As always, consult the Gospel Doctrine Manual in your Lesson Preparation. Below are some supplemental thoughts and ideas:
2 – “taught in the language of his fathers” (Nephi says this too, 1 Nephi 1:1-2).
3-5 – “were it not for these plates” these verses underscore the importance of records; they “enlarge the memory” of the people, and keep the commandments “before [their] eyes” (see Alma 37:8).
4 – “language of the Egyptians”
Benjamin, Nephi (see 1 Nephi 1:2), and Moroni (see Mormon 9:32) all referred to the Egyptian language. In Mosiah 1:4–6, King Benjamin makes it clear there was a reason his sons needed to learn “the language of the Egyptians.” It was necessary in order to study the commandments contained on the brass plates and the plates of Nephi (see Mosiah 1:6). From the time of Nephi down to Moroni, the Nephites had a form of the Egyptian language (Book of Mormon Student Manual, Religion 121-122, 136).
8 – “many more things did King Benjamin teach his sons” You may have notice that beginning with the Book of Mosiah, the narrative of the Book of Mormon is no longer in first person. We are now reading Mormon’s abridgment of the large plates of Nephi.
11 – “I shall give this people a name” King Benjamin’s purpose in gathering the people together was to give them a name. Receiving a new name is often associated with a new beginning and a new understanding. When we are baptized, we take upon us the name of Christ. When a certain group of Lamanites were converted through the teaching of Ammon, they took upon them the name “Anti-Nephi-Lehies” (Alma 23:17). John the Revelator speaks of those who “overcome” receiving a new name in Revelation 2:17. King Benjamin does not reveal the name until after his speech, and it is received as part of a covenant (notice footnote to Mosiah 5:8).
16 – “according to the heed and diligence” The Liahona, the “ball or director” only operated according to the faith and diligence the people gave to the Lord’s commandments (see Alma 37:45).
Mosiah 2 — The Speech Begins
Some LDS scholars have identified similarities between this gathering and the “feast of tabernacles” practiced in ancient Israel; see Defending the Faith: October’s Feast of Tabernacles
6 – “with the door thereof towards the temple” Note the contrast in Genesis 13:12-13:
Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband taught: I love the imagery of these verses. Figuratively speaking, brethren, are the doors of our homes pitched towards the temples we so love? Do we attend as often as we can, showing our children through our example the importance of these sacred and special places? As recorded in Mosiah, families received the word of the Lord through their prophet with enthusiasm and commitment. The people were so moved by King Benjamin’s teachings that they entered into a new covenant to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. However, there is a sad epilogue to this story. We learn later in Mosiah concerning those who were but little children in the tents at the time of King Benjamin’s sermon: “Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers” (Mosiah 26:1). What happened to that rising generation, brethren? Why didn’t the young children accept the righteous traditions of their fathers? More importantly, here we are centuries later, in a day of many temples and constant prophetic direction, and what of our rising generation? Do we have reason to be concerned? Certainly we do! (Ensign, May 2006, 46).
9-15 – “I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle…” King Benjamin gives a review of his administration. If you were a king, how would you want your reign to be remembered? Government “by the people” makes the people accountable, while government by a king makes the king accountable (see Mosiah 29:33-36).
12-14 – “I have been suffered to spend my days in your service” These verses indicate what a righteous person king Benjamin was. He didn’t seek the people’ riches, didn’t put them in dungeons, did not allow them to break the commandments, did not suffer them to be “laden with taxes;” How wonderful it would be to have a righteous king! (v. 26 too)
17 – “in the service of your God” For centuries, people have wondered how to best serve God. Some have isolated themselves from the world, built a fortress away from everyone and immersed themselves in sacred writings (I can understand the appeal of this idea – go up into the mountains, take your scriptures and church books, get away from Hollywood and “pop culture” and study and learn!) But we cannot bless the world if we are removing ourselves from it. Jesus prayed, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil (John 17:15). Our challenge is to be in the world, but not of the world. King Benjamin teaches us that serving God means serving God’s children.
President Spencer W. Kimball: God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom (Ensign, Dec. 1974, 2).
18 – “I whom ye call your king” Think of King Benjamin here as a type of Christ, and say the verse again.
24 – “he doth immediately bless you” King Benjamin is teaching us that it is impossible to put God in our debt – he has given us everything, he blesses us when we are obedient, so “of what have [we] to boast?”
President Joseph Fielding Smith: We will never be able to pay the debt. The gratitude of our hearts should be filled to overflowing in love and obedience for his great and tender mercy. For what he has done, we should never fail him. He bought us with a price, the price of his great suffering and the spilling of his blood in sacrifice on the cross. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:132.)
25 – “ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth” It is unlikely that this verse will be used as a youth conference theme anytime soon. More on this when we study Mosiah 4 next week.
36 – “ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord” Does the Spirit leave you, or do you leave the Spirit? Someone once said, “If you feel further away from God today than you were yesterday, guess who moved?” Isaiah expresses a similar idea in 2 Nephi 7:1.
38 – “like an unquenchable fire” the words “like” or “as” denote a simile – this is not a literal lake of fire, but the guilt, pain and anguish are likened to an unquenchable fire.
39 – “never-ending torment” Contrast this with the “never-ending happiness” mentioned in verse 41.
40 – “awful situation of those that have fallen into transgression” This is why we talk about the consequences of sin.
President Harold B. Lee: Beware of the awfulness of sin. The more I see of life, the more I am convinced that we must impress you young people with the awfulness of sin rather than to content ourselves with merely teaching the way of repentance. I wish that someone could warn you of the night of hell that follows the committing of a moral sin or of a beastly act. – The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 225.
41 – “consider on the blessed and happy state” This is a great verse. Look at the fruits of the gospel for those who embrace it! You could also consider the state of those that do not keep the commandments of God. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I owe my success and happiness to drug and alcohol abuse…” Or to breaking any of the other commandments as a way of life?
3 – “glad tidings of great joy” This language is associated with Christmas! Remember, these words were given to King Benjamin by an angel, and are the very phrases given by other angels in Luke 2
5-11 – “shall go forth amongst men” The angel gave King Benjamin detailed prophecies of Jesus – notice the footnotes! One day I searched my triple combination in an effort to find the page or pages with the most footnotes. Guess what? One of them is right here: Mosiah 3, (page 152 for those of us who are still using paper scriptures). And it is no wonder, since this page is filled with prophecies of Christ. I discovered this page Mosiah 3 is tied with 2 Nephi 9 for the most footnotes. Care to guess which page in the Standard Works has no footnotes at all? One page in Song of Solomon. Interesting, huh?
15 – “the law of Moses availeth nothing…” One of the wonderful things about the Book of Mormon is how often it explains the purpose of the law of Moses. It was a “grand prophecy” of Christ:
The Law of Moses was as one grand prophecy of the Savior and his atonement; Christ fulfilled the Law in the sense that he was the realization, the fulfillment of the prophecy. After his death and ascension, while visiting the Nephites the Master taught: “The law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me. Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live.” (3 Nephi 15:8-9; italics added ) (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 1: 296.)
18-19 – Verses 18 and 19 contain a “chiasmus,” an ancient poetic form of writing, where ideas or words are presented in a particular order, then repeated in reverse order. Those unfamiliar with the discovery of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon might enjoy hearing the story here.
The chart below showing the chiasm in Mosiah 3 comes from BYU Studies.
19 – “the natural man” As exciting as the discovery of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon is, don’t miss the content because you’re so excited about the format! The message within the chiasmus is powerful. What does “the natural man” mean? I think of it as the “do what come naturally” philosophy, or, more crassly, “if it feels good, do it.” King Benjamin teaches that we must “put off” the natural man, and yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit (rather than the evil spirit), in order to become a saint through the atonement of Christ. Other verses speak of being “enticed” by the one side or the other (see 2 Nephi 2:16). Being “enticed and invited” is not the same thing as being forced (see Moroni 7:12-13). In the end, we decide how to react to the enticement. The same idea has also been expressed this way: “God votes for us, Satan votes against us, but we cast the deciding vote.”