While starting to read the story of King Noah, and of his personal prophet Abinadi (he got rather personal with him in his prophecies) I was greatly impressed by the difference of character between these two men. Noah, the son of the first king of his people, inherits the kingdom for nothing, and immediately begins to exercise his selfish desires upon the people, whereas Abinadi, a practical nobody who shows up later, shows great courage and charity as he boldly proclaims the truth.
The first 15 verses of Mosiah chapter 11 tells us all of the changes that King Noah makes to the kingdom as he beings his rule. He began a stiff tax system (20% of all income and goods to the king!). With all of the money he gained he built useless towers and opulent temples and throne-rooms; he focused greatly on physical possessions and beauty. He planted vineyards and became a “wine bibber.” He spent his time with harlots and even encouraged his subjects to do the same. He fired the old priests and hired new ones that would support him in his wickedness. In short, as it says in verse 4, “he had changed the affairs of the kingdom.”
What I find the most interesting, however, is the affect that his reign had upon his subjects. Take a look at verse two which reads:
2 For behold, he did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart. And he had many wives and aconcubines. And he did bcause his people to commit sin, and do that which was cabominable in the sight of the Lord. Yea, and they did commit dwhoredoms and eall manner of wickedness.
Because of his position, he was able to influence many people to commit much sin. These were people who, not too many years before when war and destruction did threaten them by way of the lamanites, “did go up in the strength of the Lord to battle” (see Mosiah 10:10). These were people who knew the Lord, and yet, because of the unrighteous example of their leader, were led astray. This reminds me so much of a prophecy made by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, who said in his ninth chapter:
This is true also in our day, and very much so. We need to remember to choose good leaders for our government, for our schools, for our churches, and for all of the groups to which we belong. We cannot underestimate the influence that these leaders will have upon us, and we cannot underestimate the influence that WE have upon those within our own circles.
That leads me to my next character for inspection–Abinadi. In verse twenty we come into first contact with Abinadi, who is described as simply as a man who “went forth among them, and began to prophesy.” And did he ever! He starts right of with the wo be unto you’s and the exhortations to repent. He prophesied of bondage and even said that when the people eventually did repent that the Lord “will be slow to hear their cries; yea, and [the Lord] will suffer them that they be smitten by their enemies” (verse 24). In the next chapter Abinadi practically commits high treason against the crown attacking the king’s character personally, saying, “the life of king Noah shall be valued even as a garment in a hot furnace” (Mosiah 12:3, and it is interesting that this verse prophecies of Noah’s later death by fire). If Abinidi was trying to win the next “Land of Nephi Popularity Contest” he was definitely on the wrong track.
Noah sought only to fill his selfish desires, whereas Abinadi must have had not only great courage but great love for his people in order to say what didn’t want to be heard. The best way to overcome fear is through love. Mormon, in a letter to his son Moroni, encouraged him to courage despite the wickedness around them:
16 Wo be unto them that shall pervert the ways of the Lord after this manner, for they shall perish except they repent. Behold, I speak with boldness, having aauthority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for bperfectclovedcasteth out all fear.
Abinadi had this love for others, and that is what made him a great leader. Many people look at his ministry and say that he didn’t have much of an affect on those he taught. But to get a better view of his influence, I like to look at it this way: his one convert was Alma who baptized hundreds and later thousands and was instrumental in re-establishing the true church with in the land. Alma’s son was Alma the younger who, with his friends, served a fourteen year mission and converted tens of thousands of some of the strongest and most faithful saints in the whole history of the gospel. Alma the younger’s son was Helaman, the prophet-general who led the young sons of these newly converted faithful members in battles that saved thousands of innocent lives and proved an example to many more thousands in their day as well as in ours. Helaman’s son was the prophet Helaman, whose sons were Nephi and Lehi (who converted thousands of lamanites who later willingly gave up their homes to return the land of Zarahemla to the nephites to whom it belonged). And, lastly named here but not least, was Nephi’s son Nephi who was the chief of the 12 disciples of Christ among those in the western hemisphere, and who helped usher in three generations of complete and utter righteousness.
So, my fellow readers of the holy scriptures, whenever we doubt our influence, whenever we feel insignificant and of little worth, let us remember the examples of these two men, Noah and Abinadi, one of whom led a sad, selfish and miserable life that ended violently, and the other who had love enough for those around him to take the hard choice and stand up boldly for what he believed to be right.
Like Abinadi, we might not see the results of the example we set, but be not dismayed. The Lord is working with those whom we love when we see not. He takes and gladly accepts our contribution and continues to use it to do His great work. Remember “by small and simple means are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6), and though you and I may sometimes feel that the little we can do is hard and hardly worth notice, that it can be just what the Lord needs to work a Mighty Influence for good among those that both we and He loves.