There was once a king who had a very large kingdom. His kingship came with all the luxuries associated with being a king. The lifestyle was magnificent. This king was especially adept at keeping successors to his crown from taking his place on the throne.
One day a sage came to visit the regal authority. He was a humble man but had descended from a kingly line of his own. His father had once been king of the land but was imprisoned and died at the hands of another. The sage understood the workings of politics and had come to offer counsel to the sitting ruler.
On a whim, the king allowed the humble sage to speak his piece. He reasoned that it could not hurt to listen to one who had been raised in the home of a former magistrate.
Surprise accompanied the words that came from the wizened fellow. The message was not about politics but contained a call for the king to change his ways and begin living a better life.
A promise was made that if he would effect change amongst his people so that they began to choose a better way there would be a continuing line of rulers to lead the people through the future. But if the path of the people – and especially the king – did not change, destruction and annihilation would follow.
And the king would live to see the end.
Angry at the implications, the ruler raged against the sage and demanded that his head be removed from his form. Escaping to a small cave, the humble man determined to watch and record the things that occurred in the kingdom.
The next several years saw wars and death greater than could have ever been considered. One rebellious usurper after another raised forces to overthrow the king and take away his power. One battle, in particular, was especially fierce. The proud ruler himself was wounded, almost unto death, and more than 2 million of his people were destroyed. It was the beginning of the end.
From his sick bed, the king remembered the words of the sage. He wondered if it was too late to change the course of his kingdom by implementing the counsel of the wise old man. He approached his latest challenger and sued for peace. He was ready to willingly give up his own kingship if it meant the end of the war.
A message was sent and the response came back. The challenger agreed -- but with one slight amendment to the treaty. While agreeable to ceasing the useless slaughter, he required the king allow the challenger to take his life as part of the pact.
One life to save a whole society of people.
The king considered the offer.
In his mind, he had much to lose.
But he was old and giving his life would save countless people who were depending on him for protection.
It was too much.
He could not sacrifice his life for the benefit of so many others. He ached to live – even though it was a life of sadness, pain, and misery.
Death held great fear for him and he could not overcome his selfishness.
And his whole kingdom was destroyed.
Not one soul was left alive.
Even his enemies were killed.
At the end, he was the last man standing.
His desire to live left him completely alone.
(See Ether 13-15 for more details)
Another king in another time faced the same decision.
He chose to offer up His young life to His enemy and prepare a way for His people to find safety. Death had no sway in His life. It held no fear because He had chosen to live a life focused on goodness. He willingly shared His kingdom with any who chose to join Him.
And His kingdom will go on forever and ever. There is no end to the number who will enjoy the benefit of His sacrifice.
He will never be alone.
Which King to follow today?
Is it really that hard to know?