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In Our Ward: Lesson 5: “If Thou Doest Well, Thou Shalt Be Accepted”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 02, 2014

Lesson 5: “If Thou Doest Well, Thou Shalt Be Accepted”

Moses 5-7
Genesis 4

Purpose: To help class members understand that choices to follow Jesus Christ lead to liberty, happiness, and eternal life, while choices to follow Satan lead to misery and captivity.

Scripture Discussion and Application

[1. Cain covenants with Satan, kills Abel, and is cursed by the Lord.
2. Enoch preaches repentance to the people.
3. The people in the city of Enoch are of one heart and one mind with the Lord, and the entire city is taken to heaven.]
[1. Keeping family records.
2. Enoch and Cain compared.
3. “Anoint thine eyes ... and thou shalt see”
4. Loved ones who go astray.]

Last week we discussed the transgression of Adam and Eve, and the Lord’s sending them out of the Garden of Eden into the world. Everything – or almost everything – they had ever known has now changed. The changes are easy to identify; let’s read about some of them in Moses 5:1-3:

1 And it came to pass that after I, the Lord God, had driven them out, that Adam began to till the earth, and to have dominion over all the beasts of the field, and to eat his bread by the sweat of his brow, as I the Lord had commanded him. And Eve, also, his wife, did labor with him.

2 And Adam knew his wife, and she bare unto him sons and daughters, and they began to multiply and to replenish the earth.

3 And from that time forth, the sons and daughters of Adam began to divide two and two in the land, and to till the land, and to tend flocks, and they also begat sons and daughters.

But what did not change? [In discussion, draw out the idea that although Adam and Eve were not longer in the immediate presence of the Lord, he did not abandon them. He continued to speak to them, give them commandments, and teach them the gospel.]

Moses 5:4-8:

4 And Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence.

5 And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.

6 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.

7 And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.

8 Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.

This symbolism, that the sacrifice of the firstling – or firstborn – of an animal in similitude of the sacrifice of the Savior’s life, is very familiar – so familiar that I wonder if we take it for granted. What aspects of this animal sacrifice is symbolic of the Savior? [In discussion, distinguish between the symbolic elements present in the Moses/Genesis account here, and other elements class members may suggest that come from later revelation such as:

Exodus12:43-46, prescribing the Passover ritual: “... neither shall ye break a bone thereof.”
Exodus 12:5, precribing Passover: “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year ...”

Not that we know that these elements were not taught to Adam and Eve, only that we’re making an assumption because they aren’t present in this scripture.]

No symbol, or analogy, is perfect, though, is it? I mean, would we be correct in assuming that because the sacrificial animal must be the firstborn, that God does not love or want the obedience and service of younger children? Or that because the animal, according to later revelation, must be male means that God has no use for females?

How can we be secure in how we interpret commandments or understand the symbolism God uses? We hear once in a while about Church members, usually ones new to the faith, introducing odd elements into Church practice. I’ll give one example to make the point clear, but I’ll ask that you not offer other examples because it would be so easy to get off track of our lesson with this kind of thing. While working on the history of the Church this week, I learned about a branch president who understood very clearly that the bread of the sacrament represented the body of the Savior, and out of respect for that symbolism, he couldn’t bear to throw the unused bread into the trash, so had adopted the practice of burning the leftover bread instead. That was corrected as soon as it was discovered by mission leaders. Now, maybe we laugh at that, or maybe we can understand the man’s thinking – but it might be harder for us to recognize if we sometimes twist or exaggerate something about the gospel. How can we guard against that?

Going back to the Book of Moses, we read:

Moses 5:12-15:

12 And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.

13 And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God; and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish.

14 And the Lord God called upon men by the Holy Ghost everywhere and commanded them that they should repent;

15 And as many as believed in the Son, and repented of their sins, should be saved; and as many as believed not and repented not, should be damned; and the words went forth out of the mouth of God in a firm decree; wherefore they must be fulfilled.

We then read about two of Adam’s children, Cain and Abel – not the first who were born, but the first whom the scripture tells us about by name. We read about their response to the teaching of their parents:

Moses 5:16-17

16 … Cain hearkened not, saying: Who is the Lord that I should know him?

17 … Abel hearkened unto the voice of the Lord.

The two brothers grew, and eventually they were of the age and standing that it was time for them to offer sacrifice as God had commanded Adam, and as Adam must have taught his sons. We read:

Moses 5:19-20

19 … Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.

20 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof. …

What is the Lord’s response to these offerings?

Is there anything wrong with being a farmer, and growing fruits and vegetables and grains? Then why was Cain’s sacrifice rejected? [In discussion, bring out both what we learn in Moses 5:18 (And Cain loved Satan more than God. And Satan commanded him, saying: Make an offering unto the Lord) and also that the offering of produce neither met the description of sacrifice as God had taught Adam, nor was symbolic of the Savior’s sacrifice.]

Later in the Old Testament the Lord commanded the children of Israel to give the fruits of the ground:

Exodus 23:19

19 The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God …

and today we generally write a check, the money representing our labor at whatever our various occupations might be. Why are these offerings acceptable to the Lord, when Cain’s offering was not? [In discussion, bring out the difference between the special sacrifice that represents the Savior’s giving of his life, and offerings made for other purposes, whether by commandment or free will; also note that Cain’s sacrifice was in obedience to Satan rather than God.]

How did Cain get so off-track?

How do we get off-track in our own behavior and beliefs? None of us, probably no one we know well, would be likely to say that they love Satan more than God. None of us who are today faithful members of the Church, trying to keep the commandments and live the gospel, is likely to get up one morning and think, “Today I will start embezzling from my employer” or “Today I will commit adultery.” Yet we all know people – and maybe at some point in our lives we have been such people – who have been faithful members of the Church and have still got off-track.

How does it happen? How can we guard against it?

We read in Moses that the Lord called Cain to repentance.

Moses 5:23-25:

23 If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted. And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and Satan desireth to have thee; and except thou shalt hearken unto my commandments, I will deliver thee up, and it shall be unto thee according to his desire. And thou shalt rule over him;

24 For from this time forth thou shalt be the father of his lies; thou shalt be called Perdition; for thou wast also before the world.

25 And 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 a cursing which I will put upon thee, except thou repent.

Was Cain’s cursing inevitable, at this point? Are any of us ever beyond the point where we can repent and be saved?

We read of Cain’s response in Moses 56:26:

26 And Cain was wroth, and listened not any more to the voice of the Lord, neither to Abel, his brother, who walked in holiness before the Lord.

I see three things in that short verse, three points where Cain still could have changed course, but did not. What are those three chances that he forfeited?

Based on this verse, what can we do when someone we care about is following the same path away from the Lord?

What guarantee do we have that our efforts will be successful in winning someone back. [None!] Despite our best efforts, and the exercise of our faith, we may very well find ourselves in the position of Adam and Eve:

Moses 5:26

27 And Adam and his wife mourned before the Lord, because of Cain and his brethren.

Don’t we sometimes blame ourselves when loved ones go astray? I should have done such-and-such differently when he was a child, or I should have prayed harder, or – something? What would you tell Adam and Eve about their parenting? What do you think Adam and Eve could tell you about your own parenting?

And we read of Cain’s continued downward path:

He chose a wife who, like Cain, loved Satan more than God. (Moses 5:28)

Not satisfied with listening to Satan, and obeying his counsel, Cain actually made a pact with Satan, becoming his partner. (Moses 5:29-30)

Cain followed Satan, not out of fear or force or weakness – he eventually reached the point where he gloried in his wickedness (Moses 5:31)

And, of course, he eventually lured Abel to a secluded place, and murdered Abel. (Moses 5:32)

The Lord comes to Cain again, and tells him that he, the Lord, knows what Cain has done, and he tells Cane the consequences.

Moses 5:36-37

36 And now thou shalt be cursed from the earth which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.

37 When thou tillest the ground it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength. A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.

This is different from before, isn’t it, different from verses 23-25? There, the Lord’s words were only a warning of what would happen if Cain didn’t change course. Back then, the curse would come into effect “except thou repent.” Where is the call to repentance now? What can Cain do to avoid the curse? [No offer of repentance and forgiveness is extended. The curse is pronounced here as an inevitable thing.]

I don’t want to go beyond the scripture and extrapolate whether or not murder can be forgiven, or whether there are special circumstances involved here, and exactly how that translates into modern circumstances – for our purposes it is enough to say that there was some line crossed here, that Cain had reached a point of evil so far advanced that he could not return.

But did Cain give any sign that he even wanted to return?

Moses 5:38-39

38 And Cain said unto the Lord: Satan tempted me because of my brother’s flocks. And I was wroth also; for his offering thou didst accept and not mine; my punishment is greater than I can bear.

39 Behold thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the Lord, and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that he that findeth me will slay me, because of mine iniquities, for these things are not hid from the Lord.

How sorry is Cain for his crime? Where does his concern lie? Fortunately I’ve never been in a position to judge someone’s repentance in a formal way, as some of you may have been, but we all find ourselves in the position of needing to evaluate someone’s sincerity, to know whether it is safe to extend our trust again. What does Cain’s example teach us about apologies and future behavior? How can Cain’s example help us recognize whether the time is right for us to ask or expect forgiveness for our own bad behavior?

Moses 5:40

40 And I the Lord said unto him: Whosoever slayeth thee, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And I the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

Moses tells us that the Lord placed a mark on Cain – although we are not told what that mark was. For the past few centuries, Europeans and Americans, in part to justify the practice of African slavery, have claimed that the mark was a black skin – but note, the scripture does not specify what the mark was.

Was the mark, whatever it was, given as a curse? [No – it was a warning to others not to kill Cain.]

Is there anything in the scripture that suggests Cain’s mark would pass to his children and grandchildren? [No.]

Most of the remainder of Moses 5 is concerned with the descendants of Cain. They became great people, in a worldly sense, building cities and becoming skilled in the arts and sciences of civilization. But for all their achievements, the scripture still tells us that Cain’s great evil, his covenant with Satan, remained in the earth.

Moses 5:51

51 For, from the days of Cain, there was a secret combination, and their works were in the dark …

Let’s look for a minute at who was affected by the sins of Cain. [In discussion, point out that Cain, Abel, Abel’s loss of posterity, Adam and Eve, Cain’s posterity, and perhaps others, were affected by Cain’s behavior.]

Who were the guilty parties responsible for the consequences that followed? Who were innocent?

We’ve already touched on this briefly, but when someone goes astray today, with consequences for others, who are the guilty parties? Who are the innocent? How does this affect – or how should it affect – how we treat each other when we see the consequences of sin?

Conclusion

Joseph Smith’s translation of the first part of Genesis, as found in the Book of Moses, adds a great deal to our understanding of the Bible. His visions or angelic tutoring or whatever other forms of revelation Joseph experienced help us to know that the gospel was taught to Adam and Eve in the beginning. We better understand the purpose of animal sacrifice as it pointed toward the great sacrifice of the Son of God. In Chapter 7, we learn about Enoch and his City of Zion – something that is completely absent from the Bible as it was passed down to us. The story of Enoch makes a perfect counterpoint to the story of Cain – where Cain turned against God and sought for personal gain, Enoch chose to follow God and to seek the welfare of others. The blessings given to Enoch for his righteousness were, if possible, greater than the cursing given to Cain for his evil.

[Testimony]



1 Comment »

  1. This reminds me of a silly seminary moment. The teacher said, “We know that Cain killed Abel. Did Adam and Eve have any other children?” After a long silence (I had already answered too many questions for the day and decided not to answer) someone said, “Oh, yeah, Seth!”

    Um, yes, and all the other sons and daughters who then paired up and populated the land. Seriously, they had to have at least one daughter!

    Comment by LauraN — February 2, 2014 @ 11:28 pm

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