July 9th, 2006

A Curse, For Thy Sake

For some time I have been perplexed by God’s statement to Adam, when he said: “. . .cursed shall be the ground for thy sake” (Moses 4:23). While studying my scriptures this morning, I think I had a mini epiphany on the subject.

There are many other instances in the scriptures when the ground (or land) is cursed for somebody’s sake. Another such example is when Mormon is forbidden to preach to the wicked Nephites, when he said “. . .because of the hardness of their hearts the land was cursed for their sake” (Mormon 1:17).

So what does for thy sake actually mean? For the longest time, I had always thought that it meant, essentially, “because of what you did”. This would define the statement “for thy sake” as a punishment affixed to the transgression.

This would be supported by other scriptures, such as when Samuel the Lamanite tells the Nephites that the Lord “hath cursed the land because of your iniquity” (Helaman 13:30).

However, I think there is cause and effect. The cause of the curse is because of the people’s iniquity. The curse is brought about explicitly for this reason, as a direct consequence of their rebellious actions. However, there is also an effect of the curse, or an end-goal, if you will. That is what I think “for thy sake” entails. It is the reason why the curse is instituted, or the effect it will hopefully produce in the person subject to it.

An excellent example of this is demonstrated in Helaman, when the prophet Nephi, son of Helaman, petitions the Lord to curse the land. There had been wars going on, but Nephi asked the Lord, saying “but O Lord, rather let there be a famine in thet land, to stir them up in remembrance of the Lord their God, and perhaps they will repent and turn unto thee” (Helaman 11:4, emphasis added).

The famine, or “curse on the land” (i.e. no rain, no crops, etc.), was instituted with the purpose of stirring up the people in remembrance of God, in an effort to get them to repent. Once this successfully happened, and the people had humbled themselves (the object and design of such a curse), Nephi asked the Lord to “cause that this famine may cease in this land” (Helaman 11:11-12).

The land is cursed because of iniquity, but for our sakes. For our sakes means, I believe, for our eternal welfare. In other words, the curse is given so that we might be humbled, so that our pride might be abated, and so that we might remember the Lord and his inifite mercy and blessings shown us in times of prosperity. It is He upon whom we depend, and from whom we receive our daily bread.

This also brings up an interesting topic of the duality of a curse and a blessing both being given on the land. One such example is when Father Lehi in his dying blessing says, referring to this land upon which we live, “for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever” (2 Nephi 1:7). Another example of this is in Alma’s final father’s blessing (it’s interesting to note that a father’s dying blessing in the Book of Mormon usually mentions this duality) when he concludes, saying “for this is the cursing and the blessing of God upon the land” (Alma 45:16).

Unto those of us who are righteous, this land will be blessed, and we will in turn be blessed and prospered. But for those who are living in iniquity, it shall be cursed for their sakes, so that they might humble themselves, remember the Lord their God, and decide to live righteously, so that the curse might be lifted, and they might be blessed and prospered as well.

6 Responses to “A Curse, For Thy Sake”

  1. Omnipotent Doubt
    July 10, 2006 at 12:19 am #

    You can also read this as “a curse, for thy salvation”.

    As you stated, God has “cursed the land” in hopes that the action will result in the realization of fault and a resulting turned heart.

    It is not God’s nature to curse for the sake of cursing. What is the point of a punishment or sentencing if there can be no form of recourse or salvation?

    To do so would be a true abandonment of hope or faith, in this case of God in his children. Any God that would inflict a curse with no mean of retribution or repentance is no God of mine…

  2. Robert C.
    July 13, 2006 at 5:28 am #

    Great post Connor. I think you’re definitely on to something.

  3. Duwaine
    February 4, 2018 at 12:02 pm #


  4. Wil Heimuli
    March 3, 2020 at 10:46 am #

    Great analysis!

  5. Jeffrey Fong
    July 15, 2021 at 9:30 am #

    “Sake” here has the archaic meaning of “guilt” or “sin”. “Sake” meaning “quarrel”, “ground”, “reason” or “cause” developed out of this sense.

  6. Kyle Gibson
    December 10, 2021 at 6:11 am #

    Thank you!

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