Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Plan for Salvation – Part I

From time to time we receive a question or comment that requires more of an answer than a brief statement, so we dedicate an entire post (article) or even a series to do the answer justice. The following is one such case: 
    Comment: “I read on a website that “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.” And that “The "curse of Cain" resulted in Cain being cut off from the presence of the Lord. The Genesis and Moses accounts both attest to this. The Book of Mormon teaches this principle in general when it speaks about those who keep the commandments will prosper in the land, while those who don't will be cut off from the presence off the Lord. This type of curse was applied to the Lamanites when they rejected the teachings of the prophets. The exact nature of the "mark" of Cain, on the other hand, is unknown. The scriptures don't say specifically what it was, except that it was for Cain's protection, so that those finding him wouldn't slay him. Many people, both in an out of the Church, have assumed that the mark and the curse are the same thing.” What is your take on all this?” Carlson S.
Response: We live in a different world than that of the past. Political correctness today demands certain behavior and attitudes or the disfavor of people, critics, and media come down hard upon the individual, group or people. What the Lord had in mind when “the Lord did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them” (2 Nephi 5:21) is a question regarding the Nephites that has wrought numerous answers for years. Nephi said only that it was done to keep the Lamanites from becoming “enticing unto my people” and Moses said the mark placed upon Cain was to protect him. In fact, Cain bemoaned the fact that “whoever finds me will kill me" (Genesis 4:13-14), to which God responded, "Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over." Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him" (Genesis 4:15-16).
    The Hebrew word translated "mark" is אוֹת ('owth) and refers to a portent—a sign or signal, i.e.,  “distinguishing mark, miraculous sign, omen or warning.” It can also mean “token, ensign, standard, miracle, or proof.” Of the 79 times in 77 verses of the Hebrew Scriptures, 'owth is used 43 times for “sign” and 30 times for “signs,” and once each for banners, omens, pledge, standards, witness and wondrous. It is found in Genesis  (6 times), Exodus (15), Numbers (5), Deuteronomy (12), Joshua (3), 1 Samuel (4), 2 Kings (3), Psalms (7), Isaiah (11), Jeremiah (4), Ezekiel (4), and once each in Judges, Nehemiah, and Job.
    So, the Hebrew word does not identify the exact nature of the mark God put on Cain as stated in the Bible. Whatever it was, it was a sign or indicator that Cain was not to be killed. Some propose that the mark was a scar, or some kind of tattoo, but most today reject that it was a black skin; however, Nephi definitely tells us that the mark on the Lamanaites was a black skin (2 Nephi 5:21).
    Whatever the case, the precise nature of the mark in Genesis is not the focus of the passage. The focus is that God would not allow people to exact vengeance against Cain because of his evil and his whining complaint that he would not survive God’s curse. Whatever the mark on Cain was, it evidently served the purpose of others not killing him. Nor should we interpret this to mean that God was protecting Cain despite his evil in killing his brother. Cain was undoubtedly punished severely by the curse and mark placed upon the man who committed the first murder.
    In the past, many believed the mark on Cain to be dark skin—that God changed the color of Cain's skin to black in order to identify him. Since Cain also received a curse, the belief that the mark was black skin caused many to believe that people of dark skin were cursed. Many used the “mark of Cain” teaching as a justification for the African slave trade and discrimination against people with black or dark skin. On the other hand, nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures is 'owth used to refer to skin color. The curse on Cain in Genesis chapter 4 was on Cain himself.
In the 3rd century, the Greek scholar and early Christian theologian, (left) Origen Adamantius (184-253 AD), a prolific writer, claimed “Ham’s discolored posterity and the ignobility of the race he fathered” (Origen, "Genesis Homily XVI," in Homilies on Genesis and Exodus, translated by Ronald E. Heine (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1982), p. 215, referenced in Haynes.)
    Unlike many church fathers, he was never canonized as a saint because some of his teachings directly contradicted the teachings attributed to the apostles, notably the Apostles Paul and John, particularly his teachings on the pre-existence of souls, the final reconciliation of all creatures, including perhaps even the devil (the apokatasis) and the subordination of God the Son to God the Father, were extremely controversial.
    In LDS doctrine, there has never been an attitude that certain people in mortality were punished for their pre-mortal behavior, or that there were “fence sitters” during the war between God and Satan. On the contrary, it has always been taught that all who earned the right to come to this earth were valiant in their defense and participation during that controversy. The problem sometimes arose when people decided on their own that such was not the case. Punishment, to the extent God reserves the right to do so with his children, is not a debatable issue. 
    As he told Moses "Now go, lead the people to the place I have spoken unto thee; behold, mine Angel shall go before three; nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them" (Exodus 32:34), or Paul speaking to the Romans "But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Romans 2:5); or as Jeremiah proclaimed: "Now the Lord hath brought it, and done according as he hath said: because ye have sinned against the Lord, and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon you" (Jeremiah 40:3); and Isaiah put it this way: "And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible" (Isaiah 13:11).
To Moses, he added, "Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son" (Deuteronomy 8:5)therefore, it is not up to man, to any of us, to question the edicts of God, his punishment of the wicked, or his lack of reward for those who do not live up to his commandments. What we have in this life, we earned from our behavior in the previous one. One of the problems mankind faces today is their lack of understanding of the fact that God will punish those who do not live up to the level of his requirements, who disobeys him, who falls short of the performance he asks of usfor it is to our advantage to learn obedience and live by ever word that precedes out of his mouth. Some people consider punishment for their actions as being wrong and, evidently, that God does not have that right, however, we find he does and reason for it ""I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men" (2 Samuel 7:14), and Luke put it this way, ""Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:24-28). The stages of our lives have always been working toward being able to enter that narrow door and into the eternal sphere to dwell in the presence of God and be like Him.
    During the pre-mortal ages we dwelt in the presence of God, the Father, and not only developed our various characteristics and showed our worthiness and ability, or the lack of it, but we were also where such progress could be observed. It is reasonable to believe that there was a type of Church organization there. The heavenly beings were living in a perfectly arranged society. Every person knew his place. Priesthood, without any question, had been conferred and the leaders were chosen to officiate. Ordinances pertaining to that pre-mortal existence were required and the love of God prevailed. Under such conditions it was natural for our Father to discern and choose those who were most worthy and evaluate the talents of each individual. He knew not only what each of us could do, but what each of us would do when put to the test and when responsibility was given us. Then, when the time came for our habitation on mortal earth, all things were prepared and the servants of the Lord chosen and ordained to their respective missions” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, 50–51).
“When the time arrived for us to be advanced in the scale of our existence and pass through this mundane probation, councils were held and the spirit children were instructed in matters pertaining to conditions in mortal life, and the reason for such an existence. In the former life we were spirits. In order that we should advance and eventually gain the goal of perfection, it was made known that we would receive tabernacles or bodies of flesh and bones and have to pass through mortality where we would be tried and proved to see if we, by trial, would prepare ourselves for exaltation. We were made to realize, in the presence of our glorious Father, who had a tangible body of flesh and bones which shone like the sun, that we were, as spirits, far inferior in our station to him” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:57).
    “From this revelation found in Abraham (Abraham 3:23), two things can be inferred:
1) that there were among those spirits [in premortal life] different degrees of intelligence, varying grades of achievement, retarded and advanced spiritual attainment;
2) that there were no national distinctions among those spirits such as Americans, Europeans, Asiatics, Australians, etc. Such ‘bounds of habitation’ would have to be ‘determined’ when the spirits entered their earthly existence or second estate. …
    “Now if none of these spirits were permitted to enter mortality until they all were good and great and had become leaders, then the diversity of conditions among the children of men as we see them today would certainly seem to indicate discrimination and injustice. On the other hand, since we had developed different levels of intelligence, achievement and willingness, our place in this world would then be determined by our own advancement or condition in the pre-mortal state, just as our place in our future existence will be determined by what we do here in mortality.
“When, therefore, the Creator said to Abraham, and to others of his attainment, ‘You I will make my rulers,’ there could exist no feeling of envy or jealousy among the million other spirits, for those who were ‘good and great’ were but receiving their just reward” (David O. McKay, Home Memories of President David O. McKay, 228–30).
(See the next post, “A Plan for Salvation – Part II,” for more on this pre-mortal to mortal existence as we carry out our development under the Father’s Plan for our Salvation)


  1. It says very clearly in the PofGP that there is a race that does not have right to the priesthood. I believe you are completely wrong about this subject but because of the current Church stand and political correctness you cannot come up with the correct doctrine. Brigham clearly taught that the blacks would not get the priesthood. He even said that when they do you will know that the Higher Priesthood is gone. We are not talking about the Lamanites because they are of the house of Israel. We are talking about blacks and that's where there is a problem. I'm only talking about the blacks now who descend from Cain through Ham. Abraham 1:27 Now, Pharoah being of that lineage by which he COULD NOT have the right of Priesthood...

    Brigham taught it correctly and got it from Joseph Smith. The Church knows this but abandoned it at the time of Kimball because Jimmy Carter put pressure on him to give the blacks the priesthood. Many left the Church as a result and it has caused great confusion in the Church since then. The revelation was phony and even Eldred G. Smith told the brethren that it was phony. For which he was kicked out of his position as patriarch to the Church. Just frosts me when people talk about this because I know the revelation was a lie which has caused great confusion in the Church of mixed marriages which should not be. I enjoy your site and hope this doesn't get me the boot, but the truth needs to be told about this abomination. Ira

  2. Your overall comment will be answered at the conclusion of the present series “A Plan for Salvation” in a few days because of its length. For now, let me just say that my wife and I were privy to a unique meeting of certain Church leaders throughout Southern California the week after the announcement that all male members could hold the priesthood. In that meeting were three members of the Quorum of the Twelve, including the President of the Quorum who spent nearly two hours going over how that Revelation came about and what was involved and the people who participated, including those present.
    All I can say in print is that to those present, the Spirit manifest itself in great strength to the bearing of witness that what was said was truth.
    What Eldred G. Smith based his opinion on, I do not know; however, I know from personal experience what some of those involved in the acceptance of that Revelation knew, understood and accepted, something I wrote extensively in my journal that night. And something I accept without question, though I must say I had a few before that meeting.