One of the best things about today’s reading is that half of it was delivered by an “angel from God” (Mosiah 3:2), making King Benjamin’s message one of “glad tidings of great joy”! (v.3. You will notice “joy” come up also in verses 4 and 13.) What exactly are his “glad tidings of great joy”? Well, verses 5-18 are a non-stop “tidings” (news, information, intelligence) of “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning” (v. 8). And, indeed, just as the angel had declared (Mosiah 3:4), the people were filled with joy, but it was not until after they were filled with the “fear of the Lord” (Mosiah 4:1). You will have to examine verses 2-3 to figure out how they went from the “fear of the Lord” to being “filled with joy” (Joy comes up another four times in this chapter!).
Once they realize their dependence on the Lord for “a remission of their sins” (4:3,11,20) in verses 1-4, King Benjamin helps the people to understand how to “retain” a remission of their sins (vv.12,20,26) in verses 5-30, with a final admonition to “remember, and perish not” (v.30).
I have included a short story, two songs, and a modern-day Apostle’s Facebook post that really help me understand these chapters better. I hope they will be beneficial to you as well!
The Great Divorce
“I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder…What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. ‘Shut up, I tell you!’ he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then he turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains. ‘Off so soon?’ said a voice. The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of A [blazing] summer day. ‘Yes. I’m off,’ said the Ghost. ‘Thanks for all your hospitality, But it’s no good, you see. I told this little chap’ (here he indicated the Lizard) ‘that he’d have to be quiet if he came—which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won’t do here: I realize that. But he won’t stop. I shall just have to go home.’ ‘Would you like me to make him quiet?’ said the flaming Spirit—an angel, as I now understood. ‘Of course I would,’ said the Ghost. ‘Then I will kill him,’ said the Angel, taking a step forward. ‘Oh—ah—look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,’ said the Ghost, retreating. ‘Don’t you want him killed?’ ‘You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.’ ‘It’s the only way,’ said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the Lizard. ‘Shall I kill it?’ ‘Well, that’s a further question. I’m quite open to consider it, but it’s a new point, isn’t it? I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here—well, it’s so…embarrassing.’ ‘May I kill it?’ ‘Well, there’s time to discuss that later.’ ‘There is no time. May I kill it?’ ‘Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please—really—don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.’ ‘May I kill it?’ ‘Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.’ ‘The gradual process is of no use at all.’ ‘Don’t you think so? Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well today. It would be most silly to do it now. I’d need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps.’ ‘There is no other day. All days are present now.’ ‘Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did.’ ‘It is not so.’ ‘Why, you’re hurting me now.’ ‘I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.’ ‘Oh, I know. You think I’m a coward. But it isn’t that. Really it isn’t. I say! Let me run back by tonight’s bus and get an opinion from my own doctor. I’ll come again the first moment I can.’
‘This moment contains all moments.’ ‘Why are you torturing me? You are jeering at me. How can I let you tear me in pieces? If you wanted to help me, why didn’t you kill the [darn] thing without asking me—before I knew? It would be all over by now if you had.’ ‘I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?’ The Angel’s hands were almost closed on the Lizard, but not quite. Then the Lizard began chattering to the Ghost so loud that even I could hear what it was saying. ‘Be careful,’ it said. ‘He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever. It’s not natural. How could you live? You’d be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn’t understand. He’s only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn’t for us…And I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again. I’ll give you nothing but really nice dreams—all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent…’ ‘Have I your permission?’ said the Angel to the Ghost. ‘I know it will kill me.’ ‘It won’t. But supposing it did?’ ‘You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.’ ‘Then I may?’ ‘…blast you! Go on, can’t you? Get it over. Do what you like,’ bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, ‘God help me. God help me.’ Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken-backed, on the turf. ‘Ow! That’s done for me,’ gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.
“For a moment I could make out nothing distinctly. Then I saw, between me and the nearest bush, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the upper arm and the shoulder of a man. Then, brighter still and stronger, the legs and hands. The neck and golden head materialized while I watched, and if my attention had not wavered I should have seen the actual completing of a man—an immense man…not much smaller than the Angel. What distracted me was the fact that at the same moment something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. At first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed. Its hinder parts grew rounder. The tail, still flickering, became a tail of hair that flickered between huge and glossy buttocks. Suddenly I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with mane and tail of gold. It was smooth and shining, rippled with swells of flesh and muscle, whinneying and stamping with its hoofs. At each stamp the land shook and the trees dindled. The new-made man turned and clapped the new horse’s neck. It nosed his bright body. Horse and master breathed each into the other’s nostrils. The man turned from it, flung himself at the feet of the Burning One, and embraced them. When he rose I thought his face shone with tears, but it may have been only the liquid love and brightness (one cannot distinguish them in that country) which flowed from him. I had not long to think about it. In joyous haste the young man leaped upon the horse’s back. Turning in his seat he waved a farewell, then nudged the stallion with his heels. They were off before I knew well what was happening. There was riding if you like! I came out as quickly as I could from among the bushes to follow them with my eyes; but already they were only like a shooting star far off on the green plain, and soon among the foothills of the mountains. Then, still like a star, I saw them winding up, scaling what seemed impossible steeps, and quicker every moment, till near the dim brow of the landscape, so high that I must strain my neck to see them, they vanished, bright themselves, into the rose-brightness of that everlasting morning…
“‘Do ye understand all this, my Son?’ said the Teacher. ‘I don’t know about all, Sir,’ said I. ‘Am I right in thinking the Lizard really turned into the Horse?’ ‘Aye. But it was killed first. Ye’ll not forget that part of the story?’ ‘I’ll try not to, Sir. But does it mean that everything—everything—that is in us can go on to the Mountains?’ ‘Nothing, not even the best and noblest, can go on as it now is. Nothing, not even what is lowest and most bestial, will not be raised again if it submits to death. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. Flesh and blood cannot come to the Mountains. Not because they are too rank, but because they are too weak. What is a lizard compared with a stallion? Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering, whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed'” (C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, Ch. 11, p. 98-105).
An elegant statement in Benjamin’s speech is his admonition of belief in Mosiah 4:8-10. Notice the reinforcing rhythms found in the pairs of word and redoubled echoes of Benjamin’s eight-part elegy:
1 And this is the means whereby salvation cometh,
And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of.
2 Neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved
Except the conditions which I have told you.
3 Believe in God, believe that he is
And that he created all things both in heaven and in earth.
4 Believe that he has all wisdom
And all power both in heaven and in earth.
5 Believe that man doth not comprehend all the things
Which the Lord can comprehend.
6 And again believe that ye must repent of your sins
And forsake them.
7 And humble yourselves before God
And ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you.
8 And now if you believe all these things
See that ye do them.
The following songs seem to me to fit well with Mosiah 4. What do you think?
“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
“O Divine Redeemer”
Elder Dale G. Renlund shared the following Facebook post that goes right along with Mosiah 4:
Ruth and I enjoyed being with so many faithful sisters at the BYU Women’s Conference on Friday.
As part of that talk we shared an important lesson that we learned from our daughter, Ashley. When Ashley was just four years old she had developed a highly evolved, go-to-bed avoidance behavior. She simply did not want to go to bed and miss out on any family discussion. One evening, after about five times of getting up, she got up yet another time and said she wanted a snack. Ruth said, “Ashley, you’re just playing with us!” and tucked her in with some firmness. I was actually surprised when, no more than 30 seconds later, she was up again. But this time it was different. She held a paperback Book of Mormon in her hand, her lower jaw was quivering, and with some indignation she said, “But Mom, Mosiah 4:14!”
Where it says, “And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry.”
Of course, Ashley got her snack. Who can resist a child quoting scripture about parental responsibilities?
After Ashley got her snack and went to bed, we looked at the context of this scripture that she had used so cunningly. We learned that it is not a commandment to give our children snacks at bedtime. It is actually a consequence or a fruit of something else mentioned earlier in the masterful address by King Benjamin.
In Mosiah chapter 4, beginning in verse 12, we read: “And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins. … And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably. … And ye will [give your children snacks at bedtime, or you will] not suffer your children that they go hungry.”
These fruits, or consequences, rest on the meaning of “this.” It is certainly desirable because if we do this, we will always rejoice, be filled with the love of God, always retain a remission of our sins, not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and will not suffer our children that they go hungry.
We discovered that King Benjamin was teaching that this is to be absolutely converted to Jesus Christ, to remember God’s greatness, to humble ourselves, to pray to God daily, and to stand steadfastly in faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. If we do this, then all those fruits or consequences flow naturally.
The underlying, fundamental principle we shared is that conversion to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement is the key to developing charity, the pure love of Christ. The development of charity then leads to the development of other Christlike attributes. (https://www.facebook.com/DaleGRenlund/posts/1710837285859780?pnref=story)
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