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Why does King Benjamin’s speech in the Book of Mormon contain nearly all the elements of ancient farewell addresses?

Scholar William S. Kurz (who is not a Latter-day Saint) examined 22 ancient farewell speeches from Greco Roman antiquity and the Bible, and identified 20 common elements. No speech examined had all 20 elements but King Benjamin’s speech in the Book of Mormon contains 16-18 of them. This is impressive as no other ancient farewell speech examined was found to have a greater number than this.

The 20 elements Kurz identified were:

  1. The summons. 
  2. The speaker’s own mission or example.
  3. Innocence and discharge of duty.
  4. Impending death. 
  5. Exhortation. 
  6. Warnings and injunctions. 
  7. Blessings. 
  8. Farewell gestures.
  9. Tasks for successors. 
  10. Theological review of history. 
  11. Revelation of the future.
  12. Promises.
  13. Appointment or reference to a successor.
  14. Bewailing the loss.
  15. Future degeneration. 
  16. Covenant renewal and sacrifices.
  17. Providing for those who will survive. 
  18. Consolation to the inner circle. 
  19. Didactic speech. 
  20. Ars moriendi or the approach to death. 

Not only does King Benjamin’s speech contain 16-18 but it also contains the four elements which are fundamentally characteristic of addresses in the Old Testament. The Book of Mormon also contains other farewell speeches given by Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Mosiah, Mormon and Moroni, each of them contain over half of the 20 elements of farewell speeches named above. 

What would Joseph Smith have known about ancient farewell speeches? How did he also manage to include chiasms, patterns from ancient Jewish festivals, ancient patterns of assembly and atonement symbolism all in King Benjamin’s address?


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