|Elijah Abel, Black Mormon Pioneer|
Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the restoration of the priesthood to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of African decent. On June 8, 1978 LDS church leaders announced that the priesthood would be extended to Mormon men of every race. Those who were there for that remarkable day have said that they can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.
While many of us have heard the stories of how the world and members of the church felt on this day, few may know the story of Elijah Abel. Elder Abel was was the first black Elder and Seventy in the LDS church and one of the few black members in the early history of the church to receive the priesthood.
He was born a slave on July 25, 1808, in Maryland, and it is believed that he escaped slavery into Canada by using the underground railroad. Elijah Abel was baptized in September of 1832 by Ezekiel Roberts. He was ordained an Elder on March 3, 1836 in Kirtland, Ohio by Joseph Smith, and in 1839 he was made a member of the Nauvoo Seventies Quorum.
In 1847 Elijah Abel married Mary Ann Adams, another African-American. Their first son Moroni Abel was born in 1849, and their son Enoch and grandson Elijah, held the priesthood. Enoch Abel, was ordained an Elder on November 27, 1900 and Enoch’s son, Elijah, was ordained a Priest on July 5, 1934, and an Elder on September 29, 1935.
Elijah Abel served LDS church missions in New York, Ohio and Canada. He worked as a carpenter for the building of three LDS Temples, Kirtland, Nauvoo and Salt Lake. In 1853 Elijah Abel and his family journeyed to Utah with other Latter-day Saints. He and Mary Ann managed the Farnham Hotel in Utah.
Elijah Abel served his last mission for the LDS church in 1884, returned home and died on Christmas day, December 25, 1884. In 2002 a monument was erected in Salt Lake City at Elijah Abel’s grave site to memorialize him and his family. The monument was dedicated by LDS church leader Elder M. Russell Ballard. His obituary in the Deseret News, said Elijah Abel “died in full faith of the Gospel.”
It has strengthened our testimonies to learn the the history of the pioneers of our faith, especially those of African decent. On this day there are many stories to be shared, and this is the one that has touched us today. What do you remember about that day, or why is that day significant to you?
Oh Happy Day,
Sista Beehive & Sista Laurel