Scot

Elder Neal A. Maxwell called the chapters we are studying today the “Manual of Discipleship”. Since Mormon could include only the hundredth part of the records he had available to him, this may be the reason he zeroed right in on King Benjamin’s address and gave us so much of it. He knew we in the latter days would want to learn discipleship too.

Maurine

Hello, we are Scot and Maurine Proctor and welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast on the Book of Mormon. Today our topic is “Filled with Love towards God and All Men” which covers part of King Benjamin’s address in Mosiah 1-3. The transcripts for these podcasts are at latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast. That’s latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast.  We also invite you to come and read the inspiring articles published each day on Meridian Magazine by scores of your favorite Latter-day Saint writers. It’s just a great way to begin your day. Visit the magazine at latterdaysaintmag.com and sign up for our free daily issue.

Scot

As our story begins, let’s get some context. Remember that in the days of King Benjamin, there had been a serious war with much bloodshed between the Nephites and the Lamanites. Nevertheless, the Nephites had won and King Benjamin had driven the Lamanites out of the land of Zarahemla. The Nephites are now living in a time of continual peace and security—not a small thing when they are in such a bad neighborhood with bloodthirsty foes.

King Benjamin, had not only shored up his country, but also his three sons, Mosiah, Helorum and Helaman, and he used the same method—the power of the word of God.

He had carefully taught them in all the language of their fathers, so that they could understand the scriptures and the prophecies. What language is that—this gets right into one of the areas discussed in the new book?

Maurine

We get that answer right away as he describes what the plates of brass have meant to them.

“My sons,” King Benjamin says, “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.

“For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children.”

Scot

So what was the language of the plates of brass, and what was the language King Benjamin’s sons had been carefully taught? Egyptian. Not reformed Egyptian. Egyptian.

He is clearly crediting their possession and understanding of the scriptures and covenants as what has mattered most, and, of course, why as a king he had been able to secure peace. Otherwise, they would have dwindled in unbelief, and been just like “our brethren the Lamanites.”

“I would that ye should remember to search them diligently” (Mosiah 1:7) he tells his sons.

Maurine

Now, it is time for him to turn the kingdom over to his son, Mosiah, and with the kingdom, Mosiah will receive stewardship of the plates of brass and all of the Nephite’s precious relics including the plates of Nephi, all the sacred records, the sword of Laban, and the Liahona. What is hardly known is that the sword of Laban and the Liahona were also in the box with the gold plates on the Hill Cumorah when Joseph Smith opened them. That blows a paradigm, doesn’t it? We always think of that box where Joseph Smith found the golden plates, to be just large enough to fit the plates. How would you fit a sword in there? In fact, it held much more, including a sword. It was bigger than we think. It makes sense that Moroni would have safeguarded the sacred relics of his people just as Mosiah did.

Scot

King Benjamin directs his son, Mosiah, to make a proclamation throughout all the land (that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?), to all the people to gather for the coronation. King Benjamin says to his son, “I shall proclaim unto this my people out of mine own mouth that thou art a king and a ruler over this people…and…I shall give this people a name, that thereby they may be distinguished above all the people which the Lord God hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I do because they have been a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord. And I give unto them a name that never shall be blotted out, except it be through transgression” (Mosiah 1:10-12).

Maurine

We learn that “All the people who were in the land of Zarahemla . . . gathered themselves together throughout all the land, that they might go up to the temple to hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them” (Mosiah 1:18)

So great a number came to this gathering, Mosiah, explains “that they did not number them” (Mosiah 2:2). They did pitch tents toward the temple, each family separate from the next.

Hugh Nibley said the description of this gathering was one of the most convincing evidences of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, because these sacred, national gatherings, called year rites, are described all over the ancient world. These national gatherings were a time when all things are reborn and the earth is created anew.

Now, as the Nephites are holding their great national celebration, they are celebrating their brilliant victories in war and their long peace. Thanks to King Benjamin this is a great, upbeat time of looking back with pride and achievement.

Scot

You’d expect two things at this moment in these ancient celebrations. First, the king would be praised, lauded and set above others with splendor and pomp.  Often, ancient kings saw themselves as ruling by divine right. They didn’t answer to anyone. In Egypt, the pharaohs believed they were gods.  Statues and monuments were built to him. His presence is unwatched. The rest would fall at his feet, unworthy to stand before him.  It is like the poem by Shelly where he describes a colossal wreck of a statue standing ruined in a desert that had once memorialized a king. The inscription on the ruin read, “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and Despair!”  Kings were the great, the horrible, the willful, the privileged.

Second, at a national gathering where there had been such profound victories in war and then a long period of peace, you’d expect the most pompous displays of superiority.  We are the greatest. We have vanquished our enemies and ground them to the earth. We are unbeatable, unmatched, a race of supermen. No one can stand against us.

Maurine

What is so marked about this Nephite gathering is that this is nothing like this self-inflated celebration you’d expect after a war victory, not even a little bit, because these are disciples of Jesus Christ. I think you see that more clearly when you note the contrast.

What is it the Nephites are taught instead? Let’s start with the king. Because the numbers are so great, Benjamin speaks from a tower and causes his words to be written and passed to the people so that all might receive his words. Though he stands on a tower, he does not consider himself above his people in any way.

He wants his people to hear and hearken.  Given the context of so many kings who believed they were gods, King Benjamin makes it clear that he is not “of myself more than a mortal man” (Mosiah 2: 10)

Scot

In fact, he says, “I was chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord…and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all my might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me” (Mosiah 2: 11).

Note, he is not even taking credit for his own strength here. This too is a gift. Because he recognizes the source of his kingship and any talent he has brought to his service as coming from God, he has been an entirely different king than you might usually find.

Joseph Smith noted in Doctrine and Covenants 121:39, “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.”

Maurine

Yet, this is not true for a king like Benjamin who is a disciple of Christ and profoundly understands where his power comes from. He has labored to teach his people the commandments and not allowed them to “murder or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery; nor even any manner of wickedness” (Mosiah 2:13).

He has not laden taxes upon them, but labored with his own hands for his support. Why? So he could answer with a clear conscience before God. In this he will be a great contrast to King Noah, whose story we’ll come upon soon, and who is a type of most of the world. If ever there were a testimony of why God-fearing men and women should be our leaders, this is it. Knowing God transforms a ruler into a servant leader.

That is what we see in our own prophets and apostles. People who consecrate all they have in the service of others.

Scot

I remember that once Michael Otterson, who was then head of Public Affairs for the Church, described the life of the apostles.

“Can you imagine what it would be like to be called to the Twelve? In most cases you have already had a successful career. You know you will continue to serve the Church in some volunteer capacity, but you have begun to think of your future retirement. The First Presidency and the Twelve, of course do not retire. Neither are they released. With their call comes the sure knowledge that they will work every day for the rest of their lives, even if they live into their nineties, until they literally drop and their minds and bodies give out. Their workday begins early and does not end at 5pm. The Twelve get Mondays off, and those Mondays are frequently spent preparing for the rest of the week. If they have a weekend assignment, they will often travel on a Friday afternoon. Periodically, even though in their 80s, they face the grueling schedule of international speaking conferences and leadership responsibilities.”

Maurine

Brother Otterson continued, “What about when they are home? I have the cell phone numbers of most of the Brethren because I sometimes have to call them in the evening, on weekends or when they are out and about. I’m not naïve enough to think that I am the only Church officer to do so. So even their downtime is peppered with interruptions. I invariably begin those calls by apologizing for interrupting them at home. I have never once been rebuked for calling. They are invariably kind and reassuring, even early in the morning or late at night.

“This is not a schedule you would wish on anyone. Yet they bear it with grace and find joy for some overwhelmingly important reasons – their testimony and commitment to be a witness of the Savior of the world and their desire to strengthen His children everywhere.” (Michael Otterson, “On the Record: Behind the Scenes at Public Affairs” https://latterdaysaintmag.com/on-the-record-behind-the-scenes-at-church-public-affairs/ )

Scot

King Benjamin told his people about his service to them, not to boast but, he said, “I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).

It reminds me of the Savior’s teachings in Matthew 25

“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in; Naked, and ye clothed me…

“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink

“When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

Maurine

The Lord gives this answer that King Benjamin echoes, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”(Matt. 25:35-40).

Look at the marvelous lack of self-consciousness on the part of the righteous in this scripture. They hardly think about the good they have done, let alone understand that when they have done it to the least of these, they have done it to the Savior.

In our moments when we swell in love and gratitude to the Savior, we think, what can I do to thank thee? What can I do to show my undying devotion and thankfulness for this mighty atonement thou hast wrought? The answer is right before our eyes. Serve others, even the least of these, and we are serving Him.

Scot

President Thomas Monson said, “Often we live side by side, but do not communicate heart to heart. There are those within the sphere of our own influence who, with outstretched hands, cry out, “Is there no balm in Gilead?”  He suggests that we ask ourselves, “What Have I Done for Someone Today?” (Thomas S. Monson, “What Have I Done for Someone Today? https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2009/10/what-have-i-done-for-someone-today?lang=eng )

Sometimes you get a glimpse into the dire needs and tender hearts of others, and you wish, somehow, you could make a difference in their lives. Yet, we can. Sometimes all it takes is a small gesture, but those who serve best are those who stopped, first, to cease the chatter in their own minds and open their eyes to really see into the heart of a fellow traveler on this planet.

Maurine

A few years ago, working with our daughter and readers of Meridian Magazine, we raised funds to drill a bore hole for an arid, Kenyan village on MacKinnon Road. Villagers, particularly the women, had been walking nearly two miles each way to bring water for their families, so water was essential. Now, bore holes are expensive because they require deep drilling into the earth and for this one our hole plunged 350 feet. Water wasn’t available any closer to the surface. Yet drilling for water also has this risk. You may spend a good amount of money and only hit brackish, unusable water.

You can’t imagine what a thrill it was to hit water deep into the earth and have it emerge at 2600 gallons per hour. As the water began to spray forth, the children giggled and played in it, and it was a happy moment.

Scot

More poignant for us was a meeting that happened a couple of days later in the evening. Because we had brought water to the village, a group of 17 young adults invited us to a round table meeting, so they could talk to us. It was a dark, almost magical, night as we sat at an outside table on a covered patio and looked around at their eager faces. They were pleased about their gathering because they had overcome every difference to come together. At our table sat scarfed Muslims, Christians and Oliver, a handsome, charismatic Masai warrior, whose long legs were like springs when he was jumping.

We had really come to care for each one of them during our time together, and so what they said next tore our hearts. They went around the table and each said that he or she had some talent. They wanted to use these talents to move beyond their prison of poverty. One hoped to go into politics and reshape his nation. One hoped to create a fish pond, so he could sell the fish. Another hoped to develop a trash collection business. One said he was a funny and hoped to be a stand-up comic. One could sing and hoped to be a singer. Their friends vouched for them. They did have these talents.

Maurine

There they were, as dressed up as they could be for the occasion, with a boundless hope shining in their eyes, and the light of the moon illuminating their eager faces. Our Masai warrior looked, in fact, like a young, muscled Masai warrior. We wanted to help each one achieve their dreams, because, they were a trembling presence of human potential. Here they sat, blocked and imprisoned, chained and shackled, these young people who had wonderful minds and gifts that they could feel dancing within them and they couldn’t let out.

Who knows who sat before us that night? The next best pilot, the next best architect, the comedian would brighten lives, a singer whose dulcet tones comforted?

It was brought home to us that night, what we had only realized dimly before—that vast human genius that is right here among us and buried behind sight.

Scot

It also reminded us that everyone has a story. Everyone has a need, and you don’t have to be in Africa or India to find that. Wally and Nancy Goddard are good at being able to walk into a store and find there the frightened, displaced refugee, who just needs help. Miles McKracken makes sure that your driveway is cleared on the toughest winter day. Bruce Barlow will give his time to help you untangle a knot in your family history. There are so many ways to serve, and inside each soul, is someone bigger and more than we can begin to understand. It is not merely a mortal you are asked to see, but an eternal being, whose light and power would one day astonish you.

Scot

It’s like King Benjamin said, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.” We can all give something, and if we really care to be a part of this work, the Lord is quick to answer this prayer, “Who can I help today?”

We said that in those ancient celebrations, besides praising the king, the people would have sung their victory in war. Our nation is indomitable. We are mighty and strong. We are invincible.

Maurine

Listen to the contrast, again, in what King Benjamin tells his people.

“O how you ought to athank your heavenly bKing!

“I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the athanks and bpraise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and cpreserved you, and has caused that ye should drejoice

“ I say unto you that if ye should aserve him who has created you from the beginning, and is bpreserving you from day to day, by lending you cbreath…and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your ewhole souls yet ye would be funprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2: 19-21)

Scot

It might seem like an unusual thing to call his entire people unprofitable servants.  Haven’t they just worked their guts out to bring peace? Doesn’t he care about their self esteem? Doesn’t it just plain make you feel bad to be called an “unprofitable servant”? In fact, if we are to be dwelling in the truth, we have to see more clearly.

King Benjamin has just explained, however, that we are profoundly in the Lord’s debt. “In the first place he has created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.” You are made of the dust of the earth and even that belongs to Him.

We assemble a little set of talents, experiences and skills, and feel proud of them. We have self-esteem about them as our culture says we should. We miss the point that even these and the strength to develop them were a divine gift to us.

Maurine

Beyond that, though he requires you to keep his commandments, as you do, “he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?” (Mosiah 2: 21-24).

You can’t get ahead of God’s gifts to you. They are persistent and perpetual.  You can’t get even with this abundant Giver, therefore we are all unprofitable servants. We can’t pay back His investment in us, but He gives all this because He loves us.

Yes, but why does King Benjamin have to remind us that we are nothing and that we are unprofitable servants? Doesn’t that dampen our self-concept?

Scot

Maybe King Benjamin reminds us of our nothingness because this important realization is the beginning of growth, because it is the beginning of seeing things as they really are.

It may surprise you to learn that one of the sicknesses of our culture is its emphasis on self-esteem. Nowhere in scriptures is the word self-esteem used, nor even the concept lauded as an important one. In fact, it is Satan’s counterfeit. If you think highly of yourself, then you will finally be OK. If you can be proud of your achievements, maybe this restless sense of disappointment inside of you will finally be dissipated.

Maurine

The problem is that the search for self-esteem is a futile one. It keeps our mind and energies on ourselves. It teaches us to compare ourselves with others. It puts us in the constant role of being a judge and critic of ourselves. This constant thirst for self-esteem can never be quenched because it is a lie.

It is not only the scriptures that tell us this. Modern research verifies the same. If you want someone to lose a sense of their worth, constantly try to build their self-esteem.

There is a t-shirt with a picture of a large dill pickle on it that says, “I’m kind of a big dill.”  We laugh at that t-shirt and the emotional impulse behind it because somewhere inside we know the truth. We are not big dills or big deals. (This is where my Utah accent shows up.)

Scot

We are something far better. We are loved. Think about that. Loved by One who has perfect love, and even now sees who you will be. You don’t have to earn love or scramble for importance. It is already a given.

We are growing, and therefore we don’t have to spend ourselves and our energies protecting our image, or either gloating or humiliated by who we used to be. We don’t have to polish up our sense of being important. None of us have yet seen who we will be.  I do have to say ‘impression management” can take a ton of energy and mental organizational skills.  It can dominate your life.

Maurine

Honestly, I have grown happier and happier in my life, as I have let go of the idea of self-esteem or the fixed mind set that says this is who I am. Suddenly I am much freer. I love the Lord and He loves me and I know it and I don’t have to work so hard to impress myself or anybody else.

Author and educator and senior Meridian writer, Dr. Wally Goddard said,

“Let’s imagine that I had a caring older brother or friend who wanted to help me [with my self-esteem], what would he have said to me? How would he have helped me?

“He might have said, ‘Hey, Wally, look at all your good qualities.’ He might have tried to convince me that I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and people like me.

“He would have failed. For every positive data point he shared, I could have offered ten negative ones—in part because I was so vigilant in observing my failings. Also because I’m a fallen person in a fallen world. The truth is that I have abundant failings. There is no denying that sad truth.

Scot

Wally continues, “He could have told me, ‘You’re a son of God. You have divine heritage and potential.’

I would have shaken my head: ‘Satan was also a son of God. So is every convict on death row.’

He might have tried: ‘You’re better than so many people in many areas.’

“You know the rejoinder because you’ve probably used it: ‘And I’m much worse than people in important areas. And I’m hopelessly below my standard and—more importantly—God’s standard.’”

Maurine

Wally said, “Yep. I was not to be cheered by cheap encouragement. I found the usual assortment of reassurances to be meaningless—even insulting.”

But, he said, that in this struggle, he finally learned a couple of key truths.

“First,” he said, “I was right: I was frequently a mess. Even now, decades later, I am still frequently a mess! In spite of my good intentions and continuing efforts, I am a fallen human in a fallen world. The scriptural teachings are correct; left to my own devices and self-centeredness, I am an enemy to God, myself and my fellow mortals (See Mosiah 3:19). And so are we all.

Scot

Yes, we remember King Benjamin’s words in Mosiah 3:19:

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

What is the natural man? The man [or woman] left in his own strength, driven by ego and self-centeredness, and not moved upon by the Spirit. The natural man is what we are until we turn wholeheartedly to the Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ, and let his matchless atonement move upon us.

Maurine

Wally said about being a natural man, who often makes a mess out of things, “We tend to ignore this uncomfortable truth because it doesn’t fit with our happy humanism. When we do, we have no convincing argument against our nagging self-disappointment. No matter how much we reassure ourselves that we ought to have abundant self-esteem, we know full well that we fall short of what we hope to be and what God commands us to be.”

His second point is, “Being imperfect is part of the plan. It is absolutely essential in order to test our mettle—in order to determine what we’re made of. Will we turn to hollow self-reassurance? Will we ignore the painful truth? Will we desperately work to make ourselves okay? Will we give up and surrender to our worst impulses?”

Scot

“Or,” he continues, “will we throw ourselves on the merits, mercy and grace of Him who is mighty to save? Only One option has any power to redeem us. Only One name under heaven has the power to rescue and transform us. There is only One Way.” End of quote. (Wallace Goddard, “The War between Self-Esteem and Salvation,”, Meridian Magazine, https://latterdaysaintmag.com/the-war-between-self-esteem-and-salvation/ )

It is a profoundly happy day when we stop desperately white-knuckling our way through life, and admit that we can’t do it without the merits and mercy of Him who is mighty to save. What happens is not that we think less of ourselves, it is that we suddenly see with clearer eyes, and we think more of Him. “I need thee,” we finally cry out and really mean it. “There is no other way.”

Maurine

This is why humility and meekness or so important. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “

“Meekness ranks so low on the mortal scale of things, yet so high on God’s: ‘For none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart’ (Moroni 7:44). The rigorous requirements of Christian discipleship cannot be met without the tutoring facilitated by meekness: ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly’ (Matthew 11:29)

“Meanwhile, the world regards the meek as nice but quaint people, as those to be stepped over or stepped on. Nevertheless, the development of this virtue is a stunning thing just to contemplate, especially in a world in which so many others are headed in opposite directions” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Meek and Lowly”, https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/neal-a-maxwell/meek-lowly/ )

Scot

This is why we learn in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.”

Humility aligns me with the most powerful person in the universe. While I am not the most important person in the world, I know I am important to Him. What I am invited to become is a humble and courageous and powerful learner.

President Henry B. Eyring said, “When we remember the Savior we see him as the creator of all things, about which the wisest of us knows so little. We remember our dependence on his sacrifice when we think of the fall of man and of our own sins. We remember his unfailing love for us and his arms extended in invitation to us when we think of the little we understand of what he did to atone for our sins. We remember that we will only come again to our Heavenly Father to live forever in families by obeying his commandments and having the Holy Ghost to guide us. And we remember his example of complete submission to the will of his Father and our Father.

Maurine

President Eyring continues, “Those memories, if we choose to invite them, can produce a powerful blend of courage and meekness. No problem is too hard for us with his help. No price is too great to pay for what he offers us. And still in our greatest successes we feel as little children. And in our greatest sacrifices we still feel in his debt, wanting to give more. That is a humility which is energizing, not enervating. We can choose that shield as a protection against pride. And when we make that choice, to remember him, we are at the same time choosing to do what can lead us to acquire the characteristics of great learners. (President Henry R. Eyring, “A Child of God https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/henry-b-eyring/child-god/).

I remember President Eyring said that once many years ago, he was going to a conference in Brazil, and while riding in the car with two sister missionaries, he asked them “What would you like to know about?” Both of them, eagerly and almost in chorus said, ’Tell us how we can become more humble?’

I thought at the time, if you could ask anything, why would it be about humility?” I was wrong. It is the foundation to growth and to a flourishing relationship with the Lord. End of quote.

Scot

Understand that you don’t yet know what you need to know, and even the smallest things may need an adjustment. Say, “I am a learner. I am growing. I can love myself and others without being complete yet.” Beg to the Lord, “Please teach me. Please empower me.” These are questions in prayer with powerful answers. The Lord has so much to teach you. He is planning to transform you.

Maurine

We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this has been Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. Next week will be Mosiah 4-6 called “A Mighty Change.” Thanks to Paul Cardall for the beautiful music and for Michaela Proctor Hutchins who produces and edits this podcast. Remember the transcripts for this podcast can be found at latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast.

Scot

See you next week.