Out of several somewhat esoteric hymns in our hymnal, Adam-ondi-Ahman is one of my favorites (yes, I know I say that a lot!). This hymn also held a special place in the hearts of the early saints. In addition to being included in the first hymnal, it was sung at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple.
Adam-ondi-Ahman is the revealed name Joseph Smith gave to Daviess County, Missouri, and the site where Adam and Eve lived after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. It is also the gathering place for a priesthood council prior to Jesus’s Second Coming. All of these roles are praised in these verses, and Phelps poetically imagines Adam-ondi-Ahman as home to Enoch’s city of Zion, as well.
Most of our information about Adam-ondi-Ahman comes from a vision of Joseph Smith which is now recorded in D&C 107:53-57. Joseph describes how, three years prior to Adam’s death, he gathered his priesthood-holding posterity in a grand council at Adam-ondi-Ahman to give them his last blessing. While they were there, the Lord appeared and granted Adam dominion, setting him “at the head” of the “multitude of nations” that would come from his lineage. Adam then prophesied the history of the world, which was written into a book and sealed up. (Cool, right?)
The crucial thing is that a similar event will precede the Second Coming. Adam will come to set in order the affairs of the earth (D&C 85:7). He will gather a council at Adam-ondi-Ahman, everyone will pass their priesthood keys back to him, and then Christ will appear, and Adam will hand the keys of the kingdom back to the Lord as he ushers in the millennium.
Adam-ondi-Ahman, then, is the site of two important councils: one at the opening of earth’s history and one at its close. And what’s more, the plan of salvation is very obviously a plan of families–Adam’s work began in a family council; he was given the keys of the priesthood so that he could save his posterity; and his work in the meanwhile is to send messengers so that all of that posterity can be sealed to him. Part of the thrilling message of Adam-ondi-Ahman is that we are a lot closer and more intimately connected to Adam and the ancient patriarchs than we often think we are. This hymn recognizes that connection. It pairs ancient events (life in “a garden place,” Enoch walking with God, and the fame of Zion) with the events of the last days.
The pattern at the beginning is the pattern for the end. What that means for us is that we have a picture of the kind of society we need to create prior to the Second Coming, and we have the following glorious image to look forward to:
Hosanna to such days to come,
The Savior’s second coming,
When all the earth in glorious bloom
Affords the Saints a holy home,