Like many of you, we have children. Our oldest two happen to be of babysitting age, which makes our lives easier in the event my wife and I (or some other combination of kids/adults) need to leave some of the other (responsible) kids home while we do important things like go on dates to the grocery store or the church to print the monthly newsletter. Sometimes we are gone for a few minutes, and other times we are gone for a few hours. In every case, we leave a few instructions with the oldest – and I bet that you do as well.
This list of instructions might be fairly simple if you are leaving for a few minutes, but could grow to be several pages worth of notes in the event you are expecting to be gone for an extended period of time – especially if the babysitters are expected to ensure that bedtime goes according to plan. That’s not to mention how long and detailed the list would be if you were going to be gone for a week on vacation and the babysitters (probably a responsible adult in this case) reminding them of all the details, events, dates, homework assignments, car rides, etc. that need to be attended to during their absence.
With that in mind, I’d like to review a couple of verses in Mosiah where King Benjamin asked his son Mosiah to babysit (and by babysit I mean rule the kingdom).
In Mosiah 1:15 King Benjamin gave Mosiah “’charge’ concerning all the affairs of the kingdom.” Let’s remember that this was the Land of Zarahemla, the ecclesiastical and political capital of the Nephites – at least until the time of Christ (See Alma 5:1, Alma 6:1, Alma 27:20) so it was not a small town or village. King Benjamin put Mosiah in charge of a whole lot of stuff. But, instead of listing a bazillion things to make sure he took care of, let’s review the tools King Benjamin emphasizes to Mosiah in verse 16:
And moreover, he (Benjamin) also gave him (Mosiah) charge concerning (1) the records which were engraven on the plates of brass; and also (2) the plates of Nephi; and also, (3) the sword of Laban, and (4) the ball or director, which led our fathers through the wilderness.
So, in today’s language, King Benjamin said something like this: “Hey Mosiah, I’m going to die soon, so I am putting you in charge of the whole kingdom – yes all of it. And, in order to be in charge of it (or to do a good job of being in charge of it) I am giving you 4 things:
- The scriptures
- Recent conference talks
- The sword of Laban – in case the Lamanites attack
- The Liahona – so you’ll know what (and where) to go or do (just remember that it only works according to your heed and diligence).
I bet Mosiah asked “is that it”? and King Benjamin said “yes – now please gather the entire Kingdom (like I asked) so that I can tell them you are in charge.”
If that conversation wasn’t enough to weigh down Mosiah, then what King Benjamin told his people in the next chapter certainly was – he said to the entire kingdom (in Mosiah 2:31) “if ye shall keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him, ye shall prosper in the land, and your enemies shall have no power over you. He lays the responsibility on Mosiah’s shoulders of only delivering commandments to the people that were from God. (in essence he blackmailed Mosiah into not becoming King Noah). Not a bad way to convince Mosiah to be good right?
Maybe the next time that I ask our oldest daughter to babysit I will proclaim to the younger children something like this “kids, if you do the things Elyse tells you to do, ye will prosper and your enemies will have no power over you”. And see if she turns into a tyrant or if she relies too much on the sword of Laban and not on the scriptures and the Liahona to inform her of what the ‘commandments’ to be delivered to the children are.
Yet, there is another bit of context that helps us understand King Benjamin’s trust in Mosiah. If we go back to read the first part of chapter 1 (specifically verses 2-14 before he gives Mosiah ‘charge’ concerning the kingdom). The record indicates that prior to this transfer of ‘charge’ King Benjamin had heavily emphasized the importance of the tools that he was passing on to Mosiah.
In referencing the instruction that he gave to all his sons, he underscored the importance of the plates, and how they were critical to learning and understanding the language of his fathers, prophecies which had been spoken, the records which were engraven, the commandments, and how important it was that these things were ‘always before their eyes’ so that they did not dwindle in unbelief (like the Lamanites who didn’t have the records). He also exhorted them to search the records diligently among many other things which were not written. All of a sudden, it’s not so surprising that the only tools that he gave as part of the babysitting list were the scriptures – indicating that any answers or struggles that come up as a leader of a kingdom can be solved by seeking inspiration and direction from the Lord.
Now, we can’t really assume that King Benjamin never spoke another word to Mosiah again, because he lived for 3 more years before he passed away (See Mosiah 6:5), but let’s assume that he retired to live a life of peace without explaining every little thing to Mosiah. This leaves us with a pretty solid model by which to lead/instruct our children when they are set to inherit new responsibilities:
- Help them remember how great the scriptures are
- Make sure they know that all the answers are in there – they’ll figure it out if they really look for them.
No doubt Mosiah also had the luxury of watching his father lead the people for 30 years (See Mosiah 6:4) and had seen the proper use of wisdom, patience, service, love, and scripture seeking over and over again in action – which likely made his attempts to follow in his footsteps slightly easier.
This also helps us understand that the best way to lead (as taught by Benjamin to Mosiah) is to be a devoted follower. A follower of the scriptures, the spirit, and the commandments of the Lord. Then (and only then) are we able to deliver any of his commandments to those we lead in a manner that will be accompanied by the spirit and the truth. Then (and only then) will we be able to recognize the Liahona guiding us along.
Note: Don’t forget that Benjamin spent the majority of his days ‘serving’ the people. This is another key component of his successful leadership that goes hand in hand with being a devoted follower.