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According to the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin, son of King Mosiah the first, was the second Nephite king to rule over Zarahemla. An account of his life and teachings are recorded in both the Words of Mormon and the Book of Mosiah. Based on the kind of man he was, and the ecclesiastical structure of the day, he is considered a king and a prophet, and was the spiritual and governmental leader of his people.
He is perhaps best associated with a speech to the people. This famous oration begins in Mosiah Chapter 2. He talks about righteous living, he shares some of his philosophies of government, stating that the laws that he and his father before him have made are based on the commandments of God. He reminds the people that he has not oppressed them with taxes but worked with his own hands to support himself. He then prophesies of Jesus Christ -- His birth which is more than 100 years away, His life, His ministry, His death and resurrection. Benjamin explains Jesus' atonement for the sins of mankind, and persuades the people to accept Jesus as their Savior.
King Benjamin also proclaims that his son Mosiah will become the next king over the people. Benjamin, while still alive, is handing over the throne to his son.
Benjamin was a humble man who worked with his own hands to maintain himself and his family, refusing to live off his people or to surround himself with the trappings of wealth and power.
King Benjamin said: "When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."
Benjamin as record-keeper
In the first edition of the Book of Mormon, in Ether 4:1, Benjamin is said to have kept the Jaredite records. In later editions of the B of M, "Benjamin" was changed to "Mosiah," since at the time the Nephites obtained the Jaredite records, Benjamin had handed over the throne to Mosiah his son. However, Hugh Nibley, a prominent 20th century LDS scholar, strongly objected to this change. "It was Benjamin who displayed the zeal of a life-long book-lover in the keeping and studying of records; and after he handed over the throne to his son Mosiah he lived on and may well have spent many days among his beloved records. And among these records could have been the Jaredite plates, which were brought to Zarahemla early in the reign of Mosiah, when his father could have still been living.
King Benjamin as fictional character
The story "The Grave of a King" by Yusuf Haddad, is about the finding of the grave of King Benjamin by a group of archaeologists. Since the grave lacks any rich funeral offerings or any sign of opulence, the archaeologists conclude the grave is that of a simple ordinary peasant.
Analyses of King Benjamin's speech
- In his book Since Cumorah, Hugh Nibley studies Benjamin's oration as an archetypal coronation speech. In Nibley's view, one of the main purposes of the kings' speech is on the peaceful continuation of the kingdom as the throne passes on to the rightful heir.
- Another LDS scholar, Gordon Thomasson has studied the speech as a celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.
- Other LDS scholars such as John W. Welch have analyzed King Benjamin's speech as a masterful example of chiasmus.
|King of a tribe of the Nephites
various kings of the Nephites;
|Nephite record keeper of the large plates
ca. 2nd century B.C.
|Nephite record keeper of the small plates
ca. 2nd century B.C.