BMGD #15 Mosiah 1-3

April 9, 2012 | 7 comments
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CHAPTER 1

1 And now there was no more contention in all the land of Zarahemla, among all the people who belonged to king Benjamin, so that king Benjamin had continual peace all the remainder of his days.

Brant Gardner:

The first chapter of Mosiah in our current text does not begin in any expected way. In the first place, we are missing the introductory material that Mormon included with all other books he edited. This strongly suggests that our Mosiah chapter 1 was not the beginning of the book of Mosiah. Skousen’s examination of the manuscripts indicates that what we have as Mosiah 1 was originally Mosiah III, or the third chapter of the book of Mosiah rather than the first (Skousen, Royal. “Critical Methodology and the Text of the Book of Mormon.” In: Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6/1. FARMS 1994 p. 138).  Citation

Royal Skousen:

The lost 116 pages included not only all of Lehi, but also part of Chapter I of the original Mosiah.  Citation

There’s an interesting contrast with Words of Mormon 1:12 (“And now, concerning this king Benjamin—he had somewhat of contentions among his own people.”).

Is the relationship between contention and peace as obvious as it seems?  Or might this verse be saying something more subtle?

This peaceful state is a most unusual state of affairs for the BoM.  To what do you attribute it?  How should it color your reading of King Benjamin’s speech?

2 And it came to pass that he had three sons; and he called their names Mosiah, and Helorum, and Helaman. And he caused that they should be taught in all the language of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding; and that they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers, which were delivered them by the hand of the Lord.

As with Nephi and Enos, record is made of parents teaching the language to their children–something that every parent everywhere has always done.  We might wonder why they bother mentioning it.  Unlike Nephi and Enos, we do get a glimpse as to the reason:  “that thereby they might become men of understanding.”  The Nephites had an unusual emphasis on literacy for an ancient culture.  (I’ve seen estimates of 5-10% literacy rates for the biblical world.  It is possible that the Nephites also had low literacy levels and it is only the “record-keeping class” that is literate.)  Given that we live in a society with virtually universal literacy, how might this emphasis on literacy in the BoM be relevant to us?  Do you think that only a very few people in the BoM were able to read the plates?  If so, why might this be?  (In other words, why didn’t their RS teach people how to read?)  If so, how should that impact your interpretation of the BoM?

I’m curious about the phrase “mouths of their fathers” since the whole point is that they had to read the prophecies, which were written.  Why emphasize the mouths?

Is there any significance in the “mouths” and “hand” references?

L. Tom Perry:

Keeping the doctrine pure was foremost in King Benjamin’s mind, so he wanted all of his people to receive his witness and his word.  Apr 02 GC

3 And he also taught them concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God.

Why are they so down on oral tradition in the BoM?  (As best we can tell, oral traditions were extremely common and remarkably accurate in various times and places in the ancient world.)

Does this verse suggest that it is impossible for an illiterate person to know the mysteries of God?

What application does this verse have for a society with universal literacy?

4 For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time.

In oral cultures, people memorize chunks of material at least as lengthy as the brass plates.  So I suspect that the point is not that Lehi couldn’t have remembered these things, but that he couldn’t have remembered them to teach them to his children.  And I suspect the point of that has something to do with written scripture affecting the reader in a different way than oral scripture affects the listener, although I’m not sure exactly how that would be.  Also, if we assume the (likely) scenario that most Nephites are illiterate, we wonder why they didn’t place more emphasis on orality.  (At the risk of being difficult, it almost begins to look like a power play so that the scriptures would only be in the hands of the small number of men [and not the gender-neutral ‘men’] who would then be the only ones able to interpret them.  You know, just like the evil apostasy in Europe, where priests controlled the sacred texts, that only ended when brave reformers brought scripture to the masses–plow boys, etc.)

Why would the plates in Laban’s Jrsm house have been written in Egyptian and not Hebrew?

5 I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct.

The Lamanites (at least the first ones, Laman and Lemuel) had the records, but fat lot of good it did them.

Cheryl C. Lant:

Each of us has traditions in our families. Some of them are material. Some of them have deep meaning. The most important traditions are connected with the way we live our lives and will last beyond us as our children’s lives are influenced and shaped. In the Book of Mormon, we read of the Lamanites who were deeply affected by the traditions of their fathers. King Benjamin said they were a people who knew nothing about the principles of the gospel “or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct” (Mosiah 1:5). What kinds of traditions do we have? Some of them may have come from our fathers, and now we are passing them along to our own children. Are they what we want them to be? Are they based on actions of righteousness and faith? Are they mostly material in nature, or are they eternal? Are we consciously creating righteous traditions, or is life just happening to us? Are our traditions being created in response to the loud voices of the world, or are they influenced by the still, small voice of the Spirit? Are the traditions that we are creating in our families going to make it easier for our children to follow the living prophets, or will they make it difficult for them?  Apr 08 GC

Do you read this verse to say that keeping the covenant is impossible without literacy?

I’m thinking about modern applications of the principle here, where the danger isn’t that the word of God will be lost to us because we don’t have the text, but rather that the word of God will be buried in a mountain of other text (and texts).

The records that the Lamanites didn’t have were (some form of) the Old Testament.  And yet, think of all of the people in the old world who had that record and were still not prepared for the coming of the Messiah.  And think of the gulf between what is now generally considered to be the meaning of those texts and the gloss that the BoM prophets give them.  How do we explain these distances?

It seems a little awkward that the only reason that the Lamanites don’t have the record is because . . . Nephi absconded with it.  Of course, he only did that because [1] God told him to and [2] the Lamanites were trying to kill him. Nonetheless, the root of their lack of records is in their desire to kill their prophet leader.

I’m curious about how they didn’t believe truth even when it was taught to them.  Does this happen today?  What is the remedy (because it obviously isn’t the scriptures!)?

There’s a paradox here:  they stick to their (presumably oral) (false) traditions like glue; they lack true traditions because they don’t have the records.  It seems that the oral tradition was quite sticky for them, but the memory of the plates was not.  Why would this be?  How do you explain this paradox? What is the lesson for us?

Brant Gardner writes:

Societies all change over time, and the literate ones simply have the record of those changes. Citation

That simple sentence was a bit of a light bulb moment for me, especially given the questions I have been raising about why a written (as opposed to an oral) record is so important.  I think the key just may be that a written record is far, far more likely to preserve the changes that happen, whereas they may be dropped from the oral tradition because they no longer seem relevant, or now seem embarrassing, or are a threat to the current leaders, etc.

6 O my sons, I would that ye should remember that these sayings are true, and also that these records are true. And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contain the records and the sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true; and we can know of their surety because we have them before our eyes.

Why do you think he calls attention to the records and the sayings separately?

Note that the plates of Nephi contains “records” and “sayings.”  Is this two ways of saying the same thing (and, if so, why would it be phrased this way?) or two different things (and, if so, what is the distinction between the two?)?

The final line suggests an awful lot more than it says.  I think it is saying that when you have a record, you can determine its truthfulness for yourself but when you don’t, you can’t.  This sounds a lot like Moroni’s promise.  It also makes me wonder if we should be privileging written over oral communications.  (I do think that orality can favor charisma, peer pressure, and emotional response more than written records, but maybe I am wrong about this.)

What does “true” mean?  Historically true?  Inerrant?  Teaching true doctrine?  Complete?  Inspired?  Something else?

7 And now, my sons, I would that ye should remember to search them diligently, that ye may profit thereby; and I would that ye should keep the commandments of God, that ye may prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers.

What is the difference between searching and reading?

8 And many more things did king Benjamin teach his sons, which are not written in this book.

What is the point of this verse?

9 And it came to pass that after king Benjamin had made an end of teaching his sons, that he waxed old, and he saw that he must very soon go the way of all the earth; therefore, he thought it expedient that he should confer the kingdom upon one of his sons.

I read this verse to suggest that they did not have a uniform succession policy (otherwise, the identity of the next king would have been obvious when Ben died).  I also think it is more common to have kings serve until death, so it is interesting that BoM kings go to “emeritus status.”  What might this suggest about their culture?  Are there any situations where we might want to model this?

10 Therefore, he had Mosiah brought before him; and these are the words which he spake unto him, saying: My son, I would that ye should make a proclamation throughout all this land among all this people, or the people of Zarahemla, and the people of Mosiah who dwell in the land, that thereby they may be gathered together; for on the morrow I shall proclaim unto this my people out of mine own mouth that thou art a king and a ruler over this people, whom the Lord our God hath given us.

Why is it important that Mosiah perform this “gathering” task?  And why is it important for the reader to know that he was given this task?

Brant Gardner:

Once again we are required to read between the lines of the text. Benjamin has had controversy and conflict during his reign, though at this very point in time he as peace (verse 1). Even at this date (comprising the end of the life of Mosiah I and most of Benjamin’s life – perhaps at least 60 years given the typical life span in the Book of Mormon and the overlap between Mosiah I and Benjamin) we have two identifiable political factions, one retaining the identity of Zarahemla and one the identity of Mosiah (and interestingly not Nephi). This division in the people becomes the background against which Benjamin’s coming proclamation will make sense (see verse 11), and potential (or past) divisions between the two groups may also explain the need to declare Mosiah II as king “from mine own mouth.” The clear pronouncement in a public forum would be calculated to decrease potential divisions and disagreements about succession. Citation

11 And moreover, I shall give this people a name, that thereby they may be distinguished above all the people which the Lord God hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I do because they have been a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord.

Presumably the goal is to forge a combined identity of the people of Mosiah and the people of Zarahemla, and this time of peace and lack of contention might be the best time to do it.  I think this verse asks us to look at naming conventions and their power to unite or to divide–I’m sure we could think of lots of modern examples of both.

This verse suggests that there is merit to a group having a name.  What do you make of this notion?  How might it be relevant to us?

In the Bible, the giving of a new name usually connotes (1) the power of the “namer” over the “namee” and/or  (2) a new identity or role for the “namee.”  Would either of those meanings be relevant here?

See 5:11 for the name that he gives them.  (Is this what you would have expected?)

12 And I give unto them a name that never shall be blotted out, except it be through transgression.

To what use do you put this verse in our very individualistic society?

13 Yea, and moreover I say unto you, that if this highly favored people of the Lord should fall into transgression, and become a wicked and an adulterous people, that the Lord will deliver them up, that thereby they become weak like unto their brethren; and he will no more preserve them by his matchless and marvelous power, as he has hitherto preserved our fathers.

Who is the “you” in this verse–the reader?  Mosiah?  The people?

I’m curious about “weak” in this verse.  Is that the word that you would have expected?

One idea I discovered upon close study of the psalms is that many psalms take as a given that the default state of humanity is pure disaster and it is only the protecting hand of God that protects the righteous from that state.  I think this verse supports that theology, as does v14.

I find it interesting that the “preservation” that they have experienced involved multiple moves out of harm’s way, and not necessarily military or financial superiority.

14 For I say unto you, that if he had not extended his arm in the preservation of our fathers they must have fallen into the hands of the Lamanites, and become victims to their hatred.

In various places in the OT, the arm is a symbol for strength.

15 And it came to pass that after king Benjamin had made an end of these sayings to his son, that he gave him charge concerning all the affairs of the kingdom.

Is there a link between the previous teachings and control of the kingdom?  Is it even possible that the previous text was ritualized?

Do you read Ben’s speech differently if you think of the speaker as the “emeritus king” instead of the king?

16 And moreover, he also gave him charge concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass; and also the plates of Nephi; and also, the sword of Laban, and the ball or director, which led our fathers through the wilderness, which was prepared by the hand of the Lord that thereby they might be led, every one according to the heed and diligence which they gave unto him.

Is the Liahona still functional?  Or is it a relic?

17 Therefore, as they were unfaithful they did not prosper nor progress in their journey, but were driven back, and incurred the displeasure of God upon them; and therefore they were smitten with famine and sore afflictions, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty.

What is the difference between prosper and progress, or are they two different ways of saying the same thing?

Does this verse suggest to you that all famine and affliction is the result of unrighteousness?  How can you tell?

18 And now, it came to pass that Mosiah went and did as his father had commanded him, and proclaimed unto all the people who were in the land of Zarahemla that thereby they might gather themselves together, to go up to the temple to hear the words which his father should speak unto them.

CHAPTER 2
1 And it came to pass that after Mosiah had done as his father had commanded him, and had made a proclamation throughout all the land, that the people gathered themselves together throughout all the land, that they might go up to the temple to hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them.

This is the third time that Mosiah’s role in announcing his father’s speech is mentioned.  This is a topic that we might have expected to be skipped entirely, but we have it three times.  Why might it merit this treatment?  (One thought:  it emphasizes Mosiah’s obedience, an interesting thing in a king.)

This is the second time (so far) that the temple is mentioned.  Why might that be significant?

2 And there were a great number, even so many that they did not number them; for they had multiplied exceedingly and waxed great in the land.

Normally, multiplying and waxing great are signs of God’s favor.  Is that the case here?

In the Bible, there is some stigma associated with the idea of taking a census of the covenant people.  (This arises from the idea that Abraham’s descendants would be so numerous that they could not be counted and perhaps might explain some of the sting associated with the census at the time of Jesus’ birth.)  Is that idea relevant here, where it sounds as if the only reason that there is not a census is pragmatic?

Censuses were often taken in the OT (Ex. 30:12; Num. 1:1–4, 26; 2 Sam. 24; 1 Chron. 21). Generally the purpose was to prepare for war, but censuses were also taken as preparation to serve God (Num. 4:1–3, 21–23). In 1 Chron. 23, some kind of census appears to have been associated with David making his son Solomon the king, a situation somewhat analogous to Benjamin’s coronation of Mosiah.  Citation

3 And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses;

Why was this verse included?

4 And also that they might give thanks to the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, and who had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and had appointed just men to be their teachers, and also a just man to be their king, who had established peace in the land of Zarahemla, and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men.

Why “just” as opposed to another adjective?

What do you see in this verse that you should model?

This is very much a communal act of worship; thoughts about this?

Doesn’t this verse suppose a huge feast, as the worshippers eat all of these sacrificed animals?  Why is that not mentioned?

It has been about 400 years or more since Lehi left Jerusalem.  Can you imagine going to the temple to give thanks for something that happened that long ago?  Should you?

Does this verse suggest that the establishment of peace is (one of) the key characteristics of a “just” ruler?

I like the link between keeping the commandments and rejoicing.  (If I had more time, I’d study the incidents of “rejoice” and its variants in the BoM and see what patterns emerge.)

What does this verse suggest about what it takes to be filled with love toward God?  (I’m toying with the idea that it is saying that love of God and man is not “natural” or the default setting, but rather is the result of keeping the commandments.  If that is true, why would obedience fill you with love?)

5 And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple, they pitched their tents round about, every man according to his family, consisting of his wife, and his sons, and his daughters, and their sons, and their daughters, from the eldest down to the youngest, every family being separate one from another.

This is a tantalizing verse for the sociologist, because if the antecedent of “their” in “their sons” is its immediate predecessor “his daughters,” then it would suggest that Nephite family structure was matrilocal.  However, I wouldn’t bet the farm on that being the right reading, especially given the occasional grammatical sloppiness and translation issues.

Children’s worship is not really a theme in the Bible, save maybe a few references to teaching children and Jesus’ interactions with them.  Why is it important to note that children were here for this speech? And did the Nephites have quiet books?

Why is it significant that they are organized by families?  That the families are separate?  That they are in order by age (and what would that mean, exactly)?

5 A And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple,
B they pitched their tents round about,
C every man according to his family,
D consisting of his wife, and his sons, and his daughters,
D and their sons, and their daughters, from the eldest down to the youngest,
C every family being separate one from another.
6 B And they pitched their tents round about
A the temple,  Citation

Neal A. Maxwell:

Brothers and sisters, we do not go many hours in our lives without having to decide again “which way do we face” and whether we will pitch our tents facing Sodom or the holy temple (see Gen. 13:12; Mosiah 2:6). Oct 03 GC

6 And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple, that thereby they might remain in their tents and hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them;

We already know from v5 that the tents are around the temple–why repeat it?

Why is it significant that they heard this discourse from within their tents?

This seems like a pretty unwieldy arrangement inasmuch as the tents would block the sight and sound of the sermon from people behind that tent (see v7 and v8)–it would be much more logical to put the tents farther away and then have the people gather between the tents and the temple.  Why was it not done that way?

Donald W. Parry:

As the people sat in their tents and listened to Benjamin’s speech, they were able to look past the king at the temple, which stood in the immediate background as a chief point of focus. Citation

7 For the multitude being so great that king Benjamin could not teach them all within the walls of the temple, therefore he caused a tower to be erected, that thereby his people might hear the words which he should speak unto them.

You can’t help  but want to compare his tower with the Rameumptom–how do they differ?  How are they the same?

L. Tom Perry:

In many ways, King Benjamin used all the technologies available to him in his day to gather his people, spread the good word of God, and to reinforce the word. Apr 02 GC

Joanne B. Doxey:

King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon set a wonderful example of how parents should teach their children from the scriptures, as found in Mosiah 1, beginning with verse 3. Note how many times he uses the word remember. . . .I bear testimony that keeping the scriptures “always before our eyes” works! We have found the sweet influence of the Spirit in our home as we have learned from the scriptures daily with our children—beginning while the children were very young. Oct 89 GC

This article suggests that the tower may not have been just pragmatic, but may have been a part of the festival or covenant renewal context (see more about these ideas under General at the end of this post).  This article is similar.

8 And it came to pass that he began to speak to his people from the tower; and they could not all hear his words because of the greatness of the multitude; therefore he caused that the words which he spake should be written and sent forth among those that were not under the sound of his voice, that they might also receive his words.

Why is this verse in the record?  (Again, remember that we should be reading the BoM as if every verse was included for a reason and not as if it is a random collection of material.)  What does the reader gain from this verse?  (Can you imagine if someone 1000 years from now read a report of General Conference that included a verse about how a technical problem involving the satellite feed were resolved?)
I’m wondering if the point of this verse is that the normal ‘rules’ by which we would read a speech are removed since this is an official transcription of a speech.

I’m wondering if the “temple -> tents -> tower -> written” sequence is meant to suggest that waaaay more people showed up for this conference than the activities committee had prepared for.

7 A For the multitude being so great
B that king Benjamin could not teach them all within the walls of the temple,
C therefore he caused a tower to be erected,
D that thereby his people might hear the words which he should speak unto them.
8 D And it came to pass that he began to speak to his people
C from the tower;
B and they could not all hear his words
A because of the greatness of the multitude; Citation

9 And these are the words which he spake and caused to be written, saying: My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.

In the Bible, there is very good reason for reading “brethren” as “brothers and sisters.”  Is that the case here?  We might turn to v5 to answer that question, which on the one hand is very male-centric (“every man”) but on the other hand does make explicit that the audience includes woman of a variety of ages.

For the suggestion that “this day” is a technical term, see here.

Here’s a link to all the uses of mystery or mysteries in the BoM.   Do they help you understand what is meant by that word in this verse?

10 I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear me, or that ye should think that I of myself am more than a mortal man.

What an odd beginning–why would King Benjamin think that the first thing he should do is tell the audience that they shouldn’t fear him?  Did they fear him?

It is somewhat unusual to get a “this is not my goal” at the beginning of a speech, but here we get trifle, fear, and “think me divine.”  Were these legitimate fears Ben had?  Are we tempted to do these things?

Remember from WoM 1:15 (“And it came to pass that after there had been false Christs, and their mouths had been shut, and they punished according to their crimes;”) that Ben had had to deal with false Christs; that might explain his preamble here.  If that is the case, then this verse might cause us to re-examine the ‘cult of celebrity’ that can sometimes develop around church leaders.

Were the Nephites having a problem with thinking of their kings as more-than-mortal?  If not, why would he mention it?

It is fairly odd to begin a discourse by stating things that you don’t want to have happen as a result of it.  Why did he begin this way?

11 But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me.

How might v10 and v11 inform our thinking about prophetic infallibility (or the lack thereof)?

(Do we know more about his being chosen by the people?  Does this suggest that he wasn’t what we would call a “king” but a “president”?)

I’m curious about the link between the infirmities and being merely mortal.  Another way to say this:  I don’t know if “subject to infirmities” would be the most obvious way to describe a “mere mortal.”  What does Benjamin accomplish by phrasing it this way?

I’m curious about the interplay of the people, his father, and the Lord in his kingship–how would you describe how that works?  Are there any applicable lessons for us in this?

The might/mind/strength combo also occurs in Alma 29:13, Moroni 10:32, 2 Nephi 25:29, but in those verses, the might/mind/strength are used to serve the Lord.  Is Benjamin using the phrase differently, or does a king serving his people have a functional equivalence with serving the Lord?  How does this relate to 2:16-7?

This verse might seem to cover two separate topics (1–his weakness, 2–his kingship), but I think the link is most significant.  I think he is saying that even a king chosen by people, consecrated by dad, and helped by the Lord is still imperfect.  This is a strong anti-infallibility message.

I like the combo–he recognizes popularity/personal success, God, and the unearned blessing of family in contributing to his success.

NB the verbs:  chosen, consecrated, suffered.  What might we learn from them?

I think in OT terms we might think of a king as chosen by God.  Here, he is chosen by the people but allowed (=suffered) by the Lord.  What does this imply about their government and how might it be relevant to us today?

12 I say unto you that as I have been suffered to spend my days in your service, even up to this time, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you;

What does this verse teach you about proper government?

How would you respond to someone who accused King Benjamin of self-aggrandizement or a lack of humility in this section of his speech?  (See v15 and v16 where he says that he does not desire to boast–is he protesting too much?)

Hugh Nibley (citation) has analyzed this speech in terms of the new year rituals of the ancient world.  Because a part of that ritual was giving of gifts to the king, he sees these statements from Benjamin about not being a burden on the people as an inversion of traditional expectations.

suffered = allowed.  Is this our attitude toward service?  (I try to think things like “I get to visit teach . . .” instead of “I have to visit teach” to reflect this attitude toward service, but I am not very good at it.)

How do you become a non-wealth-seeking person?  This seems like the most counter-cultural attitude a person could take on.

Brant Gardner:

While we can take Benjamin at his word that he has not sought wealth at the expense of this people, and that he has not levied taxes (verse 14), it is also clear that he must have required something of the people. He cannot rule without some form of goods from the people to the central government. The most obvious case is the ceremonial architecture of the town. The people are met at a temple with walls. Neither the temple nor the walls were built exclusively by Benjamin – nor by any other single person. Such building projects require large amounts of labor which perforce removes people from other pursuits. It may well be that the majority of the building would     have occurred in times of less intensive agricultural need (as is most logical as food takes precedence over building) but we should understand that while Benjamin did not enrich himself that does not mean that there were no communal requirements on the people. Benjamin’s point is not the absence of requirements, but that they have not been burdensome.     In verse 14 Benjamin notes that it was his intent: and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne.  Citation

13 Neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery; nor even have I suffered that ye should commit any manner of wickedness, and have taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you—

The OT permits slavery–why does he (implicitly) criticize it here?

Dungeons (or: any confinement) is not a part of the Law of Moses, which has only physical and financial penalties, and removal from the community.  What do you conclude about the mention of dungeons here?

What is the difference between plunder and stealing?

A cynic would find violations of the people’s agency in this verse (“he wouldn’t allow them to . . .”).  What is the difference between what Ben did and Satan’s plan?

Given that this verse laundry-lists a bunch of things that he didn’t allow, it now becomes more significant that the first thing that he chose to mention wasn’t the material in this verse, but the fact that he didn’t try to enrich himself.  Why was that the #1 item on his list?

How do you think Ben kept order without prisons or slavery? (See WoM 1:16 maybe.) (Note:  the law of Moses calls for fines, physical punishment, and banishment.)  Are there any lessons for us here?

Brant Gardner:

A possible confirmation that these specific legal prohibitions began as a contrast to Lamanite     (in the wide sense) society is found in the proclamation of the king of the Lamanites after his conversion by the sons of Mosiah II “Alma 23:3 …that they ought not to murder, nor to plunder, nor to steal, nor to commit adultery, nor to commit any manner of wickedness). The very ordered repetition here and the presence of the sons of Mosiah suggests that this legal list became a code for Nephite law (Welch, John W. “A Masterful Oration.” In” King Benjamin’s Speech. FARMS 1998, p. 61 notes the repetition of the phrases and suggests that it is due     to the importance given this text in future years). The repetition of the same (or nearly the same) legal list in Mosiah 29:36, Alma 30:10, and Helaman 6:23 indicates both that the language of Benjamin’s speech became normative for his people, but that these principles became a legal code for the Nephites (see especially Alma 30:10).  Citation

14 And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne—and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day.

V12-14 express some of the dangers of having kings.  Compare 1 Samuel 8:11-18.  See also Mosiah 29:23:  “If ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you”

I’m not clear if this means that he did physical labor.  (One wonders how he could be a decent king to so many people that they can’t all hear him at once if he is spending all day on the farm or whatever.)  What does serve mean here?  Does it mean the same as it does elsewhere in this chapter?

15 Yet, my brethren, I have not done these things that I might boast, neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you; but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day.

(Can anyone have a completely clear conscience before God?)

Why is he concerned about what the audience would think about his motives?

The word conscience is not in the OT.

Would it be so wrong for him to boast?  He’s done a great job.

When and how can we talk about our accomplishments?  It seems like there is a fine line between setting a good example and boasting in some cases.

Why would it be important for the people to know that his conscience is clear?  Isn’t that between him and God?  (I’m wondering if there is a link between the idea of a stewardship report to the people, since he was chosen by them.)

The idea of “answering” a “conscience” is somewhat awkward–what’s going on with this phrase?

16 Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God.

Why the repetition from the previous verse?

I’m increasingly intrigued by the meaning of the word serve (or:  service) in this chapter.  I think it may be richer than we are giving it credit for.  By way of comparison, in the NT, the Christian tradition takes the word “serve” in the sense of “menial service” (such as:  waiting tables) and uses it in the sense of “Christian leadership.”  In the OT, serve is often used of temple service.  What layers of meaning might this word have here?

17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.

The “only” in this verse is perplexing:  does it mean that the only person you really serve is God?

Why would learning about service constitute “wisdom”?

Why would serving other people constitute serving God?

I think Matthew 25:35-40 is relevant here:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Joseph B. Wirthlin

Always be willing, even anxious, to help others. Nothing else you do will give you the same genuine satisfaction and joy within because, and I quote, “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17.) Ignoring the needs of others is a serious sin. Oct 89 GC

Brant Gardner:

In an ancient society that was culturally primed to accept either the king as deity, or at the very least a special relationship between king and deity, Benjamin removes the exclusivity from that relationship. Where the gathered people might have been culturally primed to believe that lineage and rank were the things that created the relationship, Benjamin assures them that the special relationship may be based upon actions available to all.  Citation

18 Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?

Why “ye have called me” instead of “I am”?  Especially since it is repeated, it makes me wonder if in some sense he is rejecting something about being a king, or calling attention to the fact that he is king by the will of the people.  (Which, I might note, makes “king” a somewhat misleading translation because we don’t think of a king as someone chosen by the people.)

I think when we read this verse, the “service” sounds like “good works.”  But the “service” in v14 sounded like “working full time for you instead of loafing.”  Is the meaning of service the same in both verses?

Does the argument in this verse require you to assume that King Benjamin is better than his audience?  If so, how does that impact your reading of v10 and v11?  See also v26.

Donald W. Parry:

Significantly, to underscore temple ties, Benjamin’s opening words deal directly with service. He repeated four terms—servants, serve, served, and service—a total of fifteen times in eighteen verses. Benjamin, the master of discourse, presented his words in such a manner that some members of his audience may have understood service from at least three different perspectives.

1. Benjamin spoke of serving and service as manual labor. This is evident in a number of verses. Benjamin himself labored with his own hands instead of seeking gold, silver, or riches (see Mosiah 2:12). He served his fellow citizens so that they would not be overburdened with a tax structure that elevated unnaturally a king and his kingdom (see 2:14).

2. At several points in his sermon, Benjamin briefly connected service and slavery. We note Benjamin’s explicit words: “Neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another” (Mosiah 2:13). Benjamin also used subtleties and implicit references that suggest a king-vassal relationship or a master-slave connection. The expressions king (see 2:11, 18, 19, 26)9 and unprofitable servants (see 2:21) speak especially of a powerful ruler and his lowly subjects. Also, terms such as lending (see 2:21), indebted (see 2:23—24), and paid (see 2:24) pertain to kings and their vassals. Some of Benjamin’s listeners possibly comprehended Benjamin’s words in light of ancient Near Eastern laws and customs regarding slavery, kings, and servants.

3. Another perspective in which Benjamin’s hearers may have understood service pertains to temple work and religious service—serving one’s fellow beings and serving God in a sacred setting.  Citation

You aren’t a king.  How do these verses apply to you?

19 And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!

A cynic would say that this verse teaches that we should never thank people.  How might you respond to that?

Thoughts on showing gratitude?  How have you become better at doing that?

The logic in this verse is a little weird:  it seems to be saying “don’t thank me, thank God, because I’ve actually been serving God and not you.”  But why would the people who wanted to thank Ben thank God if God was the one being served?  Wouldn’t it make more sense (absent everything Ben will say about indebtedness) for God to be thanking Ben?

Donald W. Parry:

It is clear that he is linking together the divine and human spheres of activity.   Citation

Parry points out that v17 does the same.

that ye may learn wisdom;
that ye may learn that when ye are in the
service of your fellow beings ye are only in the
18 service of your God. Behold, ye have called me
your king; and if I, whom ye call
your king, do
labor to serve you, then ought not ye to
19 labor to serve one another? And behold also, if I, whom ye call
your king, who has spent his days in your
service, and yet has been in the
service of God, do merit any
thanks from you, O how you ought to
thank your heavenly King! (gradation) Citation

20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—

Notice the repetition of themes from v4.

21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.

Well, that’s a depressing thought.

I find the “lending breath” image interesting.  Thinking about Genesis 2:7 (“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”), what does this image suggest?

Only other scriptural uses of “unprofitable servant” are Matthew 25:30 (“And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”), Luke 17:10 (“So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”), and Mosiah 22:4.  How are these verses related?

Neal A. Maxwell:

We may, for instance, have a specific set of skills which we mistakenly come to think we somehow own. If we continue to cling to those more than to God, we are flinching in the face of the consecrating first commandment. Since God lends us “breath … from one moment to another,” hyperventilating over these distractions is not recommended! Apr 02 GC

Hartman Rector, Jr.:

The Lord requires sacrifice, meaning something above and beyond the minimum. The Master spoke of the “second mile” and told us to go there (see Matt. 5:41). Why? Because he wants to bless us. So he put all the blessings in the second mile, but we must go where they are before we get them. The first mile, we owe; that’s what we are getting paid for. Recently I mentioned that to an elder who was hardly meeting the minimums. He responded, “Paid? I’m not getting paid.” I said, “Oh? You can breathe can’t you?” “Yes.”“You think you have that coming to you or something? King Benjamin says the Lord is preserving you from day to day by granting you breath—even supporting you from moment to moment” (see Mosiah 2:21). Do we ever thank the Lord for the fact we can breathe? No, not usually, until we get to where we can’t breathe. Then we call upon him in a panic. Apr 79 GC

Gerald Lund:

That we are his children and that he loves us is undeniable. But we must rid ourselves of the notion that we can bring personal profit to God through our own actions. That would make God indebted to us, and that is unthinkable. This explains king Benjamin’s ringing ifs: even if we were to serve him with all the power of our souls, even if we should render thanks with that same power (which very few of us, if any, ever do), we would still be unprofitable servants.  Citation

Neal A. Maxwell:

At first reading, these last words may sound harsh, depreciating, and discouraging, for surely our service to God is significant. But when our service is compared with our blessings, an “outside audit,” said Benjamin in effect, would show us ever to be in arrears. “Catching up” by giving more service does not change the balance, either, because a merciful God, just as soon as we obey or render such service, “doth immediately bless” us. Thus, we are even further in debt to our Heavenly Father. (Mosiah 2:24.) Furthermore, our service is made possible by the elements which make up our natural bodies, but these belong to God, who also gives us breath from moment to moment. Citation

22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

Do you fault Benjamin for downplaying the difficulty of keeping the commandments in this verse?

How do you reconcile the idea of the Lord never varying with the idea of continuing revelation?

23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.

A general thought on this section:  it seems that this type of basic “God created you; you owe God everything” might be more appropriate to an apostate audience unclear about their fundamental relationship with God.  But in this case, the people are basically righteous.  So, why is Ben covering this material with them?  One assumes that they know it (v34 says this specifically) and are living according to it, or they wouldn’t be in decent spiritual shape.

24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?

What do you make of equating “blessing” with “paying” someone?  (How) should this inform your thinking about blessings?

Benjamin referred to himself not boasting more than once and now tells the audience not to boast.  Was boasting a problem for them?

I’m thinking about this statement in light of Ben’s previous statement about a clear conscience and his review of his successful reign, followed by his statement that he was not boasting.  There seems to be a bit of a mismatch between these ideas; is it possible to have a clear conscience if you are aware of your eternal indebtedness to God?

Is it really true that God immediately blesses us?  (How many talks have you heard about the need for patience, about how God doesn’t immediately answer our prayers, about how some blessings are delayed even until the next life, etc.?)  Brant Gardner answers that paradox this way, although I don’t know if I am entirely persuaded:

Benjamin’s “immediately” is a rhetorical device indicating that the blessing is assigned to us – we understand that sometimes there are circumstances in life where the blessing certainly does not appear to be “immediate” Citation

25 And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.

I think this verse is saying that people are less than the thing from which they are created.  This seems counter-intuitive:  if I take a bunch of raw materials and make an iPhone out of them, I have created something that is of more worth than the raw materials.  Why would Benjamin say that people are less than that from which they were created?  See 4:2 for the phrase again:  “And they [=the multitude listening to king Benjamin] had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth.”

Helaman 12:8:  “For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God.”  So perhaps the idea is that the dust is always perfectly responsive to God’s will, but we are not.  Therefore, we are less than the dust of the earth.  This makes good sense until you start thinking about agency:  shouldn’t our agency, which makes it possible for us to be more god-like, make us more-than, instead of less-than, things without agency?

Gerald Lund [citation] calls attention to the next line, finding the key to the passage in the idea that the dust belonged to God, therefore our bodies belong to God. This argument is intriguing, but not entirely clear to me.

How does this statement relate to Moses’ “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed” (Moses 1:10)?

Gerald Lund:

Think for a moment how that simple concept would alter our thinking if we would really accept it. We clutch things to our bosoms and say, “These are mine.” People rob, cheat, steal, manipulate, and maneuver so they can claim things as their own. The rich ignore the desperate sufferings of the poor because they somehow think that what they have belongs solely to them. Nations go to war over land which they did nothing to create. If we truly believed that God owns all things and that we only use and borrow what is already his, it would vastly alter the way we approach life. Citation

This talk does a great job of exploring the paradox of human status.

What attitudes and practices might someone adopt if they believed that their body belonged to God?

26 And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; for I am also of the dust. And ye behold that I am old, and am about to yield up this mortal frame to its mother earth.

The only other scriptural uses of “mother earth” are 2 Nephi 9:7 (“laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth”) and Mormon 6:15 (“to crumble and to return to their mother earth”).  What does this phrase mean?  Is it purely metaphorical?  (I’d suggest that the close proximity of this phrase to the idea of being created from the earth in v25 implies that it might not be entirely metaphorical.

I’m curious about this verse’s “I am also of the dust” and v25’s “are even as much as the dust of the earth.”  How do they relate?

27 Therefore, as I said unto you that I had served you, walking with a clear conscience before God, even so I at this time have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together, that I might be found blameless, and that your blood should not come upon me, when I shall stand to be judged of God of the things whereof he hath commanded me concerning you.

(Is it possible for anyone to have an entirely clear conscience?)

Why did they need to be assembled together for this purpose?  (IOW, this seems to be mostly about Benjamin.)

If I were a cynic, I would suggest that this verse (particularly coming hard on the heels of v26) shows arrogance on Ben’s part.  He might also be accused, based on this verse, of giving this speech for his own benefit (“that I might be found blameless”) and not the people’s. How might we rescue Ben for these accusations?

What does this verse teach about the obligations of leaders?

28 I say unto you that I have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together that I might rid my garments of your blood, at this period of time when I am about to go down to my grave, that I might go down in peace, and my immortal spirit may join the choirs above in singing the praises of a just God.

There is actually very little in the scriptures that describes the afterlife, so this glimpse of eternal choirs is interesting.  How literally do you take it?

There’s that “just” again.  Why is it such an important concept in this sermon?

In 1:11, he said that they had kept the commandments.  How can you reconcile that with the idea of Ben needing to rid his garments of their blood?

29 And moreover, I say unto you that I have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together, that I might declare unto you that I can no longer be your teacher, nor your king;

Is there a link between the previous comments about indebtedness and less-than-the-dust-ness and this section about Benjamin’s retirement?

30 For even at this time, my whole frame doth tremble exceedingly while attempting to speak unto you; but the Lord God doth support me, and hath suffered me that I should speak unto you, and hath commanded me that I should declare unto you this day, that my son Mosiah is a king and a ruler over you.

Does the command mean that Benjamin was commanded to make the announcement, or also commanded to make Mosiah king?  (I ask because above it was suggested that the people had chosen Benjamin.)

Does this verse suggest that “king” and “ruler” are two separate things?  Compare v29, where reference is made to “king” and “teacher;” why the difference?

Brant Gardner:

It is tempting to read “my whole frame doth tremble exceedingly” as a consequence of Benjamin’s age (verse 26). Remembering that Benjamin is to live three years beyond this point, and that he is in the process of delivering a powerful sermon at the direction of a messenger of God, it is more probable that he trembles because of the effects of the Spirit on his physical body. Later, the spirit will descend upon his people with such power that they will be unable to speak it (Mosiah 4:20). In spiritual anticipation of the great transformation of his people, Benjamin is more likely trembling with power of the spirit than frailty of age. Citation

31 And now, my brethren, I would that ye should do as ye have hitherto done. As ye have kept my commandments, and also the commandments of my father, and have prospered, and have been kept from falling into the hands of your enemies, even so if ye shall keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him, ye shall prosper in the land, and your enemies shall have no power over you.

32 But, O my people, beware lest there shall arise contentions among you, and ye list to obey the evil spirit, which was spoken of by my father Mosiah.

Ben names contentions as the cause of “listing” to obey the evil spirit.  Does that surprise you?  Why would contentions be the root cause?  How might we apply this knowledge to our own lives?  How do you disagree without being contentious?

Webster’s 1828 on “list”:

1. To enroll; to register in a list or catalogue; to enlist.

2. To engage in the public service, as soldiers.They in my name are listed.

3. To inclose for combat; as, to list a field.

4. To sew together, as strips of cloth; or to form a border.

5. To cover with a list, or with strips of cloth; as, to list a door.

6. To hearken; to attend; a contraction of listen, which see.

Which definition is applicable here, and how does it shape your impression of what Benjamin is warning them about?

33 For behold, there is a wo pronounced upon him who listeth to obey that spirit; for if he listeth to obey him, and remaineth and dieth in his sins, the same drinketh damnation to his own soul; for he receiveth for his wages an everlasting punishment, having transgressed the law of God contrary to his own knowledge.

What does the image of “drinking” damnation suggest?  (See 3:25 for an explanation of drinking damnation.)

34 I say unto you, that there are not any among you, except it be your little children that have not been taught concerning these things, but what knoweth that ye are eternally indebted to your heavenly Father, to render to him all that you have and are; and also have been taught concerning the records which contain the prophecies which have been spoken by the holy prophets, even down to the time our father, Lehi, left Jerusalem;

I have no doubt that all humans are indebted to God.  I do doubt that reminding people of their indebtedness is an effective teaching technique.  It would create guilt, I think.  And I only think guilt is useful when it leads to a behavior change, but if we can’t become “un-indebted,” then we can’t alleviate the guilt.  So:  Do you think Benjamin’s goal here was to inculcate guilt?  What effect does the indebtedness language have on you?  What effect should it have?

Is there a link between the teachings about indebtedness and the teachings about the records?

Neal A. Maxwell:

In this respect, what of the current generation of Latter-day Saints, blessed as we are with the convenient new publications of the scriptures?Are we safe from the indictment of our predecessors who took the Book of Mormon “lightly”? Citation

And he wrote this in 1992, thinking, I presume of the LDS edition of the scriptures.  What would he have made of all of our digital options?

35 And also, all that has been spoken by our fathers until now. And behold, also, they spake that which was commanded them of the Lord; therefore, they are just and true.

36 And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom’s paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved—

The only other scriptural use of “wisdom’s path” is Helaman 12:5.  How are these verses related and what does that phrase suggest?

37 I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples.

38 Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever.

Henry B. Eyring:

For me, the power of that warning is the picture it forms in my mind of that time when we will each stand before the Savior after this life to be judged. When King Benjamin speaks to me of shrinking from the presence of the Lord, it puts fear into my heart. I can see myself standing in that day of judgment before the glorified and resurrected Savior. I want with all my heart not to shrink, but rather to look up at Him and see Him smile and say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter in.” Apr 06 GC

Dallin H. Oaks:

Such descriptions surely offer sufficient incentive for keeping the commandment of service. But service out of fear of punishment is a lesser motive at best. Oct 84 GC

39 And now I say unto you, that mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment.

Brant Gardner:

We might expect that God would assign the torment as the just dessert for one who dies as an enemy to God (thereby remaining an enemy while even closer to God’s presence in the next life). Nevertheless, that is not what Benjamin describes . . . The torment is internal, not external. It is self-imposed, not levied by a vengeful and wrathful God. The pain and anguish are not literal fires, but are rather like and unquenchable fire. Benjamin is placing the blame for the application of the penalty of judgement squarely on the shoulders of the sinner. The torment is not less, the difference is from whence it is assigned.  Citation

40 O, all ye old men, and also ye young men, and you little children who can understand my words, for I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand, I pray that ye should awake to a remembrance of the awful situation of those that have fallen into transgression.

Why do you think Benjamin does not mention the women in the audience?

Combining this verse with v34, it seems that one of Ben’s concerns is to teach the young children in the audience.  This is somewhat unusual in the scriptures.

41 And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

Is this verse about meditation/pondering?  What might we take from it?

The structure I see here is:

(a) indebtedness

(b) retirement

(c) warning about apostasy

How do these three themes relate?  How do they prepare the listener or reader for the prophecies of Christ in the next chapter?

CHAPTER 3
1 And again my brethren, I would call your attention, for I have somewhat more to speak unto you; for behold, I have things to tell you concerning that which is to come.

John A. Tvedtnes reads “that which is to come” as a technical term for Jesus Christ in the BoM.  (FWIW, I see it as less a technical term than a point of emphasis, raising the question as to why the BoM people chose to emphasize that aspect of Christ when it would not be relevant in the same way to Restoration readers.)

NB that the 1830 BoM did not have a chapter break here.

2 And the things which I shall tell you are made known unto me by an angel from God. And he said unto me: Awake; and I awoke, and behold he stood before me.

Do you read ch2 differently knowing that it was not revealed to Benjamin by an angel?

Why did Ben include the “awake; and I awoke”?  (These seems to be a bit of stage directions that we might have skipped, especially given the repetition.)  Is it meant to allude to the creation/awakening of Adam in the garden?  Is it related to the multiple calls (esp. since “awake” is repeated in the next verse) of Samuel?

3 And he said unto me: Awake, and hear the words which I shall tell thee; for behold, I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy.

Why is “awake” repeated when, in v2, Ben told us he was already up?

(How) does this verse relate to Luke 2:10 (“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”)?  (NB in v5 that this angelic visitation is also an announcement of the coming of the Lord.)

Do you read this material differently knowing that it was given to Ben so that he could share it with others, as opposed to, say, Nephi, who had a similar vision, but for personal reasons and uses?

Russell M. Nelson:

Sacred scriptures have been repeatedly described as “glad tidings of great joy” (Hel. 16:14; Mosiah 3:3; Alma 13:22; see also Luke 2:10). As we learn and abide their teachings, that joy becomes part of our lives. Oct 86 GC

Why would the angel give this info to Ben to tell everyone, as opposed to giving the info directly to each person?

 A for behold, I have things to tell you concerning
B that which is to come.
2 C And the things which I shall tell you
D are made known unto me by an angel from God.
E And he said unto me: Awake;
F and I awoke, and behold he stood before me.
3 E And he said unto me: Awake,
D and hear the words
C which I shall tell thee;
B for behold, I am come
A to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy.  Citation

4 For the Lord hath heard thy prayers, and hath judged of thy righteousness, and hath sent me to declare unto thee that thou mayest rejoice; and that thou mayest declare unto thy people, that they may also be filled with joy.

To what do you attribute the emphasis on joy in this verse?

5 For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

What do you take from the “tabernacle of clay” language?  How does it relate to the creation of humans?  To the OT idea of a tabernacle as a portable temple?

Why did the angel emphasize Jesus’ miracles at this point?

I’m intrigued by “with power” because we usually think of Jesus coming to earth without power–that is, as a mortal subject to everything that other mortals are subject to, and born into poverty to boot.

The use of “tabernacle” as a metaphor for “body” is frequent in the Bible.  What does it teach us about our body, and about the OT tabernacle/temple?

Is “of clay” meant to link to the “dust” in the previous chapter?  To the creation story?

General question about this section:  Remember that this information is coming from an angel.  Is it new info to Ben?  If not, then why the angel?

NB that we usually think of raising the dead as the coolest miracle, but this isn’t the biblical view.  They thought the coolest would have been giving sight.  (Note that OT prophets raise people from the dead, but do not give sight and that Isaiah described the giving of sight as one of the signs of the Messiah.)

6 And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.

NB that demonic possession is a big theme in the NT, but not the OT or the BoM or the Restoration.  What do you make of this?  Does this verse help you understand (note the “or”) what is meant by casting our devils?

Does this relate to 2:32 (“But, O my people, beware lest there shall arise contentions among you, and ye list to obey the evil spirit, which was spoken of by my father Mosiah.”)?

7 And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.

Reread v5-v7, noting that, if this were all the information that one had about Jesus, one would conclude that he would be “all action and no talk,” by which I mean:  there is nothing in this proclamation about Jesus teaching or saying or speaking or writing anything, just enacting–through service and through sacrifice.  Why do you think the angel (and then Benjamin, and then our editor) chose to present Jesus this way?  Does this presentation give us a hint as to how we should interpret the Gospels?

What do you conclude from the fact that Ben first presented Jesus’ powers (namely, to do miracles) and then his struggles?  (How) does this relate to how Ben presented his own accomplishments and mortality and fallibility in the previous chapter?

Here’s a link to all of the uses of the word “anguish” in the scriptures.  What does this word mean?

Is this verse just about what happened in Gethsemane (if so, how do you explain the hunger and temptations and thirst) or more generally about Jesus’ mortality (if so, how do you explain the blood, which was only in Gethsemane)?

There seems to be an odd paradox here:  Jesus suffered more than a mere mortal could suffer (without dying); Jesus suffered as part of being mortal.  How do you resolve this?

This verse makes it sound (to me, anyway) as if the blood were the result of Jesus’ feelings about people’s wickedness.  We usually talk about the blood as the result of Jesus taking on the punishment for everyone’s sins.  Are these ideas two ways of saying the same thing?  Are they otherwise compatible?

Is there a link between this verse and Ben’s previous statement about ridding his garments of the people’s blood?  (I think there is a great ironic inversion that it was, so to speak, Christ filling his garments with the people’s blood that made the atonement possible.)

8 And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.

NB that “Christ” is from a Greek word meaning “anointed.”  (The Hebrew word meaning anointed we translate as “Messiah.”)

Do you parse this so that the phrase “the Father of heaven and earth” applies to God, or to Jesus Christ?  (Oh, how I wish WordPress supported sentence diagrams!). Could it be deliberately ambiguous?  2 Nephi 25:12 (“and when the day cometh that the Only Begotten of the Father, yea, even the Father of heaven and of earth, shall manifest himself unto them in the flesh,”) may be evidence here, but I think it, too, can be read two ways:  the phrase “the Father of heaven and of earth” can apply to “the Father” or to “the Only Begotten of the father.”  Crazy language, English is.)  Helaman 14:12 has the same problem–it could also be read two ways.

Compare 1 Nephi 11:18, where Nephi sees Mary but (apparently) was not given her name.  Why did the angel (and then Benjamin) include Mary’s name here?

9 And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.

Skousen thinks that “as a man” was original here.

“Consider him a man” is interesting language, given that he was a man, and that v7 just emphasized some of his mortal limitations.  I think the idea here is more along the lines of “consider him nothing but a man.”

NB the irony that he cast out devils (=evil spirits), but they consider him a devil.

If Ben is working chronologically through Jesus’ life (and I think v10 supports that reading), then it might be interesting to go back to v8 and consider why that statement of identity appears in the middle of the performance of the atonement.  (I think it might have been more expected to put the identity statement at the beginning or at the end of the chronology.)

10 And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men.

The idea of Jesus’ judging role as the immediate follow-up to the resurrection seems unusual.  (I think we might have expected the resurrection appearances or something.)  Why do you think the record reads this way?  How does the resurrection relate to judgment?

The second statement is equally surprising:  I read Ben as saying that the purpose of Jesus’ entire life (which he has just recounted) was to judge the world (righteously).  Why didn’t he say something like “all these things are done that mankind may be saved” or something?

We don’t usually emphasize Jesus’ role as judge; I think we focus more on his role as advocate and then we picture maybe God or amorphous “justice” as the judge.  What do you make of this image here?

11 For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned.

The phrasing here is unusual.  (Were there people who have fallen but NOT by the transgression of Adam?  Is it fair to say that if you sin it is because of the transgression of Adam?  If not, why does this phrase make sense?)

Is Ben describing three groups (those who have fallen, those who died not knowing, those who sinned ignorantly), or should the ideas in this verse be outlined differently?

What does the idea of sinning ignorantly teach you about sin?  (I think we assume that sin requires deliberation.)

How does v11 relate to v10?

12 But wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God! For salvation cometh to none such except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.

How does the group mentioned in this verse (those that know they are rebelling) relate to the groups in the previous verse?  Is there overlap?

The cynic says:  the only people in big trouble are those who know the rules and violate them.  Everyone else gets mercy.  Therefore, the best bet is to know as little about the gospel as possible.  How would you respond to the cynic?

Thinking about the second sentence:  doesn’t salvation come to everyone this way?  So then aren’t those who rebel exactly the same as other people?

Dieter F. Uchtdorf:

It is not repentance per se that saves man. It is the blood of Jesus Christ that saves us. It is not by our sincere and honest change of behavior alone that we are saved, but “by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). True repentance, however, is the condition required so that God’s forgiveness can come into our lives. True repentance makes “a brilliant day [out] of the darkest night” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 362). Apr 07 GC

Brant Gardner:

Why does this appear in the middle of a discussion of the atonement. Why does a wo appear in the middle of the “glad tidings”?  Citation

Do you consider this material (and the following verses) to be part of the angel’s message to Ben, or to be Ben’s commentary on the angel’s message?

13 And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them.

NB the word “all” in this verse:  Is that literally true or is it hyperbole?

Does this verse teach that if you believe (just) that Christ will come, your sins will be remitted?  Is this true?

I like the partnering of the joy in this verse with the wo in the previous verse.

I’m curious about what this verse is teaching about our ability to overcome temporal boundaries and live “as though” we were in the future.  Thoughts?

If these people could live as if the atonement had already happened, what does that say about Jesus’ agency during his mortality?

14 Yet the Lord God saw that his people were a stiffnecked people, and he appointed unto them a law, even the law of Moses.

Why do you think Benjamin moved backward in time (from Jesus’ mortality to the giving of the Law of Moses) at this point?

Does the time period of this verse suggest to you that v13 was describing the time before the Law of Moses was given?

If the Law of Moses was for a stiffnecked people, what does that teach us about the relationship between the law and righteousness?  What are the characteristics of the Law of Moses?

15 And many signs, and wonders, and types, and shadows showed he unto them, concerning his coming; and also holy prophets spake unto them concerning his coming; and yet they hardened their hearts, and understood not that the law of Moses availeth nothing except it were through the atonement of his blood.

Do signs/wonders/types/shadows refer to different things (and, if so, what is the difference) or are they multiple ways of referring to the same thing?

What does this verse teach us about how we should interpret the OT?

16 And even if it were possible that little children could sin they could not be saved; but I say unto you they are blessed; for behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins.

What do you make of the equation of Adam and nature in this verse?  How might that concept affect your interpretation of the creation and fall?

Think a bit about the ways in which fall and atonement are opposites.

Why exactly is it that children could not be saved even if they could sin?

It is also true for adults that they fall by Adam and that the blood of Christ atones for their sins, so why does Ben begin this verse by talking about children?

The beginning of the verse says that little children cannot sin but the end of the verse refers to “their sins.”  How might you reconcile this?

The part of the law of Moses that is (perhaps) most applicable to children is the idea that 8-day-old boys are circumcised.  Ben just told us that the law was to lead us to Christ.  So:  What does circumcision teach that is relevant to this discussion?

I read this verse to say that children are fallen from birth, but children cannot sin until they are older.  Assuming you agree with that reading, what do you make of the idea of “fallen-but-not-sinners (yet)”?  That is, what might that teach us about the fall and about sin?  What does it mean to fall if you do not sin (yet)?

17 And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.

At the beginning, Ben said he would give them a unifying name.  Is this it?

18 For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.

Now we swing back to the idea of Christ as judge.  Note that this concept forms a “sandwich” around the idea of children and there relationship to sin.  What do you learn from this pattern?

What does “perish” mean in this verse?

Does “infancy” mean that Ben had a much lower threshold for the age of accountability than we do?

Weird question:  Assume that their age of accountability was roughly what ours is.  In the ancient world, life spans are in the 30 year range.  Do you read the BoM differently thinking that the time of their mortal probation for which they were accountable was in the 22 year range?

I’m curious about the idea of “become as little children” following hard on the heels of a section focused on the idea that little children cannot sin.  Are these two references to children related?  If so, what might we learn from them?

General comment:  this entire chapter has a huge emphasis on Christ’s blood.  Why?

Howard W. Hunter:

Being childlike and submitting to our Father’s will is not always easy. President Spencer W. Kimball, who knew a good deal about suffering, disappointment, and circumstances beyond his control, once wrote:

“Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972, p. 98).

In that statement, President Kimball refers to closing doors upon certain experiences in life. That image brings to mind a line from Cervantes’ great classic, Don Quixote, that has given me comfort over the years. In that masterpiece, we find the short but very important reminder that where one door closes, another opens. Doors close regularly in our lives, and some of those closings cause genuine pain and heartache. But I do believe that where one such door closes, another opens (and perhaps more than one), with hope and blessings in other areas of our lives that we might not have discovered otherwise. Oct 87 GC

19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

Skousen thinks that “unless” should be “but if.”

Compare “natural” in this verse with “nature” in v16.  How are they the same?  Different?  What does “natural” mean in this verse?

This entire speech is full of language about “enemy” and “rebellion” to describe those opposed to God.  What effect does that language have on the reader?  What does it suggest about those who oppose God?

What work is the phrase “has been from the fall of Adam” doing?  (Wouldn’t we assume that there were no “natural men” before that?)

What does the word “yield” suggest about how you should treat the Spirit?

What does the word “enticings” suggest about what the Spirit does?

What do you learn from the opposition of “natural man” and “saint”?

Robert D. Hales (Oct 11 GC) made a link between our submission, as described in this verse, and Jesus’ submission in Gethsemane.

Again, I am interested in the representation of children here in the context of the material above about how children can’t sin.  The cynic might say that agency is a big problem!

What does the word “inflict” suggest to you about how the Lord treats us?

Submission is a terribly unpopular word today, not just in the context of women’s submission but also more generally.  What would it take to have a healthy attitude toward this idea?

In what ways should the saint-God relationship be patterned after the parent-child relationship (as this verse suggests that it should)?  In what ways shouldn’t they be similar?  How can we help people who did not have a functional relationship with their earthly parents develop a good relationship with God?

Neal A. Maxwell:

By juxtaposing these lines from Benjamin’s sermon with the Savior’s words concerning the childlikeness required to enter the celestial kingdom, we are admitted into a wondrous but demanding realm of understanding regarding developmental discipleship: “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3.) Citation

“Putteth off” in the scriptures usually means to remove clothes (what else could it mean?).  If we see Benjamin as suggesting that we remove the natural man in the same way that we could remove clothing, what might that teach us?

David A. Bednar:

I draw your attention to two specific phrases. First—“putteth off the natural man.” The journey from bad to good is the process of putting off the natural man or the natural woman in each of us. In mortality we all are tempted by the flesh. The very elements out of which our bodies were created are by nature fallen and ever subject to the pull of sin, corruption, and death. But we can increase our capacity to overcome the desires of the flesh and temptations “through the atonement of Christ.” When we make mistakes, as we transgress and sin, we can repent and become clean through the redeeming power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Second—“becometh a saint.” This phrase describes the continuation and second phase of life’s journey to make “good men better” or, in other words, to become more like a saint. This second part of the journey, this process of going from good to better, is a topic about which we do not study or teach frequently enough nor understand adequately. I suspect that many Church members are much more familiar with the nature of the redeeming and cleansing power of the Atonement than they are with the strengthening and enabling power. It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us—that is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us—not only to direct us but also to empower us. Most of us know that when we do wrong things, we need help to overcome the effects of sin in our lives. The Savior has paid the price and made it possible for us to become clean through His redeeming power. Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints—for good men and women who are obedient, worthy, and conscientious and who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully. We may mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves, through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities. The gospel of the Savior is not simply about avoiding bad in our lives; it also is essentially about doing and becoming good. And the Atonement provides help for us to overcome and avoid bad and to do and become good. Help from the Savior is available for the entire journey of mortality—from bad to good to better and to change our very nature.  Citation

Is this verse saying that there was there no “natural man” before the fall of Adam?  If so, then what does that tell you about the meaning of the phrase “natural man”?  (Ironic that it is in some sense not natural.)

NB the verbs in this verse.

What do you make of the opposition between “natural man” and “saint” in this verse?

 A they humble themselves
B and become as little children,
C and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through
the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.
19 D For the natural man
E is an enemy to God,
F and has been from the fall of Adam,
F and will be, forever and ever,
E unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,
D and putteth off the natural man
C and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord,
B and becometh as a child,
A submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things
which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. Citation

The only biblical use of “natural man” is 1 Cor 2:14:  “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  How does that verse impact your understanding of this verse, and vice versa (ha!).

20 And moreover, I say unto you, that the time shall come when the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.

How does this verse relate to the one before it?

21 And behold, when that time cometh, none shall be found blameless before God, except it be little children, only through repentance and faith on the name of the Lord God Omnipotent.

22 And even at this time, when thou shalt have taught thy people the things which the Lord thy God hath commanded thee, even then are they found no more blameless in the sight of God, only according to the words which I have spoken unto thee.

23 And now I have spoken the words which the Lord God hath commanded me.

24 And thus saith the Lord: They shall stand as a bright testimony against this people, at the judgment day; whereof they shall be judged, every man according to his works, whether they be good, or whether they be evil.

This is the only usage of “bright testimony” in the scriptures.  What does this phrase convey?

Critics might point to this verse as evidence that the BoM is focused on works and not grace.  How might you respond to that position based on this verse?

25 And if they be evil they are consigned to an awful view of their own guilt and abominations, which doth cause them to shrink from the presence of the Lord into a state of misery and endless torment, from whence they can no more return; therefore they have drunk damnation to their own souls.

This is really a most fascinating verse:  the consequence for evil deeds is to be consigned (=delivered) to see one’s guilt and actions.  The result of this consequence is that the person then removes herself from God’s presence, which means then being in a state of torment.  This is a much different viewpoint than the traditional, historical Christian notions of hell.  2:38 seems to teach the same principle.

26 Therefore, they have drunk out of the cup of the wrath of God, which justice could no more deny unto them than it could deny that Adam should fall because of his partaking of the forbidden fruit; therefore, mercy could have claim on them no more forever.

What is this verse saying about the limits of mercy?

27 And their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever. Thus hath the Lord commanded me. Amen.

What effect does the repetition of “the Lord commanded me” (compare v23) have on the reader?

General:

(1) Stephen D. Ricks finds the following parallels between this passage and the typical OT/ANE coronation pattern:

(a) Temple location.  (This makes sense of the multiple references to the fact that they were at the temple in this passage.)

(b) Transfer of Important Stuff.  (This is why in 1:15-16, Ben gives Mosiah the sword, Liahona and plates.  Noticing this helps us understand that these objects served to legitimate the king for the Nephites.)

(c) Anointing.  (This is not specifically mentioned here–which is quite interesting–but is in Jacob 1:9).

(d) New name.  (Also not mentioned.  NB that they have stopped using Nephi the __ for all of their kings.)

(e) Misc.:  “Other factors in Mosiah’s enthronement that were typically present at coronations of ancient Israelite kings can also be mentioned: for example, sacrifices of thanksgiving (see Mosiah 2:3-4); acceptance of the new monarch by the people agreeing to obey him and God (see Mosiah 2:31; 5:5); and the reappointment of priests and reconstitution of officers under the new regime (see Mosiah 6:3).” Citation

Honestly, I am not too impressed by 3/5, although it would be interesting to speculate as to why (c) and (d) are missing.

(2) Gary L. Sturgess writes:

We do not have the Original Manuscript for this part of the Book of Mormon, but the unamended text of the Printer’s Manuscript set what became Mosiah 1 as chapter 2, the Words of Mormon being chapter 1. This suggests that the Original Manuscript, and perhaps the plates themselves, failed to identify a new book at that interval. The title of the book of Mosiah, and thus its identification as a discrete book, was provided during the correction of the Printer’s Manuscript by Oliver Cowdery or Joseph Smith.  In its present form, the book of Mosiah takes up the history of Mosiah’s dynasty: “And now there was no more contention in all the land of Zarahemla among all the people which belonged to king Benjamin” (Mosiah 1:1). The beginnings of this history are now to be found in the Words of Mormon, which, according to Joseph Smith, was located not in its present position but right at the end of the plates. This suggests either that the 116 lost pages contained an introduction to the Mosiac dynasty similar to that portion now found in the Words of Mormon, or that an introduction to the book of Mosiah existed but was omitted either by Mormon or Joseph Smith. Citation

Would you read Mosiah 1-3 differently if you read the Words of Mormon as the introduction to it?  Would you read this section of the BoM differently if you moved the Words of Mormon back to the end of the book?  What does this fluidity of placement suggest to you about the BoM and how you should read it?

(3) To what extent might King Benjamin’s speech be modeled on Deuteronomy 17:14-20:

 14 ¶When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; 15 Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. 16 But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. 17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. 18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: 20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.

(4) In Helaman 5:9, Helaman says:

O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.

That’s a pretty long shadow that King Benjamin casts over the BoM, especially since he isn’t the only person to preach such a thing.  Why do you think Benjamin is named here, and does this passage suggest anything about how we should approach Benjamin’s speech in these chapters?

(5) Gerald Lund writes:

To understand the full impact of Benjamin’s address, we must consider the setting in which it was given. Mormon, writing some four centuries after the fact, informs us about king Benjamin and the circumstances leading to his last great sermon (WofM 1:12–18; Mosiah 1:1–2:8). Benjamin did not inherit a comfortable situation when he became king of the Nephite nation; it was a time of war. The armies of the Lamanites came down against the Nephites, and king Benjamin led his people in battle, wielding the sword of Laban with his own hand. Thousands were killed, and eventually the Lamanites were driven out of the land (WofM 1:13–14). But this external threat to the society was not the only problem. Mormon says that the wars with the Lamanites were in addition to “contentions among [king Benjamin’s] own people.” He also explains that there were false Christs, false prophets, false preachers, and false teachers among the people. There was also “much contention and many dissensions,” and the people were described as stiffnecked (WofM 1:12, 15–17). But Benjamin was not content with that state of affairs. With the assistance of holy prophets and through his own personal righteousness, king Benjamin brought about a complete change of heart in his people. In one single sentence Mormon summarizes Benjamin’s greatness: “King Benjamin, by laboring with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul . . . did once more establish peace in the land” (WofM 1:18). By peace, Mormon almost certainly means more than the absence of war. Citation

(6) John Welch has written about the similarities between King Benjamin’s speech and the OT festivals here.  He identifies the main characteristics of the fall new year festival as:  (1) blowing of horns (paralleled, perhaps, by the cries that gather the people), (2) sacrifice (clearly mentioned in this section), (3) judgment (a theme in Ben’s speech), (4) kingship of God (also a theme), (5) creation (ditto), (6) remembrance (“), and (7) the role of the king (“).  He also finds parallels to the day of atonement and the feast of tabernacles, with the parallels that one would expect.  This parallel may make sense of the people being in tents, if they were celebrating the feast of tabernacles.  If we think this might have been a sabbatical year, then that would provide a context for all of the talk about indebtedness. This article is also about parallels with Mosiah 1-6 and the Feast of Tabernacles.  (He notes that Deut 17:14-20 (see (3) above) was read then.)

(7) Blake Ostler writes about Benjamin’s speech in the context of a covenant renewal here.  (He also parallels it to King Limhi’s speech in Mosiah 7, which is useful.)

(8) John Welch also considers Benjamin’s speech as a farewell address here.   It has a chart, which makes me profoundly happy.

(9) This is a good overview of Benjamin as a person.

(10) In 2:9, Benjamin said that his goal for this speech was that “the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.”  How does he accomplish that goal?  What are the mysteries of God?

(11)  If this was a feast of Booths, and/or a Jubilee, and/or a New Years, etc., then why not mention it?  (The Bible usually tells us if that is happening, both in the OT and the NT.)

(12)  We aren’t kings.  But we will all need to give, in some sense, a stewardship report at the end of our lives.  What do you see in Ben’s effort at this that you might model?

Additional Resources:  not one but two books about the speech available in full online.

 

7 Responses to BMGD #15 Mosiah 1-3

  1. Dave on April 9, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Julie, I hereby nominate you for the Most Thoroughly Prepared LDS Gospel Doctrine Teacher in the World award. Hopefully the prize will be to author an updated version of the Gospel Doctrine manual. Very impressive.

  2. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 9, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    Is there a link between the previous teachings and control of the kingdom? Is it even possible that the previous text was ritualized?

    Very much.

    I also think that by calling the people together, the king to be appointed is announcing his authority and ascension.

  3. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 9, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses;

    Why was this verse included?

    To provide us with the ritual context for the passage of kingship.

    It is occurring in connection with a first fruits festival and with the feast of the tabernacles (wherein the people dwell in tents). I think the mentioning of tents was intended to send that message, in response to the question then why not mention it … I think the author of the record is mentioning things, for context.

    He is striving for poetic and ritualized language, throughout, which has its upsides and downsides.

    Stephen D. Ricks — I like your inclusion and comments on his works.

  4. Bonnie on April 9, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Well, now I have enough material for 6 hours, as opposed to three. What the heck am I going to talk about? Maybe Cheryl Esplin’s talk and the backdrop of history.

  5. Rachel Whipple on April 10, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    I second Dave’s nomination. This is fantastic Julie. Thanks for keeping me thinking and current in gospel doctrine while I spend my Sundays in primary.

  6. James Olsen on April 24, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Sorry, joining the conversation a bit late…

    I think you place too much confidence in ancient cultures of oral transmission – or at least, you’re too confident that it was available to Lehi and his descendants. These cultures existed but they were formed over generations and were usually restricted to one class (e.g., the Brahmans) – that is, oral transmission functions in exactly the same way as your hypothesis of restricting the written record to a specific class of men. I don’t see any reason to assume that Lehi – a merchant who didn’t become a prophet until mid-life – actually had the capacity to remember the by-that-time very convoluted Law of Moses. Especially since he wasn’t a priest and didn’t appear to have had much access to the scriptures & oral tradition pre-theft of the brass plates (just as most Israelites of his day). In this context, it’s interesting that his first theophany included his being given a book to read.

    I also suspect that the editor was reflecting directly on (i.e., contrasting) the Mulekites who had just been mentioned as having fallen away specifically because they had no records.

    Finally, I can’t help but wonder if the prejudice against the Lamanites at this point was not that they didn’t remember/believe what was in the scriptures, but was instead related to the earlier battle (highlighted in II Nephi but given the most attention in Jacob) between the messianic and non-messianic branches of Lehi’s posterity. The Lamanites clearly didn’t buy into Lehi’s messianism. They might well have been practicing some form of Israelite religion, however (but then again, maybe not; maybe by that point it’d died out).

  7. Julie M. Smith on April 24, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    James, great observations. Thank you.