Saturday, September 5, 2015

Unusual Men-Abinadi and Noah - Pt IV

Then came Abinadi, to stand fearless before an evil Nephite throng. This man, now in his old age, stood with complete trust in the Lord. As we have already mentioned, a king’s wicked aura infects his subjects and the people of the kingdom become offended by the Lord’s edicts, truth, and pointed remarks. Consumed by pride of the kingdom and angered by the lord’s boldness, the people seek to take the prophet’s life—in this case Abinadi.
This prophet holds a singular place in the Book of Mormon, being the first to die as a martyr, and his doctrinal teachings clarify the purpose of the law of Moses, identify the Redeemer, and declare facts about the doctrine of resurrection not previously mentioned in the book. He was capable of exquisite language sparked with fiery metaphor, yet was plainspoken to the point of bluntness.
    His ministry influenced the entire second half of Nephite history.
    And it came to pass that there was a man among them whose name was Abinadi; and he went forth among them, and began to prophesy, saying: Behold, thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me, saying, Go forth, and say unto this people, thus saith the Lord -- Wo be unto this people, for I have seen their abominations, and their wickedness, and their whoredoms; and except they repent I will visit them in mine anger” (Mosiah 11:20).
Abinadi stood in chains before king Noah and spoke the words the Spirit had put in his mouth—in the background, probably standing, is one of the king’s evil priests, a man named Alma
    Abinadi confronted the evil “establishment” of king Noah, his evil priests, and the Nephites single-handedly. We know of no other prophet that labored with him, and as far as we know, he converted only one man—Alma!
    It was this Alma who then became the progenitor of a posterity that kept the sacred records and served as the ecclesiastical leaders, and sometimes the political leaders for the remainder of the Nephite  history—a period of well over four hundred years.
    Abinadi arrives in the city of Nephi, delivers the Lord’s message, then quietly disappears and we hear nothing of him for two years, when he comes back to the city in disguise and again publicly preaches repentance. He tells them that since they have not repented, they would be “brought into bondage … and shall be slain; and the vultures of the air, and the dogs, yea, and the wild beasts, shall devour their flesh. … The life of king Noah shall be valued even as a garment in a hot furnace” (Mosiah 12:2-3).
Abinadi is taken by the people, bound, and brought before King Noah. His captors tell the king of Abinadi’s prophecies (Mosiah 12:9-12). Noah responds by ordering Abinadi to be cast into prison, then calls the priests together to decide what to do with him. The priests ask that Abinadi be brought before them, that they might find a charge on which to formally accuse him.
    In an interesting view into Abinadi’s nature and personality, as well as his ability to counter evil, he counters all the evil priest’s questions with hold answers, confounding them in all their words (Mosiah 12:19). Abinadi’s “defense” before the priests is not defensive. Rather, he becomes the questioner:
    “Are you priests, and pretend to teach this people, and to understand the spirit of prophesying, and yet desire to know of me what these things mean? …
    “What teach ye this people?
    “And they said: We teach the law of Moses.
    “And again he said unto them: If ye teach the law of Moses, why do ye not keep it? Why do ye set your hearts upon riches? Why do ye commit whoredoms and spend your strength with harlots, yea, and cause this people to commit sin? …
    “What know ye concerning the law of Moses? Doth salvation come by the law of Moses? What say ye?”
    They answer that salvation does come by the law of Moses.
    During this time, one of the priests, a man named Alma, listens intently to Abninadi’s testimony that was given with such fervor and energy, no doubt helped Alma have the strength to repent.
Abinadi was an energetic witness for the Lord and a fierce terror to evildoers. There is a significant lesson to be learned here. Had he not been so blunt, the people might not have thought he meant what he said; nor would they have thought that what he said was important. His testimony, given with fervor and energy, no doubt helped Alma have the strength to repent.
    Abinadi was exactly what the Lord needed. He was the right man for the right situation. As a result, his ministry not only influenced the second half of the Nephite history but has influenced millions in this dispensation who have read the Book of Mormon, and not doubt, will yet influence millions more.
    We also learn an important manner from prophets and kings in defeating tyranny and evil dominion, as seen when king Zeniff not only armed the young men, but also “old men that could bear arms” (Mosiah 10:9), and stood himself with his armies to fight off the attack.
King Noah, showed his cowardly nature by “commanding the people that they should flee before the Lamanites,” and instead of making sure all were safe in the retreat, Noah “himself did go before them” (Mosiah 19:9)
    While Zeniff sent the women and children into the wilderness to hide while the men fought to protect them, Noah, seeing that the Lamanites were overtaking his people, “commanded them that all the men should leave their wives and their children, and flee with him before the Lamanites” (Mosiah 19:11).
    It is to the credit of the Nephites that many of them “would not leave” their families, “but had rather stay and perish with them” (Mosiah 19:12). But to the shame of Noah and his priests and men, “the rest left their wives and their children and fled.”
    But the men who joined Noah in cowardly flight soon realized that their families and their honor were more important than their lives: “Now they [swore] in their hearts that they would return to the land of Nephi, and if their wives and their children were slain, and also those that had tarried with them, that they would seek revenge, and also perish with them” (Mosiah 19:19).
    These men might have found their courage, but Noah had not. Foolishly disregarding their resolve, he “commanded them that they should not return.” At last the people felt the disgust they should have felt long before. “They were angry with the king, and caused that he should suffer, even unto death by fire” (Mosiah 19:20).
    Noah learned, too late, that his power over his people lasted only as long as they were willing to follow him. When he commanded them to do something too contemptible for them to bear, they finally rebelled.
    But there was another side to the coin. By proving that Noah could not make them do something they did not want to do, the people also proved that their own wickedness was not entirely King Noah’s fault.

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