CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 17.
Abinadi the prophet has now finished his big speech, the message he was sent to give king Noah and his people. Having been prevented from killing the prophet until his message was finished, king Noah now commands his false priests to capture him and kill him (verse 1).
Except one of them, Alma, believed the prophets words, agreeing that the people (including himself) really had done the bad things the prophet spoke about, “therefore he began to plead with the king that he would not be angry with Abinadi, but suffer that he might depart in peace” (verse 2).
This made the king even more angry, and so he kicked Alma out and said that he should be killed, too (verse 3).
But Alma escaped, and hid himself away so that he could write down all the things he had learned from Abinadi’s speech (verse 4).
In the meantime, king Noah did put Abinadi the prophet in prison (verse 5).
After three days of discussing with his false priests, King Noah ordered Abinadi be brought before him (verse 6).
“And he said unto him: Abinadi, we have found an accusation against thee, and thou art worthy of death” (verse 7).
Why is the prophet worthy of death, in their eyes?
“For though 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…” (verse 8).
So King Noah wants the prophet to recant.
A prophet can’t recant. A prophet is anyone with a testimony of Christ (Revelation 19:10), and a Prophet is one specifically called by God to deliver a specific message to a specific people.
But look carefully at what king Noah has said…. does he want Abinadi to recant what he said about Christ coming to Earth? No. They are unsure about that, wondering if maybe it is true, but knowing they can disagree with Abinadi or just write him off as crazy.
What they want Abinadi to recant is “all the words which thou hast spoken evil concerning me and my people” (verse 8).
King Noah and his people think Abinadi’s words are harsh not because they do not believe in Christ, but because Abinadi said they were doing things wrongs, that they were in dangerous territory, that they were not keeping their covenants.
Such words are meant to stir us up to repentance, so that we can make the changes we need to make. They are words of love, warning us of danger, so that we can return to the Lord’s provision and protection.
Such words are only “harsh” when we do not want to make those changes.
We know from the early history of the Nephites, that the only ones who are offended when warned or who find instruction harsh, are those who are already breaking commandments and who are not keeping covenants and who do not want to follow the teachings of the prophets.
By being offended or by thinking the teaching too hard, they have judged themselves already as not being covenant keepers.
Otherwise, it would only be a call to repentance to which they could respond, thus resolving the error as part of the process of continuing to keep covenants.
Always, the underlying culprit is pride.
Here with king Noah and his people, the issue is pride.
President Ezra Taft Benson said:
Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.
The central feature of pride is enmity —- enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us….
Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s…
It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous…
Selfishness is one of the more common faces of pride. “How everything affects me” is the center of all that matters—self-conceit, self-pity, worldly self-fulfillment, self-gratification, and self-seeking…
Another face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride.
Contention in our families drives the Spirit of the Lord away. It also drives many of our family members away. Contention ranges from a hostile spoken word to worldwide conflicts. The scriptures tell us that “only by pride cometh contention.” (Prov. 13:10; see also Prov. 28:25.)
The scriptures testify that the proud are easily offended and hold grudges. They withhold forgiveness to keep another in their debt and to justify their injured feelings.
The proud do not receive counsel or correction easily. Defensiveness is used by them to justify and rationalize their frailties and failures…
Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression. The proud are not easily taught. They won’t change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong.
This is the trap in which King Noah is caught, in which we are so easily caught if we are not vigilant.
Rather than humbling themselves to receive and respond to the counsel and warning Abinadi has shared in love, in hopes that they will respond and return more fully to their covenant, these people hate on Abinadi, reject his words, and even want to kill him.
But Abinadi will not recant, cannot recant, because the words he has shared were the words of God.
Do you see?
They are not his words to recant.
They were God’s words, not his.
“… I say unto you, I will not recall the words which I have spoken unto you concerning this people, for they are true…” (verse 9).
Abinadi will seal his testimony with his life.
“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” (verse 10).
This has gotten king Noah’s attention.
King Noah believes him, feels the confirming Spirit telling him that these words are true (verse 11).
But then peer pressure returns, with his false priests trying to distract him, playing the pride card again so that king Noah will harden his heart against the softening of the Spirit.
“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” (verse 12).
They took Abinadi and tied him up. Then they taunted him, branding him with bundles of sticks (faggots), as they get the fire started (verse 13). They are burning him at the stake, except not. It’s worse, more like repeatedly torturing him with torches:
“And now when the flames began to scorch him, he cried unto them, saying: 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” (verse 15).
So Abinadi has now prophesied that just as they are burning him at the stake for what he believes, so their own descendants will kill more righteous people in the same way. We see this come true later in Mosiah 20, where their children marry Lamanite women, and those descendants do indeed burn more believers at the stake (Alma 25), just as their parents taught them to do.
Abinadi’s message to the people was to return to their covenants and teach their children the covenants. When they reject this message, they teach their children to reject it also. When they persecute the prophet, they teach their children to do so as well.
They are doing the exact opposite of what the Lord told them to do through Abinadi’s warning.
Because they have now fully rejected not only their covenants, but the Lord’s offer to rescue them from their iniquities and the bondage that results from those iniquities… they have now made their choice, judged themselves, and the Lord will leave them to their own consequences.
“And it will come to pass that ye shall be afflicted with all manner of diseases because of your iniquities. Yea, and ye shall be smitten on every hand, and shall be driven and scattered to and fro…” (verses 16-17).
Because they have rejected the Lord’s effort to rescue them, they will now endure the bondage they have chosen.
Those are always the consequences of us refusing repentance when it is offered to us, the consequences moving away from our covenants into danger. The further into danger we move, the further away from His provision and protection we take ourselves… until we suffer the consequences from which He was trying to save us.
“And in that day ye shall be hunted, and ye shall… suffer, as I suffer, the pains of death by fire” (verse 18).
So they, too, will die by fire in the same way they are now killing Abinadi.
Because, Abinadi says, they were not my words. The words were the Lord’s words.
The battle is not between king Noah and Abinadi, as the king’s pride tries to trick him into believing.
The battle is between Noah and God.
Thus he may kill Abinadi, but God will finish his battle.
This is the same as any contention, where Satan tries to get us to believe that another person is the enemy. Pride will suck us into contention faster than anything else, and the easiest way for it to happen is for us to refuse counsel, ignore warnings, or think some teaching is too harsh. Offense is the seed of contention, and it will destroy us if not plucked out by the root.
Abinadi was not being mean or harsh to king Noah.
He was only delivering the words of God, words king Noah should have already known.
It was a message of love, and an opportunity to return to God.
When king Noah chose instead to be offended, he surrendered his agency to pride.
When he surrendered his agency to pride, he silenced the call to repentance (from his own bad choices in the past that got him in this mess) and shifted blame to Abinadi, an innocent person just giving the message that king Noah already knew.
This is how pride led him to becoming a hater, how contention distracted from the real issue.
This is how pride moves the internal stirring-up-to-repentance to the external blaming-someone-else.
But the warning was from God.
The warning is an opportunity to return to His protection.
When we choose to remove ourselves from His protection, then we suffer outside of it.
“Thus God executeth vengeance upon those that destroy his people” (verse 19).
This is the last of Abinadi’s message, his last warning, his last pleading for the people to return to God.
Then, very much a shadow of things to come, in almost the same words as Christ himself, Abinadi cries out, “O God, receive my soul” (verse 19).
“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” (verse 20).
John Taylor said, “The testators are now dead, and their testament is in force (DC 135:5). For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead (Heb 9:16-17).”
This brings up the question of what in us needs to die, so that we can be a testator? What is in us needs to be surrendered, given up, killed off, let go of – what in us needs to die so that we might have testimony?
It means that we can only bear testimony of those principles which we have experiences and are living.
It means that we must bear testimony of that which we have given up in exchange for His righteousness (Isaiah 22:23,25) so that give up the burden of the curse we are under in exchange for immortality and eternal lives.
It means that our continual, ongoing conversion process of letting die that which is not of God is the very process by which He establishes His righteousness in us (see tsedeq in 2 Nephi 8, or its poem in 2 Nephi 9).
This is how He establishes Zion, in us, now.
That is at-one-ment.
That is why contention is the biggest weapon, easiest trap, and worst destroyer of at-one-ment.
Contention separates people and kills relationships and makes us enemies of God.
Being enemies of God is NOT at-one-ment.
Conquering contention, being filled with His righteousness, even to loving well those around us, that is at-one-ment. That is Zion.
It would prove to me, at least, and what I may safely say to this congregation, that Zion is here. Whenever we are disposed to give ourselves perfectly to righteousness, to yield all the powers and faculties of the soul (which is the spirit and the body, and it is there where righteousness dwells); when we are swallowed up in the will of Him who has called us; when we enjoy the peace and the smiles of our Father in Heaven, the things of His Spirit, and all the blessings we are capacitated to receive and improve upon, then are we in Zion, that is Zion.
A Discourse by President Brigham Young, Delivered in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, January 16, 1853. (Journal of the Discourses, volume one, page 3).