There are over 7.3 Billion people on earth. Just to illustrate with an actual number, that’s more than 7,300,000,000 people living right now and each one of us is “a man among them”. 1 We have all been asked to “let our light so shine” and to “stand with brightness”. Yet, with that many people in the world, we might feel like our lights just aren’t what they need to be sometimes because even when we unite ourselves with the other 15 Million Latter-Day Saint members, we realize that 1 Million is only one-thousandth of 1 Billion. Too often we feel like we are too small even (and maybe especially) if we live in an area with a higher concentration of members. We may feel like we are just one person among so many or that there is no way that the Lord can use us to bring about a change – let alone a “mighty” change.
We may think or feel something like; “I am just one person, among so many, what can I do”? If we feel that way, we are not alone. I imagine that everyone at some point has felt that they were just “a man among them” – because that’s exactly what we are, and that’s exactly what the Lord wants us to be.
I love the story of Abinidi. It is a popular story; one which most of us remember clearly from primary because of it’s PG-13 rating. Yet, there is so much to this story that we don’t know yet. We know the results of the story (his martyrdom), and the effect of his willingness (Alma’s change of heart) and we can understand why it is in the Book of Mormon. Yet, there is something at the very beginning of the story that we should also understand. It is in the verse in which Abinidi is introduced to the reader – which we may skip far too easily.
Chapter 11 of Mosiah explains that the kingdom was conferred from Zeniff to one of his sons (Noah), and that Noah did not walk in the ways of his father. Verses 2-19 outline the horrible things Noah did as king to burden and tax the people and if we are observant, we will notice that the conditions of that kingdom as explained pretty much mirror the conditions in which we live today. They also include a victorious mini-battle which contributes to Noah’s pride and boasting, which all set the stage for Abinidi.
Verse 20 reads “And it came to pass that there was a man among them whose name was Abinidi…that’s it. That’s the extent of our introduction to one of the greatest heroes in the book of Mormon. The Lord wouldn’t have it any other way. We never learn, but Abinidi was very likely a simple, humble and righteous soul (probably normal in every sense of the word) who tried his best every day to live according to the principles of the gospel as ‘a man among them’. One man among a city and community full of wicked priests, idolatrous and wicked people. I imagine that Abinidi had vowed long before this call came from the Lord to serve in whatever capacity he was asked to fill. I imagine that the oil of Abinidi’s lamp had been slowly filled over many years of devoted scripture study, prayer, obedience, and hard work. I imagine that Abinidi had teachers, friends, family, and numerous struggles just like the rest of us. Yet, when the call came – he was ready to serve – and “he went forth among them” and did the will of the Lord.
We all know the story; the people are filled with wroth and naturally want to take away Abinidi’s life because he testified of their wickedness. The people try to kill him, but the Lord “delivered him out of their hands” (the first time). This put Abinidi on their hit list, and “they sought from that time forward to take him”.
I like to think that the Lord used that first assignment as a test for Abinidi to see if he would “do all things whatsoever the Lord [his] God shall command [him]”.3 It couldn’t have been easy for Abinidi to rise up and preach to the people, especially since he was “a man among them”, yet he did it. The Lord may have also been providing some additional instruction and preparation (temporal and spiritual) to Abinidi because it’s not for two more years that he returns (disguised) and gives his amazing testimony to king Noah and his priests. No doubt these two years consisted of fervent prayer, trust in the Lord, willingness to submit to his will that led to an unflinching willingness to seal his testimony with his life. Abinidi’s amazing testimony, teachings, and witness is then outlined in chapters 12-16.
As humble and simple as that introduction was for Abinidi, being “a man among them”, let’s remember the amazing and “mighty” change which was the result of this testimony. In chapter 17 (verse 2) of Mosiah we are introduced to the lone young man who “believed the words which Abinidi had spoken”. This introduction is strikingly similar, which reads “there was one among them whose name was Alma”…
We know that this “one among them whose name was Alma” believed and acted to change his life, and the life of his posterity which blessed many people and provided us with lots of great reading material – for which we are all grateful.
Before we think that Abinidi and Alma are the only two with simple introductions, let’s remember Amulek who is introduced to the reader (when Alma came upon him) by the glorious and wordy “he said to ‘a man‘” (Alma 8:19).
We all live in a world filled to the brim with all sorts of iniquity, and we feel like we are just “one man among them”. But, we can be patiently and humbly obeying and doing our best to be ready for when the Lord calls us to “perform a work” – whatever that work may be. That work may only affect “one among them”, but that one has the potential to become many. We can also help those who are in our care (children, spouses, etc.) to patiently and humbly do their best to be ready, because the Lord will call us. Let us strive to be men and women of God, patient and humble enough, that our introduction and story can simply be “there was a man among them” named (enter your name here) who did the will of the Lord.
In regards to emphasis as outlined in my previous post. We can also place more focus on the term ‘man’1 – especially as it causes us to ponder on what a real man or woman is. For example, we could read it “And it came to pass that there was A MAN among them”. This denotes that Abinidi was a true man of God2 among the people. This thought is strengthened when read in context of John 19:5 (Behold, the man!) as that indicates the ultimate goal of true manhood. One other thought to consider while reading these passages, is the difference between the use of son of man, and Son of Man (with capitalization). This second usage is “A title that Jesus Christ used when speaking of himself (Luke 9:22; 21:36). It meant the Son of Man of Holiness. Man of Holiness is one of the names of God the Father. When Jesus called himself the Son of Man, it was an open declaration of his divine relationship with the Father”. 3
1 I will use ‘man’ here, but do not infer any difference in characteristics between males and females, especially as it relates to righteousness.
2 See “Be Men!” by Carlos E. Asay, April 1992 (click here)