We all know how this story ends: Cain rises up against Abel and does indeed slay him, becoming the first man to introduce murder for gain into the world, and in so doing he becomes Master Mahan, a son of Perdition and chief among devils, even over Satan himself.
But this is not what interests me. No, not the end, but the beginning... or at least the middle. The chapter continues:
The Biblical account of this tale is nearly identical; it is merely that in the book of Moses we have a bit more detail, not least of which is found in the chronology of occurrences. For as can be seen in the above verses, God gave this advice to Cain before the act, but after Cain had begun planning the act; after Cain had in fact begun speaking to Satan.
This strikes me as interesting. This was, after all, not the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had already been cast out and begun bearing offspring. And God no longer walked with man.
Let me say that last again. God no longer walked with man.
Why, then, was he walking with Cain, of all people? Why was he walking and talking - directly, it would seem from the scriptural accounts - with the man who would first murder and in so doing also introduce the secret combinations that would serve to further Satan's purposes throughout history?
The answer is, to me, both obvious (once thought of), and fascinating: Cain had not yet murdered. Not only that, but he was likely a chosen one of the Lord, and one of the great leaders of the Kingdom of God on the earth at that time. For with whom does the Lord walk and talk? Not with the sinners, that is certain: the only occasions when he has done so has been to successfully call them to repentance, as was the case with Alma the younger and, perhaps to a lesser extent, with Saul of Tarsus.
But that is not the kind of interaction occurring here. Here, in these verses (and in their counterparts in Genesis chapter 4), God is speaking to Cain as a friend warning another; as a loving Father who is counseling a son who has until now not only not been wicked, but likely been exceedingly good. After all, Moses 5:24 (above) states that Cain would be called "Perdition."
And who can be called "Perdition"? The scriptures make it clear that this is a title that is reserved not for those who have been wastrels or even evil from the beginning. Rather, it is a term used exclusively for those who have been shown the Son, who have known the truth of the Gospel, who have served with the Priesthood, and then have chosen to knowingly throw away their righteousness in favor of wickedness (see, e.g., Doctrine & Covenants 76: 31-43).
And so we are left with an image of Cain as... a Prophet? An Apostle, perhaps? Someone like Judas who knew the virtues of Christ and then sold his soul for mere worldly goods?
The reason this fascinates me is not only because it changes the image I think most of us have of Cain - that of someone intrinsically evil from the beginning of his life - to one that bears a much greater lesson than the very obvious surface teaching that one should not murder and if one does, great consequences shall follow.
Rather, it teaches that we must never allow Satan to get a foothold in our souls. We must never allows ourselves to entertain thoughts of evil, but must rid ourselves of them in the very moment that they come. Because though (I believe) most of us are "good" people, I also believe that, if we allow it, Satan could have his way with any one of us.
After all, he had his way with Cain.
And Cain, as we now know, must have been a man of great personal righteousness; a man so good he was allowed the singular privilege of talking with the Lord.
Surprisingly, then, I find myself saying that I am not even as strong as Cain once was. How much more, then, must I protect against sin, and shore up the defenses of my soul against evil. I can never "rest on my laurels." I must be ever vigilant. I must be ever wary of the evil one.
Because if Satan could corrupt someone as good as Cain... what might he do to me?