Adam-ondi-Ahman means "the place where Adam dwelt." Through revelation, Joseph Smith learned that an area in Northwestern Missouri near Gallatin, was the place where Adam lived after he was cast out of the Garden of Eden.
Robert J. Matthews, the dean of religious education at Brigham Young University had this to say about Adam-ondi-Ahman:
- Adam-ondi-Ahman seems to have had reference at an early date to a general area rather than to a specific spot. If the Prophet Joseph Smith knew at that time (March 1832) of a specific location in Missouri to which the name also applied, he left us no written evidence of it. A second reference came some thirty-six months later, on 28 March 1835: the "valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman" is specified in a revelation to the Prophet as the place where Adam met with his posterity.
The revelations received by Joseph Smith about Adam-ondi-Ahman can now be found in the Doctrine and Covenants. From one of these revelations we learn 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” (D&C 107:53).
In Moses 5:4-8 it is recorded that Adam offered sacrifices. Offering a sacrifice required building an altar. Joseph Fielding Smith one of the prophets of the Church said, “of necessity the first sanctified temples were the mountaintops and secluded places in the wilderness. If we are correctly informed, Adam built his altar on a hill above the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman. At that place the Lord revealed to him the purpose of the fall and the mission of the Savior. (Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol 2, p.232 - p.233).
- The brethren of Caldwell went directly to Adam-ondi-Ahman, which is on the west fork of the Grand River.... 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 alters 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 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 (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, p.209-210).
Adam-ondi-Ahmen does not just have historical significance; it will also be an important site in the second coming of Christ. In Daniel 7:9-10 and 13-14 it says,
- I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
The Ancient of days mentioned in this scripture is Adam. This fact is clarified in D&C 116:1,
- Spring Hill is named by the Lord Adam-ondi-Ahman, because, said he, 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.
The scriptures explain through symbolism that Adam-ondi-Ahmen will be the place where the righteous, both those living and those who have died, will gather. It will be here that Christ will come and meet with the righteous before his second coming.
It was planned that the area would also be a place for the members of the Church to live:
- In 1838, Joseph Smith received a revelation stating that other places needed to be appointed for the gathering of the Saints. Less than a month later, an exploratory committee, with Joseph Smith as head, traveled to Daviess County, Missouri, to lay out a new stake of Zion. Adam-ondi-Ahman was to be the central settlement in the area they surveyed, yet their explorations far exceeded that settlement. Evidence suggests that Adam-ondi-Ahman was built to be a true city of Zion. The city was planned and laid out in a similar fashion to the chief city of Zion, and its inhabitants were to live the law of consecration. The temple and both public and Church buildings were to be built in the center of the city, and Church members were assigned city lots. In June 1838, large companies of migrating Saints were counseled to move to Adam-ondi-Ahman, making necessary immediate construction of houses (from Leland H. Gentry, "Adam-ondi-Ahman: A Brief Historical Survey," BYU Studies 13, no. 4 (1973): 553–76).
The settlement quickly grew to between 500 and 1,000 saints, but the time here was short and the Saints left when they were told to leave Missouri or be put to death.