Abinadi and the People of Noah
When Abinadi first went forth among the Nephite colony in the Land of Nephi (I know that’s confusing, but stay with me), the people reacted… poorly. The scriptures tell us they were “wroth,” and Abinadi was forced to flee. He disappeared for two years.
Granted, his message wasn’t exactly a positive one. The people had descended into debauchery, and Abinadi was commanded to call them to repentance. He prophesied bondage, afflictions, smitings, and a slow redemption from these hardships following only the sincerest of repentance.
Hearing the words of Abinadi, Noah, the King over the colony, asked:
“Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him, or who is the Lord, that shall bring upon my people such great affliction? I command you to bring Abinadi hither, that I may slay him, for he has said these things that he might stir up my people to anger one with another, and to raise contentions among my people; therefore I will slay him.” (Mosiah 11:27-28, emphasis added)
Does that sound familiar, I wonder?
Noah, rebuffed by Abinadi’s candid condemnation of his and his people’s choices, first decried Abinadi’s “judgment,” then used the pretext of the “contention” Abinadi caused among his people to silence him permanently.
But pretext was all this was – Noah was less concerned about contention than he was about snuffing out a condemning voice.
This focus on harmony as the highest good continued two years later when Abinadi returned and repeated his prophecies (this time with a bit more fire, famine, and pestilence thrown in for good measure). In response, Noah’s priests, in little more than a show trial, questioned Abinadi on the words of Isaiah. They interrogated:
“What meaneth the words which are written… saying, ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation‘?” (see Mosiah 12:20-24, emphasis added).
Abinadi had come warning the people of the consequences of sin, particularly for a people who knew the truth. This message of bondage, death, and affliction contradicted Isaiah’s prophecy of peace and good tidings in the eyes of Noah’s priests, and they meant to use that apparent contradiction to accuse and silence him.
Abinidi was bully, devoid of the necessary love, empathy, and understanding that Isaiah’s God demanded, and for that he was put to death – not for heresy, as he was accused, but rather for “all the words which thou hast spoken evil concerning [Noah] and [Noah’s] people.” (Mosiah 17:8, emphasis added)
Is harmony and freedom from contention or disagreement really the highest good for which we should strive? Does it really supercede the unabashed preaching of the Savior’s gospel? Is all disharmony really so deserving of exile? (People are not put to death as casually today, but detractors are not shy about targeting the livelihood of those creating contention.)
Harmony is necessary, it is true, but it is not sufficient. The Lord called his people Zion “because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness” (Moses 7:18, emphasis added). We must absolutely have one heart and one mind, but that oneness is with the Savior, not only with each other.
People of one heart and one mind who dwell in righteousness – these are the children of Christ, whose sins he has borne, and “these are they who have published peace, who have brought good tidings of good, who have published salvation; and said unto Zion: Thy God reigneth! And how beautiful upon the mountains were their feet! And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that are still publishing peace! And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who shall hereafter publish peace, yea, from this time henceforth and forever!” (Mosiah 15:13-17, emphasis added).
Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice
On 17 September 2019, President Nelson spoke to BYU students on “the love and laws of God.” He highlighted five truths he felt inspired to share with the students (and, ultimately, with the rest of us).
His fourth truth was this – “The Lord Jesus Christ, whose Church this is, appoints prophets and Apostles to communicate His love and teach His laws.” President Nelson recognized teaching the gospel sometimes makes Church leaders unpopular. He stated:
“Sometimes we as leaders of the Church are criticized for holding firm to the laws of God, defending the Savior’s doctrine, and resisting the social pressures of our day. But our commission as ordained Apostles is ‘to go into all the world to preach (His) gospel unto every creature.’ That means we are commanded to teach truth.
“In doing so, sometimes we are accused of being uncaring as we teach the Father’s requirements for exaltation in the celestial kingdom. But wouldn’t it be far more uncaring for us not to tell the truth—not to teach what God has revealed?
“It is precisely because we do care deeply about all of God’s children that we proclaim His truth. We may not always tell people what they want to hear. Prophets are rarely popular. But we will always teach the truth!” (emphasis added)
The commission President Nelson mentions extends, in a smaller way, to each of us who have taken upon ourselves the name of Christ. We are ourselves to be witnesses.
As witnesses, should we refrain from being unkind? Of course. We all have room to improve and better emulate the Savior.
But the eternal truths of the gospel will always carry the potential to make us and those around us uncomfortable. We are natural men and women, in desperate need of daily repentance, regardless of where we may be on the covenant path.
Be patient with those who imperfectly strike the balance between boldness and overbearance. In many ways – including the most important ways – sharing the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the kindest and most caring thing we can do, for it is through the restored gospel we become the children of Christ, heirs of Zion, with beautiful feet upon the mountains.
- “Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship” -Elder Robert D. Hales, October 2008
- “Truth and the Plan” – Elder Dallin H. Oaks, October 2018
- “Stand Strong in Holy Places” -Elder Robert D. Hales, April 2013