Book of Mormon Lesson 15 (Mosiah 1–3).
Daniel H. Ludlow said, “With the beginning of the book of Mosiah we start our study of Mormon’s abridgment of various books that had been written on the large plates of Nephi. (3 Nephi 5:8–12) The book of Mosiah and the five books that follow—Alma, Helaman, 3 Nephi, 4 Nephi, and Mormon—were all abridged or condensed by Mormon from the large plates of Nephi, and these abridged versions were written by Mormon on the plates that bear his name, the plates of Mormon.”1
● The next three books (Mosiah, Alma, Helaman) constitute nearly one-half of the Book of Mormon:
— There are 238 chapters in the Book of Mormon.
— Only 50 chapters (21%) contain events that occurred after Jesus’ birth.
— Only 18 chapters ( 8%) contain accounts of Jesus’ visit among the Nephites.
— The remaining 170 chapters (71%) cover the 600 years before the coming of Christ.
— Of those chapters, 2/3 (48% of the total) are found in the next three books.
● The record now becomes much more comprehensive:
— The Book of Mosiah begins at 130 BC.
— The next 29 chapters cover less than 40 years.
— There is a much larger amount of history in these books than in earlier ones
— But there are also some of the most profound doctrinal truths to be found anywhere in scripture.
● Mosiah 1:1 There is a shift in voice here—from first person to third person. The story is no longer being told by the people within the story (e.g., Nephi, Jacob). Instead, someone else is now telling the story, and that ‘someone else’ is Mormon.
● This period of Nephite history is recorded in several different books, all of which we have to consult in order to get an accurate context for the time and place of King Benjamin’s sermon. The following is a summary:
— King Mosiah (Mosiah I) led the Nephites from the land of Nephi to Zarahemla (Omni 1:12–13).
— Benjamin became king following the reign of his father, Mosiah I (Omni 1:23–25).
— Amaleki delivered the Small plates of Nephi into the hands of King Benjamin.
— King Benjamin established peace throughout the land in his day (Words of Mormon 1:12–18).
— The impact of King Benajmin’s leadership on the people (Mosiah 6:7).
— His son Mosiah paid tribute to the greatness of King Benjamin (Mosiah 29:13).
THE SETTING OF KING BENJAMIN’S SERMON
King Benjamin Charges His Sons
At the beginning of the book of Mosiah, King Benjamin is nearing the end of his life. His final sermon is one of the most stirring and significant sermons in the Book of Mormon.
● King Benjamin taught his three sons—Mosiah, Helorum, and Helaman—about the importance of the scriptures (Mosiah 1:1–8).
— They were taught “in the language of his fathers,” so that they would be able to read and understand the records made by Nephi, Jacob, and others (vv. 1–2).
— Lehi could read the brass plates because he had been “taught in the language of the Egyptians” which suggests that they were written in Egyptian (v. 4).
— Lehi taught this language and contents of the brass plates to his children, and they to theirs, down to the time of King Benjamin.
— They were also taught about the brass plates and their great importance, saying “were it not for these plates . . . we must have suffered in ignorance, . . . not knowing the mysteries of God,” which is precisely what had happened to the Lamanites (vv. 3–5).
— “Mysteries” in this case refers to spiritual truths known only by revelation.
— King Benjamin testified to his sons that the scriptures on the brass plates, and those on the plates of Nephi, are true (v. 6).
— He commanded them to “search them diligently” and promised that if they would do so, and if they keep the commandments contained on them, they would “prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers” (v. 7).
A Solemn Assembly
● Benjamin was old and felt the need to confer the kingdom upon one of his sons (Mosiah 1:9).
— He called the people together for a solemn assembly (Mosiah 1:10).
— He also gave his people a name—the name of Christ—to distinguish them from all the other people whom God had brought to this land (Mosiah 1:11–14).
— He “gave his son [Mosiah II] charge concerning the records (Mosiah 1:15–16).”
● In approximately 124 BC his people gathered for a solemn assembly.
● Rodney Turner said, “We are uninformed as to when and by whom the temple in Zarahemla was built. However, in all probability it was erected in the third century BC by Mosiah I subsequent to his arrival in Zarahemla and after his appointment as king over those living in that land. (Omni 1:12, 19). It was to this second Nephite temple that the people gathered to hear King Benjamin.”2
● They “pitched their tents (Mosiah 2:5–6). . . towards the temple.” They pitched their tents as families, each family separate from another (v. 5). Their tent doors were oriented toward the temple so that families might remain in their tents and hear the king’s words (v. 6). The direction in which tents were pitched revealed their values.
— Contrast these people with Lot, who “pitched his tent toward Sodom (Gen. 13:12).”
— At first Lot only lived near the wicked city of Sodom, but eventually he and his family moved into the city itself (Gen. 14:12).
● The multitude was so big they could not all fit within the walls of the temple complex (Mosiah 2:7–8). Therefore, King Benjamin caused a tower to be erected from which he could preach and increase the range within which his voice could be heard. Towers were a common feature among the peoples of the new world, beginning with or even predating the Jaredites and continuing through the entire period of Book of Mormon history. These pyramid-shaped towers also functioned as temple sites, and many stone pyramid-towers can still be seen today among the ruins of North, Central, and South America.
● King Benjamin’s tower was hastily constructed, so it may not have been one of the more durable stone towers recently discovered. But having a priest or king climb a tower to address his people was probably not unique.
● Even with this tower, they could not all hear King Benjamin’s words directly, so his words were written down and sent among the people so they could read them. Similar practices are followed today for General conference sermons, which appear online within days and in Church magazines within a month.
● This was a solemn assembly; his teachings were important and sacred (Mosiah 2:9). He warned them not to “trifle with” (take lightly) what he had to say. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out.”3
● King Benjamin’s gathering at the temple had a sacred spirit and purpose. It was a continuation of several Old Testament rituals, and may have occurred on the day in October specified by Moses for the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), when Israel regularly assembled in hastily-built booths around the Tabernacle or Temple.4
KING BENJAMIN’S TEACHINGS ON SERVICE
Service to Our Fellow Beings Is Service to God
● Benjamin had a clear conscience before God (Mosiah 2:10–18).
— He had not sought any manner of riches (v. 12).
— He had not placed hardships or inequalities upon them (v. 13).
— He had not caused them any grievous burdens (v. 14).
— He did not boast nor accuse anyone but spoke so they would know he had a clear conscience (v. 15).
● Righteous Leadership: How many political leaders today (or in all of history) could stand before their people and say, “I can answer a clear conscience before God this day”?
— He was not boasting, considering his reign as service to God (v. 16).
— Whenever we serve others, we are serving God (v. 17).
— He had set a clear and consistent example throughout his reign (v. 18).
● President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Opportunities to lose oneself for the good of others present themselves daily; the mother who serves her children’s needs; the father who gives his time for their instruction; parents who give up worldly pleasure for quality home life; children who care for their aged parents; home teaching service; visiting teaching; time for compassionate service; giving comfort to those who need strength; serving with diligence in Church callings; community and public service in the interest of preserving our freedoms; financial donations for tithes, fast offerings, support of missionaries, welfare, building and temple projects. Truly, the day of sacrifice is not past.”5
We Are Unprofitable Servants to God
● Why we are “unprofitable servants”: (Mosiah 2:19–24)
— Even if we serve God with all our whole souls, every day, we cannot repay him (vv. 20–21).
— Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Do you think it will ever be possible for any one of us, no matter how hard we labor . . . to pay our Father and Jesus Christ for the blessings we have received from them? The great love, with its accompanying blessings, extended to us through the crucifixion, suffering, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is beyond our mortal comprehension. We never could repay.”6
● All that God requires is that we keep his commandments (v. 22).
— God blesses us for keeping his commandments, so we will remain indebted to him forever and ever—eternally (v. 24).
— Therefore, we have nothing about ourselves or our circumstances about which we can boast (v. 24).
KING BENJAMIN’S TEACHINGS ON THE ATONEMENT
Salvation Through the Atonement
● King Benjamin declared his son Mosiah II to be the new king (Mosiah 2:29–30).
● King Benjamin had fulfilled his stewardship, so his people were accountable for themselves (Mosiah 2:27–28). They had been taught the truth since childhood and would have no excuse (Mosiah 2:34–37).
● The consequences of refusing to obey after having been taught (Mosiah 2:38–40). The eternal pain of “what might have been” is the “unquenchable fire” of which Benjamin spoke ((Mosiah 3:23–27). There is no actual “lake of fire and brimstone.” And we have been taught in our own day that “endless punishment” is “God’s punishment” (D&C 19:6–12).
● The “blessed and happy state” of those who keep the commandments—temporal and spiritual blessings in this life, and dwelling with God hereafter in a state of “never-ending happiness” (Mosiah 2:41).
● An angel had declared “glad tidings of great joy” to King Benjamin (Mosiah 3:1–4). He authorized Benjamin to “declare unto thy people” the gospel (v. 4).
● The Good News: Christ will come to teach, heal, and suffer for sins (Mosiah 3:5–10).
— Christ will suffer pain “even more than man can suffer” (v. 7).
— Christ is “the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth,” and “the Creator of all things from the beginning (v. 8).
— Christ will be rejected and crucified, will rise from the dead and will judge all men (vv. 8–10).
● Those who will receive salvation through the Atonement of Christ (Mosiah 3:10–13).
— Those “who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, who have ignorantly sinned” (v. 11).
— People who die without a knowledge of the gospel but who would have received the gospel with all their hearts will be heirs of the celestial kingdom (D&C 137:7–9).
— Those with a knowledge of the gospel who repent and exercise faith in Jesus Christ (vv. 12–13).
— Little children who die in their infancy (vv. 16, 18, 21).
● Although “by nature, they fall,” little children are “blameless before God” because they are “alive in Christ” through the Atonement (D&C 137:10; Moroni 8:12; D&C 29:46). The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “All children are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and the moment that children leave this world, they are taken to the bosom of Abraham.”7
● Performances and ordinances are empty without the Atonement (Mosiah 3:15).
The Natural Man
● A natural man is an enemy to God until he qualifies for the cleansing influence of the Atonement by living the commandments of God (Mosiah 3:19).
—The world’s idea of something being “natural” is different than this.
—King Benjamin is not talking about inherent traits we cannot change.
—He is speaking of our tendency to gratify sinful, selfish urges, but there is no suggestion that this is “normal” or “unavoidable.”
● Here is how the scriptures explain what is meant by the “natural man:”
— The Fall of Adam. Though we are born innocent, because of Adam’s fall we are born into a fallen world and separated from God (D&C 93:38–40).
— Accountability. We know the difference between good and evil, and are therefore accountable for the choices we make (Moses 4:11, 5:11; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8–10). We cannot blame something uncontrollable in our natures, as men often do.
— Our Own Personal Fall. As a result of sin, we individually “fall” and experience spiritual death, making it imperative that we be redeemed or be forever cut off from God (Alma 42:9–12).
— Our Redemption. When redeemed, man becomes a new creature, being born again and spiritually worthy to dwell again with God (Mosiah 27:23–28).
● How we can “[put] off the natural man” (Mosiah 3:19):
— Yield to “the enticings of the Holy Spirit” rather than the enticements of the flesh.
— Become “a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord.” The word “saint” implies sanctification, or holiness. In the Book of Mormon, the word is used to refer to devoted members of the Lord’s Church.
— Become “as a child”—submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to our Heavenly Father’s wisdom and will.
1. A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, 173.
2. In Kent Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 7: 1 Nephi to Alma 29 , 196–204.
3. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 137.
4. Gregory Dundas, in a review of By Study and Also by Faith, vol 2, by John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks, eds., FARMS Review of Books, vol. 4 , 134.
5. In General conference Address, Ensign, May 1979, 34.
6. In Conference Report, Apr. 1966, 102; or Improvement Era, June 1966, 538.
7. History of the Church, 4:5.