“Every Man According to His Family”

Culture: (I will examine the subject of the tents after the next verse.) This verse provides important organizational information about Benjamin’s people, first that the people come as kin groups—the official unit of recognition for a politically and religiously important ceremony. In contrast, for example, we would not expect the entire family to come to market. Second, this event is one which requires the participation of even the youngest and oldest members of the family. Further, this verse establishes that the basic organizational unit of Nephite society was the kin group.

Third, Nephite society was clearly patriarchal, as evidenced by the emphasis on male leadership. Both the unit and its members are defined in relationship to “every man”: his family, his wife, his sons, his daughters. This arrangement is no surprise, for Hebrew society is also patriarchal. However, this text confirms the practice’s continuation in the New World. It also seems likely that they continued the practice of primogeniture, or the inheritance of the eldest son. The fact that the children are ranked from oldest to youngest suggests that age order is significant in their society. It also provides corroboration for the supposition that Mosiah is Benjamin’s eldest son.

History: The gathering by families echoes the Feast of Tabernacles, as Szink and Welch have observed: “The Mosaic Law specified that “all… males shall appear before the Lord God” (Ex. 23:17), and in Deuteronomy the entire family was expected to participate: “And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates (Deut. 16:14; compare 31:10–12).”

Brant Gardner -

Brant Gardner

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3