In Gospel Doctrine class while talking about Laman and his murmuring, I really noticed that before he angrily criticized Nephi’s leadership role, the Lord had given Laman the same opportunity to step up and be the leader.
Laman’s dissonance began after being embarrassed by his father’s prophetic calling. But he still followed his father into the wilderness! Faced with the same unfolding scenario, Nephi asked God for confirmation that his father was a prophet. Nephi repeatedly asked for, and received, divine revelation affirming God’s will.
But, “Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.”
Laman’s moment of decision, his apparent point of no return, happened on the excursion to retrieve the plates from Laban. Even though, he grumbled about the task, he still returned to Jerusalem for the plates. Why, I wonder? How did he expect to receive the plates? This wasn’t just like heading around the block to the nearest convenience store. Were his motives pure?
The scriptures say the brothers consulted among themselves and then cast lots to see who would ask Laban for the brass plates. “And it came to pass that the lot fell upon Laman; and Laman went in unto the house of Laban….” This lot casting is a method of divine intervention.
This story always reminds me of lots cast against Jonah. Caught up in a violent storm, the seamen wanted to know who was the cause of the gods’ anger. And the lot fell to Jonah who confessed his error and subsequently went overboard and into a fish’s belly. Lots were powerful.
So, God chose Laman to fulfill the divine brass plate retrieval mandate. Laman probably expected to be chosen. The responsibilities of the oldest son seem pretty pronounced in that culture. But, if he truly accepted that responsibility, then presumably, he would have gone without casting lots.
It also appears that Laman went to accomplish the task in his own strength without consulting the Lord. Laman possibly felt that if it was a commandment from the Lord, that the Lord would just have Laban give him the plates. Laman asked Laban for the plates, but Laban refused and threatened Laman’s life. “But Laman fled out of his presence….”
He rushed back to his brothers and suggested they flee. The Lord didn’t give him the plates. The task was too difficult, impossible even. His faith was shaken. Their lives were endangered.
Nephi had asked God and knew why the plates were pivotal. They couldn’t leave Jerusalem without them.
Nephi suggested they buy the plates. Did they pray about this option first or just proceed because it seemed like a great logical plan? They took their treasure to Laban’s house. Nephi doesn’t record who acted as voice while approaching Laban. Laban confiscated their treasure and threatened their lives.
How many times have I decided to obey a commandment from the Lord expecting a providential gifting? I’m asked to go visiting teaching, but someone never answers the phone or door. But, I’ve fulfilled the obligation, right? I tried. What if I read the scriptures regularly but really don’t feel the Holy Ghost as I read? What if I have a character flaw I’ve asked God to change, but He hasn’t done it yet?
I’ve never had my life threatened like this. But, I have approached commandments of God like this. I have felt like if I was supposed to do it, I would just do whatever…and it would work out. I’ve logically (or so I thought) approached scenarios using my best judgment. I’ve also prayed for guidance and then used my best judgment.
I’ve found success in those three approaches. I’ve also experienced failure. I’ve wondered if I’d approached the situation fully in the strength of the Lord if the failing outcomes would have been different.
How would Laman’s life been different had Laban given him the plates upon request? Was his murmuring attitude already so slip sliding down the slippery slope that he wouldn’t have considered the outcome divinely guided? Would he have taken all the credit? Or could he have seen the hand of God in it?
After two failed attempts, Laman’s pride was hurt. He was afraid for his life and he was done.
Nephi cautiously approached Laban’s house at night and without a plan. “I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. Nevertheless I went forth….”
The Spirit spoke to Nephi. Nephi responded. He accomplished the mission.
How exciting! How wonderful! Right?
Laman attempted to acquire the plates twice. He failed both times. His little brother goes out by himself after getting physically battered and not only gets the plates, but slays the enemy and gets a new best friend in the process. Everyone back at camp would want to know the whole story, over and over again. Laman feared Laban and beat up Nephi. Nephi slew Laban and got the plates. Laman failed. Nephi won.
Instead of evaluating himself and his standing with God, Laman justified his actions. His growing carefully guarded resentment against Nephi soon manifested as calculated anger and eventually full on murderous intent.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell concluded that “Laman and Lemuel became rebels instead of leaders, resentful instead of righteous—all because of their failure to understand either the character or the purposes of God and His dealings with His children.”
The Lord gave Laman every opportunity to be the leader Laman claimed he wanted to be. The Lord gives us the same opportunity to learn His character and purposes and to “expect and prepare to accomplish the impossible.”
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.