(This article was adapted from the Zion series. Click here to receive free PDFs.)
Abinadi, a pivotal Book of Mormon prophet, was martyred for testifying that “God himself shall come down among the children of men.”[i] Redemption, he said, is available only through the condescending Savior, who is both the “Father and the Son.”[ii] Abinadi’s testimony became grounds for capital punishment!
Apparently, Mormon foresaw the testimony of Jesus as becoming a critical last-days’ issue and he chose the story of Abinadi to instruct us. Of significance, Abinadi’s testimony of the nature and mission of Jesus simultaneously caused the death of King Noah’s Babylon and the birth of Alma’s Zion. Similarly, we might expect that latter-day Babylon and Zion will fall and rise upon this singular issue.
“No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost”
Throughout history, the doctrine of the person, nature and mission of Jesus Christ has been widely unknown or misunderstood—often violently so. In the fourth century A.D., when Christianity had no determined doctrine on the nature of God and Jesus Christ, a priest named Arius forwarded a doctrine that threatened to topple Christianity. Anthanasius argued another opinion about the nature of the Godhead. Bishop Gregory joined in the fray then John Chrysostom added his view.
Their attempts to define and understand the Father and the Son were as futile then as the various creeds are today—evidence of widespread apostasy, for “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”[iii]
As the church fathers jockeyed for position to describe the nature of Jesus, the frustrated Roman emperor, Constantine, ordered the bishops to Nicaea in 325 to settle the matter. After serious debate and negotiation, a vote was taken, and Christ became officially inconceivable—the ultimate mystery. As a consequence, down through the ages, Christians have slain more Christians than the Romans ever martyred. Hotly debated today, the definition of Christ continues to divide Christianity and levels accusations on Mormons that we are somehow non-Christian for our unique belief. The Vision in 1820 set apart the Mormon definition of Christ as singular.
The “Seed” of Jesus Testify of His Nature
The testimony of Jesus--who he really is and what he really did--connects to another challenging doctrine: adoption. How and why does one become a son or daughter of Jesus Christ? Who are Christ’s seed? King Benjamin explained that we are adopted into the family of Jesus Christ and become his sons and daughters when we make a covenant.[iv]
Abinadi’s answer concerning adoption further fueled the flames of his execution by his linking the testimony of Jesus with the identity of Jesus’ seed. In fact, he said, the testimony of Jesus can only be borne by the Lord’s “seed.” It uniquely distinguishes them.[v]
The Testimony of Jesus Saves or Condemns the World
Could it be that the annihilation or salvation of this world will be decided on the testimony of the true nature and mission of Jesus Christ? If so, do we have any confirming evidence?
Consider “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which we frequently quote, and rightfully so. Issued in 1995, the proclamation is a treasure of astounding prophetic insights given to a world that now struggles with the definitions of marriage and family.
But fast-forward five years to the dawn of the new millennium. Do we remember another proclamation: “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles”? Might that proclamation also prove equally prophetic, defining and pivotal? If the answer is yes, the account of Abinadi immediately has profound latter-day implications, suggesting future bold, prophetic pronouncements and denunciations that could seal the fate of a corrupt world and herald the founding of Zion.
Who are the Beautiful Ones?
Let us examine how Abinadi structured his defense. To the question, who are they whose feet are beautiful upon the mountains?[vi] he first reviewed the commandments then revealed the Giver of those commandments. At that point, he launched into Isaiah 53, quoting the entire messianic chapter that contains stunning truths about the Savior. Expounding, Abinadi singled out two truths with the suggestion that they are interdependent: 1) the miraculous generation (origin) of Jesus Christ, and 2) the identity of the seed of Christ, who bear testimony of Jesus’ divine generation.
Who shall declare His Generation?
The first truth is a question: “Who shall declare his generation?”[vii] In other words, who can discover the origin of Jesus? Who can know that Jesus is the actual Son of God, generated by the Father as a separate divine individual endowed with the DNA of Deity? Who can know this sublime truth and stand for it when tradition casts Jesus as a great teacher and religious leader or a conglomeration of two gods melded into one unknowable, untouchable, inconceivable Divine It?
Abinadi explained the generation or origin of Jesus Christ this way: “And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.”[viii] Notice that Abinadi assigned the title “God” to Jesus.
Abinadi then taught the mystery of the uniquely divine nature of this condescending, redeeming God, Jesus Christ, who simultaneously is the Father and the Son.
“And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son--The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son--And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.”[ix]
This passage gives even the mature gospel scholar cause to ponder. Its effect on King Noah and his priests was a call for Abinadi’s life. Its effect on Alma was sore repentance and risking his life to bear this testimony the remainder of his days.
Clearly, the testimony of Jesus is divisive and essential. If we believe that the Book of Mormon was written specifically to gather, enlighten and instruct us in the last days, if we believe that its purpose is to convince “the remnant of the House of Israel” and “the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God,” then we, like Abinadi, must increase our ability to comprehend, articulate, and testify of the nature of Jesus Christ and his mission, which testimony will most certainly become critical to the collapse of Babylon and the building up of Zion in the latter days.
Of significance, our testimony of Jesus, his “generation,” attributes, mission and relationship to the Father, qualifies us, in part, to be called Jesus’ seed, his adopted sons and daughters, the “beautiful ones.