The transcript for the Grand Junction lecture is now up on Scribd. The link is on the blog under the sidebar DS Talks on the right of the blog. Scribd is free. It just requires that you create an account. You do not have to pay to read Denver’s lectures on Scribd. I know there are some limitations, but eventually we will look into other options.
Last night I was awakened by this:
Did not Ishmael and Isaac mourn together and bury their father Abraham? Was not their father’s blood precious unto them both?
Does not the blood of Abraham run in both Isaac and Ishmael? Does not the blood of Abraham run in both Esau and Jacob?
Let Ishmael today find the blood of his father, Abraham, precious still. Let Isaac likewise today find the blood of his father, Abraham, precious again. For Abraham’s sake, let all the brothers who descend from Abraham now mourn when Abraham’s blood is spilled by any of his descendants.
If Abraham’s sons do not find his blood to be precious still, there remains nothing between them but the shedding of Abraham’s blood. For all his sons who fail to find Abraham’s blood to be precious will be held to account by God, who will judge between the sons of Isaac and the sons of Ishmael, the sons of Esau and the sons of Jacob for father Abraham’s sake, with whom God covenanted.
The sons of Abraham will not be permitted to continue this disregard of their common father’s blood without provoking God, who will soon judge between Abraham’s sons.
I am trying to understand Elder Oaks’ talk. Taking everything he said at face value, here is what I think he said:
1. Women don’t hold the priesthood.
2. Those who hold “keys” can give assignments to others who then act under the authority of the priesthood of the key-holder.
3. In the temple sisters use the authority of the priesthood to perform washings and anointings, inasmuch as they were set apart by key-holders.
4. Therefore women use the authority of the priesthood.
From this it can be surmised: Sister missionaries will be able to baptize some day using the authority of the priesthood of a key-holder. This talk was designed to accomplish what the “Ordain Women” movement wants by approaching it in two steps rather than one. It is de facto ordination, incrementally adopted by careful measures.
King Benjamin had an an objective. Better said, the angel of the Lord had an objective in mind when the king was told what to teach. The objective is more fully explained once the people had received the lesson.
“And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them. And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things. And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy. And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.” (Mosiah 5: 1-5.)
Here is the covenant-making King Benjamin had as his assignment. The Lord saves, but uses covenant-making as a part of His process. We don’t get to make covenants, but we do get to accept them if the Lord offers them to us. It must be the Lord’s offer and our acceptance for it to have effect. Here the words that were recited by the congregation were the words King Benjamin had asked them to accept: “And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them;” (Mosiah 5: 6.) Meaning they were exactly what they’d been asked to accept as the new covenant.
King Benjamin’s record continues: “and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant. And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5: 6-7.) This was the object. To extend the Family of God by adding sons and daughters. King Benjamin’s ministry was producing fruit suitable to be laid up against the harvest (as Jacob quoted Zenos to describe).
King Benjamin expounds on the central role Christ plays in our salvation. Only by connecting ourselves to Him will we be able to qualify for what He (as our Father) has to offer. “And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.” (Mosiah 5: 8.) Or, in other words, we always remember Him that we may always have His spirit to be with us.
He continues: “And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God.” (Mosiah 5: 9-10.) Since Christ is the prototype of the saved man, all who would be saved must likewise be qualified to hold this same status or be called by this same name.
King Benjamin’s religion is like the one Joseph Smith was restoring. He offered his people an authorized covenant with the King, established by heaven through King Benjamin. It is remarkable how much of the deepest Gospel truths are found in the Book of Mormon.
Today is the last day of my last temple recommend. The church didn’t ask me to return it. I’m qualified to have it. But it will expire today. It can’t be renewed, of course.
I was asked by a young fellow about sustaining leaders in the upcoming general conference. I replied, “the Lorde recently said: “I’m kind of over gettin’ told to throw my hands up in the air, So there.“
Grand Vista Hotel Ballroom
2790 Crossroads Blvd.
Grand Junction, CO 81506
When: Saturday, April 12, 2014 @ 9:30 a.m.
King Benjamin does not concern himself with all the ways it is possible to get it wrong. (Mosiah 4: 29.) Mankind gets it wrong all the time. The great challenge is to finally get it right. His sermon is an attempt to lay out how a society may finally overcome the failures and draw close to God. Individual righteousness is a rare thing in this world, but it happens more frequently than societal righteousness. King Benjamin’s talk is about societal success, or social righteousness.
Once converted, the work begins. The work, as we have seen, involves eradicating poverty by helping the needy. We are forbidden from turning away the beggar. We are forbidden from judging them. We have but one duty toward them; that is to help them.
His sermon continues: “And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.” (Mosiah 4: 24.) Even the poor are required to have a charitable heart. They may lack the means, but they cannot lack the heart. All society must have a disposition to help one another.
Unless we are willing to render aid to one another, we cannot possibly become one. Until we view the circumstances of the least member of the community from their vantage point, we cannot become one. It isn’t possible to bear one another’s burdens when we are oblivious to the burdens they bear. Alma would preach this as a requirement to be baptized. (See Mosiah 18: 8-10.) Until we are like-minded we don’t even qualify for the ordinance offered by Alma.
The Book of Mormon speaks of the ideals that condemn us because we do not even recognize them. Even if we pretend to share the religion of those of the Book of Mormon, our social order is far from what the book preaches.
King Benjamin continues: “And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.” (Mosiah 4: 25.) Here is a failure so significant it absolutely prevents Zion. Coveting is a vile personal failure, and so foreign to becoming “one” as a people, that it is condemned in the Ten Commandments. (See Ex. 20: 17.) It prevents us from being equal. Equality is required for Zion.
When the Restoration was led by Joseph Smith, the Lord cautioned the early believers that they were required to be equal in temporal things. Because they refused to do so, they forfeited the Spiritual manifestations which necessarily accompany Zion. “Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld.” (D&C 70: 14.) They failed. We do not even attempt it. We probably shouldn’t attempt it until we first repent and receive the faith the Lord once attempted to restore through Joseph Smith.
When Joseph was still ministering, the Lord foretold of a great work to be done. This work was the Lord’s to do, but even the mention of it inspired eagerness by the early converts. When hints of Zion emerged in Joseph’s prophecies, the Saints thought it was their right to have it immediately, and without the necessary patience and diligence that must precede it. They hastened to the center spot, where, as a result of the Indian Relocation Act enforced by Andrew Jackson, all Native Americans had been relocated. The line between the Indians and whites was drawn on the western border of Missouri. All eastern Indians, from Maine to Florida, had been resettled in the Indian Territory. The center of their population was, at that moment, Independence, Missouri. If the Indians were going to be taught, there was one center spot available for access by white missionaries. It was in Independence, Missouri. When Mormons attempted to cross the line and preach inside the Indian Territory, they were threatened with arrest and transport to Fort Levenworth, Kansas. At that brief moment in time, the closest they could locate to the target audience was Independence, Missouri.
By June 1844, when Joseph Smith was leaving to seek out the Remnant, the Indians had long since left the former relocation area. They were then scattered westward. Hence Joseph’s plan to go to the Rocky Mountains to find the Remnant and build the New Jerusalem.
When the Mormon missionaries located the then-closest, center spot the eager Saints filed into the area. Even if they had the right location at that moment, they were unqualified to be there. Had they followed King Benjamin’s sermon, they would have had a better chance. Instead they were anything but converted in their hearts to the kind of principles which would allow people to live in harmony with one another.
Here is how the Lord characterized the 1830’s ruinous attempt to steal Zion: “Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.” (D&C 101: 6.) Once again, covetousness in the heart is prohibited in Zion. Though the Lord may have given them a potential inheritance, they squandered it.
King Benjamin’s sermon is about the ideal. It is what the heart should have within it for the man or woman to be able to live with others equally. We will fail, like all others have failed, if we are unable to first remove the impediments within our hearts. What good would be accomplished in any age to gather together people who are unwilling to be one, unable to live in harmony with one another. We have that society already. The mantra we recite to overcome the vast inequalities and dissimilarities among us in our fractured society is “tolerance” and “non-judgment.” These are as likely to invite evil as good.
Cease to be covetous and lustful. Have a disposition to no longer do evil, but to do good. Give to those in need and succor those who you are able to succor. Then you have some chance to avoid jarring one another, contending and envying one another. There is no reason for the Lord to gather anyone until everyone He would gather has the attributes taught by King Benjamin in their hearts. Once that is done, there will be time enough to gather. But if you gather together and there is but one among you with a covetous, lustful and envious heart, there can be no Zion.
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As soon as his people covenanted with God to receive their redemption through the atonement of Christ, King Benjamin’s attention turns to the needs of the poor. He taught those who were converted to think of the needs of others.
This is what James would call “pure religion” (see James 1: 27; see also James 2: 14-18) because it changes the world, here and now. Instead of suffering, the unfortunate are ministered to by others because their religion requires it of them. King Benjamin’s instruction to those who covenanted with God to apply the atonement on their behalf was: “ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of you succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.” (Mosiah 4: 16.)
There was no room for judging the needy. There was only the obligation to give. As he counseled: “Perhaps thou shalt say: the man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just–” (Mosiah 4: 17.) Maybe the beggars in your life deserve to suffer. Maybe it is their fault. Maybe they shouldn’t have used drugs, or behaved so poorly they lost their jobs, or run away from home and family who would have cared for them if they hadn’t strayed, or any number of other circumstances to conclude “their punishments are just.” Maybe they are all at fault. Maybe they do deserve your condemnation, not your help. Maybe you are facilitating their wickedness. Maybe you are enabling their irresponsibility. Yes, maybe you shouldn’t help, after all…
King Benjamin anticipates this and warns you: “But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perish forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.” (Mosiah 4: 18.) If you judge the beggar this way, even if you are right about their “punishments” being “just,” then you have need to repent. You have no right to do this. You will not be forgiven by God, and cannot enter His kingdom. You are to help the beggar. That is all.
“For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?” (Mosiah 4: 19.) You occupy the same relationship to God as the beggar occupies to you. If you have the ability to help, then you must. You only have what you possess in this life as a result of God’s mercy and kindness to you. Therefore, even if you think you “deserve” what you own because you worked hard for it, you are nevertheless a beggar whose very existence is drawing upon God’s power to live, and move and have your being. (Mosiah 2: 21.)
King Benjamin warned us: “if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you… and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God. …I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him.” (Mosiah 4: 22-23.)
This has been in our Book of Mormon since 1830. But we hear the only way we are to help the poor should be through Fast Offerings, institutionalizing our charity. I doubt that would satisfy King Benjamin. I doubt there will be collective salvation. I’m certain there is no such thing as group-charity sufficient to qualify you to avoid individual condemnation for refusing the beggar who asks you individually to help.
Remember this is the subject addressed by King Benjamin to those who have entered into a covenant with God to obtain a remission of their sins.
The people King Benjamin addressed were brought to repentance, but it is the record of their repentance that is so relevant to us today. Keep in mind that King Benjamin’s record was originally composed about a century and a quarter before Christ. At that time the Law of Moses was in effect. The version we have in the Book of Mormon was abridged by Mormon about four centuries after Christ. Therefore, we have a record which is both pre- and post- Christ. Mormon’s abridgment was intended, however, for a latter-day audience. He saw our day. Before finishing his father’s record, his son, Moroni, described us in detail and even foretold that those whose religion would be based on his record would not only pollute God’s holy church, but would use it as the means of “getting gain.” (Mormon 8: 33-38.) Mormon also knew his civilization was passing away as he made his abridgment. (Mormon 6: 1.) I conclude that the account of the repentance process was primarily intended as a message to the latter-day gentiles who would receive the record.
King Benjamin’s audience cried out in prayer this petition to God: “O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.” (Mosiah 4: 2.) What strikes me about this prayer is that today we would identify this with the Evangelical/Born Again Christian approach to a religious experience. It is a confession of belief coupled with a request for forgiveness. Latter-day Saints belittle this approach. We claim that much more is needed, including certain authoritative rites and ordinances. Ultimately, that may be part of God’s plan, and certainly Christ’s own example informs us that baptism was required even of Him “to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt. 3: 13-15.) But the ordinances are signposts that provide an outward proof of inward change. Here, in the account of King Benjamin, we have the focus entirely upon the inward change. This is the “weighter” part of the process. Christ condemned those who observed the ordinances, but failed to exercise mercy and faith; the inward target of the outward observance. (See, e.g., Matt. 23: 23.) There is some considerable peril in being too proud of your ordinances. They have displaced the inward, weightier part of the Gospel in past dispensations, and certainly can do so again. Satan has no new tricks. The old ones seem to work so well, there is little reason to introduce some new road for apostasy. Pride in ordinances as the ticket for salvation works every time it is tried. It’s a little thing, but little things count when the measurement is taken against perfection.
The effect of this inward change of heart is also recorded in King Benjamin’s account. It is the universal evidence which comes from God to all those who find saving grace. “The Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which King Benjamin had spoken unto them.” (Mosiah 4: 3.) From this we learn:
-The Spirit of the Lord is the testifier and witness of salvation (witnessing to the saved)
-There is joy when you receive the Spirit
-Sins are remitted, because the Spirit cannot dwell in unclean vessels (the vessel is cleansed)
-Your conscience is clear because you no longer carry your sins
-All of this is the product of faith
-Faith comes as a consequence of being ministered to by one authorized by God, as was King Benjamin.
That last point was one which Joseph Smith also taught. Joseph said: “Whenever men can find out the will of God and find an administrator legally authorized from God, there is the kingdom of God, but where these are not, the kingdom of God is not. All the ordinances, systems, and administrations on the earth are of no use to the children of men, unless they are ordained and authorized of God; for nothing will save a man but a legal administrator; for none others will be acknowledged either by God or angels.” (TPJS, p. 274.) It is for this reason that King Benjamin and Mormon include the final ingredient in verse 3: “according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.” They heard the truth from one sent by God, had faith in Christ as a consequence of that, believed, asked and experienced the fruit of conversion. This is how Christ’s Gospel works. (Romans 10: 17.)
The Gospel, when it makes its brief appearances upon the earth, comes in the same way as we find recorded in this record of King Benjamin. Those who receive the message, believing it to be from God, having faith to ask God for their part in Christ’s atonement, can likewise receive their own inward confirmation; their own experience akin to that described in Mosiah 4: 3.
An unchanging God has an unchanging Gospel. Rather than taking pride in your ordinances, view yourself in your lost and fallen state. Start there, and rebuild your faith through repentance. Once you’ve cleansed the inward part, there will be time to worry about the outward later.
There is a great work left undone. The field has been abandoned and there is no harvesting taking place. We are all required to repent first, then to learn something before we attempt to teach others.
In doing the work I have been asked to do, I am relaying what I have been instructed needs to be taught to this generation at this time for the Lord’s promises to be fulfilled. That requires time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thought to be given to the Lord’s design. Although I do not consider myself equal to the task, I am nevertheless doing what little I am able to do as part of the Lord’s work.
To the best of my ability, I seek only to lay out what should be noted about our present challenges. I do my best to avoid a fanciful, or flowery or heated imagination in discussing salvation. While others may do so, I do not intend to trifle with the souls of men.
Joseph Smith’s counsel is appropriate and guides my thought on these things: “A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity-thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.” (TPJS p. 137.) I have never trifled with men’s souls.
I have never given any one permission to speak for me, use my name to support their cause, or advocate using me as their source to make their ideas or teachings credible. If someone has a good idea, it should stand on its own. It should be reasonable. If an idea is so weak and fanciful, then associating my name, Joseph Smith’s name, or some general authority’s name with it should not overcome the weakness of the idea. I do not believe in citing any authority other than scripture and Joseph Smith. Check the books I’ve written and talks I’ve given. Check my blog. There you can find what is true, taken from the authority of scripture. It is self-evident and capable of standing on its own. The truth I advocate is so self-supporting that I need to make no claim to authority.
King Benjamin is a more important topic for today than ever. But I get a flood of emails and comments asking about other, ridiculously extraneous things propounded by others using my name for credibility. You should already know enough to determine on your own the significance or insignificance of these side show issues. If you do not, then you deserve your confusion. You are on trial here. You must grow to stand on your own. Do not be dependent on me or any man for your knowledge of the truth. You must be able, by the power of the light given to you, to decide between truth and error, between what comes from God and what is of men and devils. If you are unable to determine that for yourself, then relying on others will never qualify you to enter into the Lord’s rest.
We have gotten to the reaction of King Benjamin’s people to his sermon. They were brought to repentance. But we have not yet taken a look at the overall setting wherein King Benjamin taught. Nephi established a line of prophet/priests to whom was given the charge to teach the people. That line’s work is recorded in the Small Plates of Nephi. At about the same distance in time from Nephi as we find ourselves from Joseph Smith, we read on the Small Plates of Nephi: “I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy…” (Omni 1: 11.) I’ve discussed this in Eighteen Verses.
The prophetic line ended in silence. Whole generations record only one verse, admitting their failure; then the Book of Mormon reignites with King Benjamin. After generations of dissipating the light and falling into darkness, he represents the return of the prophetic. He is a symbol of restoration, a type of how God reclaims His people when they err. By his day, the people were overcome again, and needed return to the faith that could save them.
But King Benjamin did not operate on his own. He taught only what had been given to him to teach by an angel. (Mosiah 2: 2-4; see also Mosiah 4: 1.) Because God renewed His covenant with King Benjamin, it was through King Benjamin that the people could once again make an acceptable covenant with God. The purpose of sending the angel to King Benjamin was not to offer him alone salvation, but to offer once again a valid covenant through which others could repent. (Mosiah 5: 5-7.)
This is how the Gospel works. Even the chosen people of Lehi and his son Nephi brought to the promised land failed to abide the conditions of the covenant. But God did not abandon them. When enough generations had passed to allow the Lord’s hand to be revealed, then the Lord acted. The heavens were opened, the covenant was offered again, and souls were saved.
This is a great type. The Book of Mormon is far more relevant for our day than we imagine. It is a blueprint for how our own history is unfolding. It is a sobering lesson in how to fail and how to wait for the Lord to reclaim and redeem us.
We ignore or misunderstand the content of The Book of Mormon at the peril of our own salvation. When we do, then no one can be saved.
Contrast the reaction of King Benjamin’s audience with modern expectations and sensibilities. We want to hear smooth things. We want our self-image enhanced. We want stories that tell us we are good people in a good place doing good things and getting better every day. We want to feel reassured. King Benjamin’s audience felt threatened, unnerved and dismayed. They were reduced to fearful trembling, instead of hurrahs for their greatness. A sermon like the one King Benjamin delivered would drive the audience out the doors today.
Keep that in mind as you read the reaction recorded in Mosiah, Chapter 4: “when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them. And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.” (Mosiah 4: 1-2.)
Fear had come upon them! They viewed themselves in their carnal state! They thought themselves less than the dust of the earth! They cried out for mercy! Interesting indeed!
No hymns were sung thanking God for a prophet-king to guide them. No hymns proclaiming that all is well, all is well. No praise to the man who shook their hearts and minds with fear. Instead, it was contrition and prayer for Christ’s atoning blood to remove their sins and purify their hearts.
We read this stuff but don’t recognize any contrast between ourselves and these earlier “saved” people. We think we’re like them. But we are not. We’re nothing like them in our faith, in our practices, in our humility and in our understanding of God’s plan of salvation. We are filled with pride and foolishness, leading one another about from vanity to trifles, like drunkards who vomit upon one another and then view the results as proof of our inspiration. (Isa. 28: 1-3.) We get angry at the idea we need repentance because we are not yet saved. Our anger is proof we have fallen for Satan’s lies. (2 Ne. 28: 20.)
Joseph Smith decried the Saints of his day (with a lamentation that has increased in relevance in our own) with these words: “How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God. None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.” (TPJS, p.137.) If sermons were trifling in his day in ours they are vaccuous. This thin gruel cannot sustain us. Oddly, we are supposed to be constantly reminded of the need for spiritual nourishment to sustain life. When you participate in religious conventions dominated by theatrics, mood lighting and musical manipulation it is a substitute for the Spirit, not the Spirit itself. Theatrics are never an adequate substitute for Gospel substance. Everything money can buy can make an impressive show, but in the end it is just another example of how you can buy anything in this world for money. Being heart-warmed is not the same thing as being brought to repentance.
You will lose your soul if you seek foolishness instead of truth. Like King Benjamin’s audience, you should be afraid. Your only hope is through Christ.
King Benjamin is great even as he proclaimed his weaknesses. Only a confident leader, secure in his worth before God can admit all King Benjamin admitted about his own weakness. Concerning his moral worth he declared: “I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind…” (Mosiah 2: 11.) Concerning his physical vitality he explained “For even at this time, my whole frame doth tremble exceedingly while attempting to speak unto you…” (Mosiah 2: 30.)
King Benjamin was not seeking admiration. He did not give his people reason to envy him, nor did he take wealth or support from them. He provided for himself and labored with his own hands; never imposing anything upon his people. He was a servant, though a king. He measured his life by what he gave others, not by what he received from them. (See Acts 20: 35.)
King Benjamin did not even deliver his own message. Instead, he taught what an angel told him to teach. “[T]he things which I shall tell you are made known unto me by an angel from God.” (Mosiah 3: 2.)
This was a meek king, whose own life modeled the life of the coming Savior about whom he testified. The testimony of his own weakness affirms King Benjamin’s willingness to value service to others above self-interest.
How different from our leaders today was this ancient king! This model of meekness is so unlike the proud, the vain, the self-willed who lead today in government, education, religion, business and society. The contrast is so great that it helps us to understand why angels would minister to King Benjamin and the heavens are silent with leaders today. There simply is not a leader among us who is willing to give in sacrifice what is required to know God. King Benjamin illustrates the principles of the Lectures on Faith, Sixth Lecture:
An actual knowledge to any person that the course of life which he pursues is according to the will of God, is essentially necessary to enable him to have that confidence in God, without which no person can obtain eternal life.
It was this that enabled the ancient saints to endure all their afflictions and persecutions, and to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing (not believing merely) that they had a more “enduring substance” (Heb. 10:34).
Having the assurance that they were pursuing a course which was agreeable to the will of God, they were enabled to take, not only the spoiling of their goods and the wasting of their substance joyfully, but also to suffer death in its most horrid forms; knowing (not merely believing) that when this earthly house of their tabernacle was dissolved, they had a building of God, a house “not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).
Such was, and always will be, the situation of the saints of God, that unless they have an actual knowledge that the course that they are pursuing is according to the will of God, they will grow weary in their minds and faint; for such has been, and always will be, the opposition in the hearts of unbelievers and those that know not God, against the pure and unadulterated religion of heaven (the only thing which ensures eternal life), that they will persecute to the uttermost all that worship God according to his revelations, receive the truth in the love of it, and submit themselves to be guided and directed by his will, and drive them to such extremities that nothing short of an actual knowledge of their being the favorites of heaven,and of their having embraced that order of things which God has established for the redemption of man, will enable them to exercise that confidence in him necessary for them to overcome the world, and obtain that crown of glory which is laid up for them that fear God.
For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge; realizing that when these sufferings are ended he will enter into eternal rest, and be a partaker of the glory of God.
For unless a person does know that he is walking according to the will of God, it would be offering an insult to the dignity of the Creator were he to say that he would be a partaker of his glory when he should be done with the things of this life.
But when he has this knowledge, and most assuredly knows that he is doing the will of God, his confidence can be equally strong that he will be a partaker of the glory of God.
Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things; it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God.
When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain.
Under these circumstances then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.
It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.
…Those then who make the sacrifice will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God, and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled through faith to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith, because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith; therefore, they cannot lay hold upon eternal life, because the revelations of God do not guarantee unto them the authority so to do; and without this guarantee faith could not exist.
All the saints of whom we have account in all the revelations of God which are extant, obtained the knowledge which they had of their acceptance in his sight, through the sacrifice which they offered unto him. And through the knowledge thus obtained, their faith became sufficiently strong to lay hold upon the promise of eternal life, and to endure as seeing him who is invisible; and were enabled, through faith, to combat the powers of darkness, contend against the wiles of the adversary, overcome the world, and obtain the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.
But those who have not made this sacrifice to God, do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their minds; and where doubt and uncertainty are, there faith is not, nor can it be.
For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time. So that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence; and where unshaken confidence is not, there faith is weak; and where faith is weak, the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations, and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them.
It is from the example of King Benjamin we can see the Sixth Lecture in action. Likewise, in King Benjamin’s sermon we see the fruit of that faith: the ministry of angels to the king, and his knowledge of God. Therefore, King Benjamin had the kingdom of heaven with him, because he showed the living fruit which comes from that heavenly vine.
The Book of Mormon is a treasury of eternal truth, told in example after example, testifying to the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can all get closer to God by abiding its precepts than from any other book.
King Benjamin explains something which ought to give us all pause. “[T]he Lord God saw that his people were a stiffnecked people, and he appointed unto them a law, even the law of Moses.” (Mosiah 3: 14.) Think about all that implies. The people who God claimed as “His” were nevertheless “stiffnecked people.”
He didn’t abandon them because of their spiritual stubborness. Nor did He reject them because they were suffering from their own pride and self-will. They were still “His.”
But, because they were unable or unwilling to really come to Him and be redeemed from the fall (See Ether 3: 13) He gave them something to trouble them: the law of Moses.
This set of rules, sacrifices, ordinances and observances included worship within a Temple or House of God. There, in rich symbolism, they were reminded about the real thing: His presence. They were taught about His real nature. They were shown symbols that foreshadowed His coming into the world to be the bread of life, the light of the world, the sacrifice for sin, and the one through whose blood it was possible to enter back into the Holy of Holies. They had symbolic clothing, sacred language, Divine ritual, and sacred space given them. All this because they were “a stiffnecked people” who were unwilling to enter into His actual presence.
These benighted and proud people then looked at all others and regarded them as less than “the chosen people” because the law of Moses given to them entrusted them with sacred space, sacred ritual, and sacred observances.
These stiffnecked people made the law of Moses an end in itself. It was their special set of rites, their sacred space, their hidden rituals participated in by only the “worthy” and “chosen few” that reassured them they were God’s chosen people. And they were chosen. But they were chosen to be an example of foolishness, an example of pride, and ultimately an example of those who reject God and kill His Son. They were chosen to show how to miss the mark while standing atop sacred ground dedicated to the God they claimed to worship. They were chosen to be foolish, so we might be wise. They were chosen precisely because of their stiff necks to show how God does not delight in the mere observances of outward rituals, but expects our hearts to be made righteous. They illustrate how God rebuked the ancient chosen people for their failure to follow Him in the heart, rather than just in their empty ordinances (1 Sam. 15: 22).
In King Benjamin we have the wisdom of a godly king. He is warning us about the foolishness of God’s people. It is a powerful insight into what God prizes and what God thinks of those who, because of their stiff necks, will not bow down in prayer to seek His presence. King Benjamin is not a fictional character. He is a prophet-king whose wisdom exceeded the young Joseph Smith’s when Joseph translated the record of this fallen people. It contains wisdom that still exceeds the grasp of those who claim to follow the religion restored through Joseph.