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Old 08-13-2019, 10:56 AM
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The mark of Cain


Has anyone ever figured out what this was? I know the LDS church taught for years that being black was the mark of Cain and restricted membership of anyone who could be considered black from any kind of priesthood. In 1978, they decided the time was right to end that restriction. (Honestly this ISN'T a religious argument; I'm simply citing one hypothesis.)

Other ideas are that it was literally some kind of physical mark place on him that everyone would recognize (and I don't remember if the Bible says it would be placed on his descendants too).

I've always wondered about this so I'm hoping that a discussion of this will ensue that could enlighten me.
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Old 08-13-2019, 11:17 AM
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Here's the story and it doesn't say anything about what the mark was.

The reference to Cain's descendants is in verses 23-24, and it is kind of obscure. The purpose of the mark of Cain was to protect Cain from being killed. There's no reference to race.

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Old 08-13-2019, 06:13 PM
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The purpose of the mark of Cain was to protect Cain from being killed.
If it was dark brown skin, God really missed the mark.
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:38 AM
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If it was dark brown skin, God really missed the mark.
Good point.

Maybe it was the Monopoly "Get Out of Jail Free" card, but on a stone tablet.

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Old 08-13-2019, 11:23 AM
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The LDS church didn't invent that idea. According to the wikipedia article, it goes back to the 5th century, and was a common protestant belief prior to the civil war (that's probably where Joseph Smith got inspiration for it, as he investigated many churches). The article also lists other beliefs as to what the mark was.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_and_mark_of_Cain
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Old 08-13-2019, 11:51 AM
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The LDS church didn't invent that idea. According to the wikipedia article, it goes back to the 5th century, and was a common protestant belief prior to the civil war (that's probably where Joseph Smith got inspiration for it, as he investigated many churches). The article also lists other beliefs as to what the mark was.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_and_mark_of_Cain
The claims that it was a common protestant belief are all labeled "citation needed". They appear to be pulled out of some anonymous editor's nether regions.
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Old 08-13-2019, 12:56 PM
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The claims that it was a common protestant belief are all labeled "citation needed". They appear to be pulled out of some anonymous editor's nether regions.
Maybe he got it from Stampp Corbin, and maybe he pulled it out of his ass?

Or maybe that was a rationale many Americans (a vast majority being protestant) used to justify slavery for 250 years.

Last edited by Ashtura; 08-13-2019 at 12:58 PM.
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Old 08-13-2019, 03:06 PM
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I always conjectured it was a tattoo. Maybe I was even taught that, who knows for sure? The nun who might have taught me that likely didn't have a citation, at the time, so where'm I gonna get one now?

At any rate, it kinda fits -- tattoos are forbidden by Moasaic law. People have been making them since before recorded history. How would Hebrew priests explain that? Mark of Cain. Oh, God can do it, for a good reason, and the others, do it, for whatever reason they want to. But we don't do it.

Unless a local prehistoric Cannanite tribe practiced facial tattooing. But even then, I'm just conjecturing that the connection was made and added to the Biblical narrative.
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Old 08-13-2019, 03:34 PM
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When Richard Harris played him in the John Huston movie, he was struck by lightning on his forehead, and it left a scar:

https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/n...hoto/129731091
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:56 PM
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Maybe he got it from Stampp Corbin, and maybe he pulled it out of his ass?

Or maybe that was a rationale many Americans (a vast majority being protestant) used to justify slavery for 250 years.
Slavery was justified by the Curse of Ham, not the mark of Cain: "the narrative [of Ham's transgression against his father Noah] was interpreted by some Christians, Muslims and Jews as an explanation for black skin, as well as a justification for slavery"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_of_Ham

However the Curse and mark of Cain article says "The Curse of Cain was often conflated with the Curse of Ham"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_...n#Curse_of_Ham

Last edited by gkster; 08-13-2019 at 10:58 PM.
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Old 08-13-2019, 04:59 PM
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There is nothing said in Scripture about what the mark looks like. It only specifies that those who see Cain and his mark won't kill him. Perhaps it is something that makes people want to keep a far distance from him - but then again, he did go on to have a family.
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Old 08-14-2019, 03:09 PM
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There is nothing said in Scripture about what the mark looks like. It only specifies that those who see Cain and his mark won't kill him. Perhaps it is something that makes people want to keep a far distance from him - but then again, he did go on to have a family.
Maybe it was just a cardboard around his neck with the words "Don't kill this guy".
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Old 08-13-2019, 06:53 PM
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I bet it was a lightning bolt.......
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Old 08-13-2019, 07:28 PM
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Voldemort?
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:10 PM
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I know the LDS church taught for years that being black was the mark of Cain and restricted membership of anyone who could be considered black from any kind of priesthood.
Daniel Quinn argues in Ishmael that it is the exact opposite. The mark is being white.

“The story is grounded in a historical context which is all the more elusive for being so specific. Abel is a “keeper of sheep” while Cain is a “tiller of the ground.” (Gen 4:2) This suggests the simplistic interpretation that the story is about a conflict between agriculturalists and pastoralists”.

(Not that I agree with Quinn, but it is a compelling POV)

I’m guessing the LDSer assume all the Bible folks were white, right?
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:32 PM
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Daniel Quinn argues in Ishmael that it is the exact opposite. The mark is being white.

“The story is grounded in a historical context which is all the more elusive for being so specific. Abel is a “keeper of sheep” while Cain is a “tiller of the ground.” (Gen 4:2) This suggests the simplistic interpretation that the story is about a conflict between agriculturalists and pastoralists”.

(Not that I agree with Quinn, but it is a compelling POV)
It’s only compelling, IMHO, if you grant that the story is literally true (as in Cain actually existed, Abel actually existed and was murdered by Cain, and god literally interacted with Cain and gave him "the mark," so presumably Adam, Eve, and the Garden actually existed too, and so on).

Otherwise, if we are to leave it as a sort of primordial myth/legend containing no special knowledge that was not routinely available to the Israelites or other Semitic people’s circa three thousand years ago, it would require ancient Israelites to have 1) known of lighter skinned white people (that’s at least possible, there's evidence of at least sporadic trade and contact between Mediterranean cultures and peoples as far away as Britain to the north and west), and 2) have anticipated the phenomenon we would now describe as "white privilege"and yet viewed it as applying to other people, but not themselves, even as they viewed themselves as "God’s chosen people," his most favored nation. I don’t think that’s at all likely.
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Old 08-14-2019, 01:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Lucas Jackson View Post
“The story is grounded in a historical context which is all the more elusive for being so specific. Abel is a “keeper of sheep” while Cain is a “tiller of the ground.” (Gen 4:2) This suggests the simplistic interpretation that the story is about a conflict between agriculturalists and pastoralists”.
I don;t see how this has anything to do with race.
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:04 PM
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I don;t see how this has anything to do with race.
I don’t believe there was an historical Cain. I don’t believe any of the of the Bible literally. I was offering a guess like everyone else in this thread. That said, the story probably came from some event.

I didn’t mean to suggest I thought the mark was racially motivated. In fact I was just passing along what I had read. It’s been many years since I read Ishmael and I don’t recall all of the details. But I think the gist of it was that the agriculture group (who just happened to be light skinned) used up all the land for crops thus denying the pastoralists.
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Old 08-15-2019, 05:14 AM
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I don’t believe there was an historical Cain. I don’t believe any of the of the Bible literally. I was offering a guess like everyone else in this thread. That said, the story probably came from some event.

I didn’t mean to suggest I thought the mark was racially motivated. In fact I was just passing along what I had read. It’s been many years since I read Ishmael and I don’t recall all of the details. But I think the gist of it was that the agriculture group (who just happened to be light skinned) used up all the land for crops thus denying the pastoralists.
I've heard the theory that the story was supposed to be a fable about the conflict between farmers and herders; it's just that in the Bronze Age Middle East, both those groups were the same color.

The pastoralist/agriculturalist theory is interesting: according to it, the original Israelites were desert pastoralists who invaded, conquered and eventually absorbed the agriculturalist Canaanites. That's why they had stories about how herders were preferred by God and that the farmers had done them wrong; it's also why so many biblical heroes were shepherds, including King David himself.
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Old 08-15-2019, 10:08 AM
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I've heard the theory that the story was supposed to be a fable about the conflict between farmers and herders; it's just that in the Bronze Age Middle East, both those groups were the same color.

The pastoralist/agriculturalist theory is interesting: according to it, the original Israelites were desert pastoralists who invaded, conquered and eventually absorbed the agriculturalist Canaanites. That's why they had stories about how herders were preferred by God and that the farmers had done them wrong; it's also why so many biblical heroes were shepherds, including King David himself.
As I understand it, archaeologists currently favor that the idea that Israelites lived on the fringes of Canaanite society, like the Travelers in the British Isles, or the Gypsies in continental Europe. Archaeologists have not found any evidence of a sudden conquest. As you move from more ancient sites to more modern sites, the number of Canaanite artifacts gradually decreases, and the number of Israelite artifacts gradually increases.
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Old 08-15-2019, 10:58 PM
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I've heard the theory that the story was supposed to be a fable about the conflict between farmers and herders; it's just that in the Bronze Age Middle East, both those groups were the same color.

The pastoralist/agriculturalist theory is interesting: according to it, the original Israelites were desert pastoralists who invaded, conquered and eventually absorbed the agriculturalist Canaanites. That's why they had stories about how herders were preferred by God and that the farmers had done them wrong; it's also why so many biblical heroes were shepherds, including King David himself.
According to the rabbi who taught the "History of Judaism" course I took as an undergrad, that's why the Israelites kept slipping into the idolatry their prophets so often denounced: being pastoralists, they had to learn agriculture from the resident Canaanites.

"First you build a terrace to keep water in. Then you break up the ground with a hoe. Then you sow your seed. Then you sacrifice a goat to Ba'al Hadad. Then you wait for Dagon to send rains..."

I don't know if this was an actual historical theory, or he was just pulling it out of his ass, but it sounded plausible. Less so now that we have better evidence that the Israelites developed from native Canaanite tribes, rather than being invaders from elsewhere; but if they learned agriculture from other Canaanite tribes, then it could have happened that way.

Last edited by Slow Moving Vehicle; 08-15-2019 at 10:58 PM.
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:13 PM
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It was probably understood to be some Hebrew letter. But some have argued that Cain grew horns.
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Old 08-14-2019, 04:08 AM
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It was probably understood to be some Hebrew letter. But some have argued that Cain grew horns.
The word used for the "mark" in the Hebrew original is 'ot, which also can mean "letter".

Apparently, there are quite a few details in the original story which have been lost in various translations (or even were lost before it was translated): https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/studi...n-and-abel.htm
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:25 AM
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And who were the women that Adam and Eve's sons mated with?
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Old 08-18-2019, 05:38 PM
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s -- tattoos are forbidden by Moasaic law....
It was my understanding that only tattoos of the dead were forbidden, but that the Jews, tending to err on the side of caution, don't do tattoos at all. (Kind of like not eating cheeseburgers.)

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And who were the women that Adam and Eve's sons mated with?
Perhaps from the same group of people that Cain was worried about killing him? Unless it was his parents that he was worried about.
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:28 AM
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Their sisters and/or nieces. Deal with it.

This thread is making me laugh out loud.
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:42 AM
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Or the sons of Adam and Eve might have mated with other humans who were created ex nihilo by God, but after He created Adam and Eve.
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:44 AM
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Or maybe Adam and Eve were the first Hebrews, and the rest of humanity was part of the "cattle, and creeping things, and beasts of the earth" created on the sixth day.
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:45 AM
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Abel was a shepherd. Maybe the Deity notched Cain's ears?
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:48 AM
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Or maybe Adam and Eve were the first Hebrews, and the rest of humanity was part of the "cattle, and creeping things, and beasts of the earth" created on the sixth day.
No. Nothing in the Bible implies this in any way.
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Old 08-14-2019, 03:23 PM
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Or the sons of Adam and Eve might have mated with other humans who were created ex nihilo by God, but after He created Adam and Eve.
Is it still fanwank if it's theology?

Adam and Eve had Cain and Abel. Their wives? Plothole. Deal with it.
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:55 AM
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Since mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the mother and it does not mutate, I often ask how come everybody doesn't have the same such DNA, since we're all descended from Eve. Of course, the standard answer is "God changed it."
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:24 AM
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There obviously has to be a "mitochondrial Eve", though. Not sure what is controversial about that.
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:26 AM
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Since mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the mother and it does not mutate, I often ask how come everybody doesn't have the same such DNA, since we're all descended from Eve. Of course, the standard answer is "God changed it."
My understanding is that it does indeed! How else come that there are different varieties present today?

(Not that it makes the story more probable to be a historical account of things that really happened!)
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:32 AM
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Wiki says one study reports a mutation rate of one per 8000 years.
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:42 AM
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Wiki says one study reports a mutation rate of one per 8000 years.
In fact how fast the DNA mutates (how many changes over time) is used to determine how separate different ethnic groups are, how far back is the common ancestor.

Yes, if it did not change, everyone would have all the same DNA, give or take an X or Y.
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:03 PM
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Wiki says one study reports a mutation rate of one per 8000 years.
One what ?

Anyway, the claim that Mitochondrial DNA doesn't mutate is nonsense. It mutates at a known rate. By examining the mitochondria of two individuals, or two populations, scientists can estimate how long ago they had a common ancestor.

All currently alive humans are descended from a single female about 150,000 years ago. If the DNA didn't change then we would all have the same mitochondria . Which we don't.

Last edited by Peter Morris; 08-14-2019 at 09:04 PM.
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:11 PM
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One what ?
One synonymous substitution. They go on to say that there isn't a single rate parameter over all sites, though, more like 3 different subclasses of sites with 3 different synonymous substitution rates.
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:36 AM
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And Bible literalists think the world is only 6000 years old.

HA - ha!
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:49 AM
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I'm not asking about all DNA, I'm only discussing mitochondrial DNA. It is passed from mother to child and mutations are extremely rare, practically non-existent.
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Old 08-14-2019, 11:30 AM
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There's a difference between "rare" and "nonexistent". If mDNA truly never mutated, but we still saw variety in it, creationism would have a lot easier time explaining that than science would.
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Old 08-14-2019, 12:22 PM
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There are several thoughts in Jewish oral tradition (Talmud and Midrash) as to exactly what the "mark of Cain" was. The ones I'm familiar with are:
  • A letter of G-d's holy name on his forehead
  • The sun rising prematurely when he is threatened by predators in the night
  • Tzaraas (the Biblical skin disease often translated as "leprosy") all over his body
  • A dog to accompany him that will protect him

There is also a Midrash that says that Cain had a horn or horns on his head, but that is part of a separate narrative, and does not appear to be what anyone says was the "mark".
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Old 08-15-2019, 11:00 AM
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There are several thoughts in Jewish oral tradition (Talmud and Midrash) as to exactly what the "mark of Cain" was. The ones I'm familiar with are:
  • A letter of G-d's holy name on his forehead
Must have been the letter "hey" for "hey, don't kill me."
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Old 08-14-2019, 12:13 PM
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It is not so much the mark of Cain, but a mark placed by God on Cain. It has the purpose as not to have anyone kill him. Job also seems to have this type of protection, however the method God uses (beyond telling Satan 'don't kill him') is not specified, if any. We also have other times 'marking' is used, for instance in Revelation a mark is used and applied by angels, on the believers to offer a form of protection, and the mark of the beast is also mentioned. Also the Israelites received a mark in IIRC Exodus, in these 3 places the location of such a mark is specified, but the form of such a mark is not.

My own take is such a mark is probably spiritual, not physical. It is something that would go unseen, however it would have such a effect. If one was not clued in by God as to this mark, it would be one of those 'why do those things keep happening to me' type of of question.
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Old 08-14-2019, 12:24 PM
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Who standardized these marks, and how are random people expected to see them and know the meaning? In a pre-literate society, at that.
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Old 08-15-2019, 12:28 AM
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Who standardized these marks, and how are random people expected to see them and know the meaning? In a pre-literate society, at that.
Pre-literate doesn't mean there were no standard marks. You may find this video about cave symbols interesting.
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Old Yesterday, 12:32 PM
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Who standardized these marks, and how are random people expected to see them and know the meaning? In a pre-literate society, at that.
Green like the grasses of the plains turned He his hair,
and pale his skin as the clouds above the mountains.
Like the apple full and round became his nose,
that his face might bear the distinct mark of sins against God.
And overlong and clumsy turned He his feet,
that he might not easily escape anyone curious about his features
or the nature of his crimes which caused them.
Thenceforth, not by Cain was he known but Clain,
for he had harmed one favored by God.


Wouldn't nobody come near him after that because they all thought he looked funny.
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Old 08-14-2019, 07:00 PM
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On the day that I was born
Daddy sat down and cried
I had the mark, just as plain as day,
Could not be denied
They say that Cain caught Abel
Rollin’ loaded dice
Ace of spades behind his ear,
And him not thinking twice.


— “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodle-oo,” — Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia, 1972
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Old 08-15-2019, 12:18 AM
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I know the LDS church taught for years that being black was the mark of Cain and restricted membership of anyone who could be considered black from any kind of priesthood. In 1978, they decided the time was right to end that restriction. (Honestly this ISN'T a religious argument; I'm simply citing one hypothesis.)
Joseph Smith started with a frontier developed theology and then took it off in his own direction.

The theology for the Mormon position never really made clear. Smith would typically adapt existing local beliefs and then claim a Biblical basis, going so far as to rewrite the Bible (the Joseph Smith Translation, which is not a new translation but simply rewritten to fit his ideas) as well wrote new scriptures, the most famous of which is the Book of Mormon. Two of those books are the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham.

Joseph Smith tied the idea of dark skin to a curse from God as a punishment in the Book of Mormon.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Book of Mormon
". . . wherefore, as they were white and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them (2 Nephi 5:21)."
That was in the summer of 1829, before the church was started. Later, we wrote the other books.
Quote:
". . . there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people . . . (Moses 7:8)."
"And . . . they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them (Moses 7:22)."
and
Quote:
". . . from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land (Abraham 1:24)."
"Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, . . . Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, . . . but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.
"Now, Pharaoh being of the lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, . . . (Abraham 1:26-27)."
As Mormons believed that these new scriptures were more trustworthy than the Bible, they really didn't get too much into the debate between the mark of Cain and the Curse of Ham. With the new scriptures and more importantly modern revelation which trumped scripture then the Biblical basis was no really important.

When I was growing up in in the 60s and 70s, it was the common belief that the Blacks were denied the priesthood (for the men, and the saving ordinances of the temple for both genders) because the blacks had not been valiant in the Great War in the Pre-existence (were we all were prior to coming to this Earth) and as such were given this curse.

Different Mormon prophets have interpreted the "priesthood ban" differently. Joseph Smith allowed at least one black man to have the priesthood, but his successor, Brigham Young was much more racist.
  #50  
Old 08-15-2019, 05:16 AM
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Originally Posted by TokyoBayer View Post
When I was growing up in in the 60s and 70s, it was the common belief that the Blacks were denied the priesthood (for the men, and the saving ordinances of the temple for both genders) because the blacks had not been valiant in the Great War in the Pre-existence (where we all were prior to coming to this Earth) and as such were given this curse.

Different Mormon prophets have interpreted the "priesthood ban" differently. Joseph Smith allowed at least one black man to have the priesthood, but his successor, Brigham Young was much more racist.
It really needs to be pointed out that there is discrimination in the phrasing of the ban. Not only was it a ban on the priesthood for males (Mormonism believes in a universal priesthood for all males age 12 and above, rather than just the clergy) but as I wrote above, blacks of both genders were not permitted in the temple, where the full ordinances are performed.

Mormonism is unique among Christian faiths in believing that ordinary people have the ability to become gods and goddesses. However blacks of both genders were not permitted to receive these ordinances.
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