A short time ago, I found my personal life rather devoid of hope. And when you lose hope, it becomes easy to blame yourself for all the shortcomings in your life. While struggling through, I read a story in The Book of Mormon.
One group of people travelled away from where the others lived, and started their own city with a king. The city lived well during the time the king was alive. When the king died, however, his son, Noah, became the new king. Noah became a wicked, self-indulgent king. During the time of King Noah, the people suffered. A prophet named Abinadi came to the city. Almost nothing about Abinadi’s past can be found in The Book of Mormon.
He appears mysteriously, and then disappears almost as quickly. Noah, who didn’t like Abinadi’s message, ordered Abinadi executed on trumped up charges. Everyone who reads the story has to feel badly for Abinadi. Abinadi came from God, and his message would have saved the people of the city much misery, and he lost his life for the work he did. Yet from my pessimistic and self-blaming point of view, the story began to take on an entirely different dimension.
What if Abinadi caused his own downfall? Unlike other great missionaries from The Book of Mormon, Abinadi never offered service to Noah. Abinadi never tried to build from a common set of principles. From the perspective of how modern missionaries do their work, Abinadi failed on several counts. He deserved his ignominious end, because of his poor approach to missionary work.
Well maybe I didn’t go quite that far. No one deserves to die for being a bad missionary. But still, I didn’t sympathize with Abinadi’s plight.
Then I began to read the next chapter. In the next chapter, we learn that even though Abinadi was killed, one man listened to Abinadi’s message and left King Noah’s court. He hid in the forest and began preaching the gospel to those who would listen. The man converted by Abinadi’s words was Alma, who would later become an influential prophet.
In fact Alma’s conversion set the course for the righteous people in The Book of Mormon for the next seventy or so years. Yet Abinadi saw none of this. Not only did he not know the effect of Alma’s conversion, Abinadi died believing no one listened to a word he said.
Alma’s conversion was crucial to the plan of God, and perhaps it was Abinadi’s uncompromising message that caught Alma’s attention. Perhaps a service-first missionary could not have moved Alma with the power with which he needed to be moved.
Abinadi followed God’s directions. Perhaps they didn’t make sense from his point of view, and they didn’t even make sense from my point of view, but from God’s infinite point of view Abinadi acted perfectly.
Our lives can often be like Abinadi’s (well hopefully not exactly like Abinadi’s). We can reach a period of trial, and see absolutely no reason for our struggles, no positive outcomes. We often reason with ourselves that if God wanted us to be on this path, that the blessings would be more forthcoming. But just like Abinadi was, I need to be more confident that when I go along a path that I sought with earnest prayer that follows the commandments, that I am following God’s plan, trials and all.