Women’s History
2. Adam-ondi-Ahman: Elizabeth Ann Whitney

“2. Adam-ondi-Ahman: Elizabeth Ann Whitney,” At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women (2017), 7–9

“2. Elizabeth Ann Whitney,” At the Pulpit, 7–9

2

Adam-ondi-Ahman

Patriarchal Blessing Meeting

House of the Lord, Kirtland, Ohio

September 14, 1835

It would not have been unusual for Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney (1800–1882) to express herself through music in the temple in Kirtland, Ohio. She grew up in Connecticut in a cultured family, enjoying singing and dancing; she was known throughout her life for her vocal talent.1 Though she and her husband, Newel K. Whitney, did not belong to any religious denomination before 1830, she nevertheless described herself as “naturally religious,” with a desire to explore different churches.2 She remembered, “We had been praying to know from the Lord how we could obtain the gift of the Holy Ghost. … We were seeking to know how to obtain the Spirit and the gifts bestowed upon the ancient Saints.” Whitney stated that in response to their prayers, they felt the presence of the Spirit of the Lord, experienced a vision of a heavenly cloud, and heard a voice commanding them to prepare to receive the truth.3 The Whitneys learned about the Church of Christ, as it was then known, from the missionary Parley P. Pratt in Kirtland in late 1830, and they were baptized that November.4

Believing that the spiritual gifts of the New Testament were available in their time, many people in the nineteenth century described experiences with dreams, visions, healings, and speaking in tongues.5 In the early Mormon tradition, both men and women spoke and sang in tongues and translated for each other in public and private settings.6 On September 14, 1835, Whitney gathered with many others, most likely in the partially completed Kirtland temple, to receive a patriarchal blessing from Joseph Smith Sr., the church’s patriarch. Whitney remembered the “great manifestations of power” at such meetings.7 Pratt commented that during this same time period “many persons were carried away in the visions of the Spirit and saw and heard unspeakable things; and many enjoyed the ministering of angels, and the gift of healing and of speaking in tongues.”8 In the blessing given to Whitney, Joseph Smith Sr. promised her “the gift of singing inspirationally.” Joseph Smith Jr. told her that she would never lose this gift if she used it wisely.9 After Whitney received her blessing, she stood and sang in tongues; her song was interpreted by Pratt. The words to Pratt’s interpretation of Whitney’s song were recorded by an unknown scribe. Whitney retained the original copy, and it was printed years later in the Woman’s Exponent.10 Whitney’s song about Adam-ondi-Ahman, which is reproduced here, exemplifies a nineteenth-century form of charismatic discourse. The meter and topic of Whitney’s song are very similar to those of William W. Phelps’s hymn “Adam-ondi-Ahman.”11

In ancient days there lived a man,

Amidst a pleasant garden,

Where lovely flowers immortal bloom’d,

And shed around a rich perfume;

Behold, his name was Adam.

One of the nobles of the earth,

Had mighty power in blessing;

Received the priesthood, and went forth12

And blessed his seed, and gave the earth

Blessings for their possession.13

He sealed them for eternal life,

And all their generations,

Who should obey the gospel plan,

Down to the latest years of man—

A multitude of nations.

Isaac and Jacob, they in turn

Had power to bless their children:14

Hence, Jacob by his faith did learn,

And gave directions for his bones

To be conveyed to Canaan.15

By the same spirit, Joseph gave

A great and mighty blessing

To Ephraim, and Manasseh too,16

Whereby their seed were carried through

Long travels, though distressing.

By that same faith they built a ship,

And crossed the mighty ocean,17

Obtain’d the choicest land of earth,

Foretold the great Messiah’s birth,

And all the great commotion.18

* * * * * * * *

The holy priesthood long remain’d

In all its power and glory,

Until the priests of God were slain,

Their records hid from wicked men

Within the hill Cumorah.

Their remnants sank in sorrow down,

Became a loathsome people.

To misery and sorrow doom’d,

Their pleasant fields o’erspread with gloom,

Ruled by a Gentile nation.

But now the priesthood is restored,19

And we partake its blessings;

Our parents and our children dear

With Joseph’s remnants have a share

To latest generations.

As Adam blessed his family

In Adam-ondi-Ahman,20

So shall our aged father bless

His seed who dwell in righteousness

Upon the land of Zion.21