JMS Sunday School Lesson #5

January 27, 2006 | 6 comments
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Read Moses 5:16-23.

–What does Cain’s question is verse 16 reveal about him? In what ways might we have this same attitude?

–The fact that Satan commands this offering (v18) is interesting—what do we learn from? Can you think of situations where Satan might motivate you to do ‘righteous’ things?

–V19: What’s wrong with Cain’s sacrifice? It isn’t authorized—it is supposed to be an animal, in similitude of Christ (cf. 5:6-7). In what ways might we offer sacrifices like Cain’s?

–V21: Note the irony: Cain loves Satan and listens to him, but also wants to please God. Cain thinks that obeying Satan will please God.

–A thought on occupations: there’s nothing wrong with being a farmer, but it also seems possible that Cain’s occupation created distance between him and the proper sacrifice; Abel could offer one of his own sheep but Cain would have had to trade with Abel to get one. Relevant?

–V23: I’m touched by the fact that the Lord is still reaching out to. I find this very difficult to do.

–V23: Another translation is “at the tent flap sin crouches.â€? What does this image suggest to you?

–V23: The rest of this verse is hard to understand because the PoGP picks up bad KJV translation but it also adds material. Different interpretations:

(1)“And thou [Cain] shalt rule over him [Satan],� because Cain will have a body and Satan will not. This seems like an odd thing for the Lord to tell Cain.
(2)“And thou [Cain] shalt rule over him [Satan],�

“Cain rule over Satan? Yes. that is the arrangement—the devil serves his client, gratifies his slightest whim, pampers his appetites, and is at his beck and call throughout his earthly life, putting unlimited power and influence at his disposal through his command of the treasures of the earth, gold and silver. But in exchange the victim must keep his part of the agreement, following Satan’s instructions on earth and remaining in his power hereafter. That is the classic bargain, the pact with the Devil.� Hugh Nibley

(3) The bad KJV translation could be better rendered: “for you it is longing but you [Cain] shall rule over it [sin],� which is a little tricky in the PoGP because of all of the intervening material.

Thoughts on what to do with this verse?

Read Moses 5:26-31.

–V26: “Wroth.â€? Thoughts on anger; how do you become the kind of person who can accept chastisement?

–V27: Why the reference to Adam and Eve here and what do you learn from it? (Note that Adam and Eve’s perfect family template from the beginning of this chapter did not yield a perfect family!)

–V29: Note the irony that this dark oath is made ‘by the living God.’

–V29-31: Note the elements of authentic covenants here: cutting the throat is the beginning of animal sacrifice and therefore tied to covenant making, new name given, etc.

Read Moses 5:32-41, 45-46.

–V33: Why does Cain say, “I am freeâ€?? What does he think that he is free of? Is he right about that? Is the inverse true: (How) does obedience increase freedom?

–V33: “It has been pointed out that what Satan taught Cain and his brethren was not only how to exchange a human soul for a flock of sheep but also how to turn life into property. Through similar secret combinations, Satan still seduces those who love him more than they love God. Great sins of immorality result when people crave things and use other people to obtain them, thus serving their own gratification before God and all else. Here stands exposed Satan’s secret means by which he seeks to destroy our Heavenly Father’s children.â€? Richard D. Draper, “The Remarkable Book of Moses,â€? Ensign, Feb. 1997, 15. A big idea.

–V34: What are some situations where we are guilty of sharing Cain’s attitude in v34?

–Thoughts on God’s use of questions in this passage?

–Note that the curse of Cain and the mark of Cain are two separate things. The curse involves his relationship to the land and is his punishment for murdering his brother. The mark is the result of Cain pleading with the Lord because he is afraid he will be killed by others—it is meant as a protection to him.

Some more thoughts on the mark of Cain since it is the subject of some Mormon folklore:
(1) The scriptures do not specify what the mark is; the word used is the same word used in the OT to mean a sign or token of a covenant (such as the rainbow or circumcision), which is appropriate here: it is a sign of the Lord’s protection of him. Also, there is no indication that his descendents will have the mark.
(2) The rabbis thought of the mark as a horn (or horns) on Cain’s head and so in medieval art, Cain is pictured as having a horn.
(3) It wasn’t until the period of European colonialism—and African slavery–that the idea that the mark was related to black skin was introduced.
(4) This idea was picked up by early LDS—including some leaders—and was reinforced because of some rather creative connecting of dots (related to Canaanites and the curse of Ham) in Moses 7.
(5) The idea persisted (persists?) among Mormon, but shouldn’t:

There are statements in our literature by the early brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, ‘You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?’ And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more. It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of [1978]. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them.—Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “All Are Alike Unto God�

–Think more about the curse: Cain is initially a farmer, now he can’t be, and now he will wander. This seems to be tied in a literal way to what he has done—see v35-36. What’s going on here? Thoughts on personal application from this? And, thoughts on the interesting, graphic image in v36?

–V45-46: These aren’t as innocent as they sound. Isaiah 5:12 makes a link between these instruments and ‘party-types’ and a better translation of v46 shows that the brass and iron are used for weapons. One commenter sees Cain’s family as a “microcosm . . . of technological prowess and moral failure.â€?

–There are many parallels between Cain’s experience and the Fall: choice, following Satan’s direction, Q-and-A with God after a misdeed, ‘rule over thee,’ curse, relationship with soil, driven out. What do you make of this?

–Big picture question: this as the first story of ‘regular’ life in the scriptures. Adam and Eve had lots of other kids—some probably older than Cain and Abel (if we follow the progression of Moses 5)—why might this terrible, sad story be the one that gets recorded in the scriptures?

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6 Responses to JMS Sunday School Lesson #5

  1. Jim F. on January 28, 2006 at 12:08 am

    Great stuff here, Julie–but I hate you for getting ahead of me!

  2. Julie M. Smith on January 28, 2006 at 12:47 am

    Uh, Jim, I think this week’s lesson has something to say about hate and envy. (I’ll leave the emoticon off because I know you don’t like them, but insert grin here.)

  3. Jim F. on January 28, 2006 at 12:55 am

    Julie, you’re right about this week’s lesson, but luckily I am not a tiller of the soil. I just much around in my herb garden when the weather permits.

  4. Curtis on January 28, 2006 at 1:57 am

    I believe Satan can never command us to do something righteous, only that which we superficially believe to be righteousness because we ignore the light of Christ within us. Case in point: I decided to read my scriptures even though the curious thought that I should be helping my wife wash a mountain of dishes in the sink, won’t leave me. The thought is placed there by the light of Christ, it is direct revelation from Jesus and I ignore it and do something generally thought of as a righteous activity. However, in this case, in this instant, reading the scriptures is a sin. It is sin because it is doing something in place of that which I should be doing at the time as directed by the Spirit.
    This is the problem with alot of us mormons. We go about doing things we are told to do in Church, but don’t pay attention to the spirit of revelation. Satan would be glad for me to read my scriptures if it means I disregard a prompting from the Spirit. Satan’s no dodo. He knows that in order to be a wise virgin, one has to carry oil in one’s lamp. The light of Christ is the law by which all things are governed and as such it behooves us to live by it.

  5. Julie M. Smith on January 28, 2006 at 11:04 am

    Curtis, I really like your comment–it is an excellent example of how and why Satan might encourage us to do something ‘righteous.’

  6. Mark Hutchins on January 29, 2006 at 9:13 am

    Curtis, nice analogy. Another example was the whole attitude of the scribes and pharisees in Jesus’ day. They ignored the ‘weightier matters of the law’ like love and service because they were busy practicing their r’righteous’ acts. This was deceptive enough to get them to a state of wicknedness to a point of ‘cricifying their god’.