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Brigham Young: Slavery Because of the Curse of Cain (5 January 1852)

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Brigham Young: Slavery Because of the Curse of Cain (5 January 1852)

NOTE: The following is a discourse of Brigham Young, quoted in its entirety. It can be found in several places, including The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, ed. Richard S. Van Wagoner (Salt Lake City: Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2009), 1:468-71. The discourse is usually dated on February 5 but was apparently given on January 5.


I rise to make a few remarks. The items before the house I do not understand.

The principle of slavery I understand, at least I have self-confidence enough and confidence enough in God to believe I do. I believe still further that a great many others understand it as I do. A great portion of this community have been instructed and have applied their minds to it, and as far as they have, they agree precisely in the principles of slavery. My remarks in the first place will be upon the cause of the introduction of slavery. Long ago mama Eve, our good old mother Eve, partook of the forbidden fruit and this made a slave of her. Adam hated very much to have her taken out of the garden of Eden, and now our old daddy says, I believe I will eat of the fruit and become a slave, too. This was the first introduction of slavery upon this earth; and there has not been a son or daughter of Adam from that day to this but what were slaves in the true sense of the word.

That slavery will continue until there is a people raised up upon the face of the earth who will contend for righteous principles, who will not only believe in but operate with every power and faculty given to them to help to establish the Kingdom of God, to overcome the devil, and drive him from the earth; then will this curse be removed. This was the starting point of slavery. Again, after Adam and Eve had partook of the curse, we find they had two sons, Cain and Abel, but which was the oldest I cannot positively say; but this I know: Cain was given more to evil practices than Abel, but whether he was the oldest or not matters not to me. Adam was commanded to sacrifice and offer up his offerings to God that placed him into the garden of Eden. Through the faith and obedience of Abel to his Heavenly Father, Cain become jealous of him, and he laid a plan to obtain all his flocks; for through his perfect obedience to Father he obtained more blessings than Cain; consequently he took it into his heart to put Abel [out] of his mortal existence. After the deed was done, the Lord inquired for Abel and made Cain own what he had done with him. Now, says the grandfather, I will not destroy the seed of Michael and his wife, and Cain, I will not kill you nor suffer anyone else to kill you, but I will put a mark upon you. What is that mark? You will see it on the countenance of every African you ever did see upon the face of the earth or ever will see. Now I tell you what I know: when the mark was put upon Cain, Abel’s children were in all probability young; the Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the Priesthood, nor his seed, until the last of the posterity of Abel had received the Priesthood, until the redemption of the earth. If there never was a prophet or apostle of Jesus Christ [that] spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called Negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are; I know that they cannot bear rule in the Priesthood, for the curse on them was to remain upon them until the residue of the posterity of Michael and his wife receive the blessings the seed of Cain would have received had they not been cursed, and hold the keys of the Priesthood until the times of the restitution shall come, and the curse be wiped off from the earth and from Michael’s seed. Then Cain’s seed will be had in remembrance and the time come when the curse should be wiped off.

Now, then, in the Kingdom of God on the earth, a man who has the African blood in him cannot hold one jot nor tittle of Priesthood. Why? Because they are the true eternal principles the Lord Almighty has ordained, and who can help it? Men cannot, the angels cannot, and all the powers of earth and hell cannot take it off; but thus saith the Eternal I am, what I am, I take it off at my pleasure, and not one particle of power can that posterity of Cain have until the time comes that says he will have it taken away. That time will come when they will have the privilege of all we have the privilege of and more.

In the Kingdom of God on the earth the Africans cannot hold one particle of power in government. The subjects, the rightful servants of the residue of the [469] children of Adam, and the residue of the children through the benign influence of the spirit of the Lord have the privilege of seeing to the posterity of Cain; inasmuch as it is the Lord’s will they should receive the spirit of God by baptism, and that is the end of their privilege; and there is not power on earth to give them any more power.

You talk of the dark skin. I never saw a white man on earth. I have seen persons whose hair came pretty nigh being white, but to talk about white skins, it is something entirely unknown, though some skins are fairer than others. Look at the black eye and the jet black hair we often see upon men and women who are called white; there is no such things as white folks. We are the children of Adam, who receive the blessings, and that is enough for us if we are not quite white.

But let me tell you further, let my seed mingle with the seed of Cain, and that brings the curse upon me and upon my generations; we will reap the same rewards with Cain.

In the Priesthood I will tell you what it will do. Were the children of God to mingle their seed with the seed of Cain it would not only bring the curse of being deprived of the power of the priesthood upon themselves but they entail it upon their children after them, and they cannot get rid of it. If a man in an unguarded moment should commit such a transgression, if he would walk up and say cut off my head, and kill man, woman and child it would do a great deal towards atoning for the sin. Would this be to curse them? No, it would be a blessing to them; it would do them good that they might be saved with their brethren. A man would shudder should they hear us talk about killing folk, but it is one of the greatest blessings to some to kill them, although the true principles of it are not understood.

I will add one thing more. It is not in the power of a man on the face of the earth to take more life than he can give; that is a proper son of Adam. How many times I have heard it said and how many times has it been reiterated in my ears, and in yours, that to take a life, is to take what you cannot give. This is perfect nonsense. What do I do by taking as man's head off after he is condemned by the law? I put an end to the existence of the mortal tabernacle, but the life still remains. The body and the spirit are only separated; this is all that can be done by any mortal man upon the face of the earth.

Can I give that life? I can! I can make as good tabernacles as any other man, and if you do not believe it, go and look at my children; therefore, that saying is nonsense. We form the tabernacle for the eternal spirit of life that comes from God. We can only put an end to the existence of that tabernacle, and this is the principle of sacrifice.

What was the cause of the ancients drawing up hundreds and thousands of bullocks, and heifers, and lambs, and doves, and almost every other creature around them, of which they took the best and the fattest, and offered them up as sacrifices unto the Lord. Was it not for the remission of the sins of the people? We read also in the New Testament that a man was sacrificed for the sins of the people. If he had not shed that blood which was given to him in the organization of his body or tabernacle, you and I could have had no remission of sins. It is the greatest blessing that could come to some men to shed their blood on the ground, and let it come up before the Lord as an atonement. You nor I cannot take any more life than we can give.

Again to the subject before us, as to the men bearing rule--not one of the children of old Cain have one particle of right to bear rule in government affairs from first to last; they have no business there. This privilege was taken from them by their own transgressions, and I cannot help it; and should you or I bear rule, we ought to do it with dignity and honor before God.

I am as much opposed to the principle of slavery as any man. In the present acceptation or usage of the term, it is abused. I am opposed to abusing that which God has decreed, to take a blessing, and make a curse of it. It is a great blessing to the seed of Adam to have the seed of Cain for servants, but those they serve should use them with all the heart and feeling, as they would use their own children, and their compassion should reach over them and round about them, and treat them as kindly, and with that humane feeling necessary to be shown to mortal beings of the human species. Under these circumstances their blessings in life are greater in proportion to those who have to provide the bread and dinner for them.

We know there is a portion of inhabitants of the earth who dwell in Asia that are Negroes and said to be Jews. The blood of Judah has not only mingled almost with all nations, but also with the blood of Cain, and [470] they have mingled their seeds together. These Negro Jews may keep up all the outer ordinances of the Jewish religion, they may have their sacrifices, and they may perform all the religious ceremonies any people on earth could perform, but let me tell you, that the day they consented to mingle their seed with Canaan, the Priesthood was taken away from Judah, and that portion of Judah's seed will never get any rule or blessings of the Priesthood until Cain gets it. Let this church which is called the Kingdom of God on the earth: we will summons the First Presidency, the Twelve, the High Counsel, the Bishopric, and all the Elders of Israel, suppose we summons them to appear here, and here declare that it is right to mingle our seed with the Black race of Cain, that they shall come in with us and be partakers with us of all the blessings God has given to us. On that very day, and hour we should do so, the priesthood is taken from this church and kingdom and God leaves us to our fate. The moment we consent to mingle with the seed of Cain, the Church must go to destruction; we should receive the curse which has been placed upon the seed of Cain, and never more be numbered with the children of Adam who are heirs to the priesthood until that curse be removed.

Therefore, I will not consent for one moment to have an African dictate me or any brethren with regard to church or state government. I may vary in my view from others, and they may think I am foolish in the things I have spoken and think that they know more than I do, but I know [that] I know more than [80] they do. If the Africans cannot bear rule in the church of God, what business have they to bear rule in the state and government affairs of this territory or any others?

In the government affairs of states and territories and kingdoms, by right God should govern. He should rule over nations and control kings. If we suffer the Devil to rule over us, we shall not accomplish any good. I want the Lord to rule and be our governor and dictator, and we are the boys to execute [it]. I shall not consent for a moment to give way to a gentile spirit of contention, which is the cause of angry difference to the alienation of every good feeling. It is for you and I to take a course to bind our feelings together in an everlasting bond of union inasmuch as we love the Lord, which we ought to do more than selves. Consequently, I will not consent for a moment to have the children of Cain rule me nor my brethren. No, it is not right.

But, say some, is there anything of this kind in the Constitution the U.S. has given us? If you will allow me the privilege [of] telling right out, it is none of their damned business what we do or say here. What we do it is for them to sanction, and then for us to say what we like about it. It is written right out in the Constitution, "that every free white male inhabitant above the age of twenty-one years", etc. My mind is the same today as when we were pouring over that constitution; any light upon the subject is the same, my judgment is the same, only a little more so. Perhaps I have said enough upon this subject. I have given you the true principles and doctrine. No man can vote for me or my brethren in this territory who has not the privilege of acting in church affairs. Every man and woman and child in this territory are citizens; to say the contrary is all nonsense to me. The Indians are citizens, the Africans are citizens, and the Jews that come from Asia, that are almost entirely of the blood of Cain. It is our duty to take care of them and administer to them in all the acts of humanity and kindness. They shall have the right of citizenship, but shall not have the right to dictate in church and state matters. The abolitionists of the East have caressed them and their whole argument is calculated to darken counsel as it was here yesterday. As for our bills passing here, we may lay the foundation for what? For men to come here from Africa or elsewhere by hundreds of thousands. When these men come here from the islands, are they going to hold offices in government? No. It is for men who understand the knowledge of government affairs to hold such offices, and on the other make provisions for them to plow and to reap and enjoy all that human beings can enjoy, and we protect them in it. Do we know how to ameliorate the condition of these people? We do. Suppose that five thousands of them come from the Pacific Islands and ten or fifteen thousands from Japan or from China. Not one of them would know how to vote for a government officer. They, therefore, ought not in the first thing have anything to do in government affairs.

What the gentiles are doing, we are consenting to do. What we are trying to do today is to make the Negro equal with us in all our privilege. My voice shall be against [it] all the day long. I shall not consent for one [471] moment. I will call them a counsel. I say I will not consent for one moment for you to lay a plan to bring a curse upon this people. It shall not be while I am here.