CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 2.
Mosiah left his father, King Benjamin, to go gather the people for the king’s big speech. And it is a big speech, and it is a famous speech, a general conference kind of speech, and it is amazing. 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 to them” (verse 1).
And there were lots of them, “so many that they did not number them” (verse 2).
Since this was a gathering of the people, and they were coming to hear the words of the Prophet, the teachings of the Lord, and prepare themselves for the Temple, they brought “the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice… and offerings…” (verse 3).
This is an important pattern from the Old Testament.
It is why we have Sacrament before we have the talks during Sacrament meeting.
The atonement has to happen first.
It is why we get more out of the Temple experience if we go prepared, having studied and repented and sacrificed in some way to get there.
It is why the New Testament says don’t come to Sacrament angry at people (and don’t even take Sacrament if you are being offended – which is not of God – or un-forgiving). It says go, make peace, then come back and take Sacrament. Because being at-one is part of the atonement, so much that there cannot be any hard feelings towards anyone when we approach God.
It’s a small verse in the middle of a big chapter, but it is very important.
So also is the next verse: “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… and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with the love towards God and all men” (verse 4).
This is also huge, because all of this that they are thanking God for happened a long time ago. It’s been hundreds of years since the people were delivered out of Jerusalem, just in time before the Babylonian captivity. It’s been hundreds of years since those prophets of that day did teach the people, write the records, and pass them down generation after generation.
When was the last time we thanked God for our deliverance, whether it is personal deliverance in our day – physically, emotionally, conversion-ly, or spiritually – or whether it is ancient deliverance, such as living in a free country where we are allowed to worship God the way we see fit for ourselves?
When was the last time we thanked God for the teachers he appointed hundreds of years ago, whether the writers of the Book of Mormon records, the restoration through the Prophet, or those who taught our ancestors, so that we were even born?
When was the last time we thanked God for the peace in our land?
When was the last time we rejoiced because we knew having commandments taught us to love God?
When was the last time did we consciously do the work to love another person because we are commanded to do so, and because they are a child of the same God, and because learning who they are teaches us more about who God is?
This is the work we must do before going to the Temple.
This is the preparation work that makes us worthy, by His atonement.
Our Temple recommend questions are interview questions so that priesthood authority can give us permission to go, like Mosiah calling the people to gather.
But it is our individual preparation work – by the power of the atonement and the guidance of the Spirit – that makes us worthy.
Are we truly worthy?
What have we done, on this day, to be thankful?
What have we done, on this day, to do the work of love?
What have we done, on this day, to establish peace?
“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… every family being separate one from another” (verse 5).
This is the order of things, and the families being organized as part of that order.
Families go to the temple together.
This verse also reminds me of an ancient Jewish custom that said families had to remain separate because it was part of modesty, part of chastity, part of fidelity. You couldn’t face your tent or home towards the front windows of another house. It could be off center, or the front could be away from the courtyard, but you didn’t invade the privacy of others by facing your front door towards theirs.
In our day, this applies emotionally and spiritually as well. We need to focus on our own families, not in isolation from one another, but out of respect for other families and in effort of organizing our own. We should be caring for our parents, seeking spouses, and raising children.
That is the work of a family as commanded, whether it means going to Sonic with your mom or writing letters to your dad or caring for elderly parents.
That is the work of a family as commanded, whether it is dating or being married with the understanding it takes a lifetime to learn to be a spouse or whether it is the bittersweet grief after a spouse of many years is gone.
That is the work of a family as commanded, whether it is praying for children, spending time looking into their eyes and listening, playing hard with them, celebrating accomplishments, bidding them farewell as they start their own families, or celebrating your posterity as their family grows.
“And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple…” (verse 6).
Again, families – as a whole – together – are focused on the Temple, ready to receive what the Temple has to offer.
So many people came that King Benjamin had a tower built, so all could hear (verse 7).
This is General Conference, folks!
“And it came to pass that he began to speak to his people from the tower… (and) he caused that the words which he spake should be written and sent forth among those… that they might also receive his words” (verse 8).
General Conference and Ensign!
The pattern that has always been!
King Benjamin begins, “… 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…” (verse 9).
He’s not messing around!
General Conference isn’t just for a good time, cool quotes, or to get a hint at what’s happening next.
General Conference is to receive instruction and revelation and be obedient unto it.
The words given are by the power of the Spirit, from the Lord, to His covenant people.
The Prophets that deliver them, even King Benjamin, are still only a “mortal man” (verse 10).
“I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind…” (verse 11).
Yet the Lord has blessed his efforts, and King Benjamin shows what a set-apart leader looks like.
- First: It is not priestcraft, because King Benjamin’s words are the Lord’s words, King Benjamin has been called to speak, and King Benjamin has provided for himself (verse 12).
- Second: King Benjamin has ruled in righteous dominion: “Neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery…” (verse 13).
- Third: His reign has been righteous, and he has raised up a righteous people. He has “taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you…” (verse 13).
- Fourth: He lives by example: “And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes…” (verse 14)
- Fifth: He uplifts (teaches) instead of oppressing (grieving): “that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be bourne….” (verse 14).
- Sixth: His focus in on accomplishing the task given him by the Lord. “I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day” (verse 15).
- Seventh: He knows his purpose: “I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God” (verse 16).
What amazing lessons of leadership that apply to everything from parenting to testimony-by-example to professional work to leadership positions.
“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” (verse 17).
And he does as he teaches, teaching both by word and example:
“and if I, who ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?” (verse 18).
But service is not enough.
Gratitude is also required.
“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!” (verse 19).
This is humility. Not fake-humble or low-self-esteem that can’t accept compliments.
This is humility, which is a righteous understanding that all things are given to us by our Father-in-Heaven, made possible by the atonement of His Son, and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“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 with one another…” (verse 20).
He interrupts to give emphasis, creating some of that beautiful Hebrew poetry:
“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 (He who gave us agency!), and even supporting you from one moment to another (His Spirit quickens our spirit!) -” (verse 21).
Then he continues back to the first thought, connecting service and gratitude as one expression of love for God, demonstrated by obedience:
“I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls, yet ye would be unprofitable servants” (verse 21).
We can do nothing without Him.
It is by His Spirit, because of the atonement, by our Father’s plan, that there is fruition to anything we do or try, even in the very lives we live.
We come so short, owe such a debt, that we cannot pay the price.
We cannot be profitable.
But the Savior has paid the price, meeting the demands of justice so that we are “even” – at zero – by His great atoning sacrifice.
Yet, still, we are not “profitable”.
It is by the power of the Spirit, because of that atonement, that there is “fruit”, that there is progression, that we are sanctified, that we can bring something back to the Father, and in that way be profitable.
What is profitable to the Father?
Souls. (D&C 18:10).
So we can be profitable by spiritually creating families through marriages, physically providing bodies for spirit children, by fulfilling our premortal covenant to testify of Him so that souls can be converted – not just in baptism, but even in their own progress, at whatever “line” they are on along the way.
Remember the Elder Scott quote from 2002 General Conference:
Your happiness now and forever is conditioned on your degree of conversion and the transformation that it brings to your life.
Baptized or not, endowed or not, your conversion is measured by the transformation of your life. If we are making progress, our lives should be different today than they were a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago. The Savior’s love is unconditional, but His blessings are conditional upon our degree of conversion – which is about way more than just being baptized or endowed.
“And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments” (verse 22).
He suffered, and He died.
And that’s all He asks, is for us to be obedient to what He has asked us to do.
“And he has promised that if you would keep his commandments, ye should prosper in the land” (verse 22).
The “prosper in the land” phrase always has the double layer of referring also to celestial-ness.
“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” (verse 22).
He will keep his promises.
King Benjamin tells us we shouldn’t be whiny babies about this, that it is serious business.
“In the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him” (verse 23).
But there’s more.
“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” (verse 24).
We can’t catch up.
He loves us that much, blesses us that well, and is that diligent – paying attention even now, knowing you even now – so quick to keep His promises of blessing, so immediate in blessing us – even when answers or orchestrating take a while because others have to also respond to Him.
Everything is His.
We have nothing to be proud about, in a boasting kind of way.
“Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth…” (verse 25).
In Isaiah, it says that dust of the earth is even more obedient than we are.
“And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves…” (verse 26).
Yet still, we can try to fulfill our purpose and live worthy of the sacrifice the Savior has made for us, and by Him fulfill our role in carrying out our Father’s plan.
And most basic of all, above all else, our role is to testify.
This is our premortal covenant: Jehovah agreed to atone for us, and we agreed to testify of that atonement. So everything we do should be testimony, either in words or actions, in whatever form, in some way inviting others to know God by loving and serving them in peace.
“Therefore… 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” (verse 27).
He wants to be free from the blood and sin of that generation, and like prophets before him, can be so because he has testified.
If we do not testify, the blood and sins of our generation is upon us.
They are not held accountable for what we do not teach them.
(This is why, in marriage, you cannot be angry at your spouse for what you never taught them or told them – that is contention and gamey and not of God.)
If we do testify, then we are free from the blood and sins of our generation because their choices then fall on their own agency in response to the testimony they have received.
So King Benjamin wants to testify one last time, “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” (verse 27).
This is so important that he says it again:
“I say unto you that I have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together that I might rid my garments of your blood…” (verse 28).
This is not a wishy-washy-wishing (thank you, President Monson!). This is serious testimony, direct and clear, bold and brave, plain and simple, offered “that I might go down in peace, and my immortal spirit may join the choirs above in singing the praises of a just God” (verse 28).
With this testimony completed, he grieves his people and lets them know the practical purpose he must also serve: to pass his kingdom to his son, Mosiah (verse 29, 30). He wants the people to continue to do what they have always done, keeping the commandments of the Lord and prospering in the land with peace from enemies (verse 31).
And then he gives a prophetic warning:
“But, O my people, beware lest there shall arise contentions among you…” (verse 32).
This is very serious.
He is talking to a covenant people, who know the covenants by which they are bound.
There is no ignorance, and there are no excuses.
He says that those who follow this spirit of contention, those who “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” (verse 33).
You know better, he is saying.
Love and peace and service and gratitude is of God, and the Lord’s ways.
Hate and contention and bitterness and negativity is not of God.
And you all know better.
“I say unto you, that there are not any among you… that have not been taught concerning these things” (verse 34).
You know the Scriptures, and that they are true, and what your covenants are, he says (verse 35).
“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…” (verse 36).
Not only does contention mean you are choosing to withdraw from the Lord’s very presence, which means you remove yourself from understanding what is wise and good and right, and so this also removes you from His protection, provision, and blessings (including promises).
Because it puts you in open rebellion against God, like Satan.
“I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God… to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness” (verse 37).
Without repentance, finishing mortality in open rebellion against God means you have removed yourself from the atonement that brought mercy. Without that mercy, the demands of justice must still be met – that price still has to be paid (verse 38).
“… Mercy hath no claim on that man…” (verse 39).
“I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand” (verse 40).
This echoes Nephi, who said that plain and direct words are only harsh to those who do not want to submit to the teaching the words bring, only offend those whose hearts are hard against change, only difficult for those who do not want conversion.
But the covenant people who do want conversion, who are constantly converting, ever-repenting, being sanctified by the Spirit through love and service and peace-making, they are blessed.
“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” (verse 41).
And he means it, emphasizing once more, pleading once more:
“O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it” (verse 41).