Monday, March 14, 2011

The Error of Cain

In the book of Genesis in the Bible we find recorded the story of Cain and Abel. While many people focus on Cain's sin of killing Abel, many people overlook Cain's error that put him on the path that ended with him killing Abel. The record in Genesis tells us.
3And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
But when Cain presented his offering the record tells us,
5But unto aCain and to his boffering [the Lord] had not crespect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
The Book of Moses expounds a little more on what happened by giving the interchange between God and Cain after the failed offering.
 22And the Lord said unto Cain: Why art thou wroth? Why is thy countenance fallen?
23If thou doest well, thou shalt be aaccepted. And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and Satan bdesireth to have thee; and except thou shalt hearken unto my commandments, I will cdeliver thee up, and it shall be unto thee according to his desire. And thou shalt drule over him; 
24For from this time forth thou shalt be the father of his alies; thou shalt be called bPerdition; for thou wast also cbefore the world. 
25And it shall be said in time to come—That these abominations were had from aCain; for he rejected the greater counsel which was had from God; and this is a bcursing which I will put upon thee, except thou repent. 
26And 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.
From these verses we note the ironic fact that it was Cain's attempt to offer a sacrifice to God that ultimately led him to commit murder. So let us consider this, what exactly was wrong with Cain's sacrifice that prompted God to reject it?

We note that when Cain offered sacrifice he offered "the fruit of the ground", which is to say, he offered the food that he had grown. We do not know exactly what it is that he offered but we can guess that it must have been whatever he had been farming, and we might even assume that it was the first of his harvest and the best of his crop. These things would surely be a worthy sacrifice, as he might have been offering the best of what he had, if it were not for the fact that Cain was attempting to change the ordinance and substitute his own efforts and ideas for those of God's.

When the ordinance of sacrifice was first instituted it was done for a very specific purpose. As we read in the Book of Moses, when Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden they were commanded to offer sacrifice.
5And he gave unto them commandments, that they shouldaworship the Lord their God, and should offer the bfirstlings of their cflocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was dobedient unto the commandments of the Lord. 
6And after many days an aangel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer bsacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. 
7And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a asimilitude of the bsacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of cgrace and dtruth. 
8Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the aname of the Son, and thou shalt brepent and ccall upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.
We find from this that the purpose of offering sacrifice was to remind the Children of God of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The amount or value of the sacrifice was not the important thing because the sacrifice itself was not the thing that brought salvation. The purpose of the sacrifice was to remind them that it is only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that we can receive salvation.

So when Cain offered his sacrifice he was changing the intent of the ordinance. He was in effect saying that his sacrifice was what brought salvation. It was his actions and his intent that would allow God to give him salvation. Thus by changing the ordinance, Cain sought to put himself in the place of Christ, and make his own actions, thoughts and intents more important than those of God. In a sense what Cain was trying to do was understandable. He viewed the ordinance of sacrifice as nothing more than the act of giving up what one has. If we think about it in this way then it makes sense that in order for Cain to make a worthy sacrifice then all he would have to do is offer that which had the most value to him, that is, he offered the fruits of his labors.

Here in lies the error of Cain. He failed to see the intent and purpose of the ordinances that he was commanded to perform. We might say that Cain thought that the ordinances were all about him and what he had to do, and he failed to see that they were not about him and his actions, but pointed towards Christ. It should be noted here that Cain did not do this ignorantly. He must have known the intent of the sacrifices, and even after his failed sacrifice he was not immediately condemned or cast off by God. He was admonished and warned that if he did not repent then, and only then, would he be delivered over to Satan. But as God said to Cain, "If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted."

But Cain did not repent and did not listen "any more to the voice of the Lord, neither to Abel, his brother", and Cain continued on the path he was on that led to him murdering Abel and being cast out forever from the presence of the Lord. And it all started because he wanted to change the ordinances to suit his own desires.

Unfortunately we find members of the Church today who will do the same thing. They want to change the order of the priesthood, or the ordinances of the Gospel to suit what they view as the "correct" or the "right" way of doing things. They view the priesthood as "unfair" and the ordinances of the Temple as "asserting male dominance" or "blind obedience to a bunch of old men", as one comment said that I read today. But in doing so they are committing the error of Cain by wishing to change the ordinances of the gospel to suit their own desires and to fix things as they see fit. Nowhere in all their arguments do they even consider what God has to think on the subject. They also fail to see that just as the sacrifices of ancient times were intended to point to Christ, thus are the ordinances, the structure and teachings of the priesthood are also intended to point to Christ.
1And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God aordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people. 
2And those priests were ordained after the aorder of his Son, in abmanner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption. (Alma 13:1-2)
In their rush to bring equality and justice they loose sight of the fact that the purpose of the priesthood is not to exert dominion and control over others, and is not a symbol of worldly power and strength, but is only intended to point our minds to Christ, "in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption." That is to say, the whole structure of the priesthood is set in such a way that we may know the manner and source of our salvation. The structure of the priesthood (and the Church in general) is set such that it is a reflection of the way we will gain salvation. When I say that the structure of the Church, I do not refer to the common daily (or weekly) administration of the Church, but the structure of teaching, compassionate service, brotherly love, service, selflessness, kindness, caring and unity that make up the Church. This is the manner of our salvation.
6And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his arest 
. . . . 
16Now these aordinances were given after this bmanner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a ctype of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord. (Alma 13:6,16)
To desire otherwise is to deny the ordinances and order as given by God that point us to Christ. There is wisdom in what God does, and we need not commit the error of Cain and impose our desires, wisdom (or lack there of) and thoughts on the ordinances and order of God. For they are given to point to Christ and when we endeavor to change the ordinances to suit our own ideas, we deny the power and efficacy of Christ's Atonement. This is why the ordinances were given to us from God and were not instituted by man (or women) that we might look to Him for our salvation and not to ourselves.


Bill said...

Excellent post. Very insightful and relevant. This type of thing happens way too often, and not just in those criticizing the manner in which the priesthood is administered. We see many times where people ignore counsel thinking that they know some better way to do things. We often lose sight of the fact that the point is not about the project, the point is about teaching eternal principles and preparing individuals for eternal life.

One minor critique also: I don't think Cain brought "the first of his harvest and the best of his crop." We read one very important detail in Moses 5:18: "18And Cain loved Satan more than God. And Satan commanded him, saying: Make an offering unto the Lord." The whole reason that Cain made an offering unto the Lord is because Satan commanded him to. Cain's offering was a mockery from start to finish. Perhaps the greatest reason Cain's offering was rejected was not as much what he was giving, but why he was giving it. (The what he was giving was obviously vital as well, but there is certainly more to the story.)

Once again, great post!

Quantumleap42 said...

Thanks Bill for your comment.

The issue with Cain is that there is very little to go off of (not like the rest of the story has much more). But from what we do know is that Cain still brought a sacrifice. Yes Moses says that Satan commanded him to bring it, but that doesn't say much about what he expected out of it.

Now his motivations may have ranged from "I know full well that this is wrong and I am only doing it because Satan commanded me to, and I am intentionally doing this to snub God." to "I am doing what I think is right." It is interesting to note that Cain did not get angry and leave the Church (i.e. did not listen to the voice of the Lord), until after he had been reprimanded. So before that he may have actually been trying to do what he thought was right, he was just doing it for the wrong reasons.

So on the one hand we have the possibility that he was offering an inferior sacrifice (2 week old beets and moldy cabbage perhaps) but on the other hand there is the possibility that he was genuinely trying to give a good sacrifice (the first fruits of his harvest and the best of his crop). Or it could have been anything in between.

Personally I think it makes more sense that Cain offered something that he considered had great worth and was quite upset when it was not accepted. Hence his extreme reaction. Whether he did it intentionally (i.e. pre-planned what would happen with Satan etc.) or just thought that he could offer a better sacrifice than Abel since after all he was "a man from the Lord". But we can't really tell either way from the text.

Marvette Hayes said...

I believe Cain was a Christian, however, he was a carnal Christian. When you walk according to the deities of your own heart, you are unable to rightfully divide the difference between flesh and spirit or how to appropriately process God's word. Cain walked according to the flesh in disobedience. In that walk, the purpose of the sacrifice was lost. Which cause him to be angry with God, after his offering was rejected. Anger was the defect found in his character. Abel represented the spirit of obedience and understood the purpose of the sacrifice. The flesh and the spirit is enmity toward another.