I mean, an unsuccessful politician is still a politician, right?
Anyway, the song is full of even weaker arguments about why such-and-such a person was a prophet, and most of them are at least partial failures in their ability to convince others if you’re counting (Noah, Jonah and Moses chiefly), but I suppose the constraints of rhyming have created logic fails in many songs. Some examples of “Prophet” qualifications from the song:
- Serving in the temple
- Praying to have a son
- Refusing to sin
- Being a lion whisperer (I would say “performing a miracle”, although the way the song puts it, angels are doing all the heavy lifting here)
- Being Fox News (check out verse 7 if you don’t believe me)
It also seems that we don’t really have any Book of Mormon prophets in the song, which makes an interesting omission. This leads me to believe that the song was specifically written, not merely to teach cult-like obedience to human authorities , but as a way to get kids to learn some basic Bible stories and to fill the “songs about the Old Testament” gap.
The main theme of the song is that a bunch of randos were Prophets in the Old Testament, and if you obey your human leaders today, you won’t make mistakes because they are infallible guides, and if you don’t, well, you’re courting your own destruction or delaying your entrance into the promised land. Our own song leader actually added a verse about “Russell M. Nelson” and specifically instructed all the children that he speaks face-to-face with Heavenly Father and Jesus . Indoctrinating children (and adults) to relinquish their own burgeoning morality is the current party line. I remember back in the day when we at least occasionally talked about following the spirit, seeking personal revelation, and having a conscience, back when gas only cost $2 a gallon. The salad days.
I don’t recall ever being taught growing up in the Church that Adam was a prophet, just that Adam and Eve were the first humans, and Eve was obviously a whole lot smarter than Adam who was basically a dum-dum wearing a skirt made of leaves. Did the author of this song just pull that idea out of thin air, or was I not paying attention as a child? As the youths say, where are the receipts?
- Was Adam a prophet in any real sense? What’s your theological justification for the claim?
- Do Mormons have a clear definition of prophet that carries any water and would be convincing to other faiths? 
- Was this song written to ret-con the role of prophets since we apply that title to our leaders, regardless of continuity of definition? Or was it written to give Primary kids some content for a song-bereft Old Testament year?
 Faux semitic tune, rendered worse in my ward by the song leader including dance moves to make it seem like we’re dancing the Hora at a Jewish wedding. Oy vey! As Mel Brooks would say, “Hava Nagila, have two nagilas, have three nagilas, they’re very small.”
 Yes, yes, I know, somebody out there is related to the songwriter who is the friggin salt o’ the earth. Mea culpa.
 I mean, let’s be honest. How many families really did family home evening?
 Shots fired on verse three!
 Oh man! There goes verse 4!
 We used to always tell our kids to “Follow the Crowd” instead of “Follow the Prophet.” They really do know the way, especially when you are traveling in a foreign country. We’ve only accidentally been caught up in political protests twice this way.
 A side benefit, if you will.
 It didn’t exactly roll off the tongue, she did insist on including his middle initial, and she also stated that he regularly speaks face to face with God directly, so that will be exciting to see these kids in twenty years or so when they find out it just ain’t so.
 She’s kind of the queen of fake news in Primary, but just an occasional sub. She also claimed that “stripling” warriors were called that because they were super-buff, and that the word meant that, mistaking the Frieberg painting for the actual meaning of the word, which is the opposite of what he painted.
 Unlike some, I do think words matter, definitions should be broadly consistent, and other churches aren’t just playing pretend, and some of them have a lot more credibility (due to scholarship) and tenure (being older than 1830).
My late father thought the song was “Follow the Profit”. I can see why he thought that (he probably never listened to the verses, just the title).
I never realized that song was faux Semitic; I’m so glad I haven’t seen anyone dance to it beyond using basic hand movements for the words.
I think the Mormon general consensus is that Adam was not only a prophet, but a super-prophet. Biblically and among most Christians, a prophet is defined by the knowledge they reveal from God. With Eve, Adam would have revealed to his children everything they knew about God and religion—who God is, why snakes are bad, the Paleo version of the Word of Wisdom, family history (which must have been really easy back then), etc., Meanwhile, Latter-day Saints tend to define prophets by their authority. For example, even though we sustain all the apostles as prophets, we all know who The Prophet is—he’s the one in charge, even if he never reveals anything new. At the first general conference for the Church of Jehovah of Primitive Saints held at Adam-ondi-ahmen, it’s pretty obvious who presided, Furthermore, we have this idea of dispensations, each led by a prophet who not only restored the gospel but also restored the priesthood. As a leader of the first dispensation, Adam was an uber-prophet.
But this is with the caveats that 1) I personally don’t believe in a literal Adam, 2) I agree that Eve was smarter, just as much a revealer, and should have totally gotten an Eve-ondi-ahmen and presided over everyone, and 3) biblical prophets tend to be anti-authoritarian more than they are authorities.
Wow, does your chorister know that RMN verse is un-correlated material?
When I was on my mission they were big into teaching about “dispensations.” There’s a prophet and a fall. A prophet restores and another fall. Repeat until we get to Jesus and a big fall and then a big Restoration with Joseph Smith. It was designed to show a “pattern” that the Church fits into, but it always seemed to me to lack actual historical or even scriptural support. Not that this prevented me from teaching it.
It seems to me that Adam was a prophet (in our view) because he had authority (again, in our view) and unfortunately authority is literally the only thing we care about when it comes to prophets. We don’t seem to actually care about whether they do any prophesying, seeing, or revealing so long as they’ve got all the priesthood keys. Which is very not biblical or even Book of Mormon (which had plenty of prophets coming out of nowhere who didn’t seem to have any authority – like Samuel the Lamanite for example).
Perhaps we are asking the wrong question. Instead of speculating on whether or not Adam was a prophet, perhaps we should be asking how anyone could ever speculate that Eve was a prophet too. How outrageous 😃.
Since I don’t believe in a real Adam (or a mythical one), whether he was a prophet or not is pretty immaterial. And the temple ceremony was and is a major league shock. I don’t get it? What does all this have to do with Christ? The idea of a Fall seems seriously bizarre and gruesome. How does this make me a better Christian? A better Mormon?
Why is the Church spending a year superficially studying the OT? Does it answer the basic question: Why am I here? I think not.
Having said that, the Book of Ecclesiastes makes me a better hydrologist, a better existentialist. But that is beside the point.
It seems to me that the Mormon criteria for being a prophet are: 1) not a woman; 2) everything else is negotiable.
And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation.
When you live 960 years, your “family” includes thousands or actually millions. That is a pretty big group to preach to, and plenty big enough to qualify Adam as a prophet.
I agree with Tygan that Adam is a super-prophet in our religion, not because of what’s in the Bible, but because of the temple ceremony, compounded by BY’s elevation of Adam to god, which, even though that was disavowed by the modern church, still has an indistinct influence on people’s thinking but mostly through the temple.
As the primary pianist, I’ve been fortunate not to have to suffer through the song for a number of years (thanks to good choristers!). Although I have to admit that when it was on the rotation, I *totally* turned it into a Jewish-themed song with klezmer-like riffs and off-beat “heys!” thrown in, which the kids loved. The best story I have about the song is when it was featured in a primary program, and one parent had their kids do robot/zombie actions on the “follow the prophet” chorus (i.e., arms outstretched, head immobile, eyes glazed).
The verse about Adam makes no sense. “In a place called Eden, he helped things to grow.” How did he help things to grow? What’s the process? Was he personally fertilizing things with whatever tools were at his “disposal,” if you know what I mean?
I also can’t listen to that song without thinking of the Stonecutters song from The Simpsons.
“Who controls the British crown? Who keeps the metric system down? We do! We do!”
Identical chord structure and similar melody. And as an added bonus, both are creepy and culty as hell.
As the mom of small kids, this post makes me so happy. I hate that song. So much.
Adam and Eve, and similar stories from other cultures, for me, are the stories we tell about the moment (probably more than a moment) that humans evolved a cognizance of their own mortality. In that sense, Adam and Eve  are both Prophets. That is a big truth to share with the rest of us and a lot to unpack. As a species we’re still trying to reconcile “we’re all gonna die and we know it” and not doing a very good job. Bigly a thing.
I don’t believe in either of them in the literal sense, or in Pandora, or in any of the many, many other myths that parallel their story, but I do think the stories have powerful things to teach us about being human. I could digress about how these stories tend to always feature a woman in the primary P/prophet role… and I think it’s about more than just misogyny (though it’s definitely about that too). Fun times.
Fascinating topic.. For those of us who prefer to comprehend the OT as largely poetry and allegory, discussion of whether Adam was a prophet is a pointless exercise. A non-literal approach enables me to see God’s hand in nature – and yes even evolution. Genomic evidence supports claims that modern humans descended from other primates. Believing in evolutionary science does not necessarily lead to the conclusion there is no God or no plan.
The non-literal approach can be frustrating. For me, it leads to severe tongue biting during GD discussions of the 7,000 year temporal existence of the earth – as well as the assertion the garden of eden was located in Missouri (see D& C 77). I keep hope alive that Mormonism can experience a ‘Galileo moment’ in terms of reconciling science and antiquated religious beliefs.
Thank you for adding to the long list of reasons why we need to get rid of that song for good. Bonus points for the Stonecutter reference (love that episode!).
I suppose whether or not Adam was a prophet is a matter of debate, especially considering that Eve was doing most of the decision making, and had equal access to God (notwithstanding the “hearken covenant). On a related note, I remember learning in Institute that there is some disagreement among faithful LDS scholars/historians about when exactly Joseph Smith became a prophet (First Vision? Moroni’s visits/receiving the plates? Ordination? Organization of the Church?). There is additional debate surrounding BY’s prophetic authority and the succession crisis. At any rate, how a prophet is defined and how exactly one receives the prophetic mantle are fluid and have never been well-established; the Latter-day dispensation is no exception.
Not only was Adam the first great prophet, but he is actually God. Aren’t you familiar with the Adam God doctrine that Joseph Smith taught to Brigham? In those days you could be excommunicated if you did not believe and accept the doctrine. Today you can be excommunicated if you do believe in it. Weird how that is. More information about the Adam God doctrine can be found at 2BC.info, which is the website where you can also download a PDF copy of the first 100 revelations found in the Second Book of Commandments. This book is the continuation of the “thus saith the Lord” revelations found in the Book of Commandments, which was later renamed to the Docrtine & Covenants.
Seeing as how the book of Genesis was not written by Moses, and likely not for hundreds of years after (according to current scholars) I am not taking anything said in there to be historically accurate. I will classify it as myth, allegory, symbolic, and move on. If Adam was a prophet, so was every other Biblical figure in the sense that he said stuff about God. Pretty low bar.
As for how the LDS Church defines a prophet, the weirdest thing for me is how Brigham Young seemingly refused to take the mantle of Prophet after JS death. Notice the dearth of revelations after JS. If I understand correctly, he was purposefully known as “President Young” as were all of the leaders until around the time of President David McKay, when the practice of referring to the Church President as “the Prophet” resumed again.
My impression of RMN is that it REALLY matters to him that he be considered a Prophet, and that we see him as having a lot of communication with God, through dreams, the Holy Spirit, direct revelation, whatever. He and his wife are very overt in sharing his prophetic experiences in a way that no other prophet in the modern era has done. I wonder if that will end with him or if others after will continue to openly discuss their experiences too? My personal opinion (you will all not be shocked) is that he has pretty much reduced prophetic revelation to policies, organizational structure, fear-tactics, but not really anything classically considered prophecy, and certainly not anything new that hasn’t already been said in prior eras. Even when he had a bit of an opening he admitted at the April 2020 GC (paraphrasing) “Nobody saw this COVID thing coming.” But hey, there’s something in those vitamin pills that keep the TBMs excited every six months to sit and wait for the next BIG thing to be announced.
There are two prophets in the Bible that are unique: Moses and Jesus (the prophet “like unto Moses.”) Unique in that they were covenant bearers. Mormons like to think that Joseph Smith is in their ranks. Not so. No need, either. Jesus brought the New Covenant. There is no need for a “Newer Covenant.”
The other OT prophets are interesting in that they didn’t come huffing and puffing about those sinful Gentiles, but brought severe condemnation to Jewish religious establishment and/or the “covenant people.” There are NO prophets like that in Mormonism today. Mormon prophets do most of their huffing and puffing about the “world.”
There a many OT-style prophets within the ranks of the former and/or disaffected members. In the old days, these prophets were stoned. Today, they get excommunicated.
There are no Prophets in the NT. In the NT, prophecy is a gift of the spirit that should be sought after by everyone. This is because the veil of the temple was torn, and now all people have direct access to God. There is only one mediator between God and Man, the Prophet Jesus Christ.
I agree with Bryce Cook that our additional understanding of Adam via the temple would probably lead most Mormons to claim he’s a prophet. But it’s still a good point that he was more of a grandpa than a prophet.
Doesn’t the temple tell me (since I’m male) that I’m Adam? So I suppose in that regard, I’m a prophet too! Can I get a verse?
Alas, Follow the Prophet is one of the few primary songs with a fun catchy tune that still gets some rotation. Most of the songs compelled by the yearly program are Janice Capp Perry’s sappy bilge. Musically, FTP can be fun if you perform it jauntily. Lyricly it’s an awkward disaster.
The key to enjoying the song is to make up your own verses that are more textually accurate in a fun way. For example.
Elijah was a prophet
One of Israel’s best
He challenged the priests of Baal
To a god contest
He mocked the priests of Baal
Said Baal was a wimp
Then God sent down some fire
And burned them to a crisp
Who else has a verse to add?
The criteria in Mormonism for determining who is a prophet is nebulous enough in Mormon scripture and Mormon practice that sure, Adam can be a prophet. That’s not saying much though. I think that the LDS church should consider Eve a prophetess as well since she communicated with God.
To add to JLM’s new verses:
Moses was a prophet
And he loved to fight
Claimed God told him to kill
All male Midianites
Took their women captive
The broken-hymened slew
Spared all virgin girls
For the pleasure of his crew
Sorry, I know it is nauseating. But so is Numbers 31 and so much of the OT. We should stop glorying this book as a significant source of great morality and wisdom. And for the believers out there who might read my comment and say, “well, we just interpret that chapter metaphorically, Moses wouldn’t really do that.” OK, now you insist on metaphorical interpretation when it becomes incredibly inconvenient and uncomfortable to interpret as literal a story of Moses being a mass murderer and facilitator of child rape. If that’s the case, why not interpret more of the book metaphorically and stop insisting on the historicity of what is such an obvious compilation of myths and lore.
In Numbers 11:28-29, a prophet is someone who prophesies, and Moses is ok with others going around being prophets who were not in the hierarchy and wishes that every man were one. In Moses 5:10, Joseph Smith’s Adam began to prophesy about all the families on earth, so having Adam as a prophet makes sense to LDS people and fits the basic bible definition. It is interesting how much of our thinking and discussion is now in terms of being a prophet by holding the office of a prophet and not a noun describing people who prophesy.
Someday, in life or death, I’d like to meet every member of the church music committee who pushed for this song to be written, and Batman “Stop it” slap each and every one of them.
Elisha was a prophet
Didn’t have much hair
So the children teased him
Said his head was bare
Then out came the grizzlies
Ate them through and through
If you mock the prophet,
Bears will eat you, too
I’ve always understood the title of prophet to go to the person who holds all the priesthood keys. Lds believe Adam did, thus he is a prophet. What am I missing in my understanding of lds doctrine?
Mike Spendlove wins the internet! I bow to your amazing skill as a lyricist! I’ll give it a go. This is more fun than I thought!
Huldah was a prophet
Full of prophecy
She warned King Josiah
Josiah listened closely
To the words she cried
He survived disaster
But his people died
Why is this a story
That we never hear?
Are we ruled by men
Who live their lives in fear?
Feminists are scary
Especially when they’re right
Best if we ignore them
In our culture fight
Samuel was a prophet
Told King Saul to slay
Men, women, kids, and beasts
But he didn’t obey
He didn’t kill King Agag
Samuel threw a fit
So Samuel took a sword
And hacked Agag to bits
Modern prophets love this story (see Robert D. Hales, “Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life,” October 2010, and Sunday School Old Testament Manuals)
And use it to this day
To teach all the members
About how we obey
Obey with exactness
Don’t omit no stuff
Don’t be like King Saul who
Didn’t kill enough
Maybe a little editing of the lyrics can save the song?
1. Eve was a prophetess, mother of us all.
In holy Eden, she led us through the Fall.
Eve loved us all by facing death and strife.
We show we love her, when we reverence life.
Follow the prophets, follow the prophets;
All can know much truth, when they think and pray.
Follow the prophets, follow the prophets,
Follow the prophets; love finds a way.
I know, I know, don’t give up my day job.
Deborah was a prophet
And a judge as well
She led men to war
In ancient Israel
She prophesied of victory,
She even knew the way:
It would be a girl who was going to win the day
And the war was won
By a woman named Jael;
This is not a story
The brethren like to tell.
“Judges can’t be girls!
The Prophet must be a man!”
Except for in the scriptures, where women are and can!
Abraham was a prophet
Also was a dad
Tried to kill son Isaac
But he wasn’t “bad.”
Sarah was his wife who
had a child while old
If he killed her son
Their marriage would turn cold
Do we know how Isaac
Felt about this mess?
In our day, every one of us
Would call CPS.
A ram caught in the thicket
Replaced his poor son’s life
All this could be avoided
If Abe hadn’t brought a knife
If a prophet asks you
To lay down on some sticks
Get the heck out of there
He’s up to nasty tricks!
Did God command Abraham
to sacrifice his son?
Consider the ending
if the knife had been a gun.
Since we claim to be Jesus’s church, one way to fix the song is to change the verses to be about Jesus and his teachings, CoC style, and change the name of the song to :Follow the Savior” Here is one idea for a verse.
Jesus was the Savior
He taught us how to love
He was the son of God who
Came down from above
He helped the poor and needy
Hoarding wealth’s a sin
Jesus’s true disciples
Live their life like him
Follow the Savior
Follow the Savior
Follow the Savior
Every single day
Follow the Savior
Follow the Savior
Follow the Savior
He is the Way
Shall we all fix this song together?
Brilliant wit in the OP that had me loudly laughing more than twice. Extra points for sparking my own thoughts about the nature of prophecy and seeing it as a naturally occurring gift in some mortals, regardless of calling or gender. And a big win for the comments thread that evolved into better, more truthful, and by some definitions, more prophetic lyrics and verses. If the church has any prophetic impulse still in play, they would adopt JLMs version. Instead, it’ll be only the occasional outlier prophet-chorister.
No spoons today for my offering.
King David was a prophet
Who had a thing for girls
He coerced Bathsheba
To come and rock his world
Worried about her husband
David sent him off to war
Where he met his death
And made David’s guilt no more
I am in awe at how much Mormon culture extols the “virtues” of David. Too many times we have talked about how David just went a little too far with Bathsheba and committed the first sin by looking too long at her, and then bam, slippery slope. How about, David was a sex-crazed, murderous tyrant who none of us as any business admiring as some paragon of virtue who just had a weak moment.
Joseph was a prophet,
Placed a stone in hat
Wrote the Book of Mormon
From his hat, a fact.
Joseph said that Abraham
Wrote a book on scroll.
But it was a funeral text,
That he did unroll.
Joseph asked young girls
To love and marry him.
Some as young as fourteen,
Now that is a sin.
Joseph married women
Who were already wed.
Promised them great blessings
In the vows he said.
Joseph burned a press
That wrote about his sin.
He hid, then was imprisoned.
A mob then shot at him.
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet
Follow the prophet, he goes astray.
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Don’t go his way.
He spoke to God face to face (as did Eve) according to the bible, communed with angels according to the PGP.
I’d say that counts more so than other figures for that matter.