Monday, March 19, 2007

Mosiah 12

Abinadi's Warnings

After two years of avoiding the public's eye, Abinadi returns to warn the people of the consequences of their sins. Perhaps this two year period was used to see if the people repent. Now that two years have passed and the people have not repented, Abinadi has come again to give them a final warning.

In verse 1 he says, "they have hardened their hearts against my words; they have repented not of their evil doings; therefore I will visit them in mine anger."

In verse 2 he warns them that they will be brought into bondage, smitten, driven, killed and their bodies left to be eaten by dogs and vultures and wild beasts.

In verse 3 he specifically warns that King Noah's life "shall be valued even as a garment in a hot furnace." Later in verse 11, we learn that Abinadi compared Noah's life to a dry stalk in the field that gets trampled by beasts. In verse 12 his life is compared to that of the blossoms of a thistle, that when the wind blows, the blossoms are blown upon the face of the land.

In verses 5-8, Abinadi warns the people that unless they repent, they will be driven as mules, that their lands will be ravaged by hail and pestilence and the east wind. Concerning the east wind … the east wind is a symbol of destruction. I found the following quote from

“The east wind is a destructive wind which originates in the east, the symbolic direction of Deity's presence. Also called ‘the wind of the Lord’ (Hosea 13:15), it is ‘prepared’ by God (Jonah 4:8) for the purpose of destroying the ungodly and unrighteous. The Lord has stated, ‘If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the east wind, which bringeth immediate destruction’ (Mosiah 7:31). Hence they are ‘smitten with the east wind’ (Mosiah 12:6; see also Job 27:21).” (Donald W. Parry, Joseph Fielding McConkie, A Guide to Scriptural Symbolism, p. 45)

Perhaps given the geographical location of the Nephites, the east wind could be in the form of a hurricane too.

Apply Your Hearts to Understanding

After being imprisoned, Abinadi is brought before the priests and is questioned. The priests hope to confuse Abinadi, but instead of confusing him, they receive a sermon.

In verse 26, Abinadi tells the priests that even if they understood the teachings of the Gospel, they still perverted the ways of the Lord by not teaching the people. In verse 27 he tells them that they "have not applied [their] hearts to understanding."

Do we apply our hearts to understanding the scriptures and Gospel or do we superficially go through the motions? When I consider this phrase, I think of a person striving to truly understand the scriptures and how to apply them to his life. I do not think a person is applying their heart to understanding when he or she simply reads the scriptures and does not meditate on what he or she has read.

Although Book of Mormon marathons (reading the Book of Mormon in a group or individually non-stop over a short period of time) have a purpose in helping people gain a desire to read the scriptures, I do not think that it is a useful way to apply our hearts to understanding. Instead, I think a better way to apply our hearts to understanding is to pause and meditate on the scriptures while we read. As we pause and ponder and listen to the Holy Ghost, we will gain specific, personal revelation as to how we can apply the scriptures to our life.

Ezra Taft Benson had this to say of studying the scriptures,

"Read and study the scriptures. The scriptures should be studied in the home with fathers and mothers taking the lead and setting the example. The scriptures are to be comprehended by the power of the Holy Ghost, for the Lord has given this promise to His faithful and obedient: “Thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things.” (D&C 42:61.)

"The following statement by President Spencer W. Kimball illustrates how we may develop more spirituality in our lives:

"'I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel.' (“What I Hope You Will Teach My Grandchildren and All Others of the Youth of Zion,” address to Seminary and Institute personnel, Brigham Young University, 11 July 1966, p. 6.)

"That is great counsel which I know by experience to be true.

"The more familiar you are with the scriptures, the closer you become to the mind and will of the Lord and the closer you become as husband and wife and children. You will find that by reading the scriptures the truths of eternity will rest on your minds. (Ezra Taft Benson, “Seek the Spirit of the Lord,” Ensign, Apr 1988, 2)

If ye keep the commandments, ye shall be saved

Abinadi becomes the questioner rather the questioned when he asks the priests, "Doth salvation come by the law of Moses?" (v. 31). The priests tell him that salvation does come by keeping the law of Moses. Abinadi tells them that they are correct and adds, "I know if ye keep the commandments of God ye shall be saved." He then begins to recite to them the Ten Commandments. Later on in Mosiah 13:28 he further clarifies to them that salvation does not come by law alone. He teaches them that without the atonement, we must "unavoidably perish." In other words, we can keep the commandments perfectly but it would all be in vain if it were not for Christ's atonement.

The First Two Commandments

Abinadi then proceeds to teach the priests the commandments that they should not only be teaching, but should be living.

The first four commandments teach us about our relationship with God.

"I am the Lord thy God, who hath brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other Gods before me" (Mosiah 12:34-35). This teaches us that God indeed exists and is involved with the affairs of men. We are to be loyal to God and not have any other loyalties to other Gods.

The second commandment states, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing in heaven above, or things which are in the earth beneath" (Mosiah 12:36). Continuing on from the first commandment, we are not to make a likeness of anything and worship it. The sole object of our worship is God only.

Spencer W. Kimball perfectly summarizes the first two commandments, "Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his god; and if his god doesn’t also happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in idolatry." (Spencer W. Kimball, “The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign, Jun 1976, 3) I would encourage the reader to take the time to ponder the words of Spencer W. Kimball's talk.

I am reminded of a movie I watched as a young boy entitled Empire of the Sun. It is the story of an English boy living in China when the Japanese army invades that country. He becomes separated from his parents in their flight. Towards the end of the movie, we see numerous English refugees walking among large fields filled with "their" possessions … cars, statues, silver and many other possessions. Here in this scene, the people could freely take their possessions, but chose not to. Their focus was on survival and those riches meant nothing to them.

All that really matters in this life is building up the kingdom of God on the earth. Our focus should be on our family and those we serve and those whose lives' we can touch. Our focus ought to be the same as God's focus.

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