About two thousand years before Jesus was born, there lived in the city of Ur a young man Abraham. Ur was a very wicked city, filled with people who no longer believed in God. They delighted in doing evil and worshipped idols made of wood and stone. These idols could not see or think or hear or feel yet the people prayed to them and expected the idols to answer their prayers. They even offered animals and people as sacrifices to these carved pieces of wood.
Abraham despised this wickedness. He was a good, honest man who loved God and prayed to him often. He yearned to hold the priesthood of God and to serve his Heavenly Father. He knew that by serving God—not idols—he would find life’s greatest happiness. So when the time was right, Abraham went to the high priest, Melchizedek, to be ordained to the priesthood.
The Lord loved Abraham because of his obedience and faithfulness and entrusted him with a sacred instrument called the Urim and Thummim. This instrument helped Abraham understand God’s purposes and teach the people about God. Abraham was also given the records of the Lord’s people; these records had been passed from one prophet to another since the days of Adam.
Abraham loved his family and friends and tried to teach them the truth. It saddened him to see them reject the gospel. He told them that unless they repented there would be a great famine; but they refused to hearken unto his warnings.
Abraham continued to call the people to repentance, but they became angry and plotted to take his life. Even Abraham’s father, Terah, joined in the cruel plan. They captured Abraham and dragged him to a great altar, which was used for sacrifices. A large crowd of people, who had been worshipping the huge stone idols, watched as Abraham was forcibly tied to the altar.
Abraham was frightened. He knew that the priests intended to kill him as a sacrifice to the pagan idols he hated so much. He fought and struggled, but was unable to free himself. In anguish he cried out to Heavenly Father that somehow he would be delivered from this terrible fate.
When the priest stood ready to thrust a knife into Abraham’s body, Abraham was filled with the Holy Ghost, and in a vision he saw God. An angel stood beside him and loosened the heavy bands that bound him to the altar. Abraham was free.
Then the wrath of God came upon the people. The idols and altar from which Abraham had been released were completely destroyed. The wicked priest was stricken and died. Through the power of God, Abraham had been protected and his life spared.
As Abraham had prophesied, God caused a famine to come upon the land so that the people suffered bitterly. Abraham hoped this suffering would help the people repent of their idol worshipping. Terah was sorely tormented and began to think of the things his son had tried to teach him. He realized how evil and wicked he had been, and he repented.
The famine grew worse, and Abraham’s brother, Haran, died. Haran had three grown children named Sarah, Milcah, and Lot. Sarah was a very beautiful woman who loved the Lord and kept his commandments. Abraham loved Sarah and knew that she was a special woman, so he chose her for his wife.
Abraham and Sarah had been married about thirty years but had been unable to have children. Sarah was becoming old and Abraham was worried. The Lord had told him that through his descendants the nations of the earth would be blessed, but without children he would have no descendants. Abraham prayed about these concerns, and the Lord promised him that he would someday have a son. Abraham did not know how this promise could be fulfilled. He knew it would take a miracle for Sarah to have a baby in her old age, but Abraham had faith.
Many more years passed. Abraham was about one hundred years old and Sarah ninety when the Lord told Abraham the exciting news: Sarah would soon give birth to a son, who should be named Isaac. Abraham was so happy that he bowed his face to the earth and humbly thanked the Lord.
When the baby was born, Sarah rejoiced. After forty years of waiting she finally had a baby; she knew that his birth was truly a great blessing of the Lord.
Abraham and Sarah loved and cared for Isaac. As he grew, they taught him about Heavenly Father and taught him how to pray. He was a fine boy, and Abraham and Sarah were very proud of him.
One day, when Isaac was a grown boy, Abraham received a revelation. The Lord said, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will show thee.”
Abraham was heartsick, and many questions ran through his mind. How could he offer his precious son as a burnt offering? Abraham hated the idea of human sacrifice. And how could he have descendants to bless the nations of the earth if Isaac were killed? Why would the Lord command him to do such a terrible thing, especially after he had waited so long to have a son? But because Abraham was a man of great faith, he prepared to obey the Lord’s command.
Abraham and Isaac arose early in the morning, saddled the donkey, and took two young servants with them. Carrying wood for the burnt offering, they set out for the land of Moriah. For three days they traveled. Abraham’s heart was heavy with sorrow; he loved Isaac so much. Why had he received this commandment?
Finally he could see Moriah in the distance. Abraham instructed the two servants, “Abide with the donkey, and Isaac and I will go yonder and worship.”
Abraham placed the bundle of wood to be used for the burnt offering on Isaac’s back, while he carried a knife and a flame to light the fire.
While they walked together toward Moriah to make their offering, Isaac realized that they had forgotten something and asked, “Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
With sadness Abraham answered, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.”
When they came to the place, Abraham built an altar and put the wood upon it. Then with feelings of despair he bound Isaac with strong bands and laid him across the altar. Isaac realized what this meant, but he trusted his father. He knew his father would only do what was right. Isaac was willing to have his life sacrificed if his father commanded.
Abraham’s heart ached, but with knife in hand he lifted his arm to kill his beloved son.
Just then the voice of an angel called unto him, saying, “Abraham, Abraham, lay not thine hand upon the lad; neither do thou anything unto him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son from me.”
Relief and gratitude filled Abraham. Abraham then knew that the Lord was testing his faith; because Abraham had been obedient, he had passed the test. He thanked the Lord. Then lifting up his eyes, he beheld a ram caught by his horns in a thicket. Abraham took the ram and offered it for a burnt offering instead of his son.
Again the angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven, saying, “Thus saith the Lord, because thou didst not withhold thy son, thou shalt be blessed. Thy descendants will be as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand on the seashore. And through all thy descendants shall the earth be blessed because thou hast obeyed my voice.”
Gratefully Abraham and Isaac joined the servants and returned to their home.