D&C 84: 6-18

The Tangent

There is a lengthy tangent in D&C 84 that begins in verse 6 and continues until verse 31. Verse 6 begins: “And the sons of Moses…” and verse 31 begins: “Therefore, as I said concerning the sons of Moses–.” Verses 6-30 are preparatory to explaining what those sons of Moses are going to do.

This portion of the tangent (verses 6-18) focuses on the lineages of authority for the Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthoods.

Thoughts on the lineage of authority for the Melchizedek Priesthood (verses 6-17)

1) “And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood which he received under the hand of his father-in-law, Jethro….” How do you hear the phrase, “according to,” here? It sounds like we were about to find out what the sons of Moses were going to do with or according to the priesthood authority they possess. That is, perhaps this sentence was going to say, “The sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood, are going to do such-and-such….”

Another way of reading the phrase “according to” is as an explanation of the title “sons of Moses.” There are those who are considered “sons” of Moses because they have inherited the priesthood that Moses had. (I think the same idea is at work in verses 33-34, where those who obtain the priesthood “become” the sons of Moses and of Aaron.) That is, perhaps the sentence could be read as, “The sons of Moses, who are sons according to or because they are receiving the Holy Priesthood which Moses had, and which he received from his father-in-law….”

2) Verses 6-13 outline a genealogy of priesthood authority from Jethro back to Esaias, a man who lived at the time of Abraham, and then on back to Adam himself. I didn’t remember there being a parallel priesthood line co-existing with the famous Abraham-Isaac-Jacob line, and I didn’t find any reference to this genealogy in the Bible. That throws off all sorts of theories and ideas I’ve been collecting about the Abrahamic Covenant! The Bible (and our other scriptures) present Abraham as a pivotal figure in history, and that his covenant and priesthood were only passed to his son Isaac, and then to Jacob, and so on. But here we learn that Abraham blessed a man who was not his son and who went on to pass that priesthood to his sons for many generations. And to top it all off, then that priesthood line also ends up blessing one of Abraham’s descendants, Moses, and bringing the priesthood back to Abraham’s descendants! I find this so fascinating!

3) One more note on Abraham: we also learn that “Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek.” That detail isn’t explained in either Genesis or the Book of Abraham. In Genesis we read that he was blessed by Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20). But the Book of Abraham leaves out Melchizedek’s name all together: Abraham simply “became” a high priest (Abraham 1:2).

4) I wonder why this lineage of priesthood authority goes through Abel and not Seth? (See Genesis 4:25 and Moses 6:2-4,7.)

Thoughts on the lineage of authority for the Aaronic Priesthood (verse 18)

1) The genealogy of Aaronic Priesthood authority only receives one verse, but only one is necessary since there is no list of names who passed on the priesthood from generation to generation. The verses on the Melchizedek Priesthood authority went backwards from Moses to Adam. Here, we recognize that the Aaronic Priesthood was organized at the time of Moses, so there is no backwards lineage to Adam to list! Rather, this verse focuses on the future: “And the Lord confirmed a priesthood also upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations….” Even from Aaron forward no names are listed, simply the information that it would continue with his seed.  The second half of verse 18 emphasizes that this priesthood will be just as permanent as the Melchizedek: it “continueth and abideth forever with the priesthood which is after the holiest order of God.”

2) It’s interesting to me that there is a creation of a priesthood order but not an ending of that order. Put another way, it is my understanding that the work of the Aaronic Priesthood (such as sacrifices and baptisms) was being accomplished by those with the higher priesthood until the time of Moses and Aaron. It’s as if God splits the work of the priesthood at that time, and gives the Aaronic Priesthood also responsibility for much of the work of the Law of Moses that didn’t exist previous to Aaron. It would appear to me, if I were writing the story, that the Aaronic Priesthood order should fold back into the Melchizedek Priesthood order at some point, perhaps at the time of Christ’s coming and the Law of Moses’s fulfillment. But here it seems quite apparent that the Aaronic Priesthood order will continue forever alongside the Melchizedek Priesthood order.

3) Since the Aaronic Priesthood order had a definite beginning point, I can see the reasons why it is emphasized over and over again in scripture that the Melchizedek Priesthood order (by any of its names) has existed forever into the past and will exist forever into the future. It is “without beginning of days or end of years.” I can see the need to reiterate that fact when it seems like the Bible is more familiar with the work of the Aaronic Priesthood than the work of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Question on verse 17: “Which priesthood continueth in the church of God in all generations”

This clause could be read in a few slightly different ways depending on which words we emphasize.

1) It could be saying that the Melchizedek Priesthood exists in all generations in which a Church is established. This would fit the way we traditionally talk about the Apostasy.

2) It could be saying that the Melchizedek Priesthood exists in every generation, and that there is a Church established at all times which provides a place for the Melchizedek Priesthood to function. This doesn’t fit with the way we talk about the Apostasy generally, but it might fit with some of the details we have learned in D&C 84 (sometimes there are other lines of priesthood authority that we don’t think of or are not aware of, like the Jethro-Esaias line).

3) Options 1 & 2 are assuming that the verse is meant to teach us something about the Melchizedek Priesthood. But perhaps we could find a third reading by assuming that the verse is meant to teach us something about the Church. It’s not that the Church is always organized, but in all generations in which it is organized — at every moment in history when it exists — it always has the Melchizedek Priesthood. It’s not that the Melchizedek Priesthood needs a Church, but the Church needs the Melchizedek Priesthood. (Then the rest of the section is saying, essentially: So let’s get down to work explaining what it is and why it’s so important.)

 

 

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22 Comments

Filed under D&C 84

22 responses to “D&C 84: 6-18

  1. Some half-baked thoughts this morning:

    As I read through the first few verses of D&C 84, I was struck by the centrality of the temple. The purpose of the church is to gather Israel (v. 2), and the resulting city “begin[s] at the temple lot” (v. 3) and “at … the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation” (v. 4). Verse 5 then goes on to talk more about the temple, and in a distinctly Old Testament vein: “a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house.” In fact, seeing v. 6-31 as tangent further highlights the importance of the temple, because when v. 31 resumes the main thought, it brings us right back to the temple and the role of the Mosaic and Aaronic priests within it.

    So I think that as we focus on Moses and Aaron as key priesthood figures, the temple should’t be too far off. They are the key figures responsible for the production and operation of the OT tabernacle, and I think D&C 84 wants to say that, in some sense, they are the key figures responsible for the latter-day temple, as well. I think this might help explain why D&C 84 focuses on this odd Mosaic priesthood lineage. As you point out, Karen, Moses is an odd figure to focus on in terms of the priesthood, but this all begins to make a bit more sense when we put it into a temple context.

    • Good point, I like that.

    • jennywebb

      Yes, Kim, I think you are definitely on the right track here. I also think there’s an interesting thematic link in these first verses in section 84 between the temple and temporality (“begin” [v.2], “in this generation” [v.4]) that resonates in interesting ways with the tangential discussion of priesthood in terms of generations. That is, we have two eternal structures or orders (temple and priesthood), and each is continually grounded not in the eternities, but on the earth, in time (and space), through bodies (both built and birthed).

    • I have a bit more time this morning (yay!) so I’ll respond in more detail now. I like the idea that if we remove the tangent, we go from temple-talk to temple-talk. It’s interesting though that once we return to talking about the temple, the topic dies off rather quickly. It’s a long tangent in a pretty short discussion! But I suppose that only points out how crucial this tangent must be for understanding what is said about the temple.

      And I think you’ve nailed the reasons why we’re talking about Moses and Aaron. It prepares the Saints to connect what they’re about to do with the temple in the Bible.

      Random question: Do we get a reference to an actual temple, a building, before Moses/Aaron? When Adam etc. performed ordinances, is there ever mention of a building? Could it be that this splitting of priesthood has something to do with a building? Does a closed physical location help teach the people that there is something sacred going on, and the Aaronic priesthood prepares you with the “outward” ordinances?

      • jennywebb

        Karen, your random question got me thinking. In terms of biblical references, we don’t have an actual building prior to the tabernacle of Moses. We do have a lot of altars though.

        • Genesis 8:20 (Noah offers burnt offerings to the Lord)
        • Genesis 12:7-8 (Abraham builds 2 altars, one in Canaan, one on a mountain east of Beth-el)
        • Genesis 13:4 (Abraham returns to the altar east of Beth-el after leaving Egypt)
        • Genesis 13:18 (Abraham builds an altar in the plain of Mamre in Hebron after separating from Lot)
        • Genesis 22:9 (Abraham builds an altar to use to sacrifice Isaac)
        • Genesis 26:25 (Isaac builds an altar after receiving God at night and the covenant made with Abraham in Beer-sheba)
        • Genesis 33:20 (Jacob builds an altar on the land he buys in Shalem, a city of Shechem, in the land of Canaan after making peace with Esau)
        • Genesis 35: 1, 3, 7 (God commands Jacob to return to Beth-el and build an altar)
        • Genesis 35: 14 (Jacob builds a pillar of stone and pours a drink offering and anoints it with oil at Bethel to mark the spot he spoke with God, received the new name of Israel, and received the covenants God made with Abraham and Isaac)

        And then Exodus explodes with altars everywhere (starting with the one Moses builds in Exodus 17).

        In the Pearl of Great Price, altars again appear in connection with Abraham.

        • Abraham 1:8, 10, 12 (Priest of Elkenah try to sacrifice Abraham on an altar as was their custom)
        • Abraham 1:20 (God breaks the altar of the priest of Elkenah)
        • Abraham 2:17 (Abraham builds altar in Jershon and makes an offering that his father’s house might not die in the famine)
        • Abraham 2: 20 (Abraham builds an altar on the mountain east of Bethel and calls upon the name of the Lord)

        Another other temple-like item / ritual that is prevalent pre-tabernacle is the act of calling upon the name of the Lord.

        • Genesis 4:26 (Adam, Seth, and Enos begin to call upon the name of the Lord)
        • Genesis 12:8 (Abraham uses the altar built on the mountain east of Beth-el to call upon the name of the Lord)
        • Genesis 26:25 (After building the altar in Beer-sheba, Isaac calls upon the name of the Lord)

        • Moses 1: 17, 21, 25 (Moses on the mountain is commanded to call upon God in the name of Christ, he does so to cast out Satan, and then he calls upon the name of God and receives his vision)
        • Moses 5:4 (Adam and Eve call upon the name of the Lord and hear him together) ***From what I’m seeing this is chronologically the first occurrence of what I’d term an implicit temple theme. The whole chapter centers around seed and sacrifice, and definitely worth a closer look at some point.***
        • Moses 5:8 (Angel instructs Adam to call upon God in the name of the Son)
        • Moses 5: 16 (Adam and Eve do not cease to call upon God)
        • Moses 6:4 (Seth, Enos and Adam begin to call upon the name of the Lord)
        • Abraham 2:20 (Abraham calls on the name of the Lord at the altar on the mountain east of Beth-el)

        I’m sure there’s holes in here, but this is enough to think through what Karen’s asking here I think, at least initially. I think the connection you’re making between the exteriority of the priesthood and the marking off of space that occurs in a building that has walls is interesting. I don’t know if I agree with it, because my initial impulse is to argue for some kind of priesthood/temple/ordinance/covenant amalgam stretching back to Adam. But that’s really beside your point, so I don’t know why I’m uncomfortable with what you put forward.

        Many of these altars and calling on the name of the Lord experiences seem to be occurring as acts of commemoration—you build the altar to commemorate the experience you had with God, just as much as you build the altar in order to call upon God. And the tabernacle itself can, I think, be read in terms of more formalized commemoration: this is the house of the God of Israel, and here we perform the rituals that remember him as our God kind of thing. I’m wondering if that continuity holds, and if it does, if it’s strong enough to put up a real argument against your point …

        • Wow Jenny, thanks for all of your work on such a complete list, and with summary comments for each one. (That will probably come in handy many times in our future work here on the blog!)

          I really like that you included the verses about calling on the name of the Lord. I also feel like that ought to be included in references to the temple.

          I’m not sure I was as clear as I meant to be. I am fully convinced that we have “some kind of priesthood/temple/ordinance/covenant amalgam stretching back to Adam.” And as you point out, Moses 5 seems to be the first place to look at. (I’m sending a link to a post about that via our facebook message.) What I’m thinking about specifically is the phrase “outward” as it relates to the Aaronic Priesthood. I think altars are unmistakably used in the way temples are. What I’m curious about it the idea that those early altars are outdoors, but with a temple or tabernacle, that altar gets placed within a building. At that point, there is some sort of barrier between the outside and the space in which one communes with God. Why?

          I suppose mountains do the same, and also I suppose that even though early altars were outside, they were probably in remote locations. So I don’t doubt that there was still some sort of seclusion for these sacred rituals.

          So maybe what I’m thinking about is that when there is a whole community, a whole people that God is binding himself to, then there needs to be a way to separate off a space within that community, so that those not ordained to priests can still see that God is at the center of their community, and those ordained to priests have a space to enter to call upon God’s name?

          (I also want to be clear that I don’t at all think that those early instances of altars or calling on the name of God are in anyway lesser than later temple worship. If anything, I think I would tend in the opposite direction. I’m just curious about the idea of putting a wall around altars and ritual prayers.)

          And Jenny, thanks for being willing to continue on a random question I had! 🙂

  2. As a more direct response to one of your questions, I’m in favor of reading the “according to” in v. 6 along the lines of your second definition–that they become “sons” of Moses through the priesthood. v. 33-34, as you point out, is great evidence.

    And this might help us think about the nature of priesthood lineages more generally. We’re familiar with genealogical lists in the bible. This priesthood lineage is obviously very similar. Priesthood creates a generational structure parallel to fathers and sons? How do we think about that in relation to lists of Nephite record-keepers (passing the plates on from father to son, with occasionally sideways jumps to brothers, something like the sideways jump from Esaias to Abraham)?

    Esaias is also really interesting to me, in part because of the interruption he represents in this lineage, but also in part because of how he echoes the biblical scene between Abraham and Melchizedek. In Genesis, Melchizedek merely blesses Abraham, but no priesthood passes between them. Here, Melchizedek gives the priesthood to Abraham, who then blesses Esaias, but no priesthood passes between them, as we might have expected.

    • jennywebb

      I’m also reading in terms of the priesthood being that which qualifies the sons of Moses as “sons.” Karen’s original comments about this section caused me to think about the connection between priesthood and sonship—I’m wondering if there’s more to this connection than we generally think about? For instance, if the priesthood is the power to act in God’s name and effect God’s will on earth (seal on earth and seal in heaven, for example), and if the priesthood qualifies for sonship, then there are some really interesting connections with Christ’s mission and the power of the atonement as that which qualifies us for inheritance (i.e., sonship/daughtership). Would it be too much of a stretch to think about the priesthood’s functionality in terms of salvation? I’m not saying in any way that it replaces Christ or our need for the atonement, but rather that perhaps Christ and the atonement serve as a model for the kind of space and function that the priesthood can/should work as?

      • This is quite deep Jenny, and I’m still wrapping my brain around it. Have you looked ahead much at verses 35-39? There’s something there (that we’ll riddle out when we get there) that connects priesthood with salvation. (That is, all those who receive the priesthood, and/or receive priesthood servants, inherit all that the Father hath.) I’m going to be so fascinated to see how we read those verses when we get there.

        I like the theological move you are making, but I’m not sure I’m on the same track you are and I wand to understand the full force of what you’re saying. Let me know if this is close: Are you saying that the priesthood brings a person into a relation of sonship to God in a very strong way, as if that person has already been saved and is working hand in hand with God? That the atonement gives us a future inheritance with God in heaven, and the priesthood is a more immediate opportunity to work in the Father’s work on this earth? Are the atonement and priesthood two ways of being a child? (Recognizing of course that the priesthood couldn’t have this ability without the atonement.)

    • Kim I had the same thought about how Esaias echoes Abraham. It’s a bit uncanny. 🙂

      I really liked this question: “Priesthood creates a generational structure parallel to fathers and sons?” That’s a great theological question I think. It reminds me of how the sealing ordinance creates a generational structure parallel to literal birth. I haven’t read a whole lot about it, but I think it was Sam Brown’s work that talks about how in Joseph Smith’s and Brigham Young’s time, the idea was that you sealed yourself not necessarily to your literal parents, but to someone that was for sure going to the celestial kingdom. Abraham’s promise, in part, was that his seed wouldn’t be forgotten; when this is combined with the promise that there are many who can be “accounted” his seed, then you can start to see an interesting picture here.

      So I think there might be several different generational structures to think about here. I would love to understand more about the priesthood in the days of the patriarchs. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to learn that passing on the priesthood also meant sealing someone to you. The “holy order” of the priesthood might also be an ordering of generations in a linked, sealed chain. All fun speculation of course, but this has got me wondering!

      In the meanwhile. I think it’s a fruitful thing to say that the passing of priesthood does indeed create a generational structure parallel to fathers and sons. That at the least is clear, and a thought worth hanging onto!

  3. A few more questions/thoughts, and then I’ll sign off and wait for others to chime in.

    I’m really fascinated with this “Esaias” in v. 12-13 for a couple of reasons.

    1) He’s connected with Abraham, becoming something like a third “son” of Abraham, almost–he splits the lineage in a third, supplemental direction beyond just Isaac and Ishmael. (Which Karen notes above in her post)

    2) The name “Esaias” – It comes from the KJV translation of the NT, very obviously a Greek transliteration of the OT prophet “Isaiah.” It’s never used to refer to anyone else. But Joseph seems to pick up this name and apply it to another ancient prophet. (He does much the same thing with the NT transliteration “Elias,” which refers to Elijah. And he may be doing the same thing with “Jeremy” in v. 9-10–again, in the NT, this refers to Jeremiah.) Joseph seems to be doing something interesting with names throughout his career.

    3) v. 13-14 are a pretty stark interruption in the lineage. It interrupts the cadence of “under the hand of so-and-so” that ran through v. 6-12, and Esaias also doesn’t receive the priesthood from Abraham. So not only does it rhetorically interrupt the lineage, but it also fails to create a tight priesthood link with Abraham. It’s a very tenuous spot in those terms, but then emphasizes its tenuousness by adding all these extraneous details about living in the days of Abraham and being blessed by him. The fact that it draws attention to itself in this way, almost flaunting the interruption, is intriguing.

    4) Furthermore, if we read v. 13-14 as a kind of tenuous gap in the priesthood lineage, it’s striking that what is inserted into that gap is God himself! God is a kind of over-the-top strength that gets plugged into a place of otherwise-weakness. That is, where a reader might initially worry that this connection between Esaias and Abraham hints at a problem with the way the priesthood has been handed down, that reader is instantly reassured because what more certain source of priesthood could there be than “under the hand of God?”

    5) Finally, these verses fascinate me because God gets incorporated into the lineage rather than standing at its head. The figure this all traces back to is not God, but rather Adam (v. 16)!

    So. …what do we make of all that?

    • jennywebb

      Kim, great questions. Got me thinking. No answers, but thinking. I wonder if the interruption here is actually part of the point of relating the generations—I’m thinking of the lineage of Christ where all the women who are included are somehow exceptions to what one would traditionally expect, and how their inclusion and lives foreshadow the exact kind of inversion of expectations that the Messiah will live. In this context, perhaps the tenousness you describe is in place precisely to make some kind of important point about the nature of the priesthood. The priesthood as a combination the institutional (passing from generation) and the personal (passing directly from God to Esaias)? The priesthood as a combination of fragility (why didn’t Abraham give Esaias the priesthood if he blessed him? Something nebulous is going on there, something unknowable) and strength (boom: God)? I don’t know, but the fact that the priesthood lineage is *not* a perfect recitation of unbroken ordination is something worth pushing further I think.

      • I love love LOVE the connection with the women in Matthew 1. That’s really helpful for thinking about the nature of interruptions…

        If we’re looking for ways in which this “Esaias interruption” destabilizes the lineage and helps us think about priesthood in new ways, my knee-jerk response is to point to something I mentioned in another comment somewhere below: this points to a priesthood that is non-lineal. It suggests that the priesthood constructs family lineage instead of simply using the family lineage that is already in place as its conduit. (And that’s particularly striking, given that we understand the sealing power to work in precisely that way: a priesthood authority that constructs family relationships.)

        And though I’m still very committed to the force of this being a not-strictly-lineal sort of descent, as I reflect more on Esaias, I’m not sure that the figure of Esaias points in that direction like I might hope. If the point of mentioning Esaias is to say “Hey! Look! This priesthood doesn’t descend along strictly lineal lines!” the most natural way to accomplish that would be precisely to show Abraham giving him the priesthood, but then highlighting that in some other way.

        … So I guess I’m still stuck.

        Not the most helpful comment, I realize, but I want to let you guys know that I’m still thinking. 🙂

    • It sounds like Esaias is definitely a key here to see what God’s teaching with this whole genealogical list. It’s weird that God comes in to fill the gap when it appears no gap was necessary. That’s what I can’t quite understand.

      The thought I’ve had this morning is that perhaps God had promised already that the priesthood would go to Abraham’s seed (Abraham 2:9-11), or perhaps that Abraham only had authority to pass the priesthood to his own seed, so instead Esaias received it from God?

      The thought that’s striking me most is about Moses. Perhaps the purpose of this list is primarily to justify the priesthood that Moses received from Jethro. If our focus is on the temple and Moses, perhaps the main purpose here is to show that Jethro’s priesthood was valid? Saying that Esaias received the priesthood from God himself may have quieted some questions about whether or not Jethro should have had the priesthood? And then that sounds like something began with Esaias, so in order to show that this is all one priesthood order, and that this is eternal, God links that line back in with Abraham, whose line connects back to Adam himself? Perhaps this is all to justify Moses’s priesthood authority?

      • Yeah, I suspect that this is right, re: Moses.

        Something I just thought of: it’s really suggestive that the relationship between Moses and Jethro in this section is secured through Zipporah, through Moses’ marriage, through a woman. Jethro wouldn’t be Moses’ father-in-law unless Moses had first married Jethro’s daughter. And the fact that Moses is constructing a lineage of priesthood “sons” also draws on familial language in a way that implicates his wife. There’s room to think about the role of women in this lineage, at least as far as Moses is concerned, and it’s fascinating! Our modern priesthood likewise can’t construct eternal family lines until a man and woman have been sealed…

        Like I said, it just occurred to me, so I’ll be thinking more about this, too…

  4. I also want to suggest that where the lineage names individual people, step-by-step (as in v. 6-14a), it’s doing so because these people are unrelated. This priesthood is not passing from father to son.

    A couple clues:

    1) The two times this step-by-step line connects with figures we know, in neither case is the priesthood passing from father to son. Jethro to Moses (v. 6) is father-in-law to son-in-law, and from Abraham to Esaias (v. 12-13) there’s no relation at all.

    2) The title “sons of Moses” refers to men who are connected outside of literal kinship (v. 6, 34)

    3) The other formula used to connect people in this lineage suggests literal descent. For example: “Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even until Noah.”

    That is, where this priesthood is not being passed from fathers to sons, the text carefully names each person in the chain, but when the priesthood is passed according to literal descent, we instead ellide their names and simply refer to “the lineage of his/their fathers.”

    If that suggestion is correct, we may be looking here at a priesthood that transcends literal descent, and even Israelite heritage (after all, Jethro is a Midianite)!

    • Those are good clues, Kim. The only resistance I have comes from D&C 107:40 (“The order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made”). But, on the other hand, that list in D&C 107 goes through Seth, not Abel (also why I’ve been confused), so now I’m starting to think I need to separate D&C 107 until we get there and sort it all out then!

      So leaving that aside, I like the point that sometimes it says “through the lineage of his fathers” and sometimes it doesn’t. Very fruitful!

  5. And finally, just in case this proves useful to anybody, here are two questions I have about v.16:

    1) Why is Abel killed specifically “by the conspiracy of his brother” rather than simply by his brother? Does this perhaps hint at Moses 6, where Cain’s sin is not simply fratricide but rather involves conspiring with Satan, and then conspiring with others to create secret combinations?

    2) Why are we told that Abel received the priesthood “by the commandments of God?”

  6. jennywebb

    Karen, this is really thought provoking, thank you. A few responses for now.

    1-3 So, the blesses/ordains for Abraham *could* of course mean that later when we hear of Esaias being blessed, that there is room in that blessing for Esaias to have been ordained as well. And if that is the case, then how would we understand the reference to God? God himself, or one acting through the priesthood as if he were God?

    1-4
    Re: the lineage coming through Abel instead of Seth, I think that in the most basic terms this tells us that when Cain killed Abel, Abel already had children (and thus, we would assume given who he is, was married). It’s difficult to continue a lineage without offspring. And it’s a fair guess to say that his children were old enough for at least one of them to have been ordained by Abel himself before he was killed. (Although, of course, any of these hypothetical children could have been ordained by Adam.) Is this enough to re-read the story of Cain and Abel in terms of priesthood lineage? By this I mean could there be another dimension to the story, one of trying to cut off seed and priesthood somehow redeeming that seed through the continuation of the lineage? Obviously I’m just throwing things out here …

    2 (whole section)
    I’d never thought about the distinction between Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthood as being in terms of starting points. Beyond the obvious issues (is this a one-time thing? has it been done at other points or places? could it be done in the future?), the question I’m left with is one more again that points us towards what this means about the nature of the priesthood generally. It seems like something that is much more flexible and adaptable rather than monolithic, which is not what I normally think of when I think of the priesthood qualitatively.

    My time’s up tonight, but I’ll be back! Thank you all for letting me join in, and I”m sorry I’ve been off the past while. Getting back on track 🙂

    • Re: 1-3:
      I liked the idea that Abraham ordains Esaias because “under the hand of God” meant something like “because of God’s direction,” and I really wanted it to work, but in the end I don’t think it does. The wording about Abel in verse 16 is so careful that I think verse 12 would have been written differently if that was what it meant. Verse 16 says, “who received the priesthood by the commandments of God, by the hand of his father Adam.” That’s almost the exact situation we were playing around with for Esaias: God commanded it, but someone else did the ordination. Since that scenario is actually laid out for us in verse 16, I don’t think that can be what verse 12 is getting at. We still have a puzzle on our hands! 🙂 (I think God must like to do that. 🙂 )

  7. About Abel:

    Kim, good point about “conspiracy.” And Jenny, I think you’re probably right that there was more than just sheep involved in Cain’s coveting. It sounds more like a stealing of birthright and so forth.

    There are two points in scripture about Abel that I thought made it clear that he didn’t have descendants and didn’t pass on priesthood, and now D&C 84 is undoing that for me. In D&C 107, the priesthood passes through Seth. But we’ll have to sort that out when we’re there I think. The more obvious one to me comes either in Genesis 4:25 or Moses 6:2-4,7. Adam and Eve are distraught when Abel is killed, but grateful when Seth is born because he takes up the place of Abel. Genesis 4:25 has Eve saying, “For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.” Moses 6:2 has Adam saying the same thing: “And Adam glorified the name of God; for he said: God hath appointed me another seed, instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.” In Moses 6:2-7, Adam, Seth, and Enos from a group of three who then began to call on the name of God together, forming I think the first priest-hood, or first group of priests.

    So what is different about this story and the lineage of D&C 84 that goes through Abel?

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