Who Was Abinadi?

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If you’ve read the Book of Mormon, you’ve likely seen this old painting; it’s of the prophet Abinadi confronting the court of corrupt King Noah. He appears here in stereotypical Old testament glory–white beard, defiant pose, an aging yet still powerful frame.

But nothing in the text warrants this flight of fancy–indeed, the Book of Mormon doesn’t describe Abinadi’s age or appearance at all. Before the sermonizing proper, the only clue we get about him is that he came from “among them,” presumably meaning that he was part of their society, and not an outsider like Samuel the Lamanite would be later.

This raises some interesting questions for me, and the answers might depend on his unknown age.

Was he of the generation of Zeniff, that first king of this group who had originally led them back into the old lands to establish a new colony there?

Grant Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon analyzes this story and presents Zeniff as a naive and idealistic do-gooder, and then his son Noah as the kind of spoiled brat who might be the result of indulgent parenting by that naive and idealistic do-gooder.

In light of that analysis, if Abinadi was a contemporary of Zeniff–one who had emigrated into the wilderness with him from the established Zarahemla settlement–then he might have been as old as these paintings depict him as, and maybe he, too, was a zealous idealist. Seeing the noble values of his own generation, then, abused and broken under the lazy thumb of Noah would have been more than just disappointing–his always contrarian heart might have been moved to rebel against the status quo by following the examples of past prophets, just as he had done decades before when he followed Zeniff out into the wilderness to found their acsetic sect in the first place.

That scenario makes sense to me, but it seems there’s nothing in the text to confirm or deny it. Maybe Abinadi was a younger man, a contemporary of Noah himself, trying to reestablish a righteous society that he only dimly remembered from his own youth under King Zeniff.

Who knows? If any reader sees anything in the text that bears on this at all, please share.

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The Mysterious Religion of the Jaredites

Updated 11/8

I’ve been reading Grant Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon, which is a wonderful, wonderful analysis of that sacred text.  In its cornucopia of insight, though, one thing has jumped out and fascinated me more than anything else: Hardy shows that the Jaredites probably weren’t Christians.

This might seem odd on the surface: it’s the Book of Mormon, after all.  Everything about it is meant to testify of Jesus Christ.  And certainly, the little book of Ether, which tells of the Jaredites, does do that…but only because of the commentary given by its editor, Moroni.

Hardy notes that the only explicit teaching about Jesus Christ in the book of Ether come from Moroni, and that the only two figures in the Jaredite record he’s abridging who seem to have any clear knowledge of Jesus are at the very beginning and the very end of that story: the brother of Jared sees Jesus personally, but is told not to share his experience (Ether 3), and the final prophet of that civilization, Ether, prophecies briefly of the New Jerusalem and is rejected (Ether 13).

That’s it.  Nothing else is said directly of Jesus Christ or any gospel-related Christian doctrine in the Jaredite record, at least as we have it.  There is no mention at all of the Atonement.  The Jaredites don’t seem to have had any priesthood or any ordinances.  No covenants among that people are recorded.  Whenever the book of Ether mentions prophets working with people, it’s merely in the context of repentance, but it’s never tied into the grace of God’s sacrifice, so while they may have had some commandments to keep, their spiritual knowledge can’t be said to have extended beyond carnal morality.

This makes sense, actually.  Continue reading

A Book of Mormon Verse Endorsing Welfare

I’ve been reading some Grant Hardy lately.  His book Understanding the Book of Mormon is excellent, so far.  I’ve also noticed some articles he’s written for Meridian Magazine recently.  Meridian is a very conservative site, and Hardy seems to lean more to the left, but his work fits in there surprisingly well. 

One article in particular piqued my interest.  In “The Book of Mormon and Social Justice,” Hardy discussed our primary text’s take on a then-controversial buzz term.  His analysis, like most explications of scriptural statements about public obligations from a liberal perspective, takes teachings about charity for individuals and church organizations and applies them to secular governments, which may or may not be warranted.  I’ve long wondered if anyone would ever find their holy grail here: a convincing scriptural story where a righteous civic leader institutes something akin to modern welfare. 

Hardy did it.  Continue reading