BMGD #18: Mosiah 12-17

April 30, 2012 | 5 comments
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CHAPTER 12

1 And it came to pass that *after the space of two years that Abinadi came among them in disguise, that they knew him not, and began to prophesy among them, saying: Thus has the Lord commanded me, saying—Abinadi, go and prophesy unto this my people, for they have hardened their hearts against my words; they have repented not of their evil doings; therefore, I will visit them in my anger, yea, in my fierce anger will I visit them in their iniquities and abominations.

This is THE funniest verse in the entire BoM and no one appreciates it–he goes to great lengths to hide his identity so he won’t get killed and then he blows his cover on the eighth word out of his mouth!  It’s hilarious!  And the best part is that he does it because he is so very committed to accurately relating God’s words to the people that he repeats his name.

Is the two years significant?  Why mention it?

In 11:29 that the eyes of the people were blinded–I am wondering if this might have some relationship to the fact that Abinadi can/does enter in disguise here.

Brant Gardner explains the blown disguise this way:  it was the people (11:29) who wanted to kill Abinadi, so he needs a disguise to get past them.  His real goal is the audience before Noah (and Alma).

The idea of a prophet in disguise is kind of interesting.  We can understand why it would have been necessary in this case, but it seems to put an usual burden on the audience to have a prophet in disguise, no?

In the Bible, “hearts” usually means “minds.”  What would it mean to harden your mind against the Lord’s words?  In what ways might we do that now?

“Visit” is a common OT word, with a much richer connotation than we usually give to it.

We are frequently told not to act from anger and to do what we can to dissipate our anger.  In this verse, the Lord is acting in his fierce anger.  What do you learn about anger from this?  In what ways might it be appropriate to have and act on anger in your own life (or does only the Lord get to do that)?

2 Yea, wo be unto this generation! And the Lord said unto me: Stretch forth thy hand and prophesy, saying: Thus saith the Lord, it shall come to pass that this generation, because of their iniquities, shall be brought into bondage, and shall be smitten on the cheek; yea, and shall be driven by men, and shall be slain; and the vultures of the air, and the dogs, yea, and the wild beasts, shall devour their flesh.

Is “this generation” just boilerplate, or is the idea of generations significant in some way?

Note that his first preaching mission was more repentance-focused, but this one is more focused on judgment.  We might then think a little more deeply about the “point” of his preaching if it is too late for repentance.  Reaching Alma is certainly part of it, speaking to modern audiences perhaps part of it.  It seems to me that one difficult piece of the puzzle to explain is the deep, rich doctrine (relation of Father and Son, prophecies of Jesus Christ, facets of resurrection) that Abinadi preaches to a crowd that has gone permanently around the bend.  Why would he do that?  How is that not ‘pearls before swine’?

One wonders how Mormon got his hands on a record of this speech–who would have preserved it?

Some modern translations of the Bible use “damn you” for “wo,” not in the casual modern cursing sense, but in the sense that the Lord really would damn someone.  What do you think “wo” means here?

Is the stretching forth of the hand symbolically significant?  (Note that Abinadi repeats very carefully the directions that he got from the Lord.)

It seems very obvious to say that our sins lead to spiritual bondage the way that in the Bible and BoM show sin leading to physical bondage.  Might there be something else going on here?  Do our sins lead to literal bondage in some ways?

One assumes that “smitten on the cheek” is in some way symbolic or representative.  What’s going on here?

3 And it shall come to pass that the life of king Noah shall be valued even as a garment in a hot furnace; for he shall know that I am the Lord.

The thing is:  in the ancient world, garments would have been expensive and highly valued.  You’d be really bummed if yours went into a furnace!  Of course, once it was in, it would be of no value.  But there are a lot of other metaphors that Abinadi (or the Lord) could have used to make the point of “worthless.”  So why this one–what does it accomplish?

I don’t care if he was a jerk, I don’t really like the idea of any human life being regarded as without value.

What is the relationship between the value of Noah’s life and his knowing or not knowing the Lord?

The focus on the value of Noah’s life seems out of place.  Why is that an issue here?

What is the link between the two phrases in this verse?

Hugh Nibley suggested that this statement is a curse and a riff on Isaiah 50:9-11 (which is also found in 2 Nephi).  If so, that’s interesting because of the context there:

4 The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. 5 The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. 6 I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. 7 For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. 8 He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. 9 Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up. 10 Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.  11 Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.

Note how well those verses fit what is happening in Abinadi’s life, and even perhaps allude (in this application, if not in Isaiah’s original intention) in v10 to Alma.  It is easy to see how Abinadi would have seen these verses applying to his life.  John A. Tvedtnes points out here that the parallel is not perfect because in Isaiah, the garment is consumed by the moth (v9) and not the fire (v11); he points out that under the law of Moses, a plagued garment was to be burned.  That also makes sense as a context here–that Abinadi is categorizing Noah as plagued, hence the burning.

4 And it shall come to pass that I will smite this my people with sore afflictions, yea, with famine and with pestilence; and I will cause that they shall howl all the day long.

It is very easy, I think, to focus on how mean the Lord is in this verse.  It is worthy remembering that the larger context is that, despite the terrible behavior of the people, the Lord warned them of what would happen and was, in that sense, merciful.

5 Yea, and I will cause that they shall have burdens lashed upon their backs; and they shall be driven before like a dumb ass.

Every deacon’s favorite verse!

Brant Gardner suggests that since the ancient Americas did not have beasts of burden, this is a “thought-for-thought” and not a “word-for-word” translation into English.  (This, of course, raises huge issues about the translation of the BoM.)

6 And it shall come to pass that I will send forth hail among them, and it shall smite them; and they shall also be smitten with the east wind; and insects shall pester their land also, and devour their grain.

Do you feel that natural disasters are evidence of God’s wrath?  Should you?  (If not, then why are things different now?)

7 And they shall be smitten with a great pestilence—and all this will I do because of their iniquities and abominations.

8 And it shall come to pass that except they repent I will utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth; yet they shall leave a record behind them, and I will preserve them for other nations which shall possess the land; yea, even this will I do that I may discover the abominations of this people to other nations. And many things did Abinadi prophesy against this people.

Previous chapters made a big deal of the fact that it was wicked priests and leaders that set the people on the wrong path.  In this chapter, by contrast, it looks like it is the responsibility of the people (not the leaders or priests in particular) to get things ship-shape.  I’m curious about this dynamic.

Do you think the dynamic described in this verse is what happened with the Jaredites and the Nephites?  If it is a pattern, what do we learn from the pattern about the Lord?  About societies?  Anything about individuals?

I would think that the “them” in “preserve them” refers to “a record,” but there is a singular/plural disagreement there.  If the “them” refers to the people-who-don’t-repent, then it is interesting that the people are preserved, not literally but through their records.

Thinking about the last sentence–why might the record be cut off here, so that we don’t get the record of the other things that Abinadi prophesied?

This verse reminds me of this.

Donald W. Parry identifies the following chiasmus:

A Abinadi, go and prophesy unto this my people, for they have hardened their hearts
against my words
B they have repented not of their evil doings; therefore,
A I will visit them
B in my anger,
B yea, in my fierce anger
A will I visit them
C in their iniquities and abominations.
2 D Yea, wo be unto this generation! And the Lord said unto me: Stretch forth thy
hand and prophesy saying: Thus saith the Lord, it shall come to pass that
this generation,
E because of their iniquities, shall be brought into bondage, and
shall be smitten on the cheek;
F yea, and shall be driven by men, and shall be slain; and the vultures of
the air, and the dogs, yea, and the wild beasts, shall devour their flesh.
3 And it shall come to pass that the life of king Noah shall be valued
even as a garment in a hot furnace; for he shall know that I am the Lord.
4 G And it shall come to pass that I will smite this my people with
sore afflictions, yea, with famine and with pestilence; and I
will cause that they shall howl all the day long.
5 H Yea, and I will cause that they shall have burdens lashed
upon their backs;
H and they shall be driven before like a dumb ass.
6 G And it shall come to pass that I will send forth hail among them,
and it shall smite them; and they shall also be smitten with the east wind;
and insects shall pester their land also,
F and devour their grain.
7 E And they shall be smitten with a great pestilence—
D and all this will I do
C because of their iniquities and abominations.
8 B And it shall come to pass that except they repent I will utterly destroy them from off
the face of the earth; yet they shall leave a record behind them, and I will preserve
them for other nations which shall possess the land; yea, even this will I do that I
may discover the abominations of this people to other nations.
A And many things did Abinadi prophesy against this people. Citation

What I find interesting about that structure is that it turns the focal point of the passage to the burdens.  Why might that be so significant?  (Is that because it is what Limhi & Co. are complaining about in the future, which we’ve already encountered in the text?)

9 And it came to pass that they were angry with him; and they took him and carried him bound before the king, and said unto the king: Behold, we have brought a man before thee who has prophesied evil concerning thy people, and saith that God will destroy them.

In v1, this speech was introduced as “prophesying.”  Why do you think that word was chosen?  What does it tell us about what we should expect from prophesying?

Does the reaction of anger surprise you?

Note that we recently had reference to the Lord’s anger.  What can you learn from comparing the Lord’s anger with the anger of the people?

Their complaint is so interesting:  it is very true that Abinadi has prophesied evil.  But in this case, it was the right thing to do.  This reminds me of Jana Riess’s tweet for Micah 3:  “If a prophet takes your $$ & says you’re amazing…fraud alert! Real prophets have mood disorders & lecture you for free.”

If we agree with Gardner that the only purpose of v1-9 was to get Abinadi an audience with Noah, then it might be interesting to review those verses, realizing that touching the hearts of the audience was never really an option.  How might you read those verses differently in that case?  (One thought I had is that Abinadi sounds something like John the Baptist in these verses, and so it might be interesting to speculate as to whether John’s mission was in any way similar.)

10 And he also prophesieth evil concerning thy life, and saith that thy life shall be as a garment in a furnace of fire.

What he actually said in v3 was, “the life of king Noah shall be valued even as a garment in a hot furnace.”  Is the difference significant?  (I’m wondering if there is a commentary on literalness here, made more interesting by Noah’s ultimate fate [see Mosiah 19:20].)

11 And again, he saith that thou shalt be as a stalk, even as a dry stalk of the field, which is run over by the beasts and trodden under foot.

Um, no.  He didn’t actually say that, at least not in the record we have.  So are we to assume that he said this but it wasn’t recorded  (which would be interesting and weird, because it would require us to use these tattlers as a source for a prophet’s words) or that he didn’t say it but they are making it up (also weird, given that you can’t really top v11–so what’s the point?)?

12 And again, he saith thou shalt be as the blossoms of a thistle, which, when it is fully ripe, if the wind bloweth, it is driven forth upon the face of the land. And he pretendeth the Lord hath spoken it. And he saith all this shall come upon thee except thou repent, and this because of thine iniquities.

Same as v11–did he really say this?

I like the “pretendeth” that the Lord has spoken it.  What should we learn from this?

Also note that they make personally applicable to Noah what Abinadi said of the people more generally.  Why might they do this?

13 And now, O king, what great evil hast thou done, or what great sins have thy people committed, that we should be condemned of God or judged of this man?

Such an interesting verse–clear irony in that their words are true.

I’m curious about the “or”:  is it suggesting that a king’s evil and a people’s sins are interchangeable?  Then we get another “or,” linking together being condemned of God and judged by Abinadi.

Note the subtle shift in making the judgment Abinadi’s and not the Lord’s.

14 And now, O king, behold, we are guiltless, and thou, O king, hast not sinned; therefore, this man has lied concerning you, and he has prophesied in vain.

15 And behold, we are strong, we shall not come into bondage, or be taken captive by our enemies; yea, and thou hast prospered in the land, and thou shalt also prosper.

Note the role they are assigning to their own strength.

What do you learn from this verse about the moral relevance of “prospering”?

16 Behold, here is the man, we deliver him into thy hands; thou mayest do with him as seemeth thee good.

Why are so many verses devoted to the (at least partially) false report of Abinadi’s speech?  What is the reader to learn from this?

I was struck as I reread these chapters at how orderly and law-abiding Noah’s society was:  notice that the mob doesn’t just kill him–they aren’t really a mob.  They turn him in to the proper authorities.  Later, Noah will consult with his priests (v17 and others).  I think there is a subtext of condemning a “we’re just following the laws–not my fault a prophet was killed” or “we must be good–we follow laws!” society in the Abinadi story.

Another thing:  note that the majority of the people seem happy to live under Noah’s rule.  When Abinadi says that Noah is toast, there’s no “yeah!  I never liked that guy anyway!”  Instead, the impulse of the crowd is to turn Abinadi in.  So perhaps another subtle critique is that a wicked person like Noah can be the kind of ruler that makes his people really content.

17 And it came to pass that king Noah caused that Abinadi should be cast into prison; and he commanded that the priests should gather themselves together that he might hold a council with them what he should do with him.

Does it surprise you to see Noah counseling with his priests?

Note that the end result of Abinadi faithfully fulfilling his assignment from the Lord is a prison sentence.

18 And it came to pass that they said unto the king: Bring him hither that we may question him; and the king commanded that he should be brought before them.

Do you have any sense as to why they would want to question him?  Do they not believe the people’s report?

Does it surprise you that, at least in this verse, the priests appear to be calling the shots for a king who acts like a puppet?

19 And they began to question him, that they might cross him, that thereby they might have wherewith to accuse him; but he answered them boldly, and withstood all their questions, yea, to their astonishment; for he did withstand them in all their questions, and did confound them in all their words.

Do you take from “that thereby they might have wherewith to accuse him” that they couldn’t accuse him based just on the word of the people?  (I’m wondering if maybe the point is to show that they were very diligently following parts of the law of Moses re witnesses here.)

What does “cross him” mean here?

I find it interesting that the priests’ response is to want an open airing of ideas so that Abinadi can be shot down in the court of public opinion (so to speak) as opposed to being shot down by a firing squad (so to speak) or condemned with a simple appeal to the authority of the priests or whatever.

Does “boldly” surprise you?  What does it mean here?  Given that the sentence with “boldly” in it begins with “but,” I suspect that “boldly” is presented as hampering the “crossing.”  I suspect that this is significant, but I don’t know what it means.

How might he have “withstood” their questions?  (It seems that he would have “succumbed” to their questions, inasmuch as he would have said that Noah and the people in general were very, very naughty.)

Do you read this verse as a summary of what will follow (and, in that case, what do we learn from this framing?) or as its own incident, in which case, why don’t we get any details about what happened (because it sure does sound interesting!)?

Webster 1828 confound:

1. To mingle and blend different things, so that their forms or natures cannot be distinguished; to mix in a mass or crowd, so that individuals cannot be distinguished.

2. To throw into disorder.

3. To mix or blend, so as to occasion a mistake of one thing for another.

4. To perplex; to disturb the apprehension by indistinctness of ideas or words.

5. To abash; to throw the mind into disorder; to cast down; to make ashamed.

6. To perplex with terror; to terrify; to dismay; to astonish; to throw into consternation; to stupify with amazement.

7. To destroy; to overthrow.

20 And it came to pass that one of them said unto him: What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying:

Why is the question-asker not named?

The passage quoted beginning in the next verse is Isaiah 52:7-10.

Ann Madsen has suggested that the reason they ask him about this particular passage is that they are trying to imply that prophets are supposed to offer shiny, happy messages–not all this gloom and doom that Abinadi has spoken.  In other words, I think most readers assume that the “what meaneth” is a genuine “we have no idea what Isaiah means, but think that you do.”  This seems unlikely; why would these priests think that Abinadi is better at interpreting Isaiah than they are?  Instead it seems more likely that the priests are somewhat snarkily saying “Isaiah said prophets are supposed to bring good news, so you are obviously a false prophet–what do you make of that?”  and hence “cross” him because he either needs to rescind his own gloomy message or take a position contrary to Isaiah’s.  In that case, I think there is a bigger message here about how you interpret the prophets.  There’s also an interesting critique of Noah’s priests for their false interpretations.  (And, really, crazy interpretations–you can’t get very far in Isaiah without getting doom and gloom.  If I ever gave a talk on prooftexting, I’d probably start with this incident as an example of What Not to Do.)  The wo that Abinadi delivers in v26 for perverting the way of the Lord suggests this.

21 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;

that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth;

Translation:  “We’re so dang happy to see the messenger come with good news!”

Irony alert:  these people just got a messenger, Abinadi.  On the surface, his message sounds terrible and dismal, but if they listen to it and repent, it is a message of good tidings, because it will save their sorry butts from destruction.

22 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice;

with the voice together shall they sing;

for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion;

Translation:  “When the watchmen see the Lord coming, they will shout for joy!”

Irony alert:  These priests should have been these watchman, but instead, they are working right now to accuse the watchman (perhaps this is why the word “prophesy” is used several times to describe what Abinadi said?) so they can kill him.

23 Break forth into joy;

sing together ye waste places of Jerusalem;

for the Lord hath comforted his people,

he hath redeemed Jerusalem;

Translation:  “Be happy, Jersualem!  The Lord will protect you!”

Irony:  Noah’s people will be destroyed, because they will not listen to the messenger.

24 The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations,

and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God?

Translation: “The Lord will show his power and everyone will know the score.”

Irony:  In v2, the Lord told Abinadi (and he made a point of telling us) about the outstretched arm.  Everyone should be able to see what is going on, but no one (except Alma, but we aren’t there yet) does.

I think we can conclude from this except that Zeniff and Co. took a copy of (at least part of) the brass plates with them.

This passage from Isaiah is very much a time when “all is well in Zion,” and the priests of Noah use it to suggest that Abinadi is wrong in thinking that they are in big trouble.  The real issue here (as it so often is in the BoM) is proper interpretation of the scriptures.  (And, a side point or two:  the scriptures do not interpret themselves, and the interpretation really, really matters.)  His wo for perverting the way of the Lord (v26) suggests this.

25 And now Abinadi said unto them: 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 justifies his snark?

In the OT, priests are responsible for the sacrifices of the temple system, but not really teaching per se.  Here, those roles seem more combined.

What does “the spirit of prophesying” have to do with anything?

We know that Jesus frequently had to deal with people trying to trip him up with unanswerable questions.  (Are there other scriptural examples of this?)  What might we learn from comparing Abinadi and Jesus?

Do you conclude from Abinadi’s words that real priests should all understand Isaiah?  ;)

I think he’s calling their bluff–the priests weren’t genuinely asking him if he could explain it, they were trying to trip him up since he wasn’t delivering shiny, happy prophecies.  But they asked “what meaneth” and so he responds to that actual question, perhaps hoping to embarrass them, or perhaps to avoid saying something like “those words from Isaiah don’t apply to your current situation.”  Instead, the walk-through the Ten Commandments that he is about to deliver will show them why the glad tidings don’t apply to their situation.

26 I say unto you, wo be unto you for perverting the ways of the Lord! For if ye understand these things ye have not taught them; therefore, ye have perverted the ways of the Lord.

It seems normal to ask a prophet to interpret another prophet; why does he condemn them?

Why does he say “if ye understand these things” when it seems pretty clear that they don’t?

What precisely are the things that they should have been teaching, in relation to the Isaiah quote?

27 Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise. Therefore, what teach ye this people?

In the Bible, “heart” usually means “mind.”

What would it look like to apply your heart to understanding?

Is Abinadi defining “wise” as someone who applies their heart/mind to understanding?  Is that a good definition?

You like how he turned the tables on them with his own question?

When we get to the Ten Commandments discussion, things seem really straight-forward.  Why would “thou shalt not kill” require you to apply your heart/mind to understanding?  Or, maybe a better context would be the Isaiah “beautiful feet” passage just discussed.  What would applying your heart/mind to understanding that passage actually look like?  What does this teach us about scripture interpretation?

28 And they said: We teach the law of Moses.

Such a fascinating answer!  It is orthodox and correct!  As Brant Gardner writes, “What they are attempting to do is place themselves as defenders of the law of Moses, and by contrast, Abinadi would have to be against the law of Moses, and therefore culpable.”  Citation

29 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, that the Lord has cause to send me to prophesy against this people, yea, even a great evil against this people?

Does Abinadi assume here that it is possible to keep the law of Moses, and does this contradict Paul?

Why is riches the first thing that he mentions?  How does that relate to “keeping the law of Moses,” which we tend to think of as being a list of rules, and not so much related to “what your heart is set on”?

What would it mean to set your heart/mind on riches?  How does this relate to applying your heart/mind to understanding in v27?

30 Know ye not that I speak the truth? Yea, ye know that I speak the truth; and you ought to tremble before God.

What purpose is accomplished by asking a question and then immediately answering it yourself?

31 And it shall come to pass that ye shall be smitten for your iniquities, for ye have said that ye teach the law of Moses. And what know ye concerning the law of Moses? Doth salvation come by the law of Moses? What say ye?

Does salvation come by the law of Moses?  (See v33.)

32 And they answered and said that salvation did come by the law of Moses.

Note that this interchange began with them attempting to set a trap for Abinadi, but here he has set one for them; they have to say that salvation comes by the law, because they haven’t been teaching anything else (i.e., about the coming Messiah).

33 But now Abinadi said unto them: I know if ye keep the commandments of God ye shall be saved; yea, if ye keep the commandments which the Lord delivered unto Moses in the mount of Sinai, saying:

So that is a “yes, salvation does come by the law of Moses”?  Is that what you expected?  (See also 13:27.)  How does this verse relate to v32?  (Brant Gardner suggests that what Abinadi is doing here is starting from common ground with them.)

34 I am the Lord thy God, who hath brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Is this a commandment?  (Notice the set-up in v33.)

35 Thou shalt have no other God before me.

Our version of the Ten Commandments in Exodus has “gods” instead of “God.”  Thoughts on how/why the change was made?

36 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing in heaven above, or things which are in the earth beneath.

37 Now Abinadi said unto them, Have ye done all this? I say unto you, Nay, ye have not. And have ye taught this people that they should do all these things? I say unto you, Nay, ye have not.

Were they actually practicing idolatry?  Had they created other gods?

I’m a little curious about the diction because v35 and v36 say “thou shalt not” but this verse says “have ye done all this?” when following the Ten Commandments should mean that they had not done anything.

CHAPTER 13

1 And now when the king had heard these words, he said unto his priests: Away with this fellow, and slay him; for what have we to do with him, for he is mad.

This seems like one of chapter divisions that would be best ignored since it breaks apart one scene.

Can you discern what set Noah off in 12:37 that didn’t set him off before that point?

“For what have we to do with him” is reminiscent of the language that the demons use to speak to Jesus.

What would madness have meant to Noah?  Do you think he genuinely believed Abinadi was mad, or is this just CYA?

Do you find it curious that it is the king who responds this way when it is the priests who have been slammed in the previous verse?  (I’m wondering if we might read this outburst from Noah as filling the stunned silence of the priests.)

2 And they stood forth and attempted to lay their hands on him; but he withstood them, and said unto them:

What do you make of a prophet fighting off priests?  (And, note, fighting off a legitimate legal authority.)

3 Touch me not, for God shall smite you if ye lay your hands upon me, for I have not delivered the message which the Lord sent me to deliver; neither have I told you that which ye requested that I should tell; therefore, God will not suffer that I shall be destroyed at this time.

What a great verse:  “I’ve got work to do–back off!”

Given that his fulfilling of his mission landed him in prison, how does he know that God won’t let him be destroyed at this point?

Does “destroyed” strike you as the right word here?

I suspect the “destroyed at this time” line means that he knows (through logic or through revelation) that he would in fact be destroyed by/for this mission.  So he’s pretty awesome (an anti-Jonah, if you will) for fulfilling the mission anyway.

4 But I must fulfil the commandments wherewith God has commanded me; and because I have told you the truth ye are angry with me. And again, because I have spoken the word of God ye have judged me that I am mad.

I’m feeling like there is a warning here in the dispensing of labels re mental illness, but perhaps that is a stretch.

5 Now it came to pass after Abinadi had spoken these words that the people of king Noah durst not lay their hands on him, for the Spirit of the Lord was upon him; and his face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses’ did while in the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord.

Is it significant that this verse refers to the people and not the priests?

Why does our author want us to think about Moses here?  What can we learn from comparing Abinadi and Moses?  How do their experiences differ?

What’s up with the shiny face?  Isn’t that precisely the kind of miracle that faith should have preceded (which clearly isn’t the case here)?  (Crazy idea:  I wonder if Alma, our presumed writer here, saw the shiny face but the rest of the people could not, and were just unable to touch Abinadi.)

“While speaking with the Lord” is interesting because it highlights the fact that Abinadi is not currently speaking to the Lord, but to someone who is opposed to the Lord.  What should you learn from this contrast?  (One message I like:  I think we sometimes act like you can only have a ‘spiritual experience’ if your environment is perfect, so I like how this shows that Abinadi can have that kind of experience in the presence of really bad people, because he is where the Lord called him to be.)

Elaine S. Dalton:

Can one righteous young woman change the world? The answer is a resounding “yes!” You have the Holy Ghost as your guide, and He “will show … you all things … [you] should do.” It is the daily consistent things you do that will strengthen you to be a leader and an example—daily prayer, daily scripture study, daily obedience, daily service to others. As you do these things, you will grow closer to the Savior and become more and more like Him. Like Moses and Abinadi and other faithful leaders, your face will glow with the fire of your faith.  Apr 06 GC

6 And he spake with power and authority from God; and he continued his words, saying:

Are “power” and “authority” two different things, or two ways of saying the same thing?

The cynic asks:  Was he not speaking with God’s power and authority before this point?

7 Ye see that ye have not power to slay me, therefore I finish my message. Yea, and I perceive that it cuts you to your hearts because I tell you the truth concerning your iniquities.

Is it true that they don’t have power–is that what v5 said?  Or that they didn’t choose to?

8 Yea, and my words fill you with wonder and amazement, and with anger.

I’m curious about the idea of a prophet knowing so much about the interior state of his listeners. . .

Brant Gardner:

In order to feel this pain, however, their hearts had to be capable of being touched by the spirit, otherwise they could not have recognized that they were personally in conflict with message Abinadi was delivering. This pain is the first step to an ability to repent, but it clearly does not guarantee repentance. Of all of the priests who were pierced by this awakening of the spirit, only one is known to have accepted the pain for what it was and repented. Citation

9 But I finish my message; and then it matters not whither I go, if it so be that I am saved.

What words would you use to describe Abinadi and what has to happen for someone to have those characteristics?

Does it bother you that Abinadi seems to value his life so very little?  Shouldn’t he care more?  (By comparison, Jesus asks for the cup to pass in Gethsemane.)

10 But this much I tell you, what you do with me, after this, shall be as a type and a shadow of things which are to come.

This is interesting . . . usually types and shadows are of Jesus.  This is more of a lived example of the Golden Rule in action.

11 And now I read unto you the remainder of the commandments of God, for I perceive that they are not written in your hearts; I perceive that ye have studied and taught iniquity the most part of your lives.

Was he “reading”?  Whose text?  Did he bring it, or was it in Noah’s court?  Why would he need to “read” the ten commandments–you’d think he’d know those, especially after the little lecture he just gave the priests for not understanding Isaiah.  Or does he mean “read” not in the sense of reading from a written source?

12 And now, ye remember that I said unto you: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of things which are in heaven above, or which are in the earth beneath, or which are in the water under the earth.

Note that Noah’s outburst is framed by references to this commandment.  Is this significant?  (Perhaps Noah has made his priests into idols?  Perhaps Noah and Co. are worshiping God as if God were a mere idol?  Something else?)

He would have said this all of a few minutes ago, so does the repetition surprise you?

13 And again: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me;

What does “jealous” mean in this context?  Should you be jealous?

Why is it right for the Lord to put the parents’ sins on the children?  (Why does it stop after the 4th generation?)  Note that in recent BoM history, a decent guy (Zeniff) had an awful kid (Noah) who had a decent kid (Limhi).  How does that square with what is being described in this verse?

14 And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

What does this verse suggest about the relationship between loving God and keeping his commandments?

Why is mercy the appropriate result for loving God and keeping his commandments?

Russell M. Nelson:

Scriptures recorded in all dispensations teach that we show our love of God as we hearken to His commandments and obey them. These actions are closely connected. Apr 91 GC

15 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Aside from the random casual curse, how might we be tempted to take the name of the Lord in vain?

16 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

17 Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work;

18 But the seventh day, the sabbath of the Lord thy God, thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates;

19 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Note that the “reason” given for the sabbath observance is because the Lord observed a sabbath after the creation.

20 Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Henry B. Eyring:

It is the only one of the Ten Commandments with a promise. Oct 09 GC

21 Thou shalt not kill.

Irony alert!  (Although the law of Moses does allow for–in fact, require–killing false prophets.)

22 Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal.

23 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

24 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.

Why does he recite the Ten Commandments instead of answering the question they asked?

I’m sorry, but this seems sort of . . . pedantic.  They might not have been doing a very good job in keeping the ten commandments, but surely they knew them!  Abinadi comes off as sort of . . . weird . . . to recite them, especially when the set up is, “What does this passage from Isaiah mean?”  What do you think is going on here?

25 And it came to pass that after Abinadi had made an end of these sayings that he said unto them: Have ye taught this people that they should observe to do all these things for to keep these commandments?

The 1830 BoM has a chapter break here.

Here’s what I find interesting:  if someone says “law of Moses,” I think most Mormons think:  “a bunch of picky rules that were supposed to point them to Christ but didn’t.”  But here, in a conversation about “the law of Moses,” Abinadi first discusses the Ten Commandments.  So:  If you think of the Ten Comm as central to the law of Moses (which on the one hand is obvious but on the other hand, I don’t think people really think of it that way), how does it shape your thinking about “the law of Moses”?

26 I say unto you, Nay; for if ye had, the Lord would not have caused me to come forth and to prophesy evil concerning this people.

How do you interpret what is going on in v25 if Abinadi answers his own question here?

Note the central role that the ten commandments play here.

It might be useful to review the description of Noah’s wickedness now that we know that Abinadi said that if they had just kept the Ten Comm, he wouldn’t have had to visit them.  (Is it true that all of the things they were doing wrong were violations of the Ten Comm?)

I find the idea of “prophesying evil” very interesting . . .

27 And now ye have said that salvation cometh by the law of Moses. I say unto you that it is expedient that ye should keep the law of Moses as yet; but I say unto you, that the time shall come when it shall no more be expedient to keep the law of Moses.

Webster 1828 expedient:

1. Literally, hastening; urging forward. Hence, tending to promote the object proposed; fit or suitable for the purpose; proper under the circumstances.

2. Useful; profitable.

3. Quick; expeditious.

Really basic issue, but does it seem weird to you that the Lord would give different rules to people at different times?  What does this teach us about the Lord?

Can you determine how/why Abinadi shifts from the ten commandments specifically to the law of Moses more generally here?

Given that Abinadi has just taken the Ten Comm as the centerpiece of the Law of Moses, would it be fair to say that he is here saying that the time would come when the people would no longer need to follow the Ten Comm?  Is this right?

28 And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses.

Was Abinadi reasonable to think that this audience would understand what “atonement” means here?

What do you make of the “God himself” language here?

Are “sins” and “iniquities” two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?

Brant Gardner:

When we understand that Abinadi is speaking of the Messiah, and referring to the Messiah in terms of “God himself” atoning for man, we can see Abinadi setting up a situation in which the priests of Noah are teaching a false god because they are denying the Messianic role of that God. Thus Abinadi is very purposefully exposing the priests of Noah as having another god before the true God, the God-who-will-be-Messiah. Citation

29 And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were a stiffnecked people, quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God;

If a stiff-necked people require a strict law, what would a humble, celestial people require?

Is the gospel less “strict” than the law of Moses?

I’m curious about “quick” and “slow.”  Why those words?  Does it suggest something about what is “natural”?  Does it suggest that we need to slow down, so that we aren’t following our “quick” reaction?

30 Therefore there was a law given them, yea, a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him.

What are “performances,” exactly, if they are not ordinances?  Are there “performances” for the gospel?

Why “from day to day”?  Does that mean “daily”?  Is the gospel any different–is it not “day to day”?

Duty is an interesting word–

31 But behold, I say unto you, that all these things were types of things to come.

What were the performances of the law of Moses, and of what were they types of?

What were the ordinances of the law of Moses, and of what were they types of?

Do you find it odd that something could be “strict” but still be a “type”?

What does this verse suggest to you about how you should read the Old Testament?

32 And now, did they understand the law? I say unto you, Nay, they did not all understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God.

A cynic would say that if they did not understand the law, then the Lord must have been doing something wrong.  How would you respond to that argument?

Why would being hard-hearted (or hard-minded) make it impossible to understand the law?  In what ways might we be hard-hearted, and therefore not be able to understand things?

The two negative in the end of the sentence are confusing me.  Does this sentence mean that they thought people could be saved without redemption?

What does redemption mean in this verse?

33 For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?

(Do we have anything Moses said about the Messiah?)

I’m sorry, but I just love “more or less.”

Why would Abinadi mention Moses instead of Isaiah, when Isaiah is the one he quotes and Isaiah speaks more specifically about the Messiah than Moses does (at least in the records that we have)?

34 Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?

Do you take it as literally true or as hyperbole that all prophets (more or less) taught this?  (If they did, it suggests that almost all of them either didn’t write it down or at some point it didn’t make it into the canon, because we actually have messianic prophesies from very few prophets.)

“Mighty power” is interesting because we usually think of the incarnation as showing Jesus taking on a powerless state.

35 Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted?

CHAPTER 14

1 Yea, even doth not Isaiah say:

Who hath believed our report,

and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

There is no chapter break in the 1830 BoM and the one now here is most unfortunate if it obscures the fact that the Isaiah quotation here is meant as Exhibit A for the argument that Abinadi was making in 14:34-35, which is that the prophets testified of the Messiah who would come.  (I have to say:  Abinadi’s use of Isaiah is super-straightforward compared to Jacob or Nephi.  It is patently obvious why and how Abinadi is using this Isaiah quotation.  Whew.)

This is a very interesting verse because the parallel could be read to construe that if you believe Isaiah’s report, then the arm (a symbol for power) of the Lord will be revealed to you.

This is nicely ironic, since no one (except Alma!) will believe what Abinadi is saying here.

2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,

and as a root out of dry ground;

he hath no form nor comeliness;

and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him.

Jim F.:  “Why does Isaiah compare Christ to a newly sprouted plant? To a plant sprouted from dry ground? What things might the dry ground indicate? Why does Isaiah say that Christ isn’t someone we will find attractive? Notice that it isn’t the world who won’t find him attractive, it is we who will not.”

What does this verse teach you about beauty?

3 He is despised and rejected of men;

a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;

and we hid as it were our faces from him;

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

The word translated “grief” in this and the next verse can also be translated “disease.” Why is it important for us to know that Jesus was despised and rejected, that he felt sorrow and was acquainted with grief or disease?

Sometimes we try to answer the question, “Why is there suffering?” and we rarely come up with very satisfying answers. Notice, however, that the scriptures don’t even ask the question. Instead, as here, they point to Christ, showing that he too suffered, seeming to suggest that if he did we should expect to.  How do we square such an approach with our desire to account for suffering?

Note that if you are being Christ-like, you would be like the description in this verse.

I’m wondering if a secondary purpose of this quotation might be to draw a contrast between the Messiah and the character of Noah’s court, which would have been very appealing to the sense.

Why do “we” hide our faces from Christ?

Joseph B. Wirthlin:

May I extend a word of caution? There are those who feel that if we follow the Savior, our lives will be free from worry, pain, and fear. This is not so! The Savior Himself was described as a man of sorrows. Apr 02 GC

4 Surely he has borne our griefs,

and carried our sorrows;

yet we did esteem him stricken,

smitten of God, and afflicted.

This is a very interesting verse:  it says that we assume that people think/thought that Christ was being punished by God.

Again, Noah’s court assumed that their wealth and political stability meant that “all was well,” so we might see a contrast here.

5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,

he was bruised for our iniquities;

the chastisement of our peace was upon him;

and with his stripes we are healed.

6 All we, like sheep, have gone astray;

we have turned every one to his own way;

and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all.

In verse 6 we were compared to sheep. In verse 7, he is. But our comparison was negative and this one is positive. What might the use of sheep in both comparisons indicate?

7 He was oppressed,

and he was afflicted,

yet he opened not his mouth;

he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,

and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb

so he opened not his mouth.

Interesting irony that Abinadi is very much opening his mouth here . . .

I suspect that Abinadi knew that his mission would end with his martyrdom.  If so, these words may have been particularly poignant to him, as he imagined himself in the same position.  (This would also apply to the next few verses.)

8 He was taken from prison and from judgment;

and who shall declare his generation?

For he was cut off out of the land of the living;

for the transgressions of my people was he stricken.

9 And he made his grave with the wicked,

and with the rich in his death;

because he had done no evil,

neither was any deceit in his mouth.

One wonders if Abinadi would have seen his own life in this passage, as a type of Christ or as a (very literal) follower of Christ.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him;

he hath put him to grief;

when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed,

he shall prolong his days,

and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

11 He shall see the travail of his soul,

and shall be satisfied;

by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;

for he shall bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great,

and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;

because he hath poured out his soul unto death;

and he was numbered with the transgressors;

and he bore the sins of many,

and made intercession for the transgressors.

Did Abinadi have this text in front of him or did he have it memorized?

Neal A. Maxwell:

Redeeming Jesus also “poured out his soul unto death.” As we on occasion “pour” out our souls in personal pleadings, we are thus emptied, making room for more joy! Apr 01 GC

CHAPTER 15

1 And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.

Does it surprise you that Abinadi is trying to teach such core doctrine to such wicked people?  Does Abinadi really think that they would/could understand this?  Why would he feel the need to preach this to them?  (Shouldn’t he have picked maybe “no more harlots” for his theme?)

Again we get the “God himself” language.

Brant Gardner points out that this verse, along with Mosiah 13:34-35 (“Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth? Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted?”) bracket the quotation of Isaiah 53.  Oh, would that all Isaiah quotations were so transparently explained!  (More seriously, one gets the sinking feeling that the only way you get this “Isaiah for Dummies” type of explanation is . . . by being wicked enough to need it.)

I’m wondering if it is so easy to get caught up in the “God himself” language as a stumbling block that we might miss the larger message here:  that God (however defined) is so concerned about us that direct, personal, physical, painful action is warranted to save us from the fall.

2 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—

I think this verse (and those that follow) sounds 100% compatible with classic Trinitarian doctrine and 100% incompatible with modern LDS understanding.  We see the Son and the Father as fundamentally separate, not separate just because the Son is “dwelling in the flesh.”  We do not see anyone as being “the Father and the Son.”  (I am familiar with the adoptionist theology and some other apologetic readings of these verses that some LDS subscribe too; it seems too convenient and reverse-engineered to me.)

I’m curious about “subjected the flesh to the will of the Father.”  First, does it surprise you that the will of the Son and the will of the Father would not necessarily be the same (see also v7)?  What should we learn from this?  Second, why the emphasis on “the flesh”?

3 The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—

I think this verse is suggesting that the Son is the Father because he was conceived by the power of God.  In what sense might this be true?

Joseph Fielding Smith:

What is a father? One who begets or gives life. What did our Savior do? He begot us, or gave us life from death, as clearly set forth by Jacob, the brother of Nephi. If it had not been for the death of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the spirit and body would never have been united again. Death would have been inevitable and, as Jacob states . . . if there had been no redemption from death our spirits would have been taken captive by Satan, and we would have become subject to Satan’s will forever. What did our Savior do? He begot us in that sense. He became a father to us because he gave us immortality or eternal life through his death and sacrifice upon the cross. I think we have a perfect right to speak of him as Father. Oct 62 GC

4 And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.

Can you discern what relation v1-4 has to the Isaiah quotation that comes right before it?

Here‘s a First Presidency statement on the Father and the Son.

I really don’t like to get into these christological debates, but one wonders if Abinadi’s emphasis on the unity of the Father and the Son (“God himself” said twice) is related to the outburst in 12:37-13:1, with the point being that Noah’s priests were somehow very involved in separating the Messiah from God.  (Although this, nor any other really theological item, is included in the laundry list of sins in Mosiah 11.  Sidenote on that:  one looks at that list and thinks that what these people need is a lecture on social justice and the gospel.  But what they get is doctrine about the relationship of the Father and the Son.  I’m not sure what to make of that.)

5 And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.

Can you determine why Christ’s flesh is the subject that Abinadi focuses on here?  Remember that the setting is that he is being entrapped by Noah’s priests, they have asked about the “beautiful feet” quote, and Abinadi has answered with the Ten Commandments and Isaiah 53.  How does this all relate?

This verse (and the ones before it) seem to want to emphasize the flesh=Son and Spirit=Father angle.

What is the subject for “suffereth” and “yieldeth”?

Neal A. Maxwell:

Enduring temptation is one of the greatest challenges. Jesus endured temptation but yielded not. (See Mosiah 15:5.) Christ withstood because He gave “no heed” to temptations. (D&C 20:22.) You and I tend to dally over and dabble in temptations, entertaining them for a while, even if we later evict them. However, to give temptations any heed can set the stage for later succumbing. Apr 90 GC

D. Todd Christofferson:

Jesus was also a being of flesh and spirit, but He yielded not to temptation (see Mosiah 15:5). We can turn to Him as we seek unity and peace within, because He understands. He understands the struggle, and He also understands how to win the struggle. As Paul said, “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Oct 02 GC

6 And after all this, after working many mighty miracles among the children of men, he shall be led, yea, even as Isaiah said, as a sheep before the shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.

7 Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.

Modern (Christian) readers usually read Isaiah 53 as being primarily about Jesus Christ and his suffering.  (Jews usually read it as being about Israel corporately.) Abinadi is at least as interested in what it says about the relationship of the Father and the Son.  What to make of this?

For all that the surface reading of Abinadi’s words would suggest that he appears to think the Father and the Son are the same person, this verse (with the suggestion that the will of the Son was not the same as the will of the Father) would suggest that he thought there were two separate beings.

Once again, I think we might miss some of what Abinadi is teaching because we are so busy apologizing for the fact that he uses some terms differently than we usually do, but there is a fascinating bit here about, if I can combine two phrases, the will of the spirit swallowing up the will of the flesh.  This of all things could and should be most relevant to our lives.

I’m curious about the flesh:son::spirit:Father thing set up here.

8 And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—

9 Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.

Skousen reads “having taken” here.

I feel like the semi colon after mercy shouldn’t be there.

What does the image of Christ standing between you and (anthropomorphized?) justice suggest?

What does the image of death having bands suggest to you?

10 And now I say unto you, who shall declare his generation? Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed. And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed?

Interesting that the first question is straight out of the Isaiah passage that he just quoted but the second and third are his own creation.

11 Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God.

12 For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed?

Does this verse imply that Christ did not die for those who are not faithful (per v11)?

What is accomplished by describing the faithful as Christ’s children?  (See maybe Mark 15:34 for an example of a child of Christ.)

It seems pretty clear that what Abinadi is doing here is saying that Christ’s seed is the faithful saints.  If that is the case, could you read this passage as a larger commentary on the (lack of) importance of biological relationships, a theme most at home in the OT and the NT but one, obviously, at some odds with modern LDS thought?

13 Yea, and are not the prophets, every one that has opened his mouth to prophesy, that has not fallen into transgression, I mean all the holy prophets ever since the world began? I say unto you that they are his seed.

Interesting that this verse implies that some prophets have fallen into transgression.

What is the verb in the question in this verse?  (I think it is implied that the faithful prophets are Christ’s seed, but it doesn’t actually say that.)

If you read v11-12, I think you would assume that all the prophets would be included.  What does Abinadi accomplish by mentioning them separately here?

14 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!

“Published peace” is a very interesting phrase, when most prophets have actually sown contention, including Abinadi himself!

15 And O how beautiful upon the mountains were their feet!

I like how Abinadi kind of sneaks up on answering their question.  At this point, we need to ask:  Why did he lead in with the Ten Commandments and Isaiah 53 before getting to what they asked him?  And, why does he chastise them for asking before he answers the question?

So note that what he is saying is that those who believe Christ are his seed, and those are the same people who publish peace and have pretty feet.  How, then, would this address the original use of this passage by Noah’s priests which, I think, was to entrap Abinadi since Abinadi was preaching doom and gloom and not happy stuff?

Why is pretty feet on the mountain a good metaphor for prophets teaching about Jesus?

16 And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that are still publishing peace!

Is this a less-than-perfectly-humble moment for Abinadi?

17 And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who shall hereafter publish peace, yea, from this time henceforth and forever!

18 And behold, I say unto you, this is not all. For O how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that is the founder of peace, yea, even the Lord, who has redeemed his people; yea, him who has granted salvation unto his people;

Note the big point here:  Noah’s priests thought that the “good news” prophets should be bringing is “all is well in Zion,” but Abinadi teaches that the good news prophets should be bringing is about the Messiah.  And sometimes, if you are really wicked, that good news about the Messiah is actually going to sound pretty bad.

19 For were it not for the redemption which he hath made for his people, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, I say unto you, were it not for this, all mankind must have perished.

20 But behold, the bands of death shall be broken, and the Son reigneth, and hath power over the dead; therefore, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead.

21 And there cometh a resurrection, even a first resurrection; yea, even a resurrection of those that have been, and who are, and who shall be, even until the resurrection of Christ—for so shall he be called.

22 And now, the resurrection of all the prophets, and all those that have believed in their words, or all those that have kept the commandments of God, shall come forth in the first resurrection; therefore, they are the first resurrection.

Donald W. Parry identifies the following chiasmus:

20 A But behold, the bands of death
B shall be broken,
C and the Son reigneth,
D and hath power over the dead;
E therefore, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead.
21 F And there cometh a resurrection,
G even a first resurrection;
H yea, even a resurrection of those that have been, and who
are, and who shall be,
I even until the resurrection
J of Christ—
J for so shall he be called.
22 I And now, the resurrection
H of all the prophets, and all those that have believed in their
words, or all those that have kept the commandments of God,
G shall come forth in the first resurrection;
F therefore, they are the first resurrection.
23 E They are raised to dwell with God who has redeemed them;
D thus they have eternal life
C through Christ,
B who has broken
A the bands of death. Citation

I like how that structure puts the emphasis of the passage on Christ.

23 They are raised to dwell with God who has redeemed them; thus they have eternal life through Christ, who has broken the bands of death.

Does it surprise you that there is no discussion of necessary ordinances here?

24 And these are those who have part in the first resurrection; and these are they that have died before Christ came, in their ignorance, not having salvation declared unto them. And thus the Lord bringeth about the restoration of these; and they have a part in the first resurrection, or have eternal life, being redeemed by the Lord.

Skousen reads “and there are those who have part” here.

Wait–why “in their ignorance” is all the prophets had taught of Christ?

Robert J. Matthews:

An interesting note is that in speaking of the righteous who have the gospel and obey it in mortal life, Abinadi says, “They are the first resurrection” (Mosiah 15:22; emphasis added). Whereas, in speaking of those who did not have the gospel and who died in an ignorance not of their own making, he says, “They have a part in the first resurrection” (Mosiah 15:24; emphasis added). There is a distinction in the diction used here, but I am not certain what we can make of it. Citation

25 And little children also have eternal life.

26 But behold, and fear, and tremble before God, for ye ought to tremble; for the Lord redeemeth none such that rebel against him and die in their sins; yea, even all those that have perished in their sins ever since the world began, that have wilfully rebelled against God, that have known the commandments of God, and would not keep them; these are they that have no part in the first resurrection.

Is this verse teaching that post-mortal repentance is impossible?

27 Therefore ought ye not to tremble? For salvation cometh to none such; for the Lord hath redeemed none such; yea, neither can the Lord redeem such; for he cannot deny himself; for he cannot deny justice when it has its claim.

Does this verse parallel or conflate “the Lord” and “justice”?

28 And now I say unto you that the time shall come that the salvation of the Lord shall be declared to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.

29 Yea, Lord, thy watchmen shall lift up their voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.

Does it surprise you at this point that Abinadi shifts to addressing the Lord?

Interesting that “voice” is singular here.  Is that related to the watchmen seeing “eye to eye”?  If so, does that imply that the watchmen do not see eye to eye now?

30 Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.

What do you make of the fact that the last verse had the watchmen singing together but this verse has the waste places singing together?

Given that Abinadi just made a big point of saying that the unpenitent can’t be redeemed, who or what is the redeemed Jrsm in this verse?  (How do you know?)

31 The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

In the Bible, the arm is usually a symbol for strength.

CHAPTER 16

1 And now, it came to pass that after Abinadi had spoken these words he stretched forth his hand and said: The time shall come when all shall see the salvation of the Lord; when every nation, kindred, tongue, and people shall see eye to eye and shall confess before God that his judgments are just.

Is there a relationship between the Lord’s arm in 15:31 and Abinadi’s hand here?

There wasn’t originally a chapter break here, and the one here now obscures the fact that Abinadi just quoted Isaiah saying that the ends of the earth would see salvation, and this verse continues on that very same theme by describing what exactly they will see.

2 And then shall the wicked be cast out, and they shall have cause to howl, and weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth; and this because they would not hearken unto the voice of the Lord; therefore the Lord redeemeth them not.

3 For they are carnal and devilish, and the devil has power over them; yea, even that old serpent that did beguile our first parents, which was the cause of their fall; which was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good, subjecting themselves to the devil.

Interesting that they are described as “carnal” when the last chapter was so focused on the flesh . . .

Why is the serpent a good symbol for the devil?  (There are lots of interesting theories on this, such as the fact that the serpent is nothing more or less than a digestive tract means that it is all appetites.)

Does this verse suggest that Adam was also “beguiled”?  (Or that they were a unit?)

Is it significant that, contra the usual practice, evil is mentioned before good here?

Is the fall the same as becoming carnal, etc.?

Why is sensual added to the carnal and devilish list?

I’m curious about “subjecting themselves to the devil.”  Did they do this when they ate of the fruit?

Can you determine why Abinadi begins to discuss the fall at this point?

The verse begins by describing those who are not redeemed as carnal and devilish and ends by describing all mankind as carnal, sensual, and devilish.  The next verse points out the connection more specifically, and v5 really pounds it home.  This is a strong message that the “default setting” of fallen humanity is unredeemed.

4 Thus all mankind were lost; and behold, they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state.

Think about the word “lost.”  What does it mean here?  In what sense have they been “found”?

5 But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him. Therefore he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God; and also is the devil an enemy to God.

Are sin and rebellion two separate things or two ways of saying the same thing?

If you don’t go on in sin, are you no longer in a fallen state?

Does the devil literally have all power over fallen people, or is this hyperbole?

Is enemy the right word here?  (Is there no neutral?)

6 And now if Christ had not come into the world, speaking of things to come as though they had already come, there could have been no redemption.

Why is he speaking of things to come as if they had already come?  (Should we do this?)

7 And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection.

Skousen omits the “have” before broken.

The phrase “bands of death” is used multiple times in this speech.  What does it suggest?

Isn’t it fair to say that death still has a sting?  (I think v8 addresses this more.)

8 But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.

9 He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death.

10 Even this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruption shall put on incorruption, and shall be brought to stand before the bar of God, to be judged of him according to their works whether they be good or whether they be evil—

1 Cor 15:53-54 reads:

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

What do you make of the similarities?

11 If they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation, being delivered up to the devil, who hath subjected them, which is damnation—

12 Having gone according to their own carnal wills and desires; having never called upon the Lord while the arms of mercy were extended towards them; for the arms of mercy were extended towards them, and they would not; they being warned of their iniquities and yet they would not depart from them; and they were commanded to repent and yet they would not repent.

What does the image of extended arms of mercy suggest to you?

13 And now, ought ye not to tremble and repent of your sins, and remember that only in and through Christ ye can be saved?

14 Therefore, if ye teach the law of Moses, also teach that it is a shadow of those things which are to come—

I’m surprised by the “if”; is he implying that there is a scenario under which they might not teach the law of Moses?

Think about shadows for a minute.  (I’m thinking about Plato’s Cave.)  What does the idea of a shadow suggest about the law of Moses?  How should this impact how we study and interpret the law of Moses?

15 Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen.

CHAPTER 17

1 And now it came to pass that when Abinadi had finished these sayings, that the king commanded that the priests should take him and cause that he should be put to death.

Had I been Abinadi, I’d have gone all Scheherazade on them, because if I hadn’t finished my message, then the powerful protection couldn’t be removed, and they wouldn’t have been able to kill me.

2 But there was one among them whose name was Alma, he also being a descendant of Nephi. And he was a young man, and he believed the words which Abinadi had spoken, for he knew concerning the iniquity which Abinadi had testified against them; therefore he began to plead with the king that he would not be angry with Abinadi, but suffer that he might depart in peace.

What’s interesting about Alma being a descendant of Nephi is that he is also the descendants of people who either (1) did not choose to follow Mosiah when Mosiah was told by the Lord to get the heck out of dodge or (2) did choose to “overzealously” return with Zeniff’s people, in disobedience to their own king.  So there’s some skeletons there, along with Nephi.

Do you have any sense as to how Alma is able to become/remain a decent human being in the environment that he is living in?

Brant Gardner:

The most perplexing comment is that “he was a young man.” According to the chronology worked out and discussed after Mosiah 7:1, we have Alma being born in the year 159 BC, and dying at the age of 82 in the year 77 BC (probable dating, though the time depth is explicit). According to the correlation of dates, Mosiah I leaves the City of Nephi in 148 BC, and Zeniff leaves Zarahemla in approximately 143 BC. Thus when Mormon states that Alma is a descendant of Nephi, he may mean a literal descendant from both the lineage and the city. Alma the Elder would have been 11 when Mosiah I left the City of Nephi, and would have returned with Zeniff when he was 16. While that is young enough, he would have been 36 when Zeniff died and Noah took power. Abinadi is clearly coming later, perhaps between five and ten years later. At 40-45 years old, it is hard to see how Mormon could call Alma “young.” It is quite possible that Mormon never bothered to work out the dates, and his sources never said. We may be seeing a presumption on Mormon’s part that was simply mistaken. Citation

Do you read Abinadi’s speech differently knowing that, in some sense, it was “for” Alma?

Brant Gardner:

It appears that Abinadi was sent on a mission that spelled certain physical doom for himself because God needed to touch one man; Alma. Is there any more powerful case for God’s concern with an individual? Citation

Robert D. Hales:

When Abinadi fearlessly taught the gospel of Jesus Christ to the wicked King Noah and his priests, only Alma recognized the truth. Alma then had to demonstrate great faith in the words of Abinadi as he sought to bring about a mighty change of heart. This change of heart strengthened his conversion with a desire to forsake his sins. The conversion of each member of the Church is not unlike that of Alma (see Mosiah 17). Apr 97 GC

Is it significant that Alma is “young”?

Alma shows a lot of nerve by arguing with the king’s decree, especially since Alma is “young” and of no apparent status or authority.

Note that in this verse, but not v1, we are introduced to the idea that the king was angry.

3 But the king was more wroth, and caused that Alma should be cast out from among them, and sent his servants after him that they might slay him.

Is the “him” who the servants try to slay Alma?  If it is Alma, then why kick him out and then try to kill him.  (Hint:  it is easier to kill someone *before* you kick them out.)

Nice irony that Alma asks for Abinadi to be banished and, as a result, ends up being banished himself.

4 But he fled from before them and hid himself that they found him not. And he being concealed for many days did write all the words which Abinadi had spoken.

Interesting little backstory into how we got Abinadi’s words . . .

We don’t really get much intro to Alma above, but his literacy and writing supplies in this verse suggest that he had some measure of status.

5 And it came to pass that the king caused that his guards should surround Abinadi and take him; and they bound him and cast him into prison.

I’m a little confused as to what has been happening to Abinadi while the Alma situation played out–was he just roaming free or what?

6 And after three days, having counseled with his priests, he caused that he should again be brought before him.

Is the three days significant?

I’m once again curious as to why Noah is so frequently shown counseling with his priests.  We usually like our evil leaders to be purely autocratic.

7 And he said unto him: Abinadi, we have found an accusation against thee, and thou art worthy of death.

At the risk of sounding as if I am defending Noah (please understand that I am not), death is the law of Moses penalty for false prophets.  So we might find a fun bit of irony that Noah and Co. finally decide to follow (their interpretation of) the law of Moses.  (Perhaps this is why the counseling with the priests is mentioned.)

8 For thou hast said that God himself should come down among the children of men; and now, for this cause thou shalt be put to death unless thou wilt recall all the words which thou hast spoken evil concerning me and my people.

How do you reconcile Abinadi’s claim that all of the prophets have testified of Christ with Noah’s claim that the idea of God coming down is so obviously false that it makes Abinadi a false prophet, worthy of death according to the law of Moses?  Does this teach us anything about the nature of prophecy?

Note what this decree reveals about Noah:  he’s putting Abinadi to death because Abinadi said God would come down, but he’ll release him if Abinadi recants the evil he’s spoken of Noah (note:  not if Abinadi recants the teaching that God will come down!).

9 Now Abinadi said unto him: I say unto you, I will not recall the words which I have spoken unto you concerning this people, for they are true; and that ye may know of their surety I have suffered myself that I have fallen into your hands.

Note that Noah said “me and my people” in v8 but Abinadi says “this people” here.  Is that significant?

Do you think this idea that Abinadi allowed himself to be taken could be comparing with Jesus’ arrest?

How would Abinadi’s allowing himself to be arrested have an impact on the people’s knowing the truthfulness of what he had taught?  (Is Abinadi alluding to his own martyr’s death here?–v10 suggests so.)

10 Yea, and I will suffer even until death, and I will not recall my words, and they shall stand as a testimony against you. And if ye slay me ye will shed innocent blood, and this shall also stand as a testimony against you at the last day.

11 And now king Noah was about to release him, for he feared his word; for he feared that the judgments of God would come upon him.

Do you conclude from this verse that Noah was a basically decent guy after all?

Note what almost happens here–what could have happened here.  Even as wicked as Noah was, he was capable of being touched, of being redeemed.  He chose otherwise, but it didn’t have to happen this way.  In this little verse that kind of sounds like a side issue, we get a very profound teaching about the possibility of repentance–for everyone.  Even really bad people.

12 But the priests lifted up their voices against him, and began to accuse him, saying: He has reviled the king. Therefore the king was stirred up in anger against him, and he delivered him up that he might be slain.

I’m very intrigued by the role the priests are playing here–it seems as if they have the real power and have turned Noah into a puppet.  I wonder if we could read this as a commentary on Noah deposing all of the priests that his father (presumably had appointed) and filling out the ranks with yes-men who, apparently, have turned on him.

This is weird:  the priests are said to be accusing Noah.  But what the priests say is that Abinadi is accusing Noah.  I suspect that this odd little bit of recursiveness is significant.

How do you explain Noah’s shift from v11 to v12?  (I’m thinking that there are some lessons to be learned here about fomenting anger.)

Robert J. Matthews:

Keeping Abinadi in hold for three days before formally accusing him may reflect the difficulty Noah and the priests had in finding a capital charge against him. Or it may have been a psychological maneuver to give him time to think about and to fear his punishment and thereby break his spirit. Citation

13 And it came to pass that they took him and bound him, and scourged his skin with faggots, yea, even unto death.

faggot = bundle of sticks

Skousen thinks “scorched” instead of “scourged” is original here.

14 And now when the flames began to scorch him, he cried unto them, saying:

The way this verse is written, the flames just come out of nowhere.  Was that deliberate?  Why?

15 Behold, even as ye have done unto me, so shall it come to pass that thy seed shall cause that many shall suffer the pains that I do suffer, even the pains of death by fire; and this because they believe in the salvation of the Lord their God.

There’s an interesting inversion here with the Isaiah 53 material that Abinadi quoted above.  There, Christ’s pains meant that we became his children.  Here, the infliction of pain on Abinadi means that Noah & Co.’s children will experience the same pains as Abinadi.

Who is the “they” in the final line?

16 And it will come to pass that ye shall be afflicted with all manner of diseases because of your iniquities.

17 Yea, and ye shall be smitten on every hand, and shall be driven and scattered to and fro, even as a wild flock is driven by wild and ferocious beasts.

18 And in that day ye shall be hunted, and ye shall be taken by the hand of your enemies, and then ye shall suffer, as I suffer, the pains of death by fire.

19 Thus God executeth vengeance upon those that destroy his people. O God, receive my soul.

20 And now, *when Abinadi had said these words, he fell, having suffered death by fire; yea, having been put to death because he would not deny the commandments of God, having sealed the truth of his words by his death.

I like the contrast of this story with Daniel 1-3, where Rack, Shack, and Benny are saved from the fire.  You could easily misread the scriptures to conclude that people are rewarded in this life for their righteousness, but Abinadi shows us that this in not always the case.

I’m curious about the idea of death sealing the truth of someone’s words.  We all know of people who have died for their false beliefs.  So in what sense is this true?

General Thoughts:

(1) John Welch explores here the idea that Abinadi may have been speaking at the time of Pentecost.  Key points:

1. Timing would have been important to Abinadi. He had already been expelled once from the city, two years earlier (see Mosiah 11:28-12:1). His reentry on a festival day would have given him a ready audience.

2. Both of Abinadi’s speeches deal with the themes of Pentecost. He reversed the festival’s blessings and rejoicing, and turned them into curses and predictions of gloom. At the time when a bounteous grain season would have been at hand, Abinadi cursed the crops: he prophesied that hail, dry winds, and insects shall ruin “their grain” (Mosiah 12:6). While Israel’s deliverance from bondage was traditionally being celebrated, Abinadi called upon Exodus terminology to proclaim that bondage and burdens would return to the wicked people in the city of Nephi: “They shall be brought into bondage; . . . and none shall deliver them” (Mosiah 11:21, 23), “and I will cause that they shall have burdens lashed upon their backs” (Mosiah 12:2, 5; compare Exodus 1:11).

3. At precisely the time when Noah’s priests would have been hypocritically pledging allegiance to the Ten Commandments (and indeed they professed to teach the law of Moses; see Mosiah 12:27), Abinadi rehearsed to them those very commandments (see Mosiah 12:33). On any other day this might have seemed a strange defense for a man on trial for his life, but not on Pentecost—the day on which the Ten Commandments were on center stage!

4. Indeed, the connection with Pentecost could hardly have been more graphic than when Abinadi’s “face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses’ did while in the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord” (Mosiah 13:5, italics added; compare Exodus 34:29-30). . . .

5. There are further connections between Abinadi and Exodus 19. For example, cursing Noah to be like a “garment in a hot furnace” may well recall the fact that Mt. Sinai became a furnace (see Exodus 19:18) and that people whose garments were not clean were not “ready” for the Lord (see Exodus 19:10-15).  . . .

6. The ancient festival appears to have been a three-day event (see Exodus 19:11), which may explain why Abinadi’s trial was postponed for “three days” (Mosiah 17:6).

7. Finally, there are intriguing parallels between Abinadi’s piercing rebukes and Psalm 50, identified by Weinfeld as a psalm of Pentecost.

(2) Our first introduction to Abinadi comes in Mosiah 7:26-28, where Limhi says this:

And a prophet of the Lord have they slain; yea, a chosen man of God, who told them of their wickedness and abominations, and prophesied of many things which are to come, yea, even the coming of Christ. And because he said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and said that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God, and that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth—And now, because he said this, they did put him to death; and many more things did they do which brought down the wrath of God upon them. Therefore, who wondereth that they are in bondage, and that they are smitten with sore afflictions?

(I suppose this could be a different prophet since he is not named, but it is almost certainly Abinadi.)  Do you see anything here that should shape your interpretation of Abinadi’s story?  One thing that strikes me is the centrality of “that Christ was the God, the Father of all things.”  (What’s ironic about that is that a similar sentiment would not get a Mormon nihil obstat today!)  Robert J. Matthews points out that the part about the image is not contained in Abinadi’s teachings as we have them, so maybe Alma didn’t write that part and/or Mormon didn’t include it (see Mosiah 12:8), but Limhi knew about it.  Or maybe Limhi had a false tradition there (although the teaching is accurate, I think).  We know we have an abridged account, because it refers to multiple questions from the priests but we only get one (the beautiful feet one) and also because Mormon 1:19 talks about sorceries, something our account doesn’t mention.

(3) With all due respect to Arnold Friberg, we have no idea how old or how buff Abinadi was.  I’ve read that Friberg wanted to show people’s spiritual strength through their physical strength, which is fine, but I also think it would be powerful {ha!} to show Abinadi as a physically weak person who does not look as if he could go mano a mano with one of the jaguars, but still stands up to Noah and the priests because he knows that God has told him to.

(4) Robert J. Matthews wrote, “the content of his teachings and his mannerisms when confronting the priests of Noah—baiting them, challenging their knowledge, and questioning their behavior—tells us quite a bit about his courage, his agile mind, his knowledge of the gospel, and his strength of character.”  Citation.  What do you think of this statement?

(5) Rodney Turner has found the following parallels between Abinadi and John the Baptist:  “both were lone preachers of righteousness; both encountered wicked kings; both spoke of the sinful practices of the king and his people; both testified of the coming of Christ; and both were martyred as victims of priestcraft.” Citation What can you learn from these parallels?  Are they useful?

(6) Todd B. Parker wrote,

In Hebrew, ab means “father,” abi means “my father,” and nadi is “present with you.” So the name Abinadi may reflect his mission; it may mean something like “my father is present with you.” That is actually why they said they killed him—because he said God would come down and would be with man. That was the charge of blasphemy that they finally used to put him to death. Citation

If that is accurate, it is interesting because it point to a prophetic role for his parents, whoever they were.

(7) Todd B. Parker:

We have twenty-five different things here that Benjamin and Abinadi say basically the same. They both teach that God will come down; he will do miracles; he will suffer temptation; he will be called Jesus; he is the Father of heaven and earth; he will bring salvation; he will be scourged and crucified; he will overcome death; he will do these things that men can be judged; his atonement redeems those who have ignorantly sinned; those who willfully rebel will not be redeemed; all prophets declare this same message; the prophets spoke as if things had already happened; because Israel was stiff-necked, the law was given them (the law of Moses); the law included types, or shadows, or symbols, of things to come; the prophets spake concerning his coming; Israel hardened their hearts against the prophets; the law of Moses is ineffectual without the atonement; the atonement provides eternal life for little children; salvation is in Christ, and there is no other way under heaven whereby man can be saved; the natural man is an enemy to God; the knowledge of Christ is going to spread throughout the whole world; receiving this message makes a person accountable; everybody is going to be judged; and the prophets’ words stand as a testimony.  Citation

He goes on the suggest that the angel who taught these things to Ben might have been Abinadi, but I think that’s a bit speculative.

(8) A general thought on this chapter: usually, exploring relationship of Father and Son is a cause for (1) explaining how we aren’t Trinitarian (not easy to do in this chapter!) and/or (2) being defensive against antis.  This type material (such as whether the Son was begotten–or made–or eternal) has been contentious all thru history.  From Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity:

 “Gregory of Nyssa, at Constantinople in the early 380s, complained that he could not obtain a straight answer to a practical question: ‘If you ask someone to give you change, he philosophizes about the Begotten and the Unbegotten . . . . If you say to the attendant ‘Is my bath ready?’, he tells you that the Son was made out of nothing.’  The rival factions at the horse races in the sixth-century Hippodrome, the Blues and the Greens, each championed a particular standpoint in Christology.  An enthusiasm for ecclesiastical controversy has continued to be a feature of the Greek people in modern times.  In 1901 the publication of a translation of the New Testament in contemporary Greek led to the downfall of the government and to student demonstrations in which eight people were killed.  On a recent occasion in central Athens, so I recall, I was delayed by a massive traffic jam.  This was caused, as my taxi-driver explained, by a ‘riot of unemployed theologians.’”

Here’s the thing: I just have no patience whatsoever with this kind of stuff.  (I think people something think that if you’ve done biblical studies this is supposed to be your very favoritist topic ever, but I hate it.  To me it is the proverbial how-many-angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin question.)  I think that ultimately we just can’t get our puny mortal minds around the actual relationship of the Father and the Son (and the Spirit), and that all of our efforts to do so will be inadequate and most will be arrogant and over-limiting (kind of like the real problem with creeds–it isn’t that they are wrong, it is that they are too limited).  Further, I think we unconsciously assume that the scriptures are completely consistent in their use of titles (i.e., Jehovah always means Jesus Christ), which strikes me as a completely unreasonable assumption, especially since we are not always consistent (like calling Christ “the Father”).  I think we take scriptural data points that don’t fit our current understanding and then we wrest them so that they fit.  (I’m not going to link, because that would be mean, but I was completely flabbergasted by some of the knots LDS scholars have tied themselves into in order to make Abinadi’s words in this chapter fit the 20th century LDS understanding of the relationship of the Father and the Son.)  I hate all of it.  So that’s why there is the bare minimum of discussion about what Abinadi meant in these notes.  So there.

A related topic:  we spend a lot of time talking up how plain, precious, clear and uncorrupted the BoM is, but then when it says things that don’t obviously line up with modern LDS thought (“God himself”), we get all, “Well, what Abinadi really meant was . . .”  Of course, if an Evangelical were to do that with any part of the Bible, we’d role our collective Mormon eyes at her.

(9) Grant Hardy suggests many parallels between Abinadi and Moses:  both speak before wicked leaders, both deliver the Big Ten, both have shiny faces, both stories use “who is the Lord?” hardened hearts, stretched forth hands, hail/east wind/insects, and others.   What I find particularly interesting about this is not the laundry list of similarities but the ends of the stories:  Moses, as you may recall, was not killed by Pharoah.  What would be the point of drawing our attention to all of these similarities only to subvert them at the end?  (Is it useful to see Alma as standing in for Israel?)

5 Responses to BMGD #18: Mosiah 12-17

  1. J Town on April 30, 2012 at 10:44 am

    And here I thought I was only one who appreciated the hilarity of Abinadi totally failing in his attempt to go incognito. Glad to know someone else out there appreciates how awesome this verse is.

  2. palerobber on April 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Julie, in these verses you somehow overlooked Abinadi’s brave defense of anti-gay animus.

  3. KSF on April 30, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Our household also finds that verse hilarious every time it rolls around.

  4. Wesley Dean on May 1, 2012 at 4:42 pm
  5. mkm@aber.ac.uk on May 3, 2012 at 6:09 am

    I used to use the opening verse to prove to the YM that Homer Simpson was a direct descendant of the Nephites, that this was Abinadi’s “Doh” moment. However, I will now add that I really appreciate your inclusion of Brant Gardners insight.