Bill Pringle - Bill@BillPringle
I have added some explanations of Mormon specific terms.
I was asked to speak on any topic concerning King Benjamin's speech. For me, King Benjamin's speech has always been associated with:
Mark Richardson, a former member of this ward, once said that this scripture is God's job description. God's goal in this life is to help each one of us return to Him so that we may enjoy the eternities with Him. When we are helping others grow closer to Heavenly Father, we are helping them to accept the Gospel, we are helping them achieve eternal life, and therefore we are helping God perform His work and His glory.
Jesus echoed this sentiment as well, speaking of the Last Days.
I don't think Jesus was saying that we are only supposed to help the least of our bretheren, but rather whatever we do to anyone, even the least, we are doing it to Him. When we are doing good to others, we are doing good to God; when we are doing evil to others, we are doing evil towards God.
So, we are supposed to be helping others perfect themselves and achieve eternal life. However, as Harold B. Lee said:
This means that, in addition to helping others to improve, we must constantly be helping ourselves to improve. Indeed, helping ourselves to become better is helping God achieve His goal for us.
So, we are supposed to be helping ourselves as well as others so that we can all grow and improve ourselves. However, we have to be doing it for the right reason. A much quoted scripture is:
This scripture is often quoted to show us how we should constantly be looking for good things that we can do. I have always wondered why most people stop quoting there, because the next verse contains what I think of as an even more important message:
This tells me that if you do the right things, but continually complain about having to do them, if we do what the bishop says, but keep thinking he is wrong, if we do the bare minimum of what we think we have to do and still feel that we shouldn't have to do even that much, then we are in danger of severe repercussions.
Perhaps that is why excommunication for those who refuse to live the standards of the gospel is often more of a blessing than allowing them to remain members. As members, we covenant to obey certain commandments above and beyond what is expected of non-members. For example, we agree to abide by the Word of Wisdom, to pay a full tithe, etc. We don't believe it is wrong for non-members to smoke or drink, but we do believe it is wrong for church members to do these things.
These responsibilities continue as long as we are members, regardless of how we feel about the church. If we get to the point where we are not willing to honor our baptismal or temple covenants or to follow correct principles, then being excommunicated means that we are released from those covenants, which releases us from the consequences of those decisions, and we are then judged the same as any non-member would be judged.
Although we aren't supposed to complain too much, we also shouldn't brag about what we do, or think we are better than others because we do good deeds. In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican:
We can't brag about what we do, or think that our service should be praised. We must be sincere in our efforts. For example, those of us who are Priesthood holders must honor our priesthood, but we can't expect honor for our priesthood.
The one sin that the Lord didn't seem to tolerate was hypocrisy:
We shouldn't put up a false front. Admit our weaknesses, and be humble. Also:
The reference here is to unmarked graves. To walk over a grave made you ritually unclean, so graves without any markings caused people to become unclean while being unaware of the fact. We must be careful that our actions don't mislead others or offend them, or cause them to draw further away from the Gospel, especially when we are acting as agents of the Lord.
So it is more than just doing the right things. It is doing the right things for the right reasons. If we do the right things for the wrong reason, then not only don't we receive any blessings for our actions, we may be punished for doing the right things for the wrong reason.
Now, I'm not saying that you always have to have pure motives when you do good things. We often hear leaders tell us that if we don't feel like doing something that is right, that we should continually try to do it until it feels right. If you don't feel like praying, get down on your knees and pray until you do feel like it. This is certainly how many of us gained testimonies of various things. Often it isn't until we try paying our tithing for a while that we gain a testimony of tithing. I recall priesthood lessons discussing how people would do certain things not because they necessarily wanted to do them, but rather because they knew that they should do them. I think this is normal and fine.
On the other hand, I have heard of some people who are inactive, don't live the principles of the gospel, but pay their tithing as a form of "fire insurance":
If someone is simply paying tithing, but ignoring the rest of the Gospel, then I'm not convinced that this scriptures applies to them.
I think that these scriptures are warning us that we should not be doing what appears to be good deeds in order to create a false impression, and to cover up serious transgressions on our part. There are times when I do good things and I hope that somebody notices and says something nice to me. There are times when I really don't feel like doing something, but I do it because I know that I should. I think these things are natural, and I don't think these scriptures apply to such situations.
We have learned that helping others to improve is furthering Heavenly Father's work. We have also discussed why it is important to do these things for the right reason. But, going back to:
Why is doing something to someone else the same as doing it to the Lord?
I had this brought home to me a few years ago when I was teaching Primary. Two students were having a bitter dispute between each other. The younger one was in my class, and the older one was a former student of mine. I was talking to the older one, explaining how I loved both of them, and how his treatment of the younger one was hurting my feelings because one person I loved was hurting someone else that I loved. While I was explaining this, it occurred to me that this is much of what Heavenly Father goes through when we are fighting among ourselves. He loves all of us, and so when we treat each other meanly, we are hurting His feelings, but when we are loving and supporting each other, we are pleasing Him.
So another reason why "when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." is that our actions to others have the same effect on Heavenly Father as they have on the people involved. When we have a positive effect on them, we are pleasing God; when we have a negative effect on them, we are offending God.
I think it is important to remember that Heavenly Father loves everyone, not just those who are doing His will. Just as a parent can abhor what a child does, but still love the child, Heavenly Father loves all of His children, from the most reverent saint to the most hardened criminal or terrorist, and we should also. We can hate the sin, but we must love the sinner. It is easy to love someone who is nice to you; the hard part is loving someone who is hateful towards you.
This talk has followed a stream of consciousness that I went through when I was thinking about the topic. It took shape as a sequence of scriptures that popped into my head. I hope some of you have followed my train of thought, and that none of you got whiplash from any of the twists and turns. It has been interesting for me because usually, when I give a talk, I come up with an outline and then find scriptures to support the various points. This time, however, I came up with a sequence of scriptures, and then I had to fill in the connections between them.
Which brings me to another topic that has always been near and dear to my heart: Scripture Study. I have found scripture study to be the primary way in which Heavenly Father communicates with me. Putting this talk together is but one example.
I have often talked about the difference between reading the scriptures and studying the scriptures. When I first joined the Church, I read the scriptures often. I found I could usually read all of the standard works within one year. However, when I was studying the Bible in the original Hebrew and Greek, it took me more than five years to read just the Bible once.
When you are studying the scriptures, you measure your progress by how much time you spend, not how many pages you have read. If you decide to put aside 15 minutes a day, or 5 minutes, or half an hour, the measure is whether or not you have spent that much time, and if you finish only one verse or several chapters during that time, it is the same thing.
An excellent way to study scriptures is to write a talk or develop a lesson. Notice that I did not say give a talk or teach a lesson. I said to write a talk or develop a lesson.
When I first joined the Church, I was talking to a missionary who said that he was often called on at the last minute to give a talk or teach a lesson. So what he did was, he wrote a talk and developed a lesson. Then, when asked, he would simply give the talk he had already prepared or teach his lesson.
So for some time when I was a new member, I would write talks on various subjects. I would practice them while I was going to and from work, or whenever I had some spare time. I would develop lesson plans, and imagine giving them to people. I would try to anticipate class questions or reactions, and decide how I would respond. I learned a lot during that time, and when I finally had to give a talk or teach a lesson, I felt more at ease because I had already done such things in my mind many times.
Scripture study has been one of the means for me to improve myself. While studying, certain passages cause a burning sensation in my bosom, indicating that I should be paying particular attention to its message. At other times, thoughts will pop into my head about how some scripture is related to another scripture or how it applies to my life. Sometimes seemingly unrelated ideas will suddenly occur to me when studying. Such things have helped me to learn, and to improve myself, and to come closer to my Heavenly Father. I still have a long way to go, but at least I am headed in the right direction.
So, what have I learned when preparing for this talk? For one thing, I have learned a new way to put together a talk. But more importantly, I have also gained a greater understanding of how service to others is actually service to God.
We must always remember that as we are improving ourselves, we are increasing our abilities to help lift others. When we are lifting others, we are helping them grow closer to their Father in Heaven, which is helping Heavenly Father achieve His work and His glory. If we continually strive to do these things, not for gain or recognition, but because we love the Lord and want to do His will, then we will receive happiness and joy in this life and in the next.
King Benjamin is a character from the Book of Mormon. He was a great leader who led his people, but refused to saddle them with taxes and such. He labored for his own needs along with his subjects.
When he became old, he called all his people together for a final talk. This final speech covered a wide range of topics.
King Benjamin's speech can be found in the Book of Mosiah within the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Moses is contained in The Pearl of Great Price, which is considered a scripture by the Mormons.
Harold B. Lee was a prophet and president of the Mormon Church.
D&C stands for Doctrines and Covenants, another set of scriptures used by the Mormon Church. This book contains modern day revelations given by various prophets of the Mormon Church.