Abinadi: He Came among Them in Disguise

This volume, which examines the Book of Mormon story of Abinadi, is the first volume generated by the Book of Mormon Academy, “an academic think tank and research group begun . . . to promote scholarship and teaching on the Book of Mormon” (vi). Scholars in this group “primarily pursue their own research agendas,” but sometimes they produce studies “that can be combined into one volume” such as this one (vi).

The chapters are organized into four groups, each bringing different “lenses” to bear on the text. The first group applies “literary lenses” to the Abinadi story. Jared W. Ludlow, Daniel L. Belnap, and Frank F. Judd Jr., in their respective chapters, analyze narrative features of the text that bring to light subtle ideological tensions over Nephite identity and the interpretation of Isaiah. These papers largely build on previous works about the Abinadi account by scholars such as Dana M. Pike, John W. Welch, and Joseph M. Spencer.

The second group utilizes “intertextual and intratextual lenses” to add insight to Abinadi’s words and their impact among later Nephite prophets. Here John Hilton III traces connections between Abinadi’s words and those of King Benjamin, Amulek, Alma, and Mormon, while Nicholas J. Frederick examines New Testament language that shows up in Abinadi’s discourse. Shon D. Hopkin looks closely at Abinadi’s quotations from Exodus 20 and Isaiah 53, analyzing the textual variants found here and in other ancient textual witnesses. In his chapter, Hopkin engages with past studies of the Isaiah variants by David P. Wright and John A. Tvedtnes. For another study relevant to such language studies, readers may want to reference David Larsen’s article on death being “swallowed up” (“Death Being Swallowed Up in Netzach in the Bible and the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies Quarterly 55, no. 4 [2016]: 123–34).

The third section features two papers examining the Abinadi narrative through “cultural-historical lenses.” Kerry Hull discusses the connotations of a disastrous “east wind” in biblical and ancient Near Eastern traditions as well as in Mesoamerica. Mark Alan Wright, cowriting with Hull, compares the killing of Abinadi to numerous accounts of torturing and killing captives from both pre- and post-Columbian sources in Meso- and North America. Wright and Hull significantly expand on past works by Robert J. Matthews and Brant A. Gardner. Generally speaking, however, possible Mesoamerican connections to the Abinadi story remain an area for further exploration.

In the fourth section, the story of Abinadi is looked at through “theological lenses.” Amy Easton-Flake considers the issue of infant salvation in the Book of Mormon, first (chronologically) mentioned by Abinadi, and also in light of nineteenth-century debates about infant salvation and baptism. Finally, following similar efforts in Pauline scholarship, Joseph M. Spencer provides a philosophical and theological analysis of Abinadi’s “as though” statements in Mosiah 16:5–6.

The volume concludes with two appendices. A “critical text” of Mosiah 11–17, compiled by all the members of the Book of Mormon Academy, uses the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon as the base text and provides over seven hundred footnotes highlighting textual variants, intertextual relationships, and unique phrases. A true testament to the diligent work of the contributors, this resource will prove useful to students and scholars alike. The second appendix provides a bibliography of much of the previous Abinadi scholarship that many of the papers build on.

Overall, this book provides a close look at the narrative about the prophet Abinadi from a variety of angles, building on and engaging with past scholarship and forging ahead into uncharted territory. Informed Latter-day Saints interested in deeper study of the Book of Mormon, as well academics of all kinds who are interested in serious engagement with the Book of Mormon, should be interested in this volume.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 57:4
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