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TitleMosiah 2
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsGardner, Brant A.
Book TitleBook of Mormon Minute
PublisherBook of Mormon Central
CitySpringville, UT
KeywordsMosiah (Book)

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Mosiah 2

King Benjamin’s Speech (Mosiah 2–5)

Mosiah 2:1–4

1 And it came to pass that after Mosiah had done as his father had commanded him, and had made a proclamation throughout all the land, that the people gathered themselves together throughout all the land, that they might go up to the temple to hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them.

2 And there were a great number, even so many that they did not number them; for they had multiplied exceedingly and waxed great in the land.

3 And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses;

4 And also that they might give thanks to the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, and who had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and had appointed just men to be their teachers, and also a just man to be their king, who had established peace in the land of Zarahemla, and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men.

Comments

Mosiah2 delivers the proclamation for the people to gather. While they had been invited to hear the king speak to them, it is probable that the invitation was an additional invitation to a festival that was to have been celebrated in any case. What we know of this occasion is that all the people come, and they bring firstlings of the flocks for sacrifice and burnt offerings. That additional piece of information suggests that this was a holy occasion made more important by the king’s announcement. It is doubtful that all would come with sacrifices if they had only recently been notified of the king’s speech, and the seating of a new king did not require sacrifices under the law of Moses.

The idea that this was more than just the occasion of seating a new king will come in following verses. It is also important to remember that this comes at the end of many tribulations, so there are thanks offerings to be given, and perhaps offerings of atonement occasioned by actions during the previous conflicts.

Mosiah 2:5–6

5 And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple, they pitched their tents round about, every man according to his family, consisting of his wife, and his sons, and his daughters, and their sons, and their daughters, from the eldest down to the youngest, every family being separate one from another.

6 And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple, that thereby they might remain in their tents and hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them;

Comments

The description of the event has families coming to the temple and surrounding the area while they stayed in their tents. Scholars have suggested that this is sufficiently similar to the Feast of Tabernacles, that it may have been that holy day that king Benjamin used as the springboard for his abdication.

The Feast of Tabernacles looked back to Yahweh’s protection while Israel wandered in the wilderness. The tents, or booths, represented temporary dwellings meant to invoke that time. The idea that families would be together in them fits with the nature of the festival.

An interesting possibility is that while the festival looked backward, it may have also signaled a looking forward to a future time of salvation by Yahweh, a time of a future Messiah. In the New Testament, John 7:37–38, Jesus uses the great feast day to preach of himself as the living water, declaring himself the Messiah.

If there was such a tangential understanding that the feast would look forward to the Messiah, it makes an even stronger platform for the subject of king Benjamin’s speech.

Mosiah 2:7

7 For the multitude being so great that king Benjamin could not teach them all within the walls of the temple, therefore he caused a tower to be erected, that thereby his people might hear the words which he should speak unto them.

Comments

Building a tower allowed Benjamin to be better seen. The implication, however, is that he could be better heard as well. If we accept a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon, there is an interesting possible context for building this tower.

The first is that many Mesoamerican builders paid attention to acoustics. Someone speaking from one temple could be heard in the accompanying courtyard. Since the people had come with their sacrifices, it is logical that there was already some type of temple or sacrificial structure available. For some reason, however, it was not sufficient and, therefore, a tower was built.

A second interesting aspect of building this tower is that when Benjamin’s son Mosiah2 spoke to an even larger gathering, there is no mention of a tower being built. This leads to speculation that may or may not be relevant to the text.

In the location of Santa Rosa which John L. Sorenson has suggested might have been Zarahemla, a new temple was constructed about the time period when Benjamin’s speech would have been given. In that temple the underlying structural foundation had two types of rocks in the fill: one, smooth river rocks, and the second, rocks with sharp edges. The two types were clearly divided into east-west parts with no river rock mixing with the sharp stone. The whole was then plastered over and the temple built above. The non-Latter-day Saint archaeologist doing the work suggested that it symbolized two peoples joining together into one new people.

While it may be only coincidence, the idea that Benjamin builds a tower on the site, where a new temple was to be built to commemorate the unification of the people of Zarahemla and the Nephites into the new people, is tempting, particularly since that is the theme of Benjamin’s speech.

Mosiah 2:8­

8 And it came to pass that he began to speak to his people from the tower; and they could not all hear his words because of the greatness of the multitude; therefore he caused that the words which he spake should be written and sent forth among those that were not under the sound of his voice, that they might also receive his words.

Comments

Even with the tower, there were enough people gathered that they could not clearly hear. This particular message was going to be essential for Benjamin’s people. Therefore, all needed to know what was being said. There is so little information in the text that we cannot know if the account was written afterwards, or if there was a version of it written before Benjamin began to speak. It would conform better with typical ancient practice if Benjamin’s speech were spontaneous, and the written version captured it.

Combining an understanding of ancient cultures and hints in the text, we can say that Nephite culture was heavily oral. Even their written records tend to follow oral styles. This suggests that while there were certainly literate Nephites, they, like most of the ancient world, were mostly nonliterate.

If that were the case, then, what about the written version of Benjamin’s speech? First, the process of production itself limits the number of copies. There were no printing presses, so it would be a monumental task to produce hundreds of copies. It is most likely that what happened was similar to other ancient cultures, where a messenger brought the message and read it to a gathered people. The hints of the clan structures suggest that the messenger would go to a location where the clan lived in the vicinity, and meet with them separately to read the message.

The very fact that the effort was taken to make copies and send messengers underscores the importance of this message for the people.

King Benjamin Addresses His People

Mosiah 2:9­

9 And these are the words which he spake and caused to be written, saying: My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.

Comments

As Benjamin begins, he sets up a stylistic theme for the way he will construct the argument he will present. He uses a contradiction that begins with what he has not done, and then emphasizes what he has done. The introduction confirms the importance of this occasion by saying that he did not command them to come and trifle with his words, but that they would understand them, implying that they would have something to do as a result.

This should suggest that this is a different occasion. The people have gathered in what appears to have been a ritual occasion, perhaps the Feast of Tabernacles. It is possible that there would have been some traditional speech by the king, and perhaps it might have been the kind of speech that Jacob’s people had come to hear on the occasion when he also had to tell them that they would not hear those pleasing words.

The signal of the opening is that this was not a common ritual with standard blessings. Something different was coming. That difference begins with the “this is what it is not, this is what it is” type of introduction. That method of setting the scene continues as Benjamin sets his scene.

Mosiah 2:10–11

10 I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear me, or that ye should think that I of myself am more than a mortal man.

11 But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me.

Comments

This particular contradiction is unusual from a modern perspective, but much more understandable in the Book of Mormon’s ancient context. Benjamin declares that his people should not fear him or think him more than a mortal man. Modern readers are used to understanding that our leaders are mortal men with specific callings, but that has not always been the case.

Even in the tradition of European kings, there was a reverence and a suggestion that they were somehow endowed by the divine with something more. In ancient Mesoamerica, kings were personifications of deities in life, becoming deities of some sort after their death. This suggestion that the people might have thought Benjamin “more than a mortal man” is a direct reflection of the common assumptions of people of the region.

The reversal statement reaffirms Benjamin’s essential mortality, a mortality that is subject to common infirmities. The point is to define the type of king that Benjamin is, and to create that definition in contrast to cultural expectations. Benjamin is king because he was consecrated by his father, not because he was divinely appointed. 

Mosiah 2:12–14

12 I say unto you that as I have been suffered to spend my days in your service, even up to this time, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you;

13 Neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery; nor even have I suffered that ye should commit any manner of wickedness, and have taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you—

14 And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne—and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day.

Comments

In the previous verse (11), Benjamin introduced the idea that he had been made king so that he could serve the people. He expands that concept. He has performed his service and contrasts an implicit expectation for what kings do. It would have been expected in most cultures that the king would enrich himself. It was sufficiently common throughout the world that the king would be considered the wealthiest, and that much of the labor of the people would be sent to the king to enrich him. Benjamin declares that he has not done that.

The phrase “neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons” begins a series of things that Benjamin has not done. The only reason for stating what he has not done is to contrast the implicit understanding that these are things that the people would know that kings do. There is no reason to suggest that he hadn’t thrown people in dungeons if that never happened anywhere. There is no reason to declare that they should not make slaves of one another unless that was a possibility that was known and understood.

His conclusion is that in contrast to expectations, he has even “labored with mine own hands that I might serve you.” Whatever he had done, it allowed him to decrease the potential tax burden. Thus, Benjamin could show that he, himself, had labored for their benefit, rather than the expectation that the people labored to support a king.

Service to God and Man

Mosiah 2:15–18

15 Yet, my brethren, I have not done these things that I might boast, neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you; but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day.

16 Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God.

17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.

18 Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?

Comments

Benjamin makes a neat turn in the discourse. He shifts the emphasis from himself to God. Benjamin has declared that he himself is mortal. Nevertheless, his message will be about one who is clearly not mortal. What Benjamin is setting up is an understanding of the relationship of a people and their king, and then shifting that relationship to God as the ultimate king. In that relationship, even Benjamin, an earthly king, is a subject to the highest king—God.

That is the reason that he declares that while he has served his people, that service was part of a larger service to God. That relationship is then imposed upon the people. Just as Benjamin served God by serving his people, when Benjamin’s people serve each other, they serve God.

Mosiah 2:19–21

19 And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!

20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—

21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.

Comments

Benjamin established that he has worked for the benefit of his people and provided them with an experience that was demonstrably better for them than was perhaps available in surrounding cultures where the king was enriched on the backs of his people and they were subject to dungeons and enslavement. If they, therefore, would have reason to thank him for those benefits, they should recognize that they had a similar relationship to Yahweh, and that Yahweh provided them with much more.

More than the benefits that Benjamin provided, Yahweh created them and has granted them the promise of the land. That they had been preserved in the preceding war and during the internal contentions becomes a witness that they are under the protection of the promise of the land.

What ancient people understood is that there was a covenant between people and king whereby the people would provide support and the king would provide protection. This was seen as reciprocal and perhaps, at least in the ideal case, balanced. However, Benjamin declares that they are under a similar covenant with Yahweh, and that Yahweh has provided so much that it is an inherently unbalanced relationship. They are unprofitable servants in that they cannot be worth what they receive in exchange.

Mosiah 2:22–25

22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.

24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?

25 And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.

Comments

In spite of the fact that Yahweh has provided for so much that the people could never be worth the exchange of value, Yahweh requires very little. This creates the contrast between what would be expected and what is provided. Once again, it is immensely inequitable. Yahweh, who offers so much value that it could not possibly be balanced, requires very little in return. All he asks is that “ye do keep his commandments.”

Benjamin has moved the more understandable covenant between a people and their king to the covenant with the heavenly king. The heavenly king provides so much that even when the people do keep the commandments, they are blessed for that effort and the imbalance continues.

The people cannot boast of themselves. They cannot balance the scales. The interesting comparison is to the dust of the earth, a common and less than valuable substance. Yet even the dust of the earth is part of Yahweh’s creation. Everything they know ultimately comes from Yahweh. They cannot, of themselves, ever boast that they have earned Yahweh’s blessings. Even doing the simple request of obeying the commandments is insufficient to balance the scales. They cannot earn what Yahweh provides. While not stated in the terms of the New Testament concept of Grace, it is the Grace of God that is being described.

Mosiah2 Seated As King

Mosiah 2:26–30

26 And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; for I am also of the dust. And ye behold that I am old, and am about to yield up this mortal frame to its mother earth.

27 Therefore, as I said unto you that I had served you, walking with a clear conscience before God, even so I at this time have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together, that I might be found blameless, and that your blood should not come upon me, when I shall stand to be judged of God of the things whereof he hath commanded me concerning you.

28 I say unto you that I have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together that I might rid my garments of your blood, at this period of time when I am about to go down to my grave, that I might go down in peace, and my immortal spirit may join the choirs above in singing the praises of a just God.

29 And moreover, I say unto you that I have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together, that I might declare unto you that I can no longer be your teacher, nor your king;

30 For even at this time, my whole frame doth tremble exceedingly while attempting to speak unto you; but the Lord God doth support me, and hath suffered me that I should speak unto you, and hath commanded me that I should declare unto you this day, that my son Mosiah is a king and a ruler over you.

Comments

Benjamin declares that he is growing old and that due to age and perhaps infirmity, he is relinquishing the throne to his son Mosiah2. He will live for three more years. We cannot tell from what little evidence is in the text what sort of infirmity befell him, but the important point is that where most transitions occur at the death of the king, this one is an abdication. Even when a king was weak, there were advisors to continue the rule, so it is not improbable that this abdication is a special case.

The nature of this speech is to create a newly named people that will be different from the former divided population. Perhaps as a signal of that change, or an emphasis on the newness, there is a change in the king. That ensures that this speech will create a new beginning, symbolically and psychologically.

Mosiah 2:31

31 And now, my brethren, I would that ye should do as ye have hitherto done. As ye have kept my commandments, and also the commandments of my father, and have prospered, and have been kept from falling into the hands of your enemies, even so if ye shall keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him, ye shall prosper in the land, and your enemies shall have no power over you.

Comments

The assembled people whom king Benjamin addressed were those who remained after both a war and a civil conflict that appears to have escalated to a war. In Words of Mormon (1:16) we are informed that there had been “much contention and many dissensions away unto the Lamanites.” This suggests that those who remained were statistically unified in their support of both Benjamin and of the Nephite religion. It is important to remember that in the ancient world there was no real difference between religion and political systems. God’s laws were the laws of the land and the king represented God’s authority.

When Benjamin says that “I would that ye should do as ye have hitherto done,” he is speaking to those who had previously supported the Nephite religion and political system. Those who could not do so, or at least most who could not do so, had dissented away to the Lamanites. Therefore, it was true that they had been faithful to the commandments.

King Benjamin reiterates the Nephite foundational promise that they would prosper if they kept the commandments. Clearly, there had been times during which they prospered, and Benjamin is promising that blessing for the future. This, in spite of the obvious devastation of war and contention that had recently ended. That clearly non-peaceful event was the result of the unfaithfulness of those who left. Benjamin is contrasting those who remain with those who rejected the Nephite religion and political system and dissented away to the Lamanites. The faithfulness of those present is subtly given credit for the fact that they have survived and that they still have a city and a people.

Mosiah 2:32–33

32 But, O my people, beware lest there shall arise contentions among you, and ye list to obey the evil spirit, which was spoken of by my father Mosiah.

33 For behold, there is a wo pronounced upon him who listeth to obey that spirit; for if he listeth to obey him, and remaineth and dieth in his sins, the same drinketh damnation to his own soul; for he receiveth for his wages an everlasting punishment, having transgressed the law of God contrary to his own knowledge.

Comments

Verse 32 is extremely important for our understanding of the Nephite world at this point in time. King Benjamin has just commended the people on their righteousness in the previous verse, but here he specifically warns them “lest there shall arise contentions among you.” Benjamin is not suggesting that there be no squabbles between family members, or that no one should argue with another. In the Book of Mormon, contentions are much more serious. Most of them fall into a category we would recognize as apostasy from the established religion, though the confluence of religion and politics made Book of Mormon contentions even more serious and divisive.

The destructive nature of that type of contention would have been painfully clear after the events that are only briefly described in Words of Mormon. Even though the people currently accept the Nephite religion and political system, later events will clearly demonstrate that Benjamin’s admonition against those contentions was warranted. They will come again, and they will continue to be destructive to the fabric of Nephite society.

Benjamin links contentions with listening to the evil spirit. He references a discourse his father, Mosiah1, had given. We do not have that sermon, and it may have been recorded in the lost pages of the first part of the Book of Mormon translation. From this snippet we can tell that Mosiah1 contrasted listening to Yahweh, the representative of good, with listening to the evil spirit. There are consequences of following the two opposite influences. Listening to the evil spirit removes one from the benefits of the reconciliation with God. Interestingly, it is phrased as “having transgressed the law of God contrary to [one’s] knowledge.” They have been taught correctly, and it would be the opposite influence that would remove them from what they had been taught, and which Benjamin reiterated was true.

Mosiah 2:34–35

34 I say unto you, that there are not any among you, except it be your little children that have not been taught concerning these things, but what knoweth that ye are eternally indebted to your heavenly Father, to render to him all that you have and are; and also have been taught concerning the records which contain the prophecies which have been spoken by the holy prophets, even down to the time our father, Lehi, left Jerusalem;

35 And also, all that has been spoken by our fathers until now. And behold, also, they spake that which was commanded them of the Lord; therefore, they are just and true.

Comments

Benjamin expands on his reference to his father, Mosiah1’s, discourse. He had referenced his father speaking of those who follow the evil spirit. The last phrase of the previous verse (33) noted that those who followed the evil spirit contradicted what they knew to be true. In these verses, Benjamin brings that speech forward in time to apply it to his current audience.

When he says, “there are not any among you, except it be your little children that have not been taught concerning these things,” he picks up on the idea that those who would follow the evil spirit go against those teachings. This people have been taught from true sources, from the prophets recorded on the plates of brass and all the righteous Nephite fathers until the current time. Benjamin testifies that these are true teachings.

They have listened to those true teachings, and they should continue to listen to the good spirit and true teachings. They should beware of the contentions that recently led so many away.

Mosiah 2:36–37

36 And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom’s paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved—

37 I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples.

Comments

The contrast to the statement in the previous verses that this people had been taught truly from the holy prophets is indication of what happens should they go contrary to those teachings. This returns to the reference to Mosiah1’s discourse about listening to the evil spirit. Benjamin repeats the key phrase about listening to obey the evil spirit in verse 37 to make the connection to his earlier reference explicit.

Remembering that the contentions were not only political, but also religious, it is important that Benjamin reiterate both the overall covenant between Israel and Yahweh, but explicitly the newer covenant of protection upon righteousness. That new covenant provides benefits only upon the conditions of keeping the covenant. Thus, if the people should ever listen to the evil spirit, personified as the opposite of Yahweh, then they are no longer part of the covenant. Being opposed to the covenant, they then become an enemy to righteousness. Since the covenant allows Yahweh to dwell in holy temples, rejecting the covenant creates unholy temples where Yahweh cannot dwell.

It is possible that the reason for noting that Yahweh does not dwell in unholy temples is a reference to the existence of other temples where other gods are deemed to have a presence. Benjamin began by contrasting himself with the unstated other kings, and in this case, we have the contrast with the holy temple in which Yahweh can dwell in Zarahemla as opposed to the competing temples which might be considered temples, but where Yahweh, their covenant God, cannot dwell.

Mosiah 2:38–39

38 Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord, and doth fill his breast with guilt, and pain, and anguish, which is like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever.

39 And now I say unto you, that mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment.

Comments

King Benjamin mentions a topic in passing that will be the subject of a larger treatment later in the book of Alma. He mentions justice and mercy. Dr. Avram Shannon of Brigham Young University has explained the Hebrew underpinnings of these two concepts in Hebrew thought. Both are part of what Yahweh is, and that is represented in and through his covenant with his people. Justice is bound into the covenant, and in administering the conditions of the covenant, Yahweh is just in his keeping of the covenant, and in administering the penalties associated with its violation. His mercy is also bound to the covenant. When he applies the blessings promised, that becomes his mercy. Since his mercy is integrally bound to the obedience to the covenant, we can better understand what Benjamin has said.

Benjamin ends by stating that “mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment.” That does not feel very merciful. Indeed, Yahweh’s mercy has no claim. Why? The person in question “repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God.” This person has rejected the covenant and removed him or herself from the covenant. Thus, justice places the person outside of the promises, and mercy cannot provide the blessings to one who has actively rejected the foundation upon which mercy could be provided.

Mercy is not the opposite of justice, but rather an integral part of justice. Justice is defined according to the covenant, and within the covenant are abundant blessings that witness the mercy of Yahweh towards his people. Even mercy, however, comes through the covenant and is aligned with the requirements of the covenant. Repentance certainly works. It is the unrepentant rejection of the covenant that creates the conditions whereby mercy has no claim.

Mosiah 2:40–41

40 O, all ye old men, and also ye young men, and you little children who can understand my words, for I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand, I pray that ye should awake to a remembrance of the awful situation of those that have fallen into transgression.

41 And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

Comments

The domination of patriarchal thought in Nephite society is underscored in verse 40’s address to three groups: “all ye old men, and also ye young men, and you little children.” Perhaps we might imagine girls among the children, but it is clear that the address is to males, and is made explicit to be males of different ages. That should not be read to exclude women from the benefits of the covenant, but, instead, that Nephite society was a continuation of the old Hebrew system of patriarchy.

In such a system, the men were responsible for the women, not just that they were caretakers, but that they were at fault if the women did not follow the covenant. Thus, the whole discourse implicitly included the women, although modern readers would wish more recognition and understanding of the more unique roles that the women played.

The important aspect here is not that the women are invisible in the language, but rather that they are to be considered implicit and completely present in the language. When the blessed and happy state of those who keep the commandments is declared, that blessing applies to both men and women, even if the women are not mentioned.

Although these verses end our chapter 2, there was no chapter division at this point in the 1830 edition. Orson Pratt made a division here because there is a thematic change, but the discourse continued uninterrupted. The conclusion to this particular theme is that the witness of the holy prophets in the scriptures and as recorded in Nephite tradition is true. There is a covenant with God, and that covenant provides blessings as the covenant is kept, and curses when it is broken.

Scripture Reference

Mosiah 2:1-41