King Benjamin struck the perfect balance on the subject of “self-reliance.” His example was his greatest sermon. Although he could have done so as their monarch, King Benjamin refused to tax or oppress his people. (Mosiah 2: 14.) Instead, he labored with his own hands and spent his life serving his people. (Mosiah 2: 12.)
His policy anticipated the discontinuance of servitude in the Law of Moses. (Mosiah 2: 14.) Long before Christ would do so, King Benjamin made people free from slavery. But that came at a social cost. Without servitude as a form of repayment (limited under Moses’ law to six years servitude, in the seventh they go free Ex. 21: 2), some were reduced to begging. For those, King Benjamin taught his people that they must give to beggars. He required that his people notice them, and not allow them to petition in vain for relief from their needs. (Mosiah 4: 16.) He forbid withholding from beggars because of the convenient thought beggars deserve their direful condition. (Mosiah 4: 17-18.)
King Benjamin’s overall theme reminds us that we are all beggars. (Mosiah 4: 19.) In a very real sense, none of us are or can ever be anything more than a beggar, dependent upon God. God gives us the power to live. (Mosiah 2: 21.) We borrow from God the power to breathe. (Id.) We borrow from God the ability to move and do whatever we do. God lends all this to us so we can do according to our own will. (Id.)
Since we are beggars, utterly dependent upon God for our very existence, we have nothing to brag of and no legitimate claim to self-reliance. (Mosiah 2: 24-25.) That recognition of our condition is what motivated King Benjamin, although a monarch, to humbly labor for his own support.
In our day of abundance, we are easily be misled into thinking that the blessings of our productive society permit us to be self-reliant. Of course that is only temporary. The principles upon which our society’s abundance are built have been discarded. Therefore, our “riches will become slippery” as the fruit of true principles vanish from those who dishonor the foundation upon which prosperity is conferred.
Safety in the coming scarcity of the last-days will only be found through Zion. (D&C 45: 66-68.) Because the occupants of Zion will be one, they will follow two controlling principles which create the “self-sufficiency” of Zion.
First, the counterpart to the world (or Babylon as the scriptures have nicknamed the world) is Zion. Zion will require the laborer to labor only for Zion, not for themselves. (2 Ne. 26: 31.)
Second, we must perform the required great labor. We cannot expect to eat or be clothed in Zion if we do not work to produce the necessities of Zion. (D&C 42: 42.)