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Mosiah 4


Out of Bondage through Covenants

      Jarom -- Mosiah



Mosiah 4:1 The Angel of the Lord:


     According to John Welch, Jesus was personally known to many Book of Mormon prophets, for he appeared to several, including Lehi (1 Nephi 1:9), Nephi (2 Nephi 11:2), Jacob (2 Nephi 2:4; 11:3), Mormon (Mormon 1:15), the brother of Jared (Ether 3:14), and Moroni (Ether 12:39), as well as to the multitude in 3 Nephi. Others like Benjamin, Alma, Amulek, and Samuel the Lamanite saw "the angel of the Lord" (Mosiah 4:1; 27:11; Alma 10:7; Helaman 13:7), which may be a euphemism for seeing the Lord himself (for example, it is difficult to distinguish between "the angel of the Lord" and Jehovah in Genesis 16:7-11; 22:11-15; Exodus 3:2; and Judges 2:1-4).93 Thus, their teachings and testimonies about Jesus are based on firsthand knowledge and acquaintance. [John W. Welch, "Ten Testimonies of Jesus Christ from the Book of Mormon," F.A.R.M.S., 1994, p. 1]


Mosiah 4:2 And They All Cried Out with One Voice:


     In Mosiah 4:2 we find the following:

           And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men. (italics added)


     Hugh Nibley asks the question, "How could they cry out this long thing with one voice? The answer, as brother Nibley takes many pages to illustrate, is that these actions were part of a ceremony, the great assembly, the national assembly, the coronation of kings. In this ceremony there is a director, or a praecentor. In Greek and Roman times, he was called the stasiarch. Someone would hand him a piece of paper, the emperor would tell him, or someone else would tell him what he wanted the people to chant. He would say, "Now all together" and he would read a line and wave the flag, and they would all chant together. These were formal chants and this was the way it was done. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1, p. 470]


Mosiah 4:3 The Spirit of the Lord Came upon Them, and They Were Filled with Joy, Having Received a Remission of Their sins, and Having Peace of Conscience Because of the Exceeding Faith Which They Had in Jesus Christ:


     Joseph Smith is often quoted as saying, "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."94 According to Rodney Turner, we are yet to appreciate the full significance of Joseph Smith's statement. The Book of Mormon explains--with unequaled power and plainness--the process by which men and women "get nearer to God." In doing so, it provides the most impressive examples to be found in all scripture of how fallen humanity is saved by grace. The conversion of Benjamin's people teaches us that "the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16) transcends testimony, doctrines, ordinances, religious activity, and even virtuous living--it is the power inherent in the blood of Christ, as administered by and through the Holy Spirit, to endow God's fallen children with the very nature of God.

     The words of the angel concerning that power are as applicable to the Latter-day Saints as they were to the Nephites. The "natural man" is as much "an enemy to God" today as he was in King Benjamin's time. Irrespective of all other considerations, a Latter-day Saint remains in that same "carnal state" in which Benjamin's people found themselves until he or she is born again through the fulness of baptism.

     Such a baptism involves more than the physical ordinance. It has three components: baptism in water, baptism of the Holy Ghost, and the baptism of fire. "All three baptisms," said Joseph Smith, "make one."95 He explained: "The baptism of water, without the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost attending it, is of no use; they are necessarily and inseparably connected"96 All three components of baptism are essential if one is to be born again. "For by the water [baptism] ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit [baptism] ye are justified, and by the blood [baptism of fire] ye are sanctified." (Moses 6:60). It was the baptism of fire--administered by the Holy Ghost--that King Benjamin's people received. (See Mosiah 4:3) It was this culminating baptism that brought them the remission of sins and "peace of conscience." It was through this baptism that they were "born of God" and thereby acquired his spiritual image in their countenances, even a child's physical features and mannerisms reflect those of its parents.

     Every natural man and woman aspiring to the celestial kingdom-whether living or dead--must experience total baptism before he or she can enter the "straight and narrow path which leads to eternal life." (2 Nephi 31:17-18) Thus, the ordinance must be completed whether in mortality or--as will seemingly be the case with most who have lived--in the spirit world. For baptism is the only means by which fallen men and women can be born again, obtain the remission of sins, and, in the resurrection, "become holy, without spot." (Moroni 10:33)

     Can we be baptized without being born again? Of course.97 Over forty years after the conversion of King Benjamin's people, Alma asked the baptized members of the church of Christ in Zarahemla: "Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?" (Alma 5:14; italics added) We do not know how those in Alma's audience answered his rhetorical questions, but we know that Benjamin's generation would have responded with a resounding, "Yes!" . . .

     This mighty conversion of King Benjamin's people foreshadowed the sanctifying fire of the Holy Spirit that later enveloped others among the Nephites and Lamanites, and that will descend upon every Latter-day Saint who diligently keeps the Lord's commandments. This vital Book of Mormon doctrine is one of the primary reasons why Joseph Smith said that we would "get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."

     As a sidenote, Turner writes that the expression baptism of the Holy Ghost is not found in the Standard Works. Instead, the spiritual aspects of baptism are always described as the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. We are born again by water, the Spirit, and the blood of Christ. (See Moses 6:59-60 These three principles correspond to the three phases of total baptism: baptism in water, the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. They may be received individually over a period of time, or on the same occasion--as was the case with the twelve Nephite disciples (See 3 Nephi 19:11-13).

     Turner also notes that Daniel Tyler said that Joseph Smith reconciled the three baptisms mentioned in Matthew 3:11 (water, Spirit, and fire) with Ephesians 4:4-5 ("There is . . . one baptism") when he stated: "There is but one baptism; it takes the baptism of water, of the Holy Ghost and of fire to constitute one full baptism." (Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, eds., They Knew the Prophet, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974, p. 51) [Rodney Turner, "The Great Conversion," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, pp. 224-226]


Mosiah 4:4 My Friends:


     According to David Lamb, though the scriptures abound with numerous covenant terms and statements, one of the most beautiful is the usage of the word "friend." In its covenant context, the word "friend" means more than just an acquaintance or one who is known, liked and trusted; it signifies that a covenant has been made between two individuals (see Genesis 17:2; Isaiah 41:8; 2 Chronicles 20:7; Zechariah 13:6).

     In King Benjamin's proclamation we find another example of the word "friend" as it applies to a covenant relationship. King Benjamin begins his message by greeting his people as "my brethren" (Mosiah 2:9). While "brother" is also a covenant term, in this case "brethren" refers to blood lineage as they are all from the house of Israel. As he continues his speech, he salutes the people from time to time in various ways such as "O my people," or "O all ye old men, and also ye young men, and you little children," or "And again my brethren," etc. These various salutations during the first portion of his message can be found in Mosiah 1:47,52, 70, 73, 79, 86, and 92.

     As King Benjamin finishes the first part of his message, he notices that the fear of the Lord has come upon his people and they have all fallen to the ground. In reading Mosiah 4:2-3, we find that these people enter into a covenant with God by asking that the atoning blood of Christ be upon them. Immediately after the people enter into a covenant with the Lord, King Benjamin addresses them in a different manner. For the first time in his speech, he addresses them as "friends."

     King Benjamin's introduction of the salute "my friends" into the proclamation at this particular point is more than an expression of fondness for his subjects; it is recognition that the people have entered into a covenant.

     Recognizing and understanding covenant terms can greatly increase our comprehension of the scriptures and the meaning of covenants. This in turn will increase our understanding of the call to enter into covenants with Jesus Christ: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you" (John 15:13-14). [David Lamb, "Friend: A Covenant Term," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 51] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 1:30; Ether 1:41]


Mosiah 4:6 The Atonement Which Has Been Prepared from the Foundation of the World:


     According to Hugh Nibley, in Mosiah 4:5 during king Benjamin's sermon, when the people are in the height of their glory, Benjamin starts reminding them of their worthlessness and their nothingness in the worthless and fallen state. I don't think that would offend them at all. If you were in the presence of celestial glory, you would certainly feel that way and you wouldn't feel at all insulted. They don't feel like crawling under rocks though. They feel pretty good about it. Benjamin says, You have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God; you see how good he can be now. This is the grace of God. This is "the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life . . . " (Mosiah 4:6). The reader should note that the phrase, "the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world" is a biblical expression, too, although Christians ignore that. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1, p. 471]

     Note* For the benefit of the reader, a few of these biblical references are as follows:

           ". . . I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world." (Matthew 13:35)

           "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." (John 17:24)

           "But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, . . . (1 Peter 1:19-20)

           "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him [Satan], whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Revelation 13:8)

[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Mosiah 4:6 The Atonement Which Has Been Prepared from the Foundation of the World:


     John Tvedtnes and Matthew Roper write that in a recent Ensign article and in his talk at the April 2000 General Conference, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles cited a passage from a fourth-century-A.D. document known as Discourse on Abbaton.98 Written by Timothy, archbishop of Alexandria, Egypt (d. 385), the text contains a passage in which Christ says of his Father the following:

           He . . . made Adam according to Our image and likeness, and he left him lying for forty days and forty nights without putting breath into him. And He heaved sighs over him, saying, "If I put breath into this [man], he must suffer many pains." And I said unto My Father," Put breath into him; I will be an advocate for him." And My Father said unto Me, "If I put breath into him, My beloved Son, Thou wilt be obliged to go down into the world, and to suffer many pains for him before Thou shalt have redeemed him, and made him to come back to his primal state." And I said unto My Father, "Put breath into him; I will be his advocate, and I will go down into the world, and will fulfil Thy command."99


     The Book of Mormon repeatedly informs us that the atonement of Christ was "prepared from the foundation of the world" (Mosiah 4:6-7; 15:19; 18:13; Alma 12:30; 18:39; 22:13; 42:26; see 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8). When the premortal Lord appeared to the brother of Jared, He declared: "Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ" (Ether 3:14).

     In number of early Christian texts the premortal Christ himself tells Adam and Eve of his future redemption of mankind. Among these texts are the Armenian Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden100 and the Ethiopic Conflict of Adam and Eve I.101 In still other passages, it is the Father who tells Adam of the forthcoming atonement of Christ. These include the Arabic Book of the Rolls, folios 96a, 100b;102 and the Syriac Cave of Treasure, folio 7b, columns 1-2.103 A number of stories also have angels coming to deliver the same message to Adam. Among these are several Armenian texts; Adam, Eve and the Incarnation 39-43; Adam Story I;104 History of Abel and Cain the Sons of Adam;105 and the 10th Century Byzantine scholar George Cedrenius's Historiarum Compendium, 1:17.106

     From these examples we can see that early Christians in such disparate locations as Armenia, Syria, Egypt, and Ethiopia believed not only that Christ had been designated as Savior prior to Adam's creation, but also that Adam and his immediate posterity were fully aware of God's plan of redemption. [John A. Tvedtnes and Matthew P. Roper, "'From the Foundation of the World'," FARMS Update, No. 144, in Insights, Vol. 21, 2001]


Mosiah 4:8 There is None Other Salvation Save This Which Hath Been Spoken of:


     According to John Welch, Benjamin knew and also referred to several concepts that were found on the small plates or were traditional in Nephite culture. One example is found in Mosiah 4:8, in which Benjamin says, "there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of," which seems to quote 2 Nephi 31:21: "this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God." [John W. Welch, "Benjamin, the Man: His Place in Nephite History," in King Benjamin's Speech: "That Ye May Learn Wisdom," p. 34]


Mosiah 4:9,10 (Articles of Faith):


     According to John Welch, King Benjamin taught his people eight steps, an early sort of the Articles of Faith (couched in a beautiful eight-part parallelism), which appear at the center of section 5 of the speech (see Mosiah 4:9-10). His eight incremental and sequential steps are:

     1. believe that he is,

     2. believe that he created all things,

     3. believe that he has all wisdom and power,

     4. honestly admit that man does not comprehend all,

     5. believe that you must repent and forsake your sins,

     6. humble yourself before God,

     7. ask in sincerity of heart for forgiveness, and

     8. if you believe these things, see that you do them.

[John W. Welch, "A Masterful Oration," in King Benjamin's Speech: "That Ye May Learn Wisdom," pp. 75-76]


Mosiah 4:16 Ye Will Not Suffer That the Beggar Putteth Up His Petition to You in Vain:


     According to John Welch, since the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles fell at or around the same time in ancient Israel,107 it is possible to see influences from both of these holy days upon Benjamin's speech. . . . In Mosiah 4:16 we find Benjamin declaring to the people:

           And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to your in vain, and turn him out to perish. (Mosiah 4:16)


     According to John Welch, giving gifts to the poor was also an important part of the Day of Atonement. "It is customary to send gifts to the poor, and a duty to ask forgiveness from one another and to appease each other."108 Benjamin's exhortations about giving liberally to the poor, reconciling with your neighbor, and realizing that we are "all beggars" (Mosiah 4:13-28) would be especially pertinent messages at a Day of Atonement celebration, where "restitution to man must precede sacrificial expiation from God."109 This, along with prayer, was a necessary condition of obtaining remission of sins ("calling on the name of the Lord daily," and imparting of your substance, "for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day"--Mosiah 4:11,26). [John W. Welch, "The Temple in the Book of Mormon," in Temples of the Ancient World, pp. 352-353, 356-357]


Mosiah 4:16 Ye Will Not Suffer That the Beggar Putteth Up His Petition to You in Vain:


     According to Matthew Brown, parallels can be detected between the Jubilee year celebration in ancient Israel and some of the material that is recorded in the book of Mosiah, especially concerning King Benjamin's sermon.110






Return of possessions

Leviticus 25:10

Mosiah 4:28


No injury to one another

Leviticus 25:14, 17

Mosiah 4:13


Render what is due

Leviticus 25:15-16, 50

Mosiah 4:13, 28


Prosperity follows obedience

Leviticus 25:18-19

Mosiah 2:22


Help the poor

Leviticus 25:35

Mosiah 4:16, 26


Use of riches

Leviticus 25:35-37

Mosiah 4:21


Peace in the land

Leviticus 26:6

Mosiah 2:31


Covenant with God

Leviticus 26:9

Mosiah 5:5-6


The Lord's dwelling

Leviticus 26:11

Mosiah 2:37


Lord with His people

Leviticus 26:11-12

Mosiah 2:36


Disobedient cursed

Leviticus 26:14-33

Mosiah 2:38, 3:25-27


Walk/Go contrary

Leviticus 26:21, 27

Mosiah 2:33, 36





[Matthew B. Brown, All Things Restored: Confirming the Authenticity of LDS Beliefs, pp. 224-225]


Mosiah 4:28 Whoever among You Borroweth of His Neighbor Should Return the Thing That He Borroweth:


     John Welch and Stephen Ricks note that under Israelite law, failure to "return the thing that he borroweth" (Mosiah 4:28) was the equivalent of theft.111 Jewish law placed no significance on the fact that the person had received the possession of property lawfully,112 whereas Anglo-American common law makes the taking of property a crime only if a person possesses that property unlawfully. [John W. Welch and Stephen D. Ricks, "Appendix--Complete Text of Benjamin's Speech with Notes and Comment" in King Benjamin's Speech: "That Ye May Learn Wisdom," p. 593]


Mosiah 4:28 And Perhaps Thou Shalt Cause Thy Neighbor to Commit Sin Also:


      In his discourse, Benjamin says the following:

           I would that ye should remember, that whosoever among you borroweth of his neighbor should return the thing that he borroweth, according as he doth agree, or else thou shalt commit sin; and perhaps thou shalt cause thy neighbor to commit sin also. (Mosiah 4:28)


     According to American tradition, the idea of not returning something borrowed being the cause of a neighbor sinning might seem strange. According to John Welch and Stephen Ricks, it was important for a person under ancient law to return exactly what he had borrowed; otherwise a dispute could ensue over whether the value of the returned object was equal to the value of the borrowed object. Accordingly, in the laws of Eshnunna 18-21, repayment of a loan had to be made in the kind of property stipulated in the loan document, and thus, presumably, a lender could require the borrower to return precisely the thing or the kind of thing that had been borrowed. . . . Failure to return the exact object borrowed could result in a lawsuit and therefore might cause the lender to commit sin in enforcing his legal rights, by overstating his case, or by wrongfully employing self-help to collect his property. Benjamin desired to avoid both the problems of the delinquent debtor and the problems of the overzealous creditor. [John W. Welch and Stephen D. Ricks, "Appendix--Complete Text of Benjamin's Speech with Notes and Comment" in King Benjamin's Speech: "That Ye May Learn Wisdom," pp. 593-594]


Mosiah 4:30 And Now, O Man, Remember: and Perish Not:


     Allen & David Richardson and Anthony Bentley note that the Book of Mormon prophet writers frequently emphasize the importance of remembering. For example 1 Nephi 10:20: "Therefore remember, O man, for all thy doings thou shalt be brought into judgment." Other classic examples are found in Mosiah 2:41: "O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it," and Mosiah 4:30: "An now, O man, remember, and perish not."

     The charge to "remember" is repeated seven times in Helaman 5:5-6. Note that seven is a number that was used in ancient Hebrew culture to signify perfection or completion. (See also, 1 Nephi 15:25; 19:15-16; Jacob 3:9-11; Alma 37:35; 3 Nephi 18:7, 11; and Moroni 4-5.)

     All in all, the Book of Mormon prophets stress the importance of remembering the Lord's dealings with their fathers some seventy-nine times! The frequent emphasis on remembering throughout the Book of Mormon is consistent with the Hebrew literature. (See Wallace E Hunt Jr., "Moses' Brazen Serpent as It Relates to Serpent Worship in Mesoamerica," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 1993, p. 126.)

     The following is quoted from John W. Welch, Reexploring the Book of Mormon, 1992, pp. 127-129:

           Brevard S. Childs has shown that various forms of the Hebrew verb zakhor (to remember) occur in the Old Testament well over two hundred times. He shows that what the Old Testament understands by "memory" goes well beyond the mere mental recall of information, though of course that is part of its meaning. To remember often means to be active, to consider, to keep divine commandments, or to act. The word in Hebrew thus carries a wider range of meaning than is common with the verb remember in English. Indeed, to remember involves turning to God, or repenting, or acting in accordance with divine injunctions.113

           Not only man, but also God "remembers." He remembers covenants he has made with Noah (see Genesis 9:15-16), with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (see Exodus 2:24; Leviticus 26:42), and with all of Israel (see Ezekiel 16:60; Luke 1:72).

           Conversely, the antonym of the verb to remember in Hebrew--to forget does not merely describe the passing of a thought from the mind, but involves a failure to act, or a failure to do or keep something. Hence, failing to remember God and His commandments is the equivalent of apostasy.

           Interestingly, words for memory and remembrance also occur well over two hundred times in the Book of Mormon. This high density is not noticed by casual readers, but it vividly reflects a religious sensitivity on the part of Book of Mormon prophets that is similar to that of other Israelite prophets. Though the range of uses of remembering in the Book of Mormon is perhaps not quite as extensive as that identifiable in the Old Testament, the idiom of remembrance in both books includes warning, promises, threats, pleas, and complaints, and the same deep connection between memory and action can be found in both. To remember is to hearken, to awaken, to see, to hear, to believe, to trust. (See Jacob 3:9-11; Mosiah 2:41; 4:30; 13:29-30; Alma 7:16; 9:13-14; 18:10; 36:1-2; 37:35; 46:23; 58:40 and compare with Numbers 15:39-40; Psalms 103:18.)

     . . . In such ways the Book of Mormon shows a clear link between the ways of remembrance or forgetfulness and the blessings or cursings associated with the covenant people of God. Since one of the main purposes of the Book of Mormon, as stated on its title page, is to show that God remembers the covenants he has made with his people (see also 1 Nephi 19:15-16; 2 Nephi 29:1-2; 3 Nephi 16:11), it is especially appropriate that eh renewal of covenants includes a commitment to "always remember him, and keep his commandments." as the faithful affirm their willingness to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ (Moroni 4:3).


[Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson, and Anthony E. Bentley, Voice from the Dust-500 Evidences Supporting the Book of Mormon, pp. 270-271]