Learning to Love
Doctrine and Covenants

Section 116: Adam-ondi-Ahman By Michael J. Preece

Section 116: Adam-ondi-Ahman

The reader is invited to review the “Brief Historical Setting” immediately preceding section 111. In the spring of 1837, Lyman Wight and others in Missouri had settled on the Grand River in a place called Spring Hill, twenty-two miles north of Far West in Daviess County, Missouri. Brother Wight established a ferry-boat business across the Grand River.

In December 1837 Oliver Cowdery, Lyman Wight, and others were appointed to explore Daviess County to find other sites where settlements of the saints could be established. Undoubtedly because of Lyman Wight’s influence, Spring Hill was selected, and in May 1838 Joseph made a trip there to inspect the area. While there on May 19, 1838, Joseph received a revelation, Section 116, in which the Lord renamed Spring Hill “Adam-ondi-Ahman.” Of that day in May, the Prophet Joseph wrote: “This morning we struck [took down] our tents and formed a line of march, crossing Grand River at the mouth of Honey Creek and Nelson’s Ferry. Grand River is a large, beautiful, and deep and rapid stream, during the high waters of spring, and will undoubtedly admit of navigation by steamboat and other water craft. At the mouth of Honey Creek is a good landing. We pursued our course up the river, mostly through timber, for about eighteen miles, when we arrived at Colonel Lyman Wight’s home. He lives at the foot of Tower Hill (a name I gave the place in consequence of the remains of an old Nephite altar or tower that stood there), where we camped for the Sabbath. In the afternoon I went up the river about half a mile to Wight’s Ferry, accompanied by President Rigdon, and my clerk, George W. Robinson, for the purpose of selecting and laying claim to a city plat near said ferry in Daviess County . . . which the brethren called ‘Spring Hill,’ but by the mouth of the Lord it was named 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” (HC, 3:34-35; Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 244-45).

The term “Adam-ondi-Ahman” is an interesting one. The earliest use we find of the term dates to 1832. In March of that year, Joseph received section 78, and the term “Adam-ondi-Ahman” was found in that revelation, even in the earliest manuscripts (D&C 78:15). The name was revealed again, this time with the significance of the location, in the patriarchal blessing of Joseph Smith, Sr., on December 18, 1833 (TPJS, 38-39). In 1835 the term was published in a hymn composed by W. W. Phelps entitled “Adam­ondi-Ahman.” This hymn was sung at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple on March 27, 1836. The term is also found in D&C 107:53, received in March of 1835. In verses 53-55 of section 107, which essentially repeated the information about Adam-ondi-Ahman given to Joseph Smith, Sr., in his earlier patriarchal blessing, the Lord teaches the significance of the name. We are taught that it is a revealed term which may have originated from the pure Adamic language. We don’t actually know its precise meaning. The term “Ahman” means God and “Adam,” of course, refers to the first mortal male. As nearly as we can judge, the term means something like “Adam in the presence of God” or “Adam walks with God” or perhaps “the place where Adam dwelt, the Valley of God.” It is the place where Adam and Eve made their abode after they left the Garden of Eden.

The early brethren of the Church taught that the Garden of Eden was located in western Missouri, the place the early Church referred to as “Zion.” This would include Jackson County and the area northward, including Far West and reaching to Adam­ondi-Ahman.

It is staggering to contemplate the historical significance of the place Adam-ondi-Ahman. It has been described as a “place of beginnings.” “The area of Adam-ondi-Ahman was the site of the first death and murder on this earth. The first family relationships and associations were developed. In short, his area was truly a place of beginnings” (Sacred Truths of the Doctrine and Covenants, Otten and Campbell, volume 2, 278-79). 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, on that occasion 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 others, like upon 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 (Life of Heber C. Kimball, 209-10).

An ancient meeting of significance was held there, three years before Adam’s death (see D&C 107:53-56). He gathered together Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, along with others of his righteous posterity and there bestowed on them his last blessing. John Taylor commented on this ancient gathering:

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 (JD, 17:372).

An important meeting will yet be held there sometime before the Lord’s coming in glory, as described in the background material for section 45. The world and even the Church at large shall not know of this meeting—only those who are officially called to attend. A year after section 116 was received, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught:

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 leave this stage of action. The Son of Man stands before him [Adam], 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 (HC, 3:386-87).

This meeting will take place at Adam-ondi-Ahman sometime before the second coming of the Savior. This meeting should not be confused with its ancient parallel, which took place three years before the death of Adam and which Joseph Smith also saw in vision and described. “I saw Adam in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman. He called together his children and blessed them with a patriarchal blessing. The Lord appeared in their midst, and he (Adam) blessed them all, and foretold what should befall them to the latest generation. This is why Adam blessed his posterity; he wanted to bring them into the presence of God” (HC, 3:388).

The Adam-ondi-Ahman Stake was organized on June 28, 1838, with John Smith as president and Reynolds Cahoon and Lyman Wight as counselors.

The oldest copy of section 116 is the entry in Joseph Smith’s Scriptory Book under the date of Saturday, May 19, 1838, in the handwriting of George W. Robinson. The entry itself was probably made sometime shortly after that date. Another manuscript, in the hand of Willard Richards, is found in the Manuscript History of the Church and was copied prior to March 2, 1844. The revelation was first published in the Deseret News for April 2, 1853, and first appeared in the 1876 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants at the direction of Brigham Young.

Section 116 consists of only one short verse and is thus the shortest section in the Doctrine and Covenants. The text of this verse was altered somewhat in the 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. This was one of only a few changes that were made in our new edition. Formerly, section 116 was an incomplete sentence, and one had to read the introduction as part of the text in order for it to be complete. In the 1981 edition, the heading is separated from the single verse of scripture, and each is a complete sentence.

Scripture Mastery

D&C 116 Adam-Ondi-Ahman

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.

verse 1 “as spoken of by Daniel the prophet” See Daniel 7:9, 13-14.

- Michael J. Preece