Sunday, April 21, 2013
Why We Call Him Gideon
After introducing our son to people, one of the first questions I get is where Gideon comes from, as Armstrong is a family name.
Gideon is a sturdy Biblical name (my Grandma Updike would approve, heaven bless her) and a worthy fellow himself. Yet the Gideon I think of is the unsung captain of the guard turned spiritual teacher in the Book of Mormon.
In The Book of Mormon, Gideon's character is embedded in the after-story of Abinadi, burned at the stake because he dared to defy the wicked King Noah and his priests. We first meet Gideon trying to slay the wicked King Noah. Although it doesn't mention here whether he has been converted yet, he is an enemy to the king, and strong.
We next learn that he has a following. In the absence of leadership by King Noah, it seems that Gideon has stepped up and perhaps prevented a massacre by their enemies, the Lamanites, by negotiating a shrewd but hefty tribute. After peace is settled, the "men of Gideon" organize themselves in to a sort of search and rescue party to find those who had fled with the cowardly Noah into the wilderness.
Gideon is then naturally made the king's captain for the newly installed King Limhi. He again prevents the destruction of his people, this time by providing wise advice to King Limhi. A few chapters later, we find Gideon again shrewdly yet appropriately providing wise counsel to King Limhi that allows the Nephites to escape from under the Lamanite's noses.
It is several more years before we meet Gideon. This time, he is old. We learn that, while no longer strong physically, he has become a spiritual teacher of his people. In his weakness, he courageously stands up to the anti-Christ Nehor, and is slain.
Gideon is not forgotten by his people. The land in which he lived is named after him, and the people there continue to be righteous for many, many years - possibly because of Gideon's legacy - when others have fallen away.
I hope this unsung hero of the Book of Mormon will provide a vivid example to our son as he grows into his name. I'd love for him to be strong, faithful, deferential, wise, courageous, and leave a long and lasting legacy of faith.