“Abraham 1:4–31; Facsimile 1,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual (2017)
“Abraham 1:4–31; Facsimile 1,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual
President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) stated: “We all know something of the courage it takes for one to stand in opposition to united custom, and general belief. None of us likes to be ridiculed. Few are able to withstand popular opinion even when they know it is wrong, and it is difficult to comprehend the magnificent courage displayed by Abraham in his profound obedience to Jehovah, in the midst of his surroundings. His moral courage, his implicit faith in God, his boldness in raising his voice in opposition to the prevailing wickedness, is almost beyond comparison” (The Way to Perfection , 86).
Abraham 1 reveals that Abraham’s father, Terah, had given himself to the worship of false gods and was willing to offer his own son as a sacrifice (see Abraham 1:5–6, 17; Joshua 24:2). Elder John A. Widtsoe (1872–1952) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote: “The family of Abraham had turned from righteousness and had become idolators. Abraham therefore, himself a follower of God’s truth, preached righteousness to them but without avail. For his insistence upon the worship of the only true and Living God, he was persecuted and his life sought. So intense was the hatred of the idolators that it was only by the intervention of the Lord that he was saved from being offered up as a sacrifice to the idols of the people,” (Evidences and Reconciliations, arr. G. Homer Durham , 398).
President Joseph Fielding Smith, commenting on the human sacrifices that took place during the time of Abraham, wrote: “Abraham was of the [tenth] generation from Noah. Several hundred years had passed since the flood, and people had multiplied and spread over the face of the earth. The civilizations of Egypt, Chaldea, Assyria and the petty nations of Canaan, had been established. In the midst of this scattering the true worship of the Father was nearly lost. Sacrifice instituted in the days of Adam and continued in the practice and teaching of Noah, in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of Man, had become perverted. Instead of offering clean animals, such as the lamb and bullock, the apostate nations had dwindled in unbelief to the extent that human sacrifice was offered to their idol gods” (The Way to Perfection, 85).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discussed these three virtuous young women, along with three exceptionally faithful young men—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (see Daniel 3:12–30)—as “marvelous models on enduring uncertainty and on trusting God”: “Matching those three young men are three young women whose names we do not have. They are mentioned in the book of Abraham, remarkable young women about whom I am anxious to know more. They were actually sacrificed upon the altar because ‘they would not bow down to worship [an idol] of wood or stone’ (Abraham 1:11). Some day the faithful will get to meet them” (“Not My Will, But Thine” , 119–20).
Like the three virgins who laid down their lives rather than worship false gods, Abraham faced the ultimate sacrifice to remain true to his faith in God. While few of us face death because of our beliefs, we are each called upon to sacrifice all that God asks of us. Lectures on Faith states the following:
“For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor, and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also—counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ—requires more than mere belief or supposition that he is doing the will of God; but actual knowledge, realizing that, when these sufferings are ended, he will enter into eternal rest, and be a partaker of the glory of God. …
“… A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.
“… It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they, in like manner, offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him. …
“… From the days of righteous Abel to the present time, the knowledge that men have that they are accepted in the sight of God is obtained by offering sacrifice. …
“… Those, then, who make the sacrifice, will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God; and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled, through faith, to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith, because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith: therefore, they cannot lay hold upon eternal life, because the revelations of God do not guarantee unto them the authority so to do, and without this guarantee faith could not exist” (Lectures on Faith , 68–70).
Chaldea was a great distance from Egypt, yet there was mourning in Egypt when the Lord broke down the altar and smote the priest. Regarding this event, Elder Mark E. Petersen (1900–1984) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote:
“When the scripture says that the Lord broke down the altars of the gods of the land [see Abraham 1:12, 20], it must have had broad repercussions because it brought great mourning in Chaldea ‘and also in the court of Pharaoh.’ Pharaoh and his court were in Egypt. Only a most unusual event could have caused such extensive and distant reactions.
“Abraham’s brief account obviously does not tell the whole story” (Abraham, Friend of God , 48–49).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote: “After the immersion of the earth in the waters of Noah came a day of new beginning. As in Adam’s day, the faithful lived under a theocratic system, and as in the days before the flood, those who chose to live after the manner of the world set up their own governments and their own ways of worship. The seed of Shem, Ham, and Japheth began to populate the earth, and it so continued for more than four hundred years, when Abraham, who received theocratic power from Melchizedek, went down into Egypt. There he found a descendant of Ham, reigning as Pharaoh, whose government was patterned after the patriarchal governments of old, but which was devoid of priesthood and revelation, and hence, as far as worship is concerned—a worship prescribed, mandated, and commanded by pharaoh—had turned to idolatry.’ (Abraham 1:20–27.)” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith , 660).
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
“Egypt was not the only nation, in these early times, which attempted to imitate the patriarchal order of government. We have seen in Abraham’s record that this was the order of government in the reign of Adam, and down to the time of Noah.
“Naturally that form of government would be perpetuated in large degree by all tribes as they began to spread over the face of the earth. As men multiplied they organized first in the family group, then into tribes and eventually into nations. The greater powers would naturally occupy the most favored spots. Stronger tribes would overcome the weaker and force them to join the national government, or else they would be subdued and treated as slaves, or placed under tribute. As the patriarchal order was handed down from father to son so also would the political authority be perpetuated with the same claims to authority. We know that in ancient times in Egypt, Assyria, Chaldea, Babylon, Persia, and among all the petty nations of the Mesopotamia and Palestine, the monarch was succeeded by his posterity in hereditary right” (The Progress of Man , 100–101.)
At times in the past, the power and authority to act in the name of the Lord was bestowed upon only a few worthy males and withheld from all others. In the days of Moses’s leadership of the children of Israel, for example, only the tribe of Levi had the privilege to hold the priesthood (see Numbers 8:5–26). Our day is the “long-promised day … when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood.” On June 8, 1978, the First Presidency announced:
“Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.
“He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color. Priesthood leaders are instructed to follow the policy of carefully interviewing all candidates for ordination to either the Aaronic or the Melchizedek Priesthood to insure that they meet the established standards for worthiness.
“We declare with soberness that the Lord has now made known his will for the blessing of all his children throughout the earth who will hearken to the voice of his authorized servants, and prepare themselves to receive every blessing of the gospel” (Official Declaration 2).
Fain means “content or willing to accept an alternative when the more desirable thing cannot be attained” (Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged, 2nd ed. , 657). “The Pharaohs would fain claim [the priesthood] from Noah, through Ham” (Abraham 1:27).