This article is directly connected to the Come, Follow Me lessons for Mosiah 4-6. King Benjamin’s address to his people has a ton of doctrine in it. There is so much of it that we can easily get bogged down and miss some pretty cool principles. This is a paring down of all the words that might distract us so we can get right to the meat and goal of his sermon.
Two part objective
The aim of the king was to accomplish two things. The first was to help his people see their need for their Savior, and the second was to convince them to take upon themselves the name of Christ. That is the reason behind all these chapters we spend reading his sermon. By the end of chapter 3 he has accomplished his first goal. In chapters 4-5 he focuses on Christ’s expectations of those who want to be forgiven of their sins, and how to do just that.
In the rest of this article when I quote scripture, much, if not most of the time I will be quoting abbreviated versions of the actual verses. There is a good reason for this. I tend to get bogged down with all the “extra” words that don’t actually drive the discussion forward. I get sidetracked by these additional phrases that they add into their speech. We would, by modern standards say they are too wordy. If you open your scriptures the parts I quote will have an ellipsis (…) wherever I have left out words that don’t push the narrative along. I think you will find that the shortened version can be quite enlightening.
We don’t know how common baptism was among those who practiced the law of Moses. We do know it wasn’t done like we do it today. Baptism itself is an Aaronic priesthood ordinance, but the real saving part of baptism is the second part where we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and that has to be administered by one holding the Melchizedek priesthood. It is with the gift of the Holy Ghost that all revelation and lasting enlightenment comes. As you read through these two chapters note how much the tenor of king Benjamin’s sermon mirrors baptismal talks and how much he preaches like he is attending a baptism. I’ll point this out along the way.
In the following passage king Benjamin tells his people about their covenant relationship with God that they just took upon themselves.
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, … because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ … .
4 And king Benjamin again opened his mouth and began to speak unto them saying: …
6 … if ye have come to a knowledge of … the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments …
7 I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation, through the atonement …
8 And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.
10 … believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.
11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, … I would that ye should remember … the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, … and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith … .
12 … 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.
In this next passage king Benjamin moves on and talks about how covenant people are moved upon to live when they are lead by the Spirit.
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.
16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your 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.
Verses 13 and 16 sound a lot like Alma’s talk to his people at the waters of Mormon when he invites them to be baptized (Mosiah 18). But Alma, who is the prophet doing the teaching in Mosiah 18, isn’t here for this sermon. Many years prior to king Benjamin’s sermon, Zeniff had established a branch of the Nephites among the Lamanites back in the land of Nephi. At the time of this sermon Zeniff and his son, Noah, the wicked king, were leading their people many day’s journey from the land of Zarahemla. But despite the distance, or the wording, the doctrine is the same, for it all comes from the same source.
In this section Benjamin teaches his people the nature and character of those who recognize their nothingness before the Lord and who make covenants to follow Christ in all they do. He makes sure they understand the reasoning behind this behavior, for it is not intuitive or something the natural man would come up with.
Verses 17-18 teach us that if we say, “I will stay my hand,” that is hold back from giving to the person who is seeking relief from poverty, “whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and … hath no interest in the kingdom of God.” He continues by explaining that we are all beggars before the Lord, and that He never turns us away. Verse 19 – “Do we not all depend upon … 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?”
20 … has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, … .
21 … if God, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, … O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.
The next verses condemn those who judge others suffering as what they deserve, so they turn them away. He even warns the poor in verses 24-25 that unless you would give, if you had something to give, then you stand condemned for “ye covet that which ye have not received.”
Why has the king discussed the treatment of the poor? The answer is in verse 26.
26 [I have spoken about these things for one reason, and that is] for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God–I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.
The last verse in this chapter is worded in the negative. By not reading some of the first part of the verse, we can read it in the positive, which I think better helps in understanding his point.
30 … watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard … even unto the end of your lives, … . And now, O man, remember, and perish not.
This chapter encapsulates a lot. It explains what pure religion is. It tells us how God’s covenant people are supposed to think and live. It instructs us on how to treat each other, and that when we do these things we can retain a remission from our sins. This is basically the whole point of the gospel in just one chapter.
Chapter 5 is all about the covenant relationship between Christ and his people/children. It is interesting to see exactly what the Nephite people say when Benjamin asks them if they believe what he has taught them. In verses 2-3 they tell Benjamin that because of the change the Spirit has wrought in their hearts, they have lost the disposition to do evil, but desire to do good continually. The kicker is in verse 3.
3 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.
These are people who have never received the gift of the Holy Ghost, yet they have had such an outpouring of the Spirit that they are confident they could “prophesy of all things.” In Revelations 19:10 John tells us that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” I always wondered what that meant. Here is an example. The great views they refer to didn’t come to them until they came to believe with all their hearts in Jesus who was to come.
The people continue in verse 5 to tell their king what they are willing to do about how they feel about Jesus and what their king has just taught them. In all material ways that matter, they are expressing the substance of the baptismal covenant from Mosiah 18.
5 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 … .
What follows is the adoption process that makes Christ our eternal Head, and we his children.
7 … because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, … for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you … .
8 … There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ … .
9 … whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God … for he shall be called by the name of Christ.
12 … remember to retain the name written always in your hearts … that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.
13 For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?
15 … I would that ye should be steadfast … always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, … that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life … .
Going into the reading of these chapters was nerve wracking for me. I knew there was a lot of doctrine, and wondered how I would ever be able to pull out the most important things on which to make comments. But the more I thought about what was actually being said, and what king Benjamin was trying to accomplish with his people, the simpler it became. All that remained was to get all the “extra” words out of the way so I could see the message more clearly. This is what I hope I have accomplished.
The baptismal covenant and ordinance would become the mode of the day within 30 years, but now, treating the gospel, the good news of Christ, as we know it and understand it, was something completely foreign to the Nephites. What a glorious way to introduce this principle of relying on the merits of Christ to the people of Zarahemla.
Click the link below for a PDF version of this article.
Why do you day they did not have the Holy Ghost?
The gift of the Holy Ghost is a Melchizedek ordinance. During the period of the Mosaic law, they were governed by the Aaronic priesthood. Only the prophet would be able to bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost. There weren’t usually very many at a time who held the higher priesthood. We are most spoiled in the last dispensation that everyone can have the gift.
Your link for a PDF version didn’t work for me.
My apologies. The PDF file link was being hijacked by one of my scripture linking plugins. I have changed the name of the link, so it should now work. Thanks for letting me know.
Wow, you’re such an amazing person, you have that special gift given to you by the Lord Himself. You’re fulfilling that gift by sharing to us the things that we needed to hear and learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am deeply grateful. Thank you so much Brother Kelly Merrill.
I don’t really know where to begin with this one. The Nephites did not have the Aaronic Priesthood. The Nephites did not have the Melchezidek priesthood; what they had is the Holy Order. Don’t assume that because they followed the law of Moses they had the Aaronic Priesthood, just because that is how it was administered in the OT – the Aaronic Priesthood is never mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Following the law of Moses is one thing, but administering it under the authority of the Holy Order is another. (The Holy Order is Melchezidek) These people were baptized, and they all had received the Holy Ghost through the power of the Holy Order (too many scriptures on this to mention).
What these people were seeking is what every member of the church should be seeking: the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, the mighty change, becoming a new creature, and receiving a remisson of their sins. All of this happens AFTER someone is baptized and confirmed; in fact, baptism and confirmation is what opens the door to this kind of an experience. Once you go through this process/event that King Benjamin is teaching about, THEN you are sealed and become the sons and daughters of Christ. This is how you take upon you the name of Christ.
Trying to teach that this was some kind of initial baptism experience really misses the boat in a significant way, in my opinion. This is why so many members think they already have what is taught here in Mosiah 2-5; sad, really.
Jim, you have obviously been very studious and spent a lot of time in the scriptures. Thank you for your in depth comment on this article. There are a couple of points you make that are beyond my ability to comment on, such as the Nephite people being led by the Holy Order. In one statement you claim they neither had the Aaronic Priesthood, nor the Melchizedek Priesthood, but then you state that the Holy Order IS the Melchizedek Priesthood. So I am not sure what you mean by the Holy Order. The Doctrine and Covenants, as I read it, is pretty clear that there is only one priesthood to be found on the earth, and that is the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood is but a part of the higher priesthood, so those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood can perform any ordinance or duty of those in the Aaronic Priesthood.
On the subject of the Nephites all being baptized and receiving the Holy Ghost I must defer to your knowledge on that. I know you said that there are “too many scriptures on this to mention” but since I know of no scriptures that specifically state that they received the gift of the Holy Ghost, I cannot just assume they had the Melchizedek Priesthood in the possession of the general male population, which is what would almost be required to make sure that everyone being baptized received the gift of the Holy Ghost. There would be too many for just the prophet to have that one overwhelming responsibility. I hope you will be willing to share some of those many references with us so we can judge for ourselves the merits of that argument.
I will openly disagree with you on one point. You state that the baptismal covenant does not make you children of Christ, because it is only after you have already been sealed his by the Holy Ghost that you become a child of Christ. As I study the baptismal covenant one of the main purposes of that covenant is to take upon us his name, and to represent him at all times and in all places. Is not this to become a child of Christ? That may not include being sealed yet by the Spirit, but it certainly is meant to lead to that event. That is the whole point of the baptismal covenant.
Again, I thank you for your comment, and I hope you will provide us all with the scriptures you refer to by haven’t yet referenced. I look forward to learning more about your assertions, since this is all new doctrine to me.
Do you know Elder Chad Plockerc he and his companion baptised me and my children he was from Rexburg Idaho Do you know him?
I am new to Rexburg. I am sorry to say I do not know him.
I will try to take this one at a time: The Holy Order IS the Melchizedek priesthood, but it is the fullness of the Melchizedek priesthood that the people of Nephi enjoyed. Obviously, with this Holy Order they do not need the Aaronic priesthood to administer in the Law of Moses. In the church today, we also have the Melchizedek priesthood, but we have an administrative order of that priesthood that allows us to administer in the church of the latter days. As Joseph Smith taught, there are orders in the priesthood. This is one of the reasons that Pres. Nelson can say “if you think everything has been restored, you are incorrect” (or something like that). Here are some of the examples of the Holy Order: Alma 13 gives a great overview of this priesthood that was had among the Nephites; Genesis 14:25-40 (JST) is another good overview; Jacob 4:6 (powers of the Holy Order); D&C 84:35-42 (this is a good review of what happens to those who reject “this other” priesthood) – this is NOT true for the Melchezedek priesthood that we have in the church today: we do not become sons of perdition if we turn away.
I think it is VERY important for members of the church to understand that they need to be seeking for a remission of their sins AFTER they are baptized and confirmed. A remission of sins is NOT the same as a forgiveness of sins. Enos 2 shows us a good example of this – Enos was definitely baptized and confirmed already, but he knew that he needed to wrestle with the Lord to receive a remission of this sins (the same is true for us). All of the fruits of King Benjamin’s message in chapter 5 are available to those that receive a remission of sins through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 31:17; 3 Nephi 12:1,2; Moroni 8:25,26; Mosiah 15:11,12; Alma 7:6; 38:8; Moroni 10:32,33).
You will note in the sacrament prayer that we hear every Sunday, it says that we renew the covenant that we are WILLING to take upon us his name. It says nothing about actually taking his name upon us, there is something more that we must do. This has been pointed out subtlety in numerous conference talks, but I will have to look them up. Because all of the blessings in Mosiah chapter 5 come through the remission of sins (see the scriptures above), and that is administered through Christ (no man can give this to you), and all of this comes by the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, the blessings of becoming a child of Christ, and taking upon us his name are also part of that experience. This is what every baptized member of the church should be seeking. It is a big problem when we think we already have all of these things, and all we need to do now is endure to the end; I don’t believe the scriptures teach this.
That is enough for now. Thank you for listening to my ramblings. Take this to the Lord and see what he says. I am just a flawed mortal trying to understand what the scriptures teach. I appreciate your efforts to provide this information to those who seek it.
Dallin H. Oakes gave a great talk about taking the name of Christ upon us. April 1985 (read the whole talk, it is great); Elder Eyring quoted from this talk, and then gave some of his own comments in his talk “Try Try Try” from Oct. of 2018. Here is a short quote from Elder Oakes talk:
“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. 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?”
This future event when his people (already baptized and confirmed members of the church) fully take upon them the name of Christ is what King Benjamin’s discourse is all about.