In 1 Nephi 5 when Lehi examines the brass plates, he finds all kinds of good stuff on them. Something that I noticed with more attention recently was that they also had “many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah” (v 13). I found this interesting because Jeremiah was a contemporary of Lehi and had been put in prison, according to Nephi. What is more odd is that “Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records” (v16). “Kept the records” could mean keeping them secure, or it could also mean adding to them. But Laban does not seem like the type who would be carefully recording Jeremiah’s prophecies, full as they are of imminent destruction. Can we imagine this murderous man studiously laboring, stylus in hand, to engrave the words of Jeremiah?
This puzzled me for a while until I looked at the chronology of the kings as in the Bible Dictionary. I found that Jeremiah began his ministry during Josiah’s reign. It is likely that part of Josiah’s reforms were mandates that prophecies be recorded, and Laban and his fathers were responsible to see that royal command was carried out, so they wrote down many prophecies of the prophets, including Jeremiah’s. But it seems as soon as Josiah died, all motivation for record-keeping ended and the brass plates went neglected in the treasury. The motivation was only external and hadn’t been internalized.
This has some application in my own life. This semester I have taken a seminary preservice institute class and one of the assignments was to write down insights received during daily scripture study. The class ended this week. I could stop writing my insights down every day if I wanted to. But if I stopped, I realize I would be no better than Laban and his family. So I think I must keep on.
I have a better reason for continuing, however. It has been very helpful to me to write the things I have learned without worrying about evaluating them on whether to post them on my blog or not. It has reminded me that I really do learn so much from the scriptures through the Spirit, even if it is little tidbits at a time. It has also reminded me that sometimes when we record what we have learned, in the very act of writing, the Lord gives us even greater insight.