King Benjamin On Happiness

Surely most Latter-day Saints are familiar with the powerfully rich sermon in Mosiah chapters 2-5 given by a prophet and king named Benjamin.  Not only is it a source of some of the Book of Mormon’s most quotable insights, it’s possibly the single best resource for instructions on serving God (the inimitable Neal A. Maxwell referred to it as a “manual for discipleship“).  I’ve gone through these chapters before and marked each thing we’re told to do or become in our quest to follow God.  My list, incidentally, came to 13 items.

However, the most recent time I studied this text, I noticed something that, in an important way, is just as profound.  I had never noticed until then just how much Benjamin stresses that living the gospel–I mean really striving to follow in the footsteps of Christ and center our lives on his pattern for discipleship–makes us happy.

Consider these excerpts from Benjamin’s address, with admonitions to faith and righteousness italicized, and promises of hapiness in bold:

Mosiah 2:41, “…consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.” 

Mosiah 3:13, “…whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy…”

Mosiah 4:11, “…as ye have…received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God…”

Mosiah 4:12, “…if ye shall do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins…”

Mosiah 4:20, “…ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins…he has poured out his spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.”

These five explicit references to Benjamin’s “formula,” as it were (faithfulness brings blessings of joy), is mirrored by a statement attributed to his audience for this sermon:

Mosiah 5:4, “…the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.” 

Mormon, editing this account, also clearly sees Benjamin’s formula at work in this special conference, describing one moment like this:

Mosiah 4:3, “…after they had spoken these words [the congregation praying for the Atonement to purify them], the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come…”

In fact Mormon makes another reference to this formula in his exposition leading up to his transcript of Benjamin’s sermon, where he tells us of the people coming up to the area for the conference as doing so “that they might give thanks to the Lord their God who had [done several major things for their good throughout history, and] had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men” (Mosiah 2:4).

This is a part of my own testimony that I never tire of reiterating: yes, the church is true, but that, in theory, doesn’t guarantee happiness.  Hypothetically, the plan of salvation could be real, but also a grinding, depressing chore.  It’s only through the infinite love, mercy, and kindness of a generous Father in Heaven that His plan for us to to be redeemed and return to Him also creates joy, happiness, peace, and rest.  So when I testify of the gospel, I testify that the gospel is true…and good, and powerful, and wonderful. 

Perhaps Jacob, that most sensitive of Book of Mormon prophets, felt the same thing when he was moved upon to exclaim these six superlative phrases of praise in one of his sermons:

“O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace!”  2 Nephi 9:8

“O how great the goodness of our God…” 2 Nephi 9:10

“O how great the plan of our God!”  2 Nephi 9:13

“O the greatness and the justice of our God!”  2 Nephi 9:17

“O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel!”  2 Nephi 9:19

“O how great the holiness of our God!”  2 Nephi 9:20

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