In the past, whenever I read of Abinadi’s confrontation with King Noah and his priests, I was puzzled that Abinadi took his time answering the question asked by one of the priests: “What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying:
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth; …
“The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God?” (Mosiah 12:20–24.)
Abinadi starts asking his accusers questions. It was the nature of some of those questions that gave me some insight into Abinadi’s teaching methods and some possible reasons for Abinadi’s delay in responding.
Some of Abinadi’s questions are obviously designed as reprimands, but at least two questions allow him to learn what the priests actually know and believe. This gives Abinadi a common ground on which to answer their question—a technique known among teachers as “teaching from the known to the unknown.”
Abinadi first asks, “What teach ye this people?”
He next asks, “Doth salvation come by the law of Moses?”
They answer that it does. (Mosiah 12:31–32.)
Abinadi responds by quoting the ten commandments, the heart of the law of Moses. He knows the priests are familiar with these teachings, since teaching the law of Moses is a fundamental part of the priests’ career. Next, having established this common ground, Abinadi uses the law of Moses as a springboard into “unknown territory”:
“Ye have said that salvation cometh by the law of Moses. I say unto you that it is expedient that ye should keep the law of Moses as yet; but I say unto you, that the time shall come when it shall no more be expedient to keep the law of Moses.”
He explains this startling announcement by declaring that “salvation doth not come by the law alone” and that “God himself shall make [an atonement] for the sins and iniquities of his people.” (Mosiah 13:27–28.)
To support this “new” idea (new, at least, to the priests), Abinadi cites Moses and Isaiah, both of whom the priests respect as authoritative sources of doctrine. (See Mosiah 13:33; Mosiah 4:1–12.) His reference to Isaiah also introduces his answer to the question they posed earlier (see Mosiah 12:20–24) about the passage from Isaiah.
He first emphasizes that “God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.” This is the “good tidings” of which Isaiah spoke. (See Mosiah 15:1–9.)
Abinadi next identifies the publishers of these good tidings. With a reference to the passage he just quoted from Isaiah, Abinadi declares that “the holy prophets ever since the world began” are “they who have published peace, who have brought good tidings of good, who have published salvation, and said unto Zion: Thy God reigneth!” (Mosiah 15:10–14.)
Abinadi concludes with three gospel teachings, each followed with a warning to the unrighteous generally, and to the wicked priests specifically.
Second, he teaches that “the salvation of the Lord shall be declared to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people”—and “then shall the wicked be cast out … because they would not hearken unto the voice of the Lord.” (Mosiah 15:28–31; Mosiah 16:1–2.)
Third, he teaches that Christ is “the light and the life of the world” (Mosiah 16:6–11) and warns that those who reject the “arms of mercy” extended to them will be “delivered up to the devil, who hath subjected them, which is damnation.” (Mosiah 16:11–13.)
Having moved his “students” from what they knew to what he wants them to know, Abinadi now summarizes by exhorting the priests to assume their responsibility as teachers of the people:
“Therefore, if ye teach the law of Moses, also teach that it is a shadow of those things which are to come—
“Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen.” (Mosiah 16:14–15.)
A master teacher has finished his instruction. His students now have the opportunity to act upon that which they have heard, if they so choose.