BoM 7: Unity in Christ

King Benjamin’s sermon is one of my favorite passages of scripture. I have held several formal leadership positions over the years and now as a mother especially I really admire and value King Benjamin’s selflessness, compassion, and love for his people. And his amazing success in uniting a diverse society is undeniable.

For Family Home Evening the week we studied King Benjamin’s sermon (Mosiah 2-5, BoM) I wanted to help my children embrace difference and understand the powerful way in which King Benjamin united his people. To do this I borrowed an idea from a lesson plan a missionary companion and I developed about 11 years ago to teach some of our friends who were getting baptized. We used heart shaped necklaces with the name of Christ written on them to discuss the baptismal covenant as found in Mosiah 18, BoM.

The goal of my FHE lesson was to have each person identify as different from everybody else and, through the scriptural narrative, reveal how we can become unified. To establish each individual in our home as a separate entity, I cut out construction paper hearts with a different color for each person. I wrote each person’s name on a heart. On the back of each heart I glued a matching red heart with the name of Christ written on it. To start the lesson I handed out the necklaces to each family member to wear with their name facing out, careful not to reveal the matching red backs.

I began by narrating King Benjamin’s struggles as a leader of a diverse society. He was king of a group of Nephites who had joined with an older society of Mulekites. A small group had headed off to seek new lands and was never heard from again which resulted in some social disturbance among the core group at Zarahemla. At the end of his reign, King Benjamin made a final effort to reinforce unity among his people.

My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.

Mosiah 2:9, BoM

King Benjamin taught his gathered people about the reality of God’s existence, the nature of life on earth, and the prophecies of a coming Savior. He helped them understand their relationship to God and the need each individual has for redemption. He testified boldly and invited the people to repent and keep the commandments. The response of the people is astounding to me:

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….

Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.

Mosiah 4:2; 5:2, BoM

King Benjamin invited the people to enter a covenant and use a new name to signify their acceptance of that two-way promise with God:

…the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant. 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.

…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.

Mosiah 5:6-7, BoM

Taking the name of Christ upon us

In our lesson I instructed everyone to turn over their necklaces to reveal the matching hearts with Christ’s name written on them.

The result of King Benjamin’s sermon and invitation was social unity. By writing the name of Christ on their hearts the people began to see each other with new eyes, as brothers and sisters with common goals, as essential parts of a whole community, as individuals whose welfare and happiness contributed to the overall harmony of their collective society. And the people lived in peace.

Day 26: Timely Lessons for Election Season

Mosiah 11

I was really trying to avoid getting political but I can’t ignore the many chapters in this part of the Book of Mormon that provide timely counsel about choosing government leaders. Bear with me. I will not make any allusions to past or current leaders in any country of the world. I want to present the information contained in these chapters because I find it important and instructive. Maybe it will help you, too.

I never cease to be intrigued by how quickly the Nephite and Lamanite nations organized themselves with some form of law and government out of nothing. Remember, three families sailed across the ocean in about 600 BCE to an unknown, uncharted land and created whole civilizations from the ground up. Their initial means of political organization––kingship––lasted for hundreds of years.

Mosiah 11 continues the history of a splinter group that left the core Nephite population (then under the guidance of King Mosiah I) and founded its own community some distance away in the land originally inhabited by Nephi’s family. They appointed their community’s founder, Zeniff, as king. By Mosiah 11, the son of Zeniff has become king:

Noah began to reign…. [H]e did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart…. [H]e laid a tax of one fifth part of all [the people] possessed…. [H]e put down all the priests that had been consecrated by his father…such as were lifted up in the pride of their hearts…. [A]nd thus they were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms. (Mosiah 11:1-3, 5)

It is bad enough that “the people labor[ed] exceedingly to support iniquity” (remember the heavy tax?) and that their king was really wicked, but what I find most instructive is how the attitude and behavior of the king impacted his subjects: “And he did cause his people to commit sin, and do that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord. Yea, and they did commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness” (Mosiah 11:2, emphasis added). In one generation, this brand new community founded and led at first by righteous leaders, turns to sin. “They also became idolatrous” (v. 7), “they were lifted up in the pride of their hearts…they did boast, and did delight in…the shedding of the blood of their brethren [the Lamanites]” (v. 19). The Book of Mormon writers make it abundantly clear where the blame lies for the degeneration of this community. The community became wicked “because of the wickedness of their king and priests” (v. 19, emphasis added).

This topic of the effect wicked rulers have on society surfaces again at the end of Mosiah and elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. It behooves us to pay attention. One lesson I take from this theme is a warning against wicked leaders and the damage they cause to society. Another lesson that has informed my application of the American political process is that the merits of a potential government leader can and should be judged by what s/he inspires his/her followers to do. In other words, look at how the supporters of a candidate behave and how they apply the candidate’s platform/rhetoric in their active support (e.g. stumping, at rallies, on social media). “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20, NT; 3 Nephi 14:20, BoM). A candidate who inspires his/her supporters to do anything contrary to God’s laws is a candidate who likely does not deserve my vote.