Case Study of Leadership: King Benjamin

One of the most incredible things about the Book of Mormon for me personally is the way we can receive guidance and direction from this text for many areas in our lives. It does not just guide us in spiritual matters of developing a relationship with God or develop our testimony of the Saviour – it also provides practical guidance.

One such example of this is the excellent case study of leadership that we find nestled in between the small plates of Nephi and the abridgement of the large plates of Nephi by Mormon himself. He begins the narrative of his abridgement by detailing the workings of King Benjamin. King Benjamin was described as an almost perfect leader. The manner in which he served left a legacy and indeed a great example for the rest of us to study. It begins in Words of Mormon 1:10-18:

10 Wherefore, it came to pass that after Amaleki had delivered up these plates into the hands of king Benjamin, he took them and put them with the other plates, which contained records which had been handed down by the kings, from generation to generation until the days of king Benjamin.

Here we find straight away the type of leader that King Benjamin was. He did not simply ‘watch over the shop’ until the next person came to carry the responsibility on. He proactively worked on his stewardship and was diligent in his duties. Not only this, but it highlights King Benjamin’s value that he placed on the word of God. These were clearly of great import to him and it shows he recognised where great power came from.

11 And they were handed down from king Benjamin, from generation to generation until they have fallen into my hands. And I, Mormon, pray to God that they may be preserved from this time henceforth. And I know that they will be preserved; for there are great things written upon them, out of which my people and their brethren shall be judged at the great and last day, according to the word of God which is written.

12 And now, concerning this king Benjamin—he had somewhat of contentions among his own people.

King Benjamin’s people were not perfect and neither did they have a perfect time. They had their trials as has pretty much every civilisation in the history of mankind. Therefore, King Benjamin must have been a leader who listened and supported his people. I make this presumption because when his people gathered in later chapters in the book of Mosiah they were ready to change, they were willing to listen to this man of God – as such they must have respected him as a leader.

13 And it came to pass also that the armies of the Lamanites came down out of the land of Nephi, to battle against his people. But behold, king Benjamin gathered together his armies, and he did stand against them; and he did fight with the strength of his own arm, with the sword of Laban.

There’s a number of things to pick out from this verse. When King Benjamin ‘gathered together his armies’ he clearly enabled his followers to feel empowered and enthused to gather under his call. They came forward in numbers determined to defend their families and their lands. Also, ‘he did stand against them’ implies that he did not just direct the forces and instruct them on their duties, but he stood with them. He worked alongside those he served with, not ‘above’ them. We learn of this hands-on approach again with the phrase ‘and he did fight with the strength of his own arm…’. King Benjamin used his strength in defence of his people. Once again, he decided to give all he could to support those who others may have called those his ‘people’. However, it is clear from this that King Benjamin sw them as those he served, something very different from the general view.

14 And in the strength of the Lord they did contend against their enemies, until they had slain many thousands of the Lamanites. And it came to pass that they did contend against the Lamanites until they had driven them out of all the lands of their inheritance.

However, despite putting all his efforts into serving the Nephites, once again there is recognition by Mormon, and by extension King Benjamin, where the true strength came from. They were able to contend because of their trust and the resultant blessings of the Lord.

15 And it came to pass that after there had been false Christs, and their mouths had been shut, and they punished according to their crimes;

16 And after there had been false prophets, and false preachers and teachers among the people, and all these having been punished according to their crimes; and after there having been much contention and many dissensions away unto the Lamanites, behold, it came to pass that king Benjamin, with the assistance of the holy prophets who were among his people—

Interestingly, we then see another danger arise within the Nephite people, that of false prophets and false teachers. This time, King Benjamin again recognised the value of gathering and empowering the strength of others in his task. If he were to attempt to contend with the false truths being taught alone then he would have probably not been as successful. He was able to call upon help, delegating duties and tasks to those who could assist and therefore make the work more effective.

17 For behold, king Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness; and there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority; and they did use much sharpness because of the stiffneckedness of the people—

Not only did King Benjamin recognise where the source of true strength and power was but he also knew how to gain access to it – through righteousness and virtue. Because of this righteousness he developed, he was able to speak and teach with power and authority. How else could he deliver the sermon he gave towards the end of his life?

18 Wherefore, with the help of these, king Benjamin, by laboring with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul, and also the prophets, did once more establish peace in the land.

Finally, we see what I think sums up the 8 other points of a Model of a Leader well. King Benjamin laboured with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul. A true leader gives all for those he serves and ultimately, because of the attributes and skills developed as mentioned before, peace and prosperity reigned through the land.

If we want to see the evidence of King Benjamin’s leadership and the impact on his people, then you only have to look at the reaction to his call to the people to gather at the Temple to listen to his words. A great many people, so many that they could not be counted, gathered and their hearts were changed.

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Understanding Isaiah – 2 Nephi 20

Verse 1 – “Wo unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed;” This is clear when linked with Moroni 7:18 “And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.” Those who judge others unjustly, will find that they will be. It can be very easy to fall into the trap of judging. Finding out about some event, or rumour, can be a tantalising subject to discuss and form opinions about. However, as with many times, this can lead to unnecessary upset, misunderstanding and fallouts. Not to mention that we will be judged the same when the time comes for our Judgement.

Verse 15 – “Shall the ax boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? As if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself as if it were no wood!” This is a great analogy to pride. If we are blessed with success in our career or the service of the Lord, we cannot claim to be the main cause – the Lord is the one who can lead and guide us and His hand is in all things. Of course we can be pleased with our efforts and what we’ve worked on, but we must recognise all things come from Him.

Verse 18 – “And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body; and they shall be as when a standard-bearer fainteth.” Again, this verse has double meanings. Isaiah is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem by Assyria (Babylon), however it can a number of meanings. Destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming (as mentioned in the LDS chapter heading), spiritual death of individuals  who fall to temptation and so on.

Verse 26 – “And the Lord of Hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb; and as his rod was upon the sea so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt.” This verse will have been included by Nephi because it comes back to his original message – his intention of writing this record way back in 1 Nephi – “But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” (1 Nephi 1:20) The Lord is mighty to save. He will deliver us from all adversity if we are faithful. We can liken this to our lives, bringing us hope when we may feel overwhelmed.

Verse 33 – “Behold, the Lord, the Lord of Hosts shall lop the bough with terror; and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down; and the haughty shall be humbled.” A powerful message again to the dangers of pride. For those who act in pride or are prideful of their abilities will be brought low. An example of this happening is found in Helaman 4:12 where the Nephites are caught in the grip of pride and are left without the strength of the Lord “And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, it was because of their oppression to the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked, and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek, making a mock of that which was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation, murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, rising up in great contentions, and deserting away into the land of Nephi, among the Lamanites—” We must be careful that we do not find ourselves in the same position.

Understanding Isaiah – 2 Nephi 19

Verse 2 – “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” This is a nice verse which indicates how many before the coming of Christ will be in spiritual darkness. However, the light will shine on them – all of God’s children will have the light shine on them, it will be down to them whether they accept it or not.

Verse 6 – “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Couldn’t go through Chapter 19 of 2 Nephi and mention this well-known verse. This is Isaiah’s well-documented prophecy of the coming forth of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. When Isaiah speaks he often does so ‘Messianically’, meaning he is foreshadowing the coming of the Saviour, or signifying events that will come.

Verses 12-13 – “…For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts.” The concept of the Lord’s hand not being turned away, but always being outstretched is an interesting one. The general assumption is that this verse is referring to the infinite mercy of the Lord, that He is always there ready to help and support us (and this concept is indeed true). However, I have read a deeper meaning to this elsewhere. John Gee, a Latter-day Saint and professional Egyptologist, explained, “The English sentence is constructed to say that in spite of the punishments afflicted (‘for all this’), the punishments do not satisfy the Lord’s anger (‘his anger is not turned away’).” Gee continued, “In other words, to the contrary (‘but’), the hand of the Lord is still ‘stretched out.’” Gee thus concluded, “So a stretched out hand, by any careful reading of the English, is a hand administering punishment,”3 or, at least, threatening or beginning to do so.” This is certainly a more unsettling aspect of this verse, but also just as true a concept as the previously mentioned one.

Understanding Isaiah – 2 Nephi 18

Verse 1 – “Moreover, the word of the Lord said unto me: Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen, concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” Again, this indicates the use of names and their meaning. The name used in this verse means ‘Quickened destruction’ which again links to a lot of the imagery and description in Isaiah’s verses.

Verse 12 – “Say ye not, A confederacy, to all to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.” Again, a verse that slightly confused me initially. However, this verse is basically stating that we need to always trust in God first, that He will support us in all things. The meaning is made clearer when linked with Isaiah 31:1 “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!” The ‘confederacy’ that is mentioned by Isaiah is one that Israel wanted to make with other nations to protect themselves. Here, the Lord is inviting them to trust in Him instead and He will deliver them. For us in our lives, this can be evidenced when we trust in our own abilities or ‘in the arm of the flesh’ before the Lord.

Verse 14 – “And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” In the same way those who do not stumble over Christ and His teachings, those who are not offended will be blessed. Links to Luke 7:23 which reads “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

Verse 19-20 – “And when they shall say unto you: Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and mutter—should not a people seek unto their God for the living to hear from the dead? To the law and to the testimony; and if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Once again this is another reference to the Israelites needing to rely on the Lord. This chapter seems to have a very consistent theme!

Understanding Isaiah – 2 Nephi 17

Verse 3 – “Then said the Lord unto Isaiah: Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou and Shearjashub thy son…” The name ‘Shearjashub’ means “remnant shall return”. This links well with Isaiah’s prophecies with the future of Israel.

Verse 7 – “Thus saith the Lord God: It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.” This highlights the finality of the word of the Lord. We must recognise that if we submit our will to His, He will bless us ultimately with what we need. In Proverbs 21:30 we read There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.” When we seek for answers to deep questions we have, we must remember the counsels and guidance of the Lord we have already received. This will help us.

Verse 14-15 – Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a sign—Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and to choose the good.” This seems appropriate considering the time which I’m posting this. I was intrigued by the phrase here with the butter and honey. How does this relate? The butter and honey refers to the humble circumstances in which the Saviour would be born on the Earth. Because of this humble beginning and His mortal existence, our Lord and Saviour would know how to support us all in our trials and times of difficulty.

Verse 21 – “And it shall come to pass in that day, a man shall nourish a young cow and two sheep;” Once again, this has links with the Assyrian destruction of the land. As a result, there was less providers to sustain and support the land. This can relate to today in numerous ways, as again was the purpose of including these prophecies in the Book of Mormon, to liken the scriptures unto us. A spiritual battle wages around for example and some will fall away. We must try and support and sustain as many around us.

 

Understanding Isaiah – 2 Nephi 16

I’m quite enjoying recording the thoughts from my studies – it’s good to go back and review what I had found and try to pick out more insights.

Verse 2 – “Above it stood the seraphim; each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.” This was certainly one which was interesting to think about. I think the purpose of presenting the seraphim indicates the power and glory of God. In Mormon Doctrine, Elder Bruce R McConkie explained Seraphs are angels who reside in the presence of God, giving continual glory, honor, and adoration to him. … In Hebrew the plural of seraph is seraphim. … The fact that these holy beings were shown to him as having wings was simply to symbolize their ‘power, to move, to act, etc.’ as was the case also in visions others had received.” Describing this from the vision, Isaiah draws a greater line under the omnipotence of His Supreme Creator, one who we can have great faith and trust in.

Verse 5 – “Then said I: Wo is unto me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.” Notice the contrast between the great glory of the Lord and the great fear and trembling from Isaiah. We find many other examples of fear and trembling before the Lord in scripture – Lehi, the Brother of Jared and Moses to name a few. It is not surprising – I think if any of us were to experience that then I think we would react the same!

Verse 8 – “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said: Here am I; send me.” As mentioned before, one of the most incredible (and occasionally confusing) attributes of Isaiah’s writing is that often he writes things which refer to multiple events, individuals, time periods and groups. Here, Isaiah is referring to a very personal event where he accepts the call from the Lord to, effectively, be a prophet; to testify to the world of the Saviour and His principles. We see a similar scene take place when the Saviour himself is chosen to be our Redeemer. “And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.” (Abraham 3:27) Of course, we all receive moments in our lives when the Lord reaches out to us and calls us to his work. Will we follow the example of the Saviour and Isaiah and accept the call?

Verse 10 – “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes—lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed.” This was always a little confusing for me. From this verse it sounds that the Lord wants Isaiah to share the Gospel to the people to make it so they are more resistant. This will then avoid them understanding and being healed. Obviously more study was needed. I read in the Book of Mormon Institute Student Manual it said “He was advised that his preaching to a wayward people would generally not be received. Their hearts would “fatten” against the truth and their ears would be “heavy”…Isaiah was not commissioned to make the people resistant to the truth; rather, he was advised of the difficulty of the mission.” The Lord was warning that not many would hear. Not many would reflect a change in heart and try to understand as said in Proverbs 2:2 “So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;” If we have desire to learn, we can turn our hearts to the Spirit to help us gain that understanding.

Verse 13 – “But yet there shall be a tenth, and they shall return, and shall be eaten, as a teil tree, and as an oak whose substance is in them when they cast their leaves; so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.” This ‘holy seed’ is representative of the House of Israel. The tenth is the remnant cast away and the seed shows a regeneration of new life out of scattered Israel.

Understanding Isaiah – 2 Nephi 13

Welcome to the 2nd entry of my Isaiah musings. Been a while since the last but other studying has been going on so now I’ve finally been able to come back round to this.

Verses 1-3: “For behold, the Lord, the Lord of Hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem, and from Judah, the stay and the staff, the whole staff of bread, and the whole stay of water—The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient; The captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counselor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator.” Here, the Lord is making the consequences of sin extremely clear to the Jews what will happen if they leave Him in their faith – the blessings and protection will be removed. This applied to the people of Jerusalem then but it applies to us on a personal, spiritual level also.

Verse 5: “And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbor; the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable.” Is this not true of today? Once again, the fulfilment of this prophetic pronouncement did not just apply to the people for whom Isaiah was talking to but also to us in the latter days. Whether Isaiah was aware of this or not, I am not aware. However, it is clear once again how the Lord uses His servants (the prophets) to teach and testify.

Verse 12: “And my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they who lead thee cause thee to err and destroy the way of thy paths.” Now, before I ponder over this in depth, I do not think that the prophet Isaiah feels that women ‘ruling’ over anything is a negative idea. Indeed, they probably lead better than men in most cases. However, I interpreted this to be (linked with the children comment) to be about the modern-day deconstruction of the family. Families with no father, with children who have not been taught the sweet message of the Gospel of Christ – it is remarkable how Isaiah’s prophecies were completely true and have come to pass.

Not so much to analyse from what I studied in this chapter, but still worthwhile things. I’m sure that many people will be able to add a some more to my thoughts and ideas so any thing else would be great to here.