This is a really unique hymn, which is probably why I have never heard it sung or performed anywhere, ever. It deals with a very specific doctrine–that is, the return of Adam (Michael) to Adam-ondi-Ahman to head a great gathering in which the keys of the Priesthood throughout history will be accounted for and returned unto Christ prior to the establishment of His Millennial Reign.
The story, though, starts a long time before that; specifically, in the twilight of Father Adam’s mortal life:
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.
And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.
And the Lord administered comfort unto Adam, and said unto him: I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever.
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.
This was an incredible event in the history of the young human race. It was the crowning event of the life of Adam, father of us all, and confirmation of his dedication and righteousness. He delivered unto his posterity a blessing of faith and righteousness. His calling and election were, if they had not been already, made certain. He was promised power, glory, and a princely role in the next life. His righteous generations surrounding him, I imagine it was quite possibly the happiest day of Father Adam’s mortal life.
Three years after this glorious council, Adam died, having been faithful in all the Lord asked of him. Elder Mark E. Peterson taught, “After [Adam’s] mortal death he resumed his position as an angel in the heavens, once again serving as the chief angel, or archangel, and took again his former name of Michael. In his capacity as archangel, Adam, or Michael, will yet perform a mighty mission in the coming years.”
This mighty mission is described in prophecies both ancient and modern. The first mission* given to Michael is that of once again gathering the holders of the Priesthood of God at Adam-ondi-Ahman (the same site as his last great council) prior to the Second Coming of Christ. The biblical prophet Daniel foresaw this event, referring to Adam/Michael as “The Ancient of Days”:
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….
[B]ehold, 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.
Regarding this ancient prophecy, the Prophet Joseph Smith was told, “Spring Hill [Missouri] 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.”
To bring it all together, let’s turn to Joseph Fielding Smith talking about this council:
“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 known. At this conference, or council, all who have held keys of dispensations will render a report of their stewardship. Adam will do likewise, and then he will [surrender] to Christ all authority. Then Adam will be confirmed in his calling as the prince over his posterity and will be officially installed and crowned eternally in this presiding calling. Then Christ will be received as King of kings, and Lord of lords….[I]t 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….When all things are prepared and every key and power set in order with a full and perfect report of each man’s stewardship, then Christ will receive these reports and be installed as rightful Ruler of this earth. At this grand council he will take his place by the united voice of the thousands who by right of Priesthood are there assembled. This will precede the great day of destruction of the wicked and will be the preparation for the Millennial Reign”
The sheer scope of this boggles the mind. All men who have ever or will ever hold keys of the Priesthood will be summoned to this event, in which they will stand accountable for their use of these keys. All keys will be returned unto their source, even Christ. Michael will be crowned with his promised blessings and Christ will return as King and Lord of Earth.
Now that we’ve gotten all THAT understood, the text of the hymn becomes significantly clearer. The preparation for the return of Christ is culminated in the return of Michael, and this hymn recognizes the joy and majesty inherent in this event.
One interesting thing here (and maybe it’s just me that never really thought about it) is the degree of reverence, almost worshipfulness, that will be extended to Michael. The hymn suggests we will bow low before him, hail his reign, raise aloft our voices in a torrent power of song, break forth in dancing, and, again, raise a chorus that will rebound through space.
And, on reflection, why not? This man is the starting point of everything Our Father set in motion on the earth. He, by the side of Jehovah, aided in creating the planet and all things in it. He was the First Man, our spirit brother choice enough to be the first human on Earth. He and his glorious wife, Eve, Mother of our generations, made the bold and essential choice to fall that man may be. They lived the Gospel of Christ throughout their mortal lives, through joys and sorrows. They demonstrated faith and righteousness second to none.
Adam gets a bad rap in the Bible and throughout most of Christendom (though not as bad as Eve, whose treatment at the hand of her children is often egregiously offensive). He is regarded as the source of original sin and the great failure of mankind. He is considered the weakling who couldn’t keep from eating that one fruit and thus damned us all to a life in the lone and dreary world. Though these ideas are loosely based in truth, the restored gospel shows that they barely glimpse the great scope of Adam’s role. Adam, the Man, was declared a prince in his lifetime and will be a prince eternally. Michael, the Archangel, will usher in the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ on the earth. As far as I can tell, Michael is second in Priesthood only to the Lord. He is, literally, the patriarch of our race.
There is some debate about this event’s breadth. It is suggested that any who have held priesthood keys will account for them. “Today the members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles hold those keys. Priesthood keys are also given to the Presidency of the Seventy; presidents of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch presidents; and quorum presidents—including Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidents.” That’s quite a lot of people. The hymn (and the prophesy of Daniel) talk about thousands of people, even “ten thousand times ten thousand,” which would not be a small, quiet gathering. On the other hand, Joseph Fielding Smith said:
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.
Whatever its size, whoever its attendees, it will be a glorious day. But it will herald greater days yet, as Christ returns in triumph. Whether I will (in the flesh) participate in either of these events is unknown to me. I hope I can. Either way, the return of Michael is an event to be greatly anticipated, when “the ancient one [shall] reign in his Father’s house again.”
*The other missions of Michael, beyond the scope of this hymn, include calling forth the resurrection of the dead (D&C 29:26) and commanding the forces of God’s armies at the last great battle with Satan (D&C 88:110-115).