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King Noah (//) is a Nephite king in the Book of Mormon who appears in the Book of Mosiah. Noah rules over a Nephite colony who came from Zarahemla and settled in the land of Lehi-Nephi, succeeding his father, Zeniff. In the Book of Mosiah, King Noah breaks away from his father’s righteous teachings, committing “all manner of wickedness.” Noah and his priests sentence the prophet Abinadi, who prophesied of his kingdom's downfall if they did not repent, to death by fire. During a Lamanite invasion, Noah and some of his people flee the land, and those who remain are subjected to Lamanite control. Noah attempts to forbid his men from returning to their families, and they burn him at the stake. Noah is succeeded by his son, Limhi.
Within the Latter-day Saint (LDS) movement, Noah is commonly labeled as a “wicked king,” with his character typically presented in a negative light. Art historians and other commenters suggest that Arnold Friberg’s painting, “Abinadi Before King Noah,” has contributed to many Latter-day Saints' perceptions of the story of King Noah. LDS scholars write that Noah’s reign is an example of a system of absolute power and discuss the defining traits of Noah’s character.
King Noah first appears in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Mosiah, where he succeeds his father as king over the Nephite colony at around 160 BC. Noah is killed in the nineteenth chapter, at around 145 BC. The story of King Noah directly follows the first-person account of Zeniff, but the narration point of view shifts to the third person.
Noah's father, Zeniff, started a Nephite colony within the land of Nephi (also referred to as the land of Lehi-Nephi) by forming a peace treaty with the king of the Lamanites who inhabited the land. The Lamanite king eventually betrayed their agreement, resulting in several land battles between the Nephite colony and the Lamanite people.
The reign of King Noah
In the Book of Mosiah, Noah inherits the kingship over the Nephite colony residing in the land of Lehi-Nephi. Rather than continuing Zeniff’s example of leading with faith in God, Noah breaks away from his father’s teachings of righteousness. During his reign, he commits “whoredoms and all manner of wickedness.” King Noah imposes a 20% possession tax on his people to support his “riotous” manner of living and organizes architectural developments in the land, including a large and ornate temple for his personal use. He has “many wives and concubines” and dismisses his father’s priests, replacing them with priests of his choosing. Noah’s priests, like Noah himself, are prideful and participate in “whoredoms.” The people of Lehi-Nephi accompany King Noah in falling away from Zeniff’s teachings, similarly committing sins, becoming drunkards, and worshiping idols.
The Nephite colony’s violent contentions with the Lamanite people who also inhabit the land of Nephi do not cease upon King Noah’s reign. The Lamanites attack the Nephites’ flocks, and the guards Noah sends are killed. Noah sends an army to push out the Lamanites. The army is victorious, and Noah and his people attribute their success to their abilities rather than to God.
Noah and Abinadi
The prophet Abinadi preaches to the Nephite colony that they will be “brought into bondage” by their enemies if they do not repent for their wickedness. Abinadi condemns the actions of King Noah and his people, and Noah commands his people to capture Abinadi so he may kill him, but Abinadi gets away. Two years later, Abinadi returns to continue his call for the repentance of the Nephite people, prophesying of their destruction if they refuse. The Nephites bring Abinadi to King Noah, who imprisons him on the grounds of spreading lies about King Noah and teaching false prophecy. Noah and his priests conduct a trial where they decide to kill Abinadi, and Abinadi responds with “the message which the Lord sent [him] to deliver.” Abinadi spends three days in prison and is brought back before King Noah. Noah sentences Abinadi to death but is afraid of the prophet’s warning of his people's future suffering. Noah’s priests convince the king to kill Abinadi despite his fear. As Abinadi is burnt at the stake, he prophesies that King Noah will die in the same manner.
Lamanite invasion and Noah's death
Alma, one of Noah's priests, believes Abinadi’s words and continues his preaching to Noah’s people, asking them to repent. Under Noah’s direction, Alma is forced out of the land, taking those he convinced to repent with him. A division forms between the remainder of Noah’s people, and a man named Gideon leads the group who oppose the king. Gideon’s assassination attempt on King Noah is interrupted by a Lamanite invasion. Noah leads a group of his men out of the land of Nephi, his priests among them, leaving their wives and children behind at Noah's command. The remaining Nephites are captured by the Lamanite people and taxed, and Noah's son, Limhi, is made their king. Noah’s group turns on him and his priests after Noah forbids them to return to their families. They burn King Noah at the stake, ultimately fulfilling Abinadi’s final prophecy that Noah will die as he did.
In Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide, Grant Hardy, an LDS history and religion professor, rejects the idea of Noah as the “embodiment of aggressive evil.” He instead identifies Noah's character as lazy, greedy, and non-confrontational. Hardy claims that Noah’s “vices” were a result of having a “nonjudgmental, tender-hearted, overly optimistic father.” In “For the Peace of the People,” Ryan Davis, a political scientist, labels the story of King Noah’s reign as a characteristic example of a “despotic, autocratic regime.”
King Noah is often referred to as a “wicked king" by members of the Latter-day Saint (LDS) movement. Mildred Hunt, an LDS poet, wrote a poem titled “King Noah” in which Noah acts as the speaker. Hunt's literary depiction of the king commands his servants to bring him food, architects, money, and his wives.
A painting by American artist Arnold Friberg titled “Abinadi Before King Noah” (also “Abinadi Delivers His Message to King Noah”) visualizes Abinadi’s trial before Noah and his priests in the Book of Mosiah. Friberg's “Abinadi Before King Noah” was part of a series consisting of twelve scenes from the Book of Mormon and were later included in published editions of the Book of Mormon. This painting is also featured on the official LDS Church website. In “‘A Picturesque and Dramatic History,’” Noel Carmack claims Friberg’s Book of Mormon paintings have contributed to Latter-day Saint perceptions of people and stories within the Book of Mormon.
According to art historian and professor Darren Longman, Friberg's imagining of this scene between King Noah and Abinadi follows an “ethnocentric” narrative where “whiteness is tantamount to righteousness and brownness to iniquity.” Longman quotes Dr. Anthony Sweat, an artist and professor of Church History and Doctrine, who described Friberg’s painting as “an image with such influence and widespread distribution that it has shaped these artistic interpretations into almost certain facts for an entire generation of church members.”
- churchofjesuschrist.org: "Book of Mormon Pronunciation Guide" (retrieved 2023-10-17), IPA-ified from «nōʹa»
- Mosiah 11:2
- Largey 2003, p. 613; Thomas 2016, p. 77–79; Bingman 1978, p. 273–275
- Faulconer 2020, p. 14.
- Faulconer 2020, p. 15.
- Thomas 2016, p. 78.
- Largey 2003, p. 802.
- Mosiah 11:2
- Bingman 1978, p. 273; Smith & Spencer 2023, Summary Report; Hardy 2023, p. 255
- Reynolds, George (1888). The Story of the Book of Mormon (3rd ed.). Chicago: Press of Henry C. Etten & Co. pp. 72–73.
- Mosiah 11:2
- Mosiah 11:6
- Thomas 2016, p. 77–78.
- Bingman 1978, p. 273.
- Mosiah 11:21
- Bingman 1978, p. 274.
- Smith & Spencer 2023, Summary Report.
- Thomas 2016, p. 78; Mosiah 13:3
- Thomas 2016, p. 79; Bingman 1978, p. 274
- Bingman 1978, p. 275.
- Hardy 2010, p. 301.
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- Hardy 2010, p. 131.
- Hunt, Mildred Tobler (2015). Hunt, Charlene Rhodes (ed.). Her Voice, Her Truth: Poems of Mildred Tobler Hunt. University Press, Provo, Utah. p. 208.
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- Smith, Andrew; Spencer, Joseph M., eds. (2023). God Himself Shall Come Down: Reading Mosiah 15. ISBN 979-8-386694-80-7.