A growing garden Mormon tourists flocking to, through Missouri

Sunday, June 16, 2002

GALLATIN, Mo. -- It may come as a surprise to learn that Adam and Eve lived in Northwest Missouri. But that's the belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The church believes that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri and included present-day Independence, Mo.

After being driven out of Eden, the church believes, Adam and Eve then lived in the area where the present-day town of Gallatin lies. The church calls this area Adam-ondi-Ahman.

Another surprise might be that the site is toured by thousands of visitors each year. And that number is expected to increase because of the May 1 opening of a new temple in Nauvoo, Ill. Huge tour buses and thousands of cars, licensed in dozens of states, are flocking through Missouri.

The Liberty Jail in Liberty, Mo., is also on the tour list. More than 7,000 people visited it during 21 days in May to 4,000 for all of May 2001.

"The garden could have included all this area," said Del Garner, director of the Liberty Jail attraction and an elder with the Latter-day Saints Church. "Independence, Far West and Adam-ondi-Ahman."

Latter-day Saints prophecy predicts Jesus Christ will return to this area, establishing New Jerusalem to begin his 1,000-year reign.

"The date is not known," Garner said. "It's never been written or stated."

Temple never built

The history of the Saints in Missouri began when church founder Joseph Smith said he received divine communications at Far West, in Caldwell County. A monument there tells of the history and displays stones for a planned temple that was never built.

In 1831, he rowed up the Grand River to explore land in Daviess County. According to historian Fawn Brodie, "On a high bluff overlooking the river, someone in the party discovered the ruins of what seemed to be an altar and excitedly led the prophet to it. After examining it, Joseph stood silent. ... This is the valley of God in which Adam blessed his children, he said, and upon this very altar Adam himself offered up sacrifices to Jehovah. We will lay out a city which shall be called Adam-ondi-Ahman."

Mormons first settled in Jackson County, but were expelled from there. They then created a county just for Mormons in 1836 Caldwell County. Far West was the headquarters. Home to 4,000 to 5,000 people, it was a typical Old West booming town.

From June to October 1838, the population of the two-mile square Adam-ondi-Ahman increased to about 400 people.

But, in 1838, Gov. Lilburn W. Boggs ordered Mormons exterminated or driven from the state. Over the next year and a half, members left for Nauvoo, Ill., giving up the Far West land. The church bought back the temple site in 1909 and today owns 582 acres surrounding the temple location.

Buying more acres

Over the years, as land became available, the church has bought more acreage. That continues today. The church owns more than 3,000 acres surrounded by neat homes and white fences.

"The only thing being used are the residences, for church-service missionaries, to maintain those properties," Garner said.

The site is on Missouri Highway 13 north of Gallatin. Far West can be found in Caldwell County on State Route D, a few miles south of U.S. Highway 36.

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