Rehabilitating Abinadom

Rehabilitating Evidence
In a legal trial, after evidence has been presented to suggest that a person did something wrong, that person’s counsel will often present new evidence to show that the person actually did nothing wrong. This new evidence can be called rehabilitating evidence. Its purpose is to restore (rehabilitate) the person’s reputation or character and explain why inferences of wrongdoing should not be made from the initial evidence.

I Know of No Revelation … Neither Prophecy
Abinadom’s brief account in the Book of Omni, which doesn’t record any new revelation or prophecy, includes these words: “I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy. Wherefore that which is sufficient is written” (Omni 1:11, emphasis added. All Book of Mormon quotations are from Royal Skousen, ed., The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text [New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2009]). Taken alone, these words from Abinadom may leave some readers wondering about his experience with, or belief in, ongoing revelation. Is he telling us that he doesn’t know of any revelation or prophecy that was received in his own day? No. This is not what he means. Thankfully, the rehabilitating evidence, which we will review below, is competent and convincing. Abinadom was well acquainted with—and obedient to—ongoing revelation.

Abinadom’s Dilemma
Abinadom, like his ancestors before him, was charged with the task of making a record on the small plates of Nephi of “preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying” (Jacob 1:4). However, as the room on the small plates diminished, those who had received this charge were faced with the dilemma of how to record such revelation without filling up the small plates. This became more difficult as the remaining room on the small plates got smaller and smaller. Every account on the small plates before that of Abinadom is shorter than the preceding one. The account of Abinadom’s father, Chemish, contains only 69 words. It would have been almost impossible for Abinadom to record any significant revelation in so few words. Before we discuss how Abinadom resolved the dilemma of balancing his charge to record important revelations with the limited space remaining on the small plates, let’s look ahead at how his son Amaleki solved the same dilemma in his day.

Amaleki had no descendant to whom he could confer the small plates. He knew, however, that king Benjamin, who was charged with keeping the other, large plates, was “a just man before the Lord” (Omni 1:25), so he delivered the small plates to him. It can be inferred that Amaleki trusted king Benjamin to record on the large plates the kinds of spiritual things that Amaleki’s family was charged with recording on the small plates. It appears that Amaleki’s trust in king Benjamin was well founded. Mormon’s abridgment of the large-plate record kept in king Benjamin’s day is filled with the type of preaching, revelation and prophesying that Amaleki and his ancestors were charged with recording.

Before turning the small plates over to king Benjamin, Amaleki filled the remaining space on the small plates with an account that included revelations, prophesies and sacred events that had taken place during his own life. Providentially, his relatively lengthy account (compared with the accounts of his father, grandfather, and great grandfather) describes how his father, Abinadom, responded well to important revelations.

Contemporaries
Mosiah Discovers the People of ZarahemlzAmaleki tells us that he “was born in the days of Mosiah” (Omni 1:23). This means that Amaleki and Benjamin (who later became king) were contemporaries—they were both born in the days of Mosiah. It also means that their fathers, Abinadom and king Mosiah, were contemporaries. Realizing this, we can see that much of Amaleki’s entry describes events that took place during the adult life of his father, Abinadom. As a member of king Mosiah’s generation, Abinadom would have been among the obedient adult Nephites who, when king Mosiah was “warned of the Lord that he should flee out of the land of Nephi,” were willing to “hearken unto the voice of the Lord [and] depart out of the land with him into the wilderness” (Omni 1:12).

Many Preachings and Prophesyings
Therefore, Abinadom was with king Mosiah as “they were led by many preachings and prophesyings, and they were admonished continually by the word of God, and they were led by the power of his arm through the wilderness, until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:13). It is in this context, then, a context filled with ongoing revelation and prophesy, that we must read Abinadom’s brief testimony. This context makes it clear that Abinadom was well aware of—and followed—many revelations and prophesies received in his own day.

The Other Plates
Because we know from Amaleki’s account that Abinadom knew of—and obeyed—many revelations and prophesies received in his own day, Abinadom’s reference to the record that was “engraven upon plates, which is had by the kings according to the generations” (Omni 1:11) takes on new importance. Just as Abinadom’s son Amaleki would rely on king Benjamin to include the future spiritual history of the Nephites on the large plates, Abinadom apparently learned for himself that king Mosiah’s large-plate record included an account of the revelations and prophesies received in his day. Because space on the small plates was so limited, Abinadom’s brief testimony written upon the small plates doesn’t record these revelations and prophesies. However, it reassures us that they were, in fact, recorded on the large plates, so he was faithful to his charge to see that these sacred things were recorded on plates. He says, “the record of this people is engraven upon plates, which is had by the kings according to the generations. And I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy. Wherefore that which is sufficient is written” (Omni 1:11, emphasis added).

We don’t know whether king Mosiah personally knew Abinadom, one of his righteous followers. We do know, however, that the two were both record keepers. Abinadom kept the small plates of Nephi, while Mosiah kept the large plates. We also know that their sons became sufficiently acquainted with each other for Amaleki to know that king Benjamin was “a just man before the Lord” (Omni 1:25) and for king Benjamin to accept the small plates from Amaleki.

Although Mosiah was in charge of the large plates, it’s not clear that he always wrote on them personally. Three generations earlier, Jarom noted that the large plates contained “the writings of the kings, or that which they caused to be written” (Jarom 1:14). If the practice of sometimes delegating to others the actual work of engraving on plates continued in Abinadom’s day, it’s not out of the question that Abinadom, who had the requisite skills, had some role in writing down on the large plates a portion or all of the revelations received by Mosiah.

In any event, Amaleki’s account of the events of his father Abinadom’s life helps to clarify that Abinadom was very much aware of, and valued, “many preachings and prophesyings” that took place as he and the other obedient subjects of Mosiah were “admonished continually by the word of God, and they were led by the power of his arm” (Omni 1:13). Abinadom certainly did not live during a time when revelation was scarce among the Nephites. Because of revelation, Abinadom was convinced to move his family from the land of Nephi into an unknown wilderness, through which they were led by revelation to the land of Zarahemla. These historical facts tell us that Abinadom knew of and obeyed many revelations received in his own day—and Abinadom’s brief words clarify that he also knew that these revelations had been duly recorded on the large plates.

Lost Manuscript
Martin HarrisUnfortunately, Joseph Smith’s translation of Mormon’s abridgment of the large-plate record covering Abinadom’s day was lost by Martin Harris (see Doctrine and Covenants 3). Because of this loss, we don’t have access to Mormon’s abridgment of the account to which Abinadom refers. Nevertheless, Amaleki’s account on the small plates gives us enough information to rehabilitate Abinadom’s character. We know from Amaleki’s account that Abinadom faithfully followed many revelations in his day and knew that they were recorded on the large plates.

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