King Benjaminby Stephen D. Ricks
Before he died, King Benjamin gathered his people to the temple to speak to them. Speaking from a tower, he taught his people to serve one another and to keep the commandments. Artist, Gary L. Kapp
Benjamin, son of Mosiah1, was an important king in Nephite history (d. c. 121 B.C.). His reign came at a crucial juncture in the history of the Nephites and was important both culturally and politically. His father, Mosiah1, "being warned of the Lord," had led the Nephites out of the land of Nephi to the land of Zarahemla (Omni 1:12, 19). Thereafter, during his own reign, Benjamin fought, as was customary for kings in the ancient world (cf. Mosiah 10:10), with his "own arm" against invading Lamanites (W of M 1:13), keeping his people "from falling into the hands of [their] enemies" (Mosiah 2:31). He succeeded in consolidating Nephite rule over the land of Zarahemla (Omni 1:19) and reigned there "in righteousness" over his people (W of M 1:17).
Benjamin, described as a "holy man" (W of M 1:17) and "a just man before the Lord," also led his people as a prophet (Omni 1:25) and was, with the assistance of other prophets and holy men, able to overcome the contentions among his people and to "once more establish peace in the land" (W of M 1:18). Accordingly, Amaleki, who was himself "without seed," entrusted Benjamin with the record on the "small plates" (Omni 1:25). Keenly interested in the preservation of sacred records, Benjamin taught his sons "in all the language of his fathers" and "concerning the records on the plates of brass" (Mosiah 1:2-3).
Mosiah 2-6 records Benjamin's farewell address, designed primarily to effect a "change in heart" in his people and to bring them to Jesus Christ. He deals with man's obligations to his fellow men and to God, punishment for rebellion against God, gratitude, faith, and service. This address is as relevant now as it was when first presented. In addition, reporting the words spoken to him by an angel, Benjamin prophesied that "the Lord Omnipotent shall come down from heaven among the children of men" as the Messiah, "working mighty miracles" (Mosiah 3:5). Further, Benjamin declared that the Messiah would "be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and his mother shall be called Mary" (3:8)the earliest mention of her name in the Book of Mormon. Moreover, Jesus would "suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer" (3:7). After being crucified, Jesus would "rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world" (3:10). Significantly, Benjamin taught that the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ was in effect for him and his people, "as though he had already come" to earth (3:13).
The impact of Benjamin's address on subsequent Nephite generations can be gauged by how much it is mentioned later in the Book of Mormon. Following Benjamin's death, his son and successor, Mosiah2, sent Ammon and fifteen other representatives from Zarahemla to the land of Nephi (Mosiah 7:1-6), where they found the Nephite king Limhi and his people in bondage to the Lamanites. After the representatives had identified themselves, Limhi caused his people to gather at the local temple, where he addressed them. Thereafter, Ammon "rehearsed unto them the last words which King Benjamin had taught them, and explained them to the people of king Limhi, so that they might understand all the words which he spake" (Mosiah 8:3). Similarly, Helaman 2 (c. 30 B.C.) admonished his sons Lehi 4 and Nephi 2 to "remember the words which King Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ" (Hel. 5:9). These words mirror one of the central themes of Benjamin's address: "Salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ" (Mosiah 3:18-19; cf. Hel. 14:12).
After a long and prosperous reign, Benjamin died about 121 B.C. No higher tribute was paid to his greatness than that given by his son Mosiah 2. In a discourse given at the end of his own reign, in which he considers the advantages and pitfalls of various forms of government, Mosiah says, "If ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people, then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you" (Mosiah 29:13).
Nibley, Hugh W. An Approach to the Book of Mormon. In CWHN 4:295-310.