Jackson County and Daviess County in Missouri are important locations for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It is where, in the 1830s, Latter-day Saints suffered great persecution, culminating in 1838, when the Governor of Missouri ordered that “Mormons” must be “exterminated or driven from the state.”

Tom Spencer, history professor at Northwest Missouri State University, said the treatment of early Mormons here reflects a “noxious blend” of religious bigotry, land hunger, and cultural difference.  

“If you ever believed that religious freedom existed in America in the 19th century, Mormons are a great counter-argument,” said Spencer, who edited a book on Mormons in Missouri.

When they first came to Missouri, Mormons settled in Jackson County, which, in the 1830s, was on the western frontier of the United States. But the new arrivals weren’t made welcome. For one thing, most Mormons were of Northern extraction, while other settlers in western Missouri came largely from the South.

“These were people who, while they didn’t really hold slaves, they believed in racial hierarchy and they believed in slavery,” said Spencer. So while slavery wasn’t the central issue in the conflict, it was one of many cultural differences. “I mean, the Mormons were an easy target. They were different. Their beliefs were different.”

In Jackson County, Missourians ransacked Mormon homes and businesses, tarred and feathered Mormon leaders, and finally drove them out, first to neighboring Clay County, and then, finally, to Caldwell and Daviess Counties, to the area around Adam-Ondi-Ahman…

…by the end of the year, Mormons had fled to Illinois, where Joseph Smith was later killed by a mob. From thence, the long trip over the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains to what is now Utah.

But now, the Mormon community in Daviess County is growing again. (Mormons returning to northwest Missouri, 174 years after ‘extermination order’)

The Garden of Eden and The New Jerusalem

A panoramic painting by Grant Romney Clawson showing the beauty of the Garden of Eden, with a waterfall, large trees, and white birds.

In 1831, the prophet Joseph Smith declared that many of the righteous would gather in Independence, Missouri, to prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

The New Jerusalem would be “a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints” in a wicked world and would be built in Jackson County.

“And the glory of the Lord shall be there, and the terror of the Lord also shall be there,” … “insomuch that the wicked will not come unto it, and it shall be called Zion” (D&C 45:66–67).

The revelations declared also that a temple would be built on a lot in Independence, a few miles east of Kansas City, and would be the site of a gathering for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

According to Bruce A. Van Orden, associate professor of Church history, at Brigham Young University:

“the whole earth was paradisiacal before the Fall. The Garden of Eden was a center place. After the Fall, there was no Garden of Eden or paradisiacal status on earth. Yet relative to the locale of the site of the Garden of Eden, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned through revelation (D&C 57) that Jackson County was the location of a Zion to be and the New Jerusalem to come.

Brigham Young stated, “Joseph the Prophet told me that the garden of Eden was in Jackson [County] Missouri.” (Journal of Wilford Woodruff, vol. 5, 15 Mar. 1857). Heber C. Kimball said: “From the Lord, Joseph learned that Adam had dwelt on the land of America, and that the Garden of Eden was located where Jackson County now is.” (Andrew Jenson, Historical Record, 9 vols., Salt Lake City). Other early leaders have given the same information. (What do we know about the location of the Garden of Eden?)

According to the prophet Joseph Smith, after the Fall, Adam traveled east of Eden, to what is now Daviess County, to the spot “mormons” call Adam-Ondi-Ahman. The church now owns over 3,000 acres here, rolling farm land along the Grand River. Missionaries tend the grounds, and in the summer, many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from around the country stop by.

Adam-Ondi-Ahman, between Highway 13 and the Grand River.

It wasn’t until May 1838 that revelation (D&C 116) identified Adam-ondi-Ahman, a site near the Garden of Eden, to be in Daviess County, Missouri, some seventy miles from present-day Kansas City. (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., New York City: Macmillan, 1992, 1:19–20.) Other revelations referring to Adam-ondi-Ahman were D&C 78:15–16 and D&C 107:53–57.

President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “In accord with the revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, we teach that the Garden of Eden was on the American continent located where the City of Zion, or the New Jerusalem, will be built. When Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden, they eventually dwelt at a place called Adam-ondi-Ahman, situated in what is now Daviess County, Missouri. … We are committed to the fact that Adam dwelt on [the] American continent.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., comp. Bruce R. McConkie, Salt Lake City:Bookcraft, 1956, 3:74. Compare Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957–75, 2:93–95, 4:19–24; and Alvin R. Dyer, in Conference Report, Oct. 1968, pp. 108–9.)

The history and the prophetic statements about the future of this area make this short article even more interesting.

Lee’s Summit is a city located within the counties of Jackson and Cass in the state of Missouri…

Lee’s Summit, MO and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are discussing what to do with 6.55 square miles the church owns within city limits.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns two properties — a 1,100-acre northern tract and a 3,100-acre southern one — in Lee’s Summit, Mo. It has partnered with the city to develop them.


According to one local MO land developer, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns more than 8,000 acres of land in Lee’s Summit making it one of the largest absentee landowners.

No one seems to know the long-term plans of the church regarding this land,” Kenney said. “However, it is clear that if some or all of it is released to the public, it will greatly stimulate the local economy and provide opportunities for growth of every sort.”

City officials agreed.

“We don’t see any negatives about the church’s investments, other than when any large institution owns ground, they are not under the gun to develop it,” said Bob McKay, director of planning and development for Lee’s Summit. “A real advantage for the city is being able to work with just one owner to develop a master plan.”

Lee’s Summit is not too far away from Independence, Missouri.


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