Elijah Abel (July 25, 1810December 25, 1884) was the first African-American Elder and Seventy during this dispensation.

Abel was born in Maryland as a slave, and is believed to have escaped slavery on the Underground Railroad into Canada. He was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in September 1832 by Ezekiel Roberts. Brother Abel married Mary Ann Adams.

Abel was ordained an elder on March 3, 1836 in Kirtland, Ohio by Zebedee Coltrin.[1] In December 1836, Brother Abel was ordained a seventy by Zebedee Coltrin and became a "duly licensed minister of the Gospel" for missionary work in Ohio. In 1839, Abel was made a member of a Nauvoo Seventies Quorum. While living in Nauvoo, Illinois, he worked as a mortician at the request of Joseph Smith. He was also a carpenter by profession and assisted in the construction of temples in Kirtland, Nauvoo, and Salt Lake City.

In 1841, when Smith was arrested in Quincy, Illinois, Abel was among a group of seven elders who set out from Nauvoo to try and rescue him, although by the time they reached Quincy, Smith had been taken back to Nauvoo.[2]

In 1843, Abel served a mission in New York.

In 1847, he accompanied Brigham Young to Utah Territory, 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.

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.[3]

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.[4]


  1. 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)
  2. History of the Church, 4:365.
  3. 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.
  4. Lynn Arave, "Monument in S.L. erected in honor of black pioneer", Deseret Morning News, 2002-09-29, p. B3.


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