(August 31, 2015)
It is pretty clear, when looking at what we know of Abinidi and King Noah, that we are looking at a proto-Disciplinary Council. Noah was the head of the Church, and appointed the High Priests that sat with him on this council. What’s more, Noah represented the Priesthood leader (consecrated by his father) over this area. So in effect, what we are reading about is Abinidi being wrongfully excommunicated from the Lord’s Church. We may rest assured that the Lord has corrected (or will correct) such issues in the hereafter.
Understanding that Noah was a Priesthood leader, in addition to being a political leader, becomes illuminative. In particular, I was struck by how vulnerable he was to flattery. Noah, reluctantly (and for the wrong reasons) was about to make the right choice and let Abinidi live. But the flattery of those around him (‘how dare he say such things about the king!’) swayed him and he chose to sentence Abinidi to death.
I have seen this vulnerability both in myself and in other Priesthood leaders. In my life, I have seen a Priesthood leader who surrounded himself with those who repeatedly told him that whatever he decided, they were certain it would be the will of the Lord (which even the Brethren make no claim to – mistakes are inevitable because mortal men inevitably make them). This flattery, in part, led this leader to make a serious mistake.
We should support and sustain our Priesthood leaders, yes. But we should not idolize them – both because of the damage it does to us and also the damage it does to them. And, when we are in positions of responsibility, we must be cautious to include voices that are not voices of flattery but rather pricks to our conscience to ensure we remain on the path we are supposed to be on.