Mosiah Chapter 29
Beginning at the time Lehi and his group left Jerusalem, the government of the people was patriarchal in nature. Lehi was the leader until his death. Then Nephi was appointed king, and the succession of Nephite kings began. After Nephi, his successors "were called by the people, second Nephi, third Nephi, and so forth, according to the reigns of the kings" (Jacob 1:11). This system was perpetuated until the time of Mosiah, the son of Benjamin. The only four kings over the main body of Nephites of whom we have specific knowledge are Nephi, Mosiah, Benjamin, and Mosiah, the son of Benjamin.
In this chapter the younger Mosiah will propose abolishing the monarchy and instituting instead a system of judges. These judges are to be elected by the "voice of the people." The judges would govern and pass judgment based upon the traditional or religious laws found in their scriptures.
Let us consider a few definitions and then try to classify this new Nephite government. A theocracy is government by someone who is considered divine, or at least divinely inspired. An example of a theocracy might be the period when the Israelites were governed by Moses. A Nephite prophet-king such as Benjamin or Nephi is another example. An autocracy is government in which one mortal man or woman possesses unlimited power. Kingship is an example of this kind of government. A democracy is government by the people themselves. Generally, in a democracy, the people exercise their will through a system of representation and through free elections. This would be classed as a republic or a parliamentary form of government.
We might classify this new system of Nephite government as a theodemocracy in that the people elected the judges who rendered judgments "according to the commandments of God" (verse 11).
The Book of Mormon has been criticized for containing "nineteenth century" concepts. Some of these critics have suggested that the book was actually written by Joseph Smith or someone else in the nineteenth century, and it is not in fact an account of an ancient civilization. This chapter contains a case in point. Book of Mormon critics have suggested that Mosiah, in this chapter, is dissolving the kingship and forming a representative or republican form of government. After all, they contend, a nineteenth century American author would certainly be expected to know something about this form of government, since the American Constitution was one of the world's prototype blue prints for democratic government. A close look at this new Nephite form of government, however, shows that most of the principles contained in the American Constitution are missing. In fact, Mosiah himself taught that the ideal form of government consisted of a righteous king (see Mosiah 29:13). Some "deficiencies" of the Nephite government relative to the American Constitution include:
1. The people could not remove the chief judge at the polls, as he stood for election only once and subsequently enjoyed a life tenure.
2. There were not three branches of government to check one another, since a single office encompassed all governmental powers. The chief judge was judge, executive, and legislator. In war time, he raised the army, armed them, and arranged provisions for them (see Alma 46:34; 60:1-9). He served interchangeably as chief judge and governor (see Alma 2:16; Alma 50:39; Alma 50:60:1; and 3 Nephi 3:1). He was also a lawmaker (see Alma 2:2-7; Alma 4:6; 51:1-7).
3. There was no legislature in the Book of Mormon. The only "representation" was in the choice of judges, not in the selection of legislators.
4. There was no taxation by a popular assembly.
Actually Book of Mormon political attitudes have more of an Old Testament flavor. Biblical peoples raised up kings among themselves. In the anointing of Saul, for example, a Book of Mormon theme is exemplified directly: The people demanded of Samuel a king, but Samuel tried to persuade them otherwise, warning them of the possible hazards (see 1 Samuel 8:1-22; 1 Samuel 10:18-25; Deuteronomy 17:14). Earlier, the Israelites had requested Gideon to be their king, and he had refused because, he said, "the Lord will rule over you" (Judges 8:22-23). In a similar way, Alma and Mosiah warned of the dangers of a king.
Another clear biblical tradition is the reliance on traditional law instead of a representative legislature. We have already mentioned the indifference to the separation of powers.
1 Now when Mosiah had done this he sent out throughout all the land, among all the people, desiring to know their will concerning who should be their king.
verse 1 Mosiah had appointed Alma high priest over the church. He had handed on the responsibility for the religious affairs of the people. He now turned his attentions to the secular governance of his people.
2 And it came to pass that the voice of the people came, saying: We are desirous that Aaron thy son should be our king and our ruler.
verse 2 Why was it that among the sons of Mosiah, the people selected Aaron? Was he the eldest of the brothers? Usually when the four sons of Mosiah are listed by name, the order is Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni (Mosiah 27:34; Alma 22:35; Alma 25:17; Alma 25:31:6). This might lead one to assume that Ammon and not Aaron was the eldest of the brothers. It is likely, however, that Aaron was the eldest, and that the people were assuming that their next king would be Mosiah's eldest son by the law of primogeniture. In verse 6 of this chapter, Aaron is referred to as "he to whom the kingdom doth rightly belong." In a few other places in the Book of Mormon text, the sons of Mosiah are referred to as "Aaron and his brethren" (Alma 22:1; Alma 23:4; Alma 23:25:6).
3 Now Aaron had gone up to the land of Nephi, therefore the king could not confer the kingdom upon him; neither would Aaron take upon him the kingdom; neither were any of the sons of Mosiah willing to take upon them the kingdom.
verse 3 Apparently Aaron and the other sons of Mosiah were simply not interested in becoming king. Their present endeavor (mission to the Lamanites) was consuming all of their energies.
4 Therefore king Mosiah sent again among the people; yea, even a written word sent he among the people. And these were the words that were written, saying:
verse 4 "even a written word sent he among the people" Mosiah composed a letter which was distributed among his people. In verses 5 through 36, Mormon quotes part of this letter and paraphrases other parts of it.
5 Behold, O ye my people, or my brethren, for I esteem you as such, I desire that ye should consider the cause which ye are called to consider-for ye are desirous to have a king.
6 Now I declare unto you that he to whom the kingdom doth rightly belong has declined, and will not take upon him the kingdom.
verse 6 "he to whom the kingdom doth rightly belong" Aaron has refused the kingship (see verse 2).
7 And now if there should be another appointed in his stead, behold I fear there would rise contentions among you. And who knoweth but what my son, to whom the kingdom doth belong, should turn to be angry and draw away a part of this people after him, which would cause wars and contentions among you, which would be the cause of shedding much blood and perverting the way of the Lord, yea, and destroy the souls of many people.
8 Now I say unto you let us be wise and consider these things, for we have no right to destroy my son, neither should we have any right to destroy another if he should be appointed in his stead.
9 And if my son should turn again to his pride and vain things he would recall the things which he had said, and claim his right to the kingdom, which would cause him and also this people to commit much sin.
verses 7-9 Mosiah, exercising divinely inspired foresight, perceived that it would prove to be disastrous to appoint another king instead of his own eldest son Aaron. He apparently felt it possible that Aaron might, at some future time, change his mind and decide that he wanted the kingship. After all, the office of king belonged to him by the law of primogeniture. If that were to occur, then Aaron and his adherents would do battle against the king and his supporters. This would result in much bloodshed including the death of the king or Aaron. Unwholesome and unrighteous motives would abound resulting in the eternal condemnation of many.
10 And now let us be wise and look forward to these things, and do that which will make for the peace of this people.
11 Therefore I will be your king the remainder of my days; nevertheless, let us appoint judges, to judge this people according to our law; and we will newly arrange the affairs of this people, for we will appoint wise men to be judges, that will judge this people according to the commandments of God.
verse 11 "let us appoint judges" Here is Mosiah's inspired recommendation to his people. The governmental judicial system that Mosiah establishes here will later be referred to as the "law of Mosiah" (Alma 11:1).
"to judge this people according to our law . . . according to the commandments of God" Mosiah desired to establish a free society, but he was fully aware that for people to exist successfully together there must be order based on law. Laws do, in some measure, abridge a people's freedom. They punish those acts which, if unchecked, would prove the sure destruction of a society. Thus the Lord holds individuals accountable for their acts in relation to the laws-not only for obeying them, but for making them and administering them (D&C 134:1).
The "commandments of God" are intended to form an absolute and unchanging standard for the laws against which the Nephites would be judged. This divine standard is vital. A godless society has no such standard. If a people believe there is no God, then there are no absolutes in their laws. They eventually come to believe they can choose their actions. Morality becomes a relative thing which can be altered to fit the whims of the majority. In a godless democracy the will of the majority becomes supreme, and it answers to no outside standard. This type of government is based on a philosophy which may be said to be humanistic.
How do you assess the direction the United States of America is taking today? Can the voice of the people always be depended upon to decide issues in righteousness? Do we base our system of laws on the commandments of God? There are some who feel the political future of the United States is gloomy, judging by the directions we are now following. The prophet Moroni will later warn, "Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ" (Ether 2:12).
12 Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just.
13 Therefore, if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people-I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you.
verses 12-13 These verses imply that the ideal form of government is a theocracy where the head of government is also the righteous head of the kingdom of God-even Jesus Christ himself. The next best is a theocracy in which the autocrat or king is a good and righteous man called by God to lead the people. He would establish and uphold the laws of God, and the people would be judged according to the commandments of God. Every other form of government formed by man is therefore a compromise and less than ideal. There are certain fundamental principles and safeguards that must be protected, however, in any acceptable form of government. Among the most important of these is the allowing of the "voice of the people" to be heard and to prevail.
What is the saints' responsibility when living under a government where the civil authority of that government comes into conflict with the authority of God? While the Lord may not always require submission to evil secular authority, we do "believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law" (Article of Faith 12). Jesus offered a valuable guideline when he said, "Render . . . unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Luke 20:21-25). Peter added the counsel, "Honour all men, love the brotherhood, fear God. Honour the king" (1 Peter 2:13-17). Elder Bruce R. McConkie pointed out that, "Subjection to secular power does not constitute an endorsement or approval of the governmental system involved" (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 687). The object of submission to secular authority is to maintain a peaceful life so that the people may be free to live their religion. Elder James E. Talmage counseled, "It is the duty of the saints to submit themselves to the laws of their country. Nevertheless, they should use every proper method, as citizens or subjects of their several governments, to secure for themselves and for all men the boon of freedom in religious service. . . . Their protests should be offered in legal and proper order" (The Articles of Faith, 422-23).
14 And even I myself have labored with all the power and faculties which I have possessed, to teach you the commandments of God, and to establish peace throughout the land, that there should be no wars nor contentions, no stealing, nor plundering, nor murdering, nor any manner of iniquity;
verse 14 Just as a wicked king such as Noah can foster wickedness among his people, so can a righteous king do much to inspire righteous behavior among his followers.
15 And whosoever has committed iniquity, him have I punished according to the crime which he has committed, according to the law which has been given to us by our fathers.
16 Now I say unto you, that because all men are not just it is not expedient that ye should have a king or kings to rule over you.
17 For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction!
18 Yea, remember king Noah, his wickedness and his abominations, and also the wickedness and abominations of his people. Behold what great destruction did come upon them; and also because of their iniquities they were brought into bondage.
verse 18 Mosiah's reference to King Noah suggests the possibility that Alma had been at least partly instrumental in converting Mosiah to his anti-monarchical position. Alma had likely discussed his negative experiences with King Noah, and this discussion had been deeply influential in producing Mosiah's new position. Undoubtedly another factor was Mosiah's experience translating the Jaredite record.
19 And were it not for the interposition of their all-wise Creator, and this because of their sincere repentance, they must unavoidably remain in bondage until now.
verse 19 "the interposition of their all-wise Creator" One of the definitions of interposition in Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language is, "intervention." The text suggests that the Lord had a role in deposing the wicked Noah and in Mosiah's dispatching Ammon and his men to rescue the people of limhi. And this because of sincere repentance among the people of Limhi.
20 But behold, he did deliver them because they did humble themselves before him; and because they cried mightily unto him he did deliver them out of bondage; and thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him.
21 And behold, now I say unto you, ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood.
22 For behold, he has his friends in iniquity, and he keepeth his guards about him; and he teareth up the laws of those who have reigned in righteousness before him; and he trampleth under his feet the commandments of God;
23 And he enacteth laws, and sendeth them forth among his people, yea, laws after the manner of his own wickedness; and whosoever doth not obey his laws he causeth to be destroyed; and whosoever doth rebel against him he will send his armies against them to war, and if he can he will destroy them; and thus an unrighteous king doth pervert the ways of all righteousness.
verses 21-23 To dethrone an unrighteous king requires considerable social unrest and even civil war. Also the refusal to obey his unrighteous laws also leads to destruction of the people.
24 And now behold I say unto you, it is not expedient that such abominations should come upon you.
verse 24 "it is not expedient that such abominations should come upon you" Here Mosiah utilizes a peculiar form of speech called antenantiosis which is discussed in the commentary for Jacob 4:8. In this figure of speech an expression is stated in terms of its negated opposite. The result is to emphasize the positive to a very high degree. His intent is not merely to say that it is not a good idea to commit or allow such abominations. Rather he is forcefully admonishing the people to prevent them.
25 Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.
verse 25 "by the voice of this people" Here is the essential democratic feature of the government which Mosiah is proposing. As stated in the introductory comments for this chapter, we should not jump to the conclusion that this Nephite government was a democracy similar to that of the United States. It was simply a unique form of democracy, but a democracy nonetheless wherein the majority ruled by popular vote. Again, we will briefly reiterate the features of this Nephite government which made it different from that of the United States: There was no parliamentary system, no constitution, no separate branches of government (no "checks and balances"), and the elected officers served for life.
26 Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law-to do your business by the voice of the people.
27 And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.
verses 26-27 In these profound verses, the Lord's criterion for allowing the destruction of a people is clearly set forth. Having a "free" form of government, which allows the voice of the people to have their say, is a privilege which must be continually earned by the people. They do so by exercising personal responsibility. Constant vigilance must be maintained in order to preserve this freedom. When the majority of a people come to choose iniquity, then that people will be destroyed. Such a nation is said to have "ripened in iniquity" (Ether 2:9; Ether 9:20). In this circumstance, societal destruction is the inevitable and just consequence. This warning is pertinent to all who read the Book of Mormon. It has special relevance to those people who inhabit the "mighty nation among the Gentiles," the United States of America (1 Nephi 22:7).
28 And now if ye have judges, and they do not judge you according to the law which has been given, ye can cause that they may be judged of a higher judge.
29 If your higher judges do not judge righteous judgments, ye shall cause that a small number of your lower judges should be gathered together, and they shall judge your higher judges, according to the voice of the people.
verses 28-29 While this new Nephite form of government does not contain the complete system of checks and balances found in a fully democratic form of government, these verses outline a system of judges which provides a limited strategy for checks and balances.
In spite of this reasonable form of government with built in checks and balances, we will eventually learn that wicked judges will combine with some who will seek to restore a system of kings. Their motivation is nobility and privilege for themselves. This group will ruin the government and bring destruction upon their society (Alma 10:27; 3 Nephi 6).
30 And I command you to do these things in the fear of the Lord; and I command you to do these things, and that ye have no king; that if these people commit sins and iniquities they shall be answered upon their own heads.
verse 30 Here Mosiah makes it clear that his intention in writing this letter to his people is not to suggest that they change their form of government, but rather to "command" them in the name of the Lord that they do so.
To be "in the fear of the Lord" is to be aligned with his will.
This verse implies what is made explicit in the following verse: that a king may absolve in some measure a people of some personal responsibility for their sins. These sins may be moral sins or political sins. An unrighteous king, as stated previously, may foster unrighteous behavior among his subjects, and then the king himself will bear some of the responsibility for his subjects' sins.
31 For behold I say unto you, the sins of many people have been caused by the iniquities of their kings; therefore their iniquities are answered upon the heads of their kings.
verse 31 Sometimes iniquitous kings result in iniquitous societies. The Lord sees the "inequality" between the autocratic king and the common people as causative of this problem (see verse 32). In these cases the Lord will hold the wicked kings responsible for the sins of the people. The Lord favors a system wherein there is no possibility that a wicked autocrat will lead his people astray. He prefers a system of equality ("a land of liberty") in which no leader can be to blame for the sins of the people (again, see verse 32). In that more ideal society, the people are responsible for their own sins.
32 And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people; but I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike, so long as the Lord sees fit that we may live and inherit the land, yea, even as long as any of our posterity remains upon the face of the land.
verse 32 "I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land" Mosiah decries the "inequality" in the land-that is, the difference between the king and the common man. This inequality is the root cause of a wicked autocrat's being able to adversely affect the moral performance of his people. The solution to this "inequality" is "a land of liberty," a land without a monarch. In such a land, "every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike." There is a downside to such a land: Every man is therefore responsible for his own sins. There is a profound implication in this verse. It is that in a land of liberty the people are at greater eternal risk. They are free to make personal choices, but then they must individually answer for their own sins. There is no absolute leader who compels them to do this or that and thus spare them that responsibility (see verse 34).
33 And many more things did king Mosiah write unto them, unfolding unto them all the trials and troubles of a righteous king, yea, all the travails of soul for their people, and also all the murmurings of the people to their king; and he explained it all unto them.
verses 33 "And many more things did king Mosiah write unto them" Obviously the prophet Mormon did not quote or paraphrase Mosiah's entire proclamation (see verse 4).
"unfolding unto them all the trials and troubles of a righteous king, yea, all the travails of soul for their people" It is interesting that part of Mosiah's anti-monarchical stance is based in part on the unfair burden that is placed on a righteous king-his "travails of soul" and the "murmurings" which he must endure.
The pronoun their in this phrase seems to have as its antecedent the word kings in verse 31. This phrase would probably read a bit better if the word king were changed to kings ("all the trials and troubles of righteous kings") or if the plural pronoun their were changed to his.
34 And he told them that these things ought not to be; but that the burden should come upon all the people, that every man might bear his part.
verse 34 "the burden should come upon all the people, that every man might bear his part" It would seem that when a form of government grants agency to a society, then it becomes essential that the people within that society assume more individual responsibility if that form of government is to be successful. A free society creates a better milieu for testing of a people against the gospel standard. But such a free society also comes with the possibility for abuse of individuals within that society.
In an article "Government by the Voice of the People," Byron R. Merrill observed: "The history of civilization is a continual balancing act between anarchy (freedom taken to its extreme) and tyranny (order taken to its extreme), with the pendulum swinging back and forth at different times. Freedom by law to act out one's choices requires enormous self-restraint, for without self-discipline freedom is so readily abused that external controls must be employed to maintain order and prevent chaos" (The Book of Mormon: Mosiah, Salvation Only Through Christ, 118). Brother Merrill quotes the Irish political theorist Edmund Burke: "Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites. . . . Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters" (The Works of Edmund Burke. 12 volumes, Boston: Little, 4:51-52).
35 And he also unfolded unto them all the disadvantages they labored under, by having an unrighteous king to rule over them;
verse 35 It would seem likely that the prophet/abridger Mormon still has the wicked king Noah in mind as he writes this verse and the following verse.
36 Yea, all his iniquities and abominations, and all the wars, and contentions, and bloodshed, and the stealing, and the plundering, and the committing of whoredoms, and all manner of iniquities which cannot be enumerated-telling them that these things ought not to be, that they were expressly repugnant to the commandments of God.
verse 36 Here are examples of the types of iniquities to which a people might be exposed because of having to live under an unrighteous monarch. In this verse, of course, Mosiah is "telling them that these things ought not to be."
37 And now it came to pass, after king Mosiah had sent these things forth among the people they were convinced of the truth of his words.
verse 37 Mosiah's letter had been persuasive, and the people were convinced.
38 Therefore they relinquished their desires for a king, and became exceedingly anxious that every man should have an equal chance throughout all the land; yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins.
verse 38 It is clear that there was a positive spirit of freedom brooding over the Nephites. The Nephites had lived under the authority of a king, albeit mostly righteous ones, for centuries. We might have expected them to be hesitant to give up their submissive security and jump right into a system where they had to determine their own future by their own choices. Much to their credit, they were obviously enthusiastically willing to do so.
39 Therefore, it came to pass that they assembled themselves together in bodies throughout the land, to cast in their voices concerning who should be their judges, to judge them according to the law which had been given them; and they were exceedingly rejoiced because of the liberty which had been granted unto them.
verse 39 "To cast in their voices" is, of course, to vote.
"according to the law which had been given them" Apparently these judges did not have the power to create the law. Rather, the law that they applied was "given them" by Mosiah. The judicial system established by Mosiah will later be referred to as the "law of Mosiah" (Alma 11:1), and the individual laws that Mosiah gave to them will be remembered several generations later as the "laws of Mosiah" (Helaman 4:22). These were the laws "which the Lord commanded him to give unto the people" (Ibid.). The laws of Mosiah likely did not make any radical changes in the tenets of the law of Moses, but more likely they consisted of mainly procedural changes (see verses 22-23)-mainly abolishing the kingship and establishing a system of judges. We will later learn that these judges were to be salaried (Alma 11:1). The law of Mosiah also will establish a system of legal monetary exchange equivalents (Alma 11:7). We will also learn that the laws of Mosiah dealt with other issues such as abolishing slavery (Alma 27:9), defining debtors as thieves (Alma 11:2), and giving the governor alone the jurisdiction over capital offenses (3 Nephi 6:22).
40 And they did wax strong in love towards Mosiah; yea, they did esteem him more than any other man; for they did not look upon him as a tyrant who was seeking for gain, yea, for that lucre which doth corrupt the soul; for he had not exacted riches of them, neither had he delighted in the shedding of blood; but he had established peace in the land, and he had granted unto his people that they should be delivered from all manner of bondage; therefore they did esteem him, yea, exceedingly, beyond measure.
verse 40 The word esteem in this verse means to prize; to set a high value on; to regard with reverence, respect, or friendship.
Lucre is profit obtained in a negative sense. The word has the sense of something base or unworthy.
41 And it came to pass that they did appoint judges to rule over them, or to judge them according to the law; and this they did throughout all the land.
verse 41 "they did appoint judges to rule over them" The "appointing" done in this and in the next verse was done by the vote of the people.
42 And it came to pass that Alma was appointed to be the first chief judge, he being also the high priest, his father having conferred the office upon him, and having given him the charge concerning all the affairs of the church.
verse 42 Even though Mosiah's people had previously "relinquished their desires for a king," the younger Alma is asked to assume both sacred and secular authority which gives him authority similar to that of a king.
Kingship had obviously been a popular institution among the Nephites, and some Nephites will have trouble letting go of it. This desire to have a king will persist among some Nephites. We will read in Alma chapters 51 through 62 of the struggles of the so- called "king-men" who will seek to reestablish the monarchical order among the Nephites (see also 3 Nephi 6:30; 3 Nephi 7:9-10).
43 And now it came to pass that Alma did walk in the ways of the Lord, and he did keep his commandments, and he did judge righteous judgments; and there was continual peace through the land.
44 And thus commenced the reign of the judges throughout all the land of Zarahemla, among all the people who were called the Nephites; and Alma was the first and chief judge.
verse 44 "thus commenced the reign of the judges" There are three different chronological or dating systems built into the Book of Mormon text. The first involves the number of years since Lehi's company left Jerusalem. The second begins here in 91 BC, the years of the judges. The third to be used will be the years since Christ's birth.
We will learn that Mosiah's great experiment with freedom will eventually fail. Nephite civilization will come to a tragic end because eventually the voice of the people will choose iniquity (see verse 27). One might well, then, ask the question: "Why did Mosiah recommend this change in the Nephite's form of government?" It seems clear that the Lord is best able to test the mettle of a people here in mortality when the responsibility for moral decisions is placed squarely upon their own shoulders. Mosiah was clearly inspired by God to recommend this change. For this same reason centuries later, the Lord will inspire men to create the Constitution of the United States of America (D&C 101:80) so that a people may be free to begin to prepare themselves for the second coming of the Savior.
45 And now it came to pass that his father died, being eighty and two years old, having lived to fulfil the commandments of God.
46 And it came to pass that Mosiah died also, in the thirty and third year of his reign, being sixty and three years old; making in the whole, five hundred and nine years from the time Lehi left Jerusalem.
47 And thus ended the reign of the kings over the people of Nephi; and thus ended the days of Alma, who was the founder of their church.