18 Yea, and behold I say unto you, that Abraham not only knew of these things, but there were many before the days of Abraham who were called by the order of God; yea, even after the order of his Son; and this that it should be shown unto the people, a great many thousand years before his coming, that even redemption should come unto them.
Nephi’s enemies wanted to portray him as an isolated individual, out of touch with reality and dangerous to the social order. They tried to convince the people to reject him by saying “Why do you suffer this man to revile against us?” (Helaman 8:5) A similar tactic was used by the inhabitants of Ammonihah to disparage the teachings of Alma the Younger: “Who art thou? Suppose ye that we shall believe the testimony of one man?” (Alma 9:2) And King Noah’s initial response to Abinadi was the same: “Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him?” (Mosiah 11:27) When people can’t reasonably refute an unpleasant message, their first instinct is often to attack the messenger, particularly when the messenger is alone. “How can one person be more right than all of us?” seems to be their argument. Fortunately for Nephi, enough of his listeners defended him that he was able to continue his sermon.
Nephi listed a number of ancient prophets whose words the people knew: Moses, Abraham, Zenock, Ezias, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and their own ancestors Lehi and Nephi had all taught the same principles he was teaching. In the passage above, he further appealed to additional prophets before the time of Abraham who held the priesthood and who knew the plan of salvation. Echoing the words of Alma to the people of Ammonihah, he described these ancient prophets as being “called by the order of God; yea, even after the order of his Son” so that the people of their day would understand the plan of salvation. (See Alma 13:1-2.)
By identifying so many prior prophets, Nephi effectively refuted the assertion of his enemies that he was acting alone and that he was out of touch with reality. He was in fact in very good company. His fellow laborers were among the most powerful spiritual leaders in history. He recognized, as did the prophet Elisha, that he had numerous unseen allies even though he appeared to be outnumbered (2 Kings 6:16).
President Thomas S. Monson urged us to have courage in defending the truth:
As we go about living from day to day, it is almost inevitable that our faith will be challenged. We may at times find ourselves surrounded by others and yet standing in the minority or even standing alone concerning what is acceptable and what is not. Do we have the moral courage to stand firm for our beliefs, even if by so doing we must stand alone? As holders of the priesthood of God, it is essential that we are able to face—with courage—whatever challenges come our way. Remember the words of Tennyson: “My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure” (“Dare to Stand Alone,” General Conference, October 2011).
Today, I will have the courage to stand up for true principles even if those principles are rejected by many of the people around me. I will remember that, in defending the truth, I am actually in good company, no matter how lonely I may feel. As Nephi reminded his neighbors, a defender of the truth stands with the great spiritual leaders of the past, and therefore is not alone.