Erroneous Doctrine and Covenants Teachings Concerning Adam-ondi-Ahman

(Note to reader:  The following is an excerpt from a long letter written by M. S. Brothers to seven LDS apostles in early 2015.  No response to this letter was ever received.)

In connection with this subject, another purported revelation, D&C Section 116, declares another part of western Missouri, in Daviess County, to be Adam-ondi-Ahman, the place where Adam will come to visit his people. In April of 1838, while encouraging church members to gather to Missouri, Joseph Smith claimed the Lord revealed this to him, and later that year also claimed that this and the Far West area were the “land where Adam dwelt,” see History of the Church 3:45-46; D&C 107: 53, and D&C 117: 8. It’s also suggested in D&C 107: 53 that all the patriarchs through Methuselah also lived close enough to Adam’s western Missouri location that he could gather them together for a meeting shortly before his death. But Joseph’s claims, which appear in the Doctrine and Covenants in the first-person voice of God, appear to be contradicted both by the Bible and in the Pearl of Great Price’s Book of Moses, as well as by common sense.

According to Genesis 2: 10-14 and Moses 3: 10-14 in the Pearl of Great Price, the Hiddekel (which is identified by almost all biblical scholars as referring to the modern-day Tigris) and Euphrates rivers flowed out of the Garden of Eden to the east. Another river (“Pison”) flowed from Eden to the land of Havilah somewhere south of Israel where the Amalekites lived, and one more (“Gihon”) flowed from Eden to Ethiopia. Clearly the geography of the Middle East has changed somewhat since Adam’s time, since the river to Ethiopia is covered now by sea, or has dried up, and the river to Havilah appears to no longer flow. Still, since all the lands to or through which the rivers flowed can still be identified today as lands in the Middle East, and since the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates can still be located, the Garden of Eden can reasonably be said to have been located somewhere in the general area south of the Black Sea, several hundred miles north of Israel. Thus, if we assume that after leaving the Garden of Eden, Adam remained within 1000 miles of it, his habitation was nowhere near Missouri.  Instead, it was several thousands miles to the east of it, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

(As an aside, the explanation sometimes offered in church meetings for the distance between western Missouri and the headwaters of the Euphrates is that the earth’s formerly-joined land masses separated in the time of Peleg, “for in his days was the earth divided.” Genesis 10: 25. Thus, the explanation goes, modern geography is unreliable, because it doesn’t account for the geography pre-existing Peleg’s time. This explanation is without merit for two major reasons, even if you don’t count the reason, given by Mormon and non-Mormon scientists alike, that the division of the continents occurred millions of years before Peleg. The first reason is that the division being spoken of is shown by other surrounding scriptures to be one of political subdivisions and languages, not of land masses. The Peleg reference comes in the context of describing Noah’s posterity and where they settled after the flood. Seven verses after the Peleg verse, this verse is found: “These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.” Gen. 10: 32. The next verse, Gen. 11:1, which backtracks chronologically, drives this point home: “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.” The “earth” being spoken of in all three quoted verses is without question people, not land masses. This “division” was beginning in Jared’s time around Babel, and was completed later in Peleg’s time. The second strike against the “Peleg” explanation is that a division of continents would undoubtedly have received much more biblical attention than one verse, if it were describing something of such magnitude as the land of the patriarchs suddenly sliding away to an unknown part of the world. And finally, if the Jaredites and Lehites were only being led back to the continent previously inhabited by their forefathers, certainly the Book of Mormon would have described it that way, just like the Bible described Moses leading the children of Israel back to the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Instead, the destination of the Jaredites and Lehites was described, before Peleg’s time, as “a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth,” (Ether 1: 42) for which neither group had any other descriptive name. Lehi even commented that the land had been “kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations.” See II Nephi 1: 5, 8.)

But these contextual and geographical realities didn’t stop Mormons in Joseph Smith’s time from inferring, and then teaching, that the garden of Eden itself, as well as Adam’s home, had been in western Missouri, despite the contrary information in Genesis 2:10-14, Ether 1 and 2 and Moses 3: 10, 13-14. Today, over 175 years later, are we wrong to question, after considering all that we know on this subject, whether God actually revealed this to Joseph Smith?  Are we wrong to not believe that Adam is going to come again to Missouri for a big meeting before Christ comes, as Mormon doctrine holds? Does our church membership require that unless we regard Joseph Smith as doctrinally infallible, we are rebellious and lacking in faith? We have seen a charismatic LDS general authority in our own time fabricate many impressive and inspiring, but completely untrue, personal experiences.  And he was much better educated than Joseph Smith and had traveled the world. Could Joseph Smith not have done the same?