“Abraham 2:1–13,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual (2017)
“Abraham 2:1–13,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual
The famine in the land was most likely caused by drought, a prolonged period of dry weather during which crops wither and animals die from lack of feed. Note how the Lord used famine to influence Abraham and his family: a famine in Ur helped Terah, Abraham’s father, turn from his idolatry and join his sons in the land of Haran (see Abraham 1:30); the famine in Ur also created an additional sense of urgency for Abraham to leave Ur (see Abraham 2:1–2); famine was a possible motivator for Abraham’s departure from the land of Haran, and was a probable factor in the death of Terah (see Abraham 2:17; see also Genesis 11:32); a famine persuaded Abraham and his family to leave the land of Canaan and continue their journey into Egypt (see Abraham 2:21). (See also Helaman 11:3–20.)
The Bible and the book of Abraham both identify the strange land as the land of Canaan (see Genesis 17:8; Abraham 2:15). It is not the same land possessed by the people of Canaan as recorded in Moses 7:6–8. Abraham’s Canaan was named for Canaan, the fourth son of Ham (see Genesis 9:22; 10:6). Canaan and his household originally inhabited the land located in the lowland toward the Mediterranean coast of Palestine. Canaan sometimes refers to all the country west of the Jordan River, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south. This is the same land that Joshua parceled out to the twelve tribes of Israel (see Joshua 14–21). To learn more about the land and people of Canaan, see Genesis 15:18–21; 24:1–4; 28:1–2, 8–9; and Joshua 24:11.
Many of Abraham’s descendants have dwelt in the land of Canaan, yet from time to time some of them were driven out of that promised land (see Abraham 2:6). President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) explained: “The descendants of Abraham, the tribes of Israel, became the chosen people of the Lord according to the promise. The Lord honored them, nourished them, watched over them with a jealous care, until they became a great nation in the land the Lord had given to their fathers. Notwithstanding this tender care and the instructions and warnings this people received from time to time through their prophets, they failed to comprehend the goodness of the Lord and departed from him. Because of their rebellion they were driven out of their land and eventually were scattered among the nations” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie , 1:164).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that “Abraham’s inheritance in Canaan, for himself and his seed after him, was to be an eternal inheritance, one that would endure in time and in eternity. This promise is the hope of Israel, the hope that the meek shall inherit the earth, first during the millennial era and finally in that same immortal state when the earth becomes a celestial sphere” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary , 2:71).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
“Abraham stands in the same position as Noah for all who have lived since his day, as far as eternal blessings are concerned. Even those who are not his literal seed shall receive their eternal blessings through him and the covenant God made with him. The Lord made repeated promises to Abraham that he would become a great nation and also that in him should ‘all families of the earth be blessed.’ (Genesis 12:2–3.) He was promised the land of Canaan as an everlasting inheritance for him and for his seed. ‘And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.’ (Genesis 13:16.) This has reference to eternal increase, for no man’s seed could exceed in number the dust particles of the earth. ‘Look now toward heaven,’ the Lord said, ‘and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.’ And Abraham ‘believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.’ (Genesis 15:5–6.) All these things are part of the Abrahamic covenant.
“And yet again the Lord said to Abraham: ‘As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. … And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.’ (Genesis 17:4–8.) Abraham thus covenants for himself and for his seed that he and they will serve the Lord Jehovah, who in turn promises them eternal increase.
“In its purest and best form, as far as the ancient word is concerned, the Abrahamic covenant is thus set forth: [quotes Abraham 2:9–11.]
“What, then, is the Abrahamic covenant? It is that Abraham and his seed (including those adopted into his family) shall have all of the blessings of the gospel, of the priesthood, and of eternal life. The gate to eternal life is celestial marriage, which holy order of matrimony enables the family unit to continue in eternity, so that the participating parties may have posterity as numerous as the sands upon the seashore or the stars in heaven. The Abrahamic covenant enables men to create for themselves eternal family units that are patterned after the family of God our Heavenly Father. A lesser part of the covenant is that the seed of Abraham have the Millennial destiny of inheriting as an everlasting possession the very land of Canaan whereon the feet of the righteous have trod in days gone by” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith , 503–5; see also “The Abrahamic Covenant,” at the end of this manual).
Elder John A. Widtsoe (1872–1952) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated: “All who accept the gospel become by adoption members of the family of Abraham” (Evidences and Reconciliations, arr. G. Homer Durham , 399). The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) taught: “As the Holy Ghost falls upon one of the literal seed of Abraham, it is calm and serene and his whole soul and body are only exercised by the pure spirit of intelligence; while the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham. That man that has none of the blood of Abraham (naturally) must have a new creation by the Holy Ghost” (“Discourse between circa 26 June and circa 2 July 1839, as Reported by Willard Richards,” 18–19, josephsmithpapers.org; capitalization, punctuation, and spelling standardized).
Abraham desired the blessings of the fathers—the right to administer in the Melchizedek Priesthood. He was a rightful heir, and because of his righteousness he became a high priest in the Melchizedek Priesthood (see Abraham 1:2). The Lord promised him that his posterity would also be rightful heirs of the priesthood. “Being an heir to the Abrahamic covenant does not make one a ‘chosen person’ per se, but does signify that such are chosen to responsibly carry the gospel to all the peoples of the earth. Abraham’s seed have carried out the missionary activity in all the nations since Abraham’s day. (Matt. 3:9; Abr. 2:9–11)” (Bible Dictionary, “Abraham, covenant of”).
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) said: “The responsibility of the seed of Abraham, which we are, is to be missionaries to ‘bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations’ (Abraham 2:9)” (“The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants,” Ensign, May 1987, 85).
The same keys of the priesthood given to Abraham have been restored to the earth in the latter days. On April 3, 1836, a prophet named Elias appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the newly dedicated Kirtland Temple and committed to them “the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed” (D&C 110:12). With these keys of the priesthood on earth once again, a person can receive all of the blessings given to Abraham (see D&C 132:29–33).
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “Abraham was guided in all his family affairs by the Lord; was told where to go, and when to stop; was conversed with by angels, and by the Lord; and prospered exceedingly in all that he put his hand unto; it was because he and his family obeyed the counsel of the Lord” (“The Government of God” [Editorial], Times and Seasons, July 15, 1842, 857).