Today, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is associated with Utah, where they settled in 1847, before it officially became a state. But Joseph Smith founded Mormonism in 1830 in the “Burned-Over District” of upstate New York, and led his growing band of followers westward, through Ohio and Illinois. Independence, Missouri was declared by Smith to be the original Garden of Eden, or Zion, and he laid the ground for a Mormon temple.
Before it could be built, tensions mounted with the local settlers who were largely pro-slavery in this border state, and the “Saints,” as they called themselves, were forced to resettle in a small village north of Independence which Smith christened Adam-ondi-Ahman. Also the name of a classic Mormon hymn, the phrase is supposed to mean “Adam settled here,” in a secret language revealed to Smith by God.
Smith preached standing on a large, flat stone in a wooded area on the edge of a field, where he claimed Adam and Eve had made their first sacrifice upon settling in their new home. According to Smith, Adam and Eve lived long, peaceful lives and had many children. The Mormon settlers were not so fortunate: in 1838 the bloody Mormon War forced them into exile again.
Today the site, a peaceful expanse of forests and fields in the rolling hills of Missouri farmland, has been turned into a Church-owned park, where you can tour sites related to Smith. Due to some discrepancy over which stone was the one that Smith designated as Adam’s, there is no longer an official Church plaque singling out the stone, but if you follow an unofficial path downhill from one of the viewing areas, you will come to something that is rumored to be “preacher’s rock,” along with a number of other landmark stones.
It is said that because visiting Mormons will take small stones they find in Adam-ondi-Ahman’s fields home with them as souvenirs, local farmers bring their troublesome stones into the park to get rid of them. The park, including a picnic area, is open to the public during daylight hours, and cared for by a couple of young Mormon missionaries who live in a small house on site.