Photo of Elijah Abel
Third Quorum of the Seventy
1839 – December 25, 1884
Called by Joseph Smith
March 3, 1836 – December 25, 1884
Called by Joseph Smith
Born July 25, 1808
Died December 25, 1884 (aged 76)
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory
Resting place Salt Lake City Cemetery
Portal icon Biography portal Portal icon Latter Day Saints portal
Elijah Abel (July 25, 1808 – December 25, 1884) was the first African-American 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.
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.
Some sources state that Abel was ordained an elder by Joseph Smith, while other records indicate that he was ordained to the priesthood by Zebedee Coltrin. 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. 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, 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.