Over five hundred years had passed from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem and fled with his colony into the wilderness. It would appear that the government of the people for the first thirty years or so was patriarchal in nature. Then Nephi was appointed king and the Nephite monarchy began, a system which was perpetuated until the end of the ministry of King Mosiah.
“No One to Confer the Kingdom Upon”
Since his own sons had refused to succeed him and thus assume kingly leadership-they had, as a result of their conversion, assumed instead their priestly responsibilities to preach the gospel to the Lamanites-Mosiah proposed an alternative plan or mode of government for the Nephite nation. Knowing full well the evils of a wicked king, and that “it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, [to] ... begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39), Mosiah suggested that the people forsake a government by kings and set up a hierarchy of elected judges whereby political and social injustice and inequity might more readily be exposed and corrected.