King Benjamin was a prophet-king who ruled the Nephites for many years until about 124 B.C. He was the son of King Mosiah, who was made king over the united people of Nephi and Zarahemla. King Benjamin also had a son whom he named Mosiah, on whom he conferred the kingdom, and who became the last King of the Nephites. King Benjamin was a great military leader and personally helped defeat the Lamanites in terrible battles. Mormon tells us that King Benjamin overcame many difficulties within his own kingdom and that he had to labor with his whole soul to establish peace in his kingdom. He was also a keeper of many sacred records and had reigned with justice and mercy over his subjects (Omni 24-30, Words of Mormon 12-18). We have record of him instructing his sons about the scriptures and the gospel.
King Benjamin is most noted for his great, final sermon which is recorded in The Book of Mormon in Mosiah chapters 2 – 6. This sermon is one of the most widely read and studied portions of The Book of Mormon.
In Mosiah chapter two, King Benjamin builds a tower at the temple and has his sermon written down so that all can have his words. King Benjamin asks for attention to his message and expounds on the value of serving others. He states “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God”. He exhorts humility and gratitude to our “Heavenly King” and reminds us of our dependence upon God for everything we have. He warns us to beware of contentions and talks about the awful state of those who have fallen into transgression. He then contrasts this with the happy state of those who keep the commandments of God.
In Mosiah chapter three, King Benjamin recounts a visit by an angel of God who told him the good news of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. King Benjamin speaks in beautiful language of Christ’s great work during his mortal ministry, including a brief account of miracles he would perform, and his suffering, death, and resurrection for all mankind. He then elaborates further on the power of the atonement, teaching that “Christ’s blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned”. He further teaches that little children are blessed and that Christ’s blood atoneth for their sins. He teaches unequivocally the need for salvation through Jesus Christ and that he is the only way, saying “There shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent”. King Benjamin further declares that “the natural man is an enemy to God…unless he becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord”. He prophesies that “the time shall come when the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation” and then reminds us again of the terrible state of those who reject Jesus Christ. Anyone who desires to know the doctrines and feelings of Mormons regarding Jesus Christ should read Mosiah chapter three.
In Mosiah chapter 4, King Benjamin’s listeners have a Pentecostal-type experience as they believe his words and receive a remission of their sins through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. King Benjamin then exhorts them to continue to strengthen their faith through trust in God, humility, and keeping the commandments of God. He promises that those who do will “always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins” among other blessings. King Benjamin spends considerable time exhorting us to provide for the needs of the beggars among us, reminding us that we are all beggars before God. He ends by exhorting us to do all things in “wisdom and order”, to be diligent, and to be constantly wary of sin.
In Mosiah chapter five, King Benjamin rejoices that his people believe his words, have a change of heart, have no more desire to do evil, and enter into a covenant with God to be obedient to his commandments. He tells them “because of the covenant which he have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters…your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him.” He again exhorts his people to be true to Christ and their covenant for the rest of their lives and reminds them of the goodness of God.
Many important doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are clearly stated by King Benjamin in this discourse. They are too numerous to list in full, but they do include: Salvation through the atonement of Jesus Christ; Salvation through Jesus Christ of those who have ignorantly sinned; Salvation of little children through Jesus Christ; Our need to be humble before God; Our need to help the less fortunate; Our need to put off the “natural man” and become saints through the atonement of Christ; The eventual universality of the knowledge of Jesus Christ; God rewarding the faithful and punishing those who reject him.