A Dictionary of the Book of Mormon/Benjamin
BENJAMIN. The second of the three prophet-kings of the Nephites who reigned in the land of Zarahemla. He was the son of Mosiah I, and father of Mosiah II, and, like them, was most probably a seer. He undoubtedly held the priesthood, as he received the ministration of angels, was favored with revelations from the Lord, and organized the Church of Jesus Christ among his people. He was also the custodian of the sacred records, etc., having received them from Amaleki, who was childless. The time and place of his birth is not given, though it was probably in the land of Nephi. He lived to a great age and died full of peace and honor in Zarahemla, B. C. 122. He is illustrious for the justice and mercy with which he administered the laws, for his great devotion to God and love for his people, and for the frugality and simplicity of his personal life. Three of his sons are mentioned by name, Mosiah, Helorum and Helaman, whom he caused to be educated in all the learning of his fathers, giving especial attention to their religious training and instruction in the history of God's dealings with their forefathers.
The reign of Benjamin was not one of uninterrupted peace. Some time during its continuance the aggressive Lamanites, not content with occupying the land of Nephi, actlually followed the Nephites into the land of Zarahemla and invaded that also. The war was a fierce one. King Benjamin led his forces, armed with the historic sword of Laban, and with it slew many of the enemy. Benjamin was ultimately successful in driving the invading hosts out of all the regions occupied by his people, with a loss to the Lamanites of many thousand warriors slain.
The reign of Benjamin was also troubled with various religious impostors, false Christs, pretended prophets, etc., who caused apostasy and dissensions among the people, much to the sorrow of the good king. However, by the aid of some of the many righteous men who dwelt in his dominions, he exposed the heresies, made manifest the falsity of the claims of the self-styled Messiahs and prophets, and restored unity of faith and worship among his subjects; and in such cases where these innovators had broken the civil law, they were arraigned, tried, and punished by that law.
We may presume that the original inhabitants of Zarahemla, just awakening to a newness of religious life, were particularly subject to the influences brought to bear by these impostors. They had but lately learned the mysteries of the plan of salvation and of the coming of the Messiah to dwell among the sons of men. The glory and beauty of this Divine advent filled their new-born souls with joyous hope. Looking forward for the arrival of that happy day, with their first love undiminished and their zeal unslackened, they were especially open to the deceptions of those who cried, Lo, the Christ is come! or, Behold, a great prophet hath arisen!
There was another class who, moved by the spirit of unrest, were a source of perplexity to the king. They were those who, having left the land of Nephi with the righteous, still permitted their thoughts and affections to be drawn towards their former homes and old associations. The natural consequence was that they were constantly agitating the idea of organizing expeditions to visit their old homes. The first of these that actually started, of which we have an account, fought among themselves with such fury that all were slain except fifty men, who, in shame and sorrow, returned to Zarahemla to recount the miserable end of their expedition. Yet some remained unsatisfied, and under the leadership of a man named Zeniff, another company started on the ill-advised journey. Nothing was heard from them while Benjamin reigned.
When king Benjamin was well stricken with years, the Lord directed him to consecrate his son Mosiah to be his successor on the Nephite throne. Feeling that age was impairing his energies he directed his son to gather the people together at the temple that had been erected in Zarahemla, and he would then give them his parting instructions. (B. C. 125.) Agreeable to this call the people gathered at the temple, but so numerous had they grown that it was too small to hold them. They also brought with them the firstlings of their flocks that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the Mosaic law. As the assembled thousands could not get inside the temple, they pitched their tents by families, every one with its door towards the building, and the king had a tower erected near the temple from which he spake.
The teachings of king Benjamin at these meetings were some of the most divine and glorious ever uttered by man. He preached to his hearers the pure principles of the gospel— the duty which men owed to their God and to their fellows. He also told them how he had been visited by an angel, and what wondrous things the angel had shown him concerning the coming of the God of Israel to dwell with men in the flesh.
When Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered to him by the angel, he observed that the power of his testimony had so worked upon the Nephites that they, in the deep sense of their own unworthiness, had fallen to the ground. And they cried out confessing their faith in the coming Messiah, and pleading that through liis atoning blood they might receive the forgiveness of their sins, and that their hearts might be purified. After they had lifted their deep-felt cry to heaven, the Spirit of the Lord came down upon them, and because of their exceeding faith they received a remission of their sins. When the king had finished his discourse he gave his people a new name, because of the covenant they desired to make, which thing he greatly desired. The name they were to bear for ever after was the name of Christ, which should never be blotted out except through transgression. Thus was established the first Christian church in Zarahemla (B. C. 125), for every soul who heard these teachings (except the very little children who could not understand) entered into this sacred covenant with God, which most of them faithfully observed to the end of their mortal lives.
King Benjamin's truly royal work was now done. He had lived to bring his people into communion with their Creator, his spirit was full of heavenly joy, but his body trembled under the weight of many years. So before he dismissed the multitude he consecrated his son Mosiah to be their king, appointed priests to instruct the people in the ways of the Lord, and, with his patriarchal blessing, dismissed his subjects. Then, according to their respective families, they all departed for their own homes.
Mosiah now reigned in his father's stead, while Benjamin, beloved and honored, remained yet another three years on the earth before he returned to the presence of his Father in heaven.