Center Place of Zion Visited by President David O. McKay
It is probably common knowledge now throughout the Church – at least I hear the reverberations of it wherever I go – but not long ago (in fact, only seven months ago – June 1966), with President David O. McKay, President Joseph Fielding Smith and several others, having first visited Independence, we stood in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman in Daviess County, Missouri. I have in my briefcase the journal record of our memorable visit. In our thoughts that day there loomed before us the importance of this hallowed place to the future of the Church and the Kingdom of God.
Our automobile rested in the large valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman at the base of Spring Hill, and we could clearly see the top of Spring Hill in the short distance; at the high point of this bluff a temple site has been dedicated. Not far from this point an altar once stood which was used by our father Adam for sacrifice. The other altar at Adam-ondi-Ahman, on Tower Hill which is also nearby, and more often visited by people who go there, was usually used for prayer for according to the Prophet Joseph Smith, this is the altar where Adam gathered together his children at eventide. But the altar of sacrifice is on the place we call Spring Hill, near the temple site. It was this altar where the angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam and asked him why he offered sacrifice, and he replied, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.” (Moses 5:6.) I stood on that bluff not many months ago – on the very spot where the storehouse had been erected. (And there is still observable the broken red brick of the storehouse which was close to the temple site. Many accounts given in the various histories of the Church and in the journal records of the brethren confirm these facts.)
There in that area where we stood that day, according to the revelations, is where Adam, or the “Ancient of Days” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, will sit to receive from those who will stand before him the keys of all dispensations. Among these will be the Prophet Joseph Smith, representing the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, as testified to by the Lord Himself and as contained in Sections 27, 28, 78, and 116 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
At this great council meeting at Adam-ondi-Ahman not many years hence, the Son of Man will appear and will receive from Adam the stewardship which will contain the “keys of the universe.” We are given to understand that many others by appointment will be present at this great priesthood meeting, but the world will not know of it, nor will many within the Church. – D&C 27; DHC, III, 385, 387; Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p. 288; Dyer, The Refiner’s Fire, pp. 124-126.) — Alvin R. Dyer, “The Center Place of Zion,” BYU Speeches of the Year, February 7, 1967, pp. 4-5
In mid-May 1838, Joseph Smith and others headed northward in an exploring expedition. When they reached Wight’s Ferry on the Grand River, the Prophet directed the laying out of a city at that location. He also received a revelation that this was the site of Adam-ondi-Ahman. In 1835 the Lord revealed that three years before Adam died he had called his righteous posterity together “into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing” (D&C 107:53; see also 78:15-16). Orson Pratt said the name means “Valley of God, where Adam dwelt. It is in the original language spoken by Adam.” Adam-ondi-Ahman will yet be the location of a very important meeting for selected righteous people to greet the Savior. In the words of the revelation, “It is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet” (D&C 116:1). This knowledge so thrilled the brethren that plans were discussed to create a stake at Adam-ondi-Ahman. . . .
Joseph . . . designated the community as a gathering place for the Kirtland Saints still in Ohio or en route to Missouri. When his uncle John Smith and family arrived in Far West, the Prophet counseled him to settle in Adam-ondi-Ahman . . . affectionately nicknamed “Di-Ahman”. . . .
Latter-day Saint immigrants poured into Adam-ondi-Ahman throughout the summer of 1838. They considered themselves greatly blessed to live in the land where Adam dwelt. An article in the August issue of the Elders’ Journal [1938, p. 52] portrays their excitement:
“The immense immigration . . . encourages the Saints, and induces us to believe that God is about to bring to pass his strange acts, of which he has spoken by his ancient Prophets.
“The immense growth of corn and other produce, this season . . . has not to our knowledge, had a parallel in this generation; and if the Lord should continue to bless, as he has now set his hand to do, there must soon be a surplus.” Indeed, a plentiful harvest that fall helped provide for the impoverished members of the Kirtland Camp when they arrived in Missouri and settled in Di-Ahman in early October. — Church History in the Fulness of Times, pp. 188-189
Latter-day revelation specifies that as a mortal, Adam lived at Adam-ondi-Ahman in what is now Daviess County, Missouri (D&C 107:53-56; 116:1; 117:8). Several early LDS leaders, among them Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, stated that the Prophet Joseph Smith taught them that the Garden of Eden was located in what is now Jackson County, Missouri (JD 10:235; cf. 11:336-7; DS 3:74). — “Garden of Eden,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 534
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said that the council at Adam-ondi-Ahman, as prophesied in Daniel 7:9-14, will be “of the greatest importance to this world. At that time there will be a transfer of authority from the usurper and imposter, Lucifer, to the rightful King, Jesus Christ. Judgment will be set and all who have held keys will make their reports and deliver their stewardships, as they shall be required. Adam will direct this judgment, and then he will make his report, as the one holding the keys for this earth, to his Superior Officer, Jesus Christ. Our Lord will then assume the reins of government; directions will be given to the Priesthood; and He, whose right it is to rule, will be installed officially by the voice of the Priesthood there assembled. This grand council of Priesthood will be composed, not only of those who are faithful who now dwell on this earth, but also of the prophets and apostles of old, who have had directing authority. Others may also be there, but if so they will be there by appointment, for this is to be an official council called to attend to the most momentous matters concerning the destiny of this earth.
“When this gathering is held, the world will not know of it; the members of the Church at large will not know of it, yet it shall be preparatory to the coming in the clouds of glory of our Savior Jesus Christ as the Prophet Joseph Smith has said. The world cannot know of it. The Saints cannot know of it – except those who officially shall be called into this council – for it shall precede the coming of Jesus Christ as a thief in the night, unbeknown to all the world.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Way to Perfection, pp. 290-91) — Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, p. 288
The appearance at Adam-ondi-Ahman
The Lord will appear to the Saints in a solemn assembly of priesthood to be held at Adam-ondi-Ahman in Daviess County, Missouri, attended only by those who have held the keys of the priesthood during all the gospel dispensations and by others living who are specially invited. The Prophet Joseph Smith said that “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.” (History of the Church, 3:386-87; see also D&C 116.)
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
“Not many years hence there shall be another gathering of high priests and righteous souls in this same valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman. At this gathering Adam, the Ancient of Days, will again be present. At this time the vision which Daniel saw will be enacted. The Ancient of Days will sit. There will stand before him those who have held the keys of all dispensations, who shall render up their stewardship to the first patriarch of the race, who holds the keys of salvation. This shall be a day of judgment and preparation.
“In this council Christ will take over the reins of government, officially, on the earth, and the kingdom and dominions, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the saints of the Most High. . . .
“Until this grand council is held, Satan shall hold rule in the nations of the earth; but at that time thrones are to be cast down and man’s rule shall come to an end . . . . Then shall he give the government to the saints of the Most High. . . .
“[This council] shall precede the coming of Jesus Christ as a thief in the night, unbeknown to all the world.” (Way to Perfection, pp. 289-91.)
President Lorenzo Snow, speaking of those who will be living in Jackson County at that time, said: “If you will not have seen the Lord Jesus at that time you may expect Him very soon, to see him, to eat and drink with Him, to shake hands with Him and to invite him to your houses as He was invited when He was here before” (Deseret News, 15 June 1901, p. 1). — Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, p. 404
Elder Orson Pratt pointed out that “there is one revelation that this people are not generally acquainted with. I think it has never been published, but probably it will be in the Church History. It is given in questions and answers. The first question is, ‘What is the name of God in the pure language?’ The answer says, ‘Ahman.’ ‘What is the name of the Son of God?’ Answer, ‘Son Ahman – the greatest of all the parts of God excepting Ahman.’” (In Journal of Discourses, 2:342.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith added: “We also learn from the closing verses of this revelation [D&C 78:20] that Jesus Christ is also called Son Ahman. (See D&C 95:17.) Therefore his name is connected with the name of the place where Adam dwelt. For that reason Elder Orson Pratt gives it the interpretation of ‘The Valley of God.’” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:310.) — Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, p. 173
The Lord will make an appearance at Adam-ondi-Ahman, “the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit” (D&C 116). This grand council will be a large sacrament meeting, a time when the Son of Man will partake of the fruit of the vine once more with his earthly friends. And who will be in attendance? The revelations specify Moroni, Elias, John the Baptist, Elijah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Adam, Peter, James, John, and also, the Savior clarifies “all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world” (D&C 27:5-14), multitudes of faithful Saints from the beginning of time to the end. This will be a private appearance in that it will be unknown to the world. It will be a leadership meeting, a time of accounting, an accounting for priesthood stewardships. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that Adam, the Ancient of Days, “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 [Christ] 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.” — Robert Millet, The Doctrine and Covenants, a Book of Answers, The 25th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, p. 205
This area is very sacred. It has a great deal of historical as well as future significance. We note three important happenings or events associated with this place:
1. A Place of Beginnings
It was at Adam-ondi-Ahman that the family of mortals had its beginning. It was there that mortal man learned to work by the sweat of his brow. It was there that the first mortal children were born to the first mortal parents. Mortal man first learned to communicate with his God in those valleys. It was there that Adam built an altar and began to offer righteous sacrifice. On one occasion, Joseph Smith identified the site of Adam’s altar. Elder Heber C. Kimball recalled being with the prophet in Daviess County, Missouri, and described the experience as follows:
The Prophet Joseph called upon Brother Brigham, myself and others, saying, “Brethren, come, go along with me, and I will show you something.” He led us a short distance to a place where were the ruins of three altars built of stone, one above the other, and one standing a little back of the other, like unto the pulpits in the Kirtland Temple, representing the order of three grades of Priesthood. “There,” said Joseph, “is the place where Adam offered up sacrifice after he was cast out of the garden.” The altar stood at the highest point of the bluff. I went and examined the place several times while I remained there. (LHCK, pp. 209-210)
The area of Adam-ondi-Ahman was the site of the first death and murder on this earth. The blessings of the Savior’s atonement took on added significance there, for the members of Adam’s family. The first family relationships and associations were developed. In short, this area was truly a place of beginnings.
2. A Place of Departure
The Lord revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith that it was at Adam-ondi-Ahman that Adam called his righteous posterity together three years prior to his death. While gathered together, the Lord appeared and ministered unto them. (See D&C 107:53-57; see also History of the Church, Vol. 3, p. 388.)
Commenting on the gathering of Adam’s family before Adam’s departure from mortality, Elder John Taylor said:
. . . Adam, before he left the earth, gathered his people together in the Valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and the curtain of eternity was unfolded before him, and he gazed upon all events pertaining to his descendants, which should transpire in every subsequent period of time, and he prophesied to them. He saw the flood and its desolating influence; he saw the introduction again of a people in the days of Noah; he saw their departure from the right path. He saw Abraham, Moses and the Prophets make their appearance and witnessed the results of their acts; he saw nations rise and fall; he saw the time when Jesus would come and restore the Gospel and when he would preach that Gospel to those who perished in the days of Noah; and in fact he saw everything that should transpire upon the earth, until the winding up scene. He was acquainted with the day in which we live and the circumstances with which we are surrounded. (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 17, p. 372)
3. A Place of Return
It will be at Adam-ondi-Ahman that Adam will return to this earth prior to the ushering in of the Lord’s millennial reign. A special meeting will be held at this special place. When Adam returns, he will be coming home. He will be returning to the place where he presided as a priesthood holder.
Joseph Smith explained the importance and sacred nature of this meeting:
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. This may take place before some of us leave this stage of action. 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. (History of the Church, Vol. 3, pp. 386-387)
Summary and Conclusion
Adam-ondi-Ahman is a sacred place. The identity of its location was of such importance that the Lord gave a revelation pertaining to it. We have learned that the Lord’s work among mortals began there. We have also learned that the Lord’s millennial work will have its beginning there. — L. G. Otten and C. M. Caldwell, Sacred Truths of the Doctrine and Covenants, 2:278-280
Adam was the first man of all men; Ahman is one of the names by which God was known to Adam. Adam-ondi-Ahman, a name carried over from the pure Adamic language into English, is one for which we have not been given a revealed, literal translation. As near as we can judge – and this view comes down from the early brethren who associated with the Prophet Joseph Smith, who was the first one to use the name in this dispensation – Adam-ondi-Ahman means the place or land of God where Adam dwelt.
Apparently the area included was a large one; at least, the revelations speak of the land, the valley, and the mountains of Adam-ondi-Ahman. They tell us that Christ himself “established the foundations of Adam-ondi-Ahman” (D&C 78:15-16), and that it included the place now known as Spring Hill, Daviess County, Missouri. (D&C 116) . . . .
One of the greatest spiritual gatherings of all the ages took place in the Valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman some 5,000 years ago, and another gathering – of even greater importance relative to this earth’s destiny – is soon to take place in that same location. (See D&C 107:53-56.) . . . At that great gathering Adam offered sacrifices on an altar built for the purpose. A remnant of that very altar remained on the spot down through the ages. On May 19, 1838, Joseph Smith and a number of his associates stood on the remainder of the pile of stones at a place called Spring Hill, Missouri. There the Prophet taught them that Adam again would visit in the Valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, holding a great council as a prelude to the great and dreadful day of the Lord. (John Taylor, Mediation and Atonement, pp. 69-70) At this council, all who have held keys of authority will give an accounting of their stewardship to Adam. Christ will then come, receive back the keys, and thus take one of the final steps preparatory to reigning personally upon the earth. (Daniel 7:9-14; Teachings, p. 157) — Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 19-21
Before long there will be a great sacrament meeting at which the Lord Jesus himself will partake of the sacrament. Others who will be in attendance and who will partake of the sacrament also will be Moroni, Elias, John the Baptist, Elijah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Joseph the son of Jacob, Peter, James, and John, and Michael the archangel who is Adam. These are the ones who are listed by name in the revelation. They shall all be there. The immediate impression arises – what a marvelous meeting this will be, to have the Lord Jesus and all these holy prophets in attendance. Such an impression is of course proper.
But those named are listed merely to illustrate and dramatize what is to be. After naming them as the ones with whom the Lord will partake of the sacrament, the revelation says, “And also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world.” (D&C 27:5-14) In other words, every faithful person in the whole history of the world, every person who has so lived as to merit eternal life in the kingdom of the Father will be in attendance and will partake, with the Lord, of the sacrament.
I repeat: Apostles and prophets simply serve as patterns and examples to show all men what they may receive if they are true and faithful. There is nothing an apostle can receive that is not available to every elder in the kingdom. As we have heretofore quoted, from the Prophet’s sermon on the Second Comforter: “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 149) It follows that everything stated by Elder Oliver Cowdery in his charge to the apostles could also be given as a charge to all elders. Every elder is entitled and expected to seek and obtain all the spiritual blessings of the gospel, including the crowning blessing of seeing the Lord face to face. — Elder Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, pp. 594-95
We now come to the least known and least understood thing connected with the Second Coming. It might well be termed the best-kept secret set forth in the revealed word. It is something about which the world knows nothing; it is a doctrine that has scarcely dawned on most of the Latter-day Saints themselves; and yet it is set forth in holy writ and in the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith with substantially the same clarity as any of the doctrines of the kingdom. It behooves us to make a needed brief commentary about it.
Before the Lord Jesus descends openly and publicly in the clouds of glory, attended by all the hosts of heaven; before the great and dreadful day of the Lord sends terror and destruction from one end of the earth to the other; before he stands on Mount Zion, or sets his feet on Olivet, or utters his voice from an American Zion or a Jewish Jerusalem; before all flesh shall see him together; before any of his appearances, which taken together comprise the second coming of the Son of God – before all these, there is to be a secret appearance to selected members of his Church. He will come in private to his prophet and to the apostles then living. Those who have held keys and powers and authorities in all ages from Adam to the present will also be present. And further, all the faithful members of the Church then living and all the faithful saints of all the ages past will be present. It will be the greatest congregation of faithful saints ever assembled on planet earth. It will be a sacrament meeting. It will be a day of judgment for the faithful of all ages. And it will take place in Daviess County, Missouri, at a place called Adam-ondi-Ahman. — Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Millennial Messiah, pp. 578-79
Adam-ondi-Ahman, of eternal fame, first comes to our attention because of a great conference held there by Father Adam in his day. “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.” Nearly a thousand years had then passed since the first man and the first woman had stepped from Eden’s garden into the lone and dreary world, there to begin the procreative processes that peopled a planet. We do not know how many million mortals made this earth their home in that day, or how many of them were true and faithful to that Lord whom Adam served. Disease and plagues were not then as common and horrendous as they are now. The physical bodies of earth’s inhabitants had not yet degenerated to the disease-ridden, germ-governed shells of their former glory that is now the norm. We can suppose the population of the earth far exceeded that of later ages when the ills of the flesh and a rising infant mortality set a sin-inflicted limit on the numbers of men. And it is not unreasonable to suppose that many righteous spirits were born in that blessed day and that the numbers of the righteous were exceedingly great. We may not be amiss in supposing that many millions responded to the call to come to a general conference in Adam-ondi-Ahman.
. . . . this we do know: All that happened at Adam-ondi-Ahman in those early days was but a type and a shadow – a similitude, if you will – of what shall happen at the same blessed place in the last days when Adam and Christ and the residue of men who are righteous assemble again in solemn worship. — Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Millennial Messiah, pp. 579-80
I sometimes wish that every member of the Church could have the privilege of going to Liberty, and Richmond, Far West, Adam-ondi-Ahman, and Haun’s Mill, on their way east or west, as they come through the Central States Mission, for the impression that it gives them, for the increase in their faith and their reverence for the work that has been performed in this Church by its founders and leaders. One cannot stand upon the hill overlooking the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman without being very deeply impressed with the sacredness of the place. (Elias S. Woodruff, Conference Report, October 1938, p. 73) — David Ridges, “The Plan of Salvation,” BYU Education Week, 2002
I have been privileged to feel the nearness of President McKay’s spirit. I have felt the majesty of his soul as we stood in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, observing in the short distance a place there known as Spring Hill, referred to in Section 116 of the Doctrine and Covenants as the place where Adam, Michael, or the “Ancient of Days,” in accordance with the prophecy of Daniel, shall in the due time of the Lord visit the earth for an important reason, and while there hearing President McKay utter quietly, “This is a most holy place.” (Alvin R. Dyer, Conference Report, October 1967, p. 41.) — David Ridges, “The Plan of Salvation,” BYU Education Week, 2002
President Joseph Fielding Smith observed: “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. . . . We do not know how long a time this gathering will be in session, or how many sessions will 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 [the parable of the talents; Matthew 25]. Judgment will be rendered unto them for this is a gathering of the righteous. . . . It is not to be the judgment of the wicked. . . . This will precede the great day of destruction of the wicked and will be the preparation for the Millennial Reign.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Progress of Man, pp. 481-82; also The Way to Perfection, pp. 288-91.) — Robert L. Millet, The Doctrine and Covenants, a Book of Answers, p. 209-10