In 1 Samuel, Chapter 8, The elders of Israel gathered together to tell Samuel that they would like a king to judge them. Their reasoning is that “all the nations” have a king, therefore, they should have one too. These elders were not alone in asking for a king, the scriptures tell us of many instances where the free people of God called for a king to rule over them. Each instance resulted in a judgement of the Lord that is similar to the Lord’s words to Samuel:
7 “And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.”
So, why is having a king so bad? There are many good and righteous kings, certainly the Lord wouldn’t want us to miss out on being reigned over by someone as great as King Benjamin. Or would He? The Lord told Samuel that those who ask for a king have rejected the Lord. They no longer wanted to abide by the commandments that God had set forth, they wanted to serve other gods. When we ask for a king, even a righteous ruler, we are handing over our agency to an outside source. Rulers, like King Benjamin exhorted his people to use their agency to follow God’s commandments. Other rulers, like King Noah, use their position of power to try to take the place of God as the judge and lawmaker….leaving all who are not in his favor without any rights and causing them to sin against God (Mosiah 21:30). The people of King Noah were essentially slaves, not able to choose for themselves how their lives should be lived.
Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness allows for us to learn to use our agency in order to become like our Father. This learning process is not always easy. Sometimes we have experiences that we would rather avoid and some experiences carry great dangers to our spiritual wellbeing. We know that we should never risk living without agency just so we don’t have to live up to all that a loving Lord expects of us, that would cheat us out of opportunities for growth.
With this understanding, what would lead good people, who know their history and who liken the scriptures unto themselves, to choose a king over their God? It seems the natural man is anxious to hand over his responsibility of self governance to anyone who claims they can do better. Modern slavery doesn’t consist of chains and whips, but of security and political protection from natural consequences. If someone desires to not have to worry about healthcare, employment, education, debt elimination, or any of the other modern concerns, they may look to outside “kings” like politicians, programs or policies to alleviate their responsibilities. This may seem very righteous on the surface, after all, we should always help our neighbor wade through the concerns of this world, and perhaps these “kings” are good. But if we hand over our rights, how can we ever be certain that our God-given agency will never be exploited for the benefit of a future “king”?
There are many modern day examples of people insisting on a king. One barely has to open a newspaper without several examples jumping off of the page. The problem is, many people do not recognize these things for what they are. It has been so commonplace to trust in the arm of flesh, that we have taught ourself to compartmentalize things of God to our “religious-life” and the things of the world to our “real-life”. We only liken the scriptures to ourselves within our spiritual realm and we ignore any relevance in worldly matters. This way of thinking is exactly the attitude the ancient elders of Israel used in justifying themselves to Samuel. Obviously, we do not want to go any further down that path, but how do we correct ourselves at this juncture? We must re-evaluate everything we have taken for granted in our life! This is very difficult because it makes us have to see things from God’s perspective, not man’s. We may even have to admit that we are wrong (heaven forbid).
We all have our favorite “kings” that we prefer to trust over the Lord. There are too many for me to account for now, but please allow me to share one personal experience of re-evaluating I recently chose to face…. It was no secret to me that my religious beliefs were not supposed to be a part of my education, they were two, totally separate things….or were they? Had I, unwittingly, chosen a king, not God, to educate me. I knew that the Holy Ghost testifies of the truth of all things and that God is the source of all truth and certainly that truth included math and science as well as scriptures and principles. If my reason for obtaining an education was to better myself to become more like God, then why was I so willing to leave God out of my daily education? Worse yet, why was I so willing to ask my children to do the same? Could it be that I was too scared to take on the responsibility of what to learn and how to learn it? Did I not have faith that God would guide me? At first, I justified my path by saying to myself; “The teachers are of my faith”, “I can balance it out with faith-based learning at home” and “All the other families are ok with it, I should be too”. (Notice the similar patterns of speech with the elders in 1 Samuel). Reluctantly, I started to keep my eyes open in regard to those who really had control over the public education of my children; I noticed that it wasn’t the teacher, the school administrators or even the local school board, all of whom I knew and trusted. The real control was who held the purse strings.. and at any given election, those who held the course of my child’s education in their hands swung anywhere from honorable to despicable: Much like the pattern of kings we see in the scriptures. Once I realized that my faith had been misplaced in the arm of flesh, I was determined to use my agency and faith to reinstate the Lord as my only King.
It turns out that allowing someone else to decide what is best for you is much easier than deciding your own path. Finding an education source that allowed me to be in charge of the decision making wasn’t easy. I found myself questioning every decision I made and re-evaluating at every turn. One day, I was reading the Allegory of the Olive Tree in Jacob 5. I noticed that the Lord of the Vineyard was constantly re-evaluating his trees; pruning here, grafting there, dunging and burning as he saw fit. It occurred to me that we are all learning to do the same thing in every aspect of our life, including our education, and we should rejoice that the constant re-evaluation, work and sacrifice is all a part of learning to self-govern ourselves. This path will undoubtedly come with many mistakes, but a Savior has been provided to pay the price for those mistakes.
No matter what trial we face in life, asking for a king in order to avoid the learning process that accompanies self-governing is not the Lord’s plan. The decision to put our trust in God in ALL things must be done before unrighteous kings further remove our ability to choose for ourselves. We must learn to fully trust the King that our Father has provided us if we want to fully partake of this earthly learning opportunity. Perhaps Nephi, who turned down the request to be king over his people (2 Nephi 5:18), gave us the best example of trusting only in the Lord: 2 Nephi 4: 34 “O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.
35 Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.”
post by Jenny Baker