I happened to be on one of those Lands of the Book of Mormon tours, and we were taking a rest in a town in Guatemala. I was browsing in a dusty shop that sold all sorts of things to western tourists, when my eye focused on what looked like three gold plates with chicken scratch inscriptions on them. They weren’t really gold but only looked like it, and I was about to turn away and look at something else in the shop, when I realized that the chicken scratches were actually paleo-Hebrew. I’m not very good with that ancient form of writing, but with a little effort I picked out the following text: SPR LMN BN LCHY. I was stunned to realize that these words mean “The Book of Laman, Son of Lehi.” I could scarcely believe my good fortune; I had stumbled upon the lost record of Nephi’s oldest brother! I immediately set upon translating the record, the result of which I set forth below:
THE BOOK OF LAMAN, SON OF LEHI
I, Laman, having been constantly put upon by my snot-nosed little brother, “Nephi-Who-Can-Do-No-Wrong,” write this record so my posterity some day may realize all the annoying stuff I had to put up with from him. He was father’s favorite (being such a little suck-up all the time), so I couldn’t actually kill him, although there were times when I sorely wanted to. (I came close a couple of times, but an angel kept stopping me; you have no idea how annoying that can be.)
When Dad insisted that we flee from Jerusalem, since he had this wild idea that the locals wanted to kill him over his crazy preaching, my bro Lemuel and I humored him the best we could and went along with it. (I never could understand this idea he seemed to have that our friends and neighbors were all wicked and stuff. They lived the Law the same way we did. I didn’t get that at all.) Anyway, I figured it would be like a camping trip, and eventually he’d get tired of it and we could go home again. But I’m sorry to say it didn’t work out that way. Not at all!
We travel for two weeks away from Jerusalem, our home, and were camping by the Red Sea, when Pops gets the bright idea for his sons to go back and get the brass plates from his kinsman, Laban. My first thought was, “Ugh, couldn’t you have thought of that BEFORE we hiked two whole weeks through the desert?” My second thought was, “Hey, since this dude is your kinsman, maybe YOU should come and ask him for the record.” But since it’s not in our culture to talk back to our fathers, the three of us (er, I mean the four of us–I keep forgetting about little bro Sam!) dutifully set out to go all the way back to Jerusalem.
We cast lots to see which of us suckers would have to ask Laban for the plates, and I drew the short straw. Ugh! But I figured, “OK, we’re here, I’ll give it the ol’ college try.” So I made an appointment with Laban, reminded him that my father Lehi was his kinsman, and asked as politely as I could for the brass plates. You would think I had asked for his wife or something! He sicced the dogs on me, and I barely made it out of there alive! But did little bro Nephi care? No, not at all.
So then Nephi comes up with the bright idea to go to our family home, dig up all our gold, silver and precious things we had buried there, and try to buy the plates from Laban. I had a bad feeling about this, and it turns out I was right, the guy took all our wealth, didn’t give us the plates and almost killed us!
By this time I was completely fed up, but Nephi said “No way am I going back without the plates and disappointing Pops! I’ll just go and get them myself.” To which I said, “Yeah, good luck with that.” But what do ya know, late that night he comes back to our campsite with the plates! But he was also carrying a blood-stained sword and bringing some dude named Zoram, one of Laban’s slaves. I mean, if someone had told me that i was allowed to sneak in there at night and kill the guy while he was passed out from too much booze with his own sword, then yeah, I could have done it, too! I have to admit that I took some satisfaction from father being none too pleased that Nephi had murdered his kinsman (believe it or not, something we’re not in the habit of doing in our culture, either), but he was so fascinated with the plates that he soon forgot all of that and Nephi was of course the golden child once again.
When Dad had the idea for us to go back and get Ishmael and his family to come with us, at first I was annoyed to have to make the two-week journey back to Jerusalem YET AGAIN. It’s like “couldn’t you think of this in advance so we only have to make one trip?” But then I decided this was a good idea after all, because I was going to get a wife out of the deal, so I was ALL FOR this little revelation.
I had hoped we would go home for good, but now we were wanted for Laban’s murder (way to go, little bro’!), and so now we had no choice but to go along with Dad’s plan. And so we start to move south along the Red Sea. Did we have camels? No. Did we have clean animals for food? No. Did we have our precious things to use in bartering? Thanks to Nephi’s bright ideas, no. We almost starved twice, especially when my genius little brother broke his steel bow. And instead of making the journey to the coast in four months, which we could have done if properly provisioned, it took us EIGHT FREAKEN’ YEARS! A big chunk of that we were basically enslaved to some tribemen for food and protection. It was brutal man. Who is leading this little excursion, anyway?
We finally get to Bountiful, and I’m thinking, “OK, this place is nice, maybe all the turmoil was worth it for us to settle here.” But no, we’re supposed to go into the sea. In a boat. That Nephi is supposed to build? You’ve gotta be kidding me? He can’t even build a decent wagon, how is he supposed to build a boat? No way was I going to get on that thing. But by some miracle he managed to do it. The thing was actually pretty cool. I’ve gotta give him props for that, at least.
So we set off in the boat. And ya know, it’s not so bad. So me and Lemuel, our wives and the sons of Ishmael decide to make the best of a bad situation and try to enjoy ourselves. So we’re making ourselves merry, singing and dancing, and having a good time. But is Nephi happy with this? No. According to him we were being “rude.” The nerve of that guy! So Lemuel and I tied him up to teach him a little lesson, but he got all pissy about it. He never could take a joke.
Anyway, we finally make it to this new world “promised land,” and our father Lehi is on his last legs. He calls his family around to give us each a blessing, starting with me, because hey, I am the oldest boy after all (or did everyone forget that?). When he gets to Nephi, he practically begs little bro to keep the family together after he is gone. So what does Nephi do? Dad’s body is barely cold when he storms off with whoever will follow him into the wilderness–stealing the brass plates, no less. I later learned that he never even included Dad’s blessing to him in his record, because he was too embarrassed that he hadn’t followed his father’s dying wish for his family.
So I’ve had it with that kid. He can go off and play king if he wants to. We’ll do just fine without him.