Talk:Abr 1:28-31

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Joe, interesting comments and if it is right, to what degree really are these same revelations really unintelligible to us with out revelation? We might say that all of the scriptures and revelations are unintelligible in some sense without the Holy Ghost. Do we want to distinguish between the role of the Holy Ghost in helping us understand the gospel and the more (what's the word?) magnificent revelations given to Nephi and Abraham to help them understand? --Matthew Faulconer 05:08, 28 Jun 2006 (UTC)

To start, perhaps, some further exegesis... I think, Matthew, that we should not make such a distinction: cf. 1 Ne 10:19, etc (a passage clearly connected in some ways with the Book of Abraham--it might even be argued that Nephi had a copy of the Book of Abraham). Perhaps the better question, then, is whether we are open enough to receive the full weight of the Holy Ghost when we experience it. Are we (perhaps because we talk about feeling the Holy Ghost a certain way) constantly limiting what we experience in the Holy Ghost, reducing "more magnificent revelations" even as they come to a sort of feeling. "Pure intelligence" is how Joseph described it. Isn't that as "magnificent" as what Abraham and Nephi had? --Joe Spencer 16:59, 28 Jun 2006 (UTC)
Related to understanding the term "knowledge" in v. 31, at some point I'm hoping to look more carefully at D&C 93:24 to understand what "knowledge of things as they are" could mean. Here (and, to a lesser extent here) is some preliminary discussion.... --RobertC 18:54, 28 Jun 2006 (UTC)

Ham / Pharaoh / Priesthood

I am curious. Are the following true?

  • no place in the scriptures does it tell us that Ham's curse was related to the Priesthood.
  • no place are we told that Pharaoh is a descendent of Ham or Canaan.

On a related note, RobertC, thanks for the interesting links about Ham. The story of Canaan's curse is odd and curious and the explanation there helpful and interesting. But since that explanation comes from non-LDS biblical scholars it doesn't address the point you make on the commentary page here that Ham walks with God. It seems that Ham is righteous which makes Canaan's curse based on Ham's action more strange still. What are we to make of it?

--Matthew Faulconer 15:05, 28 Jun 2006 (UTC)

My thinking is simply that Ham was righteous and received certain blessings, but committed some unrighteous act that resulted in a curse. The curse, however, did not— at least directly— reverse the the blessing, so any perceived contradiction is not well-founded....
Regarding Pharoah, isn't v. 25 saying Pharoah is a descendent of Ham?
I don't think there's any direct scriptural connection between the curse of Ham in Gen 9 being related to the Priesthood. My guess is that the notion is based on a guess that the curse in verse 26 is referring to the same curse as described in Gen 9.
--RobertC 18:25, 28 Jun 2006 (UTC)
Thanks Robert. You said; "isn't v. 25 saying Pharoah is a descendent of Ham?" Yes. My bad. I should have at least read the surrounding verses!
Clearly you are right on the blessing and cursing bit--since verse 26 is a perfect example. But here's what I am wondering. Generally we think of blessings as contingent on doing good. And somewhere around this site we talked about cursing as being contingent as well--on not repenting. So why in this case wouldn't the cursing be contingent on not repenting? Maybe Ham's curse isn't meant to have the overwhelming negative connation I think of when I hear the word curse. Otherwise I think there is something odd about a righteous person, someone who walks with God, with a curse God lets stand. There must be some reason why the Lamanite curse is taken away when the Lamanites are righteous but Ham's curse or Pharaoh's curse is not.
Thinking more about the curse here and that in Genesis: I propose that the connection between the two isn't well supported by the text. Gen 9:25 specifically states that curse as a curse that Canaan will be a servant to servants. (Maybe this is because Japtheth will be servant to Shem (I get this idea from Gen 9:25: Japtheth "shall dwell in the tents of Shem" and Canaan will be servant to Japtheth.) Gen 9 says nothing of the priesthood. Further, if we assume that curse applies to Canaan's posterity then it doesn't seem to match well with Pharaoh and his posterity who are not servants of servants but rather rulers. Further, there is a certain irony here because Gen 9:26 says that Canaan will be Shem's servant, but Israel (Shem's descendants) ends up being slaves to the Egyptians (Canaan's descendents Abr 1:22-23) for quite a while. --Matthew Faulconer 03:07, 29 Jun 2006 (UTC)
Regarding the curse of the Lamanites, I think one possible difference between curses is that the Priesthood curse could've been specifically that Pharoah (or Ham or whomever, the meaning isn't clear to me) would not receive the Priesthood in his lifetime (or for a certain number of subsequent generations), whereas the Lamanite curse might've been explicitly more of a temporary curse (I'd be interested in looking at Lamanite curse verses more carefully...). I think that intergenerational curses and blessings generally pose sticky and interesting theological questions (D&C 132:19 in particular), so I don't see this as significantly more difficult. Also, I don't think curse necessarily has a super-negative connotation here (esp. since you point out that Pharoah seems to have been pretty righteous). For example, I think children who are born "out of the covenant" could be said to be cursed in a certain sense, though that isn't necessarily a horrible thing. (Even less relevant, it's not clear to me that repenting and being forgiven of sins entails a complete undoing of all the specific negative consequences of those sins, so why should we expect repenting to result in the lifting of a curse—perhaps we should look at the lifting of the curse on the Lamanites as an exceptional blessing.)
Regarding the linking of this Priesthood curse with Gen 9, I think you make good points. My guess is that a fair amount has been written on this topic (b/c this was frequently used to explain the Priesthood ban for blacks), I'd be curious if your arguments have been addressed by anyone else. --RobertC 04:49, 29 Jun 2006 (UTC)

Two quick thoughts on these issues. First, have you guys read Nibley's "The Best Possible Test" towards the end of Temple and Cosmos. If not, you should. Nibley has a good discussion there about whether or not this curse is so absolutely negative. Second, I think most of this needs to be rethought through the difficulties concerning "Canaan" that arise in the JST and Book of Abraham manuscripts. It may be that there is reference here not to Canaan but to Cain, or some other tribe at least that predated the flood. I'm not saying I have any answers, but that there are some unresolved issues there that remain to be thought out. --Joe Spencer 17:38, 29 Jun 2006 (UTC)

I have Temple and Cosmos so I'll try to look this up sometime soon. I also came across this note about H.N.'s Abraham in Egypt which I don't have. I'd be curious to hear his argument if anyone owns that book (if not, maybe I'll see if I can get it through BYU library).
Also, I found this quote from Doctrinal Commentary on the Pearl of Great Price by Hyrum L. Andrus (1967), pp. 400-401. After quoting Moses 5:40, Moses 7:8 and Moses 7:22 to establish (somewhat dubiously) that God cursed Cain with black skin (coupled with a reference to Joseph Smith referring to blacks as the "sons of Cain" from Doctrinal History of the Church, IV, p. 501 and then referring to blacks as the "descendants of Ham" from DHC, p.191—a set of books I don't have access to and couldn't even find in the BYU library, does anyone know why??), Andrus says:
[Ham] evidently married a Canaanite woman and thus perpetuated the seed of Cain through the flood. . . . The curse which [Abrabrahm] referred [in Abr 1:24] consisted of certain restrictions in the rights and blessings of the priesthood. These restrictions apparently had their origin in the pronouncements of God upon Cain after he killed his brother Abel, and the denial of the priesthood placed upon Cain was also denied his posterity. The Book of Moses declares that the blessings of the Gosepl were not taken by missionaries to the seed of Cain, and that the seed of Cain "had no place" among the other people of the earth (Moses 7:12, 22).
My sense is that this argument is probably representative of views at the time. I'm planning to look up some Bruce R. McConckie references next to see if he has any different angle on the issue. There's also some points made here at the FAIR wiki (which I recently joined as an editor—FYI seems there are 2-3 quite active editors there, and a handful more that are semi-active...). --RobertC 01:11, 30 Jun 2006 (UTC)
Robert, a few notes. I have Abraham in Egypt, and the argument runs about like this: the claim in the Book of Abraham that Egypt was founded by a woman is borne out by research in Egyptian documents, where there seems to be a sort of constant frustration with the matriarchal early days. Nibley simply goes on to suggest that it is therefore because the priesthood could not come through a woman that the Egyptians had a false priesthood. John Gee has recently pointed out, however, that the sources Nibley used have since publication of that book become obsolete. Apparently Egyptologists no longer believe Egypt was founded on a matriarchy. Nonetheless, it remains an interesting reading of the Book of Abraham. It does not, however, account for the denial of a priesthood upon blacks, which would easily be justified through a correct ordination. So I think we have to turn to other sources to make sense of the modern issue, though I think Nibley offers a very good reading of the ancient situation.
Second, there must have been a typo in Andrus. The source is the Documentary History of the Church, not the Doctrinal History of the Church. The Documentary History of the Church is none other than the History of the Church cited over and over in the D&C. There's your mystery solved on that account.
Third, I think Andrus is about the worst source on the Pearl of Great Price to be celebrated by members of the Church. His work is flavored by a bizarre fascination with the metaphysical. Even so, I have heard the same argument that Ham had married someone of Cain's seed before (was it in Doctrines of Salvation?). There is little evidence for it textually, that is for sure; whether or not Joseph had anything to say on it, I don't know for sure. The HC is not really a great source: one should go to the much better primary sources now available, though that may take some tracking down.
Fourth, the issue of Cain seems to be a live one. I don't know exactly how to go about more careful study of the issue until I can get a copy of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers (the only copy on sale on line runs $75 right now). There is, however, a great source of study there, I believe. --Joe Spencer 15:15, 30 Jun 2006 (UTC)