“Samuel Anoints David,” by Antonio Gonzalez Velazquez
The children of Israel wanted a king. Samuel tried to persuade them that it was a bad idea, but his own credibility had been diminished by the corruption of his sons, whom he had appointed as judges. (See 1 Samuel 8:1-5.) Under God’s direction, Samuel identified and anointed Israel’s first two kings: Saul and David.
Both of them initially saw themselves as unqualified for the role. But they were both able to accomplish great things as they relied on God for help.
Here are some lessons I’ve learned from this week’s reading:
1. Power corrupts.
Samuel saw the danger in concentrating power in the hands of one person. He explained to the Israelites some of the consequences they would endure if they chose to have a king, warning them that this decision could not be easily unmade (1 Samuel 8:10-18).
Several Book of Mormon prophets likewise warned of the dangers of having a king, including Nephi, Alma, and the brother of Jared. (See 2 Nephi 5:18, Mosiah 23:6-13, Ether 6:22-30.) King Mosiah abolished the monarchy, establishing a system of judges selected “by the voice of the people,” and explained to his people why this system of government would serve them better. (See Mosiah 29.)
Here are some of the reasons to avoid giving one person too much power:
- People change. We can’t trust that people will always be as they are today: Surely This Thing Leadeth into Captivity – Ether 6:22-24
- We are all equal in God’s eyes. Setting up a hierarchy distorts that reality: Ye Shall Not Esteem One Flesh above Another – Mosiah 23:7
2. God sees our hearts.
Saul may have been tall and strong, but he saw himself as the lowest of the low. “Am not I a Benjamite,” he asked Samuel, “of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?” (1 Samuel 9:21). After his anointing, God gave him a new heart, and he received the Holy Ghost and prophesied (1 Samuel 10:9-10). Years later, as Saul became proud and headstrong, Samuel lamented the loss of his earlier humility: “When thou wast little in thine own sight, was thou not made head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel?” (1 Samuel 15:17).
David was also an unlikely choice. A humble shepherd, he was the the youngest in his family, so young that his father didn’t even think to include him initially as he introduced his sons to the prophet Samuel. But God knew better. “Man looketh on the outward appearance,” He explained to Samuel, “but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Here are some implications of this principle:
- In our efforts to share the gospel, we should keep an open mind, and not exclude people because of their background, appearance, or lifestyle: As Many as Would Hear Their Words – Alma 16:14
- We should remember that our physical senses give us limited information about the people around us, and that we need God’s help to understand them: He Shall Not Judge After the Sight of His Eyes – 2 Nephi 21:1-4
3. It’s important to respect the people God has chosen as prophets and leaders.
Saul called Samuel a seer, and the author of 1 Samuel explained that this was an ancient title for a prophet. (See 1 Samuel 9:9, 11, 18-19.) In the Book of Mormon, Ammon identified King Mosiah as a seer and explained to King Limhi that “a seer is a revelator and a prophet also” (Mosiah 8:13-18).
Samuel appointed both Saul and David as kings by anointing them. David had a particular respect for this action, referring to Saul as “the Lord’s anointed” and showing respect to him even as his decisions became increasingly chaotic and harmful. (See 1 Samuel 24:6, 10, 1 Samuel 26.)
Here are some principles I’ve learned from these passages, with relevant blog posts:
- We should be willing to learn from God’s chosen seers: By Them Shall All Things Be Revealed – Mosiah 8:16-18.
- To be anointed is to accept sacred responsibilities: Anointed.
- In the case of Saul and David, the anointing was prophetic, not performative. We must likewise be patient, as we look for opportunities to fulfill our missions in life: Being Called and Prepared – Alma 13:3.