Of Curious Workmanship
by Edgar G. Snow, Jr.
The Literary Mark of Cain
[p.73] In a most unexpected place, one of the tastiest morsels of Mormon literature can be found in Spencer Kimball’s The Miracle of Forgiveness. When I say “unexpected” I mean not because of a lack of literary talent—his cup often overflowed in that regard—but merely because of the subject matter. Apostle Kimball’s contribution of Abraham Smoot’s recollection of David Patten’s reported meeting with Cain is, as he notes in a noncommittal aside, one of the more interesting stories of Mormonism. For those readers who were too busy memorizing the seven steps of repentance (something I should have done) to notice this story about Cain, here it is:
On the sad character Cain, an interesting story comes to us from Lycurgus A. Wilson’s book on the life of David W. Patten. From the book I quote an ex-[p.74]tract from a letter by Abraham O. Smoot giving his recollection of David Patten’s account of meeting “a very remarkable person” who had represented himself as being Cain.
As I was riding along the road on my mule I suddenly noticed a very strange personage walking beside me. … His head was about even with my shoulders as I sat in my saddle. He wore no clothing, but was covered with hair. … I asked him where he dwelt and he replied that he had no home, that he was a wanderer in the earth and traveled to and fro. He said he was a very miserable creature, that he had earnestly sought death during his sojourn upon the earth, but that he could not die, and his mission was to destroy the souls of men. About the time he expressed himself thus, I rebuked him. … and commanded him to go hence, and he immediately departed out of my sight (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 127-28).
Now before anyone suggests that Elder Patten, prior to strict Word of Wisdom adherence, eased the pains of his long missionary journey through Tennessee (see “David W. Patten,” in Jenson’s LDS Biographical Encyclopedia) with over-ripe grape by-products, let me suggest a bit of confirming evidence for his story. A Smoky Mountain park ranger convert in my home ward in Knoxville, Tennessee, Once told me of a similar episode that he personally experienced in the same state!
[p.75] One late evening, alone by his campfire, Jim, my acquaintance, said he heard something creeping through the leaves. With his hand on his Bowie knife, he listened intently to discern the location of his predator. Several intense minutes later, a personage appeared opposite the fire, emerging from the woods. This creature, standing about nine feet tall and covered with hair, stared at Jim for about fifteen minutes as Jim stared back, neither of them moving. Then this visitor from the forest turned around and left the campsite. Jim said to me: “I know bears. Seen bears. Weren’t a bear.” Now before anyone suggests that Jim, in the days prior to his conversion, eased his lonely park vigil with what medicinal hemp may have been at his disposal prior to his supposed encounter with this hairy character, let me say that you’re letting WAY too many hypothetical conclusions obscure the hard evidence. Cain is Bigfoot. I know it. Now you know it too.
Of course, one obstacle in the way of wide acceptance of this unavoidable fact is that, well, Cain may have died. Some rabbis claim that Cain was killed when Lamech went on a hunting trip. According to this MERE legend, Cain’s mark, rather than a tattoo or other identification, was actually a horn on his head, and Lamech shot Cain with an arrow one day, mistaking Cain for an animal (see Graves and Patai, The He-[p.76]brew Myths, pp. 91-97). But this story IS EASILY discounted since several characters in Israelite history never died and few, if any of them, ever had horns.
Another obstacle, of course, is the flood of Noah. And even though it would be an easy out, I’m not going to suggest that the Flood was less than universal. Inevitably some wiseguy will say, “So, did Cain tread water for forty days and nights?” Don’t laugh, it wouldn’t be impossible. Convenient for me, yes. Impossible for Cain, not necessarily. If properly trained, a person could probably do it. Anyway, how do we know forty days is supposed to be literal? In the ranking of symbolic numbers, “40” is up there with “3,” “7,” and “1,” you know.
Whenever I face a scriptural dilemma Hugh Nibley hasn’t written on, I find that if I pour over my own collection of Old and New Testament apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Einar Erickson tapes, extracts from the Mishnah, Tosephta, Talmud, the Nag Hammadi library, and other gnostic scriptures, ancient Mandean and Manichean texts, some selected discourses of Orson Pratt and Brigham Young, rabbinical writings, or the early church apologists and Fathers, I usually find something quoted not too much out of context that supports my position. Yes, in fact, there is a little known story possessing the resounding ring of [p.77] truth that solves our problem. You see, a giant in the days of Noah named Og survived the Flood by hanging from a rope ladder on the side of the ark. Noah fed him table scraps through a small porthole (see The Hebrew Myths, p. 112). So what problem should anyone have with Cain sitting on the bow? It makes perfect sense to me.
WAIT A MINUTE. … Maybe, just maybe. … Bigfoot is Og! I’ll have to do more research and get back to you on this one.