Choose You this Day — As for Me and My House…

“A full life is one in which we experience joy. The pursuit of happiness is a primary aspiration of humanity. It is written, ‘Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy’ (2 Nephi 2:25). Is it not sanctified that we pursue heart lifting gladness? The real question here to ask is, ‘What means is best for us to achieve lasting joy in life?’ While others of varying ideologies may differ in response, I say that the most effective way for us to enjoy sustained and true joy is by devoting our time and energy to the service of our fellow beings. I know no greater bliss than when I personally contribute to the happiness of friends and loved ones. When we are in the service of others, thinking of their needs above our own, the door to lasting reciprocal joy is open for all.”

Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 27 April 2024

A few years ago I was involved in providing a twenty-four hour scripture reading activity in my home for the youth of our congregation. The goal was to read scriptures and provide enjoyable exercises that would increase the understanding and inspiration of our young people. For one of the activities the youth applied pioneering skills to construct a high tower, using wood and rope, in my backyard. They later took turns standing atop the tower quoting the words of a prophet-king of antiquity. It was an amazing and testimony building experience for all, and so much fun in our service one to another.

Youth use pioneering skills to construct a King Benjamin replica tower, October 2019.

There are not many scenes in scriptural writ more vividly described than that of King Benjamin’s address, near the end of his life, to the Nephite nation in Zarahemla. I picture a tower structure built high above thousands of listeners with their tents facing the voice of a prophet king in ancient days, declaring the things he deemed most valuable to his people. For God’s people, the words spoken in Zarahemla were then and are still testimony strengthening, as much as it was for King Benjamin a testimony sealer, the mark of the man he was.

King Benjamin was a good man, one of the best of men. It was said of him that if we could have kings like unto him it would always be good for us to have kings. King Mosiah declared, “…if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to His commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you” (Mosiah 29:13).

Youth speaking from the King Benjamin replica tower, October 2019.

I would compare Benjamin and his son Mosiah to George Washington. Like President Washington, King Benjamin and King Mosiah had access to near absolute power, but instead of taking advantage of the privilege that always comes with such power, they exercised their “might, mind and strength” (Mosiah 2:11) to serving their fellow man, with the labor of their own hands, and even stepped down from power when it was the best thing for their people.

After many years of effort in liberating his fellow colonials from the tyranny of a king, then General George Washington was urged by his commanders to lead in a rebellion against the Continental Congress that would place Washington himself as the monarch of a new kingdom. This 1783 episode in history called the Newburgh Conspiracy climaxed when a group of Washington loyalists, unsatisfied with the direction of the government under the Articles of Confederation and their compensation in the revolutionary war effort and aftermath, were gathered to plan an operation to take over the fledgling government of the new nation.

General Washington heard of this meeting and attended. The former near action figure of a warrior arose and said the following words as he prepared to read aloud a letter, “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.” A dry eye was hard to be found in the room, and with heads lowered in shame, knowing that Washington had done more for the Revolution than any of them, the conspiracy fell apart.

George Washington at Newburgh, stirring conscience and serving a nation. (Washington at Newburgh by Jane Sutherland/George Washington’s Mount Vernon)

Washington went on to serve as president of the Constitutional Convention and later was elected the first President of the United States of America. Following eight years of presidential service President Washington did the unthinkable. He stepped down from power of his own accord and freewill for the good of his people. We have since lived in liberty as the beneficiaries of the pattern and example he set for all of those who would follow. This pattern must endure.

Like Washington, King Benjamin indeed taught by example. He did labor all of his days, not waging grievous taxes upon the people that he might live a lavish lifestyle, but he labored with his hands all the days of his life to support himself and his family while serving his people as their king. So, when he made the following statement, it was not heard as hypocrisy but as true words from a true man, “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).

“King Benjamin Addresses His People” by Gary L. Kapp

A humble man, King Benjamin knew of his own limitations and for the Savior’s hand in redeeming all of God’s children. He said, “But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by His matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me” (Mosiah 2:11).

The scriptures tell us that King Benjamin’s son King Mosiah reigned with equal righteousness as he too “…labored with all the power and faculties which [he] possessed, to teach… the commandments of God, and to establish peace throughout the land,…” (Mosiah 29:14). Like Kings Benjamin and Mosiah, George Washington gave his all to building and inspiring a nation, also refusing a government salary during his years in service as the U.S. President.

“King Benjamin’s Address” by Jeremy Conrad Winborg

Oh, that such men and women, like unto Kings Benjamin and Mosiah, Queen Esther, Presidents Washington and Lincoln, would freely stand in our day to lead this people, that we could and would faithfully follow the like. I will follow.

We only have one mortal life to live. We only have this day, so far as we know, to serve our fellow man “with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted” us. King Benjamin taught, “…when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” My beloved Brothers and Sisters, may we choose this day as did Washington, Mosiah, Benjamin, and true Old Testament prophet Joshua, “… choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). In like fashion, we will serve our fellow man. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Youth speaking from the King Benjamin replica tower, October 2019.

Daniel Malcolm is an entrepreneur, journalist, photographer, husband to Monica and father of twelve. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.