It’s not just about the message; it’s also about the messenger. Alma was convinced of the truthfulness of the gospel when he heard Abinadi preach in King Noah’s court. Abinadi’s words were true, but he was persuasive not only because of his message. He was persuasive because of the personal sacrifice he was willing to make to deliver that message.
The first time Abinadi taught the people, his life had been threatened, and he had to go into hiding (Mosiah 11:27-29). Two years later, completely aware of the danger he faced, he reemerged with a similar and equally unpopular message. After being imprisoned, he was brought before the king and his priests for questioning. When the king had heard enough, he commanded his guards to take Abinadi away and execute him. At that point, Abinadi’s true authority became clear.
“Touch me not,” he said, “for God shall smite you if ye lay your hands upon me, for I have not delivered the message which the Lord sent me to deliver” (Mosiah 13:3). The guards were stunned into submission, and Abinadi continued his message.
“I have told you the truth,” he said (Mosiah 13:4, 7). In Abinadi’s mind and heart, speaking the truth was more important than personal convenience, social status, and even his life. “I finish my message,” he said; “and then it matters not whither I go, if it so be that I am saved” (Mosiah 13:9). Was Alma impressed not only by the confidence and authority of this prophet, but also by his willingness to sacrifice everything for what he knew to be true?
After presenting his message, Abinadi was given a stark choice: recall his words or die. He answered boldly:
I will not recall the words which I have spoken unto you concerning this people, for they are true; and that ye may know of their surety I have suffered myself that I have fallen into your hands.
Yea, and I will suffer even until death, and I will not recall my words, and they shall stand as a testimony against you. And if ye slay me ye will shed innocent blood, and this shall also stand as a testimony against you at the last day.
Alma believed Abinadi’s words and pleaded with the king on Abinadi’s behalf. As part of Noah’s inner circle, he must have known the risk he was taking. Because of his advocacy for Abinadi, he lost his position in society, and he nearly lost his life. Now it was Alma’s turn to go into hiding, just as Abinadi had done before. He was willing to make this sacrifice because he believed that the words of Abinadi were true (Mosiah 17:1-4).
King Noah also knew, or at least suspected, that Abinadi’s message was true. After Abinadi’s final warning, “king Noah was about to release him, for he feared his word; for he feared that the judgments of God would come upon him” (Mosiah 17:11). But his priests convinced him to move forward with Abinadi’s execution, saying, “He has reviled the king” (Mosiah 17:12). For Noah, maintaining his position of authority and saving face was more important than acting in accordance with the truth.
At a young age, Joseph Smith demonstrated the same courage and commitment to truth demonstrated by Alma and Abinadi. After sharing a spiritual experience with people he trusted, and being criticized for doing so, he decided to prioritize his commitment to the truth over his desire to be accepted:
I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.
(Joseph Smith-History 1:25)
Elder W. Craig Zwick has encouraged us to emulate the integrity of Abinadi:
We may not have to lose our lives in defense of truth, but we can, just like Abinadi, draw ourselves to full stature, and with full heart and energy, valiantly proclaiming that Jesus Christ is our Savior. He was and is the Son of the Almighty. He lives and He loves us.
(“We Will Not Yield, We Cannot Yield,” General Conference, April 2008)
Today, I will follow the examples of Abinadi, Alma, and Joseph Smith. I will prioritize the truth over convenience, acceptance, or influence.