Friday, April 8, 2011

Nephi Finds Laban: An Underappreciated Miracle

On Nephi’s last attempt to get the brass plates from Laban, we read that he was led by the Spirit without knowing what he was going to do. The next verse jumped out at me recently for some reason.
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.
(1 Nephi 4:7-8)
This is a miracle that gets totally overlooked. It is a miracle that makes it possible for Nephi to get the brass plates at all. It is such a simple thing, and yet it is extraordinary. Laban, considered a “mighty man” who can “command fifty”, is found in a vulnerable position. He is:
  • Near his house (which makes it possible for Nephi to find him)
  • Alone and unprotected (which means none of his army of fifty are any help)
  • Drunk and inert (which means he is unable to protect himself)
How he arrives in this vulnerable position is interesting too. Nephi records this bit of information many years after the fact: “And he [Zoram] spake unto me [Nephi] concerning the elders of the Jews, he knowing that his master, Laban, had been out by night among them.” (1 Nephi 4:22) This makes it even more amazing that Nephi finds Laban where he is. Evidently Laban spent a portion of the night drinking and carousing with the ‘venerable’ elders of Jerusalem—a fine illustration of the depth of debauchery the city had sunk to—and in his inebriated state he is just barely able to totter and weave his way home before collapsing. Except that he doesn’t make it close enough to get in the door, or even within earshot of his fabulous army of fifty. But he’s close enough that Nephi finds him on the way.

But why would Laban be out with the city elders at night? This implies the worst sort of chicanery afoot. It could be a secret kangaroo trial of the type that condemned Jesus. It could be a plot against one of those pesky prophets preaching death and destruction against Jerusalem, and Laban was there to learn what part he was to play. That might explain why he was bereft of an armed escort. No sense in anyone else knowing the plan and spreading it around. After all, one of them might have let slip a warning.

So when the angel told Nephi and his brothers that the Lord would deliver Laban into their hands, he was telling no more or less than the truth.

6 comments:

Middle-aged Mormon Man said...

Interesting thought about the "chicanery afoot". Just this week I noticed in 1 Nephi 2:16 that Nephi didn't believe Lehi right off, and that he had to pray and have his heart softened first. I thought he was always "Go and Do!"

It is amazing that there is always something new to consider or learn every time you read the Book of Mormon.

Must admit - it was the crazy title that brought me to your blog. Keep up the good work!

-MMM-

Kimberly said...

You're absolutely right. With all the other miracles in 1st Nephi we sort of skate over this one. But it's a great example of how the Lord delivered on His promise. (after really testing Nephi's faith)

thatgoodpart said...

I love this insight. As many times as most of us have read 1 Nephi, there are still so many things to learn from it.
-chococatania

Paradox said...

Another thing that gets looked over completely is when Joseph gave the plates back, as well as the importance of the Sword of Laban.

I hope you don't mind if I leave a large quote. It came to mind as I read your post, and I thought you might find it interesting :)

"Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates. Joseph did not translate all of the plates; there was a portion of them sealed, which you can learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: "This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ." I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting, enjoying the day, and by and by we separate and go away, forgetting most of what is said, but remembering some things. So is it with other circumstances in life. I relate this to you, and I want you to understand it. I take this liberty of referring to those things so that they will not be forgotten and lost."
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 19

grego said...

You said this part much better and clearer than I:
"It could be a secret kangaroo trial of the type that condemned Jesus. It could be a plot against one of those pesky prophets preaching death and destruction against Jerusalem, and Laban was there to learn what part he was to play. That might explain why he was bereft of an armed escort. No sense in anyone else knowing the plan and spreading it around. After all, one of them might have let slip a warning."

If you're interested, there are some other things here: http://bookofmormonnotes.wordpress.com/2008/01/10/book-of-mormon-lessons-from-the-three-episodes-of-getting-the-brass-plates-nephi-vs-moses-nephi-and-laban-vs-david-and-goliath-laman-and-lemuel-vs-saul-zoram-vs-jonathan-sariah-vs-miriam/ and here: http://bookofmormonnotes.wordpress.com/2008/01/21/more-about-the-brass-plates/ .

Michaela Stephens said...

Middle-aged Mormon Man, you're right, Nephi had to have his heart softened too.

thatgoodpart, when I consider the things I am learning now about these stories, I can't wait to see what Heavenly Father has to teach me in the future!

Paradox,that's really interesting that when Joseph gave the plates back the sword of Laban was still nearby. It's almost as if the sword is a tangible symbol of the Lord's divine protection of the sacred records.

grego, I think your post that you linked to made some really good points about Nephi's prospects for obtaining justice in Jerusalem.