Chapter 15: A Righteous King

King Benjamin shines as one of the great leaders and teachers in the Book of Mormon. Some of the most memorable sayings in the scriptures flow from his lips: “The natural man is an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19); “How knoweth a man the master whom he has not served?” (Mosiah 5:13); “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17); and so forth.

Even though Nephite government eventually changed from kings to elected judges, a righteous monarchy was still considered the ideal form of government, and King Benjamin was held up as its example. Mosiah told his people, “If it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you” (Mosiah 29:13).

Mosiah’s statement is messianic in outlook. It anticipates God’s government on the earth during the Millennium, when many will rule under our Savior, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings (cf. Luke 19:12–19).

What is it, then, that makes a monarchy the ideal form of government? Or rather, what is it that constitutes a righteous king, as under a monarchy so much hinges on the king? Remember, it was the unrighteous example of King Noah in the land of Nephi that principally persuaded the Nephites in Zarahemla to agree to a different kind of rule (cf. Mosiah 29:17–18).

One thing that convinced the Nephites to change their government to judges was “that every man might bear his part,” and that every man might “answer for his own sins” (Mosiah 29:34, 38). This meant that under kings such was not the case. Instead, the king, in large measure, bore the people’s part and answered for their sins, not so much in a spiritual but in a temporal sense. Thus, King Mosiah explained to the Nephites “all the trials and troubles of a righteous king, yea, all the travails of soul for their people” (Mosiah 29:33).

The rationale behind such a proxy or surrogate role by the king on behalf of his people has its roots in the Davidic covenant. This was the covenant the Lord made with King David and his ruling heirs, who were types of Christ, the Messiah or “anointed one.” What constituted an ideal or righteous king in Israel was a man who was willing to answer to God for his people’s disloyalties to God in order to obtain their temporal salvation. When enemies threatened, the Lord was bound by the terms of his covenant to protect them, so long as the king was loyal to God and the people were loyal to the king. When the people kept the king’s law and the king kept God’s law, the Lord was under obligation to protect both king and people. As the Nephites had recently experienced, however, divine protection failed under the wicked King Noah, leading to disastrous consequences for those under his rule.

Under King Benjamin, the Lord protected his people against enemies from without and from within. King Benjamin led the Nephites against the armies of the Lamanites who had invaded his land “until they had driven them out of all the lands of their inheritance” (Words of Mormon 1:13–14). Further, with the help of holy men among his people, King Benjamin shut the mouths of false christs, prophets, preachers and teachers and established “peace in the land” (Words of Mormon 1:15–18). This was consistent with his role as a “king” and “protector” of his people, of which Nephi provided the model (cf. 2 Nephi 6:2). In this sense, King Benjamin was an ideal king. He accomplished what Melchizedek had done among his people (cf. Alma 13:17–18), who was the prototype of a “savior on Mount Zion.”

At that point in Nephite history, an angel of God appeared to King Benjamin and instructed him how to take his people to the next spiritual level based on the merits of the future atonement of Jesus Christ. This was consistent with the king’s role of “teacher” as well as “ruler,” of which Nephi again provided the model (cf. 1 Nephi 2:22).

All these things should speak volumes when we apply the role of a righteous king to ourselves as Latter-day Saints, particularly to those who have been ordained kings and priests in the house of Israel. The same covenant relationships that existed anciently apply today, both between God and a king and between the king and those to whom he ministers.

The Lord always works within covenant relationships, which relationships follow the guidelines or terms of the covenant that he has established. Thus, if we are to rule and reign with Christ at his second coming, or in any other time and place, then we must have a clear understanding of what is required of us and live in a way that qualifies us for that role. Otherwise, our kingship is void of substance and our hope vain.

Questions we might ask ourselves, therefore, could include, Are we, like King Benjamin, just men who establish the laws of God and judge those who come under our protection according to his commandments? Do we bear the responsibility of those over whom we have a God-given stewardship and “answer for their sins” in order to secure their temporal salvation according to the terms of the covenant between the Lord and the king? Do those to whom we minister keep our law as we keep God’s law, so that the Lord might bless both us and them? Are we living lives worthy of the visitation of ministering angels?

Looking towards the future restoration of the house of Israel—the Jews, Lamanites, and Ten Tribes—are we, in our role as “kings and queens of the Gentiles,” prepared to serve as “nursing fathers and nursing mothers” to them after the pattern of King Benjamin (2 Nephi 10:9)? Or will we fail to live up to our callings as “saviors of men” and be accounted “as salt that has lost its savor” (D&C 103:10)? By all scriptural accounts, there appears no middle ground for Latter-day Saints between these two choices.

_____________________________________________

For a complete discussion of covenant theology and its wide application in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, see “Priesthood, Patriarchy, and Proxy Salvation,” The Last Days, 175–261.

Isaiah Institute     Click Here!

Isaiah Institute Click Here!

Chapter 13: The Olive Tree

The prophet Zenos’ allegory of the olive tree seems to provide the common source for Nephi’s and Paul’s olive tree imagery (cf. Romans 11:16–24; 1 Nephi 10:12–14; 15:12–16). The olive tree as a symbol of Israel, together with the fig tree and grapevine, has a long history in the Old Testament (cf. Judges 9:8–13; Hosea 14:6–8; Jeremiah 11:16–17). All three varieties can renew themselves even if they decay and are cut down.

The Lord likens Israel to a cultivated or tame olive tree, which, after growing to full stature, begins to wax old and decay (Jacob 5:3). Israel grew to full stature under kings David and Solomon but from then on declined spiritually and politically. Paul makes another allusion to the tree that decays and waxes old. It symbolizes the old covenant, or testament, which the new must replace (Hebrews 8:13).

Gentiles begin entering the picture with Israel’s exile to Assyria in 722 B.C. and Judah’s exile to Babylon in 587 B.C. and the deportation and resettlement of Israelites in other parts of these empires. Wild branches are grafted into the olive tree when the Gentiles accept the gospel after the Jews reject it (cf. Romans 11:1–27). By that time, many Israelites had assimilated into the Gentile nations so that these too could qualify for the blessings of God’s covenant with Israel by right of lineage.

For a time, under this grafting arrangement, the mother tree bears good fruit, as do three transplants to other parts of the vineyard. The transplants comprise (1) Jewish and Jewish–Christian migrations (Ether 13:11); (2) the Ten Tribes, who, after their exile into Mesopotamia, journey into Eastern and Western Europe (cf. 2 Esdras 13:40–46); and (3) the descendants of Lehi, who possess the land “choice unto me above all other parts of the land of my vineyard” (Jacob 5:43; cf. 2 Nephi 1:5; 29:13).

Zenos devotes by far the largest portion of his allegory to the final grafting phase that occurs after “a long time had passed away,” when all four trees have become corrupt (Jacob 5:29–77). This locates the allegory’s main time frame in the last part of the latter days, as also implied by the expression, “the end soon cometh” (Jacob 5:29). By that time, the branches have “overcome the roots . . . taking strength unto themselves” (Jacob 5:37, 48). The servant asks the Lord of the vineyard to “spare it a little longer,” whereupon the Lord commissions him to commence the regrafting process (Jacob 5:50–60).

The phrase, “Begin at the last that they may be first, and that the first may be last” (Jacob 5:63), refers initially to the restoration of the gospel to the Gentiles and, eventually, when these reject it, to its acceptance by the Jews and all the house of Israel (1 Nephi 13:42; cf. Matthew 20:1–17; Romans 11:17–27; 3 Nephi 16:10–11). This end-time process is an exact reversal of when the Jews rejected the gospel and the Gentiles accepted it in the time of Christ and the early apostles.

According to the prophet Ether, the day in which the first will be last and the last first is when the house of Israel will be gathered “from the four quarters of the earth, and from the north countries” (Ether 13:11–12). Moroni, who wants to say more on this subject, is “forbidden.” Instead, he says, “Great and marvelous were the prophecies of Ether; but they esteemed him as naught, and cast him out” (Ether 13:13). Evidently, Moroni can’t say more because the Lord wants to “try the faith” of his people with the words we now have (cf. 3 Nephi 26:9–1).

For a fuller understanding of these prophecies we must rely on the words of Isaiah, who predicts that the Lord will gather Israel and Judah from the four corners of the earth and from the land of the North, at which time they will return in a new exodus to Zion (cf. Isaiah 11:10–12:6; 43:2–8, 16–17; 48:20–21; 49:1–22). On this very subject, Nephi quotes the prophecies of Isaiah after he too is forbidden to say more (1 Nephi 20:20–21; 21:1–22).

Jacob adds that “the day that he [the Lord] shall set his hand again the second time to recover his people, is the day, yea, even the last time, that the servants of the Lord shall go forth in his power, to nourish and prune his vineyard; and after that the end soon cometh” (Jacob 6:2). This prophecy relies on Isaiah’s prediction that the Lord will “set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people.” At that time, the “outcasts of Israel” and the “dispersed of Judah” will be gathered from the “four corners of the earth” and will participate in a new exodus to Zion (Isaiah 11:11–12:6; cf. 2 Nephi 21:11–22:6).

Also speaking of that time, the Prophet Joseph Smith says, “Christ, in the days of His flesh, proposed to make a covenant with them [the Jews], but they rejected Him and His proposals, and in consequence thereof, they were broken off, and no covenant was made with them at that time. But their unbelief has not rendered the promise of God of none effect: no, for there was another day limited in David, which was the day of his power; and then His people, Israel, should be a willing people” (TPJS, 14–15).

The “day of power,” to which both Jacob and Joseph Smith refer, is the day that “the Messiah will set his hand again the second time to recover them; wherefore, he will manifest himself unto them in power and great glory, unto the destruction of their enemies, when that day cometh when they shall believe in him” (2 Nephi 6:14; cf. 1 Nephi 14:13–17).

Zenos’ beautiful allegory of the olive tree may thus be more fully understood in the light of Isaiah’s prophecies of the same end-time scenario. In all likelihood, the allegory is itself an expansion upon Isaiah’s olive tree allegory (cf. Isaiah 11:1).

By linking up with the words of Isaiah each time they predict end-time events, Book of Mormon prophets clearly point us to Isaiah. And each time they do, only one scenario emerges from these combined scriptures, and it is always the same. Lest we esteem the prophecies of Isaiah as naught and cast them out—as the Jaredites did those of Ether—therefore, we might ask, Is understanding the words of Isaiah perhaps the main test we must pass before the Lord reveals more? And second, Is the final grafting of the Jews, the Ten Tribes, and the Lamanites into the olive tree held up until some of us perform this?

Avraham Gileadi

Chapter 12: Gross Crimes

Chapter 12: Gross Crimes

Even during a time of relative innocence among the Nephites, Jacob feels “constrained, because of the strict commandment which I have received from God, to admonish you according to your crimes . . . and tell you of your wickedness and abominations” (Jacob 2:9–10). The Nephites have begun to “labor in sin,” making Jacob “shrink with shame before the presence of my Maker, that I must testify unto you concerning the wickedness of your hearts” (Jacob 2:5–6).

Chapter 11: The Doctrine of Christ

Chapter 11: The Doctrine of Christ

Nephi and Jesus have many things in common as they teach the people, especially as Nephi seeks to emulate his Savior, whom he knows will appear to his people. Both Nephi and Jesus prophesy concerning the restoration of the house of Israel and God’s fulfilling his covenants with his people. Both speak of the Gentiles and their ministering role towards the house of Israel. Both rely on the words of Isaiah to describe Israel’s latter-day restoration. Both give keys for understanding Isaiah. And both teach the “doctrine of Christ.”

Chapter 9: The Words of Isaiah

Chapter 9: The Words of Isaiah

The Book of Isaiah has been a stumbling block for readers probably since it was written, about 700 B.C. Still, the fact that Jesus called the words of Isaiah “great,” and commanded the Nephites to search them diligently (3 Nephi 23:1), means that therein lies a deliberate test. If people would do as he commanded—for which he always “prepares a way”—they would soon realize that Isaiah holds the key to all the scriptures, even the Book of Mormon.

Chapter 8: An Infinite Atonement

Chapter 8: An Infinite Atonement

While Nephi takes the place of his father Lehi as the principal teacher of the family, his brother Jacob takes Nephi’s place as a “second witness.” Jacob, who had “beheld in thy youth his glory” (2 Nephi 2:4), is not a step behind Nephi in his love and understanding of the scriptures. Though his teachings have a slightly different flavor than Nephi’s—as one would expect with differences in personality and divine calling—they are just as eloquent and original in their thoughts and expressions.

Chapter 7: One Like unto Moses

The Lord’s promise to Joseph in Egypt that he would raise up a “choice seer” out of his lineage (2 Nephi 3:6–7, 11, 14) was supremely fulfilled in the Prophet Joseph Smith. The “work” he would perform, which would be “of great worth” to Joseph’s descendants, consisted in part of bringing forth the Book of Mormon (Mormon 8:14). This would help restore them “to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers” (2 Nephi 3:7, 11–12, 15, 18–23).

Joseph’s prediction that this seer would be “great like unto Moses” nuances the nature of his prophetic mission (2 Nephi 3:9). Moses was a dispensation leader and lawgiver who similarly restored his people to the knowledge of the Lord’s covenants with their fathers. He held the keys of the Melchizedek priesthood and “sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God” (Exodus 19:10–11, 14–17; D&C 84:23–27). Moses saw God and prophesied the coming of the Messiah (Exodus 33:11; Deuteronomy 18:15; Mosiah 13:33; Helaman 8:13; Moses 1:2). In all these things, Joseph Smith was “like unto Moses.”

Joseph Smith received “commandments and revelations” for the church “even as Moses” (D&C 28:2). Moreover, the Lord had said to Moses in the mount, “In a day when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught and take away many of them from the book which thou shalt write, behold, I will raise up another like unto thee; and they shall be had again among the children of men—among as many as shall believe” (Moses 1:41).

That promised prophet, too, resembles Joseph Smith. To enable Joseph Smith to fulfill his mission of “preserving” the descendants of Joseph and all the house of Israel (2 Nephi 3:16), Moses himself committed to him “the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north” (D&C 110:11).

In the Sinai wilderness, Moses had declared to his people that “the Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deuteronomy 18:15). For the Lord had said to Moses, “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him” (Deuteronomy 18:18–19).

Nephi declared that “this prophet of whom Moses spake was the Holy One of Israel,” and that “all who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people” (1 Nephi 22:20–21). (As the Hebrew language has no upper case letters, no terms or names appear capitalized in the Old Testament.) Peter also taught that Jesus was the prophet of whom Moses testified and that “every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people” (Acts 3:22–23; cf. 7:37).

To the Nephites, Jesus explained, “I am he of whom Moses spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people” (3 Nephi 20:23; cf. John 5:46; D&C 133:64).

The expression “cut off from among the people” adds another dimension to this prophecy. A scriptural analysis shows that those who are “cut off” include “hypocrites” (D&C 50:8), “the rebellious” (D&C 64:35–36), and “wicked, unfaithful, and unjust stewards” (D&C 101:90). Those cut off for transgression are delivered over to the “buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption” (D&C 104:8–10).

In a specifically end-time context, those “cut off” include wild branches of the olive tree (Gentiles) who do not “continue in his goodness” (Rom. 11:22; cf. Jacob 5:65–66), “whosoever will not believe” the words of Christ, which the Lord’s “servant” will bring forth to the Gentiles (3 Nephi 21:10–11; cf. Isaiah 52:13–15), “whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son” at that time (3 Nephi 21:20), and those who “will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles” when the “arm of the Lord” is revealed (D&C 1:14; cf. JS-Matthew 1:55; JS-History 1:40).

In this end-time setting, the Lord’s “servant” who brings forth the words of Christ to the Gentiles, is also “like unto Moses.” Jesus says of those who disbelieve his words at that time, “(It shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant” (3 Nephi 21:11).

The roles Isaiah attributes to this servant resemble Lehi’s prediction to his son Joseph concerning his descendants: “There shall rise up one mighty among them, who shall do much good, both in word and in deed, being an instrument in the hands of God, with exceeding faith, to work mighty wonders, and do that thing which is great in the sight of God, unto the bringing to pass much restoration to the house of Israel, and unto the seed of thy brethren” (2 Nephi 3:24). These events are preparatory to the coming of Israel’s God.

In sum, three messianic persons may be described as “like unto Moses,” namely Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, and the servant who prepares the way before the Lord’s second coming. While Jesus is the prophet like unto Moses, Joseph Smith and the Lord’s end-time servant perform additional essential restorative roles. All three compare to the “stem,” “rod,” and “root” of Jesse in Isaiah’s allegory of the olive tree (Isaiah 11:1, 10; D&C 113:1–6).

Avraham Gileadi

Chapter 6: The Messiah Cometh

Chapter 6: The Messiah Cometh

What sets the Book of Mormon expectation of the Messiah apart from the Jewish one is that the Messiah will be the Lord God himself, the “Holy One of Israel,” as Isaiah often describes him (2 Nephi 1:10; cf. Isaiah 41:14; 54:5). The Jewish idea of the Messiah, on the other hand, centers around one who will “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6).

Chapter 4: Plain and Precious Parts

Chapter 4: Plain and Precious Parts

Some time between the “record of the Jews” passing from the Jews to the Gentiles and its going forth as a “book” (the Bible) to all the nations of the Gentiles, “many plain and precious parts” and “many covenants” are “taken away” and “kept back” by “that great and abominable church” (1 Nephi 13:20–32). This results in the “fulness of the gospel,” as taught by the “twelve apostles of the Lamb,” being perverted or downgraded, “blinding [people’s] eyes” and “hardening [their] hearts,” so that many Gentiles “stumble,” giving Satan “great power over them.”

Chapter 2: An Exodus Archetype

Chapter 2: An Exodus Archetype

In his description of Lehi’s exodus from Jerusalem, Nephi maintains all the connections and parallels with Israel’s exodus out of Egypt he can. Subsequent Book of Mormon exoduses, such as his own from the land of first inheritance to the land of Nephi, King Mosiah’s exodus from the land of Nephi to Zarahemla, and so forth, follow the same pattern

Preface

Studies in the Book of Mormon follows the LDS [Book of Mormon] Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual in its forty-eight weekly reading assignments in the Book of Mormon. However, its approach is conceptual rather than linear, tying in other related scriptures to a particular concept or idea. Its forty-eight chapters don’t attempt to cover each reading assignment in its entirety but only in part.

A word of caution. In an age when gospel study groups almost inevitably veer off on tangents and often lead to apostasy, when even individual study is looked upon as a “gospel hobby,” one must walk a fine line between “searching the scriptures,” which we are commanded to do, and being over-zealous to discover and share ideas. There is safety in following the counsel of prophets of God, whether we agree with them at the time or not. The Lord not only speaks through His servants, He also tries us at their hands to see if we are compliant and loyal to Him.

There is also safety in staying with the Standard Works rather than branching out into “Mormon Apocrypha.” I have therefore attempted to stay close to the scriptures at all times, using appropriate scholarly methods of scriptural analysis rather than the speculative interpretations that seem to come so easily to people. If there is anything controversial in these findings (which are backed up with ample scriptural references and quotations), then perhaps the scriptures themselves may be controversial, which I believe they are. Otherwise the burden of proof is on the reader.

Lastly, I know that we will not only get nearer to God by studying the Book of Mormon than by any other book, but as we diligently search its pages our minds will open to many untold truths and heavenly mysteries. I believe we are all guilty of underestimating the Book of Mormon for what it is. We have also misread parts of it, particularly those that connect with passages in Isaiah. I believe that until we comprehend its message more fully, recognizing and accepting what it says (not what we may assume it says), we won’t receive more.

As a second witness of Jesus Christ, who is also Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Book of Mormon beautifully illustrates the oneness of our Lord in these two aspects. It also underlines the importance Jesus attaches to the prophecies of Isaiah, which were understood by Nephi and Jacob as revelations from Jehovah. All three quote from Isaiah but also point to Isaiah’s words as the key to understanding the entire prophetic context of the Book of Mormon.

There is thus something profound still to be realized about the writings of Isaiah and how they interface with the Book of Mormon. Perhaps this book, Studies in the Book of Mormon, will bring us a little closer to that understanding and to a greater appreciation of the sublime message these scriptures contain.

Dr. Avraham Gileadi

For more information on Dr. Gileadi’s study of Isaiah, Click Here: Isaiah Institute website

Introduction

Studies in the Book of Mormon
© Copyright 2005, 2012 by Hebron Books
All rights reserved
Published in the United States of America
First Printing, 2005
Second Printing, 2012
Softcover ISBN 978-0-9626643-9-1
E-Book ISBN 978-0-9626643-4-0

No part of this work may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher except brief quotations embodied in articles or reviews. Hebron Books, P.O. Box 501232, San Diego, CA 92150-1232. This work does not represent the views of any religion, church, or sect but is the responsibility solely of the author.