Contention was a major issue for the people of King Benjamin:
- “And now, concerning this king Benjamin—he had somewhat of contentions among his own people” (Words of Mormon 1:12).
- “And after there having been much contention and many dissensions away unto the Lamanites, behold, it came to pass that king Benjamin, with the assistance of the holy prophets who were among his people…did once more establish peace in the land (Words of Mormon 1:16, 18).
- During Benjamin’s reign, a large group of people tried to return to the land of Nephi, where they had lived previously. They fought amongst themselves, and most of them died. The survivors returned to the land of Zarahemla, and recruited more people to make another attempt (Omni 1:27-29).
By the time King Benjamin gave his sermon, his people were doing much better:
There was no more contention in all the land of Zarahemla, among all the people who belonged to king Benjamin, so that king Benjamin had continual peace all the remainder of his days (Mosiah 1:1).
Nevertheless, this continued to be a major theme for them. Several times during his sermon, he warned his people about the dangers of contention:
O my people, beware lest there shall arise contentions among you, and ye list to obey the evil spirit, which was spoken of by my father Mosiah.
For behold, there is a wo pronounced upon him who listeth to obey that spirit
Ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.
But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.
King Benjamin’s message is simple and consistent: if we fight with each other, we are serving the devil. He wants to divide us, and if he succeeds, the consequences are not good. We can avoid this trap by intentionally loving and serving one another.
This sermon had a profound impact on King Benjamin’s people. “There was no contention among all his people” for three years after his death (Mosiah 6:5, 7).
Today, I will avoid being contentious. I will make an effort to serve my family and others. If I sense a rift beginning to form in one of my relationships, I will go out of my way to repair it. I will remember that the devil wants to destroy relationships, but God wants to strengthen them.