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Relationship to Chapters 1-6. The relationship of Chapters 1-2 to the rest of Chapters 1-6 is discussed at Mosiah 1-6.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 1-2 include:
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- Mosiah 3:1-5. The phrase "eternity to all eternity" occurs 3 times in the Book of Mormon (here in Mosiah 3:5, and in Alma 13:7, and Moro 8:18). It also occurs once in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 39:1). It also occurs in Moses 6:67, Moses 7:29, and Moses 7:31. Curiously, the phrase "all eternity" is used five times in D&C 132 (D&C 132:7, D&C 132:17, D&C 132:18, D&C 132:19, and D&C 132:49, where it seems to refer to an eternal exalted state obtained through obedience to the New and Everlasting Covenent of Marriage. In addition, the phrase "all eternity" is also used in Moses 7:41, where it seems to somewhat cryptically refer to a physical or spiritual plane beyond this earth.
- Mosiah 3:1-5. The phrase "all eternity" seems to refer to the future exalted state of individuals who are sealed according to the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage (see references above to D&C 132).
- Mosiah 3:1-5. If taken literally, the phrase "all eternity to all eternity" may refer to multiple eternities. As the phrase is generally used in Latter-day scriptures to refer to the Jesus Christ, it may indicate that Jesus Christ obtained exaltation in a previous eternity, and will retain his exalted status in this eternity, hence from "all eternity" (the past eternity) to "all eternity" (either the present or perhaps a future eternity).
- Mosiah 3:1-5. If not taken literally, the phrase "all eternity to all eternity" might just mean something like "forever"--which would underscore the timeless and everlasting nature of Christ, without implying multiple eternities or anything specific about Christ's pre-mortal experiences.
- Mosiah 3:5. In saying that the Lord "shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men," King Benjamin unwittingly commits the same "crime" that Abinadi commits nearly 25 years earlier in the courts of King Noah (Mosiah 17:8). But, because of his righteousness and willingness to accept and teach the truth as he received it, the people were able to freely hear and accept this profound doctrine directly from their beloved king.
- Mosiah 3:7. The angel tells King Benjamin that Jesus will suffer "more than man can suffer." It would seem that the point is that Jesus, being the Lord Omnipotent in a tabernacle of clay (verse 5), would suffer more than a man could suffer. However with the additional phrase "except it be unto death," the angel seems to be emphasizing not Jesus's difference from mortals, but rather his sameness. Jesus suffered so much that it would kill anyone, and, in fact, Jesus died.
- Mosiah 3:8. This verse starts with the angel calling Jesus by several grand titles (more grand than anyone else on earth could have), followed by his stating that Jesus's mother shall be called Mary. This juxtaposition suggests God's condescension--the Son of God was born to humble circumstances not to someone with a lot of titles, but to a common woman with an unremarkable name.
- Mosiah 3:11-12. King Benjamin explains here that Christ's blood atones for the sins of those who "fall by the transgression of Adam" (more on this below) and die without knowing the will of God. King Benjamin describes this same group of people in another way when he says these are those who "have ignorantly sinned."
- In the next verse King Benjamin contrasts the ignorant sinners (those whose sins are atoned for through the blood of Christ) with those who rebel against God. The point King Benjamin seems to be making is that, unlike the ignorant, those who know the will of God and don't obey it cannot receive salvation without repenting.
- Now, back to verse 11. We can get stuck on what it means to "ignorantly sin." Generally when we talk about sin, we are talking about someone responsible for their actions, but if someone is truly ignorant that what they are doing is wrong, then they can't be responsible for doing it. But King Benjamin seems to ascribe both guilt (saying they have fallen by the transgression of Adam) and innocence (saying they didn't know the will of God). This makes the concept of ignorant sinning seem like some sort of contradiction.
- But to put verse 11 back in context, we must remember that the point of this verse is not to define the status of those who don't receive the gospel and explain the steps that must be taken to receive salvation. Rather, King Benjamin is using those "who have died not knowing the will of God" as a foil for his pointed discussion aimed at those who do know the will of God in verse 12. Or, to put it within the history of this people, he is pointing out that these people (for many of whom the gospel seems new) have a different responsibility than their Zarahemla parents who didn't know the gospel at all.
- Compare these verses to Mosiah 3:20-21, "the time shall come when the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. And behold, when that time cometh, none shall be found blameless before God..."
- Mosiah 3:13: As though he had already come. Preaching the gospel is as central to the Plan of Salvation as free choice and repentance (see Romans 10:14-15). It was important for King Benjamin to receive a glimpse of the Savior's earthly mission to prepare his people to gain eternal life. That he was able to do this 124 years before Christ's birth is not as miraculous as it might seem. "Is not a soul at this time as precious as a soul will be at the time of his coming? (see Alma 39:16-19)." The important theme of foreknowledge recurs throughout the Book of Mormon, and is perhaps one of the most curious aspects of this ancient record.
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Prompts for life application
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Prompts for further study
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- Mosiah 3:2. Why would an angel choose to appear to someone who was asleep, rather than awake? What other instances do we have of such appearances?
- Mosiah 3:5. What does the phrase "from all eternity to all eternity" mean (verse 5)? Is that the same as saying "forever," or might it have an alternate meaning?
- Mosiah 3:5. Why would the angel begin his account of Christ's earthly ministry by emphasizing the miracles he would perform (verse 5)? As members of His Church, do we spend enough time discussing the miracles that transpire in our own work and ministry?
- Mosiah 3:7: How could Jesus suffer "more than man can suffer"?
- Mosiah 3:8: How is Jesus the Father of heaven and earth?
- Mosiah 3:8: How does the description of Christ's eternal role and purpose compare with descriptions found in the New Testament? What does verse 8 add to our understanding of Christ's roles?
- Mosiah 3:8: Why would it be important for the angel to name Christ's mother?
- Mosiah 3:9: What does it mean that Christ "cometh unto his own"?
- Mosiah 3:10: What are "these things" that are done to allow for a righteous judgement to come?
- Mosiah 3:11-15: Where are the records of the prophets who have been sent "among all the children of men...to every kindred, nation, and tongue" (verse 13)? Should we expect to have their records revealed to us in time? Might we expect that portions of their teachings may have survived in other religious traditions around the world?
- Mosiah 3:14-15: How do verses 14-15 help us better understand the Law of Moses? Since the Law of Moses came down through several traditions in the Bible (early E material, later Deuteronomist and Priestly traditions, etc.), which understanding of the Law of Moses is the angel discussing?
- Mosiah 3:16: Why the sudden shift to talkIng about the salvation of little children?
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- Mosiah 3:19. See R. J. Snow's article from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism on the meaning of "Natural Man".
- Mosiah 3:19. Several blog posts have dealt with this verse. See Abev's If Men were Angels, New Cool Thing's Natural Man, New Cool Thing's On the Personhood of Satan and A Prayer of Faith's Rejoicing in our Nothingness.
- Mosiah 3:19. Another aspect of the natural man is his inability or unwillingness to trust in anything but his own understanding. "When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not until the counsel of God (see 2 Nephi 9:28-29)."
- Mosiah 3:19. See also Alma 13:28-29, "watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering..."
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