Elijah Abel

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Elijah Abel
Photo of Elijah Abel
Third Quorum of the Seventy
1839 – December 25, 1884 (1884-12-25)
Called by Joseph Smith
March 3, 1836 (1836-03-03) – December 25, 1884 (1884-12-25)
Called by Joseph Smith
Personal details
Born (1808-07-25)July 25, 1808
Frederick, Maryland
Died December 25, 1884(1884-12-25) (aged 76)
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory
Resting place Salt Lake City Cemetery
40°46′37.92″N 111°51′28.8″W / 40.7772000°N 111.858000°W / 40.7772000; -111.858000

Elijah Abel (July 25, 1808 – December 25, 1884)[1] was the first black elder and seventy in the Latter Day Saint movement, and one of the few black members in the early history of the Latter Day Saint movement to receive the priesthood.[2]


Abel was born in Maryland as a slave, and is believed to have escaped slavery on the Underground Railroad into Upper Canada. He was baptized into the Church of Christ in September 1832 by Ezekiel Roberts, and he married Mary Ann Adams, another African American.

Although it has become popular to claim that Abel was ordained an elder by Joseph Smith,[3][4] documentary evidence in LDS Church archives demonstrates that he was ordained to the priesthood by Zebedee Coltrin.[5] In 1839, Abel was made a member of the Nauvoo Seventies Quorum. While living in Nauvoo, Illinois, he worked as a mortician at the request of Joseph Smith.

In 1841, when Smith was arrested in Quincy, Illinois, Abel was among a group of seven elders who set out from Nauvoo to try to rescue him, although by the time they reached Quincy, Smith had been taken back to Nauvoo.[6] In 1842 he was a carpenter in Cincinnati, working for John Price at the corner of 6th and Smith Streets, per the Cincinnati city directory. He remained in Cincinnati for a number of years.

In 1843, Abel served a mission in New York,[citation needed] but returned to Cincinnati, where he married Mary Ann Adams about 1847. Their first child, Moroni Abel was born there in 1849, and in 1850, per the 1850 Census of Cincinnati, they were boarding with Henry Nisonger and his family; Nisonger was an Apostle in the schismatic Williamite Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which recognized William Smith, the only surviving brother of Joseph Smith, as its prophet.

In 1853, Abel and his family migrated in the Appleton Harmon pioneer company to Utah Territory, the new headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where he managed a hotel.

In Utah, Abel remained a seventy, and in 1884 he served a final mission in Canada, during which he became ill. He died upon his return home to Utah Territory and was buried at Salt Lake City Cemetery.[7]


At least two of Abel's descendants — his son Enoch and Enoch's son Elijah — were ordained to the priesthood: Enoch was ordained an elder on November 27, 1900; and Elijah was ordained an elder on September 29, 1935.[8]

In 2002, a monument was erected in Salt Lake City over Abel's grave site to memorialize him, his wife and his descendants. The monument was dedicated by LDS Church Apostle M. Russell Ballard.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Grave Marker of Elijah Abel. [front] File:ElijahAbelGraveFront.jpg
  2. ^ Page 46 of The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith Bowman, Matthew (2012). Random House. ISBN 978-0-679-64491-0
  3. ^ Jackson, W. Kesler (2013). Elijah Abel: The Life and Times of a Black Priesthood Holder. Cedar Fort. p. 1833. ISBN 1462103561. --the ordination was performed by "Joseph the martyred propet" himself. 
  4. ^ "Gospel Topics: Race and the Priesthood", LDS.org (LDS Church), archived from the original on 2014-12-09 
  5. ^ Minutes of the Seventies Journal, Hazen Aldrich, entry for 20 December 1836. LDS Church Archives as cited by Alma Allred in, "The Traditions of Their Fathers, Myth versus Reality in LDS Scriptural Writings" in Newell G. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith (eds.) (2006), Black and Mormon (Urbana: University of Illinois Press)
  6. ^ History of the Church, 4:365.
  7. ^ "Cemeteries and Burials Database: Burial Information: ABLE, ELIJAH". Salt Lake City, Utah: Utah Division of State History. Retrieved 2014-04-08. 
  8. ^ Newell G. Bringhurst, "The 'Missouri Thesis' Revisisted: Early Mormonism, Slavery, and the Status of Black People" in Newell G. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith (eds.) (2006). Black and Mormon (Urbana: University of Illinois Press) pp. 13–33 at p. 30.
  9. ^ Lynn Arave (September 30, 2002). "Monument in S.L. erected in honor of black pioneer". Deseret Morning News. p. B3. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 


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