The key word in this lesson is indebtedness. Spelling out our debts, that which puts us in a deficit towards another person, is not usually pleasant. But our indebtedness to our Father in Heaven, instead of causing us sorrow or dread to think of what we owe Him, should cause us to rejoice and be glad. If you are going to be eternally indebted to anyone, hope it is to your Father in Heaven.
Reading Assignment: Mosiah 1-3.
When you get a bank loan or when someone does something nice for you, you take upon yourself a debt, an obligation to repay that which you owe. In the case of money, it is a simple matter of taking money from someone who has what we do not then repaying that money, generally with interest. Once the required amount has been paid we are cleared of the debt.
When someone saves our life, like rescuing us from a burning building or jumping in front of us and taking a bullet intended for us, we accrue what is called a blood debt. Blood represents life, so a blood debt is a life owed to someone who risked their own life to save ours. In centuries past it was not unheard of for a person saved to become the servant of the one who saved them either for life or until they were able to save the life of the one who saved them.
King Benjamin is trying to teach his people the magnitude of the debt we owe our God, both our Father and His Son. If you have raised children, you are probably painfully aware of how ungrateful they generally are for all you do for them. Often they are ungrateful to their parents for the same reason we are ungrateful to our Father in Heaven. We simple take for granted that all that is provided for us is somehow our due. We are “owed” the blessings we have. Either that or we believe that we self-exist, and that our living and breathing has absolutely nothing to do with God.
In the second chapter of Mosiah king Benjamin talks to the people about how much effort he has spent throughout his life in order to serve them as any good king should. Yet despite all his personal efforts, his service has only actually been serving the Lord. This is the lesson he tries to teach in Mosiah 2:17 when he says, “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.”
Why is service to one another only service to our God? Why can’t it be just service to each other? What does the Lord have to do with the good we do to, and for each other? I think the answer begins with our relationship with our Father in Heaven.
Our Father brought us from being Intelligences and gave us a spirit body. This set us on the road to godhood. Having a spirit body was a big step that enabled us to begin to exercise agency that helped us grow and develop to become more like Him. The next step was to gain more agency by gaining a body and learning to be obedient to Him in all things. We don’t have the capacity to give ourselves a body. Only He could provide us with a physical body.
He provided us with the whole plan of salvation that allows us to leave His presence and come to an earth (which He created just for us), so we can learn lessons that teach us to become more like Him. He has endowed each of us with the light of Christ that helps guide us on our earthly journey, teaching us right from wrong. He has provided us with a Savior to open the door to return to Him when we have violated His eternal laws. Christ also gave us the gift of the resurrection that will allow us all to have a glorified body after we leave earth life. None of this could we do for ourselves. We owe all of this to our Father in Heaven. Even the gift of the Holy Ghost is the companionship of a God to personally tutor and teach us and guide us in our efforts to become like our Father in Heaven.
King Benjamin is teaching the people that they are eternally indebted to God for all they have. Here (Mosiah 2:22-25) is all the Lord requires of us in return for what He has done for us.
22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; 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.
23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
24 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; therefore, of what have ye to boast?
25 And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.
Think about that. We are not able to do anything to repay our Father for what He has freely given us. Our bodies are made from the dust of the earth. We can’t even claim ownership of our own bodies. Even our ability to breath we owe to Him.
Benjamin’s point is this: we need to spend our lives in the service of our God for all the good He has done for us. But that service to Him He has told us needs to come in the form of loving and serving each other. By loving and serving each other we will learn to feel, think, and behave like our Father. This is all He wants from us.
The laws of the universe that create happiness are embodied in the commandments God has given us. As we love and serve we become selfless and happy. He has told us that “men are that they might have joy.” That joy only comes through dedicated service to others.
Our Father’s will is that we become like Him so that we might experience the joy He does. All of the commandments we have been given are embodied in the two greatest commandments, to love God, and to love each other as much as we already love ourselves.
As king Benjamin stated, when we serve our fellow men the Lord immediately blesses us with more than we had before. We are eternally in His debt. What a great place and position to be in. As long as we recognize that we owe all that we are and ever can become to our Father in Heaven then we will be able to find joy in spending our lives trying to live up to the privileges He is trying to prepare us to receive.
In Mosiah 3:19 we are taught that giving in to the appetites of the flesh makes us enemies to the purposes of God. Only when we learn to tame our physical appetites and subject our will to His will are we able to become the kind of people who are worthy of what He desires for us. This is the purpose of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. His sacrifice enables us, who have broken God’s laws, to repent and change and become better than we have been.
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
The point of this sermon is to teach us all that we need to recognize our indebtedness to God. We need to recognize that a way out of our condemnation before God for our misdeeds has been provided by God through Christ’s atonement. When we turn to the atonement and embrace Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, we accept the gift of eternal life prepared for us from the time before the creation of this world. God has done all the work to pave the way back into His presence. It is up to us to walk the path He has provided.