Friday, July 10, 2015

The conversion of King Benjamin’s people: a progress checklist

I’m quoting 16 verses below, but I hope you will take a little time to read through them before going to what I have to say.

And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.
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.
And it came to pass that 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, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.
And king Benjamin again opened his mouth and began to speak unto them, saying: My friends and my brethren, my kindred and my people, I would again call your attention, that ye may hear and understand the remainder of my words which I shall speak unto you.
For behold, if the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state—
I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, 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, I mean the life of the mortal body—
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.
Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.
10 And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.
11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.
12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.
13 And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due.
14 And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.
15 But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.
16 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 you in vain, and turn him out to perish. (Mosiah 4:1-16

These verses are very powerful and very useful, since they describe for us in great detail the things that are done, said, prayed, felt, remembered, and believed to obtain and retain a forgiveness and remission of sins.  Actions and words are described, but also the very thoughts and feelings of the heart.  We learn not only what the people did and prayed, but also how they saw themselves, what they thought and felt about God, their belief, their feelings of relief from sin and guilt, their joy, and so on.

We can tell that King Benjamin is intimately acquainted with all they experience and he speaks to validate all they’ve felt and I suspect he uses his own experience as he tells them how they can retain those feelings.

I think this section is very useful for us today because it can show us how far we’ve progressed in spiritual experience, whether we’re in need of repentance, whether we’re in the middle of the process, or whether we’re trying to retain it from day to day.  It is wonderful to read and remember how we’ve felt and check where we are.  And if we haven’t felt those things, the account is an implicit encouragement to experiment on the word so that we can experience those things, to repent and change so we can feel it.  If we’ve lost the glow, it encourages us to go through those steps so we can feel it again.

I particularly like v1-4 because it describes not just a prayer of repentance, but the thoughts and feelings that instigated it, and the relief afterward.  I know in church we teach lessons about the repentance process from time to time, with meticulous steps that we write up on the board, but for some reason those four verses make it emotionally and spiritually real for me.  (I've felt what is described there, I've prayed as they have prayed, and felt that same consolation. If someone ever asked me about repentance, those four verses are what I would point them to.