The Book of Mormon: My Testimony

So in Priesthood today, I offhandedly remarked that I believe that Nephi made a mistake in killing Laban. And boy-oh did that ignite some pushback.[fn1] And I realized that I ought to explain how that belief fits in with my testimony of the Book of Mormon.

As a starting point, I believe that the Book of Mormon is true.  What I mean by that is this: I believe that the Book of Mormon was written thousands of years ago by real people. I believe that among those people were priest/prophets who received revelatory guidance from God. I believe that they recorded their dealings with each other and with God in records that (for the most part) were edited and condensed by Mormon and Moroni, who were prophetic military leaders. I further believe that they were translated, through inspiration, by Joseph Smith, early in his prophetic career.

If that summary of the history of the Book of Mormon is true, it seems to me the Book of Mormon’s demands on us are significant and weighty. Familiarity with its narrative is certainly enough for Primary kids, but as we get older, knowing the plot starts to become insufficient. Instead, I take seriously Richard Bushman’s charge that we need to take the Book of Mormon seriously, to engage it as serious divine literature,[fn2] a  charge that I fear we neglect far too often.

Why do we, as Mormons, often neglect close engagement with the Book of Mormon? I suspect there are a couple causes. One is, we’re not necessarily educated in the close reading of scripture. I’m certainly not; I am, however, educated in the close reading of literature (from my undergrad) and of statutes, regulations, and administrative guidance (from my profession). So I try to import those skills to my scripture-reading.

Also, I think, the Book of Mormon is too familiar. Its language comes from the early 19th century; although Joseph translated into the sacred register of pseudo-Jacobean, its underlying language is one we know. And its stories don’t shock us and surprise us, in the same way Jesus’ parables no longer shock and surprise, because we know how they end, and we know how we can co-opt the discomfort into an ultimately satisfying denouement, the moral that we can teach from the text.

But it doesn’t have to be such. The Book of Mormon, I’ve found, rewards close reading. It is in dialogue with the Exodus, with Isaiah, with Jeremiah, and, intertemporally, with itself. Its authors and editors quote, paraphrase, and riff off of others’ recorded prophecies.[fn3] Moreover, the Book of Mormon is not univocal: throughout the Book of Mormon, there seems to be a running debate about whether the prophesied Messiah is the son of God or God Himself. That the Book of Mormon relates almost 1,000 years of history allows us to see the development of religious ideas in a vastly compressed space.

So back to Nephi and Laban: if the Book of Mormon is true, and Nephi was a prophet, why do I think he made a mistake? A couple reasons:

  • I start with my moral intuition: as a general rule, killing is wrong.
  • I also start from the idea that the scriptures never present perfect prophets: prophets, in the scriptures, are perfectly capable of making mistakes.
  • It’s also worth noting that, when this happened, Nephi was clearly not a prophet. His being a spiritual leader only happened later, after Lehi’s death.
  • Laban’s death is a pivotal moment in Lehite history. With Laban dead, they can’t go back—they’re leaving forever.
  • As Grant Hardy points out, when Nephi gets back, there’s a gap in the text: Lehi—the patriarch/family prophet—never tells Nephi (who is clearly working to establish himself as spiritually better than his brothers) that what he did was right, or was directed by God. Instead, we see a burnt offering, used to purge sin, upon the brothers’ homecoming.[fn4]
  • Nephi seems to have serious regrets about it. I can’t help but read the sin in Nephi’s psalm as being the killing of Laban.
  • It’s also worth noting that Nephi wrote this ~40 years after it happened. At this point, his people have divided. The Lamanites consider him (and will continue to consider him) a thief and a usurper. He’s writing, at least in part, to justify his separation and assumption of leadership.

And yet Nephi become the spiritual leader and founder of the Nephites years later. Nephi, in my reading, committed sin, with attendant regret and second thoughts, and yet was able to provide a spiritual foundation for a people (or, kind of, two, if you count modern Mormons). Taking the text seriously, though, demands deep and uncomfortable moral engagement with the text. It’s not enough to say that Nephi did what he was commanded, and everything ended in roses.

I believe the Book of Mormon is true. I believe that it can and should make us uncomfortable. And I believe that that discomfort, and its attendant reflection, will help us get nearer to God than merely reading unreflectively.

For what it’s worth, I also believe that closely reading and engaging with the text makes the Book of Mormon far more interesting.[fn5]

[fn1] It caught me by surprise, frankly: I didn’t think that was remotely the most controversial thing I said today. But apparently, you don’t mess with Nephi’s relating of his experiences 40 years earlier.

[fn2] See, e.g., Richard Lyman Bushman, On the Road With Joseph Smith: An Author’s Diary 47-48 (2007) (“The issue is not, Why did it not [function as a Bible], but what does it ask us to do?”).

[fn3] For a far fuller treatment of this inter-textual dialogue, the footnotes to Grant Hardy’s The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition are essential, as is Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide.

[fn4] See Hardy’s Reader’s Guide at 20.

[fn5] (even though David Foster Wallace has convinced me that boredom, too, has its benefits)

Comments

  1. Sam, you rabble rouser!

  2. This was my Sunday School today (I also happen to be in primary) so thanks Sam.

  3. I believe that the Book of Mormon may have been written thousands of years ago by real people. I believe that among those people were probably priest/prophets who received revelatory guidance from God and I believe it may have been edited and condensed by Mormon and Moroni and dictated via inspiration to Joseph Smith often with head and stone in hat, plates out of sight, early in his prophetic career. If that summary of the history of the Book of Mormon is true, it seems to me the Book of Mormon’s demands on us are significant and weighty even if it’s fiction!

  4. Thanks for this! I’ve always thought that Nephi, full of the spit and vinegar of a young man, overreacted in the case of Laban. He then went to great lengths trying to justify himself. I hadn’t considered the text gap and burnt offering though. Fascinating.

    Just another check in the column labeled, “Just because it was recorded in scripture and done by a prophet(s) doesn’t necessarily make it good. Or even okay.”

  5. Kristine says:
  6. Sam, this is exactly what I needed to read today. I agree with your examination, and it will help me as I navigate trying to read more carefully. Kristine, thanks for those excellent Dialogue articles, too.

  7. A burnt offering is made to draw nearer to God, and as a general acknowledgment of the fallen nature of man. It is not an acknowledgement of a specific sin that needs to be atoned for – that would rather be a trespass offering.

    So the fact that there were burnt and perhaps thank offerings made, isn’t evidence that Nephi or someone else sinned on their journey (just as it would be incorrect to imply that Noah’s burnt offering after the flood was because building an ark was a sin, it simply isn’t the purpose of a burnt offering). But that they mentioned the sacrifices made, and there is no mention of a trespass offering rather suggests that there was no acknowledgement of a major sin committed in their journey (a.k.a. Nephi’s actions were not seen as sin).

  8. Katie A. says:

    Notwithstanding many examples where my own personal interpretation of the scriptures doesn’t mesh with the traditional one, this isn’t one of those cases. Nephi describes himself as being constrained by the Spirit and shrinking from killing because he didn’t want to, only to have the Spirit say “It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle in unbelief.” Maybe I’m misreading your post, but how do you reconcile Nephi recounting that the Spirit essentially told him this was an exception to the general rule with your interpretation? Do you think he was painting things in a better light 40 years later than reality had been because he had made a mistake and the Spirit hadn’t really said that?

  9. I’ve always taken the burnt offerings at their word…offerings of thanks. I have wondered what Nephi thought at that time. His mother was thrilled he was back…was she thrilled to know her son had killed? was she thankful for that? was she thankful that the conflict with her husband was over…the conflict discussed int he previous verses about whether that journey to jerusalem was a good idea. I’ve wondered if Sarah had an idea of what would be required for them to survive.

    It’s always felt plain to me that the enemies he speaks of in his psalm are his brothers. I’ve wondered if he worried that his pride and anger and…desire to show off..could have been a problem in their relationships all along.

    I do cringe whenever people start reading the book of mormon for the first time…what a place to start. Join our religion, you may have to kill someone for a book. sigh

  10. Angela C says:

    I also find Grant Hardy’s hypothesis compelling and one I agree with. Nephi killing Laban is never endorsed by his father or anyone else, and not only is it questionable prima facie, but it justifies to some extent the ire directed at Nephi by Laman and Lemuel. Nephi, who wasn’t the oldest son and therefore wasn’t going to inherit anyway, essentially has forfeit his older brother’s inheritance by making it impossible for them to ever return to Jerusalem.

    I actually heard someone in my ward endorsing this view as well (not this week – we are on a different lesson), that Nephi, by killing Laban, turned a short camping trip into fleeing their homeland never to return.

  11. I generally agree with your interpretation. One contrast that I find interesting is the Nephi/Laban Abraham/Isaac comparison. One difference is that in the text Abraham doesn’t push back or wrestle at all. He is just sadly accepting. Nephi wrestles against it. He requires convincing. Clearly he is conflicted and you believe this really happened you have to imagine what it would have been like or a young man to kill someone for the first time in his life in a starkly brutal way, then coldly undress the bleeding body, then put on the dead man’s clothes. I don’t care who you are (if you aren’t a psychopath who gets aroused by the act) that is incredibly traumatizing. I am not sure that I have enough information to assess whether it is a sin or not, because I doubt how reliable a narrator Nephi is, especially writing years later with a deep need to justify such an act. So regardless of whether it is a sin or Nephi comes to believe it is a sin, I would fully expect that Psalm of Nephi to in part be driven by the conflicting emotions of this event. The fact that he leaves in such a potentially incriminating, conflicted, if ultimately self-justifying account and that Mormon as the editor leaves in such an account is worthy of consideration and discussion. I get really uncomfortable by people who aren’t disturbed or conflicted by this account. I think we are supposed to be conflicted by it!

    This is particularly salient for me because Nephi I believe is the source of conflict that ends up driving a good portion of the rest of the macro narrative of the Book of Mormon. It is Nephi who declares the Lamanites “cursed” with “dark skin” setting into motion a racial and tribal conflict that resurfaces continually, eventually ending in genocidal war. To ask whether Nephi might have been wrong in killing Laban (surely God could have just deepened and extended Laban’s drunkeness enough for Nephi to switch clothes, get the plates and escape…no?), is to also open the door to asking whether Nephi’s teaching of divine racial differences and cursing was actually of God or of his own understandable psychological bias against brothers who tortured him and their posterity that constantly seek to hurt and destroy his people. I think you can read the entire Book of Mormon as a warning against what happens when a people embrace racism as doctrine. Mormon seems to go out of his way to demonstrate that the more righteous people become the more such distinctions are rejected and fade away. Yet, once embedded they become so difficult to shake. The logic and justification are always right there ready to justify a people’s actions. I can only read as sad irony Mormon’s final lament “Oh ye fair ones!”.

    Once you accept that Nephi as leader and prophet could have erroneously embraced and taught a mistaken racist doctrine, then there becomes no need to try and justify it. Given that in our own modern era we have seen our modern prophet, seers and revelators embrace and teach detailed racist doctrines for generations, teaching which we have now officially rejected as false, why is it so difficult to believe Nephi couldn’t have done the same? One might point out that in the first recorded sermon of Nephi’s successor, Jacob, he spends considerable amount of time trying to directly combat Nephi’s teaching (without completely throwing Nephi under the bus…a choice we have seen repeatedly in how the modern apostles have dealt with even egregious faulty teachings). Maybe that very teaching is one of the central reasons why the Book of Mormon was “written for our time”, to show us the horrible consequences of a mistake we as a people were destined to repeat….

    One can have sympathy for Nephi, even respect for him as a leader and prophet without treating him as infallible whether in the Laban episode or later when he takes on the mantle. The Book of Mormon in my opinion is far more spiritually uplifting and instructive when read, as Sam points out, as the more sophisticated text it claims to be .

  12. The Nephi / Laban scenario is full of marvelous symbolism that requires much effort and clear direction of the spirit to grasp. Thus if you do not mind I would like to characterize the reasons I take an alternate view of your interpretations. There are two parts. This one is concerning the judgement of Laban wherein he defines the terms of his judgement. Part two will examine the contextual clues for why Nephi was required to act as he did. There is much more concerning this section of scripture but these two sides that I would like to present are specific to your comments. I have posted this on the net in other places.

    The Judgment of Laban

    Starting in chapter 3 of the Book of Nephi, the reader is introduced to the story of how the children of Lehi are sent back to Jerusalem to retrieve the Brass plates containing a record of their fathers and the books of the Old Testament in existence at the time of Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem around 600 B.C.

    One of principles that can be determined from this event is what can be called a judgment pattern. In the case of this story we find various gospel principles coalescing around Laban’s role in denying the sons of Lehi access.

    The essence of a final judgment scenario is predicated on this principle as found in Matthew:

    Matthew 7:1-2
    1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

    2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

    The elements of the story that coalesce into the final judgment of Laban are initiated immediately after Laman, the oldest brother makes the first effort to retrieve the plates from Laban. In a simple straightforward way, Laman simply appears before Laban and asks if he can have the records. Laban’s response is found in these verses.

    1 Nephi 3:12-13

    12 And he desired of Laban the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, which contained the genealogy of my father.

    13 And behold, it came to pass that Laban was angry, and thrust him out from his presence; and he would not that he should have the records. Wherefore, he said unto him: Behold thou art a robber, and I will slay thee.

    The pertinent elements of this exchange are that Laman has only asked and has made no effort to actually steal the plates. However, Laban, makes an outrageous claim and calls Laman a robber which becomes criteria number one of three in a final judgment scenario. The one being judged commits himself to a penalty for a certain behavior. In this case, in Laban’ s perceptions of things a robber, defined as one who steals by force or intimidation, deserves to die.

    In the Old Testament there are several nuances to the penalties for robbery but generally, except in the case of stealing a human being to make a slave of them, the penalty is to return and add to what was taken a measure more (5 times) than was taken or its equivalent and to make an offering of atonement as follows:

    Leviticus 6:2,4,6

    2 If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour;

    4 Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found,

    6 And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest:

    Thus what this reveals to us is that the judgment against Laban is not simply based upon the act of becoming a robber. Else wise the penalty of death would exceed the righteous judgment of a Robber. Instead we must seek further to define what makes this a just judgment against Laban.

    The next element of this final judgment scenario is manifest in 1 Nephi 3:25:

    1 Nephi 3:25

    25 And it came to pass that when Laban saw our property, and that it was exceedingly great, he did lust after it, insomuch that he thrust us out, and sent his servants to slay us, that he might obtain our property.

    The brothers have returned to their home and have gathered up all of Lehi’s wealth. Apparently, an impressive cache of wealth, which when Laban saw how much they had he coveted it. Therefore, he calls his guard and has them attempt to slay the brothers who run off and find safety. In this exchange, what actually occurs is that Laban becomes the robber and he attempts to murder the 3 brothers. So now Laban has already informed us of what his judgment is towards a robber. In his mind they are to be slain.

    Now we come to the Final element of a 3 part final judgment cycle – The act of rendering judgment. Having escaped, the sons of Lehi, except Nephi, seek to back away from this onerous burden thrust upon them by their father and by God the Father of retrieving the plates. Nephi can only convince them to hide themselves away while he returns to Jerusalem to confront Laban and through, as yet undetermined means, to procure the plates. These next few verse capture the essence of how things unfolded.

    1 Nephi 3:7-8,

    7 Nevertheless I went forth, and as I came near unto the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he had fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine.

    8 And when I came to him I found that it was Laban.

    12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;

    18 Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.

    This is the conclusion of a judgment scenario, wherein a cycle of three interactions of three specific acts take place. The first is for the one to be judged to define the judgment and the behavior for which the judgment is suited in their mind. The second is to unwittingly become the perpetrator of the crime that one has defined the penalty for. Thirdly is the dispensing of the judgment that the one being judge described for that act that he has now completed.

    Now, what for me has become the most important and significant message of the entire Laban, Nephi, get the plates scenario. Laban was slain with his “OWN SWORD”. Laban forged the sword that hung over his head over the period of his entire life. He was a man of wicked works and utterly unrighteous judgments. Inch by inch he forged that sword with his own declarations and intentions and polished it and inlaid it with the jewels of mistaken values. In the end that which he determined of worth and sought was that which bound him to the judgments of God and he was weighed, measured and found wanting.

  13. The Slaying of Laban

    This story in the scriptures has for many been a stumbling block for its apparent condition of an avoidable slaying of Laban. However, if we are to understand correctly these things it is important that we exercise great caution and seek understanding through proper consideration.

    (1 Corinthians 2:10-16.)

    11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

    12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

    13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

    14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

    16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

    A weighty scripture with much significance but for the point of this conversation consider verse 13 which places a significant distance between using the wisdom of men as our guide or the words in which mans wisdom teacheth. Laban’s slaying was not an independent act of Nephi to rid himself of a man who has manifest himself an enemy but is the result of Laban having “been weighed, … been measured, and … absolutely … been found wanting” by the Lord in judgment.” Thus the Lord having provided the opportunity for Laban to make final declaration of his state as an enemy to God declares Laban’s judgment of death for robbers as the appropriate penalty to be meted out for his own egregious acts.

    Still the weavings of biblical justification for this act do not end here. For while clearly Laban is judged as worthy of death, wherein does Nephi find claim to be the executioner of the Lord? Nephi provides perhaps the best clue in a term that shows up three times in the dialogue.

    1 Nephi 4:11-12,17
    11 And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.

    12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;

    17 And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.

    Nephi references the concept of Laban having bee delivered into his hands as part of process of persuasion that facilitated determination to obey the commandments. Perhaps one could say that a commandment of God is straight forward enough and requires no other justification other than the voice of the Lord. However, I think there is more to it than that and Nephi is in the process of doing a standards check to make sure this is consistent with the patterns God has established. If Nephi had not of found the pattern that the spirit led him too I suspect he might have found cause to question whether this was actually of God – and been justified in doing so as God does not violate his own laws. In order for Nephi to execute Laban he has to understand that the principles of the execution are consistent with how God does things.

    To be brief: Nephi admits killing is new to him, and the burden he perhaps is negotiating is Old Testament edict of “thou shalt not kill”.

    Here is Nephi’s development of his reasoning:

    1 Nephi 4:10
    10…Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.

    According to Nephi’s own statement, we really only know one thing, he does not consider himself comfortable with murder. He has never killed a man and he would rather not start now. However, the spirit keeps reminding Nephi as mentioned above of the concept of having delivered Laban into his hands. The fact that this is stated 3 times is our big alert to consider upon this statement further.

    Nephi knows the scriptures and the three times reminder causes him to pause and consider upon this set of verses:

    Exodus 12:12-14
    12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

    13 And if a man lie not in wait, BUT GOD DELIVER HIM INTO HIS HAND; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.

    14 But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.

    Were guile the state of Nephi’s heart the only valid judgment would have been that he was worthy of death for slaying Laban. However, if God delivers Laban into his hands and appoints him a “promised land” to flee too, as in the case of Nephi, he is not judged as a murderer. However, there seems connotations that being promised a land to flee to is required because one is required to act upon having someone delivered into ones hand. At this point slaying Laban is not a matter for continued debate. If God has delivered Laban the Nephi is required to follow through in the process. He is required to obey the commandment, as also has been pointed out earlier and fulfill the implications of having someone delivered into his hands. The spirit has brought to his remembrance a concept of which Nephi is fully aware, just as God promises the spirit will do from time to time in our own lives.

    His knowledge of the Exodus verses becomes his second witness to the direction he must go if he is to be right with God.

    Again the spirit is a comforter and the spirit is trying to comfort Nephi in a very difficult situation and Nephi is comforted by understanding exactly where he is at the moment with a man’s life hanging in the balance and potentially his own salvation.

    Notice how well Exodus addresses all of Nephi’s concerns. He states he is worried about killing a man. Exodus says it’s wrong and validates Nephi’s hesitancy and it makes sense he should be worried about it.

    However, Exodus says there is one caveat that makes it right – if the Lord should deliver someone into your hands; not only that but the proof of this delivery is that the Lord will appoint a place to which to flee in the Land of Promise. Well, Nephi has already been appointed somewhere to flee too. He is on his way there even now and is getting the plates as an integral part of that journey.

    It is marvelous to me, this perfect intertwining of scripture and finally Nephi gives credence to the spirit’s encouragement by mentioning among other things that he knows the spirit has properly addressed his very first concern by pointing out that Laban has been delivered into his hand.

    This completes then the Lord’s final judgment of Laban. However, there is still much more to be gleaned from these chapters concerning where Nephi is at with his standing before the Lord. Perhaps in the next post…

  14. I want to comment on the danger of believing Nephi was covering up the murderous sin of killing Laban in his biographical account. If he’s willing to rewrite history and lie to make himself look better, than the truth is not in him and he’s no prophet.

  15. “I also believe that closely reading and engaging with the text makes the Book of Mormon far more interesting.”

    Amen.

    We had the missionaries over for dinner tonight, and we ended up talking about reading scriptures not as proof-texts but rather as histories, looking for the “whys” and the back-stories that caused the people to do what is recorded. (as a recap of the Sunday School lesson I taught today on prophets and revelation) I used the example of Abraham & Isaac and compared it to the example of Nephi & Laban – largely talking about why they reacted SO differently to what they perceived to be a command to kill. (like rah’s comment above) We talked about the different words used in the two stories (“God tempted Abraham” and “The Spirit constrained me.”) and what that difference implies about them and the stories. We talked about the political background at the time of Mosiah changing the governing structure of his day and why Nehor’s and Amlici’s reactions were reasonable – not merely the inclinations of evil men. We talked about how it’s all there in the account and adds greatly to the impressiveness of the Book of Mormon – but how we tend to gloss right over all of it when we read only to prove or disprove doctrine.

    (Yeah, “we talked” means I did most of the talking.)

    I disagree that Nephi did the wrong thing, ultimately, since I think it was the only way he could have fulfilled his promise to his father in a way that didn’t get them all killed in the end – and because he initially fought it. However, I agree completely that it haunted him the rest of his life and was the primary cause of their having to leave permanently and the ire of his older brothers who were bankrupted in the process. I also think Nephi’s dismissal of their inability to have visions was a great example of his lack of charity and understanding of people who were different than he – which also led to much of the reason why he butted heads with Laman and Lemuel as much as he did.

    If anyone is interested in that, I wrote the following in February 2011:

    “The Lord Maketh no such thing known unto us.”

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2011/02/lord-maketh-no-such-thing-known-unto-us.html

  16. Matthew, nobody here has accused Nephi of lying.

  17. Or, Nephi is neither all good nor all bad, but walks through the gray areas that we all must walk, with fear and trembling, as is appropriate, before God.

    He is neither guilty of murderous sin, nor is he a young master scriptorian and philosopher, who, in the few seconds he has to consider his actions, works through the intricacies of judgements and promised lands and decides to whack Laban with his own carefully forged sword.

    Rather, he used his best judgement and did what seemed appropriate at the time. And spent the rest of his life wondering if he had done the right thing. On his good days, he reasoned that God had delivered Laban into his hands, etc. On his wretched days, he composed psalms, entreating The Lord for redemption, and begging his soul to cast off his anger toward his enemies, awake, and no longer droop in sin.

    Because there is hardly any black and white anywhere. It’s all mostly gray.

  18. Interesting take Brock, the language in Exodus was confusing to me, so I checked out the New King James Version for Exodus 21:

    12 He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.
    13 However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee.
    14 But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.

    After reading it, I think you’re right that the story is clearly alluding to this scripture/old testament principle.

  19. Thanks, everybody, for your comments; there’s a lot of interesting stuff here to think about.

    A couple specific things: SteveF, interesting about the various offerings. Nephi says they offered “sacrifice and burnt offerings”; is there any reason to believe that (a) the burnt offerings precludes the sacrifice from being a trespass offering (i.e., can both be offered at the same time), and (b) that Nephi would have been describing the sacrifice technically and accurately (given that Lehi apparently hasn’t bought into Josiah’s reform that sacrifice can only happen at the temple in Jerusalem)? I’m not wedded to the trespass offering idea (because there’s also, inter alia, the textual gap), but conceptually I find the idea compelling. But if that’s wrong, I’m happy to jettison it.

    Ray, I think a careful, engaged reading of the text can come to your conclusion, too. I get where I do largely because I like the Jewish pushback against Abraham’s having done the right thing in taking Isaac to be sacrificed, and the fact that Nephi wasn’t a prophet at the time he did it. Like OldJen said, I’m comfortable with the idea that he overreacted, and I don’t think that eliminates his ability to have been prophet. Whether you or I is ultimately correct, though, it certainly did traumatize him (as, I hope, it would traumatize anyone who wasn’t a psychopath).

    Matthew, like Ray said, there’s no cover-up here. Nephi puts his account front and center. Moreover, your conclusion—that if he lied (which, I repeat, nobody has accused him of doing), he can’t be a prophet—has no scriptural justification or backing that I can think of. What I’m really pushing at is that scripture demands and rewards a nuanced reading: everything is not black or white, and if we try to impose those absolute poles on scripture, or on life, we do ourselves a huge disservice.

  20. Because any time is a good time to listen to this stunningly beautiful piece again, and it seems to fit the discussion:

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EyFSQskAodk

  21. “I like the Jewish pushback against Abraham’s having done the right thing in taking Isaac to be sacrificed.”

    I agree, Sam – which is why I find the use of the word “tempted” to be so fascinating. Given Abraham’s personal background with child sacrifice and the acceptance of it in his area and time, I like the idea of God giving him a temptation to which he succumbed (that he actually failed the test) – forcing God to take matters into his own hands and stop what he didn’t want to happen in the first place. I like to think that if Abraham had reacted as Nephi initially did (“No way! I’m not killing my son. You took me out of that culture, and I’m not returning to it.”), God might have been able to give him the final revelation (that human sacrifice was to be abandoned and animal sacrifice was to be instituted in its place) without all the drama – and without making the moral of the story about unquestioning obedience for too many people. I see the moral not as unquestioning obedience but simply, “Thou shalt not murder (thy children).”

    If you are interested, the following is a recap of the Sunday School lesson where we talked about that – and the story of the genocide of the Midianites, as well.

    “Sunday School Lesson Recap: Studying Scriptures for Revelation about the Bad as Well as the Good”

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2014/05/sunday-school-lesson-recap-studying.html

  22. Sam, I think since “offer[ing] sacrifice” is generic and doesn’t specify the type of offering being made, that “and burnt offerings” was meant to be the clarification.

    Or if it is not just repetition/clarification “they… did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings” could also simply mean:
    Step 1) “they… did sacrifice/kill the animal(s) and/or gave up a portion of their fruits of the field as an offering to the Lord”
    Step 2) “and offered them upon the altar as burnt-offerings.”

    As it immediately mentions they gave thanks unto God, perhaps it is alluding to the possibility that they also gave thank offerings in addition to burnt offerings. But I see no reason to believe that a trespass offering was made as well. There’s no allusion to it. And since burnt offerings were the most common offering, if Nephi wanted to convey to the reader that trespass offerings were also made, I believe he would have been very explicit.

    That’s not to say a trespass offering was not also made, but I think it is an assumption without basis in the text of that verse and just as likely as if sacrifices/burnt offerings were not mentioned at all.

  23. From Sam Brunson’s post “Matthew, like Ray said, there’s no cover-up here. Nephi puts his account front and center. Moreover, your conclusion—that if he lied (which, I repeat, nobody has accused him of doing), he can’t be a prophet”

    and this:

    “I’m comfortable with the idea that he overreacted, and I don’t think that eliminates his ability to have been prophet. Whether you or I is ultimately correct, though, it certainly did traumatize him (as, I hope, it would traumatize anyone who wasn’t a psychopath)”.

    I think we might be missing that of the greatest significance concerning what the scriptures dictate is applicable to Nephi in this scenario.

    Please reconsider again these verses:

    Exodus 21:12-14

    12 ¶He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

    13 And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.

    14 But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.

    If one is judged a murderer as some wish to claim for Nephi, over reacting is not going to be a valid cause to not find him guilty of murder. There is only a couple of strict conditions that exonerates from being a murderer.

    First he has no plan to kill, and God delivers Laban “into his hand” the exact statement that is repeated 3 times in the narrative. That it is a critical focal point for understanding and cannot be overlooked. It is the primary concept that the Holy Ghost brings back to his memory to persuade him. As well all of the conditions of exoneration are met. And God has appointed him a place to flee – the promised land and as mentioned he was innocent of any guile. These verses comprise the most significant concept in the narrative to help direct our efforts of understanding. A Jew would stop right there and know exactly what was going on.

  24. Brock, nobody here has accused Nephi of being a murderer, either.

  25. Also, Brock, I think you’re misapprehending Exodus. The KJV’s God deliver him into his hand doesn’t mean that God handed the person over to be killed; rather, based on the several translations I’ve looked at (and I totally welcome comments from people who actually read Hebrew), Ex. 21:13 is talking about what we’d call manslaughter that wasn’t prevented by God. The Jewish Study Bible notes explain that vs. 13 limits a tribal society’s obligation to redeem a murder to deliberate killers; it provides an escape from death for the “accidental killer.”

    Whether I’m right or Ray is right, Nephi wasn’t an accidental killer; he killed Laban quite deliberately. Moreover, his understanding of Exodus wouldn’t have been filtered through the KJV. Although yours is an interesting interpretation, it doesn’t, I think, ultimately comport with the biblical text.

  26. None here have, indeed, but the Exodus reference is not there for it’s flowery language. It defines what is a murderer and what is what consider a manslayer. Nephi must fit one of the two options. What would be valuable for me to understand is why would we, as students, choose to supersede clues in the scripture, put there to guide you, and prefer some completely intellectual process of presuming to comprehend Nephi’s thoughts when there is absolutely no textual clues to validate the conclusions. We prefer to assign preeminent value to supposition that following the clues.

    Let’s try this in reverse, please explain to me the significance you might contemplate from why the spirit’s primary tool of convincing Nephi’s change of heart is to bring to his remembrance, just as we expect him to do for you and I in our personal times of need, that verse as a means of explaining why slaying Laban is an acceptable.

  27. This is probably a trite comment to make, but nevertheless …

    It reminds me of the comment made by Hugh Nibley about a conversation he had with some non-Mormon students from the Middle East who took his Book of Mormon class at BYU. The general thrust was that Nibley was trying to find out if they found the BoM to be a believable representation of a Middle Eastern culture. The students said yes, without a doubt—with one glaring exception. They thought it funny that Nephi hesitated so much about killing Laban.

  28. Not trite in the least. This underscores the real issue. If you want to understand the writings of
    the Jews you must cease thinking like an American (or otherwise that has made little effort to find their inner Jew). We of our western mindset are all about casual or sliding applications of law – ie Nephi “overstepped.” To a member of the House of Israel this is potentially one of the most serious offenses that cannot be overlooked or the entire community is under the burden of guilt for any innocent blood that is shed (Deuteronomy 21: 1, 6-9.) This is powerful material to those who have taken the time to understand the people that wrote it.

  29. Brock, no offensive, but have you ever met somebody who was Jewish? Because I can assure you, their worldview isn’t significantly different than ours.

    Here’s the deal: per the language of Exodus 21:13, you weren’t allowed to just go and revenge-kill someone who committed what we’d call manslaughter (or a person the JSB calls an accidental killer). But Nephi wasn’t an accidental killer; it’s not like he was holding a sword over Laban, admiring it, and it just slipped. He deliberately killed Laban and, justified or not, that doesn’t fit within the exception for accidental killers.

  30. Perhaps we haven’t delved deeply enough into what is the primary doctrine concerning the scenario that Nephi is involved in. This comes under the principles of the Avenger of Blood scenario described in three different locations in the Old Testament – Deuteronomy 19:4-12 which expands on the definitions of what denotes a murderer and what denotes a manslayer. This is the law that Nephi would have been judged by so clearly this is not a case of arbitrary assessment. The conditions would be applied to his case and judgement rendered.

    Numbers 35:30-32 References the law of witnesses but what is germane to us is once again it defines the absolutes of judgement in the case of murderers or manslayers. In judgment Nephi would be classed as either a murderer or a manslayer who slayed accidentally, or a man slayer who was acting in behalf of God who has rendered judgment.

    Joshua 20:5-6 which again defines how when one slays another they can be found not guilty of murder only upon certain conditions. Fabulously it also expresses that even if one should not be found a murderer he still must remain in the City of refuge until the death of the high priest that heard his case upon entry into the City of Refuge. This whole thing is actually tertiary level symbolism on the Fall and the Atonement and returning to our original land of inheritance with our Father in Heaven.

    What might be an issue is there is a tendency to read these things from the perspective of a person of a different society, with no understanding of much more than their own culture. If we really want to understand proper interpretation we must at least acknowledge their applicable interpretations.

    I think if you reviewed my first post concerning the judgement process that definitely applies to Laban and illustrates that he is locked into a final judgment scenario would prevail to seeing more that has been observed. This cycle of judgment applies to the Balaam and his ass story and to King Noah in the Book of Mormon. It is an observable pattern found multiple times in scripture.

  31. The sins of Laman and Lemuel in beating their brother with a rod could also be the reason for the burnt offering

  32. Brock, would it be safe to assume that you are looking at the story as a myth or parable, rather than a literal event?

  33. Sam, I mean no offense either but I am compelled to explain what I think you might be missing.

    To your first question…I have met with Jews and interact with them whenever I have the opportunity. I am currently making arrangements to meet with a local Rabbi on a more regular basis. But I’m not sure if you have thought through what you are asking. Is it your supposition that meeting a Jew now would be like meeting a Jew in 600 B.C.? As well are you asking if I think that meeting with a typical Jew is the same as meeting with a religious Jew? Who by their studies do come closer to understanding applicable interpretations to the Nephi and Laban scenario. As I stated earlier but perhaps with inadequate descriptive terminologies. Ask a religious Jew with a depth of knowledge of their culture and they are going to have absolutely no issue with the Nephi / Laban scenario.

    However, a principle that is often viewed with condescension is the idea that Nephi really intended to express value when he referenced his superior ability to understand the things of the Jews because he lived there and knew of their culture. Bruce R. McConkie in a talk found at this link:

    https://www.lds.org/manual/teaching-seminary-preservice-readings-religion-370-471-and-475/the-bible-a-sealed-book?lang=eng

    reinforces this imperative in the following:

    “Key Four: Learn of Local Customs and Traditions
    This has some considerable advantage. It rates a two or a three. The words of scripture often take on a new and added meaning when read in the light of the local conditions that called them forth….

    Nephi quotes “the words of Isaiah” and says “they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy” (2 Nephi 25:4). As a supplemental way of understanding the words of the prophets, he says men must be “taught after the manner of the things of the Jews” (2 Nephi 25:5).

    Authors such as Edersheim, Farrar, and Geike, writing more than a hundred years ago when men had more faith and when they believed in the divine sonship, give us much good data on these ancient customs and ways of life.”

    This talk has informed my patterns of scripture study for almost 20 years. I have spent immeasurable hours studying the manner of prophecy of the Jews, Hebrew, Targums as well as the other items that are listed in his talk..

    Finally, you completely misunderstand the conditions of the Avenger of Blood where you interpret that you weren’t allowed to revenge kill someone. The nearest relative was obligated to avenge the life that was shed. There were no laws binding him except one. If the person who slew the one who died was in the city of the High Priest to whom he was now the servant, he could not be slain. If he could get to him before he made it to the city of refuge he was under no obligation to determine murderer or manslayer. Even if after the High priest exonerated him and defined him as an accidental or God directed manslayer, if the avenger of blood ever found him outside of the City of refuge, he still had no laws that could touch him for killing the person who slew his near relative. Again this entire concept is only a secondary understanding, the real gem of understanding is found by applying this material to the Fall, the Atonement, and what constrains justice and mercy in the atonement. It is purely brilliant when you see these things.

    As well you are stepping over the clause that reveals everything in it’s proper perspective, “delivered him into your hand” embraces a God directed rendering of judgment that permits the type of slaying that applies to Nephi. You claim there is nothing that provides an exception for an intentional manslayer – why is the phrase “delivered him into your hand” there, why is it repeated three times to make sure that, if you are interested, it is a clue. I do not understand why you are willing to make a point by overlooking the primary connecting concept and not willing to track down the implications. It is there for precisely the reason to address the concerns of anyone who might read the Nephi narrative who did not have a background in Jewish culture but was willing to be taught by the scriptures.

    Well, enough said, Please do not take my directness for anything more that trying to be very clear where I think some might benefit by really trying to see what is before them.

  34. OldJen your question is a good one and i wish it was as simple as a yeah or a nay. If that is what you seek then the answer is yes and no.

    Again, I have spent years studying rabbinical processes for scriptural exegesis. While it has been extremely valuable to me, because it is based on a very different paradigm of thought it is difficult to communicate to those who come at life from an entirely different paradigm. The principle that speaks to your question is one called PRDS, or Pardes, or sometimes paradise. You can find some information on the net but it has been corrupted by Christian interpretations that cannot use LDS theology as the standard by which to measure corrupted Judaism. To even get started on the concept one must find older Jewish tests or material that is available from genuine orthodox Jewish sources (not orthodox as a sect of Judaism but orthodox in maintaining continuity with ancient Judaism. (Without the Gospel as the standard we would all go astray in trying to apply these things.

    Simply PSHAT, REMEZ, D’RASH and SOD or PRDS ( you’ll find multiple spellings) is a symbol of an orchard with four different fruit tree’s. This represents four different levels of understanding of any verse or narrative etc.

    The Story line is the pshat level, In most cases it is considered a legitimate story of actual events. remez is to recognize first level symbolic interpretation or the allegory of the story might be more accurate. D’resh involves comparisons by multiple key words shared in the scriptures or noting common themes that can tie two or more narratives together for much more profound expansions of knowledge. Finally Sod is the result of having been taught directly by the Shekinah and is akin to receiving it directly from the Lord himself. The Lehi story, where the spirit comes down as a pillar of flame and educates him is a precise Shekinah experience. Again to a educated religious Jew they would be compelled to stop in their tracks and recognize a Jewish author has been a work in the scripting of the Book of Mormon.

    It is most important that each level up that one approaches does not alter the understanding of the previous level. Each level is dependent on the one previous.

    Thus all scripture has it’s literal implications, even if it by chance is not a literal event, and several deeper layers of meaning in addition. A lot of time western intellectual approach is to look for one meaning of a verse and we find ourselves in disagreement with what we think are alternative interpretations. In PRDS you are required to keep studying, praying searching until you actually embrace or “comprehend” all aspects of meaning.

  35. Chris M says:

    I appreciate the topic of this article, as well as the discussion it has fostered. However, I find the conclusion the author reaches about the driving forces behind Nephi’s decision to kill Laban to be somewhat sloppy and one that does not take into account other relevant scripture, nor (and more importantly) all of the other conclusions we would have to accept about Nephi’s character that are wholly inconsistent with other scripture passages that speak directly to his strength of character and commitment to obedience. Only by believing the premise that all those other positive references to Nephi’s character were ALSO just a consequence of his self-serving, natural tendency to paint himself in the best light possible in his own record can we make sense of the proposed conclusion. In essence, we are asked to accept that the same man who just a few passages before was told by The Lord, “blessed art thou Nephi because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me DILIGENTLY, with low lines of heart,” and who constantly told his brothers on that same journey that only by “being faithful in keeping the commandments of The Lord,” would they succeed in obtaining the plates, would moments later have a moment of lapsed judgment and would go a little too far in his zeal in keeping one commandment that he thought he could justify breaking another.

    I applaud the author’s invitation to read our canonized scriptures more closely, and find Brock’s posts to be a particularly useful and informative example of such close readings.

    Here’s one of a few questionable conclusions we would have to accept in order to go along with the author’s suggested explanation – the idea that it never really was the Spirit speaking to Nephi, but that it was either his own mind working out a justification in real-time, which he THOUGHT was the Spirit, or that the mention of the Spirit was simply a more palatable, yet false interpretation Nephi purposefully created into the story years later. Doesn’t sound very good when put in those terms, but that’s exactly what is being suggested here.

    Keeping this in mind, and knowing of the plethora of striking parallels found in the scriptures, sometimes it even being the adversary using a similar principle God uses to do his evil works – has any one ever considered the striking resemblance between what the Spirit explains to Nephi as the justification in the Lord’s eyes for ending the life of Laban (an incident which occurred 600 years before the birth of the Messiah) and the words used by the high priest Caiaphas in justifying the killing of Jesus Christ?

    “…it is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle in unbelief.” – 1 Nephi 4:13

    “And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” John 11: 49 – 50

    The scriptures later explain that even though the idea the Pharisees took from that statement was that they had to put Jesus to death through whatever means possible in order to avoid an uprising from the Jews, which would eventually bring upon them the wrath of the Romans, it is said that Caiaphas also fulfilled prophesy in that as the high priest he foretold that the death of Christ would bring together unto God all the children of God and keep them from perishing.

    So I ask, how can there be such a parallel in the words Nephi falsely claims to have received from the Spirit with the words of a prophecy over 600 years later in Jerusalem?

    In one’s effort to gain greater understanding through a closer reading of the scriptures, I find it more instructive to gain clues from how scriptures connect, intertwine and point to one another and give clues as to the “why,”more often than from questioning the accuracy of what we are reading based simply on our knowledge of the human experience. Some skepticism is necessary, of course, as we know that not all of our scriptures are translated correctly. But the moment we accept the premise that the natural-man-tendencies of the prophets in canonized scripture (particularly the Book of Mormon) included a willingness to rewrite history to “gratify (their) pride, (their) vain ambition” as seems to be suggested by this article and some related comments, is the moment we decide to interpret the scriptures by the singular, dim light of our own knowledge, which in turn may inevitably lead us to want to categorize passages, stories, principles and even doctrine in order of how relevant or true they are to us.

  36. Stephanie Sunderland says:

    I appreciated your thoughts very much. The Book Of Mormon can be hard to navigate. In order for me to read and study it. I must read it as a history book.( I do that with the Bible too.) Thank you again for your post.

  37. ChrisM,

    I doubt my character and actions at 17 wholly defined and was consistent with who I am now and will become in the future. I think interpretations of the Laban story that buy Nephi’s justification are valid ones. However, I don’t think Nephi’s character or prophetic calling rise or fall on what happened that night with Laban. He was faced with a hard, traumatic and dramatic choice and I think there is room for a variety of interpretations. I think the most important thing is that we appreciate the struggle of that choice and its consequences rather than do what I most often see in teaching this scripture (especially to youth) which is to hold it up unproblimatically as some obvious test of obedience that Nephi passes with flying colors. Certainly I don’t think it should cause congregation wide shock to suggest that maybe Nephi was less than perfect in that situation. I personally find Nephi a bit to self-satisfied across his entire account, especially how he acted toward his brothers as a youth and I am ok with that. Prophets don’t spring from the womb as Christ-like leaders. Especially when he ends up preaching incredibly problematic racialized doctrine I think we might solve a lot of “problems” in the Book of Mormon narrative by accepting Nephi as a great example of a complex, strong but imperfect prophet in the mode we now tend to see say Brigham. I buck against the hagiographic treatment of Nephi, especially since the text offers the possibility of so much more. Hagiography of our modern prophets continues to cause a whole lot of real problems and in some way I think this all starts with the way we tend to think and teach about Nephi, especially to our youth.

  38. One interesting point is that ultimately, Nephi’s descendants did ” dwindle in unbelief.” In Nephi’s psalm, while not specifically identifying the sins that have caused him such anguish, I do believe that Nephi can see the direction his divided family is headed, and the role he played, both for good and bad. Perhaps, in his role as prophet, Nephi has seen the ultimate end of his people,and is questioning why he had to kill Laban, if in the end it results in what he was trying to prevent? How many more violent deaths are to occur, and sins be committed, he seems to be saying, despite his efforts to prevent them?

  39. “Perhaps, in his role as prophet, Nephi has seen the ultimate end of his people,and is questioning why he had to kill Laban, if in the end it results in what he was trying to prevent?”

    Fascinating comment, Kevin.

    I might say that many thousands did not dwindle in unbelief along the way (unlike the people of Mulek, whom, I believe, are used as the counter-example of those who dwindle immediately without a scriptural record), but, in the end, reality did not match that revelation he received at the end of his pondering over Laban prior to killing him.

    I had never put that together in my mind previously. Thanks!

  40. The reason I commented about the dangers of believing Nephi lied is because of Nephi’s own writing and Sam’s comments about Nephi committing a “sin” and “mistake” in killing Laban. Nephi clearly exonerates himself in 1 Nephi 4:9-18 where he says it was “the spirit” (the Holy Spirit) that “constrained” him to kill Laban. The spirit also offers justification and reasoning for why Nephi should do so because Nephi was unwilling, at first, to do it. In Nephi’s account, it was the will of the Lord that Nephi should kill Laban. Doing the will of the Lord is not sin, but righteousness.

    In fact, if Nephi was telling the truth, his experience is a beautiful microcosmic example of keeping the commandments, justification “by the spirit”, and sanctification by blood sacrifice (Moses 6:60). Nephi kept the commandment of the Lord by following the spirit’s constraint, he was justified because it was the Spirit of the Lord that offered the reasoning for his actions, and he was sanctified by the blood of Christ (of which Lehi’s sacrifices upon the brothers’ return pointed to). I contend that is how Nephi’s account should be understood: Nephi followed the spirit of the Lord and was justified in his actions, even though the general rule is “whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for man shall not shed the blood of man” (JST Gen 9:12).

    If Nephi committed a sin in killing Laban, that means that the Spirit did *not* give reasoning or a constraining influence to Nephi, and Nephi made that part up. Nephi, then, becomes guilty of lying about the event (which, as a consequence of covering up his sin, he wouldn’t be able to enjoy priesthood power–D&C 121:34-37–and could not have been a full prophet) and the sin of murder.

    I don’t see any way you can start with the belief that Nephi sinned in killing Laban and not come to the conclusion that Nephi lied about the event, unless you redefine “sin” and “righteousness”.

  41. Matthew, as I said in a previous comment, I don’t believe Nephi did the wrong thing or made a mistake / sinned, but if Nephi faithfully reported his thought process as he made his decision and truly believed he was inspired by the Spirit in what he did, then he didn’t lie about anything – regardless of whether or not the Spirit actually interacted with him as he believed it did. Lying is VERY different than being right or wrong in one’s actions.

    Also, whether or not he was commanded by God to kill Laban, there are good legal arguments relative to his time period to believe he was not guilty of murder in that situation. Further, there is nothing that indicates a cover-up in how he related the story (absolutely nothing), so there is no reason to deny him status as a “full prophet” (whatever that is supposed to mean) years after the event took place and after he appears to have gone through a full repentance process if he actually did sin.

    I just don’t understand or accept the “if, then” foundation of what you are saying, much less the assumption that he lied in any way.

    Also, just to repeat myself, I am fascinated by Kevin’s comment – largely because it opens the possibility of Nephi himself questioning his inspiration in killing Laban, since the revelation he received in verse 13 (killing one person can save an entire nation and, therefore, is justifiable in some situations) didn’t come to fruition for his people (as he saw in another vision). There is no indication in the record that he was visited by an angel or had a vision in that situation; otoh, there is every indication that the constraint of the Spirit occurred completely in his mind. That doesn’t change one bit whether or not it might have been the Spirit inspiring him, but it does lend itself to future questioning if he saw the destruction of his people and contrasted that to what he believed the Spirit told him as he stood over Laban.

  42. Matthew, you are so precisely right on. I appreciate your perspectives. The principle of the Law of Moses, that it was given to remind the people of Jesus Christ and point to him is a principle of constant application throughout scripture. We have individuals that represent good and evil or perhaps more to the point those that represent Christ or Satan. Most are willing to concede that under this line of understanding Nephi is a Christ symbol as a great High Priest, Moses is a Christ Symbol as the Great High Priest, Isaiah, in modern times, Joseph Smith and President Monson the same and so on.

    If others undermine the symbolism of the Christ figures, then eventually we’ll observe false paradigms being used in evaluating the Korihor’s, and the Nehors, even modern day individuals and so on. They will be at best simply misguided and potentially salvageable souls, at worst mis judged entirely. Then soon enough evil will be considered good and the good will be considered evil.

    Nephi, isn’t just Nephi. There is a special continuity to scripture that psychoanalyzing Nephi in this fashion is violating. Nephi is part of a greater paradigm representing good and to retain the integrity of the scriptures must surely remain so.. Especially, when the scriptures validate that it is who he is and give ample opportunity to understand his righteousness by genuine study and appeal to the spiritual processes in discerning truth.

  43. I agree, Kevin; that’s a fascinating take. Thanks.

  44. Brock, I’m well aware of different levels of scriptural interpretation, call them what you may. Perhaps I should have written, the event as it would have seemed to Nephi at the time that it actually occurred. The obvious answer would then be no; your analysis is of the narrative that grew from the event. While all of the pieces may have been put in place for that narrative to grow, it’s highly doubtful that Nephi would have recognized them at the time they occurred. Thus, we have a young man who is forced to make a difficult decision on the fly, and must spend the rest of his life watching the consequences of that decision. A real, living, breathing warm blooded boy, as opposed to reams and reams of rabbinical parchments (no offense to either the rabbis or the parchments).

    Let me illustrate. When I was 6 years old, my beloved grandfather passed away, and shortly thereafter visited me in a dream. In that dream, he laid down a series of clues for me to find throughout my life as I studied scriptures and learned about the workings of God. Every few years I find additional meaning for one or more of the clues. As I have assembled the message that he was trying to portray, I’ve also pulled in a few events from his life, and have built a rich and meaningful story around what I believe he intended me to know. But as a 6 year old child, as I awoke from my dream, I just knew that my grandpa still existed, and that he loved me even more than he did before. (Now I know that he also understood me. Shoutout to my extremely cool grandpa!)

    I enjoyed Sam’s post… I thought it was a great analysis of young Nephi in the moment of action. Of course there is a rich and symbolic narrative to build around the initial event. But I wonder what young and inexperienced Nephi might have written with paper and pencil that night, had he had them available. Probably not the same words that he etched onto plates 40 years later.

  45. Sam, I looked up several other translations of Exodus 21, and I think you make a good point. It seems about half accord with the New King James version I quoted earlier, and the other half seem to interpret “if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand” to mean something like “if the killing was unintentional, an accident allowed by God”.

    My guess is that the half like the New King James version are more literal translations of the underlying Hebrew phrase, while the other half are translating what they believe the underlying phrase is trying to convey.

    With such a large consensus, it seems like translating the phrase as an unintentional killing or accident is definitely one possible meaning of the underlying phrase, but I wonder if it is the only one. The Complete Jewish Bible translation gives an interesting possible middle ground: “If it was not premeditated but an act of God”. Perhaps an intentional killing that is not premeditated could still rightly be considered an act of God under this law, given that Laban was not innocent and had previously sought to kill Nephi and his brothers. ?

    Can anyone point out other scriptures that clarify the Mosaic law here?

    I wish I could read the Hebrew, if anyone else does I’d also be interested to hear more on these verses.

  46. Who are you and what have you done with Sam Brunson? I couldn’t find anything about taxes in here at all!

  47. Not quite sure why it is your perception that I do not think the event actually happened. I believe the event did happen exactly as Nephi wrote it down. It is an actual experience he had. However, if you are asking did Nephi understand precisely the nature of what was occurring he like Joseph Smith and others may have expanded the story to embrace deeper truths than he might of known at the time of the event.

    What is most important to realize is that the Exodus verses are not just randomly tossed in for good measure. They are the validation to Nephi that he is not going to be guilty of actual murder and thus lose his own soul. Instead he is a servant of the Lord fulfilling the requirements to become the designated firstborn of the Lord, a further expansion of what is occurring in this instance that cannot tolerate the alternate twists of interpretation of this event.

    My apologies if you already understood PRDS. Few do.

  48. Chris M says:

    Brock, where else have you posted? I’d like to read more.

  49. “What is most important to realize is that the Exodus verses are not just randomly tossed in for good measure. They are the validation to Nephi that he is not going to be guilty of actual murder and thus lose his own soul.”

    I think everyone here (or, at the very least, almost everyone) understands that, Brock. It’s kind of a given for most of us.

  50. just fyi, I’m not sure who’s over moderation, but I have a comment with some what I thought were relevant/interesting links still stuck there

  51. Perhaps that is true, However I thought it was less about what you or I know in hindsight versus what Nephi knew at the time of this incident. As that, ostensibly, was the perspective throughout this thread I tossed that in as the crux of what the issue was with Nephi. Like so many, he by default takes the perspective that killing is wrong – Thou shalt not kill is the first thing that he is considering.

    My implication, that you might have missed is simply that the spirit brought to his recollection the precise scriptures that addressed his first concern of being a murderer and confirmed that he was correct – doing the “off with his head” might satisfy the Queen of hearts but God it will cost him his life if it is not in accordance with the law. Next, as I have stated, the spirit walks him through his current paradigm and expands it to understand that his concern, while valid, does not characterize a situation where the Lord delivers someone who has been judged by God as worthy of death into his path. Now both of Nephi’s concerns are addressed. He understands and he is obedient. This has to be understood if any are to see the greater exchange of God selecting Nephi as the Firstborn heir…as I have stated before.

    If this has been a given for you and the author of the OP , I wish one of you would have built upon that pivotal foundation – it would have saved me a couple of hours. Thanks for contemplating it again though…

  52. I go in spurts and have posted in a couple of places on the net…Mormon dialogue, LDSFF, and some limited postings on forums I can no longer remember off of the top of my head. This post was actually linked to from a thread at LDSFF. I clicked and came over here as I was attempting to address a similar perspective there and was able to, to a greater or lesser extent. If you wish to read the next logical progression of the Nephi / Laban scenario as to how it establishes all of the conditions for his being selected as the Firstborn from a Jewish perspective then I invite you to read this post here:

    http://www.ldsfreedomforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=30453&start=57

    If that seems interesting to you shoot me an email and I can point elsewhere based on what your interests might be. Thank you for inquiring.

  53. Let me start by saying I agree with the beginning premise of the article. Yes, the Book of Mormon should be taken seriously, and for many good reasons. And close readings are enjoyable and rewarded. However, I do not believe that you have performed anything close to a close reading of this account.

    I am profoundly disturbed at the lack of references in the original article to the actual scriptural account. The article starts at the end (with the killing of Laban, completely ignoring the first two attempts, the commandment by their prophet, Lehi, to get the plates, and Nephi’s courage), then paraphrases events in a way that suits the interpretation. This is followed by attributions and connections which lack scriptural support, and are based solely on the author’s own feelings and opinions.

    For example: “Laban’s death is a pivotal moment in Lehite history. With Laban dead, they can’t go back—they’re leaving forever.” I’m sorry, but where in the scriptural account is there any support for the idea that when God told Lehi “that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness” because Lehi had “been faithful and declared unto this people the things which [God] commanded [him], behold, they seek to take away [Lehi's] life,” (1 Ne. 2:1-2), that going back would be an option? Are you suggesting that it was Nephi’s fault that they couldn’t come back? Come back to what? The brother’s had just given away everything – what was there to come back to? And, nobody saw Nephi kill Laban. Who would be there to accuse Nephi, Lehi, or any of the family of the “murder,” as you call it? Finally, the suggestion posited by the author would strongly suggest that God’s plan now needed adjusting. To suggest that Laban had been murdered and NOW Nephi had screwed everything up is to suggest that when God commanded Lehi to leave, it would be temporary, but NOW that Nephi has killed Laban, God has to change the plan and story. “Well, it’s ok guys – I have this other land in reserve, just in case. I’ll send you there.”

    I find it interesting that while commenting on the “vastly compressed space” we have, somewhere it is mistaken for an account that does cover 1000 years of human development. Further, I find it interesting that while many of you discover that it is better to read scripture as a history book, it is somehow forgotten that it is still an inspired history book, of a different culture, a different time, and a different people; as if attributing 21st century American feelings to a pre-Columbian Hebrew text should not be done with some restraint.

    And you speak of his killing Laban as a sin that needs to be forgiven. “Nephi, in my reading, committed sin.” A sin is when we act contrary to the will of God; Nephi would have sinned if he had not killed Laban. Then, to further the interpretation, you insinuate what is not said “…when Nephi gets back, there’s a gap in the text: Lehi—the patriarch/family prophet—never tells Nephi that what he did was right, or was directed by God. Instead, we see a burnt offering, used to purge sin, upon the brothers’ homecoming.” This language suggests that because Nephi did not write about whether Lehi approved of Nephi’s actions, Lehi must have disapproved of them. However, I would ask, why would Nephi include in his account a statement from Lehi supporting his action, when Nephi just went through a lot of gold plates explaining why it was necessary. The thinking also is expounded as it Nephi did not fight wars and defend his people as their king; as if he did it without God’s approval or command; as if God had never commanded the Israelites to commit murder before, even genocide (Ex. 23:27-33; see also, Ex. 32: 27-29 (Levites commanded by Moses to slay 3,000 Isrealites after they build the Golden Calf).) All of this is missing from your discussion/thought process; you simply jump to the conclusion without much context but your own.

    I am reminded of the worry so many prophets in the Book of Mormon shared, one expressed most profoundly by Moroni in Ether 12:25-26. He said, “I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.” The Lord replied: “Fools mock, but they shall mourn.”

    In the end, I agree we need to read the scriptures with as much skill and determination as we put into reading scholarly and non-scholarly writings. However, all you did was make an offhanded comment in Sunday School recently, then went onto a blog to try and defend yourself. In that effort, you made yourself Nephi, and tried to project onto Nephi the feelings you were having. Am I wrong? You made a quick decision, and later you tried to justify it by writing Nephi had to make a quick decision, and later in life tried to justify it. I know we are to liken the scriptures unto us, (a suggestion by Nephi, btw) but isn’t it a bit much to liken us to the scriptures?

    That is not a “close reading of scripture.” And by the way, a Close reading of scripture will not likely lead you to a conclusion which contradicts not only the scripture itself, but also the guidance from the brethren. You can find much that is not discussed in the handbooks, you can find nuanced ways to apply or even interpret what is contained in the handbooks, but a genuinely inspired close reading of the scriptures will not lead you to “Nephi committed sin when he killed Laban, and was simply trying to justify it 40 years later for his own conscience.”

  54. Beautifully Stated. I commend your integrity to the scriptural account.

  55. Earlier I indicated Nephi as a type for Christ. I feel compelled to sustain that perspective by illustration for while I assume that most might make this connection it is one more understanding that negates the conclusion of the OP and thus becomes germane to our discussion. This develops the ideology of “Shrinking” as some have referenced as sustaining Nephi’s reluctance to kill as if that justified the misunderstanding of his character in so many in consistent ways.

    The Shrinking Nephi

    Often I have encountered those that wish to diminish the stature of the man Nephi by focusing on the use of the words “And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him. As I considered upon this concept I began thinking upon the scriptures again to see what other situations might exist that could be used as an overlay to understand Nephi more accurately.

    We need known scriptural situations where God has required someone to do a very difficult thing and then they hesitate before completing the task.

    A few examples that I thought had an element of criteria of shrunk were as follows and I weeded through them trying to find one that was as Nephi appears to be using it.

    Jonah- Who doesn’t even start the journey until strongly encouraged. Not the same as Nephi’s I will go and do….

    I’ve got the 12 spies sent to scout out the territory they are to conquer. Ten of them shrink after a fashion and give weak reports and loose the favor of God – and consequently their lives. Two did not shrink. However, neither of these two samples of addressing the task quite fit the Nephi scenario.

    I’ve got Gideon in the Old Testament who has been called to lead an attacking unit at the Lords request. He requests this funky little dew on the piece of wool experiment to get confirmation. Now this one is actually getting closer but still somewhat different but if I didn’t have anything better I might stop here and try to develop this further. Still, I keep reviewing…

    Hmmm…nobody in Israel to fight Goliath-a bunch of shrinkers, except for a young boy who does not appear to shrink at all – he’s not a bad option but still not a good tight fit until I consider a scripture which appears to convey the appearance of shrinking just a bit and it really to me seems the best fit to lay up against the Nephi scenario.

    Nephi, a sincere committed servant, who desperately desires to be obedient to God’s commandments, is presented with a dilemma that is more than he has adequately considered before this moment. Now, in the example that I find, the “Shrinking” person has known for a while what was coming but even with that he has never undergone what is asked of him and it causes the same sense of discomfort in this individual that I sense in Nephi. Let’s see what you think, here is the verse…

    Luke 22:42
    42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

    Hmmm, pondering upon this I see some technical overlay problems but the core of the experience is a perfect fit. A situation that is at the very edge of that person’s capacity to give has been asked of both Nephi and Jesus Christ. They both struggle with what is asked of them. They suffer for it. And even more remarkable they both need some help to get them over the hump that has caused them this moment’s pause to reflect upon what is being asked of them. Consider:

    Luke 22:43
    43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

    Is this a reasonable comparison? After all Nephi is not being asked to die – he potentially could die as he is a great risk but that is clearly not a focal point of the Nephi / Laban narrative. That he is willing to die is important but let’s not dwell here for the moment.

    Even more interesting, if we look at the Matthew 26 rendition we find that while in the Garden, Christ pleaded to have his requirement removed on three separate instances. Is this shrinking? Hardly the kind of shrinking that would cast dispersions on the character of the Lord and from my viewpoint hardly the type of shrinking that would cast dispersions on Nephi.

    This shrinking in both the Nephi and Christ case is not a fullness of shrinking if you will. It seems to only describe a moment of withdrawal from engaging in what is a very difficult task. It is a process of weighing the extreme difficulty of a near overwhelming task required at the hand of God. Consider the final verse that I thought played into this discussion.

    Doctrine and Covenants 19:18
    18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and SHRINK—

    The term shrink as Nephi uses it to describe his hesitancy and hope for an alternative option feels just like the Luke and Mathew portrayal of Christ’s personal battle with pleading 3 times for his father to remove the burden that he has been asked to bear. The nature of these two events seems to be in the same genre of challenge. When we put all of the passages together they are close enough in nature and flow and connected by terminology and similar applications of the terminology to resemble each other. Footnote 1

    What Nephi proves and we all must understand is that wrestling with the spirit is only a wrestle between the will of man and the difficulty in putting our will aside and subjecting our will to God’s. More than anything this story provides a backdrop for how difficult this task of choosing God’s will is over choosing our own.

    In Nephi’s straits the spirit does what the spirit does; it teaches. In the consistent pattern of the spirit, it educates him and he overcomes the real concern he has for his own soul. Shrinking is not resisting. Shrinking is shrinking; or the process of pulling away from the eagerness of a moment ago. As I have attempted to illustrate with both Christ and Nephi this issue here is not resisting it is submitting; a person submitting their will to God. It is one of several critical gospel principles that define what it takes to achieve a firstborn status in the Kingdom of God. According to Brigham Young, paraphrasing, the Lord has little need for blind obedience. Footnote 2. He needs those who manifest a will but are willing to submit their will to the Lord.

    The rules of scripture evaluation are important to keep our standard or to provide the boundaries of our thoughts. The Christ request scenario where he seeks a way out of his dilemma provides a perfect guardrail around our conclusions as we overlay it on Nephi’s shrinking moment. The two common themes together create a standard of evaluation. By pivoting each of these separate incidences against any further conclusions that are not explicitly stated in the text of the two events we have created a standard that will keep our conclusions within boundaries that help sustain the intent of both events.

    In other words, whatever I say about one should be applicable to or form a distinction between these two examples. Each one is a pair of eyes observing the same principle from differing venues. Now, I’m not sure that the last sentence makes any sense without some explanation, so I am going to explain everything in a way that will shed some light on this just in case. This goes back to the concept of understanding the things of the Jews and using that as an aid in understanding scripture.

    Now, to me here is the test for determining the validity of any conclusions that I might want to read into this scenario from this point forward. Whatever conclusions I reach must be compatible with both samples which I am using as the boundaries of ponderings and conclusions. This is another element of Jewish scripture interpretation.

    In conclusion of this comparison, I have chosen the Christ sample of dealing with his challenge as the best to help us understand the nature of what Nephi is trying to accomplish. There are several key points upon which to make that selection. Nephi is a Christ type. Both Christ and Nephi manifest the same desire to be obedient. Both receive some form of comfort from a heavenly source. Both accept the end requirement while clearly manifesting they would choose a different path if it was their choice that took precedence. Both are dealing with salvation; unless the act under evaluation takes place, either an entire nation shall perish – Nephi, or an entire world will perish – Christ.

    The distinctions are that Christ must die and Nephi is not required to. That is a fair distinction potentially, however, both have been condemned to die and Nephi has charged into a very dangerous situation without overriding concern for his own life. However, to further the work of the Lord an actual forfeit of his life would frustrate the ongoing aims of our Father in Heaven. So, as a second witness goes this is the best example, and a good one, I can find in all of scripture. Nephi’s shrinking is not an unwillingness to be obedient but is a common challenge of submitting his will to the Fathers even as Jesus Christ was required to accomplish in providing for the salvation of all mankind.

    Footnotes:
    Footnote 1.) Isolating scriptures based on content and common word use is a Jewish Hermeneutics principle: the following 3 can apply in varying degrees to the comparability of Jesus’ request and Nephi’s request.
    http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/artic … -the-seven – Seven Rules of Hillel
    http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/artic … thirty-two –
    The Thirty-two Rules of Eliezer B. Jose Ha-Ge-lili

    Rule 7. Gezerah shawah: Argument from analagy. Biblical passages containing synonyms or homonyms are subject, however much they differ in other respects, to identical definitions and applications.

    Rule 8. Binyan ab mi-katub ehad: Application of a provision found in one passage only to passages which are related to the first in content but do not contain the provision in question.

    The Seven Rules of Hillel
    Rule 6. Ka-yoze bo mi-makon aher: Similarity in context to another scriptural passage.

    Footnote 2.) I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, p. 150).

  56. The author’s interpretation only holds if he ignores entire verses of scripture and/or assumes that Nephi is lying about the entire account, including the voice of the Lord commanding him to kill Laban, several times, giving doctrinal and logical reasons why.
    This trip back to Jerusalem becomes the distinguishing point at which Nephi differentiates himself from his older brothers in terms of righteousness, leadership, faithfulness, obedience, and communion with the Lord. Not long after, he experiences the greatest vision detailed in all of the Book of Mormon, in which he interacts directly with the Spirit of the Lord. This is the moment at which he becomes a prophet and witness of Jesus Christ. While it is not impossible, it is highly unlikely that such a calling would be extended to one who not only murdered someone, but who would continue to lie about it in what would become holy writ, decades later. Either way, it would not come without sore repentance, which is universally detailed prior to the conversion and calling of every wayward-sinner-turned-prophet/preacher in the entire record (e.g. Enos, Alma the Younger, the sons of Mosiah, Zeezrom.) Even more damning, it’s doubtful that anyone who had just committed cold-blooded murder would “be led by the Spirit” directly afterward; how could the Spirit of God not be offended, and the soul of the man not become benighted, after such an act? Again, we must assume that Nephi is either lying about the Lord’s involvement to make himself look better in the eyes of future readers, or we must accept his account as genuine, and the command from the Lord to slay Laban as legitimate.
    Why, then, would the Lord command it? Consider first the situation in which Lehi’s family find themselves. That they had to leave Jerusalem is beyond doubt. Not only have the people sought Lehi’s life, but the city will be destroyed, and soon. That they needed the Brass Plates is also beyond question, unless you assume that Lehi made up that commandment from the Lord, too. (Even then, one only need consider the state of the Mulekites when the Nephites discovered the land of Zarahemla; they had forgotten the traditions of their fathers, they had even forgotten their language, because they didn’t bring any writings with them.)
    This record appears to be one of particular importance to their tribe, if not a lineage even more closely related than that, because it contains the genealogy of Lehi, as well as that of Laban. (Apparently, then, they were at least distantly related, which makes Laban’s treatment of Lehi’s family even more appalling, really.) We all know the importance the Lord ascribes today to family history, but it’s also clear from the scriptures that genealogical records are worth preserving. That the scriptural text itself is important is beyond doubt, as well, as entire chapters of Isaiah were transcribed later by Nephi into the Book of Mormon, along with accounts from other prophets, like the prophet Zenos’ supernal parable of the olive branches which we would not have today otherwise. There is no disputing that the Lord expected them to acquire the record at any cost, even after having their family’s fortune stolen and their lives threatened (twice, in Laman’s case.)
    But why did Laban have to die? Consider what we know of the man. He was a captain of the Israelite army, who could command “fifty, or even…tens of thousands.” Not only a man of means and power, but a man who already demonstrated his own pettiness and psychosis by robbing and attempting to kill Lehi’s sons, repeatedly. If Nephi had simply stolen his clothes and left him there to wake up with a massive hangover the next morning, does anyone believe Laban would have rested until he found them all and destroyed them, simply as a matter of pride? Who but the Lord knows what judgments and condemnation Laban had already heaped upon his own head, but even in this brief account we see a man who is wrathful, avaricious, paranoid, and murderous. It is far from inconceivable that the Lord considered it better for everyone involved, if Laban were to be stopped, even at the cost of his life, rather than continuing to thwart His plans. Again, unless we assume that Nephi fabricated the Lord’s justification, it was better that Laban should perish, than that the descendants of Lehi should dwindle and perish in unbelief. These are the two possible outcomes the Lord presents to Nephi.
    I can understand why some people find it difficult to accept the idea that the Lord would command Nephi to kill Laban, but it is not without precedent in scriptural accounts. While some of this may be due to tribal tradition and rabbinical rationalization centuries after the fact, to dismiss every single account as such is to dismiss much of the Old Testament. Was it not expedient, if not absolutely necessary, for Elijah to destroy the priests of Baal after the widespread and devastating apostasy and spiritual destruction they brought upon Israel? The Lord commanded the destruction of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, because they were ripe for destruction; the scriptures tell us as much. Furthermore, with the impending destruction of Jerusalem, perhaps Laban’s death was necessary in order to remove him from his position of leadership of the Israelite army, either to make room for someone more level-headed, or to ensure the outcome would serve the Lord’s purposes. We don’t know all the reasons, but nothing else Nephi does or says in his account, apart from his being an imperfect human being, supports the idea that Laban’s death was anything bu the Lord’s explicit command.
    The offering of sacrifice upon their return may or may not have been due to sin (I doubt it, as sacrificial offerings of thanksgiving are common in scriptural cannon, and the safe return of Lehi’s sons with the sacred Brass Plates would almost certainly warrant such an offering.) But even if it were for propitiation, we have no reason to believe that it was to atone for the slaying of Laban, especially when we know that not only did Sariah complain against God and Lehi, (which is serious business, when they’re out in the wilderness and completely dependent on the Lord for guidance and preservation, and which required sore repentance on the part of the offenders in each other instance,) but also because Laman and Lemuel beat Nephi so badly an angel had to intervene, probably saving his life! Also very serious business. Most likely, though, they offered the sacrifice both as thanksgiving and to invoke the Lord’s blessings before they embarked on the next, much greater, step of their journey. Many LDS families today do something similar by starting road trips with a word of prayer for safety. As for the author’s interpretation of 2 Ne 4, it sounds much more like Nephi is lamenting his own continual imperfection, rather than recalling a major sin from his youth.
    If it turns out that the author’s interpretation is correct, so be it. I have no illusions that even Nephi was anything more than a man, albeit a very faithful one. But to ascribe such motivations and attributes to him as the author does is not only baseless, but contradictory, both of what we find in the rest of Nephi’s account and what we know about the Lord’s dealings with others.

  57. There certainly seems to be a lot of emotional investment in the one true reading of this passage.
    I hope that when I’m long dead and gone, any who may trouble themselves to speak of me will allow me more dimension than we have allowed poor, flat Nephi.

  58. Kenneth Pike says:

    I guess I agree with Tolsti–I’m not sure this piece says anything terribly interesting about Nephi, but it makes some interesting suggestions about the author.

    Did Nephi sin by killing Laban? I don’t know. I’m inclined to doubt it, but it’s not really for me to judge. Could a close reading of the scriptures support the assertion that Nephi sinned by killing Laban? I’m open to the possibility. But I think a close reading of the scriptures also (more clearly) supports the assertion that Nephi did not sin by killing Laban. I don’t think that either assertion is especially interesting in itself. Far more interesting to me is, what purpose is served by either assertion?

    The assertion that Nephi did not sin can be offered as a social move: “I agree with extant interpretations of the text, and should be counted among the faithful.” It can also be offered to make a substantive claim of the sort that has been argued about since Plato’s Euthyphro (at least): is something a sin because God wills it to be a sin, or does God simply know certain things are sins in themselves? The assertion that Nephi did not sin in killing Laban makes a tick-mark in the column favoring the idea that sin is a function of God’s will rather than some act or category of acts simply known by God to be evil. Or it might be a hint that God is a bit of a Utilitarian.

    The assertion that Nephi sinned, contrariwise, might be a tick-mark in favor of the idea that God doesn’t make sin so much as recognize the property of sinfulness. Many scholars and theologians have identified this as a blow to God’s omnipotence; rejecting as we do many traditional philosophical notions of God, Mormons might well be open to the possibility.

    Or in the context of Priesthood meeting the assertion that Nephi sinned might be a way to raise a contrary argument for the sake of raising a contrary argument. Sometimes this is a good way to encourage people to lead a more reflective existence–to really engage with the text, as it were, in the book of life. It can be an effective (and amusing!) pedagogical technique.

    But I think it would not be wise to mistake Priesthood for a master’s course in theology or philosophy. From personal experience I can attest that this is a common and predictable mistake among lawyers and philosophers.

    Which is my long way of asking the author–do you suppose your argument about Nephi is the sort of argument that is likely to strengthen the testimony of the average Priesthood attendee, who is not present in hopes of becoming a scholar of textual deconstruction but merely in hopes renewing a bit of faith? Does it really surprise you when the simple, honest people around you find little to value in questioning established interpretations when they are in a place explicitly built to propagate and reinforce established interpretations? What, exactly, did you expect to teach your fellow Saints? What motivated you to raise the point in that setting?

    I do not think your argument is without merit. But whether you were casting pearls before swine, or offering meat before milk, or simply being a rabble-rouser for the sake of rousing rabbles, even if you did not make any mistakes in your textual interpretation it seems to me that you still committed an error in judgment.

  59. There’s nothing like a casual swipe against lawyers and philosophers to endear a commenter to my heart. Thank you, Kenneth Pike, for that drive-by.

  60. “So in Priesthood today, I offhandedly remarked that I believe that Nephi made a mistake in killing Laban. And boy-oh did that ignite some pushback.”

    At least you didn’t accuse him of lying or murder. Oh, wait . . .

    History often repeats itself.

  61. Kenneth Pike says:

    Steve–as a lawyer who teaches undergraduate philosophy, allow me to apologize for the context-free nature of what was intended as a self-deprecating dig.

  62. That is even better, KP! Love it.

  63. We may have jumped the shark here, but Kenneth, Brock, John, and Tolsti, if Nephi shouldn’t be troubled bu killing Laban, then what sins are causing him so much aguish in 2 Nephi 4?

  64. Kenneth Pike says:

    Kevinf, you may notice with careful reading that I have laid claim to no particular assertion one way or the other about whether or not Nephi sinned or should have been troubled by killing Laban–though I think we can safely suspect that Nephi, like most non-Jesus people, committed any number of sins in his life about which to be anguished but concerning which the details are unimportant. My objection is not to careful textual engagement or even to Sam’s proposed interpretation of these particular passages, but to the approach and attitude many (ostensibly) careful readers adopt toward individuals who lack the interest or intellect required to go and do likewise. As I have suggested to Sam in a different forum, I think we should probably resist when people make moves that threaten to couple moral goodness with intellectual sophistication.

    It’s possible that Sam was not actually doing that here, but my own careful reading of the text suggested to me that he might be–hence, the commentary I have offered thus far.

  65. kevinf, sorry if you only meant for those four to respond, but my impression given the text is that they were “the temptations and sins which… so easily beset [him]” rather than a single grave sin of the distant past.

    In my mind it seems very analogous to young Joseph Smith’s feelings before and after the first vision:

    I pondered many things in my heart concerning the sittuation of the world of mankind the contentions and divi[si]ons the wicke[d]ness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the of the minds of mankind my mind become excedingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins… and I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world

    I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors… and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God. In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins.

  66. “I think we should probably resist when people make moves that threaten to couple moral goodness with intellectual sophistication.”

    Fwiw, Kenneth, that is one more thing I am positive nobody here would do or has meant to imply. Having said that, I am concerned when people couple moral goodness almost exclusively with intellectual simplicity (or equate moral depravity with intellectual sophistication and/or non-traditional interpretations of scriptural text) – and I have observed that too often in our culture.

  67. The killing of Laban has, from the time I was a child, always horrified me. I’m not sure I have an opinion as to whether it was a mistake or not to kill Laban. But I like to think that I wouldn’t have done it.

    The sword of Laban becomes the model for all of the Nephite swords that follow (2 Nephi 5:14). The slaying of Laban with his own sword is the inaugural act of lethal violence in the Book of Mormon, and in a figurative and literal sense, all of the acts of violence that follow it, culminating in the genocide of the Book of Moroni, are patterned after that first, horrific act. Kinsman against kinsman, each convinced the other is well within his rights to act as he does.

    Interestingly, the Book of Mormon is not the only sacred text to begin with the question of when, if ever, this kind of killing is justified. In the Bhagvadgita, Arjun, balks at the idea of slaying his kinsmen:

    “Krishna, as I behold, come here to shed
    Their common blood, yon concourse of our kin,
    My members fail, my tongue dries in my mouth,
    A shudder thrills my body, and my hair
    Bristles with horror; from my weak hand slips
    Gandîv, the goodly bow; a fever burns
    My skin to parching; hardly may I stand
    The life within me seems to swim and faint;
    Nothing do I foresee save woe and wail!
    It is not good…. Krishna! If they be
    Guilty, we shall grow guilty by their deaths;
    Their sins will light on us….
    Better I deem it, if my kinsmen strike,
    To face them weaponless, and bare my breast
    To shaft and spear, than answer blow with blow.”

    To which speech, Krishna (the avatar of Vishnu, Hinduism’s preserver/savior member of the trinity) responds with quite the dressing-down of Arjun. He reminds him that all life is in God’s hands and that the mortal understanding of life and death is very limited. He also says, “If, knowing thy duty and thy task, thou bidd’st / Duty and task go by—that shall be sin!”

    In many interpretations of the text, Arjun’s dilemma becomes a test of obedience—will he or won’t he perform his duty?

    As in Nephi’s account in the Book of Mormon, he does, with the calamitous consequences he foresaw.

    To me, the true heroes of the Book of Mormon, aren’t the Nephis the Captain Mormons and the Moronis. The people who truly understand are the Anti-Nephi-Lehies. It is a pivotal and defining moment in the text and represents a way to end what Nephi began when he first took up Laban’s sword. By burying their swords, and baring their breasts to shaft and spear, the Anti-Nephi-Lehies emphatically and absolutely renounced their culture and heritage of violence. It’s a feat unmatched anywhere in scripture, and reflects an understanding and a sensitivity that I would argue was far, far ahead of its time.

    I would hope, that should I find myself in Nephi or Arjun’s circumstances, I would remember the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and Gandhi and our Savior, and turn my back on lethal violence, whatever the cost.

  68. “And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban…”

    Nephi doesn’t want to kill the man, but the Holy Spirit forces him to do it. In the New Testament Paul says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. But in the Book of Mormon, the fruit of the Spirit is also murder.

  69. Linuxgal, have you read the rest of the Bible? Agree or not with the action, it’s not a uniquely Book of Mormon thing – and the Old Testament (the time period of the story) contains FAR worse (and multiple) examples than this.

  70. Ray, I think you misunderstand me. I wholeheartedly believe Nephi told the truth in his account. My first post reflected the logical conclusion of Sam’s “starting points” that he never spelled out: if Nephi sinned, then he lied about what happened and covered up the true events in his record by putting the “blame” (if you will) for his action on the Holy Spirit. That opens up a whole can of worms: how trustworthy is the rest of Nephi’s account? What else did he lie about? If Nephi lied, what were the ramifications for the entire Nephite civilization? Why would Mormon include the small plates in the Golden Plates if Nephi lied? Why would God allow such a pernicious lie to be perpetuated through the translation process in Joseph Smith’s day? If Nephi lied, and the entire Nephite civilization was based on lies, then is there even a point in really searching the scriptures for subtle nuances?

    I believe that the ultimate end result of thinking that Nephi sinned in killing Laban is believing that he lied about his actions that night and the reasoning for them, therefore throwing the entire Book of Mormon account into suspicion. It is a belief that would needlessly compromise a person’s testimony and faith in the Book of Mormon as useful scripture, and would skew the message a person received from it.

  71. melodynew says:

    Thank you, Leona. I personally do not believe that God has at any time instructed anyone to kill another living soul. Ever.

    Two days ago I met a gentleman who told me about a near death experience he’d had. The all-encompassing message he returned with was that no one has the right to end an other’s life. No one has the right to interrupt the connection between one living soul and another. And every living soul is connected to someone – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons. We belong to each other. This particular person’s feeling even extended to killing animals. He said, “I had thousands of dollars worth of guns. I sold every one. And have never had the least desire to kill again. For any reason.” It reminded me of the Anti-Nephi-Lehi story. And that this man had no more desire to do evil, but to do good continually.

    Of course, this simple explanation doesn’t make for a lengthy or protracted or scholarly discussion, but it rings true for me. I can’t say what motivated Nephi to kill Laban, but I can say with confidence: it wasn’t God.

  72. Ray, the missionaries used the same tact when we brought this up, referring to Samuel and the Amelekites. But I think this angle fails for a fundamental reason. Nephi justifies the murder to himself thus: “I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law. And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.” God had set Lehi apart from the rest of the Jews to avoid the coming destruction, because, like Noah, he was a righteous and blameless man. What was righteousness before the coming of Christ? Obedience to the Law. That means, logically, that Lehi either had his own copy of the Law of Moses on a scroll like everyone else, or he knew the Law by heart and could write a new scroll. But no, God has him send his son to kill Laban and steal the plates of brass with the Law of Moses, because otherwise they could not “keep the commandments of the Lord”, two of which are, ironically, Thou Shalt Not Steal, and Thou Shalt Not Kill.

  73. Matthew, I didn’t misunderstand you. I simply disagree.

    “That means, logically, that Lehi either had his own copy of the Law of Moses on a scroll like everyone else, or he knew the Law by heart and could write a new scroll.”

    Linusgal, we disagree about that – and if you really think this story is worse than all the killing stories in the Old Testament that are recorded as having been commanded by God, I don’t know what to say.

  74. Sorry, I mistyped “Linuxgal”.

    To elaborate just a bit, the record itself says Lehi wanted to have the history of his people, not just a scroll with the highlights of the Law. I can’t see any way to read a desire for a scroll into the account. It simply isn’t there, explicitly or implicitly.

    Also, to make it perfectly plain, the original command to Lehi was NOT to steal the record, nor was it to kill to get it. All that was commanded initially was to “obtain” the plates. They asked for them, and Laban turned them down. They tried to buy them, and Laban stole their possessions. Finally, Nephi found Laban passed out drunken and, after struggling with what to do, killed him and took the record.

    As I said in a previous comment, there are very solid legal arguments, based on the law of that time, that the killing was not murder – and just as solid arguments that taking the plates was not theft. Good arguments can be made either way, but the record doesn’t say God commanded theft – and the question in the post is whether or not God commanded the death.

    It isn’t a simple question, as the comment thread shows.

  75. I gather that some of you are doctors and maybe attorneys and other such types of professionals. I am not anything of the sort. So while my effort will absolutely not satisfy expert analysis, if you will please be gentle I will attempt to build, using my limited understanding and probable weak use of terminologies for what is the issue with the analysis of 2 Nephi 4 against the Nephi / Laban scenario.

    I am very thorough in my presentations because I am not only expressing my thoughts on a subject but I am illustrating how the spirit guided my understanding. It is what I call marshaling my witnesses.

    No one who understands the significance and necessity of listening to expert testimony would choose instead a scenario that favored personal opinion, hearsay or false witness. To do so would be at best to simply have the case thrown out of court and at worst find none willing to employ one who knew not the means of producing a good case with valid witnesses. And again I am out of my comfort zone discussing even a semblance of legalese but it is my best effort.

    I have illustrated multiple times the witnesses that are linked to the Nephi / Laban scenario. They are called up and located by the associations that can be found in the actual narrative.

    In the church we have established the criteria for witnesses that validate our doctrine as prophets and apostles whether they be those recorded in scripture or those which are living in this dispensation. If one was to take the time just to learn the mandate of how the Law of witnesses applies to matters spiritual it forever alters ones efforts. There is never any legitimacy to personal contrivance, opinion or subjective bias in truth from the scriptures unless you can marshal valid witnesses to testify to your case.

    There is a set of valid rules for boundaries on our efforts of scripture analysis. They are as stringent and mandated for observance as any legal case. If you know the rules then your efforts will attract the respect and support of others skilled in this art. If one does not know the rules they will only impress other neophytes who have no greater skill and place so little value on scriptural case development and standards for accomplishing such that they remain but children speaking to children. It is not my intent to be insulting but simply to extol the fact that we should not approach the study of our salvation with any less diligence, though it warrants much more, that we would approach our livelihoods.

    Finally to get to the answer of the question that KevinF asks:

    “if Nephi shouldn’t be troubled by killing Laban, then what sins are causing him so much aguish in 2 Nephi 4?”

    I can find no witnesses that tie Nephi’s lament of the slaying of Laban to 2nd Nephi 4: The methods to do so have been illustrated in my other comments. These include no common phraseology, no common symbolism, no other witnesses to call to bear on this claim indicating how Nephi suffered the remainder of his days for his part in the murder of Laban. There is nothing that you can put on the witness stand to verify your musings. The gavel slams down and the judge throws the case out of court for lack of witness testimony and evidence to sustain the charge.

    However, I can find probably 8 witness that explain what he is saying in Second Nephi 4. I’ll put that together and send it in a bit.

  76. “It is not my intent to be insulting.”

    If you say so. Passive-agression generally isn’t intended, either.

  77. Bear in mind, I am not going as far as Sam has gone and calling the death of Laban as a sin, but in reading about Nephi’s character and actions of his youthful life, as recalled some 40 years later, I have a hard time imagining Nephi being troubled so deeply about many other things. At this point in his narrative, he has already seen the division of his family into warring nations, and had been forced to take other lives in defense of his part of the family. He’s had to take up Laban’s sword, the very instrument that he used to kill the first time, but this time to fight off and likely kill members of his own family. It is not difficult to see Nephi struggling with seeing his sins, perhaps pride and arrogance among them, of having led to such a traumatic self analysis. He exults ultimately in what might be his only defense, that he tried to always do the will of his Father in Heaven, and throws himself on the mercy of the Savior through the atonement, as his only chance at redemption. How much may he have felt that Laman and Lemuel’s rebellion and hard-heartedness were aggravated by his own reactions. He already had a bad relationship with his older brothers. How must they have felt when they saw Nephi was capable of killing in cold blood? They have just beaten him and Sam severely until they are interrupted by divine intervention, and then Nephi returns with the plates of brass, Laban’s clothing and servant, and bearing Laban’s bloody sword. They must have been terrified of Nephi from that point on.

    Remember, Nephi is telling this narrative. Surely, he was bound on the ship during the storm because his brothers rejected the Lord, he reasons. But did Laman and Lemuel bind Nephi because they were afraid of him? Did they plot to kill him, which caused Nephi and his family and friends to flee, because they thought he might do the same to them? We don’t know these answers, and can only guess, reason, and try to figure things out. Perhaps it is only in his old age that Nephi is capable of confronting these memories and deal with them by justifying his actions to his posterity. But it all seems to start with the killing of Laban, introducing bloodshed and violence that make up so much of the Book of Mormon narrative.

    Similarly, Mormon as editor had the whole range of Nephite history before him. He decided to let Nephi’s account stand as written, with no apparent editing, unlike most of the rest of the Book of Mormon. Perhaps we are to take Nephi as he presents himself, a spectacular visionary in the best sense, and also a man so troubled by his past that can barely contain his grief and anguish. It’s a narrative punctuated by violence and bloodshed, and perhaps Nephi’s struggle is meant to prepare us for the whole bloody story to follow.

  78. Ray it appears that you are no longer really interested in the dialogue. As well it appears that you are no longer, if you were, contemplating the strong evidences presented to counter poor understanding and interpretation.

    I know that sometimes people are sensitive to boldness. I assure you were you to counsel me on an area of expertise that you have that I would have to sit down takes notes and play the role of student. I probably have no clue how to do many of the things you do well. If I wanted to learn, I would have to swallow any pride, that a probable much younger person, was telling me how to get things done.

    You may think I am just participating for the heck of it and my zealousness is misplaced on a subject of such limited importance. I assure you I am not. The church is suffering and in many cases it is simply that an ever increasing number are creating God’s of their own image and interpretations of their own prejudices. They do not seek God’s interpretations as they have no need – they can provide their own.

    Forgive me if you would for the 200 things you can document for why you find occasion to be unsettled by my approach or simply by my presentation style. Teach me were I am wrong and I will research and study out and seek insight on the matter. However, if you hope to persuade me at all I have to challenge you to present something more than what you considered for about ten minutes after reading the OP. I have put thousands of hours into understanding the scriptures, they are most precious to me. Show me where I miss the point and I will listen. If it fits I will thank you, if it does not I will illustrate clearly from the words of the prophets and scripture why I cannot find common ground. It is an honest adult conversation we are trying to have here and I hope you will continue to participate with valuable insight.

    I have read all of your links to things you have posted. It is obvious you take some pride in your efforts. For the most part I find common ground in much of what you say. Most of it has not applied to this issue of Nephi and Laban but I can sense that in may ways you are not a supporter of the OP. However, in the words of Boyd K. Packer, it is apparent also that you have not yet determined “which way you face” a reference to this talk found at this location:

    http://www.zionsbest.com/face.html

    It wasn’t until the third or fourth time that I read it and it made sense what he was saying. It forever solidified my place in the Gospel, I know which way I face, imperfectly but with anticipation that I will continue to improve.

  79. “it is apparent also that you have not yet determined “which way you face”

    Brock, I think you are a good, sincere, faithful person. I mean that. I also think your last two responses here are judgmental and misguided – and they come across as incredibly condescending. (If you doubt that, read them as if someone else had written them to you. I am sure you will see what I mean.) Your analysis of me is incorrect – but you don’t know me at all, so I understand that.

    If we were to talk in person, this conversation probably would be very different.

    God bless you on your journey.

  80. Starting let’s isolate the verses that represent Nephi’s lament and seem to be the basis of the claim that he is lamenting slaying Laban as one of his many sins which prompts this sorrowful plee.
    2 Nephi 4:17-18, 27
    …O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth BECAUSE OF MY FLESH; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
    18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
    27 And why should I yield to sin, BECAUSE OF MY FLESH? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, THAT THE EVIL ONE HAVE PLACE IN MY HEART TO DESTROY MY PEACE AND AFFLICT MY SOUL? Why am angry because of mine enemy?
    Clearly, Nephi is fostering a foundation for his concerns as being the result of conditions that his flesh imposes on him. I’m not sure how to emphasize in this forum format so the all caps is all I can do.
    In addition, he describes how the evil one has a place in his heart as a result of having given way to temptations. There is a pattern for this description and in fact it is Lehi who provides a probable educational reference in his dying words in 2 Nephi 2:
    2 Nephi 2:29
    And not choose eternal death, according to the WILL OF THE FLESH and THE EVIL WHICH IS THEREIN, which GIVETH THE SPIRIT OF THE DEVIL POWER TO CAPTIVATE, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.
    A further scriptural reference that adds greatly to the principle about which Nephi is lamenting is this one from the Joseph Smith translation:
    JST Romans 7:26 And if I subdue not the sin which is in me, but with the flesh serve the law of sin; O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
    To finalize, it is clear that Nephi’s lament is concerning the effects of the mortal tabernacle to be a stumbling block to his effort to draw nearer to God. He sorrowfully laments that it’s influence continues to overwhelm him from time to time.
    Finally, I add my personal perceptions. When I was young I focused on my more grievous transgressions as the focus of my efforts to becoming a better person. I felt if these big things were conquered I was on my way. I have since learned that though those things appear to be behind me, my increased sensitivity to my offensive nature finds my formerly not even on my radar evils have become as significant as any of what I perceived my more grievous. They sadden me, I suffer from time to time realizing I’m not where I wish I was. Which sorrow causes me to come round and rejoice that Christ has provided the means that I can eventually get where I need to be and in the meantime be grateful for all he does. I understand precisely what Nephi is lamenting in 2 Nephi 4 and it is purely the multitude of various weaknesses and sinful behaviors that we recognize in ourselves – to many to list.

  81. I read a book recently by James Fallon – Not my usual fair but a friend talked me into it. It is called The Psychopath Inside. One brief portion of the Amazon description:

    The Psychopath Inside tells the fascinating story of Fallon’s reaction to the discovery that he has the brain of a psychopath. While researching serial murderers, he uncovered a distinct neurological pattern in their brain scans that helped explain their cold and violent behavior. A few months later he learned that he was descended from a family with a long line of murderers which confirmed that Fallon’s own brain pattern wasn’t a fluke.

    He then examines the realities that there are psychopaths all around and many excel in powerful positions that benefit from such detachments. I took a test that supposedly showed potential. I’m a 60% or so psychopath. It’s kind of fun but it may explain some nuances of my tendencies.

    However, you state that I should read my last two posts as if someone had written them to me. I have known very few people who were not constrained by the false paradigm that to be honest is to be condescending. I would cherish knowing more people than my few true friends who care enough about me as to be concerned enough to be honest with me. Even though your responses for the past few have been mostly snips and snipes, it does not affect me in the least.

    I invite you to be as honest with me as you like. It appears that I don’t have enough emotional intelligence to know when I should be offended and perhaps that is a weakness that makes me offensive to those who expect a gentler approach. I really have improved though. This is not the first time I have battled this exact same misinterpretation of who is Nephi and why it is simplistic to take a stance that killing is always bad and a sinful behavior when so much in scripture educates to more accurate understanding.

    Best of Luck Ray … may the force be with you.

  82. I would like to hear more; but would you be better understood, that I go backward a bit and see your angle from another view. My reasoning comes from interest I found in the previous.

  83. Sorry I read fast and did comprehend – Yes I agree The Book of Mormon has bee condensed
    and much left out in which the instructions have be altered just like all the other versions of the True Instructions. Men have some sort of inner ego that allows for a weakness of wanting to have the last word, Religion especially. I am also well read in the Book of the Morman. In reading the similarities follow through most Religious Readings, such as Budaism or Hindu
    The names are close but the stories change and in doing so a TRUTH is noticed. That TRUTH is well known, but even those who Worship Satin and even those who worship nothing.
    I am not going to leave you hanging but people males have always had the drive to place blame; just like Adam. Some of the millions pieces of information there is One Book hidden away. Hopefully ‘soon’ it will be revealed. We all know not hurting another is best and if someone needs help (I am disappointed to realise) so few do not have the attitude “Well I made mine, you should have done the same.” That is not what is in the book. I will continue until I die believing nice to one another is the right message and judging is none of our business, I am talking to you to Islam. I believe Mohammad is not pleased with all this Violence.

  84. Is there something about the middle of May that causes us to revisit Nephi’s encounter with Laban? There was a pretty thorough discussion started by John C of whether Nephi was justified in his actions and how he felt about it on this blog about this time last year. Much of that content / context doesn’t seem to be referenced here.

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2013/05/16/actually-reading-nephi/

  85. I also seem to remember that that conversation looked a lot of different angles than discussed here (and probably vice versa). I actually tried to post that same link, but it’s still stuck in moderation for some reason.

    Here are the other two links I tried to post (see if it works this time):

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=16&num=1&id=430

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=1&num=1&id=621

  86. I read and followed this thread with great interest. Here’s a summary of valid points and sloppy points made by many commenters (which I use, of course, to support the narrative I fully believe in):

    1. Not only did He issue a command to Lehi, but God had a vested interest in this mission as evidenced by angelic intervention at a time Nephi was being beaten. God knew that Nephi was indispensable to the success of the mission and used the visitation to point-blank inform the brothers that he would one day be their ruler.

    2. When exactly Nephi became a prophet is not really important to the narrative. He will receive many more visions and revelations, which are not usually granted to men who perform evil deeds. A vastly talented individual, Nephi is clearly endowed, even from his youth, with many spiritual gifts (determination, exact obedience, recognition of the Lord’s Spirit, never say die attitude, etc.) and he will be the Lord’s instrument on many occasions.

    3. The Spirit did not “force” Nephi to kill Laban. He always had free agency, but he was persuaded as he and the Spirit “reason[ed] together” the necessity of slaying Laban.

    4. Nephi serves as a type of Christ who shrinks to commit a horrible deed, but is willing to do the Father’s will.

    5. Laban is also a Christ type. He is the sacrificial lamb that will preserve the spiritual lives of thousands and millions of God’s children.

    6. Nephi clearly intended to disguise himself and, though we are not privy to the details, he slays Laban in a manner intended to prevent donning blood-smeared clothes.

    7. There is no evidence to support that Nephi’s actions effectively “slammed the door” on any possibility of returning to Jerusalem. There was only one witness (Zoram) and he became their traveling companion. They do return a few weeks later to collect Ishmael’s family. And, as Nephi continually reminded them, Jerusalem would soon be destroyed anyway.

    8. The Law of Moses consisted of all kinds of sacrifices/offerings. There is no evidence to support that Nephi offered up a sin offering or repentance offering after returning to his family.

    9. There is no evidence to support that Nephi was agonized by the slaying of Laban. He actually has bigger fish to fry. Can you think of a greater trauma than witnessing a vision that reveals the near-total annihilation of your own posterity (1 Nephi 14:5 and 2 Nephi 26:7)? I certainly can’t! Aside from this and his own annoying weaknesses, I seriously doubt Nephi was burdened by the death of a psychopathic relative (also a child of God) who God told him to kill.

    10. Because of Nephi’s obedience to the Spirit of the Lord, entire nations—the Nephites and Lamanites—as well as millions of Latter-day Saints in this dispensation—have been blessed by his possessing the Brass Plates. No wonder God was vastly invested in the success of the mission!

    For what it is worth, here is a sonnet that I wrote some years ago on this very incident:

    He stumbled through dark corridors unseen
    With naught but faith to light his path unknown;
    His nervous footsteps tread the silent scene
    Then spotted him—the knave—sprawled out on stone,
    In armor decked, exposed, and vulnerable.
    A jeweled scabbard caught the prophet’s eye
    As he unsheathed the sword ethereal,
    “Slay him,” the Spirit hushed. Cried he, “Not I.
    Man’s blood I never shed. How can I now?”
    “He lies prepared for you–a sacrifice,”
    The Voice intoned, “His end you must allow
    That waiting nations may be sanctified.”
    He thus obeyed, pure history preserved,
    For generations blessings rich secured.

  87. The trouble is, killing Laban wasn’t the first act of violence in the BoM. The people were going to kill Lehi (so his family had to flee) Laban threatened to kill Lamen. Up until this point The Lehi family was completely pacifist and even Nephi’s tendency was to be pacifist to the point nearly rejecting Gods will.

    We’d be happier I suppose if Nephi strolled in in daylight and said God told me to take the plates, and Laban said, “you and what army” and along came an army of angels on flaming chariots fighting Nephis battle. But the way things happened not only allowed Nephis faith to be strengthened by whole trusting in the Lord, but gives us an opportunity to strengthen our faith by trusting in the word of the Lord. No coincidence that Nephi goes on to relate the iron rod story.

    All that being said, I do appreciate this post for pointing out the great under currents in the text. The BoM was predicated on violence (destruction of Lehi, Laban, Jersualem) and ends with violence (the destruction of a people to the point of them being virtually erased from history).

    I can look back and wonder, “what if Nephi said, ‘I’ll take the plates by slay no man’ would the foundation of nonviolence create a people more like the people of Ammon. Christ was a pacifist in life and his mission was to die. The same might be said for the people of Ammon. Could the same be said of us?

    This is where I get interested in the subject because I could lean either way depending on the day. Would you fight for the Jew to be saved from Auschwitz? Would Christ? Should you? How many Jewish women were being raped by Romans that Christ didn’t defend when he could have. Surely he saved them, but not in the way we we might desire in their moment of grief. Is that an error in our judgement or his?

    I’m not willing to call this example of Nephi a mistake. But I do see it as a much deeper issue than portrayed. Of course all life and suffering must be when you consider God could end immediately it but doesn’t.

  88. My scriptural reference should read 1 Nephi 15:5–not 14:5–and 2 Nephi 26:7.

  89. In chapter five the sons of Lehi return to him with the brass plates, which stops his wife from murmuring against her own husband. Lehi examines the plates: “And he beheld that they did contain the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents…” Unfortunately for Joseph Smith, he failed to realize that in 600 BCE the Jewish scribe Ezra had not yet compiled the Pentateuch into the form we know today from the source documents, and even well after the Exile they used the singular form the “book of Moses” or the “law of Moses”, as we read here: Nehemiah 13:1 “On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever…”

  90. As an adult, I’ve often wondered why, if Laban was so drunk he let a guy cut off his head, Nephi couldn’t have just let him be and stolen the plates while he was unconscious. I mean, it’s not like the guy was waking up any time soon. And when he did, it probably would have taken him a while to realize the plates were missing. But that’s Monday morning quarterbacking, I guess.

  91. Angela C says:

    Personally, I would have used the Vulcan death grip, but just enough to knock him out, not kill him.

  92. Angela C says:

    One more quibble: why not take his clothes off BEFORE you cut his head off? Otherwise, they would be covered in blood, right?

  93. Not necessarily, Angela. One clean cut, with the blood spouting away from the body, especially if he was lying on the ground and positioned even slightly downhill . . .

    In farm and dairy country, people learn how to cut off animals’ heads without blood spattering. Nephi wouldn’t have had to know how to make it happen without covering the clothes in blood in order for it to happen.

    Finally, as to the question of why kill him, Laban might have thought immediately of their family if he had realized the plates were gone – since they had tried twice to get them in the very recent past. If he had made that connection, there is a good chance he could have run them down and killed them fairly easily. However, if he was out late regularly and passed out drunk (which seems like a reasonable conclusion), and if his head was hidden away from the body (which also is reasonable), it might have taken longer to identify him, there might have been a lot of “I told him so” responses with any number of suspects – and others might not have thought of the family, especially with Zoram gone. Suspicion probably would have centered on Zoram, giving the family time to escape that they might not have had with a living Laban.

    No matter how we view the killing itself, there are very good practical reasons for killing Laban and doing so by cutting off his head.

  94. Practical reasons for killing. That’s one heck of a selling point for your faith tradition.

  95. Right, Ray. There may well have been practical reasons for Nephi’s doing what he did, and doing it how he did it. But practical or not, killing Laban raises huge, huge, enormous ethical and religious questions, and saying, It was justified because the Spirit told him to do it, essentially sidesteps those questions. I don’t think we’re supposed to be able to find a pat moral here; I think, rather, that it is supposed to make us uncomfortable, make us grapple with ideas of morality and duty and obedience and consequences. And, in my reading, Nephi did grapple with the after-effects of his decision. And I think that’s the right answer.

  96. I agree, Sam – completely. By talking about practical reasons, I did not try to imply they automatically make the action right or moral or anything else. That’s why I said, “No matter how we view the killing itself.”

    Linuxgal, again, if you think this story is worse than multiple Biblical stories, I have no adequate response. None.

    Also, I didn’t try to pitch the practical reasons as a selling point. If you are going to reject a faith tradition in a forum where people with that traditional discuss things, at least be consistent (not quoting the Bible to reject a story like this when there are FAR worse stories in it) and try to limit your criticism to things people actually say.

  97. Maybe it’s because I’ve raised a son and watched the turmoil of his youth and his adult internal struggles and still consider him one of the best men on the planet (not perfect by any means, but with a heart that desires to do good continually, even if sometimes he doesn’t have a clue). But I just don’t see the problem with Nephi sinning, or mistaking his own thoughts as the voice of The Spirit, or recalling events through his Nephi-brain filter 40 years after they happened. This is Nephi, not Christ.

    Saul/Paul. Alma the younger and the sons of Helaman. The people of Nineveh. Moses.
    Ebenezer Scrooge, Jean Val Jean, Earl.

    Sin, enlightenment, repentance, redemption. Not just A story, it’s THE story. The stuff of life, the plan of salvation, the reason we have a Savior.

  98. Earlier in your OP you make this observation concerning your own perspectives of your qualifications for scriptural analysis:

    “One is, we’re not necessarily educated in the close reading of scripture. I’m certainly not; I am, however, educated in the close reading of literature (from my undergrad) and of statutes, regulations, and administrative guidance (from my profession). So I try to import those skills to my scripture-reading.”

    Several of us have illustrated that your concerns are not our concerns. We are trained by the spirit, to be very exacting in our close readings of the scriptures. We express no expectations that using the tools of men received through education in the institutions of men is of any profit in analyzing, understanding or discerning the word of God; or that somehow the random tools of our various livelihoods will benefit our capacity to discern the spirit of God unless we seek that spirit first.

    I point this out in part for Ray, because he expects me to be obnoxious and the entertainment value ups your readership and hopefully some of our scriptural based perspectives provides a better alternative for some to consider upon than your theories. However, my point is how can you be so frank, as to your lack of qualifications and obvious willingness to use anything it seems besides, diligent spiritual preparation, diligent study and diligent prayer? Lacking these efforts how can you maintain such a strong front supporting your theories based on an admitted inadequate skill set?.

    I’m candid because I want to be precisely understood and in no way would I intentionally ignore a serious flawed perspective just to be societally acceptable. As well, I really don’t care how people generally interpret their doctrinal perspectives. However what affects me on this perspective is it is not simply a difference in opinion on how you or I might differ in understanding a point of doctrine, this perspective is a dangerous paradigm shift that undermines faith, undermines the brilliance of scripture as a perfect tool to teach us how to become like the Savior and destructive of developing confidence in the servants of the Lord. It creates serious apathy and flawed principles upon which to understand the Lord and his servants. This is serious serious business.

    My point in this my most probable last entry on this thread (no tears please) is that when someone expresses they are not adequately tooled to make such definitive assessments of scriptural interpretation. When they virtually admit they have not sought the will of the Lord to understand his word but instead have relied upon the thoughts of Grant Hardy,( I wrote Grant Palmer at first, glad I caught that one as that would be a serious charge to level) Bushman and Sunstone (Sunstone, really?) to be their guide It would appear that the greater concern is not to rectify your lack of skills in close reading of scripture but is instead to defend yourself to the death in spite of having several examples from several contributors to your thread that show you exactly the skill set you lament lacking…and I suspect may lack for some years unless you review with introspection what I am plainly speaking in hopes that I may hit a chord. Truly I hope you will reconsider the perspectives you hold on the flimsy value of scriptures, truth and trusting the word of the Lord to represent the Lord’s will.

    Please reconsider prayerfully and actually take one of these resources that has posted here with truer understanding – follow their efforts, read and ponder the paths they have outlined and divorce yourself of your preconceived notions. Please.

  99. “Familiarity with its narrative is certainly enough for Primary kids but as we get older knowing the plot starts to become insufficient.”

    The narrative alone teaches the principles of courage, obedience, patience, repentance, recognizing the spirit when it speaks, and the importance of developing a personal relationship with the Savior. The narrative contains what is necessary to bring us to exaltation. I appreciate those who are scriptorians, as they bring to light many interesting points. Several of the comments on this post have been very informative. Our journey in this life is not an intellectual journey. It is a spiritual journey.

  100. Marcia, while you’re certainly right that this life is a spiritual journey, it’s not solely a spiritual journey. It is also, among other things, a physical journey (among other things, our ordinances are deeply and unrepentantly physical), intellectual (see, e.g., JS’s working to learn Hebrew or the constant encouragement to get as much education as we can), emotional, etc. I haven’t seen any scriptural or prophetic injunction to ignore any of these facets of our life journey.

  101. The ultimate command is to become perfect, which is interpreted in our scriptural footnotes to mean “complete, whole, fully developed”. Any time we ignore one or more aspects of our complex souls to focus exclusively on only one aspect, no matter what that aspect is, we move away from the path toward perfection. That is true of “pure intellectualism”, but it is equally true of “pure spiritualism”.

    I believe the same concept applies to how we view and treat others. Any time we constrain someone else (like, in this case, Nephi – or prophets, generally) into a narrow stereotype (e.g., he was a Christ-type, so he had to be a paragon of virtue who never did anything wrong that was, you know, actually serious) and deny their full humanity, we force them, conceptually, off of the path that includes repentance and real, human growth and rob them of what makes them uniquely human.

    OldJen said it beautifully:

    “Sin, enlightenment, repentance, redemption. Not just A story, it’s THE story. The stuff of life, the plan of salvation, the reason we have a Savior.”

    Ultimately, I don’t know the actual status of Nephi’s action and exactly how it should be characterized – but I do know that automatically assuming it was 100% the correct choice because he later became a prophet and, therefore, it had to be 100% the correct choice, because, you know, future prophets (especially one that someone views as a Christ-type) never make mistakes that actually are really bad . . . That is wrong – plainly and simply wrong.

    If the stories of Moses, Alma the Younger, Saul of Tarsus and others teach us nothing else, they ought to teach us that. If the story of Nephi teaches us nothing else, it ought to teach us, as kevinf said so well, that killing someone might not result in the envisioned end, even if that envisioned end seems to be (or even is) the product of revelation – and doing so probably will haunt us the rest of our lives.

  102. Of course there are many facets to our journey, but the overarching goal in our journey is our spiritual growth that leads us back to our Heavenly Father. Without a spiritual focus intellectual, emotional and physical growth is without substance and a journey wasted I am not quite sure what you mean by the temple ordinances themselves as being “deeply and unrepentantly physical”. If you mean the actual performance of the ordinances in the temple are physicial I agree, but the focus of those ordinances are deeply based in spirituality. The reality of the Spirit’s role in your analysis of the killing of Laban was missing.

  103. It’s perfectly possible for an imperfect human being to act as a Christ figure. Just look at the prostitute character in Crime and Punishment! That one really threw my high school class through loops lol.

  104. I know I’m a little late to the party here, but one point that appears to be missing from Brock’s analysis is that it does not account for section 98. Section 98 is similar to the old testament rules about the permissible killing of an enemy that has been delivered into one’s hands, and in fact, the lord in section 98 even expressly says that this is the same law that he gave to Nephi. But one important difference between what the spirit says to Nephi in Nephi’s account, and what the lord says to Joseph Smith in section 98, is that section 98 says only that you are “justified” in killing an enemy that has sought your life and has been delivered into your hands, not that you are required to. In fact, section 98 appears to suggest that the more righteous choice is to exercise mercy and spare your enemy. But the spirit does not give any such option to Nephi–even though the Lord says in section 98 that it is the “same law” that he gave to Nephi. So there is a difference between what Nephi says the spirit told him and what the lord, according to Joseph Smith, says he told Nephi.

    That difference suggests to me that Nephi was not totally off the reservation, but that perhaps he didn’t perfectly interpret the spirit’s promptings either. That is, perhaps the spirit did prompt him that he was justified in taking Laban’s life, but did not actually “constrain” him to do so, and Nephi mistook his own anxiety for his and his brothers’ life (i.e. if he doesn’t kill him, just steals his clothes and identity and gets the plates and takes off, then what happens when Laban wakes up naked and hungover the next morning, and goes and gets his 50 armed servants to pursue them?) for the spirit telling him that he HAD to kill Laban. Certainly I would not hold it against Nephi if he had a hard time telling the difference between his own feelings and the Holy Ghost, because I’m not so good at it myself.

  105. But obviously, Nephi’s real problem was that, like Feanor and his sons, he swore an unbreakable oath by the life of God himself to obtain the plates at any cost. So when asking nicely for them didn’t work, he was pretty much doomed to take them by force since breaking such an oath is not really an option. That’s right, folks, the brass plates are the silmarils. (And obviously, the sword of Laban is the ring of power—do you think it’s just a coincidence that when Nephi draws the sword, he describes the blade as “most precious”?)

  106. Feanor definitely would have benefited from Jesus’ command not to swear oaths. Sadly, he lived before Jesus started teaching. Way, way before Jesus. :)

  107. Chris M says:

    Brock, where may I find more of your posts or find a way to have future contact?

  108. Terry H says:

    That reminds me of an experience I had with a friend of mine. We used to have a long commute to and from work. During one of our drives we were discussing 2 Nephi 2. He was describing something (I can’t remember what) and said, “And here’s where Lehi is wrong.” Within a few seconds, he stopped and looked at me, incredulous that he’d said that (or at least said that out loud). I looked back and we both laughed, not saying anymore about the comment but continuing our discussion. This man is a faithful, thoughtful student of the scriptures whose profession requires him to engage deeply in arguments. I took the statement for what it was, which was a serious engagement with the arguments of Lehi. I wish more of us would read the scriptures that deeply. I could certainly do better. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a “testimony” . . . far from it.

  109. Drome McKauliff says:

    This is a simple matter if you look at it from a Law of Moses standpoint:

    • Stealing, killing (or attempting to kill) were punishable by death
    • There was no police to enforce the Law of Moses; it was the responsibility of the offended (or next of kin) to enforce the law. If there was doubt about whether or not punishment was legitimate, a suspect could flee to the temple and hold to the mercy seat.
    • Laban stole from Nephi and then tried to kill him.
    • Nephi was constrained by the spirit to obey the Law of Moses. Note that he said: I’ve never done this before! Not: but that’s unlawful! It’s because Nephi knew that it was lawful.

    That viewpoint also explains the first few “failed” attempts: they set the stage for Nephi’s legitimate act.

  110. Ray, You are the only one that claims that a Christ-type–in this case, Nephi–is “a paragon of virtue who can do no wrong” and “never makes any mistakes.” No one else is making that claim here. A Christ-type can be anyone or anything in the story that symbolizes or points readers/listeners to Christ. Scriptures are replete with Christ-types. Willful Jonah was a Christ-type while inside the whale for 3 days, wicked Laban is a Christ-type in the OP narrative, serpent on a stick held up by Moses, manna in the wilderness, the Liahona, etc. etc. The list goes on and we can find many more if we look for them. In fact, prophets of scripture represent a small fraction of the similitudes of Christ waiting to be discovered and pondered. To search for and find them is to open a wellspring of new thoughts and feelings relative to the Atonement and His gospel.

  111. There are a couple of assumptions in this post that I find faulty. First, that in order to have the Spirit speak to someone the must be a prophet or potential prophet.. From personal spiritual experience, to the accounts of members in my ward, to many written stories and accounts throughout church literature, the Spirit can speak to ordinary men with weaknesses, not just through feelings, but as an actual voice. At critical points in one’s life, the Spirit chooses to direct in this way. It is recognized as distinctively the Spirit and an experience to not easily be forgotten (even 40 years later). Second, it seems there is an assumption that Nephi and family would want to return to Jerusalem. Why would they want to? The Lord has spoken on the matter, telling them that a return would mean their destruction. Perhaps Laman and Lemuel might have wanted to go back, not believing the words of their father, but not Nephi. The killing of Laban ensured their return would not happen. Perhaps you might want to revisit your assumptions.

  112. I rarely comment, but I find this post very disturbing.

  113. Tiger, please read my comment more carefully.

    I don’t see Nephi as a Christ-type. I was quoting Brock (http://bycommonconsent.com/2014/05/25/the-book-of-mormon-my-testimony/#comment-329654) and saying I disagree with calling Nephi a Christ-type.

  114. I meant to add that I disagree completely with that definition of “Christ-type”. It is so broad as to lose all meaning – and it isn’t what I have heard in church for nearly 50 years. Christ-types don’t have to be perfect, but they do have to foreshadow or reflect Christ in a unique way – and calling Laban a Christ-type stretches the definition to the point that, to me, it becomes ludicrous.

    At least I can understand seeing Nephi that way, although I disagree. Laban . . . no. Doesn’t work for me.

  115. Bad few minutes. Sorry, everyone for having to write this one and make it three in a row:

    I meant in my comment specifically that I reject Brock’s description of Nephi as a Christ-type. I don’t see Nephi as a Christ-type regardless, but it was Brock’s description that I was referencing and summarizing in the comment to which Tiger referred.

  116. Ray, I have no difficulty that you do not see Nephi as a Christ type. That is a simple matter of doctrinal interpretation. People can have doctrinal differences all day long and it is of little distinction. That is not my concern with the OP it undermines multiple principles of faith, balances on a poorly obscured ledge of calling Nephi a Liar and a man filled with guile. And further it is all his opinion as he can site no valid sources to witness to his claims. It destroys the testimonies of those tempted by intellectual sophistry which claims no vaild supporting sources.

    However though you claim you have not been taught that for 50 years perhaps you could rise up to the challenge and give us something more than your opinion. I have called witness of scripture and prophets so that no one would ever just have to take my word for it. It would be foolish to consider any personal opinion as having any worth at all. What I personally interpret anything to be, is worthless, but when I link to the witnesses it gives merit to the observations.

    To bolster quickly as I’m not free for much more at the moment here is one that opens the way for perceiving Nephi as a Christ type:

    “Nephi testified that “all things which have been given of God” are types or symbols of Jesus Christ, His life, ministry, and Atonement. To the prophet Moses, the Lord declared, “All things are created and made to bear record of me” (Moses 6:63). The life and mission of Moses is a good example of how this is true. What Moses did for the Israelites in his day is an example, or pattern, of what Jesus Christ would do for all mankind. Moses was a deliverer, a savior, a lawgiver, a judge, and a guide for his people. On a far grander scale, Jesus Christ is all that and more to all of Heavenly Father’s children.

    It is not just the prophets’ lives that remind us of the Savior. Jesus Himself used many ordinary things to symbolize His role in our lives. For example, He taught that He was like bread (see John 6:35), water (see John 7:37–38), light (see John 8:12), a vine (see John 15:5), and even a hen (see Matthew 23:37). Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught: “If we had sufficient insight, we would see in every gospel ordinance, in every rite that is part of revealed religion, in every performance commanded of God, in all things Deity gives his people, something that typifies the eternal ministry of the Eternal Christ” (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [1978], 378).”

    found at this location:

    https://www.lds.org/manual/book-of-mormon-student-study-guide/2-nephi-11?lang=eng

    I think this was published within the past 50 years (2000)

    Here is another from the Jesus Christ, Types and Shadows of found at this link:http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Jesus_Christ,_Types_and_Shadows_of

    Some LDS leaders have taught that the lives of many prophets have served as types of Christ (McConkie, pp. 448-53). I don’t remember when The Messiah was published could be earlier that 50 years but probably not.

  117. Late? You are right on time – must be a wizard. Excellent observation. I don’t know if you have read all three of the primary developments that I have written. I haven’t posted the final one concerning Nephi’s receipt of the Firstborn status for obvious reasons.

    Your suggestion of considering section 98 is brilliant. I had actually forgotten it as a reference and it really does completely finish off the counter argument of Nephi being guilty of sin.

    Consider these verses:

    Doctrine and Covenants 98: 26-28

    …26 And again, if he shall smite you the third time, and ye bear it patiently, your reward shall
    be doubled unto you four-fold;

    27 And these three testimonies shall stand against your enemy if he repent not, and shall not
    be blotted out.

    28 And now, verily I say unto you, IF THAT ENEMY SHALL ESCAPE MY VENGENCE, THAT
    HE BE NOT BROUGHT INTO JUDGEMENT BEFORE ME, then ye shall see to it that ye warn
    him in my name, that he come no more upon you, neither upon your family, even your
    children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.

    The critical concern here listed is verse 28 in which I have placed a section in all caps. As I have maintained this entire time, Nephi is not acting on his behalf but as the arm of the Lord. He is not on his mission. He is on the mission of the Lord.

    Nephi is not acting here according to his desire, he has clearly pointed that out, but as I pointed out earlier in this forum with the Shrinking Nephi development, he is a Christ ( for references that Prophets are considered Christ types please see my post above to Ray) and in no way is that better illustrated than by the fact that he himself would choose not to do what is required of him but he, as Jesus Christ, is submitting his will to the will of the Lord that he may complete the assignment given him of the Lord.

    As I pointed out Laban is clearly involved in a final judgment cycle – the judgment of the Lord is being tested. The conditions of his judgment being death I define in the post above from May 25, 2014 at 6:48 pm – Death was the judgment of Laban’s own choosing. Nephi also lists the three complaints against Laban in:

    1 Nephi 4:11.

    11 And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea and I also knew that

    1.) he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and

    2.) he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and

    3.) he also had taken away our property.

    The order here is not chronological; it is hierarchal with the center being the most important. The first is his offence against Nephi the servant of God. The second is his offense against God himself and the third is the offense against Lehi’s family and is the condition that defines his chosen judgment as he decreed that as a robber he deserved to die.

    Nonetheless this dovetails perfectly with the expectations of D & C 98. Nephi is on the errand of the Lord and as such Laban does not escape the judgments of the Lord in his belligerent efforts to prevent the execution of the will of the Lord exactly as D & C 98 determines is a valid position. When you are on the Lord’s errand, you are acting as the arm of the Lord and Nephi fulfills admirably what God expects of him.

    There is one final point that D & C 98 clarifies and is in fact one that has tickled in my own mind for 7 years or so since I did most of my scriptural analysis of the Nephi and Laban scenario. For me it is a genuine pearl and has made this whole effort very worthwhile. JKC I appreciate more
    than you’ll ever know that you redirected me to this Section of the D & C.

    As well I hope that this finalizes any claim of Nephi sinning in this scenario as regardless of whether or not we agree on the specifics of D & C 98 that Nephi could have walked away or chosen other choices etc both of which I know to be wrong, but nonetheless it does pronounce him as justified and within the obunds of the Lord on that principle. .

  118. “That is not my concern with the OP it undermines multiple principles of faith, balances on a poorly obscured ledge of calling Nephi a Liar and a man filled with guile.”

    Been there; discussed and dismissed that; not going there again.

    Again, a definition of a Christ-type that includes everything is a definition with no practical meaning. If everything is a Christ-type, then everything is a Christ-type. I get that view, but I simply don’t agree with it. Laban as a Christ-type is a great example of why. I see a very basic difference between a testifier and a type, and I see Laban as neither.

    Neither of us is going to convince the other to change his view, so let’s let it drop, okay?

  119. Ray , I’m not sure if you read my last post addressing your questions of a Christ Type Analogy but I did want to say one thing. I think you have great potential. As I mentioned I have read your blog and posts on other subjects and you do okay. However, I think you are far to quick to throw out your opinion without checking to see if your opinion matches God, The prophets or the apostles of the Lord‘s comments.

    There is very little of any of what I have posted in my doctrinal treatments that is my opinion. I long ago recognized it was of no value… and so I dig , I ponder, I try to do all the things the Lord teaches that are required to get his understanding. Slow down a little bit, don’t let jerks like me get your goat so you just oppose everything they say just because you have an ogre as a mental image without even evaluating what is being said and verifying against valid witnesses.

  120. Never mind on my last post seems you have already decided. Good enough.

    Signed the Ogre

  121. Chris you can reach me at my email brlenox@gmail.com

  122. Ray , By the way you couldn’t have been quoting me…I never stated Nephi was perfect. He is a type, but all types never measure up to the perfection that is Jesus Christ.

  123. Matt Evans says:

    Sam Brunson. I like most that your article ever so slightly points, strains, perhaps even urges its reader to consider that the Book of Mormon might in fact be a primarily pacifistic text. That’s at least what I read into your claim/thought/unconsciously-verbalized-thought-during-EQ that Nephi perhaps sinned or erred in killing Laban. Clearly Nephi did the right thing in obtaining the Plates of Brass (the Mulekite narrative gives ample proof of that), but was killing Laban his only or best option? That’s a great question. As for my claim that the BoM is a pacifistic text, I believe we can take it for granted that few of the BoM’s readers would interpret the narrative that way, given the massive wall of war-text that is the Alma, and given the further fact that Mormon was himself a military general and, it seems, a veritable Mozart of warcraft. But to me, the ancient book that the Book of Mormon most closely resembles, at least in terms of artistic theme, at least in terms of narrative structure, is Beowulf. And, we can thank JRR Tolkein for the knowledge that Beowulf is, in fact, at core, a pacifistic text. I’m working on an essay on this very topic, but I haven’t finished it yet, otherwise I’d link to it.

  124. Matt, that is a very intriguing comparison. Not one that had considered.

  125. Whoso has ears to ear, let him hear.

  126. Thanks, Matt. I like that.

    Others: a bunch of you have asserted that the punishment for theft was death; where do you get that from? Because in the places I can find theft in the OT, the penalty is listed as restitution plus a punitive addition to the restitution.

    And while the Bible seems to acknowledge some private enforcement, it in fact prefers judicial procedure, not private vigilantism. So there’s that.

  127. You are correct: taking that into consideration this is what I wrote in my earlier post concerning Laban.

    In the Old Testament there are several nuances to the penalties for robbery but generally, except in the case of stealing a human being to make a slave of them, the penalty is to return and add to what was taken a measure more (5 times) than was taken or its equivalent and to make an offering of atonement as follows:

    Leviticus 6:2,4,6

    2 If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour;

    4 Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found,

    6 And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest:

    Thus what this reveals to us is that the judgment against Laban is not simply based upon the act of becoming a robber. Else wise the penalty of death would exceed the righteous judgment of a robber. Instead we must seek further to define what makes this a just judgment against Laban.
    The next element of this final judgment scenario is manifest in 1 Nephi 3:25:

    1 Nephi 3:25

    25 And it came to pass that when Laban saw our property, and that it was exceedingly great, he did lust after it, insomuch that he thrust us out, and sent his servants to slay us, that he might obtain our property.

    The brothers have returned to their home and have gathered up all of Lehi’s wealth. Apparently, an impressive cache of wealth, which when Laban saw how much they had he coveted it. Therefore, he calls his guard and has them attempt to slay the brothers who run off and find safety. In this exchange, what actually occurs is that Laban becomes the robber and he attempts to murder the 3 brothers. So now Laban has already informed us of what his judgment is towards a robber. In his mind they are to be slain.

    To explain this a bit further…As I mentioned that Laban is in a final judgement scenario and it is just like your and I’s final judgment which is based on the scriptural criteria of as ye judge so shall ye be judged. If you would like to see another final judgement scenario, the story of Balaam is the next easiest to illustrate. I can if you wish. But back to Laban, God has provided Laban with an opportunity that matches his capacity to act. As “the law” in his little place he is able to be in his mind above the Biblical Law that should be his guide if he served God. However, he does not – Laban serves Laban. Laban can assign what ever value he wishes to any act as again he is above the Biblical law in his world and is self determining. Thus he defines a penalty that he considers appropriate for a robber when he calls the brother robbers, when they are not, but he accuses them of such and sends his guards to slay them.

  128. A couple questions about this interpretation:

    1. How do you account for the Spirit telling Nephi he was supposed to kill Laban?

    2. The alternative was for an entire nation to “dwindle and perish in unbelief.” In fact, in Omni we have the example of the Mulekites, who “had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator…” Are you suggesting that the life of one man is worth more than the spiritual well-being of an entire nation?

  129. it's a series of tubes says:

    These have been addressed numerous times above, but:

    1. How do you account for the Spirit telling Nephi he was supposed to kill Laban?

    Nephi wasn’t being honest when he wrote the story. Duh.

    2. The alternative was for an entire nation to “dwindle and perish in unbelief.” In fact, in Omni we have the example of the Mulekites, who “had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator…” Are you suggesting that the life of one man is worth more than the spiritual well-being of an entire nation?

    Absolutely. Don’t you know that modern liberal sensibilities are in fact ineluctably aligned with the mind of God?

  130. “Nephi wasn’t being honest when he wrote the story. Duh.”

    or other possibilities – but that has been hashed over multiple times in the comments already

    As kevinf said so well, Nephi saw in vision the dwindling in unbelief and the destruction of his people – and he killed Laban explicitly to keep that from happening. That vision of the future had to have tortured him emotionally, even though he believed he had been “constrained” to act as he did.

  131. Chris M says:

    Ray, (and others making this claim), is it possible to look at Nephi’s killing of Laban as an act to prevent the “immediate” dwindling in unbelief of Nephi’s posterity, as in the case of the Mulekites? Could it be that despite the eventual “dwindling in unbelief” of the Nephites, the fact that they would retain a correct belief in God due to having the Brass Plates and that belief allowing them to eventually receive the personal ministry of the Resurrected Lord (rather than cease to exist before that time came as in the example of the Jaredites) made Nephi’s choice well worth it?

    Just because the dwindling eventually came, we can’t ignore the great many Nephite and Lamanite souls that were saved through the preaching of the word over the span of 1000 years, which Word was retained in an unperishable form on plates (rather than scrolls). I can’t agree that somehow Nephi saw his actions as a failure since the Nephites did not remain faithful into the 21st Century – especially since the BofM is a byproduct of the faithfulness of this civilization over that thousand years.

  132. Yes, Chris, and I accept that without any problem. However, I still think it must have torn Nephi up inside. I can’t read 2 Nephi 4 and not see someone who was sensitive enough to be anguished over it.

  133. Chris M says:

    Thanks for the clarification. That’s a valid interpretation. Because he describes his anguish over “the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset” him, to me it seems he’s including current temptations and not just anguish over one singular event of the past.

    I see more scripture suggesting that a great part of his anguish may have been how his zeal for keeping the commandments may have blinded him to, at times, taking a more sympathetic approach to persuading his brothers and others who have, at that point in his life, deserted the Nephites and become Lamanites – though at the end of the day, even that seems a bit justified since he WAS dealing with members of his own family who showed no qualms with taking his life if the opportunity presented itself.

    I agree that such an event as taking a Laban’s life at Nephi’s young age can likely remain with him for the rest of his life, and he may have wondered if there was another way. To suggest, however, that simply because the Nephite civilization eventually ended, that it wasn’t really the Spirit that spoke to Nephi, justifying the slaying of Laban and explaining the need for the plates, ignores the fact that without the plates, the Nephite and Lamanite history would have taken a very different trajectory, with a more abrupt ending at that.

  134. Pure speculation. There is no evidence to support that Nephi had visions of the future before obtaining the brass plates. Though a possibility, there is no evidence that he agonized over the killing of Laban in 2 Nephi 4. There is no evidence that he was lying about what the Spirit commanded him to do. The Lord would not ensure that Nephi’s account would be preserved for the Book of Mormon today, if his actions were based on a lie or a misreading of his own thoughts, since members of the Godhead are one in unity and power.

    “Are you suggesting that the life of one man is worth more than the spiritual well-being of an entire nation?” The answer should be of course not. Our Father will not ask someone to do what He himself is not willing to do and He sacrificed His own perfect, sinless Son for us. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.

    But back to Laban… Joseph Smith stated: “God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill;’ at another time He said ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire.”

  135. Kevinf, I think it might be valuable to revisit your observation from May 26 as I have noted that somehow it seems to have become an underlying assumption that contributes some confusion. Not that that was intended.

    The point is the Nephites never had any promise that they would not be destroyed nor that they are the specific nation that was to be preserved. Point of fact is there is no Nephite nation at the time this promise is made. We actually technically really only have the nation of Joseph being represented in the lines of Manasseh and Ephraim (Next Trip back). The promise to Joseph that he would be a fruitful bough going over the wall (Gen: 49:22-26) has inherent the promise of fruitfulness which is possibly where the promise is made that requires some element of Joseph’s offspring to continue on the North and South American continent to fulfill the great promise that this would ultimately be the promised land for the children of Joseph. This is why Joseph plays so prominatly in the Book of Mormon – It is the promise of his blessing made in Genesis 49 that is being fulfilled in the Book of Mormon.

    Thus the promise to protect a nation from perishing does not initiate with Lehi or Nephi but is embraced in the promise to Joseph of Egypt concerning his offspring. The death of the Nephites in no way nullifies the promise that a nation will not perish as the survival of the Lamanites, also Josephs descendants, more than satisfies the bill in behalf of the nation that was to be of Joseph.

    In fact there is ample indication to observe that the Nephites are actually anticipated to fail because of wickedness. Please note:

    Alma 9:24
    24 For behold, the promises of the Lord are extended to the Lamanites, but they are not
    unto you if ye transgress; for has not the Lord expressly promised and firmly decreed, that if
    ye will rebel against him that ye shall utterly be destroyed from off the face of the earth?

    Somehow Alma is perfectly aware that there is a threat of extinction against the Nephites and he references it hundreds of years before it occurs. However, is Alma the first to have such an inkling of ultimate Nephite destruction? Please consider another inference from the story of
    Enos’s repentence:

    Enos 1:9-13
    9 Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the
    welfare of my brethren, the NEPHITES; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for
    them.

    10 And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my
    mind again, saying: I will visit thy brethren ACCORDING TO THEIR DILIGENCE IN KEEPING
    MY COMMANDENTS. I have given unto them this land, and it is a holy land; and I curse it not
    save it be for the cause of iniquity; wherefore, I will visit thy brethren according as I have
    said; AND THEIR TRANSGRESSIONS WILL I BRING DOWN WITH SORROW UPON THEIR
    OWN HEADS.

    11 And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord;
    and I PRAYED unto him with many long strugglings FOR my brethren, the LAMANITES.

    12 And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said
    unto me: I WILL GRANT UNTO THEE ACCORDING TO THY DESIRES, BECAUSE OF THY
    FAITH.

    13 And now behold, this was the desire which I desired of him—THAT IF IS SHOULD SO BE ,
    THAT MY PEOPLE , THE NEPHITES, SHOULD FALL INTO TRANSGRESSION, AND BY ANY
    MEANS BE DESTROYED, AND THE LAMANITES SHOULD NOT BE DESTROYED, THT THE
    LORD GOD WOULD PRESERVE A RECORD OF MY PEOPLE, THE NEPHITES; even if it so
    be by the power of his holy arm, that it might be brought forth at some future day unto the
    LAMANITES, that, perhaps, they might be brought unto salvation—

    I have long pondered why Enos so readily acknowledges the potential of his people perishing as if it is a forgone conclusion and yet the lord promises him that BECAUSE of his faith the Lamanites shall be preserved. Could he of had faith enough to persevere the Nephites or is there a pattern here that is not illuminated that he recognizes there is a greater burden on the Nephites that they will not escape? I’ll not expand further as I do not have full understanding of this scenario at this time and I do not speculate in public forums concerning that which I do not have knowledge unless I can clearly state that I am doing so.

    Additionally, when Nephi received his instruction that “It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief he actually has received what has become another conundrum on which I do not have adequate understanding. But perhaps someone else has something of value on the conundrum of a parallel statement in John 11:50. Please consider:

    John 11:48-50

    48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take
    away both our place and nation.

    49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them,
    YE KNOW NOTHING AT ALL,

    50 NOR CONSIDER THAT IT IS EXPEDIENT FOR US, THAT ONE MAN SHOULD DIE FOR
    THE PEOPLE, AND THAT THE WHOLE NATION PERISH NOT. .

    51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, HE PROPHESIED THAT
    JESUS SHOULD DIE FOR THAT NATION;

    52 AND NOT FOR THAT NATION ONLY, BUT THAT ALSO HE SHOULD GATHER
    TOGETHER IN ONE THE CHILDREN OF GOD THAT WERE SCATTERED ABROAD.

    I can feel that there is something very significant in the fact that one should perish in Laban to preserve a nation is somehow associated with One should perish in Christ to preserve what appears to be referenced as the Nation of the House of Israel / those who are Christ’s. There is something here that is profound but I need more time to discern it if that is God’s intent. I do have one thing – this is much more expansive than just referencing preventing the perishing of the seed of Joseph in the Americas by slaying Laban.

  136. Chris M says:

    Brock, I mentioned John 11:48-50 in my first post of May 26 as a possible sign that it really was the Spirit speaking to Nephi and not his own zealous, youthful mind playing tricks on him. I can’t offer much more than that and was hoping someone else could shed some light on the parallel, but it was never addressed again.

    I do think that it adds more weight to the idea that even a wicked man such as Laban can serve as a typification of the Savior and His sacrifice.

  137. Tiger – I just want to second what you have said. This is one of the things most people never learn about genuine scripture study. You can’t just suggest any old possibility and go with it. The primary rule is scriptures always define scriptures. Any particular record is not the author’s. For instance never is this technically the Book of Nephi as we are discussing in this thread, We call it that for distinction but precisely it is one chapter of the Word of God. It contains exactly what God intends it should have, written under the influence of the Spirit. If that was not so we could never be so dependent the fact that scripture defines scripture.

    Those unskilled never understand the absolute necessity of the law of witnesses and if you cannot muster witnesses you really have no case. Thanks for your comments.

  138. I wish I had caught it when you posted it. It is an excelant observation and as I consider it more and continue working on it it is tying together and at much higher level than the Nephi / Laban scenrio.

  139. Chris M & Brock–Like you, I am also trying to reconcile my understanding of this parallel. If it wasn’t for Caiaphas’s prophecy, I would never have considered the idea that wicked Laban could be a Christ-type, but he does seem to fit. One possibility that occurred to me was “opposition in all things,” that is, the Spirit’s reasoning convinces righteous Nephi to slay wicked Laban; then in the parallel scenario, wicked Caiaphas utters the same prophecy about the sinless Christ.

    However Caiaphas’ declaration is quite remarkable that I, too, suspect it goes much further than “opposition.” He says, you know nothing at all, but I have to wonder if he even understood at all what he was talking about. I don’t believe he was inspired to say it, though the Lord certainly knew he would, so he gives a reasoning to Nephi that would 600 years later parallel Caiaphas’ statement about the demise of God’s own Son.

    First, we know the Jewish leaders viewed Jesus as a radical who was destroying their laws with his blasphemous new ideas, so perhaps they deemed that his death would preserve their laws and traditions. Second, he says that not only would the Jewish nation be saved, but that the death of Christ would influence the Jews (“the children of God?”) dispersed into other countries, since we know the House of Israel has a long history of gathering and dispersing. I wonder if this aspect of his prophecy pertains to our dispensation, when all things will be gathered into one. I would love to entertain any other insights you have.

  140. There is a fundamental problem with this story. If Laban had the only copy of the history of the Jewish people, such that the Holy Spirit deemed it necessary to kill for it, that leaves the Jewish people with no historical record, since it would have been carried off by Nephi. Yet we read the history of the Jewish people today in the Old Testament. On the other hand, if the historical record was available at other, less well-defended places, such as the homes of the priests and scribes, why didn’t the Holy Spirit direct Nephi to bargain with them?

  141. Lehi wasn’t Jewish.

  142. Lehi wasn’t Jewish? Wow. How is it that Nephi’s forefathers were Jewish, but his immediate father was not?

    1 Nephi 3:3 “For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.”

  143. They weren’t. Read the verse more carefully. It doesn’t have to say what you claim it says.

  144. So if Lehi was not Jewish, that makes him a Gentile. That makes Nephi and Laman Gentiles. That makes Mormons Gentiles.

  145. No, that makes him a member of the House of Israel. See Alma 10:3.

  146. Exactly, Tiger. Also, see any decent commentary on the composition of the House of Israel and then the actual statements of ancestry in the Book of Mormon.

  147. In 720 Sargon II occupied all of Israel and deported the people to the east, where they soon lost their identity forever as separate tribes through intermarriage with the Medeans, which was the deliberate policy of the Assyrians to squash any opposition. The only members of the “House of Israel” to survive were Judah, Benjamin, and those fragments of Levi that remained in the southern Kingdom, which thereafter were known solely as Jews. This is such common knowledge that naturally I was confused when you denied Lehi was Jewish.

  148. Every single person of other tribes didn’t survive to claim their natural ancestry? No members of other tribes lived among the those tribes that survived relatively intact?

    Man, I wish history was that clean.

  149. I forgot that I was dealing with a tradition founded by one who in 2 Nephi 3 claimed ancestry (“fruit of thy loins”) with the very Nephites he later documented were utterly destroyed. In such a tradition, tribal identity is very much up for grabs.

  150. Another mis-characterization of the actual book. Time to end this. Bye.

  151. Concerning Laban as a Christ type, I’m not able to make that leap at this time. I have to find additional symbolism that would suggest that as a possibility and for me it is inadequate at this time.

    Laban is a final judgment cycle, Balaam, King Noah, are clear cycles…I’ll need to refresh my memory on Sherem, and Nehor to see if they contain all of the elements of a judgment cycle but none of these scenarios have adequate commonality with the elements of John 11:48-50. There is a comparison for sure for the clear textual clues but there must be another element between these two stories that Laban as one life should die to save a nation and that Christ as one life should die to save a nation… there must be a third witness to which was we should go in our considerations to point us in the direction we need to go to see. There is a strong association with the Book of Mormon itself but I’m no where near settling on something.

  152. Ray, once again I would admonish you to teach, back yourself up with authoritative sources.

    For instance here is an authoritative source:

    2 Nephi 30:3-4

    3 And now, I would prophesy somewhat more concerning the Jews and the Gentiles. For after the book of which I have spoken shall come forth, and be written unto the Gentiles, and sealed up again unto the Lord, there shall be many which shall believe the words which are written; and they shall carry them forth unto the remnant of our seed.

    4 And then shall the remnant of our seed know concerning us, how that we came out from Jerusalem, and that they are descendants of the Jews.

    I don’t want to get in your debate so I am leaving it at this … you are both on different ends of right which if your are interpreting in absolutes will make you wrong from time to time.

  153. If Nephi killed Laban, and then took his clothes, wouldn’t they be covered in blood. 1 Nephi 4: 18 & 1.. If he smote off his head, wouldn’t there be blood all over the clothes? Why would Nephi put on bloody clothes? Just wondering

  154. Murray, the first two paragraphs of the following comment address that:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2014/05/25/the-book-of-mormon-my-testimony/#comment-329709

  155. Well, I ran into a quote tonight that I toss out for those who have suggested a Laban, Christ type. I do not do so because I agree but only that this is not the first time this has been suggested. I’m not very supportive of the scholars approach to scripture study as a rule and the author provides inadequate tie in for me. Here’s the quote:

    “It is important to recognize that Nephi, probably recounting the killing of Laban many years after it happened, quotes the Spirit as using almost exactly the same words as the Jewish priest Caiaphas used in an ends-justifies- means argument to the Sanhedrin to condemn Christ: “It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” (John 11:50). John, the recording evangelist, shows the dramatic shift from the Old Testament to the Gospel perspective when he writes that Caiaphas thus accurately, though unknowingly, “prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation” and also for all “the children of God” (John 11:51-52)—but would not be sacrificed or scapegoated in the usual manner. This raises the interesting, BUT RATHER TROUBLING, IMAGE OF LABAN AS A TYPE FOR CHRIST, SINCE THE DEATHS OF BOTH FIGURES ARE DESCRIBED AS BRINGING THE SALVATION OF WHOLE NATIONS: Laban’s death made possible the obtaining of the brass plates, the literal “word” that brought salvation to the Nephites, and Christ’s death fulfilled his full mission as Logos, the “Word” that saves all peoples, including the Jews. (John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks, eds., By Study and Also by Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday, 27 March 1990, 2 vols. [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1990], 2: 106.))”

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