Source:Rediscovering the Book of Mormon:Ch:19:3:Kingship: Conflicting views on kingship

Nephite Kingship: Conflicting Views of Kingship

Nephite Kingship: Conflicting Views of Kingship

In Mesopotamia and Egypt, kingship was the only form of government, as far as we know. The king there was viewed as descended from a god, or at least he had been adopted as an offspring of deity. To the writers of history in those lands, no other type of rule was conceivable. On the other hand, in Israel, while the king was ruler "by the grace of God," an alternative view recognized the dangers of kingship. When the Israelites demanded of the prophet Samuel, "Make us a king to judge us like all the nations," Samuel painted a grim picture of what would happen under a king:

He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear [plant] his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day (1 Samuel 8:11–18).

The Nephites were torn between the same conflicting views of kings. Benjamin's description of how he ruled could hardly contrast more with Samuel's description:

[I] have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you; neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another. . . . And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne (Mosiah 2:12–14).

Mosiah followed his father Benjamin in farming "the earth, that thereby he might not become burdensome to his people" (Mosiah 6:7). He took great pains to avoid abusing the royal power. Yet, near the end of his reign, Mosiah gives the most damning criticism to be found anywhere in scripture on the perils of kingship: "Because all men are not just it is not expedient that ye should have a king or kings to rule over you. For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction!" (Mosiah 29:16–17; see all of 29:5–36).[1]


  1. Stephen D. Ricks, "King, Coronation, and Covenant in Mosiah 1–6," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, edited by John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), Chapter 19.