For This Cause Did King Mosiah and Benjamin Keep Them

Alan C. Miner

It is intriguing that in the Printers Manuscript and in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, the words that now make up Ether 4:1 read as follows: “and for this cause did king Benjamin keep them [that is, the words of the brother of Jared concerning what transpired on the mount] that they should not come unto the world until after Christ should show himself unto his people.” Was this a mistake in the translation process? It is hard to explain how Joseph Smith could make such a mistake. Perhaps it wasn’t a mistake, especially if what king Benjamin possessed amounted to the record of the brother of Jared and not the twenty four gold plates of Ether. Ether after all was a descendant of Jared (Ether 1:6-33), and not a descendant of the brother of Jared. It was the brother of Jared who was entrusted with making a record of his experiences (Ether 4:1).

There is another recorded passage in the Printers Manuscript and the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon where the name “Benjamin” is found instead of what now reads “Mosiah.” In the book of Mosiah is found an account of the rescue of the people of Limhi by Ammon and his brethren. Upon the arrival of Ammon, king Limhi informed him of the discovery of the twenty four gold plates and asked him, “knowest thou of any one that can translate? for I am desirous that these records should be translated into our language” (Mosiah 8:12) Ammon replied, “I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all the records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish … and behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things.” (Mosiah 8:13-14) “And now Limhi was again filled with joy on learning from the mouth of Ammon that king Benjamin had a gift from God.” (Mosiah 21:28).

According to the textual references in the book of Mosiah, when Ammon and his group departed from the land of Zarahemla to the land of Lehi-Nephi:

(1) Mosiah had been anointed king in the stead of king Benjamin (Mosiah 6:3),

(2) Mosiah had reigned in peace for three years (Mosiah 7:1), and

(3) king Benjamin lived three years and he died (Mosiah 6:5).

Thus, it is still possible to render a chronological interpretation such that Ammon and his brethren departed towards Lehi-Nephi just a little before Benjamin’s death, and therefore Ammon could have assumed that “king” Benjamin was still living.

We also should note that king Limhi mentions nothing about any interpreters, which the Lord commanded to be sealed up with the record of the brother of Jared (Ether 3:28). Rather, it was Ammon who seemingly had to explain the existence of such interpreters to king Limhi (Mosiah 8:13-14). Furthermore, it should be noted that in Ether 3:28, as part of the commandment to seal up these stones possessed by the brother of Jared, there is also a promise that these words (and stones) would NOT come forth to the children of men “until the Lord should show them.” (Ether 3:28) It does not seem to me that the Lord showed either the stones or the record of the brother of Jared to king Limhi or any of his people. Otherwise it would have probably been noted by Mormon in his abridgment. However, Mormon did note that Ammon considered the possession of “interpreters” a “gift from God.” (Mosiah 8:13)

Thus, in view of the evidence presented, the record of Ether as recorded on the twenty four gold plates was primarily a record of his family and their right to kingship, and probably did not contain the detailed vision of the brother of Jared, nor did it have with it the “stones.”

According to Randall Spackman, whether the two stones (interpreters?) were kept with the brother of Jared’s writings, as the Lord commanded (Ether 3:23) is not disclosed; the Book of Mormon does not reflect that the stones were found by the Nephites with the record of Ether. A set of stones called “interpreters” are noted as being used by Mosiah2 to translate the record of Ether into the language of the Nephites (Mosiah 28:11-13), but the link between these interpreters and the Jaredite stones is not mentioned in the Book of Mormon. However, Joseph Smith later described the interpreters as the stones “which were given to the brother of Jared upon the mount” (D&C 17:1).

Mosiah1 , the grandfather of Mosiah2 , is recorded as uniting his Nephite followers with “the people of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:19). The people of Zarahemla had discovered Coriantumr, the last Jaredite king, and Coriantumr had dwelt with the people of Zarahemla for the space of nine moons“ (Omni 1:21). Mosiah1 interpreted, ”by the gift and power of God," Jaredite engravings found on a large stone, which gave an account of this Coriantumr (Omni 1:20). Thus, the interpreters may have been delivered by the last Jaredite king (Coriantumr) to the people of Zarahemla, who passed them on to Mosiah1 when they united with the Nephites. Or perhaps the sacred stones or interpreters were found at the same time as the large engraved stone. [Randall P. Spackman, The Jaredite Journey To America, p. 123, unpublished]

Another possible explanation is given by John Welch. He writes that it is possible that Ammon made the statement recorded in Mosiah 21:28 at a time when he did not know for sure that the new king Mosiah2 would exercise the same gift as had his father. This would explain why Ammon might have spoken to the people of Limhi only of the known powers which Benjamin had had. According to Welch, the earliest readings we have of Ether 4:1 make the statement (referring to the writings of the brother of Jared) that “for this cause did king Benjamin keep them, that they should not come unto the world until after Christ should show himself unto his people.” Welch interprets this phrase to mean that Benjamin held back certain matters about the premortal Christ from the people (which is to say that the word “them” refers not to the record of the brother of Jared, but to an apparently similar experience had by Benjamin -- see Mosiah 3). [John W. Welch, “Preliminary Comments on the Sources behind the Book of Ether,” F.A.R.M.S., p. 10] [See the commentary on Mosiah 8:13; Mosiah 21:28; Mosiah 28:20; see also Appendix B of this volume]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary