by Scott Heffernan:
As I was riding along the road on my mule I suddenly noticed a very strange personage walking beside me.... His head was about even with my shoulders as I sat in my saddle. He wore no clothing, but was covered with hair. His skin was very dark. I asked him where he dwelt and he replied that he had no home, that he was a wanderer in the earth and traveled to and fro. He said he was a very miserable creature, that he had earnestly sought death during his sojourn upon the earth, but that he could not die, and his mission was to destroy the souls of men. About the time he expressed himself thus, I rebuked him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by virtue of the Holy Priesthood, and commanded him to go hence, and he immediately departed out of my sight.... [Lycurgus A. Wilson, Life of David W. Patten [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1900], p. 50., quoted by Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 127-128.]I love this story. I don’t believe it’s true, but I still find it fascinating. I initially came across it as I read Spencer W. Kimball’s The Miracle of Forgiveness on my mission (not recommended). I’m not quite sure why President (then Elder) Kimball included it in his book. It doesn’t seem to serve much purpose other than to point that murderers exist, they are evil, and Cain was (or is) one of them. I like to imagine Elder Kimball recalling the story and thinking, “This is awesome! I’ve got to find a way to work it in.”
In the late 1970s and early 1980s there was a Bigfoot Craze. There were even some sightings of a dark, hairy creature in South Weber, Utah. It didn’t take long for some Mormons to link the Patten/Cain story with the nationwide and local Bigfoot sightings. Cain is Bigfoot. Bigfoot is Cain. There are even websites today dedicated to exploring this notion. For further reading on this and other Mormon folklore I recommend Matthew Bowman’s essay “A Mormon Bigfoot” included in Dimensions of Faith: A Mormon Studies Reader.
Personally I don’t believe Cain roams the earth as a Bigfoot-like creature, but I sure enjoy reflecting on this account and its place in past and present Mormon culture. I especially enjoy it during Halloween season.
(I have looked and looked for a visual depiction of this alleged occurrence, but have never been able to find one. I finally decided I just wanted to draw one myself.)
Scott Heffernan is an artist, designer, and photographer living in Seattle. He works on the creative team at Archie McPhee, doing all manner of strange things. He grew up a child of the 80s in Salt Lake City and loves skateboarding, toys, and thrifting. He served a mission in England/Wales and has a degree in American Sign Language from the University of Utah. He has one wife and two kids. Twitter: @ScottHeffernan. Tumblr: ScottHeff.tumblr.com.
Image credit: Scott Heffernan (used with permission).