Consult the Official Gospel Doctrine Manual for your lesson preparation. Below are some supplemental ideas that might be useful.
Those who have had the experience of preparing a talk or a lesson have probably asked themselves, “what is my desired outcome? What am I trying to accomplish?” Or, “when I give my final ‘Amen,’ what do I want people to feel, or think, or remember? What commitments do I hope they will make?” When King Benjamin concluded his wonderful address, the people exhibited some interesting “outcomes.” They:
- had fallen to the earth
- viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth
- they cried “O have mercy”
2 – “less than the dust of the earth” What an interesting outcome! I doubt these words will ever be used as a stake conference, ward conference or youth conference theme. I don’t think we’ll see it showing up on Girl’s Camp t-shirts or wall plaques or scripture bookmarks. And yet, it appears this was the outcome King Benjamin desired! For the people to view themselves “in their own carnal state.”
With all of the talk of the “chosen generation,” and “Saturday’s Warriors” and “You were saved for the last days” and so forth, where does this “less than the dust” idea fit in?
Next to the word “dust” in verse 2, you might create your own footnote to Helaman 12:7-8 which explains why people are sometimes called “less than the dust of the earth.” In short, it’s because the dust obeys God! When God commands the elements, they obey! But sometimes, we rebel. Dust obeys, because dust doesn’t have agency. We do have agency, and sometimes we use it to choose the wrong. That’s when we become “less than the dust of the earth.”
2 – “apply the atoning blood of Christ” If we write talks to pat ourselves on the back and congratulate one another on our “chosenness” but we don’t acknowledge our complete dependence on Christ and his atonement, we’ve missed the entire point of the gospel.
Also, notice the dual nature of the effects of the atonement – to forgive sins AND to purify hearts. Yes, we need to be cleansed of sin, but we also need to have our hearts changed so that we lose our desire to sin. Psalms 24:3-4 asks “who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord, and who shall stand in his holy place? The answer is, “He that hath clean hands [tools of action], and a pure heart” [center of intentions]
I love this illustration given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks:
We often think of the results of repentance as simply cleansing us from sin. That is an incomplete view of the matter. A person who sins is like a tree that bends easily in the wind. On a windy and rainy day the tree may bend so deeply against the ground that the leaves become soiled with mud, like sin. If we only focus on cleaning the leaves, the weakness in the tree that allowed it to bend and soil its leaves may remain. Merely cleansing the leaves does not strengthen the tree. Similarly, a person who is merely sorry to be soiled by sin will sin again in the next high wind. The susceptibility to repetition will continue until the tree has been strengthened. (Dallin H. Oaks, The Lord’s Way [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 225.)
Elder David A. Bednar gave a talk in the October 2007 General Conference called “Clean Hands and a Pure Heart” which explores the same principle. He said, “Our spiritual purpose is to overcome both sin and the desire to sin, both the taint and the tyranny of sin.”
3 – “having peace of conscience” is one of the ways we can know we are forgiven. We remember our past, but it doesn’t hurt the way it did before, because of the atonement of Christ. Guilt, remorse and regret can be replaced by peace because of the Prince of Peace. Other evidences that we have received forgiveness are explained in Enos 1:6, Alma 36:19-20.
5 – “Your nothingness” and “your worthless and fallen state” A-ha, more youth conference theme ideas 🙂 Please notice the footnote to Moses 1:10 – After Moses has a remarkable conversation with the Lord, and after he recovers from the spiritual and physical exhaustion of the encounter, he remarks, “now I know that man is nothing which thing I never had supposed.” Interestingly, in that conversation with the Lord, Moses was reminded that he was a son of God three times! Yet he also knows of his own nothingness. In fact, as soon as Moses recovers his strength, Satan appears, and calls Moses a “son of man.” Moses responds, “Who art thou? For behold, I am a Son of God” Moses 1:13. Be sure to take the time to read this fascinating encounter. Moses understands his “nothingness” as well as his “chosen-ness” and kept them in perfect harmony.
9-10 – “Believe in God” Mormon 9:27 says, “doubt not, but be believing.” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a classic talk in April of 2013 called “Lord, I Believe.” He spoke of a young man who seemed to apologize for not knowing the church was true:
A 14-year-old boy recently said to me a little hesitantly, “Brother Holland, I can’t say yet that I know the Church is true, but I believe it is.” I hugged that boy until his eyes bulged out. I told him with all the fervor of my soul that belief is a precious word, an even more precious act, and he need never apologize for “only believing.” I told him that Christ Himself said, “Be not afraid, only believe,” a phrase which, by the way, carried young Gordon B. Hinckley into the mission field. I told this boy that belief was always the first step toward conviction and that the definitive articles of our collective faith forcefully reiterate the phrase “We believe.” And I told him how very proud I was of him for the honesty of his quest.
10 – “if ye believe all these things, see that ye do them” Knowing what to do is nice, doing what you know is better. Knowing and doing lead to becoming. We are reminded of the phrase “accept and act” in the Young Women values.
11 – “Retain in remembrance” President Spencer W. Kimball once remarked that the most important word in the dictionary could be “remember.”
12 – “If ye do this…” King Benjamin promises results of doing what verse 11 describes – ye: 1) shall always rejoice, 2) and be filled with the love of God, 3) and always retain a remission of your sins.
In April 2016 General Conference, Elder David A Bednar gave an entire talk on the idea of “retaining a remission of your sins.”
13 – “Ye will not have a mind to injure” King Benjamin is not outlining rules of conduct. He did not merely command, “Do not injure one another.” Instead, he’s describing the effects, or the fruits of being born again and filled with the love of God – “ye will not have mind to injure one another…” In other words, because your mind and heart have been changed by Christ, the good works flow more naturally.
14 – “that they go hungry” One duty of parents is to be a provider (see footnote to D&C 83:4). And also, it appears, a referee. Obviously, if we’re fighting and quarreling we’re not serving God, but quarreling is not merely a neutral activity. King Benjamin teaches that to fight and quarrel is to “serve the devil.”
16-19 – “Are we not all beggars?” When we’re born again, our attitude toward beggars changes; Especially when we see ourselves as beggars who must rely on the grace of Christ for salvation.
21 – “how ye ought to impart” If God gives you what you ask, you ought to give to others (fast offerings is one way). Kind of a “do unto others as God has done unto you.’
24 – “Say in your hearts” “I would if I could” – The intents of the heart are important to the Lord: Alma 41:3, D&C 46:9, D&C 137:9
25 – “Ye covet” A covetous attitude would be, “Even if I had, I wouldn’t give.”
26 – “Impart of your substance to the poor” Helping the poor, really helping, is more complicated than it may sound. Many efforts to help the poor only help them remain poor and perpetually dependent. Helping the poor to become self-sufficient is the real goal. As a Bishop, I relied heavily on the principles for truly helping the poor outlined in the church publication “Providing the Lord’s Way.”
26 – “impart of your substance” King Benjamin outlines how individuals can help the poor in the following ways: 1) feed the hungry 2) clothe the naked 3) visiting the sick 4) administer relief; It’s interesting to see a similar list in Jacob 2:19 (footnote 26b).
27 – “run faster than he has strength” Do the best you can. Be diligent, but you can’t do more than you can do. See footnote to D&C10:4
29-30 – “I cannot tell you all the things” We all seem to have a little Law of Moses left in our spiritual DNA. We would appreciate someone compiling a an endless list of what movies we can see, music we can listen to, etc. But we must use our own inspiration and discernment and take personal responsibility for our actions since all sin cannot be delineated. “But this much I can tell you,” warns King Benjamin, “watch yourselves, and your thoughts and your words and your deeds.” Notice to footnote to Alma 12:14 about thoughts.
2 – “a mighty change in us or in our hearts” These people had “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” In the past, I have wondered if this change was permanent, and how I could sign up for the same change – if all my battles with temptation could be permanently terminated, how nice would that be! But the more I’ve studied, the more I’ve come to believe it wasn’t permanent. Yes, in that moment, they had no more desire to sin. I suspect we’ve all had moments like that, after the closing talk at General conference, or after hearing a great talk or lesson in church, or reading a great article. But King Benjamin was about to give them a name, the same name we have taken upon ourselves, and we will do it again and again every time we approach the sacrament table. We keep coming back where the spirit is, where inspiration is, where we can once again take upon us the name of Christ so that we can renew that same feeling of “having no more disposition to do evil.”
In October of 1989, Elder Dean L. Larsen gave a talk entitled “Winding Up Our Spiritual Clocks” in which he quoted Elder Albert E. Bowen who spoke at General Conference in October of 1949. His statement perfectly describes the necessity of “coming again” to a place where you feel the spirit and once again, “have no more disposition to do evil.”
Elder Albert E. Bowen: Men are mortal and beset by human frailties. They are enticed by the pressures of immediate … desire to depart from the high standards of the perfect law. When they are under the influence of an exalted occasion, they make high resolves. They firmly determine to avoid past mistakes and to do better. But gone out from under the spell of that influence and absorbed in the complicated pursuits of life, they find difficulty in holding fast to their noble purposes. … So it is essential that they come again, and frequently, under the influence which kindles anew the warmth of spirit in which good resolutions are begotten, that they may go out fortified to withstand the pressures of temptation which lure them into false ways. Happily, if they refresh themselves frequently enough under ennobling influences, the spirit of repentance will be at work with them, and they will make conquest of some temptations—rise above them—and advance thus far toward their final goal. (In Conference Report, Oct. 1949, p. 139.)
7 – “Ye shall be called the children of Christ” “Wait a minute,” my students have asked, “I though we were spirit children of Heavenly Father?” Yes, we are the children of Heavenly Father in spirit, but when we’re born again we become the children of Christ as well. Isaiah asked about the Savior, “who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living” (Isaiah 53:8/Mosiah 14:8). Abinadi answered:
And now I say unto you, who shall declare his generation? Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed. And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed?
Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God.
For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed? (Mosiah 15:10-12)
10 – “the name of Christ” Mosiah 5:10-12 is another example of chiasmus from BYU Studies:
13 – “Whom he has not served” King Benjamin already taught us how to serve God earlier in this speech – through serving our fellowmen – Mosiah 2:17.
“Far from the thoughts and intents” — We might well ask, are they any activities that take me and my thoughts far from the Master? Any habits, any movies, tv shows, websites, any “guilty pleasures” that take me far away from the spirit of the Lord?
15 – ‘’steadfast and immovable” are nice adjectives. Put another way, we will stay by the tree of life, we will not venture away.
15 – “The Lord God Omnipotent may seal you his” The idea of being sealed to God, or of being eternally part of His family is wonderful. Or, you could be sealed to Satan, as it says in Alma 34:35: “the devil…doth seal you his.”
1 – “Take the names of all those who had entered into a covenant…” – Names are taken, and some kind of membership record created, that people might be “remembered and nourished by the good word of God” (Moroni 6:4).
3 – “stir them up in remembrance of the oath…” Priests and teachers were appointed to help the people remember the oath they had made. The “priests and teachers” referred to here were not offices in the Aaronic Priesthood as we call them today, but were Melchizedek priesthood holders. Elder Bruce R. McConkie has written: “Even during the Mosaic dispensation there were no Aaronic Priesthood holders among the Nephites, for there were no Levites among them, and the Aaronic Priesthood in that day was confined to the sons of Levi. The priests and teachers among the Nephites held the Melchizedek Priesthood.” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Deseret Book, 1985], 348.)
4 – “King Mosiah did walk in the ways of the Lord” Mosiah II, son of Benjamin takes over.
7 – “And he also, himself, did till the earth…” King Mosiah II, like his father Benjamin and his grandfather King Mosiah I, was a great example of servant leadership.