Mosiah Chapter 5
Mosiah 5:1-2 Response of the people to Benjamin's speech: We have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.
Mosiah 5:13 How knoweth a man the master whom he has not served?
1 And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them.
verse 1 It is obvious that Benjamin is highly concerned over the spiritual welfare of his people.
2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: 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.
verse 2 One of the definitions for wrought in Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language is, "effected; produced."
"We have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually." One's disposition refers to one's nature, desires, inclinations, or feelings. When we experience and feel the light of Christ-when we are filled with the Spirit of God-we are also filled with the love of God. We feel this love, we experience it. It brings to us a feeling of unspeakable joy. Nephi testified: "He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh" (2 Nephi 4:21). In his 1832 account of the First Vision, Joseph smith wrote: "My soul was filled with love, and for many days I could rejoice with great joy." The 1835 account states: "A pillar of fire . . . rested down upon me, and filled me with unspeakable joy" (Backman, The First Vision, 157, 159). During such rare and privileged moments, the soul's darkness is swallowed up in the light of the Holy Spirit. All ungodly appetites, desires, and inclinations vanish. Thus enveloped in the very peace and virtue of Christ, sin in any form becomes, at the time, an impossibility. The divine nature prevails. It has been said that Spirit, glory, joy, and love are inseparable principles of righteousness and truth. If one is present, then they are all present to some degree. When we earn these spiritual gifts, these become permanent characteristics. Then we are ready for our exaltation. For only those who have become one with God in righteousness and truth can become one with him in power and dominion (D&C 121:36-37).
Benjamin's people had experienced, at the hands of the Spirit, the miracle of having been spiritually reborn (see the commentary for Mosiah 3:19, Mosiah 4:30, and 3 Nephi 19:13-14). Obviously their consciences and their desires had also benefited from a spiritual rebirth. See other instances of this rebirth in Alma 13:11-12 (this passage applies to those among the Church that had been ordained high priests) and in Alma 19:33-34 (this passage applies to the household of the newly converted Lamoni). Each had experienced a modicum of spiritual growth. Keep in mind, however, that their sanctification is not complete. Along the road to spiritual progress, they likely will yet experience some ups and downs.
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.
verse 3 When we receive a testimony of Jesus by personal revelation through the Spirit of God, we may receive from him not only the gift of testimony but his other gifts as well, including the gift of prophecy.
4 And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.
verse 4 "Our king" is Benjamin. Benjamin's people are speaking. This faith is an incremental accumulation of gifts received by personal revelation from the Holy Spirit. For a discussion of the different aspects of faith, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1. The pertinent chapters include chapters 9, Revealed Faith, 10, Deliberate Faith and Revealed Faith, and 11, Other Notes on Faith.
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, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.
verse 5 "that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment . . . that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God" As has been previously mentioned, the people of King Benjamin were already baptized members of the Church and had already taken upon themselves the name of Christ. In association with Benjamin's sermon, his people not only renewed this covenant, but seemed to enter into an even richer covenant with the Lord at a more sacred level. In so doing, they covenanted to keep the commandments of God throughout the remainder of their mortal lives. We have previously likened this expanded covenant relationship as being analogous to our present-day temple covenants and temple endowment (see also the verses which follow).
Again, as was discussed in the commentary for Mosiah 2:33, a word of caution is warranted in interpreting the simplified concept of our post mortal existence found in the Book of Mormon. Here Benjamin's people indicate that they have been taught that if they do not keep their covenant with God, they will bring upon themselves "never-ending torment" and "drink out of the cup of the wrath of God." Perhaps we ought to be cautious about taking this verse too literally. The only "never-ending torment" we know about is living with Satan as sons (and daughters) of Perdition. These Nephites listening to King Benjamin at the temple would not likely have been capable of sinning to that extent. It seems unlikely that they were capable of committing the sin against the Holy Ghost which they would have to commit to land themselves in outer darkness with Satan and his angels.
6 And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them; and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant.
verses 7-12 John W. Welch and Terrence L. Szink have seen in these next six verses evidences of the ancient Hebrew scapegoat ritual (FARMS Update in Insights [January 1995], 2). As prescribed in Leviticus 16, two goats were set before the high priest. From an urn, he drew two lots to determine which goat was to be declared "for the Lord" and which "for Azazel," a desert-dwelling demon. Apparently the lot "for the Lord" was always placed on the head of the goat on the right hand of the priest, while Azazel's would be on the left. The goat for the Lord was then sacrificed and its blood was used to purge the temple. The high priest transferred Israel's sins to the other goat, and it was then taken out into the desert.
The reader is left to himself to discover any evidence in these verses of the ancient scapegoat ritual.
7 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.
verse 7 The people of Benjamin had just entered into a sacred covenant with the Lord. In return, the Lord here gave them a special name (see Mosiah 1:11). What exactly is happening here? We do know that each person who joins the Church of Christ takes upon himself the name of Christ. We have argued previously, however, that most of Benjamin's people were already members of the Church of Christ. Benjamin and other "holy men" and "prophets" had been living among them teaching them the gospel (Words of Mormon 1:17-18). Apparently something more special and more sacred was occurring here. Because of the purity of the hearts of Benjamin's people, they are blessed to become "children of Christ." They are adopted into the spiritual family of Christ-"spiritually begotten" by Christ. They are "born again" or "born of God" and are granted a position eternally at his "right hand." They are given a proclivity to be like Christ-to have his spiritual image in their countenances. Indeed, they have been blessed to enter into covenants perhaps identical to those available to us in the temple today. Perhaps they are receiving something akin to their temple endowment! (see "Endowment of Power" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 18, The Temple).
"ye shall be called the children of Christ" While Christ is not the father of our spirits, he is the "author of [our] eternal salvation" (Hebrews 5:9). He has been assigned by the Father to be our advocate, our Lord, our God, our Father during our mortal sojourns.
The children of Christ are those who have entered into the covenant of baptism, hearkened to the words of the prophets, put off the natural man, and become "new creatures" through the Holy Ghost. They have also entered into a sacred and solemn covenant relationship with the Savior (equivalent to temple endowment). Fathers give life. Jesus's redemptive act affords both rebirth in this life and the opportunity for eternal life in the world to come.
The reader may wish to also look over the other Book of Mormon verses that contain the concept of "children" or "child" or "sons" of Christ. These include Mosiah 27:25; 3 Nephi 9:17; 4 Nephi 1:17, Mormon 9:26, Ether 3:14; Moroni 7:19; and Moroni 7:48.
8 And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. 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.
verse 8 The word "head" means name or title.
"there is no other head whereby ye can be made free" Each individual possesses agency or "free agency," as we in the Church are wont to call it. Agency is not negotiable. It can be neither given nor taken way. It is given without price to each and every individual. Agency is simply the right to choose among available alternatives.
To be free is to have freedom. Freedom, sometimes called liberty, is the blessing of having many, rather than limited, choices. Freedom is not the entitlement of every person. Rather, freedom must be earned, and it is often hard won. To be truly free means to have the earned opportunity, based on the righteousness of one's previous unrestrained decisions and choices, to rise to the loftiest heights. Because of the fall of man and also because of our own sins, each of us is deprived of our most essential freedoms. It is possible we may never again live in the presence of our God. It is possible we will never be free of Satan's rule and influences. There is only one way by which we can be free again. There is only one ultimate freedom. It is the freedom to choose whether or not we will live with God forever. And that freedom must be earned. And it will inevitably be "hard won" (see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 13, Agency and Freedom). And there is only one name by which we may be rescued or redeemed (D&C 18:23; 2 Nephi 2:26; Mosiah 3:17; Acts 4:12).
9 And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ.
verse 9 "whosoever doeth this" Whosoever takes upon himself the name of Christ by covenant and then endures in keeping that covenant.
10 And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God.
verses 9-10 "At the Great Assembly when all living things must appear in the presence of the King to acclaim him, every individual must be in his proper place, at the right hand or left hand of God" (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 6, 305-06).
11 And I would that ye should remember also, that this is the name that I said I should give unto you that never should be blotted out, except it be through transgression; therefore, take heed that ye do not transgress, that the name be not blotted out of your hearts.
12 I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.
verses 10-12 These verses contain another compelling example of chiasmus which is a pattern of writing found in Hebrew writings. See the supplemental article, The Hebrew Language and the Book of Mormon. For the convenience of the reader, the chiastic diagram follows:
verse 12 "that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called" In order to "hear and know the voice" of the Savior, he must be revealed to us by the Spirit of God. Thus we come to a relationship with him where we more than merely know about him. Rather, we come to truly and intimately know him-this is a "testimony" of Jesus Christ.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has taught that when an individual hears a testimony born of the Savior, they sometimes perceive it as "an echo" from a former time. All of the inhabitants of earth attended the grand premortal councils before this earth was. There, all of us came to know and love the Savior. On coming here to earth, the veil was drawn, but not completely. A testimony born of him here on earth sometimes nudges and stirs within us a deeply held memory and conviction (Mission Presidents' Training Seminar, Missionary Training Center, June 1999). President Joseph F. Smith taught: "All those salient truths which come home so forcibly to the head and heart [of men here on earth] seem but the awakening of the memories of the spirit. Can we know anything here that we did not know before we came here? . . . But in coming here, we forgot all, that our agency might be free indeed, to choose good or evil, that we might merit the reward of our own choice and conduct. By the power of the Spirit, in the redemption of Christ, through obedience, we often catch a spark from the awakened memories of the immortal soul, which lights up our whole being as with the glory of our former home" (Gospel Doctrine, 12-14).
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?
verse 13 Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote: "By serving Jesus and by thinking of him we draw closer to him and are enlightened. Otherwise, we become estranged from his exemplification as well as from him" (Men and Women of Christ, 58). Elder Maxwell also described the results when a disciple seeks to know the thoughts and intents of the Master's heart and strives to serve him: "For serious disciples, the greater their knowledge, the greater their meekness. The more such individuals associate with and are taught by the Lord, the more they strive to become like him and the more they wish to declare His gospel" (Meek and Lowly, 117). Clearly discipleship requires considerable thinking about, praying to, and serving God.
14 And again, doth a man take an ass which belongeth to his neighbor, and keep him? I say unto you, Nay; he will not even suffer that he shall feed among his flocks, but will drive him away, and cast him out. I say unto you, that even so shall it be among you if ye know not the name by which ye are called.
verse 14 Benjamin uses a rather hard-hitting analogy here as he compares the disobedient and wicked to an ass among a neighbor's flocks. "If ye know not the name by which ye are called," he warns them, ye shall be "cast out," as a strange animal is cast out of a flock by the owner to whom it does not belong.
15 Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.
verse 15 "I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works" Being "steadfast and immovable" is arriving at that state of faith and conviction which enables the saint to undergo tribulation, temptation, and persecution while remaining resolute and unwavering in their spiritual convictions (see also 1 Nephi 2:10).
Benjamin closes his sermon by reminding his people of the necessity of enduring to the end in righteousness. They were not yet sealed up to eternal life, but the promise was theirs if they persisted in good works. He then provides them with a glimpse of exaltation.
"Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his" Benjamin's people have had the remarkable experience of making binding and sacred covenants with God. As has been pointed out, this experience is likely analogous to receiving their temple endowments. Here they are told that if they persist in righteousness, they will be sealed up to eternal life and ultimately exalted.