BMGD #16: Mosiah 4-6

April 16, 2012 | 4 comments
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CHAPTER 4
1 And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.

Do you read this verse to say that all of ch3 was the words of the angel (and none was Ben’s commentary)?  Are there other possible interpretations?

Is “cast his eyes” simply a stage direction or might it be a more technical term?  Here’s a list of all of the occurrences of “cast his eyes” in the BoM.

What in ch3 caused fear?  (Maybe his preachings about condemnation in the last chapter–but what about 1:11?) Was that the right reaction to have?

Did Ben need to cast his eyes to realize that they had fallen? (Would it not have been obvious?)  (Can he see into their tents?) Why didn’t he notice this while he was still speaking?

Is the “fallen” in this verse related to all of the material about the fall of Adam earlier in Ben’s speech?  If so, what light might that shed?

2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.

Remember that Ben has told us that these people are basically righteous–what do you make then of the idea that the people had realized that they are “in a carnal state”?  Is that compatible with righteousness?

Here’s a list of all of the BoM uses of “carnal.”  NB Alma 41:13 seems to take it as a synonym for evil; Mosiah 16:3 for devilish; Alma 41:11 takes it as a state of nature.  What does this word mean?

In my experience, huge crowds do not spontaneously all say the same thing at once (at least, not without a little prompting).  (See also 5:5 and my comment on it.) How, then, do you read the statement of the crowd in this verse?

I’m wondering if there is a link between falling to the earth in v1 and seeing oneself as less than the dust of the earth in v2–are they in a way re-enacting the undoing of the creation (that is, Adam returns to the dust), or is that too weird?

3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.

NB that the Spirit comes to them as a result of what they said in the previous verse, which means that we should be able to use the previous verse as a template for inviting the Spirit.  If you do that, what do you learn?

There’s that joy again!

Does remission of sins require baptism?  If so, then what do you make of the lack of reference to baptism here?

Does the reference to “peace of conscience” help us better understand what Ben meant when he used that term before?

This verse reflects a pretty sudden turn around from the less-than-dust carnal state above.  How do you account for such a sudden shift?

What do v2-3 teach you about the results of accepting the gospel?

If we met someone who viewed themselves as less than the dust of the earth, we would tell them to get therapy for low self-esteem.  What are we missing?

V1-3 are a break from speechifying; if you consider them as “sandwiched” between parts of the speech, what do you conclude?  How are they shaped by the speech?  How do they shape the speech?

Richard G. Scott:

God wants each of His children to enjoy the transcendent blessing of peace of conscience.A tranquil conscience invites freedom from anguish, sorrow, guilt, shame, and self-condemnation. It provides a foundation for happiness. It is a condition of immense worth, yet there are few on earth that enjoy it. Why? Most often because the principles upon which peace of conscience is founded are either not understood or not adequately followed. My life has been so richly endowed from peace of conscience that I would share insights on how it can be obtained. Oct 04 GC

4 And king Benjamin again opened his mouth and began to speak unto them, saying: My friends and my brethren, my kindred and my people, I would again call your attention, that ye may hear and understand the remainder of my words which I shall speak unto you.

What work is “opened his mouth” doing?  (Wouldn’t we just assume that when we learn that he began to speak?)

Why friends/brethren/kindred [NB:  not literally true]/people?

Brant Gardner suggests that, from this point forward and contra what we have had before, the speech is unscripted because its content depended on the people’s response  (v1-3) to what had come before.  Do you find this plausible?  If so, how does it impact your interpretation of the speech?

5 For behold, if the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state—

Does the awakening here have anything to do with the angel asking Ben to awaken in the previous chapter?

Worthless?  Really?

6 I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life, I mean the life of the mortal body—

This verse includes five characteristics of God (goodness, power, wisdom, patience, long-suffering).  How do they relate?  What is the difference between patience and long-suffering?  What is the relationship between power and wisdom?  Why did Ben mention these five (and not any number of others)?

What does it mean to “come to a knowledge” of these things?

The verse continues with reference to the atonement, which I see as the hinge of the verse.  The five characteristics of God lead to the plan for the atonement.  Then, the verse concludes with three desired human responses:  trust, diligence, faith.

7 I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world.

Why is the idea of atonement being prepared from the foundation of the world repeated from the previous verse?

8 And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.

Why doesn’t Ben include ordinances in his discussion of the requirements of salvation?

9 Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.

I think the last line of this verse is singularly important and singularly ignored by people.  Note that Ben is assuring us that there will be things that we will not understand, that the Lord does understand, and that this fact is a fundamental on par with the idea of believing in God.  Yet most of us walk around acting as if we have been robbed if there are things that we do not understand, when Ben has taught us that that is actually the normal state of affairs!

I’m curious about the phrasing of this verse as if it were a commandment.  Can you command someone to believe something?  Can you choose to believe in something?  I’m probably getting into angels-on-the-head of a pin territory here,  . . . but it seems like you either believe something or you don’t.  (I think about this in the context of my own conversion–at one point I didn’t believe things, at another point I did, but I have no idea how I got from A to B; it just happened. But I kind of doubt that someone telling me to believe something would have worked.)  Of course, in context, Ben isn’t speaking to a bunch of non-believers, but rather to basically good (see 1:11) people who have furthered their commitment to God in this very chapter.  In that context, what does telling them to “believe in God” mean?  To believe what God says?  (That is, believe in God’s words, as opposed to believe in God’s existence?)

What is the relationship of this verse to the one before it?

Neal A. Maxwell:

No wonder King Benjamin pleads with us to believe that we do not comprehend all that God comprehends (see Mosiah 4:9). Ignoring the revelations about God’s astounding capacity is like playing aimlessly and contentedly with wooden blocks featuring the letters of the alphabet, without realizing Shakespearean sonnets were created using that same alphabet. Oct 02 GC

10 And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.

Consider the five “believe” statements in v9-10.  Is there a pattern?  How do these statements relate to each other?

Richard Dilworth Rust:

A figure of speech King Benjamin uses effectively is to begin a series of clauses with the same word, a device called anaphora, as in this passage:

Believe in God;
believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven
and in earth;
believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven
and in earth;
believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the
Lord can comprehend.
And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake
them, and humble yourselves before God;
and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you;
and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.
(Mosiah 4:9–10)The cumulative power of this figure is the climactic shift from believe to the injunction “see that ye do them.”  Citation

11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

“Unworthy creatures” seems a bit over-the-top as a way to directly address the audience, especially after their experience in v2.  Why does Ben use this language?

Does the “or” in this verse mean that “com[ing] to the knowledge of the glory of God” is the same thing as “know[ing] of his goodness.”

What does “taste” suggest to you about the process of experiencing God’s love?

There’s that joy again.  I’m curious about the remission of sins -> joy dynamic that we keep hearing about.  How does this work?  Why does this work?

What does the image of “standing steadfastly” suggest to you about faith?

It seems that a lot of BoM faith is aimed forward–they are asked not so much to have faith in things that are true that they can’t perceive but rather in things that are true that will happen in the future.  In what ways is that the case for us?  In what ways is it different?

12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.

Is it literally true that you will “always” rejoice if you do the things from v11?

Does “love of God” mean love from God, love toward God, or something else?  (I think if biblical scholars could ban one word it would be “of,” which is an omnipresent but evil little beast that can mean many, many different things.)

This section has a big emphasis on “knowledge.”  What is its ultimate message about knowledge?

What does the word “just” mean in this verse–what would it mean to have knowledge of things that are just?

13 And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due.

“Have a mind” is unusual language; what does it mean?

I like the idea that as we increase in righteousness, our desire for sin will decrease.  That is a powerful promise.

Wouldn’t we have expected Ben to tell us that we should render to everyone more than their due?

14 And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.

How do you reconcile this counsel not to suffer (=permit) your children to violate God’s law with the idea that agency is really important?

Every LDS parent secretly hates this verse.  How exactly are we supposed to stop our children from fighting and quarreling with each other?

Do you think this verse applies to “your [biological] children” or to all of the children in the community?  I think we usually assume the former, but given the location of this verse in a context of community, not family situations, perhaps we should consider the latter.

15 But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.

What does “soberness” mean?

How do you teach someone to love someone else?

Russell M. Nelson:

In rearing our own family, Sister Nelson and I have been very grateful for this counsel from the Book of Mormon: “Ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, … But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.” (Mosiah 4:14–15.) And I might add, please be patient while children learn those lessons. Apr 89 GC

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

Does this verse mean that you must give money to every beggar that you see?  (If not, how do you decide when and to what extent to take the scriptures completely literally)?

In thinking about the relationship of this verse to the section before it, we might conclude that the role of children is to be taught and cared for, but the role of adults (“ye yourselves”) in this verse is to help those who need it.  Is this a productive way of thinking about the world?

Arguments from silence are dangerous things, but I do find it interesting that we know that women are present but they are not addressed as a separate group.  Ben divides the world into “adults” and “children.”

What kinds of conclusions do you draw from both the overlap and the dissimilarities between what children needed in the last few verses and what “beggars” (which, Ben will tell us, is everyone) need in this and subsequent verses?

Brant Gardner writes,

How should this verse be interpreted in a modern context? All of the social rules that governed Benjamin’s society have changed dramatically. Benjamin’s people were primarily agricultural and rural. His people had no monetary economy, but rather one built on exchange. Thus for Benjamin, one who had no food was one who had somehow become displaced from his land, and therefore his ability to grow his own food. Whether through war or illness, the removal of a person from his land created a condition of need, not poverty in the sense that we might understand it. Citation

Henry Eyring:

“The conversation turned to the particularly troublesome scripture in this regard in Mosiah:  (Mosiah 4:16-18.) I asked Spencer [W. Kimball] what he thought of my chances and how he dealt with that particular scripture, since he must have a never-ending stream of such visitors. His eyes twinkled, and he smiled slightly as he said, “I always read fast when I get to those verses.” He didn’t mean it, of course. I don’t know anyone who comes closer to meeting the high standard of that scripture than Spencer, but it’s nice to know that he understands the rest of us.”  Citation

Thinking about v12-16, do you read this section as (1) a commandment or (2) the results of retaining a remembrance of God?

17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

If you take the attitude that Ben encourages in v18 (as opposed to the attitude that he criticizes in this verse), aren’t you making it possible for people to escape the consequences of their actions, and isn’t that a bad thing?  What happened to personal responsibility?  Self-reliance?  Etc.  How do we know when/how (not) to ‘interfere’ with someone’s just punishment?

The anticipation and rebuttal of an argument is not terribly common in scriptures, although Deut 15:9 might be a parallel example; note that it also concerns treatment of the poor.

18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

This is a pretty strong response for an attitude that, I think my questions for v17 show, is not an entirely unreasonable position.  Why does Ben respond so strongly here?

Is this hyperbole?  Is it literally possible that someone could do/believe every single other thing that they were supposed to but be classed with those who have “no interest” in the kingdom because of their attitude toward the poor?

19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

For the argument in this verse to work, you have to make a direct parallel between God’s provision of stuff to us and out provision of stuff to other people.  What can you learn from that parallel?

I can pretty much guarantee you that if we didn’t have Ben’s speech and someone made this argument in a sacrament meeting talk, the conversation that most of the ward would have on the ride home would be along these lines:  “That was a lame argument.  You can’t compare what God gives us, which we have to work for, with what we give to the poor, which is just a handout.  When God gives us food or clothing, he gives us the opportunity to earn it, not a roast beef tree and a Nike tree.  But that’s what we do when we give a beggar a handout.”  How would you respond to this critique of Ben’s argument?

There are only two other scriptural uses of the word “beggar:”  in Jesus’ parable of the beggar Lazarus (see Luke 16:20f) and in Hannah’s song of praise in 1 Samuel 2 (“The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them.”), in the context of the reversals that the Lord will cause.  Do either of those texts influence your reading of this text?

Would it be right to conclude from this verse that a saint can’t own (in the sense of: being unwilling to part with) anything?

Gordon B. Hinckley:

I am confident that a time will come for each of us when, whether because of sickness or infirmity, of poverty or distress, of oppressive measures against us by man or nature, we shall wish for mercy. And if, through our lives, we have granted mercy to others, we shall obtain it for ourselves. Oct 90 GC

20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.

What does the image of “pouring out” suggest about the Spirit?

Again, for this argument to work, we need a direct parallel between begging for remission of sins and begging for temporal help.  Is that a legitimate parallel?  What does it imply?  What are its repercussions?

21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

For the logic of this verse to work, there needs to be a parallel between God’s willingness to grant the remission of sins to those who do not deserve it and our willingness to grant of our physical substance to those who do not deserve it.  What can you learn from that parallel?

22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.

What is your definition of “rich”?  What do you think Ben’s definition of “rich” was?

24 And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.

What do you conclude from Ben’s definition of “the poor” as those “who have not and yet have sufficient”?

This verse suggests that a prime concern for Ben, in addition to caring for the poor, is the attitudes of the people.  (Note that regardless of the attitude that the poor have, they will not be helping anyone financially.)  What do you make of this emphasis on attitude?

This verse seems to elevate attitude/motive above deed.  What are the advantages and possible disadvantages of that position?

This verse suggests (I think?) that neutrality is not enough to help you remain guiltless, but an affirmation that you would help if you could.  What do you make of that idea?

25 And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.

What does this verse teach about coveting?

Marion G. Romney:

Once we are convinced that we have an obligation to give, we must learn that to render service in the proper spirit is of first importance. Mormon, speaking to those who give for the wrong reasons, said, “For if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing. Oct 81 GC

26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

Webster 1828 on “remission”:

1. Abatement; relaxation; moderation; as the remission of extreme rigor.2. Abatement; diminution of intensity; as the remission of the sun’s heat; the remission of cold; the remission of close study or of labor.3. Release; discharge or relinquishment of a claim or right; as the remission of a tax or duty.4. In medicine, abatement; a temporary subsidence of the force or violence of a disease or of pain, as distinguished from intermission, in which the disease leaves the patient entirely for a time.5. Forgiveness; pardon; that is, the giving up of the punishment due to a crime; as the remission of sins.

Do you read this to say that Ben is setting up the items in this verse as the key to keeping sins in remission?

Marion G. Romney:

Is there any question, brothers and sisters, about our obligation in this program? Is there any doubt that retaining a remission of sins depends on our caring for one another? If we believe these teachings, if we profess to follow the Savior and his prophets, if we want to be true to our covenants and have the Spirit of the Lord in our lives, then we must do the things that the Savior said and did.  Oct 80 GC

H. David Burton:

In 1897 a young David O. McKay stood at a door with a tract in his hand. As a missionary in Stirling, Scotland, he had done this many times before. But on that day a very haggard woman opened the door and stood before him. She was poorly dressed and had sunken cheeks and unkempt hair.  She took the tract Elder McKay offered to her and spoke six words that he subsequently would never forget: “Will this buy me any bread?”  This encounter left a lasting impression on the young missionary. He later wrote: “From that moment I had a deeper realization that the Church of Christ should be and is interested in the temporal salvation of man. I walked away from the door feeling that that [woman], with … bitterness in [her heart] toward man and God, [was] in no position to receive the message of the gospel. [She was] in need of temporal help, and there was no organization, so far as I could learn, in Stirling that could give it to [her].” A few decades later the world groaned under the burden of the Great Depression. It was during that time, on April 6, 1936, that President Heber J. Grant and his counselors, J. Reuben Clark and David O. McKay, announced what would later become known as the welfare program of the Church. . . . The commitment of Church leaders to relieve human suffering was as certain as it was irrevocable. President Grant wanted “a system that would … reach out and take care of the people no matter what the cost.” He said he would even go so far as to “close the seminaries, shut down missionary workfor a period of time, or even close the temples, but they would not let the people go hungry.”  Citation

That quote perhaps isn’t directly related to our passage, but it makes two important points:  (1) the final paragraph shows the importance of temporal help and (2) Pres. McKay’s experience shows that temporal welfare is a precondition (in some cases) to spiritual welfare.

An interesting statement from the head of Church Public Affairs on “social justice.”

Grant Hardy:

Benjamin taught his great sermon on social justice as a reigning king, and just as there are accounts of taxes being wickedly squandered (Mosiah 11), there is also an example of the government righteously redistributing wealth in order to support those in need: “Now there was a great number of women, more than there was of men; therefore King Limhi commanded that every man should impart to the support of the widows and their children, that they might not perish with hunger; and this did because of the greatness of their number that had been slain” (Mosiah 21:17). . . .  Sometimes I hear complaints about government social programs that seem to have been rebutted long ago by King Benjamin:

I shouldn’t have to share what I have with people who have not worked as hard or who have made bad decisions or broken the law. Benjamin: “Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this, the same hath great cause to repent” (Mosiah 4:17)

Why should I have to support people who are not like me? My children deserve more than other people’s children; Mormons deserve more than non-Mormons; Americans deserve more than foreigners: “Are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches we have of every kind?” (v. 19)

I worked hard for what I’ve got and so I deserve to do with it as I please. This actually sounds a little like Korihor at Alma 30:17. Benjamin reminds his people that they actually can’t claim credit for their own wealth: “If ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth. (v. 22) (By the way, the “hard work” argument is especially difficult to make for those who have inherited money, or whose families have paid for their education or given them loans.)

I’m a good person, even an upstanding churchgoer; why should I have to care about the poor? Benjamin: “For the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every many according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants” (v. 26).

It’s true that Benjamin counsels conservative caution—“See that all these things are done in wisdom and order” (v. 27)—and he had earlier mentioned overly burdensome taxes (2:14, though in the context of a subsistence economy), but his emphatic insistence on meeting basic human needs makes the exact mechanism of secondary importance. Citation

27 And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

What is the difference between “wisdom” and “order” in this verse, or are they two different ways of saying the same thing?

Why is running (presumably a race) a good analogy for helping the poor?

The verse starts with wisdom and order, then in a restatement we get “diligent,” then at the end, we get order (but not wisdom).  How do these three statements of what is required relate to each other?

This verse seems to me the crux of the complication:  How much am I supposed to give?  How much am I supposed to save against my own future need?  How much can I spend on non-essentials?

In context, this verse is clearly about charity.  We often extend its meaning to any other topic for which we might be tempted to overdo it.  Is that a legitimate application of this verse?

Neal A. Maxwell:

Yet in the intensity of King Benjamin’s discipleship, there is also balance. After his exhortation on caring for the poor, he nevertheless urged that we do things “in wisdom and order” (Mosiah 4:27). How like the counsel of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you to translate” (D&C 10:4). A lack of balance can burn out discipleship. Hence we have Benjamin’s wisdom and order test, and we have the strength and means test given to Joseph Smith by the Lord. I wonder if, in this connection, Benjamin’s time spent gardening and farming in order to avoid being a burden might also have provided him with much-needed therapy and with time for unhurried reflection. Citation

Joseph B. Wirthlin:

We don’t have to be fast; we simply have to be steady and move in the right direction. We have to do the best we can, one step after another. Oct 01 GC

Dallin H. Oaks:

We should remember King Benjamin’s caution to “see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength” (Mosiah 4:27). I think of that inspired teaching whenever I feel inadequate, frustrated, or depressed. Oct 93 GC

M. Russell Ballard:

As a result of their focusing too much time and energy on their Church service, eternal family relationships can deteriorate. Employment performance can suffer. This is not healthy, spiritually or otherwise. While there may be times when our Church callings require more intense effort and unusual focus, we need to strive to keep things in proper balance. We should never allow our service to replace the attention needed by other important priorities in our lives. Remember King Benjamin’s counsel: “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength” Oct 06 GC

H. David Burton:

The great King Benjamin taught that one of the reasons we impart of our substance to the poor and administer to their relief is so that we may retain a remission of our sins from day to day and walk guiltless before God.Since the foundation of the world, the cloth of righteous societies has ever been woven from the golden threads of charity. We yearn for a peaceful world and for prosperous communities. We pray for kind and virtuous societies where wickedness is forsaken and goodness and right prevail. No matter how many temples we build, no matter how large our membership grows, no matter how positively we are perceived in the eyes of the world—should we fail in this great core commandment to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees,”or turn our hearts from those who suffer and mourn, we are under condemnation and cannot please the Lord and the jubilant hope of our hearts will ever be distant. Apr 11 GC

Dieter F. Uchtdorf:

This very hour there are many members of the Church who are suffering. They are hungry, stretched financially, and struggling with all manner of physical, emotional, and spiritual distress. They pray with all the energy of their souls for succor, for relief. Brethren, please do not think that this is someone else’s responsibility. It is mine, and it is yours. We are all enlisted. “All” means all—every Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood holder, rich and poor, in every nation. In the Lord’s plan, there is something everyone can contribute.The lesson we learn generation after generation is that rich and poor are all under the same sacred obligation to help their neighbor. It will take all of us working together to successfully apply the principles of welfare and self-reliance. Too often we notice the needs around us, hoping that someone from far away will magically appear to meet those needs. Perhaps we wait for experts with specialized knowledge to solve specific problems. When we do this, we deprive our neighbor of the service we could render, and we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to serve. While there is nothing wrong with experts, let’s face it: there will never be enough of them to solve all the problems. Instead, the Lord has placed His priesthood and its organization at our doorsteps in every nation where the Church is established. And, right by its side, He has placed the Relief Society. As we priesthood holders know, no welfare effort is successful if it fails to make use of the remarkable gifts and talents of our sisters. Oct 11 GC

28 And I would that ye should remember, that whosoever among you borroweth of his neighbor should return the thing that he borroweth, according as he doth agree, or else thou shalt commit sin; and perhaps thou shalt cause thy neighbor to commit sin also.

How does this verse relate to the ones before it?  (I can think of two ways:  one is that God lends us everything and we return it, not to God but to other people who are in need.  Another is that the lending of objects is a separate category from the giving of charity and the two should not be confused.)

I’m always uncomfortable with the idea that we can cause other people to sin.  Thoughts?

29 And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.

What does this verse teach you about the nature of sin?  (My thought:  This is very profound, and not just a throw-away “hey, folks, looks like I’m outta time!”  Rather, sin is not in a list of discrete acts that can be numbered in a big list of “thou shalt not”s but rather has a lot more to do with attitude, as described above.)

30 But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.

Skousen thinks “and observe to keep the commandments of God” is original here.

What do you learn from the fact that Ben lists the self, the thoughts, the words, and the deeds as separate items, each one capable of sin?  What would the self be in this context?

There is a great irony here:  we all “perish” at the end of our lives in the sense of dying, but Ben is presenting a way by which we do not “perish” at the end of moral life.

This is not the first time that Ben has used “O man” as a way of addressing the audience directly.  (He has also used other ways–see v4.)  What does Ben accomplish with this method of address?

Why is “perish” such a big theme in this chapter?

CHAPTER 5
1 And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them.

Wouldn’t 4:2 have made clear that they believed him?  Or does he suspect that the rest of ch4 may have lost them?  Either way, this audience response test is somewhat unusual in a biblical context; why does Ben do it?  In what situations might you want to model it?

The last chapter began with Ben “casting his eyes” and knowing for himself that all the people had fallen in fear.  This time, he has to have intermediaries assess the state of the audience.  Why the difference?

2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.

In 4:2, the crying with one voice was unprovoked; here, it is in response to Ben’s survey in 5:1.  What do you make of the difference?

The idea of not having a disposition to do evil is interesting; what do you make of it?  Is it a continuum, or a on-off switch?  Any personal experiences?

David A. Bednar:

This mighty change is not simply the result of working harder or developing greater individual discipline. Rather, it is the consequence of a fundamental change in our desires, our motives, and our natures made possible through the Atonement of Christ the Lord. Our spiritual purpose is to overcome both sin and the desire to sin, both the taint and the tyranny of sin. Oct 07 GC

As mentioned in the previous chapter, there is something more going on here–it seems unlikely that everyone would all cry with one voice, especially in a context where the crowd is so large that Ben can’t assess the audience himself but needs people to help him.  I almost wonder if you couldn’t read the beginning of v6 to suggest that this (and v3-5) is a prepared statement to which the people assented.  Given that, in v6, the words spoken seem to have constituted the covenant, then it becomes even more likely that they were repeating what they were supposed to say and not engaging in a spontaneous outpouring.

3 And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things.

This is a very strong statement, especially when contrasted with the set-up in ch3, when an angel had to talk to Ben and Ben had to talk to the people.  It seems that their willingness to believe ch3 (prophecies about Christ) and ch4 (need to care for others) has had an enormous impact on their spiritual sensitivity.

What does the (unnecessary) word “ourselves” accomplish in this verse?

4 And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.

There’s that joy theme again.  I think it might be the great under-appreciated motif in Ben’s speech.

5 And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.

In this article, John Welch suggests that this material is the basis for the sacrament prayers as found in 3 Nephi 18 and Moroni 4-5.  Do you think it makes sense to read this verse as the precursor to the sacrament prayers?  If you do, would you understand it differently?  Does it help us make sense of so many people speaking as one?

6 And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them; and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant.

7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.

Mentioning daughters is somewhat unusual in the BoM; why does it happen here?

Does this verse imply that people who have not entered into the covenant are not (yet) children of Christ?

What are the elements of being spiritually begotten of Christ that you can deduce from this passage?

What is the difference between being a child of Christ and a child of God?

Would it be right to conclude from this verse that Christ “adopts” you when you enter into the covenant?  (That seems all well and good until you start thinking about the implication that God the Father has lost His parental rights!)

Should we be thinking and speaking more of Christ as our Father than as our Elder Brother based on this verse?

The birth imagery in this verse is rich.  What do you make of the application of childbirth imagery to fatherhood?

Dallin H. Oaks:

We also take upon us the name of Jesus Christ whenever we publicly proclaim our belief in him. Apr 85 GC

David A. Bednar:

The spiritual rebirth described in this verse typically does not occur quickly or all at once; it is an ongoing process—not a single event. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. This phase of the transformation process requires time, persistence, and patience. Apr 07 GC (The famous pickle talk!)

8 And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.

In the Bible, the entire point of a “head” is that you are not free, but under that head.  So there is a great little paradox in this verse.

Notice the shift from “birthing father” in the previous verse to “head” in this verse.  What does Ben convey through using this two images that one alone would not have suggested?

M. Russell Ballard:

We take the name of Christ upon us in the waters of baptism. We renew the effect of that baptism each week as we partake of the sacrament, signifying our willingness to take His name upon us and promising always to remember Him. Oct 11 GC

9 And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ.

10 And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God.

11 And I would that ye should remember also, that this is the name that I said I should give unto you that never should be blotted out, except it be through transgression; therefore, take heed that ye do not transgress, that the name be not blotted out of your hearts.

This verse almost reads as if post-conversion repentance where not possible (and, indeed, there have been some people in the history of Christianity who have believed just that).

The picture created at this point is this:  because the people were willing to enter into a covenant, they received Christ’s name written in their hearts.  What does this imagery of a name written on a heart suggest to you?  (What about the potential to have it blotted out?)

12 I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.

Does this verse allude to the shepherd imagery?  What else might “hearing the voice” refer to?

A that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ
B must be called by some other name;
C therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God.
11 D And I would that ye should remember also, that this is the name
E that I said I should give unto you that never should be blotted out,
F except it be through transgression; therefore,
F take heed that ye do not transgress,
E that the name be not blotted out of your hearts.
12 D I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name
C written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God,
B but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called,
A and also, the name by which he shall call you.  Citation

13 For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?

How do we serve God?  How does that service help us know God?

What does this verse suggest to you about what you can do to improve your relationship with God?

Henry B. Eyring:

Now, you will still be startled, as President Benson said you would be, to realize how familiar the face of our Heavenly Father is. But when you see him, you will know his voice, because you will have prayed, listened, obeyed, and come to share the thoughts and intents of his heart. You will have drawn nearer to him. Apr 91 GC

14 And again, doth a man take an ass which belongeth to his neighbor, and keep him? I say unto you, Nay; he will not even suffer that he shall feed among his flocks, but will drive him away, and cast him out. I say unto you, that even so shall it be among you if ye know not the name by which ye are called.

Here’s what we have so far:  the name can be written in the heart, it can be blotted out, it can be retained, it can be known or unknown.  What can you learn from this imagery?

What does the ass metaphor suggest about our relationship with God?

Do you interpret this verse differently if you think about the ass as an unclean animal under the law of Moses?

15 Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.

What does “seal” mean in this verse?

CHAPTER 6
1 And now, king Benjamin thought it was expedient, after having finished speaking to the people, that he should take the names of all those who had entered into a covenant with God to keep his commandments.

Is this just stage directions, or is there some significance to the fact that he is taking “the names” of those willing to take the name of Christ?  (Are they symbolically giving their own names away now that they have Christ’s name?)

2 And it came to pass that there was not one soul, except it were little children, but who had entered into the covenant and had taken upon them the name of Christ.

Hyperbole?

This sounds like a census–how would that relate to 2:2?

3 And again, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of all these things, and had consecrated his son Mosiah to be a ruler and a king over his people, and had given him all the charges concerning the kingdom, and also had appointed priests to teach the people, that thereby they might hear and know the commandments of God, and to stir them up in remembrance of the oath which they had made, he dismissed the multitude, and they returned, every one, according to their families, to their own houses.

In the OT, priest isn’t really a teaching role per se.  Is it here?  Or is it teaching through the temple sacrifices?

Note that Mosiah 1 set us up to see the consecration of Mosiah as a huge thing, but here it is dismissed with with virtually no detail.  Why might that be?

4 And Mosiah began to reign in his father’s stead. And he began to reign in the thirtieth year of his age, making in the whole, about four hundred and seventy-six years from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem.

5 And king Benjamin lived three years and he died.

6 And it came to pass that king Mosiah did walk in the ways of the Lord, and did observe his judgments and his statutes, and did keep his commandments in all things whatsoever he commanded him.

7 And king Mosiah did cause his people that they should till the earth. And he also, himself, did till the earth, that thereby he might not become burdensome to his people, that he might do according to that which his father had done in all things. And there was no contention among all his people for the space of three years.

Do you really need a king to make you be a farmer?  What does the first sentence in this verse mean, and why was it worth including in the record?

The second sentence shows a concern with preserving the people’s freedom, but the first sentence is an abridgement of that freedom.  How do you explain this paradox?

Is there any relation between the three years in this verse and the three years in v5, or is that just a coincidence?

Brant Gardner:

The tilling of the soil is symbolic of the leveling of the society. Thus the original intent was probably to show that in addition to Mormon’s “peace” that might have been construed as an external peace, there was a social reorganization that followed Benjamin’ new covenant. Both the people and their leader till the ground” as an indication that they have no stratification between them. If there is not social distance between the king and the tillers of the ground, then there is no distinction throughout the society. The peace in the land is not from the Lamanites, but is as the result of the acceptance and implementation of both the spiritual and social covenant. Citation

General Thoughts:

(1) This essay includes a good analysis of Ben’s audience:

Reading between the lines, we assume that the people are previously baptized church members who are confident they are righteous (King Benjamin says “they have been a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord” [Mosiah 1:11]); they observe the law of Moses (Mosiah 2:3); and they have come “that they might give thanks to the Lord their God” for actions on the part of the Lord and others (Mosiah 2:4). What they do not realize, though, is that this type of observance, including their prayers of gratitude, is passive and low-level obedience. Indeed, the assembled people may have been self-satisified in thinking they were keeping all God’s commandments by avoiding such sins as theft and murder (Mosiah 2:13). Further, they have a tendency to be proud; the king asks, “Of what have ye to boast?” (Mosiah 2:24). Given their self-satisfaction, we may imagine the people’s shock in hearing their kind old king say, “I have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together that I might rid my garments of your blood” (Mosiah 2:28), and to say that the unrepentant person among them is “in open rebellion against God” (Mosiah 2:37).

(2) Stephen D. Ricks has analyzed this speech in terms of the treaty/covenant pattern (I have simplified his chart somewhat):

preamble/titular description–Mosiah 2:9a

antecedent history–2:9-30

individual stipulations–2:22-30

witness/oaths–5:2-8

blessings/curses–5:9-15

recital of covenant and deposit of text–6:1-6 Citation

(3) This article is a good summary of principles of government leadership that we can glean from Ben’s reign.

4 Responses to BMGD #16: Mosiah 4-6

  1. Rameumptom on April 16, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Great questions, Julie. I just wished you’d also provide the answers to the test!

    You wrote: “Does remission of sins require baptism? If so, then what do you make of the lack of reference to baptism here?”

    It is because they entered into a covenant. Baptism represents a covenant as an outward sign of entering into the covenant. But in this sense, it was not necessary, just as LDS receive some covenants in different ways, as well. Also, perhaps their falling to the earth is a symbolic baptism into the dust, wherein they are spiritually dead, but then revived by the Spirit through their new faith in Christ.

  2. Ken on August 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Her questions about chapter 4 weren’t “great questions.” They were inane. This is my first visit to this site. I don’t know if she was claiming that chapter 4 doesn’t really say what it clearly says, as most LDS people do, or posing the inane questions so the words of the Bretheren she cites at the end of her chapter 4 commentary can shoot them down.
    I hope it’s the latter.

  3. Julie M. Smith on August 5, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Ken, I’m sorry that this wasn’t helpful to you and I hope you find something more to your liking, either here or elsewhere.

    It is worth noting that my questions are questions–not commentary wrapped up as questions. I have found that, for me personally, asking difficult or obvious questions frequently leads me to ponder and receive new ideas or inspiration about a passage. But this requires asking a lot of questions first, including inane ones.

  4. Cameron N on August 5, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Yes, Ken. I had that reaction occasionally at first, but I think Julie often includes initial thoughts or questions, or questions she’s not necessarily unsure about but that will catalyze new insights. Keep reading, I suspect your appreciation will improve.

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