CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 29.
This chapter is the end of an era. It has Mosiah’s final words of caution, urging the people to avoid bad kings by using judges instead. Both Mosiah and Alma (the Elder) pass away. It’s a hundred years before Christ is born, and the stage is set.
The king problem came up because all of Mosiah’s sons have converted and gone off on missions, so they do not want to be king, specifically Aaron (verses 1-3). So King Mosiah has to ask them again (verses 4-6), pointing out that such political changes could cause contention “and destroy the souls of many people” (verse 7). He urges the people to appoint judges who will reign according to the commandments of God, rather than kings that will cause contention (verse 11).
“Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just” (verse 12).
King Mosiah is teaching them that a judge ruling based on principles from Scripture will be just because he is focused on God’s ways; however, a king focused on his best interest in the kingdom will not always rule justly.
Kings would be fine, he says, if you could always be sure it would be a good king – like his father, King Benjamin (verse 13). And even King Mosiah himself “labored with all the power and faculties… to teach you the commandments of God, and to establish peace throughout the land, that there should be no wars nor contentions, no stealing, nor plundering, nor murdering, nor any manner of iniquity…” (verse 14).
So yes, the people have had good kings in their recent past.
But King Mosiah reminds them that this was not always the case. A few generations back, and the people were in a terrible bondage because of a bad king. He warns them not to repeat this, and says that kings are not the best way because they are not always good. Specifically, he reminds them of King Noah, “his wickedness and his abominations, and also the wickedness and abominations of his people. Behold what great destruction did come upon them; and also because of their iniquities they were brought into bondage” (verse 18).
It was not the King that saved them from bondage, but the “all-wise Creator, and this because of their sincere repentance” (verse 19).
And this deliverance did not come because of how good the people were, but “because they did humble themselves before him; and because they cried mightily unto him… and thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him” (verse 20).
This is how King Mosiah reminds the people of their experiences, and encourages them to remember the lessons they have learned. He reminds them also that if they should fall into the hands of a bad king, it is not easy to get rid of him (verse 21).
“For behold, he has his friends in iniquity, and he keepeth his guards about him; and he teareth up the laws of those who have reigned in righteousness before him; and he trampleth under his feet the commandments of God; and he enacteth laws, and sendeth them forth among his people, yea, laws after the manner of his own wickedness; and whosoever doth not obey his laws he causeth to be destroyed…” (verses 22-23).
It’s too risky, he says.
Instead of lifting one higher than the rest, and hoping for the best, King Mosiah teaches it is best for all to be at the same level and for judges to rule by the principles (commandments) of God.
“Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord” (verse 25).
Usually, he says, the people will together make good choices, and so deciding by majority will usually keep the people safe and on the right track.
But when the time comes, he warns, that the majority choose evil instead of right, then “the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction…” (verse 27).
This cross-references to the second to the last paragraph of the Family Proclamation:
We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
King Mosiah then tells the people to be judged as they are organized: the small groups watched over by leaders watching over a larger area, and those watched over by a larger area. This is the same ward-stake-area system we use today. This, he says, is what will protect the people’s freedom and what will continue to lead them in righteousness.
“And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people; but I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike…” (verse 32). This is establishing Zion, the at-one-ment of people, the people organized unitedly, the United Order.
In this way, King Mosiah reminded the people of the advantages to having their own freedoms versus the disadvantages of being in bondage under a king (verses 35-36).
The people were “convinced of the truth of his words” (verse 37), and so let go of the demand to have a king (verse 38).
But still, it is in covenant language requiring covenant obedience.
The people don’t just get their freedom, and that’s all there is to it.
They get their freedom, and then work hard to protect it and to provide for their own families.
But then “they were exceedingly rejoiced because of the liberty which had been granted unto them” (verse 39).
And for this joy, for the good teaching of their prophet-King, they did love Mosiah as their leader because of how he led them by humble example (verse 40).
Because they loved him, they paid attention to him.
They chose judges instead of kings (verse 41).
Alma the Younger is chosen as one of those judges, after receiving the priesthood from Alma his father (verse 42). Alma “did walk in the ways of the Lord, and he did keep his commandments, and he did judge righteous judgments; and there was continual peace through the land” (verse 43).
Alma’s father, Alma (the Elder), dies at age 82, and Mosia dies at age 63.
“And thus ended the reign of the kings over the people of Nephi; and thus ended the days of Alma, who was the founder of their church” (verse 47).
The next book, Alma, is the record of this son of Alma who was elected as judge and served amongst the people.