Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2009, August 20

“Blacks and the LDS/ Mormon Priesthood: ‘Abel’s Seed’ Teaching and Its Fulfillment” by grego

“‘Abel’s Seed’ Prophecy and Its Fulfillment”
(c) 2009

There are many problems with the topic of Blacks and the priesthood. It seems too many leaders in the past spoke about things they didn’t receive by revelation, but inferred through their personal filters after having experiences, or from reading scriptures, or from “having remembered someone say something” type of thing; lots of interpretation placed on previous comments (if the comments had actually been made in the first place!). I believe, in essence, it boils down to the First Presidency letter in 1949, where it seems that whatever might have happened or been said in the past, at that point, it was clear that the Lord’s will (“direct commandment from the Lord”) was that that was how it was to be, for the present time.

There is mention about prophecy regarding “Abel’s seed” having a great deal to do with the timing of the lifting of the priesthood ban:
“The prophets have declared that there are at least two major stipulations that have to be met before the Negroes will be allowed to possess the Priesthood. The first requirement relates to time. The Negroes will not be allowed to hold the Priesthood during mortality, in fact, not until after the resurrection of all of Adam’s children. The other stipulation requires that Abel’s seed receive the first opportunity of having the priesthood….the last of Adam’s children will not be resurrected until the end of the millennium. Therefore, the Negroes will not receive the Priesthood until after that time… this will not happen until after the thousand years of Christ’s reign on earth.”
(The Church and the Negro, 1967, pages 45-48.)

Well, that’s not really any type of prophecy, that’s a quote from a book that’s pretty unclear about what was really said; let’s look again:
“President George Q. Cannon remarked that the Prophet [Joseph] taught this doctrine: That the seed of Cain could not receive the Priesthood, nor act in any of the offices of the Priesthood until the seed of Abel should come forward and take precedence over Cain’s offspring.” 22 August 1895, Minutes of Meeting of General Authorities, The Way to Perfection (1931), Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 110.

Well, that’s not really prophecy, that’s a person saying someone taught something; any second witness? Let’s try again…
“President [George Q.] Cannon remarked upon this subject, as he said, he had on a prior occasion when this subject was under consideration, that he had understood that the Prophet Joseph [Smith] had said during this lifetime, that there would be a great wrong perpetrated if the seed of Cain were allowed to have the Priesthood before Abel should have posterity to receive it, and this curse therefore was to remain upon the seed of Cain until the time should come that Abel should have posterity. *He understood that that time could not come until Abel should beget spirits in the eternal worlds and those spirits obtain tabernacles;* (George Albert Smith Papers, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah).
Any record of the “prior occasion”? “He had understood that the Prophet Jospeh had said…” Had anyone else heard Joseph say that? No one? Had anyone else understood that that was what Joseph meant? Was President Cannon playing “Operator” here (and I don’t mean that in any denigrating way)?

Well, that’s not prophecy either…
“I say the curse is not yet taken off the sons of Canaan, neither will it be until it is affected by as great power as caused it to come;” Joseph Smith, Messenger and Advocate 2:290; History of the Church 2:438. Well, there’s what seems to be a prophecy, and Joseph Smith says the curse must be lifted by God, as that’s what caused it to come. Ok.

““Now I tell you what I know: when the mark was put upon Cain, Abel’s children were in all probability young; the Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the Priesthood, nor his seed, until the last of the posterity of Abel had received the Priesthood, until the redemption of the earth…” (Brigham Young Addresses 2:77 , 5 January 1852)
Is Brigham Young quoting scripture, a revelation, offering an interpretation (especially the last part), or what?

Anyway, there might be more on Abel, but I’ll take most of this as teachings, not clear prophecies; that does not mean that there was no revelation, or that the actual situation was wrong, etc.

Here are some thoughts:

Abel—I believe that we assume that Abel and Cain were young, unmarried men. As Brigham Young thought, not so. Cain was already married when he killed Abel (see Moses 5:28, though it does talk about Cain having children only after that; nothing is said about Abel’s children, though the priesthood passing to Seth might imply that). How do we know that Abel was not married, and that he did not have children? (I admit, I might have missed something here.) Searching, I came across the above quote by Brigham Young where he mentions Abel’s children in the flesh, though I don’t know where he came by that knowledge, as I have found nothing else on it.

Abel was waiting to be resurrected at the death of Christ (see Doctrine and Covenants 137:40, 51.). Especially if he were already married, he (and his children?) would have already qualified by ordinance for exaltation. Abraham—who came much later than Abel—already sat on his throne of glory in the 1800’s: [Abraham] “hath entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:29). Who is to say that Abel didn’t have spirit children long, long ago–like maybe almost 2000 years ago (or, ok, let’s say 200 years ago), or at least by the time the curse was lifted? Had all the posterity of Abel received the priesthood near the time of the lifting of the curse?

Wait—what about Noah and the flood? If everone were destroyed in the flood, wouldn’t Abel’s seed–if he had any that were still living—have either been wiped out or continued through one of the eight on the ark? Here’s a possible (though perhaps unlikely) predicament: what if Ham were Abel’s seed?

Abel—Elijah Abel’s seed—his son and grandson—received the priesthood, fulfilling “until the seed of Abel should come forward and take precedence over Cain’s offspring”. And that’s what Abel and his seed did—while no one past the first generation of Cain’s seed received the priesthood, Abel and his son and grandson all received the priesthood, and “[took] precedence over Cain’s offspring”. A convoluted interpretation, you say? Perhaps… Oh, you’re *sure* it wasn’t *that* Abel that was being talked about?

All the other children on earth, at that time, had had the opportunity, as much as possible, to accept the gospel and the priesthood; by that time, the Church had contacted every nation for permission to preach the gospel to everyone, and no one except Blacks were denied the priesthood. Missionaries were sent everywhere that they could be sent; many nations rejected them. As far as I could see, no, I don’t believe that there is any quote that said everyone would have to accept the gospel first—just that everyone would have the opportunity to hear it first. And everyone did.
I heard that David Kennedy reported that Pres. Kimball was ever anxious to spread the gospel, but that it was everywhere it could be at the time—except in the countries with Blacks. Looking at the map, Pres. Kimball would ask him, where else can we go, where else can we try again? And Bro. Kennedy would say, only here (and point at the Black countries). That *was* the only other place, the last place, that the gospel could go, for a long time. (Note it wasn’t until 11 years after the lifting of the ban, in 1989, that the Berlin Wall even came down and the way was soon to open for missionaries into Eastern Europe and the USSR. Note that some countries still haven’t given permission for the gospel to be preached. By the way, that conversation was… not in 1978.)

So, just a few thoughts about “Abel’s seed” and the priesthood.

1 Comment »

  1. Grego,

    I very much appreciate your insight and research on this matter. Thank you.

    Jacksonville, Fl. East Stake

    Comment by Tom — 2012, March 28 @ 12:50 am

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