King Benjamin begins his great discourse by talking about service, mysteries, and the atonement of Christ
2 Nephi 9:25-26
3 Nephi 6:18
3 Nephi 11:38
I used to have a difficult time wrapping my head around King Benjamin’s negative comparison between dust and people. I think this was a result of being taught that we are literal spirit children of God (like Jesus). No one expects children to behave as puppets to mindlessly do whatever they are told, unlike dust that can’t help but move when you blow on it.
As I have been reading “Mere Christianity”, I think that King Benjamin would recognize CS Lewis’ description of the difference between being begotten, like Christ was, and being created. King Benjamin uses the term created 5 times between verses 20-25 of chapter 2 in trying to help his people understand their obligation to God, and how they cannot possibly do more to repay him than what he has given, beginning with life itself.
We have a tendency to equate ourselves with Christ in terms of relationship to God (children/sons/daughters), but the Book of Mosiah has several people, including King Benjamin and Abinadi who say that the Lord Omnipotent, ruler and CREATOR of heaven and earth and all things in them, shall himself come down among men in a tabernacle of clay. And that He is God. I have come to believe that we cannot properly worship God until we understand our relationship with Jesus is not that of siblings in a large family, but rather of creator and creation. It is only when I approach Him with this perspective that I can really humble myself before Him and get into the frame of mind that fits the perspective King Benjamin is teaching his people.
I also wanted to share some thoughts that came to me as you were talking about the “blessed and happy state of those who keep the commandments of God”. I have gone through some really tough times in my life, including times of undiagnosed depression. One of the things I would struggle with was how I could keep the commandments any better than I was, when I didn’t know what I was doing wrong to keep me from the happiness God had promised. As you were talking, I realized that the happy state referred to is not an emotional feeling. When I reflect on the spiritual and temporal blessings I consistently received then and now, where the desires of my heart were given to me in unexpected ways, and being upheld in some fiery personal trials which have led me to better long-term circumstances, I can see that it really is a blessed and happy state, even when I can’t feel the happiness directly. This may be why we are cautioned to “hold out faithful to the end”, because it is hard to keep faith when the blessings don’t come in the ways you are expecting.
An alternative view on verses 24-27 is that they really are talking about the final state of damnation, not just whether or not someone has to suffer for their own sins during the Millennium. This is based on “judgment day” as the determining factor. I assume you believe that judgment day is after the Millennium, in which case, those whose works were evil have already been past the point of no repentance, in which case they can no more return from their misery, even for a small season, and mercy can have claim on them no more forever.
By this point in the timeline, the ability to choose to be a son of Christ, or a son of Perdition will have been clearly chosen. We know that there are people today who actively worship Satan, just as there are people who actively worship God the Father. However, most people are somewhere in the middle, letting their heart’s desires determine their works (for good or evil) without much thought for where those choices will ultimately lead. Those who choose to hurt other people out of selfishness, obedience to other authority figures, or pure maliciousness have their own justifications for doing so, even when told not to. King Benjamin is saying that those who have rationalized their evil works, will be “consigned to an awful view of their own guilt and abominations”. Or in other words, their excuses will be stripped away, and they will be left to see the unfiltered truth of what they have done and the full consequences of their actions, with nowhere to hide and no way to turn back. God can no more save them at this point than he could spare Adam from the fall after he partook of the fruit, contrary to his own knowledge of the commandment not to eat, no matter what excuses he came up with for why he had done it.
I like the way you have described how we should properly think of Christ, not as our elder brother in a family, but as God himself, the Creator who came down to save us. I, like you, have experienced a wonderful deepening of my relationship with God when I view him that way. Truly, we “know not the God in whom we should trust” (Mormon 9:20) when we embrace the false notions of God propounded by the modern LDS Church. Thanks for sharing your insights and personal experiences.