Sometimes we console ourselves that if we fall a little short in righteous behavior the Lord will still bless us with “some” glory in a lesser kingdom. This is true, but we need to understand that anything short of the Celestial kingdom is, by definition damnation. This is a grand truth we cannot afford to ignore.
There are certain truths that govern the universe and to ignore them is to do so at your own peril. For example, there is gravity. Does it really matter what anyone believes about gravity? Does that really change the nature of the beast? Does my affirmation and belief that gravity doesn’t exist change the end result of my stepping off a 100 foot ledge? I can even recite my belief that gravity doesn’t exist during the whole short trip from the top to the bottom of the ledge. The end result is still the same.
We live in a unique day and age where Satan has convinced people that what they believe is what is real, not what is real is what is real. It is now socially acceptable to identify as a gender other than what you were biologically born as. Does that change anything? This is equal to the person who has just stepped off the ledge still reciting his credo that gravity doesn’t exist. The result will be the same whether or not he believes in gravity. We can’t change our gender any more than we can change the existence of gravity by a wish that it be gone.
There are grand spiritual truths as well. The basis for the war in heaven is whether or not we will choose to follow Christ to return to our Father in Heaven or whether we will, in the end, follow Satan and be damned. To be damned means that our eternal progress will be stopped, just like a dam stops the flow of water. There are no other choices here. Either we will follow Christ and return to our Father or we will be damned. Anyone who is not in the presence of the Father when all is said and done will be damned, for they will not progress as gods.
I know there are those out there saying, but there is progress within kingdoms. These people are missing the point. If that is all you are concerned with, whether or not you can be at the top of your game in the Terrestrial kingdom, then you have missed the mark completely. The whole point is to get to the Celestial kingdom. Anything else is settling for that which is completely inferior. The Lord compares the differences between the two kingdoms to the differences between the glory of the sun and that of the moon. The moon is a lump of reflective rock and dust that produces zero glory or light of its own, it can only reflect a small percentage of what it receives from the sun.
Just before the scriptural passage starts to talk about Cain, we get a description of God’s dealings with Adam and his family. Here is what the Lord told Adam and Eve about the importance of being obedient to the commandments and the need to repent and follow Christ (Moses 5:14–15).
14 And the Lord God called upon men by the Holy Ghost everywhere and commanded them that they should repent;
15 And as many as believed in the Son, and repented of their sins, should be saved; and as many as believed not and repented not, should be damned; and the words went forth out of the mouth of God in a firm decree; wherefore they must be fulfilled.
Sound familiar? Did the Lord offer us any other choices? This is an either/or situation. No amount of self justification or self identifying as something else is going to change the grand law just laid down by the Savior Himself. We either repent and believe in the Son or we will be damned. Period. And to repeat, anything but the Celestial kingdom is a form of damnation.
Cain was like those who think they can flout the laws of nature by merely wanting things to be different than they are. He listened to Satan (his first mistake) and then when things didn’t work out as hoped for, he felt ill used by God and rebelled. Here is Moses 5:16–21.
16 And Adam and Eve, his wife, ceased not to call upon God. And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare Cain, and said: 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?
17 And she again conceived and bare his brother Abel. And Abel hearkened unto the voice of the Lord. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
18 And Cain loved Satan more than God. And Satan commanded him, saying: Make an offering unto the Lord.
19 And in process of time it came to pass that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
20 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering;
21 But unto Cain, and to his offering, he had not respect. Now Satan knew this, and it pleased him. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
Verse 16: Cain was taught the truth, but rejected the promises of the Lord. When he says, “Who is the Lord that I should know him?” it sounds an awful lot like the time when Nephi asked his brothers if they had prayed for revelation on the subject at hand, and their response was that the Lord never talked to them. Even when Nephi told them what they needed to do to have the Lord talk to them, they rejected his teachings and acted like they were already good enough and that the Lord not talking to them was the Lord’s fault.
Verse 17: We see that Cain preferred to till the ground, while Able raised animals. As we will see in a moment, there was some jealousy on the part of Cain when it came to his little brother Able.
Verse 18: Cain preferred Satan’s lies over God’s truths, and he readily accepted Satan’s commandment to make an offering to the Lord using that which was forbidden by God. For God had said that the sacrifices made had to be from the flocks. That would mean Cain would have to go to Able to bargain for the offering to the Lord, and that was something Cain just couldn’t stomach.
Verses 19-21: So the time came when both offerings were made. Cain offered the fruits of the ground, and Able offered the firstlings of his flock, as commanded by God. But when the Lord had respect for Able’s offering, but none for his offering, he chose to be offended.
So what was wrong with Cain’s offering? First off he disobeyed the commandment and offered a substitute to the Lord. There was sacred symbolism in the offering of the firstling of the flock. This sacrifice represented the Savior of the world. There was important meaning in why it had to be a lamb or goat.
It was presumptuous of Cain to assume he could single handedly redefine God’s commandments and that God was supposed to think that would be okay. Since when has the Lord ever let anyone tell Him how to govern His own affairs?
The Lord reasoned with Cain. He told him that if he would conform to the demands of the commandments that his offerings would be acceptable. And I am guessing that in Cain’s mind he added, “yeah, as acceptable as my brother Able’s sacrifice.” I’m sure feeling his younger brother was more acceptable to God than he was just did wonders for Cain. He hated his brother. In Moses 5:25–26 the Lord tells Cain what would happen to him if he rebelled against the “greater counsel” of the Lord, and Cain became angry with the Lord and refused to listen to Him any more. He also refused to listen to the preaching of his younger brother. Their relationship sounds a lot like the relationship of Nephi and his older brothers.
25 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; and this is a cursing which I will put upon thee, except thou repent.
26 And Cain was wroth, and listened not any more to the voice of the Lord, neither to Abel, his brother, who walked in holiness before the Lord.
Everything Satan did with Cain was a mockery of the Lord. He told Cain to offer a corrupt sacrifice to God, not caring what it did to Cain. He presented Cain with the secret combinations that would allow him to kill to get gain and power. Part of that combination was to swear on the name of God. Really? Swearing upon the name of the God of love to promise to keep secret the murder of other people, God’s children? That’s just sick.
But Cain did it, and as a result he killed Able (Moses 5:33).
33 And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands.
Interesting that Cain would think that all it takes to be free of the preaching about God is to kill his brother. But he seemed to think that was all it would take. But then the Lord speaks to him and asks him where his brother is (Moses 5:34).
34 And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper?
Now he was even being snide with the Lord. Able was the keeper of animals, and Cain used a reference to him not being a shepherd in his response to the Lord. This statement told the lord that Cain felt he was not responsible for his brother’s whereabouts. It also indicates that he wanted to be free of any responsibility for his brother.
Lessons from Cain
These verses show us what happens when people refuse to follow the Lord. Cain refused to believe the Lord loved him as much as He loved others. He refused to do anything to draw closer to the Lord. He justified his own behavior by twisting the meaning of the Lord’s commandments and trying to make the Lord accept an offering that was of his own choosing. When corrected for his mistake, Cain became angry and refused to listen to the Lord any more, even though the Lord had warned him what would happen if he didn’t repent. Finally, he embraced all that Satan had to offer, entered into secret combinations and then murdered his righteous brother in order to free himself from his brother’s preachings and to gain his flocks for himself.
Step by step Cain allowed himself to be led down to destruction. He could have repented at any point, but he allowed his passions to control his behavior. Satan capitalized on this and gained complete power over Cain in the end.
Cain shows us that when the Lord said we have to either repent and follow His Son or be damned he meant it. The Lord tried everything He could to reclaim Cain, but Cain was stubborn and determined that the Lord favored others over him, and chose to be offended by this supposed slight. We know that Able preached to his brother to get him to repent, and we can only assume that righteous Adam and Eve also did everything they could to get Cain to listen to reason. But Cain chose to love Satan more than God, and you see where that got him. This verifies the Lord’s words in Moses 5:15 – as many as believed in the Son, and repented of their sins, should be saved; and as many as believed not and repented not, should be damned.
Now let’s look at the other side of the coin – Enoch. Compare Enoch’s behavior and choices with those of Cain. Here is Moses 6:21–23.
21 And Jared lived one hundred and sixty-two years, and begat Enoch; and Jared lived, after he begat Enoch, eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. And Jared taught Enoch in all the ways of God.
22 And this is the genealogy of the sons of Adam, who was the son of God, with whom God, himself, conversed.
23 And they were preachers of righteousness, and spake and prophesied, and called upon all men, everywhere, to repent; and faith was taught unto the children of men.
Note that Cain had been taught by Adam himself, and was raised by the original two witnesses to the Fall of man. Who would know better the need for repentance than Adam who had been taught directly by the Spirit and God Himself. Enoch had been “taught … in all the ways of God” and was a preacher of righteousness. He, along with other righteous priesthood holders obeyed God’s commandments, repented of their sins, and taught faith and repentance “unto the children of men.”
The Lord’s conversation with Enoch
When the Lord revealed Himself to Enoch he instructed him in the assignment He had in mind for Enoch. In the following verses He tells Enoch why the people need to have repentance preached to them. He also emphasizes that repentance brings forth blessings and eternal life, while rebellion to this path of happiness brings only misery. There are no other paths save these two only (Moses 6:28–30).
28 And for these many generations, ever since the day that I created them, have they gone astray, and have denied me, and have sought their own counsels in the dark; and in their own abominations have they devised murder, and have not kept the commandments, which I gave unto their father, Adam.
29 Wherefore, they have foresworn themselves, and, by their oaths, they have brought upon themselves death; and a hell I have prepared for them, if they repent not;
30 And this is a decree, which I have sent forth in the beginning of the world, from my own mouth, from the foundation thereof, and by the mouths of my servants, thy fathers, have I decreed it, even as it shall be sent forth in the world, unto the ends thereof.
Notice that in verse 29 the Lord tells us that when we bring upon ourselves damnation that we do it to ourselves. The people of Enoch’s time were grossly wicked and the Lord says it is because they have foresworn themselves and made oaths they had no business making. By this behavior they have brought upon themselves spiritual death.
To forswear is to commit perjury, that is, to make an oath then lie about it. How often have we been guilty of going to the sacrament table having perjured ourselves that week by not keeping the covenants we have promised to keep and then, for the sake of public display we partake of the Lord’s sacrament anyway?
When Cain spoke with the Lord he turned away in rebellion. Here is Enoch’s response when the Lord called on him to preach the gospel (Moses 6:31).
31 And when Enoch had heard these words, he bowed himself to the earth, before the Lord, and spake before the Lord, saying: Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?
Instead of being proud and stubborn, like Cain, Enoch bowed himself to the earth in humility and confessed his weaknesses to the Lord.
Enoch preached repentance to the people and told them what the Spirit taught Adam (Moses 6:61).
61 Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.
This is the same promise that is given to us. As we repent, exercise faith in Christ, and keep His commandments the Spirit teaches us the mysteries of godliness. We are justified and sanctified and become holy before the Lord.
This is quite a different outcome from what we experienced with Cain. Enoch did as the Lord directed him to do and founded the city of Zion. After 365 years of peace the people were so united with each other, and with God, that He took the entire city, land and all, up to heaven. This is the same city of saints with whom we are working to be worthy of living with in the Millennium.
I structured this article with the deliberate attempt to demonstrate by the lives of these two men the grand law that says that there are only two outcomes possible from mortality. We either humble ourselves and follow Christ with full purpose of heart so we gain eternal life, as Enoch did, or we do as Cain did and find fault, take offense, and turn away from God and receive destruction as our reward. We will receive either eternal life or damnation. Those are our two choices.
This is why we read this in 2 Nephi 2:27:
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
And again we are shown there are only two outcomes in 2 Nephi 10:23.
23 Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.
We have moral agency. We are not free to make any choice we want and not be answerable for it. Any choice we make has consequences. We have the commandments before us. Most of us have already made the covenants needed to be able to return to our Father in Heaven. Now it is up to us. Do we choose death or eternal life? What are we willing to do to achieve eternal happiness?