“If Thou Doest Well, Thou Shalt Be Accepted”
Moses 5:15-59; 6:1-47, 63-68; chapter 7
by Philip Allred
Respect for Abel and His Sacrifice
As a primary-aged youth, I recall being a little confused about why Cain’s sacrifice was not accepted. Without understanding why Cain’s offering was unacceptable, I wondered if the Lord was being partial to Abel. I remember thinking that fruit and vegetables should be just as suitable as animals, especially since I thought that that was all Cain had. Instead of my first impressions, however, the scriptures and the prophets teach us the reasons and the significance of Cain’s rejection by the Lord.
Mormon helps us to understand one reason: “God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing. For behold it is not counted unto him for righteousness. For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God”. Wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil” (Moroni 7:6-8, 11). We read how Cain, possibly following his older brothers and sisters lead (Moses 5:13), “loved Satan more than God” (Moses 5:18) and would not “hearken” to him (Moses 5:16). Alma warned his son Corianton against the possibility of Satan “lead[ing] away your heart again”” (Alma 39:11). The sin is not simply confined to the physical act alone, but also encompasses the mental and spiritual motivation of a love for the devil.
Also, Cain’s offering was unable to fulfill the symbolic representation which had been ordained by the Lord when he instituted the law of sacrifice (Moses 5:7). When Adam and Eve had been driven out of the garden they were commanded to offer sacrifice in similitude of the Savior’s future suffering and death. Cain’s crops were inadequate in their ability to typify the coming Lord’s self-sacrifice. Joseph Smith plainly taught that Abel’s offering was accepted because he was giving it in faith of the future atonement or “plan of redemption” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 58).
In direct contrast, Cain “could not do [his offering of the fruit of the ground] in faith, he could have no faith, or could not exercise faith contrary to the plan of heaven [note the not-so-subtle touches of Lucifer’s hand from his rebellion in Premortality]. It must be shedding the blood of the Only Begotten to atone for man; for this was the plan of redemption and without the shedding of blood was no remission [of sins]” (ibid., 58). The Prophet further noted that our redemption is not “purchased” by fruit and vegetables, but by the Savior’s guiltless blood, shed in unjust punishment; hence, the blood sacrifice was required to properly and faithfully typify his atonement.
Another sin of Cain’s ‘sacrifice’ was that it was a perversion of his priesthood duties. Cain was an authorized bearer of the priesthood, but when he deliberately chose to alter the prescribed ordinance, he struck out at the authority of God to govern his own priesthood. “The power, glory and blessings of the Priesthood could not contine with those who received ordination only as their righteousness continued; for Cain also being authorized to offer sacrifice, but not offering it in righteousness, was cursed. It signifies, then, that the ordinances must be kept in the very way God has appointed; otherwise their Priesthood will prove a cursing instead of a blessing” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 169).
Again, Lucifer’s sentiments are clearly seen in Cain’s attempt to usurp the priesthood to his own ends. Satan wanted to receive the “power, glory and blessings” without following the path that leads to them. Cain bought into that satanic shortcut mentality that leads not to growth but to retardation and damnation. Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu also selfishly sought to serve themselves through the priesthood when they “offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1-2). Ironically it was on the heels of this punishment that the Lord instituted the most powerful and poignant Mosaic ordinances of the Day of Atonement for Israel (see Leviticus 16:1).
The Danger of Anger
The Lord apparently manifested to Cain that He had not accepted his sacrifice while He had acknowledged Abel’s. Cain’s reaction is not surprising considering his mentor’s methods-“the devil will grasp them with is everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger, and perish; For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good” (2 Nephi 28:19-20). In his anger and played by his initial purposes to serve Satan, Cain probably did not consider the merciful call to repent as carefully as he should have.
“Why art thou wroth? Why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted” (Moses 5:22-23). The Lord is inviting Cain to contemplate his actions, to think about the reasons for his feelings. Cain is an agent unto himself, but he is letting Lucifer act as his puppeteer. Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy has recently spoken about agency and anger.
“A cunning part of his strategy is to dissociate anger from agency, making us believe that we are victims of an emotion that we cannot control. We hear, ‘I lost my temper.’ Losing one’s temper is an interesting choice of words that has become a widely used idiom. To ‘lose something’ implies ‘not meaning to,’ ‘accidental,’ ‘involuntary,’ ‘not responsible’-careless perhaps but ‘not responsible.’
“‘He made me mad.’ This is another phrase we hear, also implying lack of control or agency. This is a myth that must be debunked. No one makes us mad. Others don’t make us angry. There is no force involved. Becoming angry is a conscious choice, a decision; therefore, we can make the choice not to become angry. We choose!…
“This doctrine or command from the Lord [3 Nephi 11:29-30] presupposes agency and is an appeal to the conscious mind to make a decision. The Lord expects us to make the choice not to become angry”.
“Understanding the connection between agency and anger is the first step in eliminating it from our lives. We can choose not to become angry. And we can make that choice today, right now: ‘I will never become angry again.’ Ponder this resolution.” (“Agency and Anger,” Ensign, May 1998, 80).
“It shall be said in time to come”
As has always been the case, tragically, those who choose to obey and serve Satan are always frustrated in the end. Note how each one of Satan’s promises to Cain went unfulfilled. In the first place, Cain’s offering was not accepted as Satan must have told him it would be (Moses 5:18). The hope to receive gain without responsibility through murder was also dashed (Moses 5:33-37). Even the possibility that this would all remain a secret-the bedrock of Belial’s bribery, also went unsupported. The Lord warned Cain that “it shall be said in time to come-That these abominations were had from Cain; for he rejected the greater counsel which was had from God; and this is the cursing I will put upon thee, except thou repent” (Moses 5:25).
Helaman’s account of the Gaddianton perversions in his day also notes this episode with Cain. “Yea, that same being who did plot with Cain, that if he would murder his brother Abel it should not be known in the world. And he did plot with Cain and his followers from that time forth” (Helaman 6:27). If it weren’t heartbreaking it would be comical. Satan actually promised Cain that his murder and subsequent ‘secret’ society would not be known?! It would not be an exaggeration to state that Cain slaying Abel is one of the top five most recognizable and well-known instances of biblical history! Surely we see the power of God in bringing this aberration to light, as he promised, in the face of Satan’s impotent suppression. But, this has always been the case with Satan and his promises. The Book of Mormon sadly chronicles example after example of satanic dissatisfaction, from Coriantumr (Ether 13-15) to Korihor (Alma 30). It is only the Lord who has the actual power to perform his promises-here and in eternity (see Mosiah 2:41).
We will be wise to remember that “All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. . . . The devil has no power over us only as we permit him. The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 181.)
“The Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning”
In opposition to these efforts by Satan, the Lord commissioned the gospel to be preached. Obviously the Lord used Adam and Eve to convey the truths about life and it purpose and potential, but he also had at his disposal three other voices-“holy angels, sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Moses 5:58). The message was, and always is, that we must “believe on his Only Begotten Son, even him whom he declared should come in the meridian of time, who was prepared from before the foundation of the world” (Moses 5:57). Ordinances were instituted to teach, testify and train their minds to attain faith in Jesus Christ (Moses 5:59). Adam was the first (and possibly only) to be baptized by the Holy Ghost (Moses 6:64). His baptism stands as a witness for all his children to follow.
The fulness of the Lord’s gospel was had from the beginning. Knowledge of the plan and of the Savior who would perform the key role of redemption was taught from the earliest days (see also Moses 6:52, 57; 8:23-24). “And after God has appointed that these things should come unto man [after the Fall], behold, then he saw that it was expedient that man should know concerning the things whereof he had appointed unto them; Therefore he sent angels to converse with them who caused men to behold of his glory. And they began from that time forth to call on his name; therefore God conversed with men, and made known the plan of redemption” (Alma 1:28-30).
Establishment of Zion
Just as in premortal life, the twin possibilities of progress and perfection versus disobedience and damnation were now had in the earth. Thus, as the agents we are as God’s children, we are left to choose which we will follow. Moses’ chapters 6 and 7 teach that one person [Enoch] can choose against the perceived tide of wickedness and filthiness, and receive strength and power from God (see Moses 7:13-15) to accomplish the most beautiful creation conceivable-Zion!
Admittedly, there are days when it seems pretty discouraging to seek for and establish Zion today with all the abominations and perversions evident in the earth, and in our homes. The Lord told Enoch that “I [God] can stretch forth mine hands and hold all the creations which I have made; and mine eye can pierce them also, and among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren” (Moses 7:36). However, consider this statement from President Brigham Young:
“We are inhabitants of a world of sin and sorrow; pain and anguish, every ill that can be heaped upon intelligent beings in a probation we are heirs to. I suppose that God never organized an earth and peopled it that was ever reduced to a lower state of darkness, sin and ignorance than this. I suppose this is one of the lowest kingdoms that ever the Lord Almighty created, and on that account is capable of becoming exalted to be one of the highest kingdoms that has ever had an exaltation in all the eternities. In proportion as it has been reduced so it will be exalted, with that portion of its inhabitants who in their humiliation have cleaved to righteousness and acknowledged God in all things. In proportion to our fall through sin, so shall we be exalted in the presence of our Father and God, through Jesus Christ and by living the righteousness of his gospel” (Journal of Discourses, 10:175).
Enoch later saw the triumph of the Lord and his gospel in vision. Moses 7:60-66 reveals what Enoch and other prophets have known about the last days-the Lord will return and will subdue all enemies under his feet. He will send “righteousness” down from heaven [angels of the restoration, including Himself]; and truth ” out of the earth [the Book of Mormon and other sacred writings], to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten” (Moses 7:62). Armed with these tools of the restoration, we can prepare successfully for that blessed reunion when “the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shall thou and all thy city meet them [us!] there, and we [Enoch’s Zion and the Lord Himself] will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other” (Moses 7:63). Can we read of such things and not be touched?
Ours is the opportunity to avoid the satanic sands of secrecy and rebellion that snared Cain and seek for and establish ourselves on the rock of our Redeemer’s gospel. He will come again and we will meet him. That we will do so with joy and embracing is my humble hope and dedication.
2001 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.