Mosiah 5:1 he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed
Neal A. Maxwell
"So concerned was Benjamin with his major sermon that he sent among the people to see if they really believed in his words (see Mosiah 5:1). Benjamin was much more concerned over connecting with his spiritual constituency than with his political constituency. He was continually concerned about communicating. For example, Benjamin did not want his people to forget the name by which they were called (see Mosiah 5:14). Illustratively, too, he was anxious to complete the covenant with them, yet he concluded it only when he was sure that their hearts had been touched and that they understood clearly what he had taught (see Mosiah 5:6-7). Such is the great teaching style of this remarkable man whose sermon we celebrate." (John W. Welch, and Stephen D. Ricks, King Benjamin's Speech: Made Simple, p. 3)
Mosiah 5:2 the Spirit...has wrought a mighty change in us
The mighty change spoken of is the same transformation from carnal to spiritual that occurs when we are born again. Because of denominational inferences, latter-day saints don't refer to themselves as "born again Christians," but the Book of Mormon teaches us that this mighty change must take place in order for us to enter into the kingdom of God (Mosiah 27:26).
In order to explain the doctrine of being born again, we begin with the interview between Nicodemus and the Savior:
'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit' (Jn 3:3-7).
The usual explanation of this doctrine is that one must be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands in order to enter the kingdom of God. This "Sunday School answer" doesn't totally explain the concept because it is possible to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost without being born of the Spirit. The former is an ordinance; the latter is a spiritual transformation. The two can occur at the same time, but they usually don't. Let's take the people of Benjamin for example. These people were presumably already baptized. Yet, they are blessed with a spiritual transformation based upon their faithfulness and the covenant that they made at the time of Benjamin's speech. Therefore, the spiritual rebirth did not transform them from carnal to spiritual at the time of their baptism. This event occurred later, and it is the same for many members today. They are born again not at the time of baptism and confirmation but after they have made the decision to humble themselves before the Lord and promise to do his will.
The next concept which requires elucidation is the timing of being born again. Often the scriptures speak of this happening over a relatively short time period of a day or two. Benjamin's people, Alma, Enos, and king Lamoni are examples. However, the vast majority of members make this mighty change over a longer time period-sometimes over months or years. Bruce R. McConkie said, "(For most of us) this process is usually slow. The unusually quick ones make their way into scripture." (BYU Speeches of the Year, 1976). The process, whether it takes a day, a year, or a decade, is characterized by a spiritual transformation-'changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters. And thus they become new creatures' (Mosiah 27:25-26). Joseph Smith said, "the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham. That man that has none of the blood of Abraham (naturally) must have a new creation by the Holy Ghost." (Teachings, p. 150).
The Spirit changes the very nature of the individual such that they have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. They receive his image in their countenances and feel to sing the song of redeeming love (Alma 5:14, 26). This is attended by the manifestations of the Spirit. The gift of tongues was present on the day of Pentecost. The people of Benjamin declared that they had the spirit of prophecy, saying, were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things (v. 3). Nephi declared that the baptism of fire is followed by the ability to speak with the tongue of angels (2 Ne 31:13), which is also a representation of the spirit of prophecy.
Finally, we become the sons and daughters of Christ, spiritually begotten by his eternal sacrifice (v. 7). He forever becomes our Father and our God. In this context, one must ask how appropriate it is to refer to Jesus as our elder brother? Certainly, in the pre-mortal existence, He was our elder brother, but if we have been born again, he can be our elder brother no longer. By virtue of the atonement he becomes the Father of our spirits, for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you (v. 7).
Bruce R. McConkie
"Mere compliance with the formality of the ordinance of baptism does not mean that a person has been born again. No one can be born again without baptism, but the immersion in water and the laying on of hands to confer the Holy Ghost do not of themselves guarantee that a person has been or will be born again. The new birth takes place only for those who actually enjoy the gift or companionship of the Holy Ghost, only for those who are fully converted, who have given themselves without restraint to the Lord. Thus Alma addressed himself to his 'brethren of the church,' and pointedly asked them if they had 'spiritually been born of God,' received the Lord's image in their countenances, and had the 'mighty change' in their hearts which always attends the birth of the Spirit. (Alma 5:14-31.)" (Mormon Doctrine, p. 101)
Bruce R. McConkie
"When the Holy Ghost falls upon a worthy recipient, it has the effect of pouring out pure intelligence upon him; all is calm and serene; the still small voice speaks peace to the spirit within man; and the sanctifying, cleansing power of the Spirit begins to manifest itself. (Teachings, pp. 149-150.)" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol. 1, p. 142)
Joseph F. Smith
"What a glorious condition was this! a condition in which the Lord God Omnipotent, by the power of His Spirit, had wrought a mighty change in the hearts of that people, that they no longer had any desire to do evil, but were filled only with a fervent desire to do that which was good. This was indeed a great change, and yet it is precisely that change that comes today to every son and daughter of God who repents of his or her sins, who humble themselves before the Lord, and who seek forgiveness and remission of sin by baptism by immersion, by one having authority to administer this sacred ordinance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For it is this new birth that was spoken of by Christ to Nicodemus as absolutely essential that men might see the Kingdom of God, and without which no man could enter into the Kingdom. Each of us can remember, perhaps, the change that came into our hearts when we were baptized for the remission of our sins...The feeling that came upon me was that of pure peace, or love and of light. I felt in my soul that if I had sinned-and surely I was not without sin-that it had been forgiven me; that I was indeed cleansed from sin; my heart was touched and I felt that I would not injure the smallest insect beneath my feet. I felt as though I wanted to do good everywhere to everybody and to everything. I felt a newness of life, a newness of desire to do that which was right. There was not one particle of desire for evil left in my soul. I was but a little boy, it is true, when I was baptized; but this was the influence that came upon me, and I know that it was from God, and was and ever has been a living witness to me of my acceptance of the Lord." (Conference Reports, Apr. 1898, p. 65)
Mark E. Petersen
"That birth of the spirit means something more than most of us normally realize. Through proper teaching, a conviction is born in our soul. Faith develops. Through it we see how important it is to become like Christ. We see ourselves as we are in contrast to a Christlike soul. A desire for a change-over is born within us. The change-over begins. We call it repentance. Through our faith and as part of our conversion or change from one state to another, we begin to see sin in its true light. ... We strive with all our souls to become like the Savior. (Address to seminary and institute of religion personnel, BYU, July 11, 1956.)" (Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p.117)
Mosiah 5:2 no more disposition to do evil
"The 'mighty change' associated with the new birth results in an educated conscience, educated desires, educated and bridled passions. Alma spoke of the ancient Saints who had received the priesthood of Melchizedek, and who, through their faith and obedience, 'were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb. Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.' (Alma 13:11-12; italics added) Likewise, after Ammon had preached to King Lamoni and his subjects, 'they did all declare unto the people the selfsame thing - that their hearts had been changed; that they had no more desire to do evil. And behold, many did declare unto the people that they had seen angels and had conversed with them; and thus they had told them things of God, and of his righteousness.' (Alma 19:33-34; italics added.) The Saints of God in all ages lift up their voices unto the heavens as did Nephi: 'O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?' (2 Nephi 4:31.)" (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, p. 175)
Mosiah 5:3 were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things
As a manifestation of the Spirit, the people were given the spirit of prophecy, which is no more than the testimony of Jesus (Rev 19:10). A similar manifestation of the Spirit attended the baptisms of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, "No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation." (History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 42)
Mosiah 5:5, 8 we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God
By virtue of the righteous covenant made, the people are called the children of Christ, they promise to be obedient unto the end, and they receive his name. This was the desire of Benjamin even before he began his sermon, I will give this people a name, that thereby they may be distinguished above all the people which the Lord God hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem (Mosiah 1:11). At the most fundamental level, it is clear that every newly baptized member of the Church effectively does the same thing by taking upon them the name of Christ. However, the relationship between covenant making and receiving a new name has a deeper meaning to endowed members of the Church. This is the pattern being established by Benjamin.
Mosiah 5:7 the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters
All the inhabitants of the earth are the spiritual offspring of their spiritual Father and Mother. When born into mortality, each of us receive a set of mortal parents. But the world, through the fall of Adam, has separated us from God. We have become, thereby, carnal, sensual, and devilish (Mosiah 16:3). Through our separation from God, we have, in effect, died a spiritual death (the first, spiritual death). In order to come alive to things of the Spirit, we must be born again, not according to the flesh as Nicodemus thought, but according to the Spirit.
This spiritual rebirth is not without parentage. The Lord, Jesus Christ, becomes the Father of our Spirits. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become by sons and my daughters (Ether 3:14). When we receive Him as our Redeemer, He will receive us as a son or daughter of Christ, as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God (Jn 1:12). The people of Benjamin had, indeed, received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and Redeemer. Therefore, his atonement, which had not yet been accomplished, frees them from the captivity of sin-as Benjamin says, under this head ye are made free (v. 8).
Just as we have a father of our mortal bodies, we have a Father of our born-again spirits. Of this, the book of Hebrews makes reference:
'For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? (Heb 12:6-9)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"The Son of God has a perfect right to call us his children, spiritually begotten, and we have a perfect right to look on him as our father who spiritually begot us.
"Now if these critics would read carefully the Book of Mormon, they would find that when the Savior came and visited the Nephites, he told them that he had been sent by his Father. He knelt before them, and he prayed to his Father. He taught them to pray to his Father, but that did not lessen in the least our duty and responsibility of looking upon the Son of God as a father to us because he spiritually begot us." (Conference Reports, Oct. 1962, p. 21)
Mosiah 5:8 under this head ye are made free
"'I am the way, the truth, and the life,' Jesus taught his disciples; 'no man cometh unto the Father, but by me' (John 14:6). 'If ye continue in my word,' he said on another occasion, 'then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free' (John 8:31-32). In a modern revelation that same Lord said: 'I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed' (D&C 98:8). In and through Jesus Christ people are made free-free from sin, from ignorance, and ultimately from the effects of a fallen state and all the limitations of the flesh. Christ comes, Lehi testified, to 'redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon.' (2 Nephi 2:26.) Through the blessings of the Atonement, the obedient are free to enter the divine presence and partake fully of all that the Father has." (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, p. 177)
Mosiah 5:8 take upon you the name of Christ
When you take upon yourself the name of Christ, it means that you become his representative, that you have committed to serve him unto the end of your lives and that you recognize that he is the source of your salvation. In this context, any actions on our part, which show disrespect to that great name, tarnish the image of the Church in the eyes of others, and prove that we are, as usual, unprofitable servants. We need to realize the great responsibility that rests on our shoulders when we take upon ourselves the holy name of Christ. As David O. McKay explained, "To be the representative of the risen Lord is the greatest honor that can come to man." (Conference Reports, Apr. 1950, p. 179)
Charles W. Penrose
"Do not be afraid to use reverently the name of Christ. He uses it continually. We can read about it in the Book of Mormon. The Church was the Church of Christ, and in the last days the Church is to be called by that name. You may think perhaps that is a matter of little importance. Perhaps it is so to you; but I have found in my experience, from the beginning of my membership in this Church, that there is power in that name. 'In my name they that believe shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues,' and so on. There is power in the name of Jesus Christ. Demons tremble at that name. They recognize it. But when we, in a slip-shod way, use the name of Jesus, and say nothing about Christ, I don't know that it has so much power and influence." (Conference Reports, Apr. 1920, p. 29)
Carlos E. Asay
"A number of years ago, two missionaries walked along a street in a large city in Europe. It was a lovely morning, and their enthusiasm for life was reflected in their brisk walk and jovial moods. When one missionary was least expecting it, the other kicked his companion's heel and sent him stumbling forward. Both laughed boisterously over the little trick and merrily went on their way. Later, when the kicking elder had relaxed his guard, the companion returned the favor with added vigor that almost caused a serious fall on the pavement. Once again, however, they laughed and continued down the sidewalk.
"The next day they tracted along that same street. At one door, a lady appeared and extended a warm greeting. Quickly the senior companion announced, 'We are representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have a-' At that point, the woman interrupted the elder by saying: 'No, you can't be representatives of the Lord. Representatives of the Lord would not walk down the street laughing and joking like two little schoolboys, as you did yesterday.'
"In this instance, the missionaries did not match the message they were bearing. Their actions betrayed their purpose and mocked the one they represented." (The Seven M's of Missionary Service, pp. 66-7)
Mosiah 5:9 the right hand of God
After the final judgment, the Lord will divide the sheep from the goats. The sheep are placed on his right hand, and the goats are placed on his left. As the Lord has said, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (Jn 10:27). As Benjamin explains, [the righteous] know the voice by which [they] shall be called (v. 12). The goats on the left don't know the voice of the good shepherd, For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served (v. 13). Therefore, they must be called by some other name (v. 11) because they are not worthy of the name of Christ.
Apparently, it is always better to be on the right hand of God. "The right hand denotes power or strength. The scripture generally imputes to God's right hand all the effects of his omnipotence, Ex 15:6, Ps 17:7; 20:6; 44:3." (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, p. 80) This is the eternal position of the Son of Man, who said to the Sanhedrin after his unlawful arrest, Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God (Lu 22:69).
Mosiah 5:12 retain the name written always in your hearts
This chapter is filled with temple imagery. We have already discussed how Benjamin established a covenant with the people and gave them a new name, the name of Christ (v. 8). Now, he instructs them never to forget the name but to retain it always in their hearts. He instructs them further to know...the name by which he shall call you. Lastly, the benevolent king promises his people that if they do these things, the Lord God Omnipotent, [will] seal you his (v. 15). Accordingly, it should be no surprise to us that the location for this sermon was the temple of Zarahemla (Mosiah 1:18).
Mosiah 5:12 know the voice by which ye shall be called
Spiritual discernment requires that we recognize the voice of the Spirit and that we recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd, for my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (Jn 10:27). If we do not learn to hearken to his voice during our mortal sojourn, we have no hope that we will know the voice in the hereafter.
"How are we to know the voice of the Good Shepherd from the voice of a stranger? Can any person answer this question? I can. It is very easy. To every philosopher upon the earth, I say, your eye can be deceived, so can mine; your ear can be deceived, so can mine; the touch of your hand can be deceived, so can mine; but the Spirit of God filling the creature with revelation and the light of eternity, cannot be mistaken-the revelation which comes from God is never mistaken. When an individual, filled with the Spirit of God, declares the truth of heaven, the sheep hear that, the Spirit of the Lord pierces their inmost souls and sinks deep into their hearts; by the testimony of the Holy Ghost light springs up within them, and they see and understand for themselves. This is the way the Gospel should be preached by every Elder in Israel, and by this power every hearer should hear; and if we would know the voice of the Good Shepherd, we must live so that the Spirit of the Lord can find its way to our hearts." (Discourses of Brigham Young, ed. by John A. Widstoe, p. 431)
"...we can receive the Spirit of eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, by which we may know the voice of the Good Shepherd, whenever and wherever we hear it. And as we know the voice of the Good Shepherd, so shall we learn to distinguish it from the voice of a stranger--the voice of the evil one. We can then clearly understand the things that are of God, and the things that are not of Him, and be able to see and judge all things as they are, for, 'He that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.' (1 Cor 2:15)" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 302)
M. Russell Ballard
"When my ministry is over, it won't be any talk that I've given in the Tabernacle that will make much difference or will be very important in the sight of the Lord. What will be important, I think, is that I hear the voice and respond to the prompting, that the Spirit might direct me that I might be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to do His will and His bidding." (Church News, Jan. 16, 1988)