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Lesson Plan on Mosiah 4-6

For the past two weeks, we have been in King Benjamin's sermon. It is the second highest spiritual point in the Book of Mormon amongst a collective people, right after the Savior's appearance and teachings to the Nephites at a temple.

As for some context, it should be remembered that the people of Nephi have merged themselves with another group of people who fled Jerusalem earlier, the Mulekites. Somehow, we don't know the full details, King Mosiah (the first) becomes the ruler of this newly merged people even though it appears the Nephites were not as numerous as the Mulekites. The Mulekites would have had a claim to the throne being direct descendants of King David. One wonders, therefore, if this would have caused or contributed to the contentions that occurred earlier in King Benjamin's reign (see W of M 1:12)? Mormon also tells us that there were many false prophets and false Christs that had to be dealt with during those early years of King Benjamin's reign. Again, one wonders if these false Christs are references to false "anointed ones" who may have been Mulekites stirring up political trouble when the kingship was passed onto King Benjamin. Political dissensions mentioned in W of M 1:16 might hint towards this as well.

Miraculously, King Benjamin gets the kingdom spiritually in order with the help of "many holy men" (see W of M 1:17-18).  With peace in the land, King Benjamin is getting older and seeks to bestow the Kingship upon his son, Mosiah (the second). After giving all his sons private instructions, King Benjamin instructs all the people to gather together around the temple to hear him preach. As a quick note, many scholars read the details of this sermon and conclude that it must have taken place during the Feast of Tabernacles in the year of Jubilee. The Feast of Tabernacles, also known as Sukkot, took place yearly but the year of Jubilee was once every 50 years. This explains why all the families came to the temple to gather with their tents facing the temple. It being the year of Jubilee, this might explain King Benjamin's teachings against slaves and helping the poor. He probably saw this eventful time as an opportunity to really establish a new covenant or renew a covenant upon the people by more fully placing upon them the name of Christ.

From the outset, before he even starts talking to the people, King Benjamin lets us know the entire intent of his sermon:

"11. I shall give this people a name, that thereby they may be distinguished above all the people which the Lord God hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I do because they have been a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord.

12. And I give unto them a name that never shall be blotted out, except it be through transgression."

In the next verse, King Benjamin refers to his people as "Highly Favored." This along with the idea that this is already a pretty righteous people suggests something else is going on than just bringing these people initially to the Lord. In other words, these are not newly converted members.

Latter-day Saint scholar, M. Catherine Thomas, has astutely observed:

"What, then, distinguished Benjamin's people "above all the people which the Lord God hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem" (Mosiah 1:11)? Was it perhaps the first time, among the people brought out from the land of Jerusalem, that a king and priest, in the tradition of Adam, Enoch, and Melchizedek, had succeeded in bringing his people to this point of transformation, that he had caused them actually to receive the name of Christ as a community? They became... candidates for the church of the Firstborn (see Mosiah 5:7; D&C 93:22)" (1)

This church of the Firstborn is defined in scripture as those who have become fully begotten through Christ and have taken upon themselves His name (see D&C 93:22). It could be more succinctly defined as "Christ's heavenly church." President Harold B. Lee agreed with this interpretation, namely, that King Benjamin had more light intensive motives than what we usually associate with his sermon:

"By spiritual adoption, we become members of the Church of the Firstborn, we become the sons and daughters of God, as King Benjamin explained." ("The Godhead", talk given to S&I teachers on June 17th, 1954)

With the temple as His backdrop, King Benjamin seeks to bestow upon his people collectively the name of Christ. President Oaks once articulated what it more fully means to take upon us the name of Christ. It shouldn't be a stretch to see, therefore, what King Benjamin is doing here:

"It is significant that when we partake of the sacrament we do not witness that we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ. We witness that we are willing to do so. (See D&C 20:77.) The fact that we only witness to our willingness suggests that something else must happen before we actually take that sacred name upon us in the most important sense.

What future event or events could this covenant contemplate? The scriptures suggest two sacred possibilities, one concerning the authority of God, especially as exercised in the temples, and the other—closely related—concerning exaltation in the celestial kingdom." (2)

We will return to this later after reviewing what happens in chapter 5. 

Another thing to be said of interest is that much of what King Benjamin says is delivered to him by an Angel. King Benjamin's sermon has extremely strong intratextuality with the words the prophet Abinadi gave 20+ years earlier to the wicked King Noah and his priests. It is for this reason why some of the faculty of BYU's Religious Studies Center reverently speculate that the angel that appears to King Benjamin was, possibly, Abinadi. 

Like the Savior's Sermon on the Mount, King Benjamin's speech was not just a collective ritual or ordinance, but it is "A Manual for Discipleship." Elder Neal A. Maxwell has commented:

"Benjamin is such a superb example of consecration. He did things with the “faculty of his whole soul” (Words of Mormon 1:18). Such is the very “heart . . . might, mind, and strength” required in connection with keeping the first great commandment (D&C 59:5; see Matthew 22:37). No wonder Benjamin urged us to be sufficiently consecrated to give all that we “have and are” (Mosiah 2:34). How appropriate that his sermon was given near a temple...

Revered as Benjamin was, what an engaging experience it must have been to hear him preach personally—especially while sitting in one’s family circle in a tent facing the temple.

But we can hear him now. If we read him reverently, the intervening centuries soon melt away. His earnestness emerges, and his personableness almost caresses us, giving King Benjamin such immediacy and high relevancy as his example combines with such powerful words about discipleship." (3)


We will pick up after King Benjamin finishes speaking the words given to him by the angel:


"1 And now, it came to pass that 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.

2 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.

3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words 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."


King Benjamin's words had a profound impact. What do we learn here about repentance and how the atoning blood of Jesus Christ is applied? What other phrases or principles do you glean?

The people collectively ask for the atoning blood of Christ to be applied to their souls. These people probably had in mind the symbol of the Mosaic law of when the blood of the sacrificial goat was poured upon the mercy seat during the Day of Atonement to cover Israel's moral failings and sins. This also calls to mind when Moses literally sprinkles blood upon the people as a token "of the covenant which the Lord hath made with [Israel]" (see Exodus 24:8).

These people have connected these symbols to the reality of Jesus Christ and His atonement. I wonder if we as poignantly attach the symbols of our modern worship upon Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

Of note, we see that the Spirit of the Lord is what comes along and fills them with joy. This joy being the product of receiving a remission of their sins and having a peace of conscience. Elder D. Todd Christofferson has succinctly taught:

"... the Holy Spirit is the medium through whom atoning grace is applied to remit sins and sanctify souls." (4)

We, therefore, see in this instance that to receive the Holy Ghost here resulted in receiving the Savior's atoning benefits. Therefore, as we seek to apply the atoning blood of Christ in our lives, it helps to know how that blessing comes. President Henry B. Eyring, therefore, has said:

"If you have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost today, you may take it as a sweet evidence that the Atonement is working in your life." (5)

The Savior's atonement through the medium of the Holy Ghost brings a remission of sins. This remission of sins plays well into King Benjamin's words in Mosiah 3:19 in that the natural man, like cancer, is what needs to be put in remission. The idea of sin could be understood as being upon an individual, but anciently it was also understood as a collective term. Sin would bring decay to the surrounding creation and the ancient temple. The sacrifices done anciently symbolized the covering or putting at remission the sin and decay that was threatening the temple and the Lord's covenant people. N.T. Wright explains how the ancients understood this forgiveness or remission of sins and what its main purpose is:

"Forgiveness of sins [is] another way of saying “Passover” or “new Exodus.” Or,... it would come to mean “new covenant” and “new creation.” The gospel [is] the announcement of this new reality." (The Day the Revolution Began, p. 157)

We see that this remission of sins is par for the course of what King Benjamin is doing. They are collectively putting off the natural man to prepare themselves to fully take upon the name of Christ in chapter 5. This forgiveness/remission of sins was one step closer to creating "a kingdom of priests" (see Exodus 19:6).


When this idea of remission is understood you begin to see why King Benjamin immediately goes into a long description of what it looks like to retain this remission of sins. It begins to sound like building a Zion people, or, in other words, engaging in a new exodus of the soul.


"11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.

13 And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due.

14 And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.

15 But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another."


We might call these things the fruits of the natural man's remission. How do the depths of humility bring us to a point of always rejoicing? What else is meaningful to you in learning about becoming the children of Christ?

Elder David A. Bednar has taught succinctly:

"Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, obedience, service, and a gospel perspective about the trials we encounter in mortality all invite us to come unto the source of enduring joy—Jesus Christ... Enduring joy is not a blessing reserved for a select few. Rather, every member of the Lord’s restored Church who is striving to remember and honor sacred covenants and keep the commandments can receive this gift, according to God’s will and timing." (6)

King Benjamin goes onto what may be for many an extremely hard principle. Verses 16-23 should be read carefully. It appears King Benjamin is preaching against assuming the reasons the beggar is a beggar. President Dallin H. Oaks has taught:

"The scriptures give a specific caution against judging where we cannot know all the facts... There is one qualification to this principle that we should not judge people without an adequate knowledge of the facts. Sometimes urgent circumstances require us to make preliminary judgments before we can get all of the facts we desire for our decision making. In such circumstances we do the best we can, relying ultimately on the teaching in modern scripture that we should put our “trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously” (D&C 11:12)." (7)

An interesting thing King Benjamin says is that if we judge the poor harshly "[we] hath no interest in the kingdom of God" (see Mosiah 4:18).


What does King Benjamin mean by if we assume the "punishments" upon the beggar "are just" we have "no interest in the kingdom of God"?

King Benjamin goes on to explain that our relationship with the beggar is like our relationship with God. This is summed up by saying, "Are we not all beggars?" Could it be that if we rashly deal with the poor and needy we probably are not fit for an exaltation that will include dealing with spiritual beggars on an eternal scale?

President Marion G. Romney once said:

"We lose our life by serving and lifting others. By so doing we experience the only true and lasting happiness. Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made.

Oh, for the glorious day when these things all come naturally because of the purity of our hearts. In that day there will be no need for a commandment, because we will have experienced for ourselves that we are truly happy only when we are engaged in unselfish service.

Can we see how critical self-reliance becomes when looked upon as the prerequisite to service, when we also know service is what godhood is all about?" (8)

I assume that this hits at what King Benjamin meant by "hath no interest in the kingdom of God." 


In chapter 5 we transition to the crowd speaking again. They declare that the Spirit of the Lord had wrought a mighty change in them to where they no longer desired evil, but to do good continually (see verse 2). They also declare visions and manifestations where they could prophesy all things if necessary (see verse 3). It is at this point they speak of being willing to enter into this covenant King Benjamin desired of them to enter into back in Mosiah chapter 1.


"6 And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them; 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.

7 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.

8 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.

9 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."


The manual asks the following poignant question: How can we show that we belong to the Savior? What does it mean to be "the children of Christ"?

President Russell M. Nelson has taught:

"Now, to each member of the Church I say, keep on the covenant path. Your commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with Him and then keeping those covenants will open the door to every spiritual blessing and privilege available to men, women, and children everywhere... The ordinances of the temple and the covenants you make there are key to strengthening your life, your marriage and family, and your ability to resist the attacks of the adversary." (9)

Please remember President Oaks' words from the intro of this lesson where he said that more fully taking upon ourselves the name of Christ occurs in and through the ordinances of the temple. We become the children of Christ, therefore, as we engage in and keep the temple covenants we have made. This is what King Benjamin is telling his people to do as they gathered around the temple and received this holy covenant.

As a point of closing, the wording of King Benjamin underscores this very idea. The following insights from Matthew L. Bowen are highly instructive. For example, the name Benjamin to its fullest extent means "son of the right hand of power." The name "Ben" and its slight variants in Hebrew mean son, daughter, or Child. King Benjamin quotes the Royal Psalm which says, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" (see Psalm 2:7). In essence, King Benjamin is invoking the covenant rebirth language that usually was reserved to the Kings of Israel anciently. He also heavily quotes Deuteronomy 14:1-2 which articulates Moses' and the Lord's intent to create a peculiar (or sealed in the Hebrew) people.

In verse 9 King Benjamin invokes his own name when he speaks about how those who keep the covenant will be found at the right hand (yāmîn). In a shocking move, King Benjamin is democratizing this spiritual kingship from himself and onto his people. They, like him, are all the Children of Christ or, in other words, Children of the right hand. It shouldn't be lost on us that King Benjamin is also naming his son, Mosiah, as heir during all this. King Benjamin also has dealt, possibly, with a history of a divided kingdom based on contested kingship. He is now turning all that on its head by giving this wonderful spiritual privilege to his people.

Matthew L. Bowen comments:

"... they were not just receiving the name of their king, “Benjamin,” but were taking upon them, as royal sons and daughters, the name-title of the true “Son of the right hand” — i.e., “Christ.” In so doing, they all were becoming Benjamins (“son[s and daughters] of the right hand”); Mosiahs (“saviors”) and messiahs/christs (“anointed ones”)." (10)

King Benjamin then ends his sermon on a very sacred and holy note.


"15 Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen."

In ancient times, a seal (usually a signet ring or small stone with writing on its surface) was pressed into soft clay or wax to leave a mark of ownership or authenticity on an object or document. It also, theologically, refers to one making their calling and election sure. According to the Prophet Joseph Smith:

"After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted." (11) 


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