CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 3.
King Benjamin continues his famous speech, looking forward to what is yet to come. He tells the story of an angel visiting him (verse 2) to declare “glad tidings of great joy” (verse 3) in response to his prayers and righteous life (verse 4). He is told these things, that he might testify of them (which was why the last chapter had such a big preface about testimony).
So the angel tells him:
“… 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 sigh, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases…” (verse 5).
This, of course, is a prophecy regarding the birth of the Savior, and the work He would do during His ministry. It cross-references us to “The Living Christ”. But it also applies in our day, whether literally or symbolically.
How have I seen the Savior working in my life and in the life of those around me?
What mighty miracles have I witnessed?
What was “sick” in my life that is now healed?
What was “dead” in my life that is now resurrected?
How am I now able to walk (in righteousness), though I was “lame” before?
What do I see – or, what do I understand now that I did not understand before?
How am I able to hear Him now, even submitting to His will and heeding His promptings, when before I was stubborn and obstinate?
What “disease” in me has healed, or has been made at-one?
This is the work of the atonement.
The angel explains what the Savior suffered to accomplish that atonement:
“And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than a 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” (verse 7).
Who is this, that could endure so much to give us such a gift?
“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” (verse 8).
He endured “more than a man can suffer” because he was also Divine, “the Son of God”.
He knows us so well, so intimately, to suffer for us specifically – for me specifically – because He is the Creator. But He was born of a woman, Mary, and so understands our mortality.
“And lo, he cometh unto his own” (us), “that salvation might come unto the children of men” (those who should know better but are not behaving and interacting like covenant people) “even through faith on his name” (verse 9)
“and even after all this, they shall… scourge him, and shall crucify him” (verse 9).
“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” (verse 10).
This is important.
Because He conquered death in two ways:
First, there is a physical death. Being divine spirits born in mortal bodies outside of our Father’s presence, since the time of the Fall, we are subject to physical death.
The resurrection of Christ conquers physical death, so that all of us get immortality. His Divine act on our behalf means that all of us (our spirit selves), after death, will be reunited with our bodies. This is His free gift, a reuniting after our being separated from Him (physically) during mortality.
Second, there is a spiritual death. But there are two kinds of spiritual deaths. First is the demands of justice for all of us born in this fallen state outside of God’s presence. The atonement of Christ means that each of us will get to be reunited with our Father-in-Heaven, even if only for judgment.
“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” (verse 11).
But there is also a second kind of spiritual death.
The first spiritual death is being outside of God’s presence because of the Fall.
The second spiritual death is when we place ourselves outside of God’s presence by our own choices. Our own personal sins and transgressions remove ourselves from His presence, and it is only by the atonement of Christ that we can be reunited with Him again, made at-one again.
“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” (verse 12).
So the resurrection conquers physical death, and the great atoning sacrifice meets the demands of justice to conquer the first spiritual death.
Everyone gets those free gifts, no matter what.
Everyone gets immortality, no matter what.
But the quality of that immortality, how close we get to be to His presence at that time, our very eternal life (after the pattern of our lives now), depends upon how close we choose to be to Him now.
Immortality is already a done deal; it’s unconditional for everyone.
Eternal life (the quality of that immortality) is conditional based on what we choose. We are choosing, in every choice, behavior, and interaction, whether we want to be closer to God or not. Every choice we make demonstrates whether we are worthy of the sacrifice Christ made for us or not. Every choice we make demonstrates whether we are focused on Him or not.
Except, being born to earthly parents in a fallen state of mortality, of course we cannot do it on our own. So the atonement also conquers this spiritual death of our own choices, but the condition is that we strive to make good choices that show our love and obedience through our faithfulness.
This is the sanctifying process: that as we are told by the Savior – either through His words or by the Holy Spirit – to make good choices, our responding to that by making good choices (and through repentance when we do not), makes us more worthy than before, more whole, more perfect – as in complete. Because each bit of repentance, each good choice, enacts that Great Exchange when we give Him what is not of God, to receive His righteousness.
I am not good.
But I can choose to give Him the not-good in me, and receive His righteousness.
That’s what makes me worthy to return to my Father’s presence, even though I – without Him – am not worthy.
Without this process – without the atonement of Christ or the sanctifying of the Holy Spirit – it would be impossible.
But it is possible, and that is the way to salvation – the way to be reunited in our Father’s presence.
This is what King Benjamin teaches the people, because that is what all prophets teach the people.
“And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, nad 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” (verse 13).
This verse is packed!
First, it points out how all the prophets before the time of Christ knew Christ would come, and this is what they taught the people.
Secondly, it again points out that it is individual belief – demonstrated by obedience – that brings remission of sins, even though what Christ has done conquers both physical and spiritual death (from the Fall) for everyone.
Because everyone needs that atonement for the second spiritual death, the one we bring upon ourselves, the message of it goes to all people – “every kindred, nation, and tongue” – so that all can receive it.
“Yet the Lord God saw that his people were a stiffnecked people, and he appointed unto them a law, even the law of Moses” (verse 14).
If we would just do what He says, we wouldn’t need laws. The people were stubborn and obstinate (like myself), and so needed specific laws to help them stay on track, and specific rules throughout the day to remind them of what it was all about, why it was so important, who – what people – they were trying to become.
“And many signs” (always given with a covenant), “and wonders” (always given in response to faith), “and types, and shadows” (always given in response to study and pondering), 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…” (verse 15).
It says they didn’t get it. They “missed the mark”. They got so lost in the law itself, that they forgot what the law was trying to accomplish. The law wasn’t about rules; it was about learning to become (look and act like) a covenant people.
But it is not the law that saves them. It’s not the rules that save the people.
It’s the atonement, “only in and through the name of Christ” (verse 17).
So instead of being lost in rules and laws, we should remember they are there to teach us and protect us and guide us like the boundaries they are. But their purpose and function is to point us to Christ, and to get us home. That’s what’s most important.
Rather than analyzing the rules or why we have them or what all they mean, we should be focused on the path that they make clear. The rod shows the way, and we should be walking along that way, excited for the tree of life we see ahead.
“Become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ” (verse 18).
That is the only way.
And He has done it.
He has done His part.
He has fulfilled His premortal covenant obligation.
Now we must do ours: to testify of that atonement.
And we testify in words, by telling others about the atonement to help them remember, and by our choices that demonstrate we are grateful for and honoring that gift.
“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” (verse 20).
“And behold, when that time cometh, none shall be found blameless before God, except it be little children” (verse 21).
None will be blameless because we are responsible for what we know. As we are taught, and as all people obtain a knowledge of the Savior, we must respond to that knowledge. We are held accountable for that response.
When we obtain a knowledge of the Savior, we will become aware of the vast separation between us and Him. But we are not lost, for this is where the atonement – the at-one-ment – applies “through repentance and faith on the name of the Lord” (verse 21).
If we repent – which is a demonstration of faith, believing that the atonement is big enough, complete enough, even for me – then we will be made at-one again.
This is the testimony King Benjamin gives his people (verse 23).
So this is his testimony: that the atonement of Christ conquers physical death for all of us, and conquers spiritual death for all of us to be reunited with our Father-in-Heaven at judgment:
“wherefore they shall be judged, every man according to his works, whether they be good, or whether they be evil” (verse 24).
And if we have made good choices – through obedience (good choices) and repentance (the only way to make bad choices at-one again) – then we will receive the peace and joy and eternal life, which is life continuing in our Father’s presence (as it does now, except reunited in His presence).
If we have not, then we will feel our separation from God, receiving “an awful view of (our) own guilt and abominations, which doeth cause them to shrink from the presence of the Lord into a state of misery and endless torment…” (verse 25).
Our misery and endless torment will be because we will have then seen God, and remembered Him, but not able to live with Him.
We will have already chosen, because now is our choice.
While it is still now, while we are in mortality, we can choose to experience this now, through repentance, and not suffer it later with such eternal consequences.
“This life is the time to prepare to meet God.” (Alma 34:32)
Justice will be demanded.
The atonement meets the demands of justice.
But the atonement has to be chosen now in order to receive its mercy.
This is what King Benjamin wants to make sure his people understand.