King Benjamin. The title didn’t suit him at all, for he was a most unusual king.
Unlike most kings, who lead privileged lives with servants attending to their every need, Benjamin worked in his own fields to grow his own food. Neither did he collect heavy taxes from his “subjects,” because he loved them as brothers and sisters. He chose to rule by setting an example in humility, righteous living, and service; and he strove always to teach his people how to live Heavenly Father’s commandments.
When King Benjamin and his Nephite brethren went to war against the Lamanites to protect the land of Zarahemla, he fought by their sides, wielding the Sword of Laban. After peace was established, he turned his attention once again to teaching his people about their relationship with their Heavenly Father. He also saw that his sons, Mosiah, Helorum, and Helaman, were taught in the language of their forefathers so that they could understand the records and the prophecies engraved on the ancient and precious metal plates that had been preserved down to their own day. He taught them about the importance of the records and about many other things.
When he became old and frail, King Benjamin decided to pass his kingdom on to his son Mosiah (about 124 B.C.). He told Mosiah to make a proclamation throughout the land that “on the morrow I shall proclaim unto this my people out of mine own mouth that thou art a king and a ruler over this people.”
The multitude was so large when the people gathered at the temple the next day—so great was their affection and gratitude for their retiring king—that King Benjamin had a high tower built, making it possible for all to hear his words. By pitching their tents facing the tower, families could hear Benjamin from inside their tents. For those beyond the sound of his voice, he had his words written as he spoke, and copies were made and sent to them.
Because King Benjamin was anxious that his words be understood, he spoke plainly. He said that he was a mortal man, just as they were, and that he had been privileged to serve them because “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” He pleaded with them to obey the Lord’s commandments and explained that it was He who had created their spirits. He declared that at that very moment Heavenly Father was supporting his frail and trembling body so that he could continue preaching to them.
Next, King Benjamin began to prophesy of things made known to him “by an angel of God.” He told the people the glorious news of the future birth of Jesus Christ; of His ministry and miraculous healings; of His crucifixion, resurrection, and atoning sacrifice as the Saviour of all who would believe in Him, repent, and obey His commandments. King Benjamin ended the prophecy by telling the people of the agony suffered by those who endanger their salvation through their unrighteousness. When he looked around, he saw that the multitude, “had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.”
“… 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 that our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, …
“And … after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins.”
After this demonstration of Heavenly Father’s goodness, King Benjamin encouraged his people to be faithful, to be loving, and to be generous in sharing with the poor, because, he said, “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?”
When the people had all pledged their belief in Jesus Christ and had promised to keep the commandments, King Benjamin told them, “Because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ. …
“And I would that ye should remember also, that this is the name that … never should be blotted out, except it be through transgression.”
When King Benjamin was through speaking, he thought it wise to compile the names of all those who had made a covenant with the Lord, and he was pleased to discover that every name was listed, except for those of small children.
Benjamin died three years after Mosiah began to reign, and Mosiah tilled the earth as his father had and did “that which his father had done in all things.”