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Publication TypeEncyclopedia Entry
Year of Publication1992
AuthorsHarris, James R.
Secondary AuthorsLudlow, Daniel H.
Secondary TitleEncyclopedia of Mormonism
Place PublishedNew York
KeywordsCain; Secret Combinations
Citation Key9458

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Author: Harris, James R.

Although the Bible says little about Cain, latter-day scriptures give considerable information. These tell that Cain, son of Adam and Eve, came under the influence of Satan, whom "he loved more than God" (Moses 5:18; see Devils), and thereafter became the founder of secret societies whose purposes include to "murder and get gain" (Moses 5:31; cf. 5:49-51).

When Eve bore Cain, she rejoiced in the prospect of a child who would accept his parents' teaching concerning the true Son (Moses 5:7-8) saying, "I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words. But behold, Cain hearkened not, saying: Who is the Lord that I should know him?" (Moses 5:16).

It was Satan who commanded Cain to make an offering to the Lord. When Cain followed Satan's instruction, his offering was rejected by the Lord. In the words of Moses, "Satan commanded him, saying: Make an offering unto the Lord. But unto Cain, and to his offering, [the Lord] had not respect. Now Satan knew this, and it pleased him" (Moses 5:18, 21).

Earlier instructions from an angel to Adam and Eve had emphasized that animal sacrifice "is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father. Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son" (Moses 5:7-8). Thus, Cain already knew what was acceptable to God, but he refused to follow counsel (TPJS, pp. 58, 169).

In the aftermath of his offering, the Lord assured Cain that "if thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted." However, he warned, "if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and Satan desireth to have thee; and except thou shalt hearken unto my commandments, I will deliver thee up" (Moses 5:23). Cain's course of action, the Lord continued, would have long-lasting, even eternal consequences, for "thou [Cain] shalt rule over him [Satan]; for from this time forth thou shalt be the father of his [Satan's] lies; thou shalt be called Perdition; for thou wast also before the world. And it shall be said in time to come-That these abominations were had from Cain; for he rejected the greater counsel which was had from God" (Moses 5:23-25; cf. TPJS, p. 190).

Cain grew up with a knowledge of God and even conversed with him person to person. Yet he rejected the counsel of God and also killed his own brother Abel. Afterward, the Lord said to Cain, "The voice of thy brother's blood cries unto me from the ground. And now thou shalt be cursed from the earth which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand. And Cain said unto the Lord: Satan tempted me because of my brother's flocks. And I was wroth also; for his offering thou didst accept and not mine" (Moses 5:35-38).

In consequence of Cain's rebellion, the Lord cast him out of his presence (Moses 5:38-39; see Spiritual Death) and "set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him" (Moses 5:40), protecting him from death by the hand of any avenger (cf. also Moses 7:22). Moreover, Satan had convinced Cain that by committing murder he would acquire both power and wealth. "Cain said: Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain" (Moses 5:31). This latter point became the foundation of the secret combinations instituted by Cain in collusion with Satan and perpetuated by Cain's descendant Lamech (Moses 5:47-52).

In the Book of Mormon, although the origin and even the operating procedures of such secret organizations are mentioned and condemned from time to time (e.g. Hel. 6:22-30), Moroni 2, like others, purposely limits himself to general remarks when discussing their evils. And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people. Whoso buildeth it [a secret combination] up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who caused man to commit murder from the beginning [Ether 8:20, 25].


McConkie, Bruce R. A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pp. 167-68, 340, 658-59. Salt Lake City, 1985.

Smith, Joseph Fielding. DS 1:49, 61.