During this period of continual peace, King Benjamin has two objectives for his three sons: first to educate them in the language of their fathers that “they might become men of understanding;” and secondly, that they might know of the prophecies of the Lord (v. 2). The Lord revealed similar objectives as a commandment for Hyrum Smith in this dispensation.
15 Behold, I command you that you need not suppose that you are called to preach until you are called.
16 Wait a little longer, until you shall have my word, my rock, my church, and my gospel, that you may know of a surety my doctrine.
17 And then, behold, according to your desires, yea, even according to your faith shall it be done unto you.
18 Keep my commandments; hold your peace; appeal unto my Spirit;
19 Yea, cleave unto me with all your heart, that you may assist in bringing to light those things of which has been spoken—yea, the translation of my work; be patient until you shall accomplish it.
20 Behold, this is your work, to keep my commandments, yea, with all your might, mind and strength.
21 Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.
22 But now hold your peace; study my word which hath gone forth among the children of men, and also study my word which shall come forth among the children of men, or that which is now translating, yea, until you have obtained all which I shall grant unto the children of men in this generation, and then shall all things be added thereto. [D&C 11:15–22]
Later, the Lord gave these instructions as a commandment to a conference of high priests in their preparation to minister in their callings.
77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—
80 That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.
81 Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.
82 Therefore, they are left without excuse, and their sins are upon their own heads. [D&C 88:77–82]
The last two verses of this commandment make it applicable to every member of the Church.
To know of the language of their fathers was to enable them to read the scriptures as will be discussed in following verses. However, it reminds us of President Spencer W. Kimball’s calling for every worthy young man to serve a mission:
When I ask for more missionaries, I am not asking for more testimony-barren or unworthy missionaries. I am asking that we start earlier and train our missionaries better in every branch and every ward in the world. That is another challenge—that the young people will understand that it is a great privilege to go on a mission and that they must be physically well, mentally well, spiritually well, and that “the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” [D&C 1:31]
I am asking for missionaries who have been carefully indoctrinated and trained through the family and the organizations of the Church, and who come to the mission with a great desire. I am asking for better interviews, more searching interviews, more sympathetic and understanding interviews, but especially that we train prospective missionaries much better, much earlier, much longer, so that each anticipates his mission with great joy.
President Gordon B. Hinckley also encouraged the young men of the Church to prepare themselves for missions and emphasized the study of languages:
To our young men I would like to say, prepare yourselves, not only financially as you have been urged to do, but also intellectually and morally and spiritually. Study languages. This gospel is not for the American people only. This gospel is for the people of the earth, and we have incumbent upon us the obligation to learn to speak their tongues. If you be called to a foreign language mission, you will be better equipped if you have studied the language. If you be called to an English-speaking mission, you will understand your own language better.
Knowing the prophecies of the Lord “spoken by the mouths of their fathers” had reference to the Nephite prophets from Lehi to King Mosiah. In over four hundred years, the language must have changed somewhat, and their merging with the people of Zarahemla (see Omni 1:14–19) would also have had its effect. This objective further confirms that the Nephites had kept records of the prophecies of their fathers and these were in King Benjamin’s possession (see Omni 1:25). Knowing the future would prepare the sons to live righteously and also to teach others to do likewise.