Altars of Stone
Remembering Joseph by Mark McConkie
Duncan, Chapman (July 12, 1812-December 22, 1900)
Duncan says Joseph showed he and others the place where Adam built an altar.
By this time Joseph the Prophet had come out to Adam-ondi-Ahman, Davies Country. . . . I think the next day he said to those present, Hyrum Smith, Bishop Vinson Knight, myself and two or three others, “Get me a spade and I will show you the altar that Adam offered sacrifice on.” I believe this was the only time Joseph was in Di-Ahman. He went about forty rods north of my house and placed the shovel with care and placed his foot on it. When he took out the shovelful of dirt it bared the stone, on the side of [the] upper edge nearly a foot deep. The dirt was two inches deep on the stone, I reckon. About four feet or more were disclosed. He did not dig to the bottom of the wall—three layers of good masonry wall put up, were unearthed. The stone looked like dressed stone, nice joints, ten inches thick, eighteen inches or more long. He came back down the slope perhaps fifteen rods. On the level, the Prophet stopped and remarked, “This place where we stood is the place where Adam gathered his posterity and blessed them, and predicted what should come to pass to later generations.” The next day he returned to Far West, Lyman Wight and Bishop Knight going with him.
“Extract from the Journal of Chapman Duncan,” LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah. Some spelling and punctuation have been modernized.
Note: See D&C 107:53-56 for the account of Adam blessing his posterity.
Chronology of Events in Adam-ondi-Ahman
- Adam lived in Adam-ondi-Ahman after being cast out of the Garden of Eden
- Adam offered sacrifice as commanded of the Lord
- Adam was baptized, received the Holy Ghost and temple ordinances
- Three years before he died, Adam met with his righteous posterity and gave them the temple ordinances
- May 19, 1838, Joseph Smith revealed the location of Adam-ondi-Ahman
- June 25, 1838, saints living at Adam-ondi-Ahman were organized into a stake of Zion
- Latter-day Meeting at Adam-ondi-Ahman
Latter-day Discovery HC Volume 3 page 33-36
Selection Of Lands In Caldwell And Daviess Counties For Settlement—Adam-Ondi-Ahman.
The Prophet Leaves Far West to Locate Settlements.
Friday, May 18.—I left Far West, in company with Sidney Rigdon, Thomas B. Marsh, David W. Patten, Bishop Partridge, Elias Higbee, Simeon Carter, Alanson Ripley, and many others, for the purpose of visiting the north country, and laying off a stake of Zion; making locations, and laying claim to lands to facilitate the gathering of the Saints, and for the benefit of the poor, in upholding the Church of God. We traveled to the mouth of Honey Creek, which is a tributary of Grand river, where we camped for the night. We passed through a beautiful country the greater part of which is prairie, and thickly covered with grass and weeds, among which is plenty of game, such as deer, turkey, and prairie hen. We discovered a large, black wolf, and my dog gave him chase, but he outran us. We have nothing to fear in camping out, except the rattlesnake, which is native to this country, though not very numerous. We turned our horses loose, and let them feed on the prairie.
The Prophet and Party Reach Tower Hill.
Saturday, 19.—This morning we struck our tents and formed a line of march, crossing Grand River at the mouth of Honey Creek and Nelson’s Ferry. Grand River is a large, beautiful, deep and rapid stream, during the high waters of Spring, and will undoubtedly admit of navigation by steamboat and other water craft. At the mouth of Honey Creek is a good landing. We pursued our course up the river, mostly through timber, for about eighteen miles, when we arrived at Colonel Lyman Wight’s home. He lives at the foot of Tower Hill (a name I gave the place in consequence of the remains of an old Nephite altar or tower that stood there), where we camped for the Sabbath.
In the afternoon I went up the river about half a mile to Wight’s Ferry, accompanied by President Rigdon, and my clerk, George W. Robinson, for the purpose of selecting and laying claim to a city plat near said ferry in Daviess County, township 60, ranges 27 and 28, and sections 25, 36, 31, and 30, which the brethren called “Spring Hill,” but by the mouth of the Lord it was named Adam-ondi-Ahman, 1 because, said He, it is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the Prophet. 2
Sunday, 20.—This day was spent by our company principally at Adam-ondi-Ahman; but near the close of the day, we struck our tents, and traveled about six miles north and encamped for the night with Judge Morin and company, who were also traveling north.
Monday, 21.—This morning, after making some locations in this place, which is in township 61, ranges 27 and 28, we returned to Robinson’s Grove, about two miles, to secure some land near Grand River, which we passed the day previous; and finding a mistake in the former survey, I sent the surveyor south five or six miles to obtain a correct line, while some of us tarried to obtain water for the camp.
Council called to determine Location of Settlements.
In the evening, I called a council of the brethren, to know whether it was wisdom to go immediately into the north country, or tarry here and here abouts, to secure land on Grand River, etc. The brethren spoke their minds freely on the subject, when I stated to the council that I felt impressed to tarry and secure all the land near by, that is not secured between this and Far West, especially on Grand River. President Rigdon concurred, and the council voted unanimously to secure the land on Grand River, and between this and Far West.
Elders Kimball and Hyde this day (21st May) arrived at Kirtland from England.
Click below for Altar Explanation
American Antiquities Discovered.
Tuesday, 22.—President Rigdon went east with a company, and selected some of the best locations in the county, 3 and returned with a good report of that vicinity, and with information of valuable locations which might be secured. Following awhile the course of the company, I returned to camp in Robinson’s Grove, and thence went west to obtain some game to supply our necessities. We discovered some antiquities about one mile west of the camp, consisting of stone mounds, apparently erected in square piles, though somewhat decayed and obliterated by the weather of many years. These mounds were probably erected by the aborigines of the land, to secrete treasures. We returned without game.
D&C 116 May 19, 1838
SPRING Hill is named by the Lord Adam-ondi-Ahman, because, said he, it is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet.
Robert J. Matthews (Professor, BYU)
Elder Dyer also has gathered reports of early brethren and residents of Daviess county which describe Adam-ondi-Ahman as the site of two ancient altars (neither of which is now to be seen) used by Adam. One of these, an “altar of prayer” he locates not far from the Lyman Wight house on Tower Hill. The other, an “altar of sacrifice,” is said to have been situated a mile or so away near the top of Spring Hill. (BYU Studies, Vol. 13, No. 1, p.31)
Leland H. Gentry (CES Teacher)
Abraham O. Smoot, a member of the survey team for Adam-ondi-Ahman, is quoted as having said that Joseph Smith was not present when “Adam’s Altar” was discovered: President Smoot said that he and Alanson Ripley, while surveying at the town [i.e., Adam-ondi-Ahman], which was about 22 miles from Jackson County, Missouri, came across a stone wall in the midst of a dense forest of underbrush. The wall was 30 feet long, 3 feet thick, and 4 feet high. It was laid in mortar or cement. When Joseph visited the place and examined the wall he said it was the remains of an altar built by Father Adam and upon which he offered sacrifices after he was driven from the Garden of Eden. He said that the Garden of Eden was located in Jackson County, Missouri. The whole town of Adam-ondi-Ahman was in the midst of a thick and heavy forest of timber and the place was named in honor of Adam’s altar. The Prophet explained that it was upon this altar where Adam blessed his sons and his posterity, prior to his death. (BYU Studies, Vol. 13, No. 4, p.565)
Like the Kirtland Temple
Heber C. Kimball
The Prophet Joseph called upon Brother Brigham, myself and others, saying, “Brethren, come, go along with me, and I will show you something,” He led us a short distance to a place where were the ruins of three altars built of stone, one above the other, and one standing a little back of the other, like unto the pulpits in the Kirtland Temple, representing the order of three grades of Priesthood; “There,” said Joseph, “is the place where Adam offered up sacrifice after he was cast out of the garden.” The altar stood at the highest point of the bluff. I went and examined the place several times while I remained there. (Life of Heber C. Kimball , pp. 209-210)
A Most Holy Place
Elder Alvin R. Dyer
I have been privileged to feel the nearness of President McKay’s spirit. I have felt the majesty of his soul as we stood in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, observing in the short distance a place there known as Spring Hill, referred to in Section 116 of the Doctrine and Covenants as the place where Adam, Michael, or the “Ancient of Days,” in accordance with the prophecy of
Daniel, shall in the due time of the Lord visit the earth for an important reason, and while there hearing President McKay utter quietly, “This is a most holy place.” (Conference Report, October 1967, p.41)
Adam-ondi-Ahman and Far West
Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr.
and John J. Stewart (Author)
Elder Dyer, whom President McKay subsequently ordained an apostle and later set apart as a counselor in the church presidency, offered some interesting after-thoughts on Far West:
“In connection with President McKay’s visit at Far West, it is to be noted that while there the President appeared somewhat overwhelmed. The place made a deep impression upon him; so much so that he referred to Far West a number of times in the ensuing days as a place of deep impression.
“The feeling that President McKay had at Far West registered upon me once again, but now with greater impact. The events that transpired there are significant: (a) The Lord proclaimed Far West a holy and consecrated land unto him, declaring to Joseph Smith that the very ground he stood on there was holy. (b) The Prophet Joseph Smith contended with the devil face to face for some time, upon the occasion of the power of evil menacing one of his children in the Prophet’s home just west of the temple site. Lucifer declared that Joseph had no right to be there, that this was his place. Whereupon the Prophet rebuked Satan in the name of the Lord, and he departed and did not touch the child again. (c) The overwhelming feeling that President McKay had when he visited this sacred place.
“The Answer: I have often pondered the holy significance of Far West, and even more so since President McKay’s visit. The sacredness of Far West, Missouri, is no doubt due to the understanding that the Prophet Joseph Smith conveyed to the brethren, at these early times, that Adam-ondi-Ahman, the place to which Adam and Eve fled when cast out of the Garden of Eden, is where Adam erected an altar unto God, and offered sacrifices, and that Far West was the spot where Cain killed Abel.
“This information tends to explain why the Lord declared Far West to be a holy consecrated place; and no doubt explains why Satan claimed that place as his own, as it was here that he entered into a covenant with Cain, resulting in the death of Abel, the first of mortal existence [to die] upon this earth.
“It would appear that President McKay while there felt the spirit and significance of this holy place.” (The Life of Joseph Fielding Smith, p.340)
Offered in Adam-ondi-Ahman
And Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence.
And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.
And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.
What is the gospel as taught by Jesus himself? The very first principle was faith in the Messiah; this was the first principle ever taught to man. When Adam, after being driven from the garden of Eden, went to Adam-ondi-Ahman to offer sacrifice, the angel of the Lord asked him why he did so. Adam replied that he did not know, but the Lord had commanded him to do it. He was then told that the blood of bulls and goats, of rams and lambs should be spilt upon the altar as a type of the great and last sacrifice which should be offered up for the sins of the world. The first principle, then, ever taught to Father Adam was faith in the Messiah, who was to come in the meridian of time to lay down his life for the redemption of man. (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p.18)
At a conference of the Sunday School children in the old Tabernacle on the 30th of March (1873), Elder Woodruff reported Brigham Young as saying, “Joseph, the Prophet, told me that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri. When Adam was driven out he went to the place we now call Adam-ondi-Ahman, Daviess County, Missouri. There he built an altar and offered sacrifice.” (Wilford Woodruff, p. 481)
Joseph Fielding Smith
Of necessity the first sanctified temples were the mountain tops and secluded places in the wilderness. If we are correctly informed, Adam built his altar on a hill above the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman. At that place the Lord revealed to him the purpose of the fall and the mission of the Savior. [Doctrines of Salvation, 2, p.232]
Adam Received Priesthood Ordinances
And it came to pass, when the Lord had spoken with Adam, our father, that Adam cried unto the Lord, and he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water.
And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man.
And he heard a voice out of heaven, saying: Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever;
And thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.
Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons. Amen.
Ezra Taft Benson
When our Heavenly Father placed Adam and Eve on this earth, He did so with the purpose in mind of teaching them how to regain His presence. Our Father promised a Savior to redeem them from their fallen condition. He gave them the plan of salvation and told them to teach their children faith in Jesus Christ and repentance. Further, Adam and his posterity were commanded by God to be baptized, to receive the Holy Ghost, and to enter into the order of the Son of God. (See Moses 6.) To enter into the order of the Son of God is the equivalent today of entering into the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is only received in the house of the Lord.
Because Adam and Eve had complied with these requirements, God said to them, “Thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years” (Moses 6:67). [“What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children About the Temple,” Ensign 15 (August 1985): 8]
Adam’s Meeting with Posterity
Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing.
And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.
This is why Adam blessed his posterity; he wanted to bring them into the presence of God. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.159)
Ezra Taft Benson
Three years before Adam’s death, a great event occurred. He took his son Seth, his grandson Enos, and other high priests who were his direct-line descendants, with others of his righteous posterity, into a valley called Adam-ondi-Ahman. There Adam gave to these righteous descendants his last blessing.
The Lord then appeared to them.
The vast congregation rose up and blessed Adam and called him Michael, the prince and archangel. The Lord himself declared Adam to be a prince forever over his own posterity.
Then Adam in his aged condition rose up and, being filled with the spirit of prophecy, predicted “whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation.” All this is recorded in section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants (verses 53-56).
The Prophet Joseph Smith said that Adam blessed his posterity because “he wanted to bring them into the presence of God.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book co., 1938, p. 159.)
How did Adam bring his descendants into the presence of the Lord?
The answer: Adam and his descendants entered into the priesthood order of God. Today we would say they went to the House of the Lord and received their blessings. (“What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children About the Temple,” Ensign 15 [August 1985]: 8-10)
Latter-day Meeting at Adam-ondi-Ahman
Daniel in his seventh chapter speaks of the Ancient of days; he means the oldest man, our Father Adam, Michael, he will call his children together and hold a council with them to prepare them for the coming of the Son of Man. He (Adam) is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men, and all that have had the keys must stand before him in this grand council. This may take place before some of us leave this stage of action. The Son of Man stands before him, and there is given him glory and dominion. Adam delivers up his stewardship to Christ, that which was delivered to him as holding the keys of the universe, but retains his standing as head of the human family. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.157)
Joseph Fielding Smith
It was in the night vision that all this was shown to Daniel, and he saw the Son of Man come to the grand council, as he did to the first grand council in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there he received the keys from Adam “and there was given to him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (Dan. 7: 13-14.) In this council Christ will take over the reigns of government, officially, on this earth, and “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him,” even Jesus Christ. Until this grand council is held, Satan shall hold rule in the nations of the earth; but at that time thrones are to be cast down and man’s rule shall come to an end — for it is decreed that the Lord shall make an end of all nations. (D.C. 87:6.) Preparation for this work is now going on. Kingdoms are already tottering, some have fallen; but eventually they shall all go the way of the earth, and he shall come whose right it is to rule. Then shall he give the government to the saints of the Most High.
This council in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman is to be of the greatest importance to this world. At that time there will be a transfer of authority from the usurper and impostor, Lucifer, to the rightful King, Jesus Christ. Judgment will be set and all who have held keys will make their reports and deliver their stewardships, as they shall be required. Adam will direct this judgment, and then he will make his report, as the one holding the keys for this earth, to his Superior Officer, Jesus Christ. Our Lord will then assume the reins of government; directions will be given to the Priesthood; and He, whose right it is to rule, will be installed officially by the voice of the Priesthood there assembled. This grand council of Priesthood will be composed, not only of those who are faithful who now dwell on this earth, but also of the prophets and apostles of old, who have had directing authority. Others may also be there, but if so they will be there by appointment, for this is to be an official council called to attend to the most momentous matters ‘ concerning the destiny of this earth. (The Way to Perfection, p.289-291)
A great council will then be held to adjust the affairs of the world, from the commencement, over which Father Adam will preside as head and representative of the human family. . . .
Then they will assemble to regulate all these affairs, and all that held keys of authority to administer will then represent their earthly course. And as this authority has been handed down from one to another in different ages, and in different dispensations, a full reckoning will have to be made by all. All who have held the keys of priesthood will then have to give an account to those from whom they received them. Those that were in the heavens have been assisting those that were upon the earth; but then, they will unite together in a general council to give an account of their stewardships, and as in the various ages men have received their power to administer from those who had previously held the keys thereof, there will be a general account.
Those under the authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have to give an account of their transactions to those who direct them in the priesthood; hence the elders give an account to presidents of conferences; and presidents of conferences to presidents of nations. Those presidents and the seventies give an account to the twelve apostles; the twelve to the First Presidency; and they to Joseph, from whom they, and the twelve, received their priesthood. This will include the arrangements of the last dispensation. Joseph delivers his authority to Peter, who held the keys before him, and delivered them to him; and Peter to Moses and Elias, who endowed him with this authority on the Mount; and they to those from whom they received them. And thus the world’s affairs will be regulated and put right, the restitution of all things be accomplished, and the kingdom of God be ushered in. The earth will be delivered from under the curse, resume its paradisiacal glory, and all things pertaining to its restoration be fulfilled. [The Gospel Kingdom, p.217]
Elder Bruce R. McConkie identified the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement as the “three pillars of eternity” and taught that understanding them lays the foundation for understanding the entire plan of salvation.
“Altar”Author: Porter, Bruce H.
A focal point of religious worship throughout the ages, and in most cultures, has been the altar-a natural or man-made elevation used for prayer, sacrifice, and related purposes. Sacrifice on the altar was a basic rite. The characteristic worship practice in Old Testament times was sacrificial in nature, and consequently the altar became one of the most important ritual objects described in that book of scripture.
Sacred and symbolic meaning is ascribed to the altar. The stipulations of the “law of the altar” (Ex. 20:24-26) suggest that its construction is associated with the creation of the world and God’s covenants with humankind. As the waters of creation receded, dry land appeared and was known as the primordial mound (first hill). Here, according to legend, the gods stood in order to complete the Creation. Because of divine presence, this spot became sacred or holy ground, a point of contact between this world and the heavenly world. The altar was built that people might kneel by it to communicate and make covenants with their God. The altar in Ezekiel 43:15is named “the mountain of God” (Hebrew term, hahar’el ), and becomes the symbolic embodiment of the Creation, the primordial mound, and the presence of God.
At an altar Adam learned the meaning of sacrifice (Moses 5:5-8). Following the Flood, the patriarch Noah immediately built an altar and offered his sacrifices to the Most High. When Abraham received the promise and covenant of an inheritance for his posterity, he marked this sacred event with an altar (Gen. 12:6-7). On Mount Moriah the young Isaac was bound upon the sacrificial table or altar in preparation for his father’s supreme offering and demonstration of obedience (Gen. 22:9-14). Tradition says the place of this consecrated altar became the locus of the temple in Jerusalem.
The temple complex in Jerusalem had four different altars. In an ascending order of sacral primacy, they were as follows: First, the Altar of Sacrifice, often called the altar of burnt offering or the table of the Lord (Mal. 1:7, 12; 1 Cor. 10:21), was placed outside of the temple itself in the Court of Israel and was more public than the others. Sacrifices for the sins of Israel were offered here, anticipating fulfillment in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:25-26; Alma 34:9-10, 14-16). Second, the Altar of Incense stood in the “holy place” before the veil inside the temple proper. John describes the smoke of this altar as the “prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne” (Rev. 8:3-4). Third, within the same area of the temple stood the Table of Shewbread, upon which rested twelve loaves of bread, frankincense, and a drink offering. And fourth, the ark of the covenant rested in the holy of holies, the most inner, sacred area within the temple. The ark was to Israel the portable throne or Mercy Seat and symbolized the presence of the Lord. It was here that the high priest, once a year on the Day of Atonement (Heb. 9:7; Lev. 16:1-17), made covenants with the Lord for all Israel, as though he represented all at the altar.
In LDS temples, altars of a different sort play a major role. Kneeling by them, Latter-day Saints participate in covenant-making ceremonies. They make these covenants, as was done anciently, in the symbolic presence of God at the altar (Ps. 43:4; cf. Ps. 118:27). Thus, while kneeling at an altar in a temple, a man and woman make covenants with God and each other in a marriage ceremony that is to be binding both in mortality and in the eternal world. Here, if parents were not previously married in a temple, they and their children may be sealed together for time and eternity by the power and authority of the priesthood. Likewise, these ordinances may be performed by proxies at an altar within the temple on behalf of people identified in genealogical records as having died without these privileges.
As the ancients came to the altar to communicate and commune with God, so also do members of the Church, in a temple setting, surround the altar in a prayer circle and in supplication. United in heart and mind, the Saints petition God for his blessings upon mankind, his Church, and those who have special needs.
In a more public Sacrament meeting, the Altar of Sacrifice is symbolized by the “Sacrament table.” On this table are emblems of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the bread and the water respectively representing the body and blood of the Savior (Luke 22:19-20). Each week individuals may partake of the Sacrament and renew their covenants.
Today members of the Church make sacred covenants with God and consecrate their lives and all that they have been blessed with as they “come unto Christ” and lay all things symbolically upon the altar as a sacrifice. To them a sacred altar is a tangible symbol of the presence of God, before whom they kneel with “a broken heart and contrite spirit” (2 Ne. 2:7; 3 Ne. 11:20).
Eliade, Mircea. Patterns in Comparative Religion. New York, 1974.
Talmage, James E. The House of the Lord. Salt Lake City, 1971.
Packer, Boyd K. The Holy Temple. Salt Lake City, 1980.
Theoadore Tuttle Ensign Oct 1972
D. Kelly Ogden, “Answering the Lord’s Call,”
“And [Isaac] builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac’s servants digged a well.” (Gen. 26:25.)
Altar, tent, and well. Isaac did not become an Abraham or a Jacob. He did not reach the heights of Abraham, called the “father of the faithful.” Nor was he as impressive as his son Israel, father of the twelve tribes. Yet Isaac is loved and revered. He worshiped God, cared for his home, and pursued his work. He is remembered simply as a man of peace. The eloquent simplicity of his life and his unique ability to lend importance to the commonplace made him great.
Altar, tent, and well: his worship, his home, his work. These basic things of life signified his relationship to God, his family, and his fellowmen. Every person on earth is touched by these three.
Kneeling at his altar, mindful of his family in his tent, Isaac found most of his working hours consumed in watching over wells he had caused to be digged. His flocks were nourished by them. His simple dependence upon the water and the soil and the forage that grew is little different in our day, for man must work.
Let a man choose an occupation in balance with the other two elements of the triumvirate of which I have spoken. Learn to give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. In the farm or shop or office, let that man know that work is not an end in itself, but a means to a noble end.
How little things have changed since Isaac’s day—the things that really matter. There is the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the same family roles to fill, the same need to work.
Altar, tent, and well: these things are essential. Placed in proper perspective by God’s revealed word, they provide at once our greatest challenge and achievement.
The form “altar of stones” (1 Nephi 2:7) instead of the customary English form “stone altar” conforms to standard Hebrew construction, called the “construct state.” Examples from the Bible are “gods of gold” (Exodus 20:23), “altar of stone” (Exodus 20:25), “bedstead of iron” (Deuteronomy 3:11), “helmet of brass” (1 Samuel 17:5), “house of cedar” (2 Samuel 7:2), “throne of ivory” (1 Kings 10:18), “girdle of leather (2 Kings 1:8), and “pulpit of wood” (Nehemiah 8:4). [D. Kelly Ogden, “Answering the Lord’s Call,” inStudies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, pp. 32-33]
“He Built an Altar of Stones”
After Lehi reached the Valley of Lemuel “he built an altar of stones” (1 Nephi 2:7). Brant Gardner notes that an altar of stones was a typical Arab/Hebrew wilderness altar. However he asks, Why was the sacrificial site not a pit ringed by stones? Or why was it not simply a brush pyre?
The elevation of stones probably served two purposes: the first was to create a miniature “high place” which through its symbolic elevation provided a sacred location. The second was that the use of stones connected the altar to the natural order, and built a symbolic miniature sacred mountain upon which the offer of sacrifice would be effective. [Brant Gardner, “Brant Gardner’s Page, “[http://www]. highfiber.com/~nahualli/ LDStopics/1 Nephi/1 Nephi2.htm, p. 8]
Hugh Nibley attests that to this day the Bedouin makes sacrifice on every important occasion, not for magical and superstitious reasons, but because he “lives under the constant impression of a higher force that surrounds him.” St. Nilus, in the oldest known eyewitness account of life among the Arabs of the Tih, says, “they sacrifice on altars of crude stones piled together.” That Lehi’s was such an altar would follow not only from the ancient law demanding uncut stones (Exodus 20;25), but also from the Book of Mormon expression “an altar of stones” (1 Nephi 2:7), which is not the same thing as “a stone altar.” Such little heaps of stones, surviving from all ages, are still to be seen throughout the south desert. [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 62-63]
According to Hunter and Ferguson, the law of Moses required that if an altar were built of stones that they be unhewn stones (Exodus 20: 24–25). An example of such an altar in the New World is the one at the early site of Cuicuilco just south of Mexico City. It is a well-fashioned altar of river stones. [Milton Hunter and Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 77]
“Altar of Stones”
In Nephi 2:7 we find that Lehi and Nephi offered sacrifices upon an “altar of stones” after keeping their covenants with the Lord and successfully completing an assignment to obtain the plates of brass (the word of the Lord). The fact that they offered sacrifice on an altar of stones is full of covenant symbolism.
In Exodus 20:24–26 God instructed Moses to tell the people to make an altar of earth (mizbah) or (unhewn) stones (mizbah), upon which to sacrifice their offerings. . . . The form of this passage, in which God tells Moses to pass on this instruction to the people, suggests that it, like the Ten Commandments at the beginning of the chapter, was addressed to each Israelite individually . . . [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol 1, p. 36]
According to Lenet Read, from earliest times, stones have been employed in symbolic use in various ways to testify of Christ and his earthly work. Anciently, offerings to God were made on altars built of stones “not hewn” (that is uncut) by tools of human hands (seeExodus 20:25). Jacob, after an encounter with the Lord at Bethel where eternal promises [covenants] were made, set up a stone for a pillar, signifying the presence of the Lord in that place (see Genesis 28:10–22). Daniel saw the kingdom of God as a stone “cut out without hands” that “became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:34–35). Under Mosaic [covenant] law stones symbolized judgment and justice, stoning being the means by which those who committed the most serious crimes were put to death. [Lenet Hadley Read, “All Things Testify of Him–Understanding Symbolism in the Scriptures,” in The Ensign, January 1981, p. 7]
The common word “stone” is used in the Bible with a variety of references . . . figurative as well as literal. Notably the “stone” image is used in the New Testament to describe the person of Jesus. In the Synoptic Gospels, for example, the parable of the vineyard (Mark 12:1–11 and parallels) is followed by the Lord’s citation of Psalms 118:22, which is obviously applied to himself (“The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner”). [Tyndale House, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol 3, pp. 1488-1489]
In Romans 9:29–33 we find: And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.
What shall we say then? that the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone (see Isaiah 8:14–15);
As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
Isaiah 8:14–15 reads as follows:
And he [“The Stone”–the Rock upon which all covenants are built] shall be for a sanctuary [or covenant Church]; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel . . . and many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.
In Psalms 50:5 and 51:17 we read:
Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice [upon altars of stone]. . . . The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart . . .
At the time John the Baptism was baptizing in the river Jordan, he said unto the Pharisees and Sadducees, who touted themselves as covenant children through birth, “think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones [or covenants with the Lord] to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9)
In 3 Nephi 9:19–20 we read:
And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites . . .
. . . he [Alma the elder] began to establish a [covenant] church in the land . . . which was called Mormon; . . . (Alma 5:3) . . . And behold, I am called Mormon, being called after the land of Mormon, the land in which Alma did establish the [covenant] church among the people, yea, the first [covenant] church which was established among them after their transgression. . . . Yea, and surely shall he again bring a remnant of the seed of Joseph to the knowledge of the Lord their God. . . . And as he hath covenanted with all the house of Jacob, even so shall the covenant wherewith he hath covenanted with the house of Jacob be fulfilled in his own due time, unto the restoring all the house of Jacob unto the knowledge of the covenant that he hath covenanted with them. And then shall they know their Redeemer, who is Jesus Christ, the Son of God; . . . (3 Nephi 5:12, 23, 25–26)
If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious. Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:3–5).
Jesus said unto Peter, “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
1 Nephi 2:7 He built an altar of stones and made an offering ([Illustration]): Lehi built an altar from stones and made an offering to God. Illustrators: Jerry Thompson and Robert T. Barrett. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Book of Mormon Stories, p. 6]
1 Nephi 2:7 [Lehi] built an altar of stones and made an offering unto the Lord ([Illustration]): Lehi Building an Altar of Stones in the Valley of Lemuel. Lehi built an altar and “gave thanks unto the Lord.” Artist: Clark Kelley Price. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 5]
Another of the group’s cultural norms comes in the form of their religious rites. The Book of Mormon account says that just after making camp for the first time, Lehi “built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God” (1 Nephi 2:7). Considering their mode and method of travel, it is improbable that this caravaning group had an elaborate altar as part of their baggage. In the Near Eastern deserts, however, altars built from random stones are frequently seen in the region’s landscape: “To this day the Bedouin makes sacrifice on every important occasion. … St. Nilus, in the oldest known eyewitness account of life among the Arabs of the Tih says, ‘they sacrifice on altars of crude stones piled together.’ That Lehi’s was such an altar would follow not only from the ancient law demanding uncut stones, but also from the Book of Mormon expression ‘an altar of stones.’… Such little heaps of stones, surviving from all ages, are still to be seen throughout the south desert.”
Interesting as the method of sacrifice may be, it is important to note what kinds of sacrifices the group was offering. S. Kent Brown notes that the rhetoric in the Book of Mormon shows that the group was strictly following the Mosaic law with regard to their sacrifices. Members of the group made peace offerings as a way of thanksgiving for safety in travel after each successful journey (when Lehi’s sons retrieved the brass plates, when Ishmael’s family joined with the group, and so forth.). When Lehi made burnt offerings for the group, it was for the purpose of purging sin from those within. When these sacrifices were offered, sin could clearly be seen in members of the group, be it murmuring or even a murder plot. This form of worship is clearly expressed in the much-unchanged cultural society of today. It would have, however, taken more than a farmer from upstate New York to be able to describe this phenomena of “stone altars” and the timing and types of these sacrifices so accurately in his literature.
never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed!”  When we overcome our own selfish desires, let our …
The Altar on Tower Hill
While at the base of a large hill near Lyman Wight’s cabin, George W. Robinson recorded that they discovered “the remains of an old Nephitish Alter.” To commemorate the discovery, Joseph Smith called the place Tower Hill. The wording of Robinson’s statement as recorded in the Prophet’s Scriptory book has led to a number of erroneous conclusions by historians and others regarding what the party actually came across or discovered. In fact, in editing the Prophet’s manuscript history, which B. H. Roberts later edited and published as the History of the Church, the editors changed Robinson’s narrative to read in first person as if Joseph Smith were writing it and then changed the statement to read that the Prophet discovered “the remains of an old Nephite [italics mine] altar or tower.” Such a change has led to the erroneous conclusion that the structure was in fact an actual Nephite altar from the Book of Mormon period and culture. However, this is simply not true. So what did Robinson mean when he said they discovered the remains of a “Nephtish” structure? It is important to note that the early Latter-day Saints clearly believed that the native North American tribes were descendants of the earlier Nephite-Lamanite civilization. With this belief, Robinson probably used the word “Nephitish” to indicate that the structure or altar was built by, or originated with, the North American Indians. He may have also used “Nephitish” to mean that the altar was of ancient origin. Therefore, what Robinson was attempting to describe were the remains of what appeared to be a sacred altar structure erected by early Native Americans.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that a number of Joseph Smith’s contemporaries made statements about visiting Tower Hill and seeing the ancient ruins and then reported them as being Adamic or that the structure was in fact part of the original altar used by Adam to offer sacrifices. Archaeologically speaking, it is extremely rare for almost any type of physical structure, large or small, to survive some five or six thousand years under any circumstances. Furthermore, it is important to note that nowhere in Joseph’s personal record book (the Scriptory Book) he was keeping in 1838 is there any statement by him identifying the ruins on Tower Hill as being Adamic. So how did the idea come about that the peculiar ruins on Tower Hill originated with Adam?
Although a full treatment cannot be given here, the following will have to suffice. During the summer and fall of 1838, Joseph Smith visited Adam-ondi-Ahman, and on a number of occasions he, along with others, went to Tower Hill. In the reminiscences of those of the Prophet’s contemporaries who visited the site, either with Joseph or not, there is consistent agreement that the Prophet specifically identified Tower Hill as the location where Adam offered ancient sacrifices. Given this, one can see how after visiting the site and seeing the ruins and being told by Joseph that this was where Adam sacrificed, they would naturally associate the ancient remains with Adam when they were in fact of much later origin.
In summary, the following conclusions can be made. First, on May 19, 1838, Joseph Smith revealed that the location known as Spring Hill, in Daviess County, Missouri, was anciently known as Adam-ondi-Ahman, or the homeland of Adam and his posterity, and that at a future day, before the Second Coming of the Savior Jesus Christ, a great and marvelous council meeting will take place at that location. Second, the archaeological remains which the Prophet’s party discovered on May 19, 1838, could not have originated with Adam; rather, they were of Native American origin. Third, since Joseph Smith taught that Tower Hill was the location where Adam offered sacrifice, many of his contemporaries mistakenly identified the remains of the ancient structure still present there in 1838 as being of Adamic rather than of Native American origin.
Book of Mormon Linked to Site in Yemen
A group of Latter-day Saint researchers recently found evidence linking a site in Yemen, on the southwest corner of the Arabian peninsula, to a name associated with Lehi’s journey as recorded in the Book of Mormon.
Warren Aston, Lynn Hilton, and Gregory Witt located a stone altar that professional archaeologists dated to at least 700 B.C. This altar contains an inscription confirming “Nahom” as an actual place that existed in the peninsula before the time of Lehi. The Book of Mormon mentions that “Ishmael died, and was buried in the place which was called Nahom” (1 Ne. 16:34).
This is the first archaeological find that supports a Book of Mormon place-name other than Jerusalem or the Red Sea, says Brother Witt.