Mosiah 3:2 I shall tell you (things) made known unto me by an angel
Benjamin's righteousness was such that he was worthy of angelic ministration. The angel tells him, the Lord hath heard thy prayers, and hath judged of thy righteousness (v. 4). What we need to realize is that the content of chapter 3, from verse 3 to 27, is the message delivered to Benjamin by the angel. If the doctrine of this chapter seems like a pure message of divine inspiration, it is because the message is coming directly from the throne of the Almighty. The angel explains that his message is from the Lord, now I have spoken the words which the Lord God hath commanded me (v. 22). These are the words of the angel to Benjamin which Benjamin repeated to his people.
Mosiah 3:3 glad tidings of great joy
There is a parallel between this angelic visit to Benjamin and the angelic visitation to the shepherds outside Bethlehem. Both had angels appear to them to declare good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people (Lu 2:10). The Bethlehem angels go on to tell of a Savior; they give his name, show them how to find the babe, and proclaim peace and goodwill. The message of the angel to Benjamin is similar. He is told of the Savior (v. 9), the name is given (v. 8), and the message is given for the joy and rejoicing of the people (v. 4).
Mosiah 3:5 the time cometh, and is not far distant
The Lord's timetable is different than ours. In the many passages which speak of the Second Coming of the Lord, similar language is used. The Lord has said, the day soon cometh that ye shall see me, and know that I am (DC 38:8), and Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh (DC 1:12). In spite of this language, which describes his imminent return, the Lord has not yet come again. This is because the Lord's timetable is different than ours. It has been 169 years since the two prophecies above were given. The usefulness of this phrase, as given to Benjamin, is that we are able to place a fairly exact time to the phrase the time...is not far distant. In this particular case it means about 124 years. One might wonder if Benjamin thought this prophecy would be fulfilled in considerably less time than that. At any rate, the Lord has been intentionally vague with the timing of his Second Coming. He wants us to know the general time period but not the day nor the hour (Matt 25:13), for if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready (Matt 24:43-44).
Mosiah 3: 7 he shall suffer...even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death
Christ's suffering drew blood from every pore of his body. This may seem impossible to us, but it is a described medical condition:
"Although this is a very rare phenomenon, bloody sweat (hematidrosis or hemohidrosis) may occur in highly emotional states or in persons with bleeding disorders. As a result of hemorrhage into the sweat glands, the skin becomes fragile and tender." (Journal of the American Medical Association, "On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ," vol. 255, no. 11, pp. 1455-63)
James E. Talmage
"Christ's agony in the garden is unfathomable by the finite mind, both as to intensity and cause...He struggled and groaned under a burden such as no other being who has lived on earth might even conceive as possible. It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing. No other man, however great his powers of physical or mental endurance, could have suffered so; for his human organism would have succumbed, and syncope would have produced unconsciousness and welcome oblivion. In that hour of anguish Christ met and overcame all the horrors that Satan, 'the prince of this world' (Jn 16:11) could inflict...
"In some manner, actual and terribly real though to man incomprehensible, the Savior took upon Himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world. Modern revelation assists us to a partial understanding of the awful experience. In March 1830, the glorified Lord, Jesus Christ, thus spake: 'For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent, but if they would not repent, they must suffer even as I, which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit: and would that I might not drink the bitter cup and shrink -- nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.' (DC 19:16-19)...
"Note 6. The Bloody Sweat. -- Luke, the only Gospel-writer who mentions sweat and blood in connection with our Lord's agony in Gethsemane, states that 'his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground' (22:44). Many critical expositors deny that there was an actual extrusion of blood, on the grounds that the evangelist does not positively affirm it, and that the three apostles, who were the only human witnesses, could not have distinguished blood from sweat falling in drops, as they watched from a distance in the night, even if the moon, which at the passover season was full, had been unobscured. Modern scripture removes all doubt. See D&C 19:16-19, also 18:11. See further a specific prediction of the bloody sweat, Mosiah 3:7." (Jesus the Christ, pp. 613-4, 620)
Bruce R. McConkie
"This sacrifice...took place in Gethsemane when he sweat great gouts of blood from every pore...And it also took place as he hung on the cruel cross of Calvary. During the last three hours of that agonizing ordeal, while darkness overspread the land, all the pains and suffering of Gethsemane returned." (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 109 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 206)
Mosiah 3:8 he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God
Some have criticized the Book of Mormon because Book of Mormon prophets use the term "Christ" before the birth of the Savior. The word "Christ" is the Greek form of the Hebrew word for Messiah and means literally "the anointed one." As the critics point out, this word was not used in the Old Testament. Some of the Old Testament terms for Christ are Shiloh (Gen 49:10), Prophet (Deut 18:15), Holy One of Israel (Ps 16:10), King (Ps 24:10, Zech 9:9), Immanuel (Isa 7:14), Redeemer (Isa 59:20), Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6), righteous Branch (Jer 23:5, Zech 3:8), and Messiah (Dan 9:26).
Jacob helps us understand this apparent "anachronism." He explains that the angel of the Lord told him what his name should be, for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name (2 Ne 10:3). So it was with Benjamin, also. An angel had appeared to him and given him the name by which the Messiah should be known. Hence, we see why the Book of Mormon prophets speak so plainly about the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. Their writings and prophecies were inspired by direct revelation and the Spirit of God.
Mosiah 3:9 even after all this they shall consider him a man
The perspective of the Nephite prophets is that Jesus of Nazareth is the Holy One of Israel, the creator of heaven and earth. The perspective of the Jews of his day is that Jesus is the son of Joseph and Mary. The people of Nazareth asked, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? (Matt 13:54-5). That He would be considered a man, or worse, one possessed with a devil, was an astonishing thought to Benjamin.
This passage raises the age-old question, 'What think ye of Christ?' (Matt 22:42). Was he a man or was he the God of the Old Testament?
Neal A. Maxwell
"My friends and neighbors, brothers and sisters all, the most important question in human history is one which will not go away. It echos down through the corridors of time. And 'Jesus asked them,...What think ye of Christ?' (Matt 22:42) sooner or later, this is the vital question for all mortals including you, my friends. And a failure to answer this question is an answer." (Investigator Fireside, Jan. 5, 1984)
Harold B. Lee
"What think ye of Christ? Today we should ask ourselves the question, in answer to what the Master asked of those in His day, 'What think ye of Christ?' (Matthew 22:42.) We ought to ask as we would say it today, "What think we of Christ?" and then make it a little more personal and ask, "What think I of Christ?" Do I think of Him as the Redeemer of my soul? Do I think of Him with no doubt in my mind as the one who appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith? Do I believe that He established this church upon the earth? Do I accept Him as the Savior of this world? Am I true to my covenants, which in the waters of baptism, if I understood, meant that I would stand as a witness of Him at all times, and in all things, and in all places, wherever I would be, even until death? (See Mosiah 18:9.)" (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 8)
Mosiah 3:10 he shall rise the third day
"Writing to the Corinthians, Paul said, 'He rose again the third day according to the scriptures' (1 Corinthians 15:4; italics added). Paul is quoting a text that is nowhere to be found in the Old Testament of our day. Significantly, the Book of Mormon attributes this knowledge to Zenos, an Old Testament prophet (1 Nephi 19:10). This understanding was common among the Nephite people (see 2 Nephi 25:13)." (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, p. 149)
Mosiah 3:11 his blood atoneth for the sins of those...who have ignorantly sinned
The atonement has power to save those in a state of innocence. In particular, this applies to two main groups, little children (v. 16) and those who have not the law given to them (2 Ne 9:26). This principle is taught in the law of sacrifice as found in the law of Moses, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord....[the priest] shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering...the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them (Lev 4:2,20).
The Book of Mormon teaches this principle in several different locations. King Benjamin's sermon includes the following, his 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. Mormon teaches that both children and those without the law will be saved, For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law, for the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law (Moroni 8:22).
The scriptures go so far as to say that those without the law will come forth in the first resurrection, And then shall the heathen nations be redeemed, and they that knew no law shall have part in the first resurrection; and it shall be tolerable for them (DC 45:54). They will come forth in the first resurrection after those who are "the first fruits" (or those who come forth in the morning of the first resurrection). For the most part, they will inherit the terrestial kingdom and will be resurrected as "those who are Christ's at his coming' (DC 88:98-9) (or those who come forth in the afternoon of the first resurrection). This conclusion can be made by studying the following scriptures, DC 88:98-9, DC 76:71-73, Mosiah 15:24-25, Heb 5:2, DC 137:7, and Mormon Doctrine, p. 640.
Mosiah 3:14-15 The Lord God saw that his people were a stiffnecked people
The Lord would have been happy to bless the children of Israel with all the blessings of the covenant he had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Through their wickedness, the Lord decided to take away the higher law and the Melchizedek Priesthood. Paul records, Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made (Gal 3:19). It is through the Joseph Smith Translation that we come to understand the meaning of Paul's words. After Moses returned from Mount Sinai, he found the children of Israel worshipping a golden calf. Filled with anger, he threw down the first set of tablets containing the higher law (Ex 32:19-20). Later the Lord instructs Moses:
'Hew thee two other tables of stone, like unto the first, and I will write upon them also, the words of the law, according as they were written at the first on the tables which thou brakest; but it shall not be according to the first, for I will take away the priesthood out of their midst; therefore my holy order, and the ordinances thereof, shall not go before them; for my presence shall not go up in their midst, lest I destroy them.
But I will give unto them the law as at the first, but it shall be after the law of the carnal commandment.' (JST Ex 34:1-2)
The law of the carnal commandment is one which contains many signs, and wonders, and types, and shadows, but it availeth nothing except it were through the atonement of his blood.
Mosiah 3:16 even if it were possible that little children could sin they could not be saved
Without the atonement of Jesus Christ, little children, through the fall of Adam, would have been doomed to suffer eternally. They would have become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God (2 Ne 9:9). That the curse of Adam can only be overcome through the atonement, is verified in the words of Christ, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them (Moroni 8:8).
Mosiah 3:17 no other name given
As a missionary, I once had a long conversation with a Buddhist about the process of salvation. He contended that as many roads lead to Rome, there are just as many ways that one can reach heaven. He had asked me if it was possible for a Buddhist, who never converted to Christianity, to be saved. I responded that he could, but there were qualifications. In discussing these qualifications, the doctrine that there is no other name whereby man can be saved was discussed. This is not what the Buddhist man wanted to hear. He thought that this Christian doctrine was narrow-minded and ethno-centric. It would be both of those things if it weren't the truth.
We understand from the scriptures that salvation comes only in and through the name of Jesus Christ. This applies to the Buddhist as well as to the Muslim. It applies to the Jew as well as to the Hindu. It applies to the atheist as well as the agnostic. There is no way around this doctrine, for every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mosiah 27:31).
Mosiah 3:18-19 The Hebrew poetic form of chiasmus
In the book, King Benjamin's Speech: Made Simple, John W. Welch demonstrates that all of King Benjamin's speech is structured in some form of parallelism or chiasmus. He states:
"A stunning array of literary structures appears in Benjamin's speech, purposefully and skillfully organized. Benjamin's use of chiasmus, all types of parallelisms, and many other forms of repeating patterns adds focus and emphasis to the main messages and the persuasive qualities of this text...
"Chiasmus it's the literary technique of creating double structures in which the second half of a composition mirrors and balances the first half, but in reverse order. In general, the device is useful for several literary purposes, especially for concentrating attention on the main point of the passage by placing it at the central turning point rather than in a topic sentence at the beginning of a paragraph, as is the trend with modern writers...
"The central chiasm found in 3:18-19 can be summarized and displayed as follows:
a) humble themselves
b) become as little children
c) salvation through the atoning blood of Christ the Lord
d) natural man
e) enemy to God
f) has been from the fall of Adam
f) will be forever and ever
e) yieldeth to the Holy Spirit
d) natural man
c) become a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord
b) become as a child
a) submissive, meek, humble"
(John W. Welch, and Stephen D. Ricks, King Benjamin's Speech: Made Simple, pp. 225, 229, 259)
Mosiah 3:19 the natural man is an enemy to God
Our relationship with God is described by several terms, and there is a spiritual progression-from enemy, to servant, to son or daughter, to friend. We begin with the natural, or carnal man, who is far from God and cares only for the things of the flesh (Rom 8:5). He receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him (1 Cor 2:14). As we turn to the Lord and become baptized, we become his servants. The baptismal applicant must be willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end (DC 20:37). Next comes the process of spiritual rebirth which makes us a son or daughter of Christ, ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you (Mosiah 5:7). The last stage is that of friendship with God. It is to be paid the great compliment that few have received, to be referred to as the Lord's friend, I say unto you, for you are mine apostles...ye are they whom my Father hath given me; ye are my friends (DC 84:63). The Lord explained further, Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you (Jn 15:14). Therefore, our journey is to make that great transition, from the natural man to the spiritual man-from the enemy of God to the friend of God.
"One of the most disputed issues among so-called Christian theologians has been the question of the basic nature of man. Some of these theologians have argued that man is born evil into this world as an infant; thus the only way this evil can be removed is by receiving the sacrament of baptism. Still other theologians have argued that man is born innocent and remains basically good; some of them thus conclude that inasmuch as man is basically good he has no need for a redeemer to atone for his sins.
"It should be clear to students of the Book of Mormon that the prophets definitely reject both the doctrine of the natural depravity of man and the doctrine that man is so good by nature he has no need for a redeemer. Benjamin, the prophet and king of the Nephites, said that 'an angel from God' taught him that although infants are born in a state of innocence, after they become accountable they can become enemies to God if they do not accept the saving principles and ordinances of the gospel." (Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, pp. 177-8)
"How difficult it is to teach the natural man, who comprehends nothing more than that which he sees with the natural eye!...Talk to him about angels, heavens, God, immortality, and eternal lives, and it is like sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal to his ears; it has no music to him; there is nothing in it that charms his senses, soothes his feelings, attracts his attention, or engages his affections, in the least." (JD 1:2 as taken from King Benjamin's Speech: Made Simple, by John W. Welch, and Stephen D. Ricks, p. 17)
Hartman Rector Jr.
"(Speaking of Mosiah 3:19) This is strong testimony borne against man, but a perusal of the pages of history leaves little doubt as to its truthfulness. Man's inhumanity to man has always been and is now everywhere in evidence.
"How can fallen human nature be changed from evil to good? Basically, this must be the most important question confronting mankind. All other questions seem to pale into insignificance when compared to this one, because man cannot be saved in his sins. And yet there are those who say, 'You can't change human nature.' This claim is very frequently and flippantly made. Of course it is false. President David O. McKay taught something completely different from this in 1945 when he said: 'Human nature will have to be changed on an enormous scale in the future or the world will be drowned in its own blood.'" (Conference Report, Apr. 1970, p. 102)
Mosiah 3:19 yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit
The angel gives Benjamin four steps of the process of spiritual rebirth. They are:
1) yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit
2) put off the natural man
3) become a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord
4) become as a child.
"The transformation from the natural state to the spiritual state...is accomplished only through the mediation and atonement of Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Ghost. No one goes from death to life without that enabling power we call the grace of God. Programs to develop self-control, plans to modify human behavior, and schemes directed toward the shaping of more appropriate actions have fallen and will forever fall far short of the mark which Christ has set. These programs are at best deficient and at worst perverse. In the language of President Ezra Taft Benson:
'The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.' ("Born of God" 6)
"Those who are born again or born from above-who die as to the things of unrighteousness and begin to live again as pertaining to the things of the Spirit-are like little children. First and foremost, these people are, like children, clean and pure. Through the atoning blood of Christ they have had their sins remitted and have entered the realm of divine experience. Putting off the natural man involves putting on Christ. As Paul counseled the Saints in his day, those who put off the 'old man' are 'renewed in the spirit of [their] mind.' They 'put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness' (Ephesians 4:22-24), and 'which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him' (Colossians 3:10)." (Book of Mormon Symposium Series, edited by PR Cheesman, MS Nyman, and CD Tate, Jr., 1988, p. 155)
Bruce R. McConkie
"If a man 'yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord' (Mosiah 3:19), then he is born again. His spiritual death ceases. He becomes alive to the things of the Spirit; he returns to the presence of God because he receives the gift of the Holy Ghost; and he is alive to the things of righteousness. He crucifies the old man of sin, becomes a new creature of the Holy Ghost, and walks in a newness of life. This is what is meant by being born again." (The Promised Messiah, p. 350)
Mosiah 3:20-21 knowledge of a Savior shall spread...none shall be found blameless
The angel instructed Benjamin that those who sinned in ignorance would be saved by the atonement. He now prophesies of a day when very few will fall into that category, for the knowledge of the Savior shall spread until the inhabitants of the earth are left without excuse. One could argue that he is speaking of our day, when the world knows of Jesus Christ yet chooses to ignore his holy sacrifice. And so the missionary work continues until the day when the world has been sufficiently warned, this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come, or the destruction of the wicked (JS Matt 1:31).
Mosiah 3:27 as a lake of fire and brimstone
Certain phrases in the scriptures are to be taken literally, and some are to be taken figuratively. The doctrine of 'a lake of fire and brimstone' is a figurative representation of the pangs of guilt suffered by the wicked as they suffer endless torment. There will not be a literal, physical lake into which they are cast.
"A man is his own tormenter and his own condemner. Hence the saying, They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone. I say, so is the torment of man." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.357)