CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 1.
We now transition back into the historical narrative, from where Amaleki had no sons and so passed on the records to King Benjamin because he was a righteous king.
In fact, King Benjamin reigned so righteously – leading the people to righteousness – that there was no more contention in all the land (verse 1). There was continual peace for the rest of his life, because he led the people to righteousness. He himself was righteous, and as a leader he led the people to also be righteous.
Contention is covenant-breaking, drama, selfishness, demanding-to-be-right, compelling, bitterness, and anger.
Righteousness is covenant-keeping, forgiveness, Christ-focused, respecting the agency of others, peace, and at-one-ment.
King Benjamin had three sons: Mosiah, Helorum, and Helaman, and he made sure that his sons were taught the language and writing of their ancestors (so that they could understand the records that would one day be passed down to them) and he taught them the things of the covenant, the things of God (verse 2).
“My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for… these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God” (verse 3).
Then King Benjamin repeats for his sons the story of their ancestors. He tells them the story of Lehi, who had left Jerusalem with his family and the scriptures and records they had, and how the family kept these records of the Lord working in their lives so that Lehi could “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” (verse 4).
“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.” (verse 5).
Then King Benjamin explains to his sons that this is what happened to the Lamanites. The Lamanites came from sons of Lehi as well, just like the Nephites. But the Nephites kept the records and passed down the scriptures, so that each generation knew God and the covenants He had made with them. This way each generation knew more and more of the truth, because the truth was “added upon” by experience and by revelation, and all that was known was taught to the next generation. Their knowledge was exponential!
However, the Lamanites did not continue passing down the records, and so each generation knew less and less of the truth. So now, King Benjamin says, the Lamanites “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” (verse 5). So because each generation knows less of the truth, what they are passing down to their children is not only a lack of truth, but also a false understanding. So not only do they know less and less each generation, they are also further and further away – more and more “off” from what is accurate and correct, until not only are they NOT passing down what is truth, they ARE passing down what is false.
King Benjamin bears his testimony to his sons, reminding them that these records and scriptures are true (verse 6). He reminds them that the records contain the “sayings of our fathers” (words of prophets!), from all the years since Lehi brought his family out of Jerusalem until the present day of King Benjamin.
“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” (verse 7).
Don’t just read the records, be diligent about it.
Don’t just study the scriptures, search them.
Find your answers there. Base your decisions on scriptural doctrine, not cultural responses.
Do the work (be diligent) to be obedient.
That’s what brings the blessings.
That’s how you prosper – both temporally and spiritually (eternally!).
Do you need help with how to do the small day-to-day things in life? Do you have a major life issues that you need help with? Don’t listen to the world or false traditions or the old ways before your conversion. Search the scriptures diligently until you find the answers. Listen to the words of the prophets. Go to your priesthood leaders. Do the work to find the real answers, the correct information, the truth.
This was the last Family Home Evening that King Benjamin had with his sons.
With the spiritual matters of the family completed, then it was time for the practical matters of his family and also for his people… these are also spiritual matters! Even our jobs are spiritual. There is a reason, within the bounds of time and place (D&C), that we have the jobs we do and that we work where we do and with the people that we do. So we should be testifying in those positions, knowing our jobs are also spiritual, even if we are not using church lingo to do so. We can teach principles without using church-ey words. These will count as “lines” that the Lord can use to bring the people around you up line-upon-line until they are ready for church lingo and deeper doctrine.
For example, in my job, unless people are coming specifically for religious counseling (such as at LDS Family Services), I cannot talk about church things. It’s not even legal to do so. Also, it’s not what the people want or are ready for – that’s not why they are coming to me. But I can teach principles: when we make good choices, we are choosing good consequences; when we make bad choices, we are choosing negative consequences. When we don’t act at all, we will be acted upon. I can teach the wise use of “agency” without ever using that word, without talking about the War in Heaven, and without talking about the Plan of Salvation. Even in the last General Conference, Elder Bednar urged us to share our testimonies informally. This counts! We can teach principles without shoving formal discussions down people’s throats – the principles will lead and prepare the people to receive the full gospel message in the appropriate time and place when they are ready.
Before he died, King Benjamin needed to pass the kingdom down to his oldest son, Mosiah (verse 9). So he told Mosiah this and asked for the people to gather so that he can do it (verse 10).
He also wanted to give the people a specific name, so that they – as a people – “may be distinguished above all people which the Lord God hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem”. This is covenant language in reference to a covenant people. A new name is always a part of becoming a covenant people (see Genesis 17). And here, King Benjamin’s people – by ridding themselves of contention and demonstrating righteousness – have shown themselves to be a covenant people. “And this I do because they have been a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord” (verse 11).
But, the Lord says, like with any other covenant, it goes both ways.
The Lord will keep His promises, but we have to keep our promises.
He will not force us. It has to be our choice, and we demonstrate our choice to love Him by demonstrating obedience.
When we transgress, He does not force us to come back. He lets us go, delivering us to the consequences we have chosen.
“… if this highly favored people of the Lord should fall into transgression, and become a wicked and 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…” (verse 13).
So, King Benjamin is saying that the provision and protection the people have received thus far, from their ancestors until now, is because of the Lord’s blessings. But if the people choose to remove themselves from that provision and protection, then they will face the consequences they chose.
After teaching his sons spiritual things (note that this was first and most important), then he talked to them “concerning all the affairs of the kingdom” (verse 15).
He also then gave them the records that have been passed down since the time of Lehi (verse 16).
So Mosiah, the oldest son about to be made king, goes to ask the people to gather, so that King Benjamin can speak to them.
And oh! What a speech it is!