Facing the Temple
In this chapter, King Benjamin begins to deliver his address to the Nephites. In preparation to hearing his address, the people come to the temple and pitch their tents so that the door is facing the temple. In a Sunday school class I attended one time, the teacher mentioned that in Genesis 13:12, Lot and his family pitched their tent in the direction of Sodom and Gomorrah. She mentioned that symbolically speaking, we need to pitch our tents towards the things of righteousness and away from the world. This can mean that inside our home, we focus on the Gospel and not the usual programs on television or the Internet. To me, this means that we should not spend all our time watching TV, surfing the Internet, but rather we should spend most of our time with our family, reading the scriptures, or serving others. By doing these things, we are fortified against the influences of the world.
In verse 8, not all the people were able to pitch their tents inside the walls of the temple. King Benjamin, then, had the words he spoke written down and then passed along to those who could not hear. I think that General Conference is very similar to King Benjamin’s address. Although we can listen to General Conference on the Internet, or radio or even watch it at the Stake Center, we need to also go back and read the words of the general authorities to have those words refreshed in our minds. This is something that I need to work on. I used to read all the talks from General Conference and gain great spiritual strength, but since, I have not been as diligent.
President Benson counseled us to study the General Conference talks. "For the next six months, your conference edition of the Ensign should stand next to your standard works and be referred to frequently. As my dear friend and brother Harold B. Lee said, we should let these conference addresses 'be the guide to [our] walk and talk during the next six months. These are the important matters the Lord sees fit to reveal to this people in this day' (in Conference Report, Apr. 1946, p. 68)" (Ezra Taft Benson, “‘Come unto Christ, and Be Perfected in Him’,” Ensign, May 1988, 84).
A Clear Conscious Before God This Day
In verse 15, King Benjamin tells his people that he “can answer a clear conscience before God this day.” When I read this, I asked myself the question if I could stand before God with a clear conscience today – if I were to die. I don’t know how prepared I would be. When you begin to think that today you may meet your Maker, you begin to pin-point exactly what sins you need to repent of and which weaknesses you need to work on. If you know that you have done your best to prepare yourself to meet God, then you need not worry. One time, in a lesson in Elder’s Quorum I posed that same question to the Elders. I told them that someday we are all going to die – prepared or not. We cannot control when we will die. But, we can control how prepared we will be to meet God. If we are baptized and have received the Holy Ghost and have kept all the commandments given to us, then we are prepared. But if there are things left unsettled, then those are the things we need to work on right now to prepare ourselves to meet God.
The same concept can be applied to magnifying our callings (which is what King Benjamin was referring to). Are we doing all that we ought to with our stewardships? I think back to the scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants I referred to in the Mosiah 1 commentary (D&C 68:25) that if we do not teach our children the principals of the Gospel, the sins of the children will be upon us, the parents.
I am also reminded of the quote by John Taylor when he said, "If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those whom you might have saved had you done your duty." (Deseret News Semi-weekly, 6 Aug. 1878, 1)
The purpose of life is not to watch TV, play games and be entertained every day. We are to serve others and build up the kingdom of God on the earth. President Monson recently said, "In addition to building our own homes, we also have the responsibility to help build the kingdom of God here upon the earth by serving faithfully and effectively in our Church callings" (Thomas S. Monson, “Heavenly Homes, Forever Families,” Ensign, Jun 2006, 98–103)
King Benjamin's immortal words should ring in our ears our whole lives, "when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God" (v. 17).
We will never be square with God. We are His and it is our duty to serve him. In verses 20 and 21, King Benjamin says that if we were to serve God ALL our days, and thank Him ALL the time, we would still be “unprofitable servants.” In other words, no matter how hard we try to do what is right, it is still not enough. Even when we do all that we can, the Lord blesses us and then we are even more in debt to Him and we will try even harder to pay Him back, but we will continually fall short. We will always be indebted to God.
The Savior taught his disciples the parable of the unprofitable servants.
"But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
"And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
"Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
"So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do" (Luke 17:7-10).
It is our duty to serve God and we should express our gratitude to Him for allowing us to live and serve him.
King Benjamin reminds the people of the words of his father, "beware lest there shall arise contentions among you, and ye list to obey the evil spirit" (v. 32). One of the first things Christ taught the Nephites and Lamanites in the Americas was to not have the "spirit of contention" (see 3 Nephi 11:29). Contention leads to anger against our fellow men and "such things should be done away" (3 Nephi 11:30).
President Hinckley wrote a wonderful article (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Pursue the Steady Course,” Ensign, Jan 2005, 2–7) with reference to a quote Joseph Smith made with regard to teaching the Gospel. Joseph Smith taught, "Go in all meekness, in sobriety, and preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified; not to contend with others on account of their faith, or systems of religion, but pursue a steady course. This I delivered by way of commandment; and all who observe it not, will pull down persecution upon their heads, while those who do, shall always be filled with the Holy Ghost; this I pronounced as a prophecy" (History of the Church, 2:431).
I'm also reminded of another quote by President Hinckley. He said, "Let me say that we appreciate the truth in all churches and the good which they do. We say to the people, in effect, you bring with you all the good that you have, and then let us see if we can add to it. That is the spirit of this work. That is the essence of our missionary service (meeting, Nairobi, Kenya, 17 Feb. 1998)" (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign, Aug 1998, 72)
The Spirit of the Lord
In verse 36, King Benjamin teaches that if we transgress, we "withdraw [our] selves from the Spirit of the Lord" and will not be guided in "wisdom's paths."
I distinctly remember attending a zone conference in Coban. As usual, I had an interview with the mission president before our meetings began. This particular interview was very spiritual and in it the president and I discussed some things the Spirit was trying to tell me, him and another missionary with regards to the work. It was a very powerful spiritual experience and I remember thinking about it for days and days afterwards. One of the things that the president told me was that once I receive the Spirit, I should do all that I can to keep it as long as possible.
I have observed many times since serving a mission that after having a powerful spiritual experience, Satan's temptations become notably more powerful. The only way to keep the Spirit after such experiences is to "pursue the steady course."
Elder Maxwell has wisely noted, "So often in life a deserved blessing is quickly followed by a needed stretching. Spiritual exhilaration may be quickly followed by a vexation or temptation. Were it otherwise, extended spiritual reveries or immunities from adversity might induce in us a regrettable forgetfulness of others in deep need. The sharp, side-by-side contrast of the sweet and the bitter is essential until the very end of this brief, mortal experience" (Neal A. Maxwell, “Enduring Well,” Ensign, Apr 1997, 7).
Awful Situation and Happy States
At the end of the chapter, King Benjamin paints two pictures of two different worlds. The first is that of a person who procrastinates the day of his repentance and dies in his sins. When he is brought to the judgment seat of God, he becomes very aware of all his sins and his un-cleanliness. He shrinks from the Lords presence, sensing the Lords blinding purity. King Benjamin pleads with the people to keep the commandments so that they do not reap the consequences of those who fall into transgression (v. 38).
The other picture King Benjamin paints is that of a person who has kept the commandments of God. He tells them to consider the life of one who has kept the commandments and how happy that person would be coming into the presence of God. When they are received into heaven, they will dwell with God in a “state of never ending happiness” (v. 41).
On the way to church one morning, my wife told me of a few dreams she had last night. She said that she was waiting in line to meet Jesus. When she finally met Him, she said that He was very nice and that she was very happy. She said that she had the same look on her face as Jesus had on His when she met Him (see Alma 5:14, 19). I was amazed that my wife had this dream. She is so righteous and blessed.
I recall how many times I talked to Kekchis who said that had dreams of Jesus. For a person to dream of Jesus, he or she must be thinking of Jesus a lot. He or she must also be living righteously to dream such a dream.
In the MTC, you are immersed in the language and the discussions. You begin to think about them so much, you dream in Spanish or whatever language you are learning. I imagine that dreaming of Jesus is much the same way. A person must be thinking of Jesus a lot in order to have dreams about Him. I hope that I can immerse myself in the scriptures and the life of Jesus to have my life in alignment with His.