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King Benjamin's Address

John Welch[1] and other FARMS writers have asserted that traces of the Jewish Rite of the Scapegoat[2] can be found in King Benjamin's final address to his subjects[3]. They point to Mosiah 5:7-12, in which King Benjamin speaks of believers being on the right hand of God, and unbelievers being on the left hand of God. The Babylonian Talmud, in its commentary on Leviticus 16, records that the high priest would cast lots to determine which of the two goats would be sacrificed in the Temple, and which would be sent into the wilderness to die. The goat on the right was deemed to be 'for the Lord', and the goat on the left was 'for Azazel' (probably the name of a desert-dwelling demon).

There is, however, an alternative source for this statement of King Benjamin. This is the New Testament, specifically the Book of Matthew, Chapter 25:31-46. In this parable, Jesus divides mankind into two camps - those believers who were socially concious on his right hand (25:34), and the wicked on his left (25:41). One can find other allusions to this New Testament passage in King Benjamin's speech.

In Mosiah 4:26, King Benjamin exhorts his people to be socially conscious - '...feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick...'. This very similar to Jesus' description of the righteous in Matthew 25:35-36 'For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat...Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me...'.

Mosiah 4:6 speaks of the Atonement '...prepared from the foundation of the world...'. Matthew 25:34 speaks of the Kingdom '...prepared for you from the foundation of the world...'. This is not the only place in the Book of Mormon that this passage is quoted. In Alma 40:13 we find the words '...and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth...'. Compare this with Matthew 25:30 'And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' Mosiah 26:27 reads '...and they shall depart into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' Second Nephi 9:16 reads '...and they shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them...'. Compare these quotes with Matthew 25:41 '...Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels'.

If it is true that King Benjamin quoted the New Testament in his speech, it would mean that this incident most likely never happened, and is simply one more example of Joseph Smith's fertile imagination.

Notes -
[1] J. Welch - "King Benjamin's Speech in the Context of Ancient Israelite Festivals" (FARMS 1985)
[2] Leviticus 16
[3] Mosiah 2-5

Contents Copyright 1997 Curt van den Heuvel

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