An American Garden of Eden?

By Bill McKeever

The passage of time has probably made it impossible to know exactly where the Garden of Eden was located. While admitting that no theory comes without difficulties, Dr. Roland K. Harrison, professor of Old Testament at Wycliffe College, Toronto, writes, "On the basis of currently available information it would appear that the one that locates Eden near the head of the Persian Gulf combines the greatest number of probabilities of every kind" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 2:17).

The general consensus of conservative Christian scholars point to the Mesopotamian Valley area. The fact that Genesis 2:14 speaks of the Euphrates River, a river still in existence, gives credence to this. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, and many of his successors have disagreed with such a view and point instead to present-day North America.

In 1838, Joseph Smith led a group of followers seventy miles north of present-day Kansas City, Missouri. There he founded a new settlement that he called Adam-ondi-Ahman. The place is significant in Mormon history for it is here that Smith claimed the first man, Adam, lived.

Adam-ondi-Ahman

According to Smith, the Garden of Eden was located in Jackson County, Missouri and following his expulsion from the Garden, Adam traveled northward to a place near modern-day Gallatin, Missouri. Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt stated that the name Adam-ondi-Ahman “is in the original language spoken by Adam, as revealed to the Prophet Joseph” (Journal of Discourses 18:343).

Tenth Mormon President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote,

"In accord with the revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, we teach that the Garden of Eden was on the American continent located where the city of Zion, or the New Jerusalem will be built. When Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden, they eventually dwelt at a place called Adam-ondi-Ahman, situated in what is now Daviess County, Missouri" (Doctrines of Salvation 3:74).

Joseph Smith taught that Adam, just prior to his death, called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch and Methuselah, as well as the "residue of his posterity who were righteous,' to Adam-ondi-Ahman. It was there he "bestowed upon them his last blessing" (Doctrine and Covenants 107:53).

Mormon Apostle John Widtsoe wrote,

"Since Adam called together seven generations of his descendants at Adam-ondi-Ahman, it can well be believed that there was his old homestead. If so, the Garden of Eden was probably not far distant, for it was the entrance at the east of the Garden which was closed against them at the time of the 'fall' (Genesis 3:24). In fact, it has been commonly understood among the Latter-day Saints, from the teachings of the Prophet, that the temple was to be built in or near the location of the Garden of Eden" (Evidences and Reconciliations, pg. 396).

According to Heber C. Kimball, a temple block was dedicated. "While there we laid out a city on a high elevated piece of land, and set the stakes for the four corners of a temple block, which was dedicated, Brother Brigham being mouth" (Life of Heber C. Kimball, 2nd ed., pp. 208-209 as printed in BYU Studies, Autumn 1972, pg. 34).

Dr. Robert J. Matthews of Brigham Young University states,

"Although the 'temple block' was dedicated, apparently no corner stones were laid, and no temple was built. Persecution soon forced the Saints to flee Illinois, and thus the settlement had a short existence lasting only a few months, because by November 1838 the Saints were leaving their homes and abandoning Adam-ondi-Ahman" (BYU Studies, Autumn 1972, pg. 34).

Smith also taught that Adam will once again come to visit this site. Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie makes reference to this event and stated that a portion of Adam's altar had remained through the ages. He wrote,

"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, Daviess County, 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" (Mormon Doctrine, pg. 21).

In volume one of his two-volume set entitled Joseph Smith Begins His Work, Wilford Wood includes a photograph of what he calls "stones from Adam's altar." Heber C. Kimball also wrote of this altar. He stated that Smith led them a short distance from the temple block and said, "There is the place where Adam offered up sacrifice after he was cast out of the garden" (BYU Studies, Autumn 1972, pg. 34).

Thirteenth LDS Prophet Ezra Taft Benson also wrote how the Garden of Eden was located in America. Under the section "Divine Destiny" in his book The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (pp. 587-588), he wrote,

"Consider how very fortunate we are to be living in this land of America ... Many great events have transpired in this land of destiny. This was the place where Adam dwelt; this was the place where the Garden of Eden was; it was here that Adam met with a body of high priests at Adam-ondi-Ahman shortly before his death and gave them his final blessing, and the place to which he will return to meet with the leaders of his people (D&C 107:53-57). This was the place of three former civilizations: that of Adam, that of the Jaredites, and that of the Nephites."

Notice also how Benson places the Nephites in the United States, not Central America as Mormon scholars are now insisting.

Not only have LDS leaders stated that Eden was located in what is today the United States, they have also stated that Noah built his famous ark nearby as well. On October 7, 1860, President Brigham Young declared,

"In the beginning, after the earth was prepared for man, the Lord commenced his work upon what is now called this American continent, where the Garden of Eden was made. In the days of Noah, in the days of the floating of the ark, he took the people to another part of the earth: the earth was divided, and there he set up his kingdom" (Journal of Discourses 8:195).

Before he became first counselor to Brigham Young, Apostle George Q. Cannon stated,

"Men have supposed that because the Ark rested on Ararat that the flood commenced there, or rather that it was from thence the Ark started to sail. But God in His revelations has informed us that it was on this choice land of Joseph where Adam was placed and the Garden of Eden was laid out" (Journal of Discourses 11:337).

In a sermon delivered by Orson Pratt, the LDS Apostle concurred with the aforementioned statements by saying,

"We may, however, observe, that so far as new revelation has given us information on this subject, this Continent of ours may be ranked among the first lands occupied by the human family. The very first man who had dominion on the face of the earth, under the direction of the Heavens, once dwelt on this Continent, His name was Adam" (Journal of Discourses 12:338)

Pratt continued by saying, "It was on this land where both Noah built his ark, which was blown by the winds of Heaven away to the east, and landed on Ararat" (Journal of Discourses 12:338).

Like many teachings brought about by LDS leaders, the idea that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri cannot be supported by the Bible. Mormons are really left with nothing but the claims of Joseph Smith for their "evidence." Pratt admits this when he said, "These things are not revealed to us by the Bible, or by tradition, but by the inspiration of the Almighty through the great modern prophet who was raised up to commence this marvellous (sic) work of which you and I are now partakers" (Journal of Discourses 12:339).

Other Quotes

  • "I do not think there Ever was a people on the earth who done as much as we have in 40 years. It was the opinion of the Prophet Joseph that the City of Enoch was in the gulf of Mexico, and that Adam offered his sacrafice & Built his first Altar in Adam Ondi Ahman [Missouri], & the Stones of his Altar are there now to be seen. The City of Enoch was taken up but the City of Zion which we shall build will remain & not be taken away as his City was. Noah was 110 years in building an Ark. We have Not Been 40 years yet in building up Zion in our day & the Kingdom of God on the earth." - Waiting for World's End, p.298 (Wilford Woodruff's Diary)