The Book of Mormon’s King Benjamin is the epitome of effective leadership. Reigning a little less than 200 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, Benjamin managed his share of crises in the kingdom. From civil war to relentless and ferocious enemies, he didn’t rule from a golden throne and didn’t keep religious relics in a museum. Instead, he took the 400-year-old sword of Laban in his hand and fought for freedom until it was gained.
He didn’t unnecessarily tax the people for his programs or lavish lifestyle. Instead, he worked alongside them in gardens and among the herds, and managed to provide for his family while simultaneously leading the people of Zarahemla to peace.
At the end of his reign, his message was clear: When you serve each other, you serve God and qualify for blessings that can never truly be repaid.
King Benjamin wasn’t only a civic leader, but his personal righteousness and spiritual experiences qualified him as a prophet as well. He was visited by an angel of the Lord and experienced a prophetic vision of Christ’s life in detail, even knowing Christ's mother Mary by name, which provides us with a miraculously sublime testimony of great faith and understanding.
Studying his life and teachings is more than relevant for those preparing for missionary service.
For those of us teaching the gospel doctrine class to youth or adults, a lesson on King Benjamin is like eating dessert before dinner and still smiling while you wash the dishes. The preparation is a personal treat and the presentation is never a chore.
During a recent lesson in youth Sunday School class, we learned together that Benjamin was successful in the world’s view while he also gained God’s confidence because of his faith in Christ’s Atonement that was yet to be fulfilled.
Taking that plain and simple truth a step further, Benjamin was a pivotal force for good because he understood the redeeming power of the Atonement as well as the empowering aspect of Christ’s gift.
Benjamin regularly put off the “natural man” through humbling repentance and then figured out that God could make a whole lot more out of his life than he could alone.
In reading the first three chapters of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, it’s evident that Benjamin never surrendered to his fears or pressures from the world but did “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,” which gave him hope and perspective. It made this monumental leader also curiously “submissive, meek, patient and full of love.” He didn’t ask anything of his people, nor of us, that he wasn’t doing himself.
A 2001 BYU speech “In the Strength of the Lord” by Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, supplemented the lesson on King Benjamin and helped me, and my room full of teenagers, focus on the Atonement when trying to be more missionary-minded and ready to serve.
Elder Bednar said the Book of Mormon is our “handbook of instructions as we travel the pathway from bad to good to better and to have our hearts changed."
Here are a few of the points we discussed in class that might help with preparation for a full-time LDS Church mission:
• It's one thing to know Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us, but we can also appreciate that he desires, through his Atonement, to “live in us — not only to direct us but also to empower us.”
• Recognize the Atonement is also for saints — good men and women who are obedient, worthy, conscientious and trying to serve others more faithfully.
• The redeeming and enabling powers of the Atonement aren’t separate and discrete, rather they are connected and complimentary, and both need to be operational through all phases of our journey in this life and especially during missionary service.
• Individual will power, personal determination, effective planning and goal setting are necessary but ultimately insufficient to triumphantly complete our mortal journey. This is especially true for those making the most of a full-time mission.
• We shouldn’t pray for difficult circumstances to change, but instead pray for increased strength to face our challenges with new ideas and adaptable solutions.
• There is no physical pain, no anguish of soul, no suffering of spirit, no infirmity or weakness ever experienced during a mortal journey that the Savior did not experience first. Triumphs, joy and peace during the journey should also be acknowledged and shared with the Lord.
Like King Benjamin, we can overcome our natural weaknesses through humble repentance and allowing the Lord to make our good efforts great.
Goal for the week: Pray, not that a hard circumstance in your life will change, but that you will have greater power and insight to take it on. Write about what happens in your journal.