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Alma1 Believes the Abinadi’s Teaching
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.
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.
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.
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.
The prior attempt to seize Abinadi did not work because Abinadi had not finished his message and he was divinely protected. Now, his message was delivered, and the protection was withdrawn. One part of the beginning of this chapter was to indicate that the court declared that Abinadi should be put to death.
The more important part of this beginning is the introduction to perhaps the reason that Yahweh had Abinadi come to the court to declare his message. In the entire episode, from when Abinadi enters in disguise to the time he is taken to be executed, he made only one convert. That convert was Alma1, and it is Alma1 who becomes an extremely important figure in the Nephite story. Alma1’s story begins with his pleading on Abinadi’s behalf, and results in his expulsion from king Noah’s court. Having taken Abinadi’s side, he was condemned to share his fate. Fortunately for the remainder of Nephite history, the attempt to slay Alma1 failed.
Mormon tells us that Alma1 hid himself, and that he did write down Abinadi’s words. This appears to indicate that there may have been two records of Abinadi’s preaching, one from the official court records, which would have been on the record of Zeniff, and the second one as part of Alma1’s records. Because we have a favorable view of Abinadi’s preaching, it is probable that Mormon took his account from Alma1’s record. However, the events following Alma1’s expulsion could not have been on Alma1’s record because he was not there to see them. Therefore, we can assume that there were two records, and that the actions describing what happened in Noah’s court from this time forward had to have come from the record that Noah’s scribe kept. It is also probable that this is the reason we see more of Mormon’s narration rather than quotation of the record.
Abinadi is Sentenced and Put to Death
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.
6 And after three days, having counseled with his priests, he caused that he should again be brought before him.
7 And he said unto him: Abinadi, we have found an accusation against thee, and thou art worthy of death.
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.
When Abinadi entered the city, he had preached against king Noah, and for that reason had been brought before Noah and the court of priests. His fate was probably sealed at that time, but there was something about the law that they followed that required a different offense in order to be worthy of execution. When the priests began questioning him, it was clear that they knew that Abinadi had a different understanding of Yahweh than they did, and thus they began a line of questioning that would expose that difference.
Although Abinadi bore a powerful message that converted Alma1, no others were moved. They deliberated and unsurprisingly found him guilty of what they would have considered blasphemy, a conviction meriting execution. What was his blasphemy? That God himself should come down among the children of men. This is, of course, exactly what Abinadi had preached and the entire reason for his discourse. Abinadi declared that the very Yahweh would, at a future date, come to earth to become the Messiah and provide the atonement.
The trial began with the expectation that Abinadi would be found guilty of blasphemy, and he was. The trial fulfilled their law, but it also fulfilled Yahweh’s purpose in that Alma1 believed. Alma1’s belief led to important changes in the nature of Nephite religion, and probably its political system as well. It is possible that no single person, since Nephi, had as great an impact on the future direction of Nephite history than Alma1 himself.
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.
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.
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.
As Abinadi stands condemned to death, he declares that he will not retract his words. In this case, we have a return to the words that he spoke in prophecy about Noah. When he came among the people, he had predicted that Noah’s life would be as a garment in a hot furnace, as recorded in Mosiah 12:3. Now he points his accusation directly at Noah, telling him that Noah himself will be under condemnation if Abinadi is executed.
Perhaps because of the experience that Noah had witnessed, where Abinadi had been divinely protected during his trial, he appears to believe that Abinadi really could condemn him. Although he wavered and might have released him, the priests turn the tide and persuade the king that Abinadi must die. Although the official reason to put Abinadi to death was blasphemy, the real reason was that “he has reviled the king.” That was the reason the people brought Abinadi before the king, and it is the convincing argument to continue with the execution that was based on an entirely different legal justification.
The long discourse on the Messiah may have come from Alma1’s record, but this part must have come from the record which Noah’s scribe kept. Note the difference in what was important to record. Alma1 kept the important speech that declared the coming Messiah, but the court record only deals with the issue of Abinadi’s opposition to the king. The only quotation from Abinadi here is the one that reiterates his initial prophecy against the king. Not only is the record different, but the type of information that the two plausible accounts recorded is also quite different.
13 And it came to pass that they took him and bound him, and scourged his skin with faggots, yea, even unto death.
14 And now when the flames began to scorch him, he cried unto them, saying:
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.
Abinadi is executed with fire. While this invokes images of being burned at the stake, that does not appear to be the means employed. Key to understanding what is happening is that he was “scourged . . . with faggots, yea, even unto death.” Faggots are bundles of sticks that are set on fire. Scourging is to strike against the flesh. This is a terrible means of torture that was unfortunately widespread through Central and even North American indigenous tribes.
A bound captive would be beaten with or jabbed with the burning bundle, burning the skin, but not causing death. It was a process that could be extended for a long time and was more brutal than burning at the stake. In some cultures, when the victim passed out from the pain, the victim was allowed to rest and recover consciousness, and was then tortured again.
With such a terrible death, it is even less surprising that Abinadi would curse Noah with the same death. In Alma 25:9–11, Mormon writes that this prophecy was even visited upon the seed of the priests.
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.
Abinadi continues the curse on Noah and his priests. In verse 18, Abinadi declares that “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.” In Alma 25:9 he shows the fulfillment of the prophecy: “And behold they are hunted at this day by the Lamanites. Thus the words of Abinadi were brought to pass, which he said concerning the seed of the priests who caused that he should suffer death by fire.”
As with other prophecies in the Book of Mormon, Mormon works the fulfillment into his narrative. He does not intend to leave any prophecy with an undetermined end, but rather intends that all understand that when a prophecy is declared by the power of God, its fulfilment is sure.
There is no chapter break at this point in the 1830 edition.
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