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The Accepted Sacrifice

Our children had increased so much that in order to grow sufficient crops and flocks to support us all we had spread up, down, and across the river. The plain behind us was a wild place. It was a place for the wild herds which could make the earth shake with their numbers and for the predators which lived by hunting them. Some of our sons had taken to hunting there. They hunted for sport and to prove their manhood. Already our daughters were considered weak by these sons because child bearing and child rearing took so much of their strength. By being successful in the hunt these sons felt that they were set apart from the perceived weakness of the women.

We were still close enough to each other that we could visit easily. We only had to travel short distances. For me this was a luxury which had once been impossible. I had only dreamed of this years ago. I was no longer tied to our home as I had been. Of course carrying my small children to visit was not easy. But I always had daughters who were not yet fully grown and who were just as eager as I was to have an occasional outing. Many times now Adam would accompany us. Our older sons cared for the flocks and crops when Adam wished for a respite. Our sons who shared the priesthood with Adam also accompanied us many times.

Not only were these simply pleasant outings for us but they also had a serious purpose. Adam, in his role as our spiritual leader, must constantly be diligent in teaching our children of God and of God's plan to redeem us. As for myself, I knew that I had done my best. I knew that each child that Adam and I had borne had been taught very carefully by myself and by Adam around the campfire in the evenings. They had witnessed the sacrifice many times and been taught what it meant. I was not so sure that my sons and daughters taught their own children as well.

Adam and I had walked and talked with the Lord. Our children had never had this opportunity. Many of them had heard the voice of God and had seen and spoken with angels. But nonetheless, they had not seen God. I knew that only with baptism and the leading of the Holy Ghost could they truly understand what they had been taught with words.

Our life now could have been very happy. It was wonderful to be able to visit with our grown children and our growing grandchildren. But the fact is that not all our children were eager to see us coming. Many a visit was strained and unpleasant. These visits were short. I did not look forward to them. I preferred to visit my sons and daughters who had some faith.

Many of our children had turned from the teachings they had been given and had turned to Satan. Adam and I were grieved when we sensed this happening. Words did not have to be said, Adam and I always knew, for the presence of the Holy Spirit in us always alerted us to the presence of Satan's influence.

Adam and our sons who shared the priesthood with him preached to as many of our children as would listen. The Lord had commanded that each one must repent. As many as believed in the Only Begotten Son, and repented of their sins would be saved. As many as would not believe, and would not repent would be damned. Our sons and daughters were warned that whatever words came from the mouth of God must be fulfilled.

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Cain and Abel were growing. Cain was the older of the two. I watched over the years as a strange relationship formed between these two sons. There was a strange competitiveness about Cain. He must constantly excel over his younger brother. Abel was aware of Cain's striving, but it didn't seem to affect him. At times when Cain was gloating over his supposed success over Abel, Abel good-naturedly congratulated him. The fact that Abel did not care to compete with his brother seemed to spur Cain on even more.

It soon became evident to many of us that Abel took after his father very much. We began to see that Abel had a very uncomplicated faith in God. He listened closely to his father. Soon he became an authority on spiritual matters, his father only still the supreme authority. Adam and I and those who worshipped God recognized that Abel was Adam's heir as head of the priesthood.

Cain, on the other hand, would not listen to Adam and his brothers. "Who is the Lord, that I should know him?" he asked us when we told the stories and when we offered the sacrifice. He asked it not in a need or wish to know God, but in a sneering, mocking way which was meant to hurt us.

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One night as we were finishing our evening meal Cain spoke to us. "Father and Mother, I am no longer a child. I think it is time for me to move upriver and do some farming for myself. I have learned everything I can from you, Father."

"You don't have to go yet, Cain. Have you found a young girl you wish to take as a wife? Is that why you want to leave?" I asked.

"Oh Mother, ever the romantic! No I have not yet seen a girl who appeals to me. But I am grown now, and it is time for me to be a man."

"You can stay here and still be a man, I can still use your help, Cain. You are a very good worker, but it won't be easy starting on your own," Adam pointed out to him.

"I know that Father. But my work will be my own."

"Well, then when you get your land prepared I will give you some seed. Where will you live?"

"I have asked one of my brothers if I may stay with his family for a while."

And so it was that Cain left us. He had soon chosen a piece of good land to farm and had received seed from his father. He was a good farmer and his crops thrived.

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I was very thankful that Abel felt no great urge yet to leave us. It was a comfort having him with us. Adam had ordained Abel to the priesthood and even though Abel was so young his ministry among his older brothers and sisters and their children was welcome. They recognized in Abel the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit.

Abel became a shepherd. Adam gave him a small flock and helped him to care for it and build it up. Just as Adam had given seed to Cain and a small flock to Abel so he had helped all his sons to become responsible men who could care for families of their own.

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It wasn't long before both Cain and Abel were doing well, Cain with his crops and Abel with his flocks. They were now men. Cain surprised us with a visit one morning. Abel was very glad to see him. They had grown up together and in a strange way were close, even though they were so different.

"Cain," Abel greeted him. "We have not seen you for so long. Come and eat with us."

Some of the younger children came over and greeted Cain also. He rumpled their hair and teased the girls, flattering them outrageously. This caused much happy laughing and giggling.

At last Cain smiled and came over to the fire and helped himself to food. "It is good to see you, Mother, Father, and younger brother!" With this he pounded Abel on the back in brotherly fashion. "You are wise Abel to stay home a while longer. I have missed your cooking, Mother. When I get a wife she must cook as well as you." He ate heartily, as if he had been long famished.

"How is everything going with you?" Abel inquired.

"Things could not be better!" He surveyed our faces with satisfaction, then he looked back at me. "In fact, Mother, my brother has a beautiful daughter. I think she is impressed with me."

"Well, things are indeed going well," Adam congratulated his son.

"Cain, I have built up my flocks sufficiently to offer a sacrifice of my own on the next sacrifice. Would you honor me by coming to it? It will be my first and I would like to have my closest brother there."

The atmosphere became strangely tense. I watched Cain as he smiled and cast his eyes down to his knees as if he were considering. I did not know how he would react. Abel had great faith in God, which Cain lacked. But I also knew that Abel was sincerely fond of his brother and wished him to be at his sacrifice. All three of us nervously awaited Cain's answer.

"I see I can no longer tease you and call you little brother," Cain said smiling. "You are indeed a man now to offer your own sacrifice to the Lord. I will be there. When will it be?"

"It will be the morning after tomorrow," Abel said.

"Will you offer as well, Father?" Cain inquired.

"No, I will let this be my son's sacrifice."

Cain looked thoughtfully at his father for a moment as he chewed. He finally slapped his knees, "Well, there is work to do! I will go with you today, Father and my brother."

The three of them were soon sauntering down the path as I still sat by the fire. I hoped there would be understanding between them this day.

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Late in the afternoon Cain returned alone. He came and sat next to the fire and sat in silent contemplation. I watched him for awhile before I went over to sit next to him.

"Do you have to get back tonight, Cain?" I asked. "Perhaps you would like to share dinner with us and go back in the morning."

"Thank you, Mother, but I have things I must attend to. I must leave soon in order to get back before the sun sets."

We sat silently for a while. This was my son, but sometimes I felt far away from him. I knew that something was bothering him and did not know how to broach the subject.

Finally he turned to me. "Mother, sometimes I feel that my father is disappointed in me. If I were more like Abel perhaps he would love me more."

Shock must have registered in my voice, "Cain, your father does love you. He loves all his children! Where did you get such an idea?"

"Father loves Abel. He has always loved him more."

"More than whom?"

"Mother, don't play dumb. You know that I do not worship this Lord of yours. Abel has always professed to love him in order to please you and Father. Because Abel has always said the right things and done the right things you love him more than you have ever loved me."

"Abel does not pretend anything. You should know that. His love and faith in God is genuine. Of course we are disappointed that you do not believe in the Lord as well. We worry what will happen to you and all your brothers and sisters who do not believe. We have taught you and hoped that you would have faith. But we love you no less. You are our son and will always be our son."

"Well, a mother's love, how can I doubt that? I must be going now or darkness will overtake me." He rose and planted a quick kiss on my forehead. "See you soon, Mother."

"I pray that darkness never overtake you," I whispered as I watched him bound away down the path.

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The day of Abel's first sacrifice dawned. Abel had chosen his best first-born lamb and had refrained from eating for a day. He had gone to be alone after he had finished his day's work and had spent his time in prayer. All was in readiness, now he waited for his brother to arrive. After the conversation between Cain and myself the other day I was worried that he might not come. I fed the younger children. Adam and I did not eat, we would break our fast with Abel after the sacrifice.

The children were fed and washed. Some of Abel's older brothers and two of their wives and their children had arrived also. There was an air of happy anticipation.

"Where is Cain?" exclaimed Adam. "We are only waiting for him now."

"Father, it will sadden me if Cain does not come, but I know that he does not believe in the Lord as we do."

Why had I ever doubted Abel? Even though his faith was simple and straightforward as a child he did indeed recognize the reality of our lives, that our children would each choose their own way.

"Why don't we wait just a little longer?" I suggested in relief of this new revelation. "If Cain does not show up soon we should go to the sacrifice anyway. After all, this is a special day for you, Abel. Don't let anything ruin it."

"Nothing could ruin this day for me, Mother. I will be worshipping the Lord and remembering the sacrifice of his Son. Also I have many of those who love me here to be with me."

We now relaxed and resigned ourselves to a short wait. The sun was already midway up the sky when we gave up hope of Cain's arrival. We gathered the children and made our procession up to our ledge. All the children which Adam and I had borne had worshipped here many times. I was happy to have some of my grown children here today.

When we arrived we had a surprise, Cain was waiting for us.

"Cain, why didn't you come to us? We were waiting for you." My voice must have sounded somewhat aggrieved. Cain merely kissed my forehead and strode forward to Abel and the rest of his brothers.

I looked helplessly at Adam. He looked back at me and warned me with a look. I knew that he was as uneasy as I was, but we must let matters take their own course.

I took my accustomed place and gathered my daughters and the small children around me. Adam sat close to the ring of the children and took one of them on his lap. Our grown sons ranged themselves around the altar, with Cain closest to Abel and the altar.

Abel quickly cut the throat of the lamb and lifted the dead animal to lay it on the wood of the altar. He offered a prayer, simple but eloquent with his love of God and acceptance of God's guidance. He then set the fire to the dry wood and soon the flames leaped up toward heaven. I expected to see the angel as I had long ago, but he did not appear. Nevertheless I did feel an approving presence which warmed me and set joy coursing through me. Abel's face shone as if a flame had been lighted within him.

The lamb and the wood were reduced to ashes and were finally smoldering when suddenly Cain leaped from his place. I had completely forgotten him and my feeling of uneasiness.

"And now I will give my sacrifice to the Lord," Cain announced.

He quickly left and returned with bundles of dry wood and a container of coals. Then he left once more and carried back sheaves of grain and fruit. He quickly took some brush of a nearby bush and dusted the still smoldering ashes from the altar. The fine powder drifted and made some of the children cough. Some of them looked at me in bewilderment. All I could do was in turn look to Adam.

As we watched Cain arrange the wood and the grain and fruit on the altar I suddenly asked myself if Cain had taken leave of his senses. The sacrifice was to be the first-born of the flocks. Was he making a mockery of the sacrifice? I appealed to Adam with a sense of despair.

"Cain," Adam"s voice momentarily halted Cain's activity. Adam's sons looked to him with the exception of Abel who stood gazing at Cain with sorrow. "Cain, the sacrifice must be of the first-born of the flocks."

"I will be glad to give you a lamb in trade for your produce, Cain," Abel offered.

"I thank you, Abel. But I am not a shepherd. I am a farmer. I am offering to the Lord the first fruits of my own labor."

Abel stepped back. Some of the children began to fret. They sensed that the nature of our gathering had changed.

Cain finished arranging his produce. He stepped back and surveyed it with approval. Then he lifted his head and offered a prayer.

"Lord, I give to you my sacrifice. It comes from the sweat of my brows and the tilling of the earth. Accept it, Lord, in the spirit in which I give it. I give it to honor you. I give of myself. Amen."

There was a hush as Cain stepped to the altar to light the wood. He carefully moved the live coals into the dry wood and waited. A few faint puffs of smoke arose but the wood was not catching a flame. Everyone moved uneasily. Cain fanned at the coals with his hand and then took a stick to move the coals in hope of the wood catching. It still would not burn. He blew his breath on it. There were still coals in Abel's container. He picked them up and put them on the altar.

The sun had moved almost to its highest point as Cain struggled to light the altar and burn his sacrifice. Finally he straightened and looked first at his brother Abel, then at his father. His face was a mixture of fury, despair, bewilderment and hatred. He turned abruptly and ran down the path and away from us.

I lowered my head and wept for him.

Follow along in the scriptures (links to Center Place Library)

Inspired Version of the Bible
Genesis Chapter 5:4-8

forward to chapter 12

Copyright 1991 Lois M. Anderson: All Rights Reserved
Last revised: September 17, 2001