Darrel and I were privileged beyond our understanding to serve at Adam-ondi-Ahman, in Daviess County, Missouri. Bishop Kenison asked us to report our experience through the lens of Sabbath Worship. I quickly asked if I could focus on “worship” in general because it is a topic I have pondered about for a few years.
To worship God is to give Him our love, reverence, service, and devotion, but it is more than that. I have misunderstood what it means to truly “worship” in the past. When I heard someone say they were going to the temple to worship, I wondered if that’s what I was doing when I went. I wanted to understand what true worship looks like because it is a commandment. Moses 1:15 states “Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve.” I pray that the Spirit will help me express in words, what I have come to understand in my heart.
Dean M. Davies suggested, “Far from being an accidental, happy occurrence, worship is essential and central to our spiritual life. It becomes something we should yearn for, seek out, and strive to experience.”
Elder McConkie said, God “has planted in our hearts an instinctive desire to worship…to love and serve a power or being greater than ourselves.”
Studying the Old Testament this year makes it clear that this innate desire can lead to the false worship of man-made Gods if not properly founded. The troubling thing with this pattern is it does not elevate the natural man to seek God nor His Spirit. It doesn’t inspire the natural man to become like more God-like. In fact, it obscures the true worship of God, and allows the natural man to create a god after his own image and proudly walk in his own way. Sadly it is a slippery slope leading away from our Father in Heaven. If we place any person or thing above the love of God, we worship that thing or person. Exodus 20: 3-6 identifies this as idolatry. Idolatry is alive and well today!
Adam-ondi-Ahman has been a place of worship since the beginning of mortality. it was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that when Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden, they settled in a place called Adam-ondi-Ahman, which literally means, the valley of God, or the place where Adam dwelled.
It was here that they were taught how to worship God and why. They offered animal sacrifices as part of that worship for many days before an angel came to teach them the purpose of what they had faithfully done. Their sacrifices pointed them to the Savior and the divine role His Atonement would play in the path leading back to God.
The angel came to Adam and Eve at Adam-ondi-Ahman to teach them that God is our Father; that He is an exalted and perfected personage in whose image we are created. He came to teach them the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel. He came to teach them that salvation was available because of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the sacrifices they had offered were in similitude of Him. They learned that God had a plan not only for His children to return to Him, but return prepared to live as He lives.
Adam-ondi-Ahman has been referred to as an “outdoor temple” because of the sacred events of its rich history. It was humbling to be where Adam and Eve were first taught the purpose of worship by an angel. The Spirit of that event is especially powerful at Tower Hill.
So what is the purpose of worship? Bruce R. McConkie taught that “True and perfect worship is the supreme labor and purpose of man. The highest form of worship is emulation. Simply put, true worship is the intended course that will make us more like the Savior! There is nothing He wants more!
The purpose of worship is to learn of God, his attributes, His excellent character, purposes, and desires. It includes choosing to learn of the Savior with the intent to follow Him and become more like Him in every way possible. The purpose of true worship is emulating His life and teachings. True worship is intended to ultimately qualify us for exaltation. When we attend the temple or Sunday services, or study the scriptures with this intent, the results of our worship will be profound.
What was the result Adam and Eve’s worship over a lifetime?
Adam filled his role as head of the first dispensation. He and Eve became the parents of all mankind. Adam-ondi-Ahman is where they raised their family and taught them the gospel they had been taught. Adam became a Great High Priest over the human family. Three years prior to his death, his righteous posterity were called back to this valley, where they were given a final blessing. The intent of this gathering was to prepare them to be in the presence of the Savior. This surely involved priesthood ordinances, now available in the temple, because it is impossible to fully prepare to meet God without making and keeping the sacred covenants made there.
The Prophet Joseph Smith saw this gathering in vision as described in D&C 107. Enoch was among those present and recorded this event which “are to be testified of in due time.”
D&C 107: 54-55 records, “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 at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever.”
This all took place in the valley that we served in. This is in part the source of the rich spirit that is found there by all who come.
Enoch, who attended that grand meeting, lead a group of people to worship God in a way they allowed them to overcome the natural man and the influences of the world. Thus they were taken into heaven. This indicates to me that God’s plan of true worship works if followed!
Our mission statement was to beautify, maintain, and improve the land and ourselves. To make both presentable to the Savior when He returns.
Our daily focus was to worship and serve the Lord and to prepare for His return. This “worship” looked a lot like hard work for the Elders. We often marveled at what this group of “old guys” accomplished. They were our RED team! Retired and extremely dedicated. For the sisters it looked like hours of indexing to help gather scattered Israel on both sides of the veil. It looked like reaching out into the community in the spirit of service, love and inclusion. It looked like taking time to really know each other and taking time to minister to each other, often in a personal and private level.
In 1980, when the first missionaries were called to serve there, thick thorny locust groves, dens of snakes, barren hills, trash filled ravines, washed out roads, broken fences, and forgotten yards, homes and barns of earlier inhabitants were all that remained. The work of restoring this land to reflect the glory of its past and the majesty of its future systematically began. 242 couples have served here since 1980.
The combined, counsecrated efforts of all who have served since have helped sanctify the land. It has become a place of beauty where those who visit can find peace and feel the Spirit.
For couples serving at Adam-ondi-Ahman, worship includes frequent sincere prayer, bi-weekly scripture study and discussion, temple attendance, gathering to partake of the sacrament and to worship through music. I am one who understands that sacred music helps express worshipful feelings that are hard to express any other way. I have come to better understand the expression, “ if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love” spoken of in the Book of Mormon.
The intent of all we did as we served was to understand what those who lived in this land before us understood. It was a process of learning who God is—line upon line, understanding His plan for His children, and serving each other as we served God. All of it was designed to more fully follow the Savior’s example and become more as He is.
Before serving our mission I wondered if a Zion Society was possible. But now I know that it is! All it takes is a people who worship God daily by trying to live by the higher celestial laws He taught. Elder Schwitzer, one of the GA directors of this mission said, “Many look at the wickedness in the world and ask, What is God waiting for? Isn’t there enough wickedness in the world for the Savior’s return? The answer is of course there is plenty of wickedness to merit the Savior’s power and intervention, but that’s not what He’s waiting for. He’s waiting for a group of people prepared to greet Him and assist with His work and Kingdom during the Millennium. When there is a group sufficiently large and widespread prepared, He will come!”
Darrel and I were privileged to live in a mini-Zion society for 20 months in our “outdoor temple” home. I sense that each general conference is designed to lift us higher in our ability to understand and live the principles of the gospel and better access the guiding light of the Spirit. It is designed to prepare a Zion-people for the Savior’s return. A repeated study of the messages given must be part of our worship. If our purpose is to identify and pursue ways to personally improve—we will experience the refining, enabling power of the Savior in our effort to do so.
It is clear that worship is far more than prayer, sermon and song on Sunday. It is even more than regular temple attendance. It is daily living and doing and obeying. It is emulating the life of the great Exemplar intentionally every day in thought and in deed.
Our worship of God must take the form of energetic discipleship. We are asked to worship God, because in the process, true worship transforms us into sincere and earnest disciples of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We change over time to become more like Him. We become more understanding and caring. More forgiving. More charitable! In short, there is a mighty change in our hearts, and we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.
Through the Savior’s Atonement and the refining Gift of the Holy Ghost, we advance from grace to grace until we are glorified in Christ and become join heirs with Him. The Savior described true worship in three words, “Come follow Me.”
It is significant to note that the faithful until the time of Noah, lived and worshipped God at Adam-ondi-Ahman. In addition, early exiled saints found their way from Jackson County and lived there for roughly eight months. The third stake of Zion was organized, the saints-built homes and businesses. A temple site was dedicated. It was during this time, that the name and ancient significance of land was revealed to Joseph as recorded in D&C 116, near Wight’s ferry crossing on the Grand River.
The prophet Joseph identified what he called a “Nephite altar” indicating to me that the faithful in many dispensations made a pilgrimage to this ancient sacred land as part of their desire to worship God.
Adam-ondi-Ahman is a place like no other. Consider those who have record visited this sacred spot. We know of 4 heads of dispensations: Adam, Enoch, Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith. More recent history records that many modern prophets have visited and had great interest in this holy place, including Russell M. Nelson. Those who come to Adam-ondi-Ahman walk on holy ground. We felt that as we served and found frequent joy in our opportunities to worship there.
The faithful continue to come to Adam-ondi-Ahman for this very purpose. One day we had at least TEN bus loads! Many pilgrimage there to connect with the glorious history of this land where the sun first rose on mortality. They also come to connect with the sacred future events that will occur in this same place as a great prophesied gathering of faithful will be held. Keys of all dispensations will be accounted for and returned to Father Adam. He will then present them to the Savior, who will organize these faithful disciples prior to is Coming in majesty and glory when all flesh shall see Him together. Just thinking about Adam-ondi-Ahman brings me hope!
Those who attend the future grand council, will be there by invitation. I have come to believe with all my heart that as we learn to truly worship God in the way He desires, we will qualify for an invitation regardless of which side of the veil we find ourselves.
Living at Adam-ondi-Ahman filled me with a sense of majestic awe and profound thanksgiving. I believe both are a part of true worship.
When we truly worship, we open our hearts to the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Our lives become the token and expression of our worship.
President Hinckley taught, “Without sacrifice there is no true worship of God. I become increasingly convinced of that every day.” The conclusion: “The cost of discipleship is high because the blessings it affords are priceless.”
Elder McConkie wrote a powerful article in the December 1971 Ensign on true worship. I highly recommend it!
In part he said, “To worship the Lord is to stand valiantly in the cause of truth and righteousness, to let our influence for good be felt in civic, cultural, educational, and governmental fields, and to support those laws and principles which further the Lord’s interests on earth. To worship the Lord is to be of good cheer, to be courageous, to be valiant, to have the courage of our God-given convictions, and to keep the faith. To worship the Lord is to be like Christ until we receive from Him the blessed assurance: “Ye shall be even as I am.”
Serving at Adam-ondi-Ahman was life-altering for me. My faith, testimony, gratitude, and ability to feel the influence of the Spirit have increased. I know that God lives. I know there is life after death in sacred, personal ways. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that I stand on the shoulders of faithful saints who encountered and endured the refiner’s fire in Missouri. I love and revere the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know that President Nelson is the prophet for our day. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior at a level I have never known before. I know that He will return, and His first appearance will be at Adam-ondi-Ahman! It is my intent to live and worship sufficiently well to merit an invitation when He does. I invite each of you to do the same!