Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mosiah 12: Abinadi's Soapbox

Now we get to the tragic story of Abinadi in earnest.

A Master of Disguise
This is how cleverly Abinadi, the exiled prophet of God, got himself back into the preaching game:
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....
Abinadi had gotten kicked out for preaching.  So when he sneaks back in to do the Lord's work surreptitiously, the first thing he tells his audience...is his name.  He may have been clever enough to wear a fake mustache, but he wasn't bright enough to use an alias.

Stop Trying to Legitimize Yourself!
After spending several verses going into great detail about the impending destruction if the people don't repent of their assorted sins, Abinadi makes an odd comment:
And it shall come to pass that except they repent I will utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth; yet they shall leave a record behind them, and I will preserve them for other nations which shall possess the land; yea, even this will I do that I may discover the abominations of this people to other nations.
So, basically, Abinadi is telling the people this:
  1. You guys need to repent.
  2. If you don't repent, God will destroy you all.
  3. If God destroys you he will preserve a record of these events for the benefit of later civilizations.

Why does he expect the wicked people to care about their destruction being used as a warning to future peoples?  This detail is irrelevant and its inclusion in his prophesies is bizarre.  From Abinadi's angle, it makes little sense.  From Joseph Smith's, however, it makes a bit more—it is one more of his numerous attempts to try and prove his book true with itself.  The Book of Mormon prophesies of itself and of its emergence in the modern era many times.  This is just one of the least seamless attempts to use the Book of Mormon to validate the Book of Mormon.

Noah's Priests are Horrible Interrogators
After letting Abinadi rot in prison for a spell, King Noah allows him to be brought before his priests to be questioned.  But somehow, the priests lose control of the situation when one of them asks Abinadi to interpret a passage from Isaiah.  They begin answering questions posed by their own prisoner and when the dust clears, their interrogation has turned into a four-chapter sermon from Abinadi.

And not one of the priests thinks of pointing out that, despite all his self-righteous pontificating, he still fails to provide an answer to the original question.  This may act as a precedent for many arguments in theological discussions with Mormons.  If you haven't read the transcript of Marlin K. Jensen's "Swedish Rescue" meeting, that is a prime example of trying to give the appearance of being right without offering any direct answers to the actual questions asked.  Of course, Mormons are not the only people who do this, but the skill does seem to be prevalent in the church's culture.

An Idiom of Reformed Egyptian
Abinadi claims that King Noah's life will be "valued as a garment in a hot furnace."  Is that a saying?  Has that ever been a saying, anywhere, in any language or any culture?  Ever?

As far as imagery goes, it seems kind of, well, dumb.  Why would a garment wind up in a hot furnace?  It seems about as helpful as saying Noah's life will be valued as a green banana in a tub of salty bathwater.  You might be able to make a point using the image, but it's not exactly an occurrence that people can immediately relate to.

Why not just say Noah's life will be meaningless?  Or why not just say King Noah is going to die?  Oh, right—because when you're prophesying doom and gloom, you always need to make sure it sounds as cool and as ominous as possible.


  1. I liked how he called them a "dumb ass" in verse 5. Nice!

    You're right. What was Abinadi thinking using his name after putting on a disguise. It cracks me up. I think him telling Noah he was going to be as a "garment in a hot furnace" gave Noah the idea to burn Abinadi up in a later chapter. What do you you think?

    Here's an example of sorts. Mormons love them, you know.

    Some dude named Abinadi has a mob hit out on him, because he keeps threatening to tell on them and keeps telling them how evil they are. So he goes and gets plastic surgery to completely change the look of his face. Then, two years later, he slips into a club where the mob guys are . They don't recognize him until he says, "Hey, I'm the Aginadi guy you guys have a hit out on. You need to change your ways, or God will cut you down like a chain saw cuts down a tree." Next thing you know, the guy finds himself in a bathroom with a bad dude and a chain saw. How stupid is that?

    1. I actually managed to grasp the stupidity of Abinadi's actions before leaving the church...way before. We had a good laugh about it in my seminary class. But of course, then it was all, "Oh, Abinadi, you so silly!" and not "This sounds like an idiot was just making this stuff up."

      And I could be way off base here, but the "garment in a hot furnace" thing reminds me of myself when I first learned what foreshadowing was. I felt this compulsive need to put it in every story I wrote because foreshadowing is always cool. Maybe Joseph was the same way. He already liked to mimic Biblical writing styles...why not throw in some more modern literary devices just because?