The first weekends of April and October every year, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather at an event called General Conference, where we receive guidance and direction from our spiritual leaders. Because we believe in literal Prophets and Apostles, this is an opportunity for us to hear the word of God through His servant mouthpieces.
In the Book of Mormon, another group of saints also gathered to hear their prophet leader speak. This man, named King Benjamin, knew he was nearing the end of his time on earth, and he wished to teach them thing he considered more precious and more important than anything else: the gospel of Jesus Christ. What followed is one of the most profound sermons in the Book of Mormon, and it had a life-changing influence on those who heard it delivered. Part of why it was so transformative was because of how the people prepared to receive God’s word and responded to it when they did.
Whether we are looking forward to General Conference or simply studying our scriptures, following the pattern observed by the people of King Benjamin can help us prepare to receive God’s word, which leads to transformative experiences in our own lives.
Accept the Invitation to Come and Hear
My son, I would that ye should make a proclamation throughout all this land among all this people, or the people of Zarahemla, and the people of Mosiah who dwell in the land, that thereby they may be gathered together…
And it came to pass that after Mosiah had done as his father had commanded him, and had made a proclamation throughout all the land, that the people gathered themselves together throughout all the land, that they might go up to the temple to hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them.
Mosiah 1:10 and 2:1
Like Benjamin and Mosiah, modern Prophets and Apostles issue literal invitations to come and receive God’s word. In the Sacrament services the Sunday prior to Conference, our bishops and branch presidents (local leaders) will read a letter from the First Presidency inviting all to gather in our chapels (well, normally… #thankscovid) and homes to listen to the counsel given by our leaders.
But that invitation to receive is by no means limited to Aprils and Octobers. The Savior’s invitation to “come, follow me” is an invitation to seek opportunities to draw near to Him and to learn what He would teach you. As we seek out opportunities to feel the Spirit through study, pondering, and prayer, we are accepting the invitation to hear God’s word.
Gather at the Temple
And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple, that thereby they might remain in their tents and hear the words which king Benjamin should speak unto them.
When the people gathered together to hear King Benjamin speak, they did so at the temple. Under normal circumstances, attending the temple is an excellent way to prepare to receive God’s word. Worthiness to enter the temple requires a standard of living that invites the Spirit into our lives, and the covenants we make with God inside the temple endow us with the tools we need to receive further light and knowledge.
In times when we are unable to attend the temple, like right now, we can also point our homes towards it, so to speak. We can strive to maintain at atmosphere of peace and tranquility, where the Spirit is felt in abundance. We can keep our homes free of contention and fill it with uplifting music and media. We can make a renewed effort to focus on scripture study both as individuals and as a family. The Come, Follow Me curriculum is an inspired way to bring gospel instruction into your home, opening doors for important conversations and personal revelation. It has been written that “Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.” 
And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses;
And also that they might give thanks to the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, and who had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and had appointed just men to be their teachers, and also a just man to be their king, who had established peace in the land of Zarahemla, and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men.
The people of King Benjamin prepared to receive God’s word by making sacrifices in keeping with the law of Moses. This was about 124 years before the birth of Christ, who fulfilled the law of Moses with His Atonement.
Although burnt offerings are no longer required, we are expected to live a higher law of sacrifice. As we prepare to receive God’s word, we might consider what we can give up for the Lord. Perhaps it’s sacrificing television in favor of spending more time in the scriptures, or sacrificing a Saturday to serve a neighbor. Perhaps it’s making a concerted effort to free ourselves of an addiction or change a behavior that isn’t Christlike.
If we can’t think of something to sacrifice, we can ask, as did the rich young ruler, “What lack I yet?” The Spirit can help us see an area in our life that can be improved to help bring us closer to Christ.
As the people made their sacrifices, they expressed gratitude to the Lord for the blessings they had received, including the leadership of their beloved king. They even looked back at their history and thanked God for bringing them out of Jerusalem, an event that had happened almost 500 years prior. When was the last time you looked at your family history and compared it to your circumstances in life. How did the Lord guide your ancestors and parents to places and positions that would ultimately bless you? How have your own past experiences led to blessings you now enjoy?
We can also express gratitude for blessings we have not yet received, including the answers we seek through prayer, study, and preparing to receive God’s word. Whether our gratitude focuses on the past or the future, it shows the Lord that you appreciate what He has already given you and that you are ready to receive more.
Prepare to Receive God’s Word as a Family
And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple, they pitched their tents round about, every man according to his family, consisting of his wife, and his sons, and his daughters, and their sons, and their daughters, from the eldest down to the youngest, every family being separate one from another.
Our families can be a great source of inspiration for us. My prayers have been answered countless times by the inspired words of my parents, my husband, and other family members. I believe this is part of the reason why modern Prophets and Apostles have put such an emphasis on home-based gospel study. By studying, praying, pondering, and preparing together, we open the door to revelation not just to individuals, but to the family as a collective whole. When each member of the family feels the confirming power of the Holy Ghost, it can create a feeling of unity and harmony in the family unit.
Commit to sharing the Good Word
For the multitude being so great that king Benjamin could not teach them all within the walls of the temple, therefore he caused a tower to be erected, that thereby his people might hear the words which he should speak unto them.
And it came to pass that he began to speak to his people from the tower; and they could not all hear his words because of the greatness of the multitude; therefore he caused that the words which he spake should be written and sent forth among those that were not under the sound of his voice, that they might also receive his words.
Before this remarkable sermon was delivered, King Benjamin had a tower erected so that as many people could hear his words as possible. And when that wasn’t quite enough for the people in the back, he caused that his words should be written down so that everyone would have the opportunity to learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We have been blessed with a great number of “platforms” that we can use to ensure that as many people as possible are given the opportunity to receive God’s word. I love to see how people share their faith on blogs and social media, and I hope that I can use this platform to share my testimony of Christ with those who read it.
Come Ready to Listen and Learn
My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.
Just as King Benjamin taught his people, if we truly want to hear and understand God’s word, we have to prepare to listen with our whole heart and mind. Halfhearted preparations result in halfhearted spiritual experiences—we might come away feeling good for having tried, but we will miss out on the full goodness available to us in these experiences if we come ready to listen and to act on what we learn.
And because the people of King Benjamin followed the counsel of their Prophet King and came ready to learn, they were so fully converted to Christ that they “had no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” They made a covenant with the Lord that they would obey His commandments for the rest of their lives, and they lived up to that covenant.
One of the things I love most about reading the Book of Mormon is how easy it is to spot patterns that, if followed, will strengthen our faith and our relationship with our Heavenly Father and the Savior Jesus Christ. I know that no matter what guidance you seek or what religious event you’re looking forward to, following the pattern set by the people of King Benjamin will help you prepare to receive God’s word.
You can watch a dramatized version of King Benjamin’s whole sermon here.
If you’d like to learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I highly recommend ComeUntoChrist.org. You can learn about our beliefs, chat with missionaries, and even request a copy of the Bible or the Book of Mormon.
I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have. Feel free to send me an email and I’ll be sure to answer!
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 Luke 18: 22
 Mosiah 5:2-5
Featured Image: Detail of The Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch. Public Domain.