Pearl of Great Price

After 1885 the Pearl of Great Price was frequently used to explain the priesthood ban. In a letter dated January 13, 1912 the First Presidency wrote, "You are referred to the Pearl of Great Price, Book of Abraham, Chapter 1, versus 26 and 27, going to show that the seed of Ham was cursed as pertaining to the priesthood; and that by reason of this curse they have no right to it."

Lester E. Bush Jr. writes on page 81 of the book Neither White nor Black the following:

"When fully developed the Pearl of Grade Price argument went as follows: Cain became black after murdering his brother Abel; among his descendents were a people of Canaan who warred on their neighbors and were also identified as black. Ham, Noah’s son, married Egyptus, a descendent of this Cain-Canaan lineage; Cain’s descendents had been denied the priesthood, and thus Ham’s descendents were also denied the priesthood. This was confirmed in the case of Pharaoh, he descendents of Ham and Egyptus, and of the Canaanites, and who was denied the priesthood; the modern Negro was of this Cain-Ham-lineage, and therefore was not eligible for the priesthood."

There are several problems with this argument, as Bush goes on to explain.

"Though Cain’s descendents are identified as black at one point before the flood, they are never again identified. The people of Canaan are not originally black and are thus unlikely candidates for Cain’s ‘seed.’ there is no explicit statement that Ham’s wife was ‘Egyptus’; rather the account reads that there was a woman who ‘was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus.’…moreover, the book of Moses records that Ham was a man of God prior to the flood, and the daughters of the sons of Noah were ‘fair.’ the effort to relate Pharaoh to the antediluvian people of Canaan is especially strained, for in characterizing Pharaoh as a descendent of Egyptus and the ‘Canaanites’ there is no suggestion that this letter group was any other than the people of Canaan descended from Ham’s son, Canaan (who also have been cursed).

"How then was the Pearl of Great Price put to such ready use in defense of the policy of priesthood denial to Negroes? Very simply, the basic belief they lineage to be traced from Cain through the wife of Ham to the modern Negro had long been accepted by the Church, independently of the Pearl of Great Price. it was a very easy matter to read this belief into that scripture, for if one assumes that there was a unique continuous lineage extending from Cain and Ham to the present and that this is the lineage of the contemporary Negro, and it must have been accomplished essentially as B.H. Roberts proposed. (pg. 81-82)

6 thoughts on “Pearl of Great Price”

  1. I appreciate the explanation given here. I also believe that blacks being denied the priesthood may be more complex than stated here. For example, after Ham was called a righteous man, he was denied the Priesthood later due to the “seeing Noah naked” incident. Both through his own lack of respect for the priesthood and through his wife’s lineage, he and his posterity was denied the Priesthood.

    The Bible doesn’t contain a complete history of Cain’s blood line or a complete explanation of the Priesthood. The covenant people’s attempted enforcement of God’s laws may not have been perfect either.

    Exodus 20:5 mentions curses being carried down to the fourth generation. Some curses were relative to the sinner, some were applied to multiple generations. This could be interpreted as intergenerational blood (or gene) cleansing through marriage with someone from a clean bloodline as well as cultural cleansing to rid people of bad habits passed down, etc.

    I’m grateful that God blessed mankind with Prophets in Biblical times to help them sort it out in their time, and with Prophets in our day who also deliver God’s will to us. It still comes down to our faith, more studying, prayer, and accepting whatever the Lord gives us. I’m also grateful that blacks can have the Priesthood now.

  2. L. La Mar Adams

    Although I agree with the overall premise about Canaan, to state that “there is no explicit statement that Ham’s wife was ‘Egyptus’,” is straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. If Egyptus is the daughter of Ham and Egyptus, that in one sense, IS explicit evidence that Ham’s wife (at least one of them) was Egyptus.

    It is also possible that the term Canaan refers to more than one person, or people. Since the daughter Egyptus had to have a husband, the father of Pharaoh, it may be that a son Canaan (the son of Canaan) could have been that husband. Or it may be that a Canaan was a son of Cush, etc., etc. After all, dare we claim that Ham had no priesthood posterity?

  3. All my life as a member I was taught the mark and curse concept and it seems throughout the Bible, the darker skinned race was always rejected for some reason. I taught this concept as a missionary because I was taught this. Many prophets reiterated this , so now what has changed in the concept. It’s moot now, but it rang true then? Educate me

  4. Please see

    Please reread the scriptures and consider when darkness refers to spiritual darkness and when skins refer to clothing or markings on human skin. Also consider when “white” is used as a negative as in whited walls or white as leprous.

  5. patrick wekhomba lusweti

    its true the bible is not talking about Cain.pearl of Great price is shading real light.I find this book to be true.

  6. It is more about those who have priesthood responsibility and less about a mark or color of one’s skin. Evidence to this can be found throughout the Book of Mormon and later in the D&C with the official declaration.

    It is an erroneous assumption to believe that throughout history everyone had the equal right to hold the priesthood. This is clearly not true. We sometimes forget that it is only in very recent years that all who are worthy are permitted to hold the priesthood.

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