The sons of Mosiah and their friends went to their father as the king, not for fatherly advice. Their request is another evidence of the separation of church and state. The effect of the missionaries going to the Lamanite nation was a political matter as well as a church matter. We often use the church and the kingdom of God as synonyms, but the kingdom of God is a larger organization of which the church is a part. In the early days of Mosiah, son of Benjamin, and also from the early days of Nephi (see 2 Nephi 5:18–19; Jacob 1:9–11), the church and kingdom were administered through one head, Mosiah being a prophet, seer, and revelator (see Mosiah 8:16). However with the growth of the church, as spoken of in Mosiah chapter 25, Mosiah “had given Alma the authority over the church” (Mosiah 26:8).
The kingdom of God is administered by revelation and through the priesthood. In an earlier discussion, Mosiah, son of Benjamin had “consulted with his priests” regarding the persecution upon the church (Mosiah 27:1). This was a different body of priests than the “one priest to every fifty of their number” that was ordained by Alma to assist him in the church (Mosiah 18:18). Regarding his sons going on a mission, Mosiah “inquired of the Lord” and not only received a revelation to allow them to go, but was given promises of success and protection (Mosiah 28:6–7).
The kingdom of God established among the children of Israel following the period of the Judges was similar to Mosiah’s organization, but it was under a different priesthood and therefore had some differences. Israel’s king was Jehovah [Christ] or the God of Israel, but the people wanted “a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5). The Lord recognized their agency, and after warning them of the consequences through Samuel “the seer” (1 Samuel 9:19), he harkened to their demand for a king. Through revelation from the Lord, Samuel selected Saul to be the king (see 1 Samuel 9–10). Nathan succeeded Samuel as the prophet and seer. Although the Lord “took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also; … the lesser [Aaronic] priesthood continued” with Israel (D&C 84:25–26). However, both Samuel and Nathan held the Melchizedek Priesthood. “All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself” (TPJS, 181). Although David, and therefore probably Saul, had the priesthood, “he never did obtain the … the fullness of the priesthood” (TPJS, 339). Whatever priesthood David and Saul had, Samuel and Nathan had a higher authority. They anointed the kings (see 1 Samuel 16; 2 Samuel 12). The prophet and seer was the highest authority in the kingdom of God.
The millennium reign will have a similar organization to that of the time of Mosiah, son of Benjamin. Christ himself will be the king. A prophet, seer, and revelator will be the earthly servant to administer the Church and political kingdom under Christ. Joseph Smith was given the keys of the kingdom.
2 Therefore, thou art blessed from henceforth that bear the keys of the kingdom given unto you; which kingdom is coming forth for the last time.
3 Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come;
4 Nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another, yea, even unto the church. [D&C 90:2–4]
Joseph’s successor have and will continue to hold those keys until the kingdom of heaven comes. “Wherefore, may the kingdom of God go forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come, that thou, O God, mayest be glorified in heaven so on earth, that thine enemies may be subdued; for thine is the honor, power and glory, forever and ever” (D&C 65:6). When Christ “reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet” (D&C 58:22), there will still be a separation of church and state, but both will work together as did Mosiah, son of Benjamin, and Alma the elder worked for “the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
In the millennium mortality, will continue and mortals will still govern. The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Christ and the resurrected Saints will reign over the earth during the thousand years. They will not probably dwell upon the earth, but will visit it when they please, or when it is necessary to govern it. There will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years” (TPJS, 268–69). The wicked men are not the telestial type of our day, but those among what the Lord calls the “congregations of the wicked” who have not and may not accept the gospel (see D&C 60:13; 61:33; 62:5). They are “under darkness and under the bondage of sin … because they come not unto me” (D&C 84:49–50). They will not “come unto [Christ] and be baptized in my name” (3 Nephi 27:20). The millennium mortals will have their agency and by their choices may become terrestrial beings. Isaiah described them: “In those days there shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days; for the child shall not die, but shall live to be an hundred years old; but the sinner, living to be an hundred years old, shall be accursed” (JST, Isaiah 65:20). However, the Lord said of the majority of those living in the millennium: “And the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance; and they shall multiply and wax strong, and their children shall grow up without sin unto salvation. For the Lord shall be in their midst, and his glory shall be upon them, and he will be their king and their lawgiver” (D&C 45:58–59).
Malachi also prophesied of the millennium people: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall” (Malachi 4:2). Calves growing up in a stall are protected from the elements of the world. The millennial children will be protected from Satan.
24 And the time cometh speedily that the righteous must be led up as calves of the stall, and the Holy One of Israel must reign in dominion, and might, and power, and great glory.
25 And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture.
26 And because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth. [1 Nephi 22:24–26]
The sons of Mosiah and their companions had the eternal status of their Lamanite brethren in mind. Having suffered eternal torment themselves, they did not want others to suffer as they had (Mosiah 28:2–3). They were also desirous to maintain their own redeemed state (v. 4). The account of their mission among the Lamanites (v. 9) is recorded in Alma chapters 17 through 29.