Abinadi is a unique person in scriptures for a variety of reasons, but one in particular. In the thousands of pages that make up the Latter-day Saint canon, Abinadi is one of a small handful of people that are not saved when faced with an extraordinary circumstance threatening their lives.
Daniel was saved from the lion’s den. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were saved from the fire. Abraham was freed from an altar by an angel and an angel told him to free his son from one as well. Jonah escaped the belly of the whale. Angels protected Nephi from his murderous brothers and Samuel the Lamanite wasn’t pierced by the arrows. When a mob of nearly four hundred men approached Zion’s Camp, headed by the Prophet Joseph, a violent storm suddenly arrived and frightened the mobbers away.
Christ healed unashamedly. A woman with an issue of blood. A man with unclean spirits. The blind, the leper, the brokenhearted. Each and every one of us.
While there are, of course, inspiring stories of those who weren’t rescued, they are reverently quiet in the midst of our bright optimism and hope for miracles.
As I recently read through Abinadi’s story again as part of my Come, Follow Me study, I was struck by how, if looked through an earthly perspective, it was a cruelly ironic situation. Abinadi tried and tried again to save King Noah and his people. He preached repentance and to look forward to the coming of Jesus Christ. Mosiah 12 teaches us that after King Noah sought the life of Abinadi once, he came back after two years to continue preaching because the Lord commanded him to go again.
Eventually captured and imprisoned, Abinadi was eventually burned by fire and killed for his testimony.
Reading through the story, I remembered my own Latter-day Saint mission. Isn’t that the burning hope in a missionary’s heart? To bring people to Christ and help them enter the waters of baptism? Surely, Abinadi had this hope. The people Abinadi and Alma taught were the same. At first glance, with a limited perspective, it would be fair to say “Abinadi did all of the work!” Or, “Why didn’t the people listen to Abinadi, which eventually caused his death, but they did listen to Alma?”
But God’s ways are not our ways. He knew exactly what was necessary for each person in this story to be the most effective in His plan. With an eternal perspective, we see Abinadi played an essential role in the conversion of Alma. Because of Abinadi, thousands were eventually converted to the Lord. While it is painful he did not live to see the fruits of his labors, he stands today as an unmoveable example of faith in the face of adversity, and ultimately death.
In our own lives, there are cruel ironies. Our plans are not always God’s plan. It’s ok for this hurt. It’s ok to feel terrible pain, as Abinadi did. His death was surely agonizing. But we can square our shoulders and stay true through the midst of it all. I love this quote from Elder Cree-L Kofford, a Seventy, and I think he sums up the lessons we can learn from Abinadi the best:
“What is there that is so special about Abinadi? Perhaps it was his total obedience as he went, presumably alone, among those whom he must have known would take his life, to deliver the word of the Lord and to cry repentance to the people. Perhaps it is the very fact that we know so little about him, or perhaps it was simply the way with which he faced the adversities which came into his life in such a straightforward, ‘square-to-the world’ way. Whatever the reason, Abinadi was and is special. His life, lived so long ago, still has the power to excite the mind and cause the pulse to pound.”