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Abinadi: Apostate Society

Updated on July 11, 2022
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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.

Jesus Christ's life (ministry, death, and resurrection) has many types or historical references that testify of Him as the Exemplar.

Abinadi, an ancient American prophet in an obscure society of people called Nephites, testifies through martyrdom of what happened to Messiah over a century before the birth of Jesus. Abinadi's story, found in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, starts about 148 B.C. and is a shadow or type of things to come, that eventually happened.

A "type" or a "shadow" in this instance means assessing historical events as indications or representations of another central event.

Abinadi a Type or Shadow of Christ

  1. Preached to apostate societies

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


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 possibly 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.

Nephite culture, based in a city called Zarahemla, practiced and supported a form of Judaism. The Zeniffites, a subgroup of the Nephites, believed in the Law of Moses but did not practice it according to God's decree--184 years before Christ performed the atonement to fulfill the Law; hence God sent Abinadi to call them to repentance.

The Zeniffites did not start as a non-believing society. Zeniff, a righteous king, allowed his desire to possess the land of his forefathers to cloud his judgment--placing his followers in a precarious situation with their enemies, another group designated in Mormon's record as Lamanites. After Zeniff's death, his people quickly matched the personality of their new king, King Noah. This King Noah did things in his kingdom that had not occurred among the Nephites, possibly taking queues from his Lamanite neighbors and others, virtually pagans.

Upon ascending the fledgling throne, Noah replaced the priests his father commissioned to teach and perform the ordinances relating to the Mosaic Law. 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 and winebibbery to the people.

Erecting spacious buildings and beautiful spaces, Noah's civic legacy, (all for the glory of his name and the vanity of the kingdom), he erected vineyards as their kingdom prospered surrounded by their enemies, 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 Law as revealed through Moses. The society at large submitted to fornication and false teachings that made them vulnerable to their enemies.

Lamanites and Romans?

Mormon describes Lamanites during Abinadi's time as the descendants of people who rebelled against Mosaic law for generations, nearly five centuries..

Lamanites begin with a compelling story of one family in Jerusalem. The only information available about this group of cultures called the Lamanites exists in the record written by the Nephites--extremely biased 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 cultures 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 his people into the situation where his son came to rule.

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. Abinadi went to preach 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.


Societal Context of Christ's Ministry

The Jewish Kingdom, submerged into the Roman culture, paid tribute to that empire. Pontius Pilate represented, for purposes here, King Noah 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, 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 misunderstood 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 flourished 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 Merdian Judaism deceived 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 immediately.

These devout people eclipsed their estimation of Messiah, just a few centuries off on His mission. The military triumph of Christ would not occur until His second advent as the King of kings and Lord of lords. His first offensive feats occurred in the subjection of life, by suffering for the sins of humanity and claiming His right to life again.

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


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 believed, along with a mixture of a group called Lamanites, the principal ancestors of the Natives of the Americas. Jerusalem and Lehi Nephi & Shilom needed to have a course correction. "Abinadi: Shadow of Things to Come," addresses Abinadi and Jesus Christ's authority.

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 Johnson


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