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The following is the next installment of a serialization of the novel, Abinadi by H.B. Moore. To read the previous installment, click here. More information about H.B. Moore can be found: www.hbmoore.com.

Chapter Twenty-Three
That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
(Isaiah 45:23)

Rubbing his forehead, Alma tried to make sense of what he’d just seen and heard. The preacher had returned. It was unbelievable. The man knew he was in danger, yet he still came to warn them. Granted, he’d come in disguise, as he certainly looked different with his shaved beard and shorn hair . . .

Alma watched the king pace before the court. Noah had been quite jovial through the whole episode of the merchant’s report, but from experience, Alma knew that good humor usually preceded the storm of the king’s temper. Surely today would be no exception.

The king’s rambling words reached him, and Alma realized that all of the priests were listening intently, their expressions grave.

“Like a garment in a furnace of fire?” Noah said, mostly to himself. Then his voice grew in volume. “The man didn’t even speak while the merchant was here. Is he proud enough to condemn in the marketplace, but when he’s brought before the court, he quakes with fear?”

The king looked at his priests. “What kind of a preacher is he?”

Alma drew back, seeing doubt and questioning on the king’s face. He tried to ignore the churning of his stomach. Since burning all of his belongings, Alma had tried to keep a low profile at court. He no longer spent his silver lavishly. He’d let all but one servant go. He no longer entertained harlots—there was an unspoken agreement now with the women. He might dance with them when the king was watching, but nothing more. He wore the same cape every day over a simple tunic. Gradually, even his troubling dreams had faded. He had been slowly changing from the inside out, and the last thing he needed was for the king to pay attention to him. Someone was sure to notice if Alma weren’t careful.

He’d been fortunate to have subtly thwarted the king’s intention of slaying Maia without drawing undue attention to himself, but he certainly couldn’t risk his life to save Abinadi’s. Yet he hadn’t been able to get the man’s words out of his mind since their brief conversation two years previous.

Alma focused on the discussion around him. The other high priests seemed to be cowering, none offering up satisfying answers to Noah’s questions. Amulon tried to make fun of the merchant again, but Noah no longer appeared amused.

Alma stood as he cleared his throat. The king and priests all looked at him. “Why don’t we bring him back to court and question him? Without the merchant or without the crowd of people—just the preacher.”

Amulon stood too. “Yes! We’ll be able to point out his errors. Poet or not, we know the ways of the gods more than he does. We have been made high priests over the people for a reason.”

Several heads nodded. The king looked at the panel of men. “All right. We’ll question him.”

Noah turned to the guards. “Bring the preacher back in.” Then he spoke to the portly scribe. “Eli, call together your best scribes. We’ll need their counsel.”

Eli rose to his feet and bobbed his head. With a flurry involving a dropped stencil and a scattering of scrolls, he fled the room.

Alma sat back down and twisted his hands. He tried to keep his expression calm, although his heart was pounding. He was looking forward to hearing the preacher speak more than he wanted to admit. Had there ever been a man more courageous? Alma didn’t think so. Abinadi was either truly called of God or completely out of his mind.

A few scribes hurried in, ushered by Eli. Their pale faces displayed fear and wonder at being summoned to court. Alma knew their days were usually spent cloistered in their rooms, copying text word by word. They gathered in a tight circle, turning metal plates and opening dusty scrolls. It was then that Alma recognized the youngest scribe—Limhi, the king’s own son. It had been two years since Alma had last seen him or noticed him. At my high priest ordination, he realized. It seemed the hunting trip had done little to turn the king’s intellectual son into a warrior or great hunter.

Alma shifted his gaze from Limhi to Amulon, who sauntered down from the bench and entered the circle of scribes, asking questions.

The king again took his place at his seat. The women moved back to his side, and everyone watched the activity of the scribes as they waited.

When the preacher was announced, Amulon resumed his place, a smug smile on his face. He leaned over to the king and whispered in his ear. Alma focused on the prisoner as he was dragged in. Ropes bound his hands in front, and similar bindings cut into his ankles. When the guards set him upright, the preacher stood straight, his back erect, his gaze steadily ranging over the assembled panel.

“Where did you come from?” the king asked.

“I come from a land where men walk free,” Abinadi said. “A place where the fruits of our labors benefit our own families and don’t line the coffers of greedy men.”

Alma stared at the man. He certainly didn’t mince words.

“What gives you the right to tell us what the Lord wants?” Amulon asked, rising to his feet.

“The command of the Lord Himself.” Abinadi’s gaze moved to Amulon. “I’m not here because of my will, but His.”

Amulon scoffed. “Who are you to tell us what is righteous or what is wicked?”

“I am merely the Lord’s mouthpiece.”

Amulon frowned and waved the scribe Eli over. The portly man rushed to Amulon’s side, holding out a metal plate—apparently what Amulon wanted, for he smiled and snatched it away.

“All right, since you know all about the Lord, what does this mean?” He cleared his throat and read, “‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings . . . The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.’ Here we are among mountains, fulfilling Isaiah’s words. God protects this people. You are a false prophet.”

Abinadi looked from Amulon to the other priests. “Are you not priests? Why do you ask me what these things mean? Do you pretend to teach your people and pretend to understand the spirit of prophesying?”

Amulon narrowed his eyes in anger. The scribes put their heads together, whispering furiously.

“You have not applied your hearts to understand the words of the scriptures,” Abinadi said, his voice rising. “You have failed to teach your people the ways of the Lord.” He paused, taking a deep breath. “Tell me, what have you taught this people?”

The king laughed, and a few others joined in. But most of the priests looked perplexed. “We teach the law of Moses, of course,” Amulon said, his face still quite red. He pointed at the group of scribes. “You can ask them. It’s all there on the metal plates that have been copied from the brass plates brought over by our fathers. We teach what is written. We make animal sacrifices and sin offerings upon the altars for the people, and we teach them to worship the Lord.”

Abinadi’s eyes pierced Amulon’s. “You sacrifice unclean animals. You may say you worship the Lord, but you worship other gods. If you’re teaching the law of Moses, why aren’t you living it?”

The room fell silent. Noah’s face went from amusement to anger.

Amulon’s mouth worked as he searched for an answer. Alma clenched his hands together in anticipation. He wanted to jump up and shout, He’s right!

“Why do you set your hearts upon riches? Where does it say to do so in the law of Moses?” Abinadi’s gaze moved to the women surrounding the king, then to the king himself. “Why do you commit whoredoms and spend your time with harlots?”

Noah’s hand clenched into a fist, and he pounded the low table in front of him. “Enough!” The women flinched, drawing back.

“You cause your people to commit sin,” Abinadi continued, his voice steady. “The Lord has sent me to prophesy against you.” His gaze moved from the king to Alma, and his voice softened. “You know I speak the truth, and you should be trembling before God.”

Alma felt as if Abinadi had reached inside his chest and wrenched out his heart. Everyone turned to look at him. He knew this man spoke the truth. And he could see that Abinadi knew he knew it.

The preacher’s next words took the attention off of Alma. “You’ll be smitten for your iniquities! You say you teach the law of Moses, but what do you know about the law?” He glared at the king. “Does salvation come by the law of Moses?”

The king opened his mouth to speak, but several of the surrounding priests stood. “Yes,” they shouted almost in unison.

Abinadi nodded, the red of his face fading. “If you keep the commandments of God, you will be saved.” He paused. “You might say you teach the law of Moses, yet you forget what God taught Moses.”

The priests began to whisper amongst themselves. Alma couldn’t take his gaze off the preacher.

Abinadi’s voice was low and urgent, his words causing a familiar feeling to cover Alma—taking him back to his childhood. It was as if his father’s words had been resurrected from the grave.

“The Lord said to Moses,” Abinadi started, “‘Thou shalt have no other Gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath.’”

The preacher lifted his bound arms, pointing to the wooden nawals, or guardian spirits, lining the walls of the temple. “You have brought idols into the temple! This should be the most sacred place in the land, yet you have defiled the very house of God.” He looked at the king as he lowered his hands. “You have not kept the law of Moses, and you have not taught your people correctly.”

Noah stood, pushing the women aside, and stepped off the platform, sending the scribes scurrying out of his way. “Away with this fellow!” he shouted, his hands clenched into fists. “Slay him! He’s mad!”

The guards reached for Abinadi, but he lifted his arms and broke the bindings. The guards fell back in astonishment. Abinadi spread his hands wide, shouting above the exclamations. “Touch me not, for God will smite you if you lay your hands upon me!”

The king took a step back in confusion, his body trembling. Alma stared at the preacher, holding his breath, his heart pounding. A searing heat seemed to pulse through the room, bouncing off the walls, then straight into Alma’s soul. The Spirit of God was in the room.

“I have not delivered the message which the Lord sent me to deliver,” Abinadi said, his voice echoing in the suddenly quiet room. His face was radiant, as if light were coming from his skin. “Neither have I answered your questions.” His gaze stayed on the king, his tone sure and strong. “God will not suffer that I will be destroyed at this time.”

The king sank onto one of the scribes’ stools, his expression a mask of astonishment.

Alma’s breath left him, and the strength in his limbs vanished. All he could do was watch and listen.

“You’re angry with me because I have told you the truth,” Abinadi continued in the dead silence. “And because I have spoken the word of God, you call me mad.” He took a step forward, the bands on his ankles suddenly loose. “You can see that you do not have the power to slay me.” His eyes roamed the high priests. “Therefore, I will finish giving the message that I came to deliver.”

Alma brought his hand to his heart, and Abinadi noticed the movement. The two men locked gazes. “My words fill you with wonder and amazement. After I finish my message, it will not matter where I go or what becomes of me, so long as I receive salvation from our Lord.” Abinadi’s chest expanded as he inhaled with the next breath. His voice trembled at his next words. “But this I can tell you . . . what you do with me after I am finished will be a type and shadow of things which are to come to you.”

No one moved or spoke. All eyes were on the preacher’s illuminated face.

Abinadi’s words filled the room, his voice shaking Alma to his core. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy; Honor thy father and mother . . .”

Tears stung Alma’s eyes, though he worked to keep them at bay.

Thou shalt not kill.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

The tears came anyway.

Thou shalt not bear false witness.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.

Alma hung his head, unable to look at the preacher any longer. Physical pain wrenched his heart. He may have burned all semblance of his outward wealth, but inside he was still rotten.

“Have you taught your people that they should keep the Lord’s commandments?” Abinadi asked.

Alma lifted his head, oblivious to his own tear-stained face.

“No.” Abinadi’s voice was just above a whisper, but it thundered into Alma’s heart. “If you had taught the people, the Lord would not have sent me.”

Alma found himself nodding.

The preacher looked at him and said, “You have said that salvation comes by the law of Moses. I say it is expedient to keep the law, but there will come a time when you will no longer need to keep it.”

A few of the priests broke from their trances and started to murmur.

“Salvation does not come by the law alone,” Abinadi continued, his voice commanding silent attention again. “Were it not for the Atonement, which God Himself will make for the sins of His people, we would all perish. God Himself will come down among His people to bring about the resurrection of the dead. And He will be oppressed and afflicted.”

Amulon started chuckling. “You know nothing of the ways of God—He would not come among men to be afflicted.” The king nodded his agreement.

But Abinadi was shaking his head. “Even the prophet Isaiah spoke of the son of God and his mortal life. ‘He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief . . .’”

The king folded his arms over his chest, his eyes narrowed, as Abinadi continued to speak.

Alma recognized several of the phrases the preacher quoted from the prophet Isaiah. The scribes sorted through their records, trying to find what portion Abinadi quoted from. Eli finally located the copy of the text and handed it over to Amulon. The king grabbed it from the high priest and scanned through the words.

“He was numbered with the transgressors,” Abinadi continued, “and He bore the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Amulon cleared his throat, glancing at the king. “Ah, so while God is on earth, busy being oppressed, who is ruling the heavens?”

The other priests chuckled at Amulon’s remark.

“The Father. The Son of God is called both the Father and the Son because they are of one heart and one mind. But the Son of God will come to earth in the flesh. And after working mighty miracles, He will be led, crucified, and slain.”

“Like you?” Amulon said.

Alma looked at Amulon, disgust tightening his stomach. The other priests laughed, gaining courage with Amulon’s caustic remark.

“The Lord will break the bands of death. He will gain victory, giving Him the power to intercede for the children of men.” Regardless of the jeering, Abinadi’s voice retained its calm power. “I am not the only one to prophesy of the coming of the Lord.”

The scribes busied themselves again, searching through records.

Alma held his breath at the preacher’s next words—ones he’d heard repeated by his father.

“All the holy prophets have testified of the coming of the Lord. And all who have listened to their words—and believed—will be the heirs of the kingdom of God,” Abinadi said.

Alma found himself beginning to nod, then stopped, lest others notice.

The preacher stretched out his hands again, and the guards near him backed away. “The time will come when every nation, kindred, tongue, and people will see eye to eye and will confess before God that His judgments are just.”

Every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, Alma thought with amazement. Everyone will confess. He hadn’t confessed. He wondered what the king would do to him if he did.

The room went quiet again as Abinadi continued. “The wicked will be cast out, and they will howl, weep, wail, and gnash their teeth. They will not be redeemed and will be resurrected to eternal damnation.” He looked directly at Alma. “Should you not tremble and repent of your sins, remembering that only through Christ can you be saved?”

Alma mouthed the word. “Yes.”

The preacher looked at Noah. “If you taught the law of Moses, you would have taught your people that redemption comes through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father.”

Noah was shaking, his face a scarlet red. “Are you finished?”

The surrounding priests started to murmur. Abinadi’s expression was unfazed.

“You accuse us of not teaching the law of Moses,” the king grumbled. “I say we do. As the king of this land, I define and amend the law according to the needs of my people. And for your blasphemous words, you will be put to death!” He turned to Amulon. “Take him away and kill him.”

The words chilled Alma’s heart, and before another instant passed, he stepped forward. “Wait.”

All eyes turned on him.

“Do not be angry with this man. He tells the truth,” Alma said, his heart pounding furiously. But as he spoke, he felt power and assurance swell within. “Let him depart in peace. His words have done no harm. If anything, they have caused us to dwell on the mercies of God and our own iniquities. We should not be changing the laws of God to serve our own purposes, but abiding by them.” For a brief instant, Alma caught Limhi’s curious gaze. The young man had risen to his feet, scrolls scattered on the floor about him. His mouth started to move as if he had something to say too.

“No!” Noah shouted, his eyes bulging. “You—I—get out of my sight—you traitor!”

Alma stumbled backward as the other priests advanced. He stepped off the platform and moved toward Abinadi. Their eyes locked for a moment, understanding passing between them—man to man, believer to believer. Abinadi’s gaze was triumphant.

“S-stay away from the—the preacher!” Noah sputtered. He whirled around, pointing at Alma. “Guards! Seize him!”

Alma hesitated for a brief instant, stunned. Then he turned from Abinadi and barreled past the surprised guards. Out the temple doors and down the steps he ran, not daring to look back. Noah’s voice sailed after him. “After you catch Alma, throw his new friend Abinadi in prison!”