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Mosiah 6


Out of Bondage through Covenants

      Jarom -- Mosiah



Mosiah 6:1 It Was Expedient . . . That He Should Take the Names:


     In Mosiah 6:1 we find that after king Benjamin had finished speaking, he thought it was expedient "that he should take the names of all those who had entered into a covenant with God to keep his commandments." According to Hugh Nibley, the reader should remember that at the first of the ceremony, Mormon records that "there were a great number, even so many that they did not number them" (Mosiah 2:2). But now they have entered into a covenant, they have committed themselves by name, so he had the names taken of everybody who was there: "And it came to pass that there was not one soul, except it were little children, but who had entered into the covenant and had taken upon them the name of Christ" (Mosiah 6:2).

     The cultural point of this scene has to do with the fact that you weren't a member of the kingdom unless your name was on the list. So you had to be registered in the books--the books that were open from the foundation of the world. Remember, when the world was founded, the books were opened. The Book of Life was one of those books, and there were many other books. The Book of Life, as the formula goes in the New Testament, which was open at the foundation of the world, containing the names of all those who would come down to this earth in the various dispensations. That's what the Book of Life was as understood by the Jews and the Christians in the early days. So all this falls into the pattern of reality, of the real social organization. And there's the fact that it bears this amazing stamp of authenticity--that everything takes place here exactly according to the pattern of the ancient year assembly and the like. [Sem 1, p. 481-482 ]

     So their names were taken and put on the list which is the Book of Life, which is opened at the new year. It is a register of all the people who have a right to live in the kingdom and pay taxes during that year. That's what the Book of Life is. . . . Everyone who signed agreed to keep the covenants. "You are this day reborn" (see Mosiah 5:7). Remember, he gave them a new name (Mosiah 5:7-8). It was their birthday, it was the beginning of a new age. Everything began anew on that day. Everything was renewed. He had them all registered and took their names down, so they were all set for the new age now. . . . So now they could vote. Notice, that king Benjamin did all this [this ritual covenant ceremony] before he anointed or crowned his son because these people had to be registered voters in order to give the acclamation. That's the acclamation of the king [Sem 2, pp. 11-12]

     See, every time you get a new life or a new advancement, a new step or initiation, you get a new identity, a new persona. [Sem. 1, p. 448] [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1, pp. 481-482, 448; Semester 2, pp. 11-12]


Mosiah 6:3 [King Benjamin] consecrated his son Mosiah to be a ruler and a king over his people (Illustration): King Benjamin Ordaining Mosiah. King Benjamin "consecrated his son Mosiah to be a ruler and a king over his people." Artist: Robert T. Barrett. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 203]


Mosiah 6:3 [King Benjamin] consecrated his son Mosiah to be a ruler and a king over his people (Illustration): King Benjamin Confers the Kingdom on Mosiah. After delivering a great address on following the ways of God to his people in Zarahemla, King Benjamin "consecrated his son Mosiah to be a ruler and a king over his people, and [gave] him all the charges concerning the kingdom." (Mosiah 6:3) Artist: Robert T. Barrett. [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Ensign, February 2000, Inside back cover]


Mosiah 6:3 King Benjamin had . . . given him [Mosiah2] all the charges concerning the kingdom (Nephite Record Keepers) [Illustration]: Nephite Record Keepers. Adapted from [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 155]


Mosiah 6:3 King Benjamin . . . Had Appointed Priests . . . to Stir Them Up in Remembrance of the Oath Which They Had Made:


     In Mosiah 6:3 it says that king Benjamin "had appointed priests to teach the people, that thereby they might hear and know the commandments of God, and to stir them up in remembrance of the oath which they had made" to renew the terms from time to time. According to Hugh Nibley, it was Solomon Zeitlin, the old editor of the Jewish Quarterly Review, who showed that synagogues did not first develop after the fall of the temple to take its place. They were just plain meeting houses, and they had them all along right from the first, "to stir them up in remembrance of the oath which they had made." The people had taken a covenant and an oath, so the priest is to stir them up. . . . They don't repeat the ceremony. You only receive an endowment. You only take the oath once, but you remember it after. That's why in the sacrament they always "remember him that they may keep his commandments which he has given them, and always have his spirit to be with them." The people renew the covenants, not by going through them again, but by a different ordinance. That ordinance renews the covenants we made of remembrance. "This do in remembrance of me," as the Lord said in the sacrament in the New Testament. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, pp. 12, 71]


Mosiah 6:3 [King Benjamin] Had Appointed Priests:


     According to Daniel Peterson, kingship among the Nephites was a priesthood calling, and priestly ordination was primarily a royal prerogative. At least several of the Nephite kings--Nephi (2 Nephi 6:2)), Mosiah1 (Omni 1:12-22), Benjamin, and Mosiah 2--were also major prophets.

     The notion of a priestly kingship is perhaps a bit jarring to modern readers, living in a society where church and state are kept separate as a matter of principle. But is should not be so disturbing to Latter-day Saints, whose aspirations for the life to come include becoming both "priests and kings" (D&C 76:56). After all, it seems that Christ, the true King of Israel, holds his kingship as a priesthood office.

     The Nephites were not modern, and we should not be surprised to see them untouched by more recent institutions. Keeping this in mind, and being aware of this Nephite priest-king order of priesthood and government, it is striking that the small plates of Nephi do not record a single reference to any church actually existing in the New World, despite the fact that the small plates cover nearly the first five centuries of Nephite history. [Daniel C. Peterson, "Priesthood in Mosiah," in The Book of Mormon: Mosiah, Salvation Only through Christ, pp. 189-190,200] [See the commentary on Mosiah 25:19,23]


Mosiah 6:3 They Returned, Every One, according to Their Families:


     According to Hugh Nibley, another interesting point found at the end of the ceremonial gathering and king Benjamin's sermon is the statement, "he dismissed the multitude, and they returned, every one, according to their families, to their own houses" (Mosiah 6:3). The great assembly in the Mosaic law and throughout the ancient world is by families. Everybody had to come as a pilgrim and be dismissed to his home after that. "Thou shalt not celebrate the Passover within thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee." Everyone had to come to this event as a pilgrim. They sat by family groups in circles, every family with its back to every other, every family by itself. We are told this not only in the New Testament and the Old Testament but in the Talmud, too. In the last meeting when they take the meal, everyone must eat a piece of the meat at least as big as an olive, and they must eat it with a staff in their hand, their shoes on their feet, and their cloaks ready to go. Then they must leave when they are finished and not look back because it is a sacred place. It's mactus. This is the holy place where people meet commonly with the ancestors, gods, and everything else. I'm talking about an order beginning the Hierocentric rites on which I have written a good deal. There's a lot of stuff on this. If the place is mactus it's the place open to the other world. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 13]


Mosiah 6:4 Mosiah began to reign in his father's [Benjamin's] stead (Major Nephite Leaders) [Illustration]: The Major Leaders During Nephite History. [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 160]


Mosiah 6:6 His Judgments . . . His Statutes . . . His Commandments:


     "King Mosiah did walk in the ways of the Lord, and did observe his judgments and his statutes, and did keep his commandments in all things whatsoever he commanded him" (Mosiah 6:6). Hugh Nibley notes that here in this verse we find a good old Dead Sea Scrolls formula: The judgments, the statutes, and the commandments. They are the big three; they always go together here. In the Serekh Scroll, for example, the one is never mentioned without the other. It's always the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments. The king is the judge, after all. Remember, King Solomon was the judge. The judgments are the laws that are laid down, and the commandments are those which have come from God. The statutes are written down by men, discussed in the council, and decided on. So we have the judgments, the statutes, and the commandments. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 14]