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.