“Abraham 1:1–3,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual (2017)
“Abraham 1:1–3,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual
Ur, the birthplace of Abraham, is generally identified with the modern town of Mugheir in present-day Iraq. It is about 150 miles (240 kilometers) from the Persian Gulf and 875 miles (1,400 kilometers) from Egypt. Although the peoples of Chaldea and Egypt were separated geographically, it appears that in the days of Abraham they shared religious beliefs and practices.
Elder Mark E. Petersen (1900–1984) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that Abraham “mentions that the priest of Elkenah was also the priest of Pharaoh. The altar [see facsimile 1, figure 4] was obviously specially built for human sacrifice.
“How did this Egyptian infusion reach into Mesopotamia? What was the priest of Pharaoh doing in Ur?
“At this time Egyptian influence was felt throughout the Fertile Crescent [a geographic region that extends in a curve from Egypt north into Mesopotamia, then east and south again toward the Persian Gulf]. Much of the advanced learning of the people of the Nile was exported abroad, including some of their religious customs” (Abraham, Friend of God , 42–43).
The biblical chronology indicates that the prophet Noah may have been alive during the early years of Abraham’s life. Therefore, Abraham may have known Noah personally. In Abraham 1:19 the Lord mentioned His covenant relationship with Noah in order to teach Abraham about the covenant relationship the Lord would have with him.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “The true disciple has an inborn questioning to know, personally, all that God is willing to teach us. Nephi could have accepted gladly the vision of his father, Lehi. But Nephi ‘desired to know the things that [his] father had seen.’ (1 Nephi 11:1.) Abraham sought, even though he had a father who had turned from the faith, ‘for greater happiness and peace’ and ‘for mine appointment unto the Priesthood.’ (Abraham 1:2, 4.) Abraham described himself as desiring ‘great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness’ (Abraham 1:2), questing for the word of Christ. Divine discontent in the form of promptings can move us to feast because we know that by feasting we can increase our knowledge, effectiveness, and joy” (Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward , 119).
The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) taught that Adam received the priesthood “in the Creation, before the world was formed,” and that he held the keys of the First Presidency (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 104).
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) said:
“The order of priesthood spoken of in the scriptures is sometimes referred to as the patriarchal order because it came down from father to son. …
“Abraham, a righteous servant of God, desiring as he said, ‘to be a greater follower of righteousness,’ sought for these same blessings. Speaking of the order of the priesthood, he said: ‘It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time … even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, our first father, through the fathers unto me.’ (Abr. 1:2–3.)” (“What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple,” Ensign, Aug. 1985, 9).
Abraham explained that he had “the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs, concerning the right of Priesthood” (Abraham 1:31). These records confirmed Abraham’s right to the priesthood. This can be traced in Genesis 5 (from Adam to Shem; see also Moses 6:8–25; 8:1–13) and Genesis 11:10–26 (from Shem to Abram [Abraham]; see also D&C 84:14–16; 107:40–52).
President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972), speaking of the patriarchal organization from Adam to Moses, wrote: “The order of this priesthood which was established in the beginning was patriarchal. The authority descended from father to son, and those who held it were high priests. This order of descent from Adam to Noah is given in the Doctrine and Covenants. Noah, who stands next to Adam in authority, brought this priesthood through the flood, and it continued from generation to generation. Abraham, the 10th from Noah, received special blessings from the Lord, and the priesthood continued through him and his seed with the promise that all who received the gospel should be counted as Abraham’s seed and partake of his blessings” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie , 3:160–61).
Doctrine and Covenants 84:14–16 indicates that “Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah” and from Noah back to Enoch and eventually to Adam. Abraham’s record shows that his fathers had “turned from their righteousness” (Abraham 1:5) and therefore could not confer the holy priesthood upon Abraham. Yet Abraham became a “rightful heir” to the priesthood through his righteousness and “sought for the blessings of the fathers” who held the priesthood (Abraham 1:2). The Prophet Joseph Smith also referred to Abraham’s (Abram’s) relationship with the righteous patriarch Melchizedek when he wrote: “Abram says to Melchizedek, I believe all that [thou] hast taught me concerning the priesthood, and the coming of the Son of Man; so Melchizedek ordained Abram and sent him away. Abram rejoiced saying, ‘Now I have a priesthood’” (Manuscript History of the Church, vol. E-1, p. 1708, josephsmithpapers.org; capitalization, punctuation, and spelling standardized).