Brother Able

For those that are not familiar, Elijah Able is one of a cadre of black men that were ordained to the Priesthood in Joseph Smith’s lifetime. Elijah is a great hero of the Restoration. The following is the first paragraph of his patriarchal blessing, delivered by Joseph Smith Sr.:

Brother Able, in the name of Jesus I lay my hands upon thy head to bless thee and thou shalt be blessed even forever. I seal upon thee a father’s blessing, because thou art an orphan, for thy father, hath never done his duty toward thee, but the Lord hast had his eye upon thee, and brought thee through straits and thou hast come to be reconed with the saints of the most High. Though hast been ordained an Elder and anointed to secure thee against the power of the destroyer. Thou shalt see his power in laying waste the nations, & the wicked slaying the wicked, while blood shall run down the streets like water, and thy heart shall weep over their calamities. Angels shall visit thee and thou shalt receive comfort. They shall call thee blessed and deliver thee from thine enemies. They shall break thy bands and keep thee from afflictions. They name is written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Brother Able went on to serve several missions in the Church. I thank God for him.


  1. Bro. Able, your name is blessed indeed!

  2. Thank God for examples like this, and may God call upon the LDS leadership to publicly condemn the teachings of past leaders on the curse of Cain!

  3. may God call upon the LDS leadership to publicly condemn the teachings of past leaders on the curse of Cain!

    Elder Holland sort of already did this, FWIW.

    PBS: I’ve talked to many blacks and many whites as well about the lingering folklore [about why blacks couldn’t have the priesthood]. These are faithful Mormons who are delighted about this revelation, and yet who feel something more should be said about the folklore and even possibly about the mysterious reasons for the ban itself, which was not a revelation; it was a practice. So if you could, briefly address the concerns Mormons have about this folklore and what should be done.

    Elder Holland: One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated. … I have to concede to my earlier colleagues. … They, I’m sure, in their own way, were doing the best they knew to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it. All I can say is however well intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong. …

    It probably would have been advantageous to say nothing, to say we just don’t know, and, [as] with many religious matters, whatever was being done was done on the basis of faith at that time. But some explanations were given and had been given for a lot of years. … At the very least, there should be no effort to perpetuate those efforts to explain why that doctrine existed. I think, to the extent that I know anything about it, as one of the newer and younger ones to come along, … we simply do not know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place.

  4. Beautiful, Jonathan! Did you post this to give me a space to mention a particular documentary?

    Regardless…If you want to see the patriarchal blessing in its original handwriting, I think the best place to do that (other than the book of Patriarchal Blessings) would be in the documentary _Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons_.

    Thanks to whoever linked us on the sidebar, inviting those who live in San Diego or Dallas to attend a screening. The SD screening was scheduled for Thursday Jan. 31st, but after some begging, we have gotten them to change that. We will likely screen on Saturday, Feb. 2 (Groundhog day). We screen in Dallas at the Texas Black Film Festival on Friday, Feb. 1st at 2:00 p.m.

    And yes, we really do have a copy of the original blessing in the doc.

    For a review of the film, go to:

    (TOTALLY self-serving, I know, but I think Jonathan was subtlely opening up the space for me to jump in. Thanks, Jonathan!)

  5. You read my mind, Margaret!

  6. J,

    Is’nt it true that Able’s sons and grandsons were ordained quietly in Cache Valley prior to 1978?

  7. bbell, I’m not certain that it was Cache Valley, but otherwise that is my understanding.

  8. I’m not sure it was done “quietly.”
    One son (Enoch, if I’m remembering) was ordained an elder; the grandson was ordained a deacon. Both ordinations are listed on the ELijah Abel monument in the SL Cemetery.

  9. David Grua says:

    Margaret: Is there any evidence for the ordainings aside from the monument? Not that I doubt that they happened, but I’m just wondering if evidence for them pops up elsewhere.

  10. To be honest, we didn’t delve into the generation beyond Elijah Abel’s children. Yes, there is a paper trail, but I don’t have much knowledge of church activity in the Abel family. We do know that his descendants eventually left the Church. Several have now read our trilogy and found new respect for their ancestor. We had a number of them at the monument dedication. They have also, for the most part, crossed the color line, btw.

  11. Mark Brown says:

    David G.,

    This is from Neither White nor Black, edited by Lester Bush and Armand Mauss:

    This according to the findings of Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Mormons and Negroes (Salt Lake City, Utah, Modern Microfilm Co., 1970), pp. 12, 16, which contains documentary evidence indicating that Enoch Abel, a son of Elijah Abel, was ordained an elder on 10 Nov. 1900. and that a grandson, Elijah Abel, was ordained a priest on 5 Jul. 1934 and an elder on 29 Sept. 1935. The Tanners also suggested that Elijah Abel’s other surviving son, also named Elijah, may have been ordained to the priesthood.

  12. Thanks, Mark. I’ll have to check out the Tanners’ book.

  13. M&M (in 3), thanks for your mention of the Holland quote.
    I hadn’t read the text before, and find it (in almost full) here.

  14. Wow! I’ve never heard this before. This is pretty cool to see. So with my limited church history knowledge, what happened to make leaders say blacks couldn’t have the priesthood?

    Also, this brings up another question…polygamy. What is/was that all about? I see Elder Holland took a stance that suggested the blacks not holding the priesthood was an error. Has anyone said this about polygamy?


  15. Aaron, those are tough questions. The Church’s official position is that we don’t know why the ban was in place. I think that a lot of people that are familiar with the current scholarship tend to think that it was a mistake of sorts (see here, for example). It is certain that there was is no extant revelatory basis for the ban, and that the idea of the curse of Cain was imported from Christian theology that predated Mormonism (and was used to justify slavery). The first recorded reference we have is to the ban is in 1847.

    Polygamy is quite a bit more complicated as there is a documented supernatural trail of sorts. You have things like section 132 and accounts of angels, etc. Consequently, I think the vast majority of the Saints believe that for some reason or another God had his people engage in polygamy. Certainly, there are Mormons that think that the implementation of polygamy was in some cases flawed (and I think most people when faced with some particular examples would concede that the implementation was in those instances less than desirable).

%d bloggers like this: