Monday, October 28, 2013

The Narrow Skillset of the Lamanites, Enos 1:20

And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God. But our labors were vain; their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us. (Enos 1:20)

When I was looking at this verse it stood out to me how narrow the Lamanite skillset really was, spiritually, socially, and economically. 

Their hatred was fixed – They didn’t know how to forgive, and they were prejudiced, so they couldn’t listen to those who could teach them the principles that would help them learn how.

They were led by their evil nature – This would make them pretty impulsive and unable to resist temptation.  They would not have the discipline to do much more than what it would take to survive.

Wild, ferocious, and bloodthirsty – They didn’t know how to solve problems peacefully.  They probably overreacted a lot and were at the mercy of their passions and emotions.

Full of idolatry – God (or the Great Spirit) was not at the top of their priority list, and they were also superstitious.  Superstition is exacerbated by a limited understanding or misunderstanding of cause and effect.

Full of… filthiness – They didn’t know how to keep themselves or their environment clean.  (If they moved around a lot to follow game, they probably thought there was no point.)

Feeding upon beasts of prey – It is possible they thought strength would come from eating predators.  (There are people today who still believe this; hence the underground trade of processed portions of large mammalian anatomy for their supposed health effects.) It is also possible that the Lamanites didn’t have the skill or patience for raising flocks and herds, so they had to hunt all the time.

Dwelling in tents – If game was always on the move, they had to move after it, meaning they wouldn’t be able to learn to build more permanent buildings.  There is also no point in developing more than the most essential and mobile tools or collecting supplies if you have to carry it along.

Wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven – It seems they didn’t have much knowledge about how to clothe themselves, other than with skins, so maybe they’d figured out the leather tanning process.  But to clothe themselves with something besides skins, they would have to learn to find and raise fiber-producing plants and/or fiber-producing animals.  This would require patience and application, not to mention learning fiber-processing techniques and weaving skills.

their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax – They were good at making weapons and using them—bows and cimeters.  (The ax is a little more ambiguous; they could use it as a building tool or as a killing tool.)  These were the tools the Lamanites understood, tools of destruction and death.  Shooting, cutting, and chopping.

many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat – Cooking wasn’t a strong point.  It is hard to pin down the exact reasons for this because there are a number of factors that could be at work.  It could be they were generally so hungry when they found game that they didn’t want to take the time to cook it before eating.  It could be that it was just a continuation of the ancestral methods of concealing one’s presence by not using fire (see 1 Nephi 17:12). It may be that they didn’t want to bother finding and raising good-to-eat plants because it would take too much time and tie them down to a place where game would become scarce.  It is also possible that they didn’t know how to preserve their meat to store it for later.  

I have to wonder if the Lamanite skill deficiencies were part of what prevented them from converting.  If they joined the Nephite religion, they would have to leave behind these destroying skills and learn radically new ones.  The law of Moses prohibited eating beasts of prey and certain other animals, so their diet would be limited to a certain class of animals instead of anything they could find.  And in the time between giving up old skills and learning new ones, how would they live?  The transition stage would be very difficult.  We see in the case of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis that it can be done, but conversions of this sort are made more difficult than ones in which one doesn’t have to give up one’s livelihood to convert.

How can this help us today?  For parents, it may help to think about what skills one’s children needs to become independent and question the building of skills that are less important.  Skill in video games may be special in a son’s peer group, but ultimately it won’t help him provide for a future family.  Programming skills, however, will help him. 

When kids leave home we don’t want them stuck with a “Lamanite” skill set.  We want them to have a “Nephite” skill set, which we can extrapolate as the opposite of Enos’s words about the Lamanites:
·      unprejudiced and loving
·      led by the Holy Ghost
·      gentle, compassionate, peace-loving
·      Acquainted with God and obedient to the commandments
·      Skilled at cleaning themselves and their environment
·      Able to cook and feed themselves with healthy food
·      Settled in one place
·      Well-clothed (skilled at sewing and/or clothes shopping)
·      Skilled in the use of productive tools

Of course there are additional skills that are helpful in the modern world:
·      Budgeting and saving
·      Auto-mechanics
·      Typing
·      Computer literacy
·      Household repairs
And the cool thing is that unlike 10 years ago, there now exists a plethora of ways to educate oneself in how to do these things using instructions and videos one finds on the internet.  In the past, one had to find a teacher or a class to learn these things or simply muddle along on one’s own by experimenting.  For instance, even though I didn’t know anything about how to fix my refrigerator’s icemaker, I found videos about it online that taught me different things I could try to diagnose the problem and how to know when to replace it.  I also found videos showing how to replace it.  Parents can use this to help their kids learn marketable skills.  If a teen can show on his resume a list of things he’s fixed or built, that will make him or her a more attractive job candidate.


catania said...

I love this analysis. Another thing that strikes me as I study this verse is how Nephi, Laman, and Lemuel came from the same place, but made different decisions.

Their different decisions probably didn't seem to lead them to drastically different places at first, but then, down the line, we can see how lack of religion and education really destroyed so many good things that Laman and Lemuel had been blessed with.

Michaela Stephens said...

Yep, one degree off course and over time the deviation can take people to a totally different place.