I hope you and your families are staying safe and healthy. I also hope you have found peace and comfort through the words of the prophets – both modern and ancient – in General Conference and the scriptures. Remember to use the comment section below this post to share impressions from your study.
His Commandments Always Before Our Eyes
Our first introduction to King Benjamin comes from Amaleki in the book of Omni. Amaleki paints a bleak picture of King Benjamin’s time:
And behold, I have seen, in the days of king Benjamin, a serious war and much bloodshed between the Nephites and the Lamanites.Omni 1:24
Although King Benjamin and the Nephites are able to drive back the Lamanites, his work was not finished. For many years leading up to King Benjamin’s time, the people had been in a state of spiritual deterioration:
Following the great spiritual outpourings of Nephi and his brother Jacob—and even of Jacob’s son Enos and his grandson Jarom—the book of Omni reveals a long period, from before 400 B.C. to after 200 B.C., when the small plates of Nephi…are no more than an outline.
The sacred record is passed from father to son for five generations, essentially without addition, until Abinadom tells us why the record is so sparse in a haunting commentary on his nation’s spiritual decline: “I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy [the last recorded was to Enos nearly 300 years before]; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written” (Omni 1:11).Eugene England, Benjamin the Great King, Ensign December 1976
The final description of King Benjamin before the book of Mosiah reveals the means by which King Benjamin achieved peace. Mormon describes King Benjamin as a holy man who labored with the prophets to establish peace in the land “with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul” (Words of Mormon 1:18). Following this time of great contention, King Benjamin and his people enjoyed continual peace throughout the remainder of his reign. So great was the character of King Benjamin he received the plates from Amaleki (Omni 1:25).
Knowing the context of King Benjamin’s life and his link to the plates offers greater context to his first recorded words. King Benjamin had witnessed the physical dangers of war, as well as the spiritual famine that comes from neglecting scripture:
My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God.
I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief.
And now, my sons, I would that ye should remember to search them diligently, that ye may profit thereby.Mosiah 1:3, 5, 7
How does your own scripture study communicate the value you place on the words of the prophets? In a Sunday School class almost three months ago, we discussed the importance of diligent scripture study using a brief survey. Take a moment to complete the survey once more and consider how you can continue to improve your study of the scriptures.
Of Service and Unprofitable Servants
A key aspect of King Benjamin’s final address is his focus on equity and fairness. As king, he taught through example by serving his people in humility (Mosiah 2:10-14). Throughout his message, King Benjamin returns to the vital nature of service to those in need. His call mirrors the Savior’s, who ceaselessly served and invited us to do the same. Ponder the following invitations from the Lord:
In his first address as an apostle, Elder Dallin H. Oaks also focused on the virtues of service:
Service is an imperative for those who worship Jesus Christ.
When we think of service, we usually think of the acts of our hands. But the scriptures teach that the Lord looks to our thoughts as well as to our acts.
The scriptures make clear that in order to purify our service in the Church and to our fellowmen, it is necessary to consider not only how we serve, but also why we serve. If our service is to be most efficacious, it must be accomplished for the love of God and the love of His children.Dallin H. Oaks, Why Do We Serve?, General Conference October 1984
As we seek to serve those around us, we should remember to serve humbly. King Benjamin reminded us that “if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:21). We should not serve to elevate our own status and recognition. Instead, we should serve to follow the example of Jesus Christ who served selflessly. Of the Lord’s perfect example and sacrifice Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin stated:
How can we ever repay the debt we owe the Savior? He paid a debt He did not owe to free us from a debt we can never pay. Because of Him, we will live forever. Because of His infinite Atonement, our sins can be swept away, allowing us to experience the greatest of all the gifts of God: eternal life.
Can such a gift have a price? Can we ever make compensation for such a gift? The Book of Mormon prophet King Benjamin taught “that if you should tender all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess…and serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”Joseph B. Wirthlin, Earthly Debts, Heavenly Debts, General Conference April 2004
Our condition as unprofitable servants should not discourage us from service. Rather, it should cleanse us of any self-centered tendencies and redirect our focus outwards. Since it may be difficult to serve in more conventional ways during this time of uncertainty, let us strive to find new ways to uplift. For when we serve others, we serve God (Mosiah 2:17).
When I see someone who is in need
Whom I can comfort, clothe, or even feed
I realize how much I have, and I know it’s given to me,
To relieve the suff’ring that I see.
So I give my substance to the poor
To pay my debt, but then I’m given more;
And so I never can repay the One who has helped me so to live
But I can show love in how I give.
And when I serve others with loveCounsel of King Benjamin, Laura Ashton
I am uplifted and filled with peace;
It seems that I’m the one who receives;
I’m given strength that comes from above.