Book of Mormon Lesson 16
"Ye Shall Be Called the Children of Christ"
A. Today we will be continuing the sermon of King Benjamin. My mission president used to tell us that the sermon of King Benjamin in the Book of Mosiah was the "greatest political speech ever given." He would tell us this as an introduction to what he felt was the "second greatest political speech of all time", the Gettysburg Address. He would then recite the entire Gettysburg Address to us. I must have heard him do this 3 or 4 times. He never went into why he thought King Benjamin’s talk was the greatest political speech. I had never thought of it as a political speech. When I prepared this lesson today I tried to read King Benjamin’s discourse as a political speech. In what ways was in political. Obviously he was a leader and he was speaking to his subjects, so in the strict sense in was a political speech. But it sounds more like a religious sermon than something we would hear at a political convention. As I tried to see it as political, I was most impressed with how the discourse contrasts with most political speeches.
B. One of the reasons it doesn’t sound political to us today is that we have grown up in a country where there is a separation of religion and state. Throughout most of human history there has been no such separation. So political speeches in the past would be kings and rulers reminding their subjects that God wanted them to do what he said.
C. Also, today’s political speeches are self serving. In this election year, we have heard more political speeches than we want to, all letting us know how great the speaker is and how he or she is the only one that can effectively rule our country.
1. I remember watching a former president when he was finishing his last term of office at his party’s convention. As he was introduced he walked down the isle of the stadium as a big screen listed all of his accomplishments and all the good things that had happened during his presidency that he took credit for. As he walked down the Iles he pumped his fist in the air as people cheered madly.
2. In contrast, King Benjamin says, "And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; for I also am of the dust." This was not the feigned humility we see in may politician today.
D. Hugh Nibley says the describes King Benjamin’s discourse as a "Great Assembly."
1. He says, "Throughout the pagan world the main purpose of the Great Assembly, as has long been recognized, is to hail the king as a god on earth; Benjamin is aware of this, and he will have none of it." Mosiah 2:10-11.
2. He also says, "the king at the Great Assembly everywhere requires all who come into his presence to bring him rich gifts as a sign of submission." But Benjamin says he has "not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you."
3. Also, King Benjamin gives some of the most straight forward and specific instructions on giving to and caring for the poor in the scriptures. Notice that he does not say, "give me your money and I’ll take care of you." He tells them they are required to take care of each other.
E. So, King Benjamin’s farewell address is a great political speech in how different it is from all other political speeches in ancient and modern history.
F. What has King Benjamin taught so far in chapters 2 and 3. Mostly he is talking about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how it is necessary to receive salvation.
II. "Less than the dust of the Earth."
A. Read Mosiah 4:1-2
1. Fallen to the earth. In many cultures of the ancient world and even today, prostration was a manifestation of reverence, respect, or overwhelming awe. This seems strange to us today. We don’t all fall flat on our face during Stake Conference.
2. Fear of the Lord. Were the people here just terrified of the judgements and punishments of God? Fear in Hebrew is Yirah - reverence or respect.
B. They have just said they were "less than the dust of the Earth." Today we would say they have major self esteem problems. If one of your children came home from school and said "I stink at everything" what would you tell them. You’d build them up, try to make them feel better about themselves. But what does Benjamin do. He seems to rub it in. In vs. 5 he says "God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state."
C. In what way are we "less than the dust of the earth"? Read Helaman 12:7-8.
D. But far from feeling depressed about finding out their own worthlessness, they were filled with joy. Read Mosiah 4:3. Why were they filled with joy. Maurine Jensen Proctor said of this chapter, " It is more joyful to be transformed through Christ, than believe we are self-made and sufficient. It is happier to see our weaknesses and overcome them, than hide them from ourselves. Nothing tastes sweeter than the atonement or is a more healing balm of Gilead. Only when we understand how much we need forgiveness, can we comprehend the extent of God’s goodness and love toward us."
III. How did the people of King Benjamin receive salvation and forgiveness of their sins.
A. Read Mosiah 4:6-10.
1. Must have knowledge of the goodness of God and of the atonement.
2. We must trust in the Lord.
3. We must keep his commandments.
4. Believe in God.
5. Be humble.
6. Repent and forsake our sins.
B. How can we know when we have been forgiven of our sins? Harold B Lee wrote: Some years ago, President Marion G. Romney and I were sitting in my office. The door opened and a fine young man came in with a troubled look on his face, and he said, ‘Brethren, I am going to the temple for the first time tomorrow. I have made some mistakes in the past, and I have gone to my bishop and my stake president, and I have made a clean disclosure of it all; and after a period of repentance and assurance that I have not returned again to those mistakes, they have now adjudged me ready to go to the temple. But, brethren, that is not enough. I want to know, and how can I know, that the Lord has forgiven me also.’ What would you answer one who might come to you asking that question? As we pondered for a moment, we remembered King Benjamin’s address contained in the book of Mosiah. Here was a group of people asking for baptism, and they said they viewed themselves in their carnal state: " and they 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 or 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. 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....’ That was the answer. If the time comes when you have done all that your can to repent of your sins, whoever you are, wherever you are, and have made amends and restitution to the best of your ability; if it be something that will affect your standing in the Church and you have gone to the proper authorities, then you will want that confirming answer as to whether or not the Lord has accepted of you. In your soul-searching, if you seek for and you find the peace of conscience, by that token you may know that the Lord has accepted of your repentance. Satan would have you think otherwise and sometimes persuade you that now having made one mistake, you might go on and on with no turning back. That is one of the great falsehoods. The miracle of forgiveness is available to all those who turn from their evil doings and return no more, because the Lord has said in a revelation to us in our days, ‘...go your ways and sin no more; but to that soul who sinneth [meaning again] shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.’ Have that in mind all of you who may be troubled with a burden of sin."
IV. What to do after you have received forgiveness of your sins.
A. The Nephites have just had a mass "born again" experience. "What follows is not a list of do’s and don’ts, but rather a characterization of individuals who have been born of the Spirit." So, another way to know if you have been forgiven of your sins is to look at yourself and see if you do the things King Benjamin talks about next.
B. He says that those who have repented "will not have a mind to injure one another, but live peaceably, and to render to every many according to that which is his due."
C. He also talks about providing for and teaching our children appropriately.
V. Giving to beggars.
A. Read Mosiah 4:16-22.
B. Whenever we read these scriptures it is a bit controversial exactly what King Benjamin means here. Are we required to give to every single person who asks of us if we have the means? I don’t have the answer to this.
C. When I was a second year medical student in San Antonio they let us start taking histories and physical on patients to practice. We did these mostly on "professional patients" or patients who were in and out of the hospital a lot. About half of the patients I practiced on were alcoholics with cirrhosis of the liver, many of them homeless. One of these gentleman had obviously worked with a lot of medical students and had his history down. He told how he got money for alcohol by walking around town and asking people for bus fair to get home. He told me that there was no reason for anyone to go hungry in San Antonio because there were enough soup kitchens in the town to feed everyone. He said anyone in San Antonio that was begging for money wanted it for alcohol or drugs. To the North in Austin the food banks told people in the community not to give money to beggars because there was plenty of food for them there. So there is a legitimate reason to be cautious giving to these people. But at the same time King Benjamin says we can’t judge them and says "they brought it upon themselves."
D. We have resources for providing for the hungry and homeless. I would like to put in a plug for the LDS Humanitarian fund. It’s easy to give to them. You can either just do it on your tithing slip or you can go to LDS.org and give by credit card. When I give to the L.D.S. Humanitarian fund I am confident that all of it is going to feed, clothe and shelter people in need. I would also like to give a plug to the perpetual education fund, which I believe to be very inspired. Helping people in developing countries who have served missions get an education is not only the best way to better their lives and make them self sufficient, but it strengthen’s the church by grooming leaders.
VI. Becoming Sons and Daughters of Christ.
A. Read Mosiah 5:1-2. Another way you can tell if you have been forgiven or received the spirit is if you "Have no disposition to do evil and to do good continually."
B. Read Mosiah 5:7. In what way do those who are born again become "sons and daughters of Christ? This can be a bit confusing, because we know that we are all sons and daughters of God the Father, but we don’t usually talk of being Christ’s children.
C. Joseph Fielding Smith answered that question: "What is a father? One who begets life. What did our Savior do? He begot us, or gave us life from death, as clearly set forth by Jacob, the brother of Nephi. If it had not been for the death of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the spirit and body would never have been united again...If there had been no redemption from death, our spirits would have been taken captive by Satan and we would have become subject to Satan’s will forever. What did our Savior do? He begot us in that sense. He became a father to us because he gave us immortality or eternal life through his death and sacrifice upon the cross. I think we have a perfect right to speak of him as Father."
D. Particularly those of us who have ben "spiritually begotten" of the Savior, through faith in His atonement, can be called his children.
E. Read Mosiah 5:9-12. What does it mean to take upon us the name of Christ? One of the reasons I will always call myself a Christian, no matter how "traditional Christians" want to catagorize me. It is one way I take upon myself the name of Christ. Just as we take upon us the last name of our father, we take upon us the name of Christ when we have been spiritually begotten of him.
1. This is also an example of Chiasmus.
A. Although I used to role my eyes when my mission president used to say it, after preparing this lesson I agree with him that King Benjamin’s discourse is one of the greatest political speeches ever given. I believe this now because King Benjamin used his final address to teach his people the most important thing he could teach them - the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This is more important than how we are going to win or end the war in Iraq, it is more important than health care reform, it is more important than the economy. He did not talk about how the government had made their lives easier; instead, he encouraged them to take care of each other. He did not glorify himself, but glorified the Lord. This is the most important message I can leave you today, that salvation and forgiveness come only the Jesus Christ and his Atonement.
Nibley, Hugh - An Approach to the Book of Mormon.
Proctor, Maurine Jensen - Meridian Magazine.
Smith, Gordon - Times and Seasons.