Brandon Sanderson is one of today’s most popular fiction writers. Books like Mistborn and Way of Kings have captured the hearts of millions—and some of Sanderson’s fans have asked if his Latter-day Saint faith influences their favorite storylines. In this interview, BYU’s Nick Frederick ponders a fun hypothetical: What if Nephites from the Book of Mormon had found an inspiring record like The Way of Kings?
Learn more about the Book of Mormon Studies Association and its upcoming conference, featuring a presentation about Brandon Sanderson and the Book of Mormon by Nick Frederick.
Table of Contents
- Who is Brandon Sanderson?
- Do fans ask about his faith?
- Did the Book of Mormon inspire Mistborn?
- Did it inspire Way of Kings?
- Who are Nohaden and King Benjamin?
- When did King Benjamin gain the insights from his famous speech?
- How did Brandon Sanderson give him a backstory?
- Why did Mosiah get rid of kings?
- What was the consequence?
- What if the people had found a record like Way of Kings?
- Would things have been different?
- What does “journey before destination” mean?
- What can it mean for those seeking lessons from the Book of Mormon?
- Who is Nick Frederick?
- Where can I learn more?
Who is Brandon Sanderson?
Brandon Sanderson is a popular author of fantasy. He recently made the news by raising over forty million dollars on Kickstarter for four new novels to be released next year.
Brandon is also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and teaches creative writing courses at Brigham Young University.
How often do fans ask him how his Latter-day Saint faith influences his fiction?
I know he’s been asked this question on occasion by fans, including me. His response is that most similarities are just accidental, but that, at least in one case, there is an intentional allusion to the Book of Mormon.
Did Brandon Sanderson pattern the metal plates in Mistborn after the Book of Mormon?
When I read Mistborn I was intrigued by the possibility that Sanderson was influenced by his Latter-day Saint faith in this instance, as Latter-day Saints frequently hear about texts such as the Plates of Gold and the Plates of Brass. But when I asked Brandon he said any overlap was coincidental.
What about apparent parallels between King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon and The Way of Kings?
This was another similarity I noticed. When I asked Brandon Sanderson about possible connections between The Way of Kings and King Benjamin he told me that this connection was intentional on his part.
Who are Nohaden and King Benjamin?
Nohadon (also called Bajerden) is a philosopher-king on a world called Roshar. Following a series of wars he manages to rebuild his kingdom. He leaves behind several important texts, the most famous being a work called The Way of Kings which has a major impact upon subsequent rulers on Roshar, including Dalinar—one of the three major characters in Sanderson’s The Way of Kings.
King Benjamin was a Nephite monarch who managed to unite the Nephites and the Mulekites in a peaceful manner and left behind his own handbook on effective monarchy which can be read in Mosiah 2-5.
When did King Benjamin gain the insights shared in his famous speech?
That’s part of the mystery of the Book of Mormon. Due to some of the Book of Mormon being lost, readers only encounter Benjamin as an old man preparing to abdicate in favor of his son Mosiah II. So it’s difficult to know when, exactly, Benjamin begins to develop the insights that make up his famous speech.
How does Brandon Sanderson hypothetically fill in King Benjamin’s past in the character of Nohaden?
This is one of the things I find most fascinating about Sanderson’s book. Sanderson portrays Nohadon as a man who only learns over a long period of time what it means to successfully rule. He is not the king at the end of his life that he is at the beginning.
By linking the two, Sanderson suggests a similar trajectory for Benjamin.
Readers of the Book of Mormon witness Benjamin’s destination, but we miss out on the journey. Sanderson reminds us that you can’t have one without the other.
Is there a connection in the Book of Mormon between King Mosiah II discovering the Jaredite plates and his subsequent dismantling of the kingship?
There’s a good argument for this. The Nephite monarchy has been pretty effective down to the time of Mosiah II, yet he institutes a new form of government at the end of his life, replacing monarchy with a system of judges.
This move coincides with Mosiah II translating the twenty-four gold plates that constitute the Jaredite record. Much of the Jaredite record speaks to the negatives of a monarchical system of rule, and so it would make sense that Mosiah II would institute a change upon studying a people who suffered under a monarchy.
What was the ultimate consequence of King Mosiah’s decision to eliminate kings?
It has been argued by some Book of Mormon scholars that this shift in government allowed for the successful rise of secret combinations. In attempting to avoid the fate suffered by the Jaredites, Mosiah II may have inadvertently facilitated the group that would eventually play a major role in the downfall of the Nephites.
What if Limhi’s scouts had found an inspiring record like The Way of Kings instead of the tragic account of the Jaredites?
Then perhaps Mosiah II doesn’t look to end the Nephite monarchy. Perhaps his sons see the monarchy as a tool to bring the Nephites and Lamanites together rather than as something to be avoided. Perhaps some of the civil unrest that festers throughout the book of Alma and into the book of Helaman are never allowed to gain traction.
It’s all speculation, of course. But it’s the sort of Nephite revisionist history that Sanderson’s work opens the door for.
Human nature being what it is, would the eventual reappearance of wicked kings have ultimately led the Nephites to a similar ending?
Perhaps. That is the Jaredite story, after all. But Mormon shines the light so brightly on secret combinations as THE cause of Nephite destruction (Helaman 2:13) that it is tempting to say that another form of government, one modeled after king Benjamin, may have made a difference.
What does “journey before destination” mean in Sanderson’s Way of Kings?
From the man himself:
Journey before destination. There are several ways to achieve a goal. Failure is preferable to winning through unjust means. Protecting ten innocents is not worth killing one. In the end, all men die. How you lived will be far more important to the Almighty than what you accomplished.The Way of Kings, chapter 59
What can it mean for those seeking lessons from the Book of Mormon?
So the Book of Mormon seems, ultimately, to be a book that absolutely embraces this ideal of “journey before destination.” The Nephites, by the end of the Book of Mormon, are destroyed, so obviously destination matters.
But Mormon’s concern seems to be more focused on the journey. How did the Nephites find themselves in their position in the days and months leading up to their destruction? It’s almost as if Mormon is crying out to those who live in the latter-days and saying, “Pay close attention to what we did—and then do the opposite.”
The perils of the Nephite journey is one of the Book of Mormon’s most important lessons.
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About the author
Nick Frederick is an associate professor in the department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University, where he teaches courses on the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. His research interests include studying the many intersections of the Bible and the Book of Mormon. When he’s not spending time in the Cosmere, you’ll find Nick watching sports or listening to vinyl records.
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