Recently a lot of stories have circulated that Mormons believe that when God gave Cain dark skin, it was a curse. This is not canonized doctrine, although you can find a few who believe it or did in the past. Of course, you can find people in any group that believe something that is not true.
Mormonism accepts both the Bible and the Book of Mormon as scripture. Mormon is a nickname sometimes used to describe the people of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the correct name for their church.
The Bible and the mark of Cain
The Bible is very clear about the purpose of the mark of Cain. Cain killed his brother because he was jealous that God had accepted Abel’s offering but not his own, which had been offered incorrectly. Then, when God asked him about it, he lied. God mentions a curse for the first time in the story:
“And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth (Genesis 4:11-12).
The curse, then, was related to his career, not his skin. Then God prophesied about his future, which would leave him struggling to farm and on the run from angry relatives. Cain was very upset, insisting the punishment was too harsh. In addition, those angry relatives made Cain very nervous. He was suddenly afraid that now that people knew murder was possible, they would decide to use it against him.
God loves all his children, even those who turn against him, as Cain had when he entered into an alliance with Satan. He loved Cain. He had already assured Cain he would be able to produce an offering that was acceptable if he would just try.
However, God’s heart was touched by Cain’s fears and here we learn the purpose of the mark:
And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him (verse 15).
What is the curse of Cain?
It is easy to see, from this verse, that the mark was a gift of love that gave Cain great protection. Anyone harming Cain would have a punishment greater than if he killed someone else. This demonstrates just how much God really loved Cain and also proves the mark was not a curse. Somehow, people combined a few things in the story and failed to note the curse involved farming, not skin. In fact, the Bible does not actually say what the mark is and there is nothing canonized in Mormonism that says. If it is skin, however, then the first darkened skin was a gift. If not, the story has nothing to do with skin color.
Mormons have another book of ancient scripture called the Pearl of Great Price. This repeats the story of Cain and Abel. It is translated and uses essentially the same words as the Genesis translation, demonstrating Mormonism’s acceptance of Genesis’ report:
“And I the Lord said unto him: Whosoever slayeth thee, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And I the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him” (Moses 5:40).
The Pearl of Great Price is canonized scripture, and therefore, it is the official belief of Mormonism concerning Cain’s mark. It was a gift.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
Terrie Lynn Bittner is the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that have appeared in LDS magazines. She is married to Lincoln Bittner and is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to two girls. Terrie became a Mormon at the age of seventeen and has been sharing her faith online since 1992. She can also be found blogging about being an LDS woman at LatterdaySaintWoman.com.