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Abinadi: Apostate Society

Updated on May 3, 2020
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Leaders of integrity or infamy found in The Book of Mormon provide the fodder for spiritual growth and self-improvement. It was made for us.

In the case of a type or a shadow, it means looking back on historical events determining that they are representations of another central event.

Jesus Christ's life, ministry, death, and resurrection have many types or shadows--events that testify of His exemplary life, ministry, death, and resurrection.

Abinadi, an ancient American prophet in an obscure society of people who called themselves Nephites, testifies through his martyrdom of what would happen to Jesus. Abinadi's story, found in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, starts about 148 B.C.

Abinadi a Type or Shadow of Christ

  1. Both Abinadi and Christ preach to apostate societies

  2. Neither Abinadi or Christ was authorized by the local priesthood.
  3. Both Abinadi and Christ informed the people to repent.
  4. Both Christ and Abinadi were rejected by the priests and the king.
  5. The priests of both societies accused Christ and Abinadi of treason.
  6. The king for both men could have released them from bondage, but did not.
  7. Both men were martyred for their preaching.

Nephites

Societal Context of Abinadi's Ministry

In ancient America, there existed many cultural groups and subgroups that interacted to form diverse ethnic societies. The Nephites, a Judeo-culture-base was one among many that existed at the time of Abinadi, about 150 b.c. This cultural group is the one that kept the record that became the Book of Mormon, from where the history of Abinadi comes.

The Zeniffites, a small segment of Nephite society believed in the Law of Moses but did not practice it at a time when it was necessary to practice it, 184 years before Christ performed the atonement to fulfill the Law. Nephite Central culture based in a city called Zarahemla practiced and supported Judaism; however, the smaller segment of Nephites based in a city called Nephi did not; hence God sending Abinadi to call them to repentance. The Zeniffites did not start as a wicked society. Zeniff was a righteous king, though he allowed his desire to possess the land of his forefathers to cloud his judgment placing his followers in a precarious situation with their enemies the Lamanites. After his death, his people quickly matched the personality of their new king, King Noah.

King Noah did things in his kingdom that had not been done among the Nephites, ever! I assume he took his queues from his Lamanite neighbors and others who were virtually pagans.

The first thing he did was replace the priest that his father consecrated to teach the people the Gospel and perform the ordinances relating to the Law of Moses.

King Noah, the son of Zeniff, did not live his father's religion. He had multiple wives, he taxed his people one-fifth of all they had perpetually, and he introduced idolatry to the people.

Erecting spacious buildings and beautiful spaces is Noah's civic legacy, but all for the glory of his own name and the vanity of his kingdom. He created vineyards and introduced wineries to his people who became drunk with him as their kingdom prospered among their enemies the Lamanites, who started to attack the citizens in small numbers destroying outlying settlements and farms.

The people, because of their leaders, had gone astray from the ordinances of the Gospel as revealed through Moses. The society at large submitted to fornication and false teachings that made them vulnerable to their enemies.

Lamanites

The Lamanites during Abinadi's time were not generally God-fearing people. Mormon describes them as the descendants of people who rebelled against Mosaic law for several generations. The history of the Lamanites is a compelling story that starts with one family in Jerusalem. The only information that is available about this group of cultures called the Lamanites is found in the record written by the Nephites--extremely biased since they were enemies. (see First and Second Nephi in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.) Zeniff described the crux of their enmity towards the Nephite when he spied amongst them

which is this—Believing that they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem because of the iniquities of their fathers, and that they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea. And again, that they were wronged while in the land of their first inheritance, after they had crossed the sea, and all this because that Nephi was more faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; therefore, he was favored of the Lord, for the Lord heard his prayers and answered them, and he took the lead of their journey in the wilderness.

And his brethren were wroth with him because they understood not the dealings of the Lord; they were also wroth with him upon the waters because they hardened their hearts against the Lord. And again, they were wroth with him when they had arrived in the promised land, because they said that he had taken the ruling of the people out of their hands; and they sought to kill him.

And again, they were wroth with him because he departed into the wilderness as the Lord had commanded him, and took the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, for they said that he robbed them. And thus they have taught their children that they should hate them, and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them; therefore they have an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi.[Mosiah 10:12-17]

This litany of grievances the Lamanites thrust upon the Nephite settlers provided enough indication that problems would arise in the future between the two ethnicities. Zeniff's desire to inherit that land blinded him to the dangers--plunging hs people into the situation where his son came live.

King Noah and his kingdom, as a minority in the area, possibly succumbed to the majority culture of the Lamanite confederacy filtered into their micro-society, which consisted of the lands in and around the cities of Shilom and Lehi-Nephi. Just as in the days of Christ with Israel surrounded by the pagan cultures of Rome had to fight vigilantly to keep out the practices of their neighbors, the people of King Noah would also have to fight to do so. However, Noah did not seem to care for religious matters to that extent.

No matter how the people became wicked, God sent Abinadi to teach the Zeniffites how to return to their faith. It was a faith designed to keep the Law of Moses while waiting for the promised Messiah, performing all ordinances as a similitude of the coming final sacrifice of the Savior.

Source

Societal Context of Christ's Ministry

The Jewish Kingdom, submerged into the Roman culture, paid tribute to that empire. Pontius Pilate was, for purposes here, the King and did all in his power to oppress his people religiously according to two writers from antiquity, Philo and Josephus. He was a Gentile (non-Jewish) ruler over the province of Judea called a prefect or governor.

The Jews were a devout people during this time, but their interpretation of the Law of Moses differed to the point where there existed several sects, the Sadducee, the Pharisees, and a society of Scribes or record keepers to name the most modernly familiar.

Because of the leaders of religion and ceremony during this time, the general population of Jewish people was led astray from the original intent of the Law of Moses. A change in societal norms needed to occur so that the Gospel of the Law of Moses flourish in its puritanical form.

Christ's society contained people of murderous intent, yet they did not express the same disdain for the Law of Moses as did the Zeniffites. If anything, the Jewish leaders retreated into the technical law surrounding the Law with a hedge of protection that made the law itself the god of Israel instead of Jehovah.

An idol nonetheless, the apostate religion of Judaism was a deception that fooled the people at large. Jesus ventured to correct the problem for all who would hear his words. His peers, products of the culture in which their parents reared them, thought of the Messiah as a military conqueror who would put all their enemies down so that they could live freely and in peace.

These devout people were not wrong in their estimation of Messiah, just a few centuries off on His mission. The military triumph of Christ is not to occur until his second advent as the King of kings and Lord of lords. His first offensive feat occurred in the subjection of life itself to His will, the will of the Father in Heaven, by suffering for the sins of humanity and claiming his right to life again, which he did.

Unfortunately, in the society of Christ's generation, the aspect of His spiritual battle was lost to apostasy and misapplication of the Law of Moses.

Closing

Abinadi serves as a type or shadow of the life of Christ because of the several things that occurred to him after he began a public ministry among a remote group of Nephites; a people who are believed to be a mixture--with another group called the Lamanites--of the principal ancestors of the Natives of the Americas. Jerusalem and Lehi Nephi & Shilom needed to have a course correction. In Abinadi: An Elias With Authority of Christ, the authority of Abinadi is discussed.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Rodric Anthony

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