My 200th post. Woohoo, look at me go.
When I wrote my 100th post, I discussed Mormon and how awesome he was--something we had been discussing in a Book of Mormon class I was taking at the time. Today I would like to discuss the Book of Mosiah
, which is, I think, my favorite Book of Mormon book, if I'm allowed one of those. I haven't taken a religion class that has discussed the Book of Mosiah before, so what I've got for you is my collected personal thoughts on that book. [Translation: what I've got for you is a huge mess of thoughts that I've never sought to systematically present to anyone ever and that might, therefore, be totally unintelligible.]
I think when latter-day Saints think about the Book of Mosiah, they probably think about King Benjamin's sermon, Abinadi, and Alma the elder et al., so I’m going to breeze over those most popular parts very briefly and then dive into the lesser known stuff because, if anything in this post is going to actually be interesting, that's gonna be it because, let's face it: you've heard the rest a million times and aren't interested in my rehashing of it. It's okay; no need to be ashamed: I was raised a Mormon, too.
So, very briefly, my thoughts on King Benjamin:
1) Mosiah 3
, which is perhaps the most popular chapter of the book, is often attributed to Benjamin, and I think that's unfair. Okay, sure, it's him speaking, but, aside from the first two verses, the whole chapter is Benjamin quoting an angel who spoke to him the night before.
2) The angel who spoke to Mosiah was sent to him "to declare unto thee that thou mayest rejoice; and that thou mayest declare unto thy people, that they may also be filled with joy" (3:4
). That declaration goes for us, too: we are permitted to rejoice, and we really ought to because we know about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
3) After the angel prophesied of Christ (3:6-10
), listed very plainly the people who are saved by Jesus (3:11, 12, 16
), declared that Jesus is the only way to salvation (3:17
), and gave the ever-so-famous bit about casting off the natural man (3:19
), he said that it’s important to teach the Gospel to everyone so that they will be "no more blameless in the sight of God, only according to the words which I have spoken unto thee" (3:22
). This statement is fascinating to me, but I don’t really have much to say about it.
4) One very good statement from King Benjamin that did not come from the angel: "If you believe all these things see that ye do them" (4:10
I think Abinadi is awesome. Of all the speeches in all of scripturedom, his is my favorite, I think--rhetorically, at least. What transpires between 12:20-24
really is a marvel. I hope that some day, after I've taken a handful of classes on rhetoric, I'll be able to write a very long paper on Abinadi's craft. It boggles my mind just how awesome he is. And he did it off the cuff while threatened with death? That's the power of the Spirit right there. If you have a decent attention span, you should spend some Sunday afternoon reading Abinadi's speech in a go: it's amazing. And I love the way it's recorded, too, because we can see that it isn't flawless (he has a bit of trouble getting started, it seems [check out 12:30-32
]), but it is beautiful, and it is powerful--and I'll be darned if there wasn't a dramatic pause following Abinadi's amen.
A couple of favorite bits from Abinadi's magnificent tirade:
"Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise. Therefore, what teach ye this people?" (12:27
"I perceive that you have studied and taught iniquity the most part of your lives" (13:11
"But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him. Therefore he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God; and also is the devil and enemy to God" (16:5
As for Alma and friends, I actually wanna spend some time discussing them--just not the Waters of Mormon or the miraculous lightening of burdens because those are the parts everyone talks about. They're good parts, though; I highly recommend chapters 18
, and 24
, but I'm not gonna discuss them here.
For the rest of this post, I'm going to just work through the Book of Mosiah in order by chapter. That means it won't be exactly chronological, but that's okay: one thing I really like about the book is the way it presents so many overlapping stories one at a time--not bothering trying to tell them simultaneously.
After King Benjamin speaks, gives the kingdom to Mosiah, and dies, we follow Ammon & Co. into the wilderness in search of the land of Lehi-Nephi, and he finds King Limhi. I love Limhi. I actually didn't realize how awesome Limhi was until I started pulling verses together to write this post. Why do we never talk about Limhi? The guy's amazing! Seriously, do you even know who Limhi is?
Limhi was the son of King Noah, who was a whorish tyrant, yet Limhi some how turned out to be a remarkably good person. Here are my favorite Limhi-isms with my bracketed responses:
"O ye, my people, life up your heads and be comforted; for behold, the time is at hand [...] when we shall no longer be in subjection to our enemies [...] yet I trust there remaineth an effectual struggle to be made" (7:18
). [Just because you can see the light at the end of a tunnel doesn’t mean you’re there: don’t give up until the war is over.]
"Yeah, I say unto you, great are the reasons which we have to mourn; for behold how many of our brethren have been slain, and their blood has been spilt in vain, and all because of iniquity" (7:24
). [Take-home message: don't be a martyr to your sins.]
"And now, because he said this [that is, because Abinadi told Noah and the priests that Christ would come to redeem the world and that they needed to repent], they did put him to death; and many more things did they do which brought down the wrath of God upon them. Therefore, who wondereth that they are in bondage, and that they are smitten with sore afflictions?" (7:28
). [Limhi sees the punishment of his people, sighs, shakes his head and asks himself, "Well, what did we expect--I mean, really...."]
"…the effect thereof is poison" (7:30
). [Sin is poison. 'Nuff said.]
"And now, behold, the promise of the Lord is fulfilled, and ye are smitten and afflicted. But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage" (7:32-33
). [I love that Limhi uncomplainingly resigns himself to the fact that the pain his people suffer is the judicious wrath of God and yet maintains the hope that this same God will deliver them eventually.]
"Yea, they are as a wild flock which fleeth from the shepherd, and scattereth, and are driven, and are devoured by the beasts of the forest" (8:21
). [Do we flee from the Shepherd? If so, we're doomed: there's no way out but through Him.]
After meeting Limhi, we learn about his grandfather Zeniff. Here's a quote from that righteous soul:
"Yea, in the strength of the Lord did we go forth to battle against the Lamanites; for I and my people did cry mightily to the Lord that he would deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, for we were awakened to a remembrance of the deliverance of our fathers. And God did hear our cries and did answer our prayers; and we did go forth in his might..." (9:17-18
). [If you replace "the Lamanites" with "the hosts of hell" or "job hunting" or "school searching" or "those crazy teenagers" or whatever you might be up against (I replace it with "this insane Latin class I’m taking that seeks to fit a year's worth of material into a 7-week course--deary me what was I thinking?"), this scripture is pretty spectacular. Note that they went up in "his might" (meaning "God's might") and remember just how mighty the Lord is.]
After Zeniff, we learn about Abinidi, but I already covered him, so let's move on to Alma Sr.
[Side note: Alma Sr. "was a young man" when Abinadi came (17:2
)--meaning ~45 years old (see 29:45
--and then hook a time stamp footnote thinging in v44).]
Here are some cool words from this great man:
"...I myself was caught in a snare, and did many things which were abominable in the sight of the Lord, which caused me sore repentance; Nevertheless, after much tribulation, the Lord did hear my cries, and did answer my prayers, and has made me an instrument in his hands in bringing so many of you to a knowledge of his truth" (23:9-10
). [Take-home message here is something akin to Luke 22:32
"...I desire that ye should stand fast in this liberty wherewith ye have been made free [from the bonds of iniquity]..." (23:13
). [Once you’re freed from sin, don’t go back.*]
"...trust no man to be a king over you (23:13
)." [I imagine Alma is probably friends with the Founding Father’s these days.]
"Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me" (26:30
). [*However, if you do go back to sinning, God is always there fore you.]
Because we know Alma, we learn a bit about Amulon--but not a whole lot. Amulon was one of Alma's fellow priests of Noah, and he ended up joining the Lamanites and being made a taskmaster over Alma's group. I imagine that there was probably some Hollywood-worthy dramatic conflict between those two while Amulon drove Alma's converts like slaves. This part in particular was probably a real doozy:
"And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he put guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death" (24:11
). [This man used to be a priest!]
But one thing I really like about the Book of Mosiah is that we don't see a whole lot of apostasy, really. In the Book of Alma, we have a whole bunch of dissenters and anti-Christs who cause all kinds of havoc for the righteous, but in the Book of Mosiah, the good guys are the good guys, and the bad guys are the bad guys. Occasionally a bad guy converts to good guy-ism (both Almas, for example), but not much happens in the other direction, and, in the end, the good end happily, and the bad, uhappily.
That said, Mosiah's is the only book in the Book of Mormon where we get protocol for excommunication, so it isn't all skittles and rainbows, I guess. In chapter 26
, the kids who were too young to enter into the covenant King Benjamin gave to the people have grown up and rebelled, and we learn very clearly how apostasy comes about:
(not understanding + not believing)[26:1
]-->(separate + carnal and sinful state)[26:4
Now, maybe an apostate apologist would say, "It wasn’t their fault: they didn't understand!" but this is not so. 26:3
teaches us that it was "because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God...." Belief leads to understanding--not the other way around. This is a very important principle for us to know, I think, and it kinda reminds me of Abinadi's "Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise" (see above).
Anyway, Alma receives this great revelation on disciplining such folks, and then he teaches us something important by example:
"And it came to pass when Alma had heard these words he wrote them down that he might have them" (26:33
Friends, when the Lord teaches you something, write it down!
Of course we know that Alma the younger was part of the rebellious generation, and you've probably heard his conversion story. Furthermore, I like his version (Alma 36
) better, so I won't dwell on the story too much (which is in keeping with the parameters I set at this discussion's outset--or onset--or inception--or whatever). However, there is one thing that I understood for the first time when I read it this time around. I've often been puzzled by this comment from the angel:
"And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off" (27:16
What on earth could that last bit mean? The rendition in Alma 36 ["If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God" (v9
)] was even more confusing to me. Now it seems perfectly clear to me: the words aren't hard; I'm not sure why I didn't understand them before. This is actually the sort of thing I've wanted to say to the few apostates I've met: "If you wanna go to hell, that's your prerogative, but don't you dare drag others down with you
Interesting doctrine. Not one we teach a lot, but it's the sort of level-headed smack some people need.
Other than that, all I have to say about Alma Jr. is that his first sermon, which is on repentance and forgiveness, can be found in 27:23-31
And that pretty well sums up my favorite parts of the Book of Mosiah. I love this book because it really seems to me to be all about forgiveness of sins: it starts with King Benjamin's address about being cleansed through Christ; it includes the teachings of Limhi on the consequences of apostasy and words from Zeniff, Abinadi, and Mosiah on the subject of repentance; it has the conversions of both Almas and their consequent sermons; it talks about Church discipline--really, this book covers repentance very thoroughly. And to sum it up, at the end of this book, King Mosiah dissolves the monarchy (I wonder if Alma the elder influenced that decision) and establishes a democratic republic. Here's my favorite quote from this wise king who was this fine book's namesake:
"...thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him" (29:20