King Benjamin is one of my favorite people in the Book of Mormon. We were introduced to him last week and learned that he gave a farewell address when he retired as the Nephite lay king. (Yes, they had lay kings. He had a regular job and did the king work for free.)
Mosiah 4 in the Book of Mormon details King Benjamin’s teachings about the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. He offers some insights into how the atonement of Jesus Christ impacts not just our eternal lives, but our behavior in this mortal life. If we completely understand it, the atonement will make us behave differently. This was addressed somewhat in a previous article in Enos, who, after receiving forgiveness for his sins, discovered he wanted everyone to have the same joy—even his enemies.
As King Benjamin spoke, the people began to understand their need for the atonement of Jesus Christ and prayed for mercy and forgiveness. He assured them that repenting of their sins and accepting the role of the future atonement of Jesus Christ would bring them peace of consciousness, which would then allow them have peace and joy, even in difficult times.
Mormons believe that salvation comes only through the atonement of Jesus Christ, not, as some have falsely said of Mormons, that it comes only from good works. Benjamin explained this to his people:
“I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world. And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you” (verses 7-8).
A modern Mormon apostle, the late James Faust, said:
“My reason for wanting to learn all I can about the Atonement is partly selfish: Our salvation depends on believing in and accepting the Atonement [see Mosiah 4:6–7]. Such acceptance requires a continual effort to understand it more fully. The Atonement advances our mortal course of learning by making it possible for our natures to become perfect [see Moroni 10:32]. All of us have sinned and need to repent to fully pay our part of the debt. When we sincerely repent, the Savior’s magnificent Atonement pays the rest of that debt [see 2 Nephi 25:23]” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2001, 19; or Ensign, Nov. 2001, 18).
In verse 11, King Benjamin reminds his audience that they cannot save themselves. He tells them they are nothing of themselves. He then goes on to explain how a true Christian will begin to behave once he has accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.
In verse 12, King Benjamin promises that if his people honor the atonement and love God, their entire lives will change. They will no longer have any desire to hurt other people. They will want to live peaceably and give to each person that which is his due.
Completely understanding and internalizing the atonement would help them become better parents. They would not allow their children to suffer or to fight and they would teach them to keep God’s commandments and to love one another.
Of course, to do this, they must also live this way, but with the atonement fully in their hearts, they will want to. King Benjamin says that by understanding the atonement, they will want to take care of those in need. They will never turn away a beggar, not even one who appears to have brought his troubles on himself. Why not?
For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for
gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.
And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another (Verses 19-21).
Benjamin explains that we are completely indebted to God for everything we have and thus, we are beggars, and unworthy ones at that, since we all do things that make our lives harder than necessary. Since we plead to God to help us out of those trials, we must do the same for the other people we come into contact with. He adds a note, however, that if we have nothing to give, God does not expect us to give—but He does expect us to wish we had something to give.
If the world were to follow the teachings of this chapter and fully internalize the atonement, applying it to every aspect of our lives, we could solve the majority of the world’s problems. Throughout the Book of Mormon, you will see what happens when people do this and what happens when they do not.
About Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.