The book of Mosiah can be very confusing, with all the different groups of people moving back and forth, so here is a little diagram to keep track of what is going on as you read the book.
My son made this awesome map--much easier to read than mine!
And it's a .png that should print up well as a document,
but, if not, try printing it as a photograph.
Abinadi was a prophet among the group of Nephites who had been lead back to the Lamanite territory by Zeniff. Their second king, Noah, had led the people into apostacy. Abinadi had nearly been killed calling them to repentance, and had fled for his life.
“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” (Mosiah 12:1).
Wait a minute! If Abinadi was in disguise, why did he immediately tell them who he was?
Remember that in the scriptures, names have important meanings and are often symbolic. In this case, the name Abinadi is perhaps more of a title than a name because it means “prophet of the Father and the Son.” (Gary Poll, BYU Education Week Lecture, August 2002). So by identifying himself as “Abinadi,” he was actually saying, “I have the authority as a prophet of the Lord to receive and pass on revelation to you,” not “Remember me? I am that guy you threw out a couple of years ago.”
Then Abinadi proceeded to give a dire prophecy to the people. For what purpose? The same purpose the Lord always reveals frightening prophecies of destruction: to give the people a second chance. To give them an opportunity to change the future. Prophecy is always an act of mercy.
But these Nephites did not want to hear the message. They were too smart. So they cross-examined Abinadi to show what an idiot he was.
THE CROSS-EXAMINATION AND MARTYRDOM OF ABINADI
Here is a little reader’s theater you can do about this event that makes it a little easier to understand the line of the argument. You will need the following readers: Abinadi, The Priest/Lawyer, The Narrator, King Noah, and all the rest of the class can be The Other Priests. It will be easier to follow if you prepare large cards with the characters’ names on them, punch holes in the top corners, and put strings in them so the reads can put their names around their neck and everyone can keep track of who is who. The reference for the complete dialogue is noted after each scripture quoted.
PRIEST: “What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, thy God reigneth?” (Mosiah 12:20-24) If you’re a messenger from God, this scripture says you should be bringing us good news!
ABINADI: “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? …Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise.” (Mosiah 12:25-27) Knowing a bunch of scriptures isn’t enough—you have to use them in your life. But since you think of yourselves as the messengers with the beautiful feet and the good tidings, what is it you are teaching? (Mosiah 12:27)
PRIEST: “We teach the law of Moses,” of course! (Mosiah 12:28)
ABINADI: “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? …And what know ye concerning the law of Moses? Doth salvation come by the law of Moses? What say ye?” (Mosiah 12:29-31)
PRIEST: Why, of course, salvation comes by the Law of Moses! (Mosiah 12:32)
ABINADI: “I know if ye keep the commandments of God ye shall be saved… (Mosiah 12:33-37) So let’s take a look at one or two of the commandments, shall we? How about “Thou shalt have no other gods before me? “ Do you keep that one? I don’t think so!
KING: “Away with this fellow, and slay him! For what have we to do with him, for he is mad. (Mosiah 13:1-2)
ABINADI: “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,” and I haven’t even had a chance to answer the question you asked me. (Mosiah 13:3-4)
NARRATOR: “Now it came to pass that 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.” (Mosiah 13:5)
ABINADI: “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.” I’ll finish my message and then it doesn’t matter what happens to me, because the purpose of my life was to deliver this message to you. However, beware! What happens to me is going to happen to you, too! Now I will finish going through the Ten Commandments with you, since you seem to have forgotten them. (Mosiah 13:6-24)
NARRATOR: Abinadi recites the Ten Commandments, which are the foundation of the Law of Moses.
ABINADI: So, have you kept those commandments? Definitely not, or I wouldn’t be here. So, getting back to the original question, if salvation were to come by the Law of Moses, you would all be sunk. Let me tell you the purpose of the Law of Moses, which many of the Israelites also didn’t understand. It was to bring men to Christ who has the power to save. The Law of Moses was there to keep them out of trouble, and to get them ready to receive Christ when he comes. Moses said so himself, and so did all the other prophets. Let me quote you some great verses from Isaiah prophesying about Christ. (Mosiah 13:25-14:12)
Let me teach you about Christ. He is one in purpose with God the Father. He will come down to earth and suffer temptation and pain and emotional distress, and he will be killed. Those people who come unto him will be his seed, or his children. They are the people who have paid attention to the prophets, believed in Christ, and have exercised faith in him that he would redeem them from their sins, and also those who died without hearing of Christ, and also little children who die. (Mosiah 15:1-11,24,25)
And, obviously, the prophets themselves are also the children of Christ. “And these are they who have published peace, who have brought good tidings of good, who have published salvation; and said unto Zion: Thy God reigneth! And O how beautiful upon the mountains were their feet! And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that are still publishing peace! And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who shall hereafter publish peace, yea, from this time henceforth and forever. And behold, I say unto you, this is not all. For O how beautiful upon the mountainsa re 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.” (Mosiah 15:12-18) So does this answer your question?
If you’re going to teach the Law of Moses, if you want to be people with beautiful feet upon the mountains, “teach that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord.” (Mosiah 15:14-15)
KING: Yeah, but we don’t like being told we’re doing something wrong and we need to change, so we’re going to kill you anyway. (Mosiah 17:1)
ALMA: Hey, I know I’m just a young priest, but what he’s saying makes sense, you know? I think we ought to let him go. (Mosiah 17:2)
KING: Hey! What’s with you? Get out of my face! (Mosiah 17:3)
(Alma goes and sits in the corner.)
ALMA: (To himself) Okay, well, I think he was telling the truth, so I’m going to write down everything he said so I can remember it and tell others about it. (Mosiah 17:17:4)
KING: Abinadi, we’re sticking with our plan to kill you unless you take back everything you said, and tell us we’re okay just the way we are. (Mosiah 17:7-8)
ABINADI: I won’t take it back, because it’s true. If you kill me, my blood will come up in testimony against you because I am innocent! (Mosiah 17:9-10)
KING: That sounds scary. And it’s actually true that he’s innocent. Maybe we shouldn’t kill him. I mean, what harm is he doing? (Mosiah 17:11)
OTHER PRIESTS: What?!!! Your highness, he has said that you are a bad guy!!!! You’re going to just let that go??? (Mosiah 17:12)
KING: You have a point. I don’t want to look dumb. Let’s kill him. Here: Take these bundles of kindling and light them on fire and let’s jab him with them, until he burns up.
OTHER PRIESTS: That’s more like it.
NARRATOR: “and it came to pass that they took him and bound him, and scourged his skin with faggots, yea, even unto death.” (Mosiah 17:12) But Abinadi never faltered. He died telling the truth and teaching about the saving power of Jesus Christ.
YOU NEVER KNOW…
Many church members in the latter days get the chance to be “beautiful upon the mountains” and preach the gospel of peace. They offer, perhaps not their entire lives as did Abinadi, but their entire lives for two years or 18 months, and ongoing member missionary work after that.
My father, Clair Wyatt, served a mission to England in the 1950s. While in Scarborough, he taught the gospel to a lovely young couple, Mary and John Clark, who had one small daughter. The Clarks joined the Church. After Dad returned home from his mission, the Clarks moved to Australia and he lost touch with them.
Elder Wyatt conducting a "street meeting"
30 years later, my brother Scott was called on a mission to Sydney, Australia. The very first week of his mission, he and his companion were called by a member family to teach their nonmember son-in-law. When he met the family and they found out his last name was Wyatt, they asked if he knew the Elder Wyatt who had taught them the gospel back in England! They had had a large family, and had named one of their children after him. By the time my brother met them, from that little family of three, 49 family members had been born into the gospel, all nonmember in-laws had joined the Church, and all their sons had served missions and taught the gospel to others. The son-in-law my brother taught joined the Church as well.
After that, my father kept in touch with the Clarks until they died. Before their deaths they did a great amount of family history work, bringing the opportunity of salvation to many family members in past generations as well.
My father was blessed to find out in some degree the extent of his success in sharing the gospel. Most missionaries do not, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. What if you give your all to preach the gospel for two years and don’t get to see much of a result for their labors? Did you do something wrong—maybe not set your goals high enough, fast and pray often enough, study the scriptures thoroughly enough, or work long enough hours? Was your mission a waste?
Well, Abinadi would give a rousing “NO” in answer those questions! He thought it was worth giving his life for! But how discouraged he must have felt as the flames consumed him: Only one person had seemed to consider that his message might possibly have value. His one posthumous (that means “it didn’t happen until after he died”) convert was Alma.
But let’s look at the lineage of conversion caused by that message:
ALMA—priest of Noah; founder of Church in Land of Nephi; baptized King Limhi and his people; became a great teacher; King Mosiah gave him authority over the entire church when they were reunited in Zarahemla
ALMA THE YOUNGER—Alma’s son; rebelled but was brought back to the Church by the visit of an angel in answer to his father’s prayers; keeper of records and interpreters; chief judge; high priest, resigned as judge to serve reactivation missions (the original Senior Missionary); spent many mission years serving with Amulek, the ultimate "Green Companion," who was converted and trained due to his efforts; didn’t even have to die but was taken up to heaven by the Lord.
HELAMAN—Alma II’s son; prophet, high priest, and leader of the elite band of converts-turned-soldiers, the Stripling Warriors; now sung about in Primary all over the world.
HELAMAN—Helaman’s son; record keeper and chief judge
NEPHI & LEHI—Helaman II’s sons; great missionaries with 8,000 Lamanite converts; Nephi was chief judge; resigned just like his great-grandfather in order to serve a mission; a great prophet just prior to Christ’s appearance in America.
NEPHI & TIMOTHY— sons of Nephi and Lehi; Nephi was record keeper, wrote the book of Third Nephi; raised his brother from the dead; the first named of Christ’s apostles; Timothy his cousin was also an apostle.
NEPHI & JONAS—sons of Nephi II; Nephi was the record keeper and wrote Fourth Nephi; Jonas was one of the twelve apostles, along with his father and uncle.
How’s that for missionary success?!!!
All missionaries would do well to remember Elder Wyatt and Elder Abinadi during discouraging times because you just never know…
(Reference for the information on the Nephites mentioned by name: the Index of the Book of Mormon.)