All are accountable before God for their own sins (see T&C 101:17). No one can escape responsibility based on their willful ignorance. If one has the scriptures, he knows he cannot be saved in ignorance.1 All have been warned that the scriptures have information that is able to teach them about salvation (see 2 Timothy 9). There also is the Lord’s warning to search into the scriptures if one expects eternal life (see John 5:7). When this is before one, it is impossible to sin ignorantly, even if that ignorance is a result of one’s own neglect (see 3 Nephi 3:3).2 King Benjamin’s testimony was that the atonement would allow everyone to repent, and even those who sin “ignorantly” would be forgiven of their sins (see Mosiah 1:15). To king Benjamin’s thinking, the great error was willfully doing what one knows was against God’s will. However, even then, king Benjamin invited his listeners to repent and reclaim the mercy God offered (see Mosiah 1:15). His sermon presumes that his audience were sinners and suffered from myriad shortcomings. As King Benjamin explained, the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be for ever and ever but if he yields to the enticings of the holy spirit, and putteth off the natural man, and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child : submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father (Mosiah 1:16).3 This doctrine is astonishing because it : makes each person individually accountable to follow the holy spirit; presumes that the holy spirit will entice you directly; puts each person in a position to be submissive to God; accepts the fact that life will always “inflict” even the best of us; makes God the one who is responsible for life’s challenges; and bids us to accept these afflictions, because they come from a wise Eternal Parent. King Benjamin is remarkably democratic in his view of God and His involvement in men’s and women’s lives. God is direct, immediate, and involved with everyone.4 “The Book of Mormon is a record that will be used as evidence we have been warned. In plain language and with sufficient truth to hold us all accountable, this is the standard by which we are to find our way back to the Lord in this last dispensation before His return.”5
1 TPJS, 301; WJS, 202; JSP, Journals Vol. 3:17–18, Editorial Note; 17 May 1843; “Joseph Smith Discourse,” 17 May 1843 – A, in William Clayton Journal, p. , JSP, https : //www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/ discourse-17-may-1843-a-as-reported-by-william-clayton/1; CHL. This is the source for D&C 131:6. Section 131 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants first appeared as canon in the 1876 revision prepared by Orson Pratt under the direction of Brigham Young.
2 “Accountability,” Nov. 2, 2012, blog post.
3 “But if” is a Hebraism for “unless.” See Royal Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon 6 vols. (Provo, UT : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2004–2009), 2:1173–1174.
4 “King Benjamin’s Wisdom,” Jan. 25, 2014, blog post.
5 “Alma 13:31,” June 21, 2010, blog post.