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Chapter 20
Mosiah 9–17


Zeniff established a Nephite colony in the Lamanite land of Lehi-Nephi and was succeeded as king by his wicked son Noah. The prophet Abinadi boldly testified of Christ and warned Noah and his people of the judgments of God that would come upon them if they did not repent. Abinadi was put to death by Noah and his wicked priests, but not before he delivered some of the greatest teachings found in the Book of Mormon.

Notes and Commentary

Mosiah 9 . “The Land of Our Fathers’ First Inheritance”

Zeniff and his people left Zarahemla to return to the land of Nephi during the reign of Mosiah I, the father of King Benjamin (see Omni 1:12 ). Many years later, during the reign of King Benjamin’s son Mosiah II, Ammon went to the land of Nephi to see what had happened to Zeniff’s people because they had not been heard from for so long (see Mosiah 7:1–2 ). This is not the Ammon who was one of the four sons of Mosiah II.

Mosiah 11:2 . Concubines and Whoredoms

Concubines in the Old Testament “were considered to be secondary wives, that is, wives who did not have the same standing in the caste system then prevailing as did those wives who were not called concubines” (BruceR. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.154). Concubines had full protection as wives and did not violate the law of chastity when the marriages were approved by the Lord (see D&C 132:34–43 ). In the time of King Noah, however, the word concubine referred to the wicked practice of a man living with more than one woman, in or out of marriage, without God’s approval.

The word whoredoms refers to any perversion of the laws of chastity and virtue.

Mosiah 11:3–15 . Wicked King Noah

In Mosiah 11:3–15 we get a vivid picture of the depravity engaged in and encouraged by King Noah.

The metal ziff (see v.3 ) is now unknown. In Hebrew this term means brightness, referring to metallic brightness (see v.3 b ). The term is also used in Daniel 2:31 and 4:36 , where it is translated as “brightness.”

Mosiah 11:15 indicates that King Noah was a winebibber. The word imbibe means to drink or absorb; therefore, a winebibber is one who indulges in excessive wine drinking. Today we would use the word drunkard to describe this kind of person.

Mosiah 11:16–19 . Scourged by the Lamanites

The Lord told Nephi that if the day ever came that the Nephites rebelled against the commandments, the Lamanites would be given power to scourge the Nephites “to stir them up in the ways of remembrance” (see 1Nephi 2:21–24 ). What happened to King Noah’s people was a literal fulfillment of this prophecy.

Mosiah 11:20–29 . Unacceptable to God

Nephi told his wicked brothers that “the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center” ( 1Nephi 16:2 ). This is why King Noah and his priests sought the life of Abinadi, just as the Jews in Jerusalem had sought to take away Lehi’s life (see 1Nephi 1:19–20 ), and the wicked people of Zarahemla would seek to kill Samuel (see Helaman 16 ).

False prophets and corrupt priests so often flourish among a wicked people because they soothe the conscience. They not only teach that there is no wickedness in the people’s actions, but they actually approve these acts as acceptable to God (see 2Nephi 28:8 , Helaman 13:24–28 ).

Mosiah 12:1–8 . Fulfillment of Prophecy

Mosiah 12:2–7 foreshadows what was to happen to King Noah and his people. Abinadi’s prophecy about King Noah is fulfilled in Mosiah 19 , and the prophecy about the people is fulfilled in Mosiah 21 .

Mosiah 12:9–37 . Unwise and Wicked Priests

When the wicked priests took Abinadi before King Noah they used flattery to influence the king’s judgment against the prophet (see Mosiah 12:9–16 ). They then used the same tactics that the Sanhedrin would use on the Savior. They attempted to “cross [Abinadi]” in his words in order to find something to accuse him of (see Mark 14:55–64 ).

King Noah’s priests challenged Abinadi with a statement from Isaiah. Abinadi showed that their ignorance of Isaiah’s words was due to their wickedness. He later explained that Isaiah’s words as quoted in Mosiah 12:21 referred to the Savior, and in verse22 to those who were called to bear witness of the Savior (see Mosiah 15:10–18 ).

Mosiah 13:1–10 . “Protected by Divine Power”

Abinadi knew that he would be protected and live long enough to fulfill his ministry and deliver the message the Lord had sent him to deliver (see Mosiah 13:3 ).

The Prophet Joseph Smith also received this assurance. Joseph Smith,Sr., called his children to his bedside shortly before his death to give them his final blessing. To Joseph,Jr., he said: “‘Joseph, my son, you are called to a high and holy calling. You are even called to do the work of the Lord. Hold out faithful and you shall be blest and your children after you. You shall even live to finish your work.’ At this Joseph cried out, weeping, ‘Oh! my father, shall I?’ ‘Yes,’ said his father, ‘you shall live to lay out the plan of all the work which God has given you to do. This is my dying blessing upon your head in the name of Jesus. I also confirm your former blessing upon your head; for it shall be fulfilled. Even so. Amen.’” (in Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, pp.309–10).

At the funeral of Elder RichardL. Evans, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “No righteous man is ever taken before his time” ( “Funeral Services for Elder RichardL. Evans,” Ensign, Dec. 1971, p.10 ).

Mosiah 13:11–26 . The Ten Commandments

Some may wonder how Abinadi could have read the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses. It should be remembered that the brass plates Nephi obtained contained the five books of Moses (see 1Nephi 5:10–11 ). This record, which would have contained the Ten Commandments, had been passed down by Nephite prophets and record keepers. Evidently the contents of the brass plates were known to Noah and his priests because they quoted from Isaiah and referred to the law of Moses (see Mosiah 12:20–24, 28 ).

Mosiah 14:1–12 . Isaiah’s Messianic Prophecy

In setting before the priests of Noah the relationship of the law of Moses to the coming Messiah, Abinadi quoted what is now Isaiah 53 . A careful analysis of this Messianic writing reveals that Isaiah had a clear understanding of the mission and suffering of the Savior more than seven hundred years before His birth.

Mosiah 15:1–4 . “Being the Father and the Son”

On 30June 1916 the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles set forth a detailed statement on the Father and the Son. In this exposition Christ, the literal son of God the Eternal Father, is represented as the Father in three ways:

He is the Father as Creator. Christ is referred to in many scriptural passages as “the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth” (see Mosiah 15:4 , 16:15 , Alma 11:38–39 , Ether 4:7 ).

He is the Father of all who accept his atoning sacrifice and covenant with him to obey his everlasting gospel. There are numerous scriptural passages that express this relationship (see Mosiah 5:7 , 15:10–13 , Ether 3:14 , D&C 25:1 , 34:1–3 , 39:1–4 ).

He is the Father by divine investiture of authority. This means that the Savior is the fully authorized and commissioned representative of his Father, and as such can speak and act for the Father.

The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve explained divine investiture of authority as follows: “In all His dealings with the human family Jesus the Son has represented and yet represents Elohim His Father in power and authority. This is true of Christ in His preexistent, antemortal, or unembodied state, in the which He was known as Jehovah; also during His embodiment in the flesh; and during His labors as a disembodied spirit in the realm of the dead. ... Thus the Father placed His name upon the Son; and Jesus Christ spoke and ministered in and through the Father’s name; and so far as power, authority, and Godship are concerned His words and acts were and are those of the Father” (in JamesE. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, p.471; the entire statement, “The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve,” is found on pages466–73 of The Articles of Faith ).

Mosiah 15:5–19 . The Seed of Christ

After explaining the relationship of the law of Moses to the coming Messiah, Abinadi interpreted the words of Isaiah that the wicked priests quoted (see Mosiah 12:21–24 ). Abinadi said that Isaiah spoke of those who are the seed of Christ.

Mosiah 15:20–31 . The First Resurrection

Abinadi taught that because Christ would break the bands of death, or have power over death, He would hold the keys for the resurrection of all people (see Mosiah 15:20 ). Abinadi taught that there would be a first resurrection at the time of Christ’s resurrection (see vv.21–23 ).

Concerning this first resurrection, Elder BruceR. McConkie wrote: “To those who lived before the resurrection of Christ, the day of his coming forth from the dead was known as the first resurrection . ... To those who have lived since that day, the first resurrection is yet future and will take place at the time of the Second Coming” ( Mormon Doctrine, p.639). Elder McConkie also wrote that “the righteous dead who lived from the day of Adam to the time when Christ broke the bands of death ‘were with Christ in his resurrection.’ ( D.&C. 133:54–55 .)” ( Mormon Doctrine, p.639).

Abinadi taught that those who died without a knowledge of the gospel before Christ’s resurrection could also “have a part in the first resurrection, or have eternal life” ( Mosiah 15:24 ). These people would have the gospel preached to them in the spirit world and would be able to receive all of the blessings given to those resurrected at the time of the first resurrection, even though they would not be resurrected until a later time (see D&C 137:7 ).

Those who willfully rebel against Christ have no part in the first resurrection. Abinadi explained that willful rebellion refers to those who have known the gospel but have forsaken it (see Mosiah 15:26–27 ).

Mosiah 15:25 . Eternal Life for Little Children

Compare what Abinadi said about little children having eternal life (see Mosiah 15:25 ) with Moroni8 and Doctrine and Covenants 137:10 .

“Among all the glorious gospel verities given of God to his people there is scarcely a doctrine so sweet, so soul satisfying, and so soul sanctifying, as the one which proclaims—

“Little children shall be saved. They are alive in Christ and shall have eternal life. For them the family unit will continue, and the fulness of exaltation is theirs. No blessing shall be withheld. They shall rise in immortal glory, grow to full maturity, and live forever in the highest heaven of the celestial kingdom —all through the merits and mercy and grace of the Holy Messiah, all because of the atoning sacrifice of Him who died that we might live” (BruceR. McConkie, “The Salvation of Little Children,” Ensign, Apr. 1977, p.3 ).

Mosiah 15:28–31 . A Strong Declaration

In Mosiah 15:28–31 Abinadi testified that Isaiah’s prophecy quoted by the wicked priests (see Mosiah 12:21–24 ) would come to pass. Abinadi testified that the word of the Lord would be declared to all the earth, and that Zion would be established.

Mosiah 16:13–15 . “Tremble and Repent”

Mosiah 16:13–15 contains Abinadi’s concluding message to the wicked priests. Note how Abinadi centered his testimony on the Atonement, and how he indicated that salvation is merited only through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Even the priests’ claim that they were obedient to the law of Moses was a rationalization of their own wickedness; if they had truly kept the Mosaic law, it would have taught them of and brought them to Christ.

Mosiah 17:1–4 . “A Man Named Alma”

“One of the wicked priests of King Noah is a man named Alma, who is a descendant of Nephi. When first introduced in the Book of Mormon, Alma is a young man in the process of being converted by Abinadi. ( Mosiah 17:2 .) Much of the religious history of the Nephite nation for the next three hundred years is concerned with this man and his descendants. Alma not only begins a religious revival among his own people, but later he is given power by King Mosiah to establish churches throughout all the land of Zarahemla. (See Mosiah 25:19 .)

“Still later we read that Alma’s son (also called Alma) succeeds his father as the religious leader of the people and also becomes the first chief judge over the Nephite nation. Other descendants of Alma the elder who become great religious leaders of the Nephites include his grandson (Helaman); great-grandson (Helaman, the son of Helaman); great-great-grandson (Nephi, the son of Helaman who is the son of Helaman); and great-great-great-grandson (Nephi the second, who is also the chief disciple of the resurrected Jesus Christ). Abinadi may have felt that he had failed as a missionary; so far as the record indicates, his only convert was Alma. However, as mentioned above, the missionary efforts of Abinadi affected the religious life of the Nephites for hundreds of years” (DanielH. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p.187).

Mosiah 17:5–12 . The Methods of the Guilty

King Noah indicated that he was condemning Abinadi because Abinadi said that “God himself should come down among the children of men” ( Mosiah 17:8 ). The real reason is shown in King Noah’s statement that he would spare Abinadi if he would recall all the words he had spoken against the king and his people (see v.8 ).

One of the methods of the guilty is to destroy those who have exposed their guilt. Abinadi’s words condemned Noah and his people for their sinful ways, so Noah sought the life of Abinadi. Truly, as Nephi said, “The guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center” ( 1Nephi 16:2 ).

Mosiah 17:13–20 . Abinadi’s Martyrdom

“In the gospel sense, martyrdom is the voluntary acceptance of death at the hands of wicked men rather than to forsake Christ and his holy gospel. It is the supreme earthly sacrifice in which a man certifies to his absolute faith and to the desires for righteousness and for eternal life which are in his heart” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.469).

Points to Ponder

■ How would Abinadi measure up if a missionary’s success was determined by the number of baptisms he performed? Why was Abinadi a successful missionary?

■ Who are the seed of Christ? (see Mosiah 15:10–13 ).

■ Who did Abinadi say would come forth in the first resurrection? (see vv.21–26 ).