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Friday, January 11, 2008

Laman and Lemuel return to Jerusalem...without complaining (1 Nephi 7)

Listen now!Almost immediately after their journey to Jerusalem to get the brass plates, Lehi received another revelation from the Lord.
1 And now I would that ye might know, that after my father, Lehi, had made an end of aprophesying concerning his seed, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto him again, saying that it was not meet for him, Lehi, that he should take his family into the wilderness alone; but that his sons should take bdaughters to cwife, that they might raise up dseed unto the Lord in the land of promise.
2 And it came to pass that the Lord acommanded him that I, Nephi, and my brethren, should again return unto the land of Jerusalem, and bring down Ishmael and his family into the wilderness.
3 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did aagain, with my brethren, go forth into the wilderness to go up to Jerusalem.
This is one of the more humorous parts of the Book of Mormon simply because Nephi makes no mention of any complaints. Laman and Lemuel appear to be perfectly happy to return to Jerusalem now that there is the possibility of bringing women back with them. :)

Ishmael is the father of the daughters for whom Nephi, Sam, Laman, and Lemuel return. We don't know too much about how the family of Lehi and the family of Ishmael knew one another. It could be that they were near kinsmen, which Lehi might have deduced after reading the genealogy contained in the brass plates. Nevertheless, it appears that Ishmael was willing to follow Lehi into the wilderness with his entire family. Therefore, it's more than likely that, at the very least, Ishmael originally sympathized with Lehi and was eager to leave Jerusalem before it fell to the Babylonians.

Laman and Lemuel's change of heart didn't last very long. On the way back to Lehi's camp, they, and some of Ishmael's own family, rebelled against "Nephi, and Sam, and their father, Ishmael, and his wife, and his three other daughters."

Nephi is quick to remind them of how the Lord has already supported them and their ancestors through many worse things and that if they would just be faithful, the Lord would give them a land of promise. If they want to go back, Nephi tells them, they can make that choice and perish with the rest.

Laman and Lemuel become furious and tie up Nephi to leave him to be eaten by wild beasts. Exercising his faith in the Lord, Nephi asks God for strength to break his bonds. Nephi is granted that power and is able to break free. This is a great example of faith as a principle of power. Nephi didn't ask for the Lord to come down and break his bonds for him. Rather, he asked that the Lord would amplify his own meager strength to free himself. We benefit from the Lord's help only when we put forth our own efforts and let Him do the rest. Otherwise, we begin to take His power for granted, or think that it is somehow by our own strength we are able to emerge from troubles. When He gives us more power than we know we have on our own, the lesson we learn is much more clear. To the contrary, taking His power for granted is the major mistake Laman and Lemuel have made and continue to make as they travel to the promised land.

But this time, something about this experience temporarily humbles those who rebelled. They repent, asking Nephi for forgiveness. He is quick to give it for his own part and then to remind them that their duty to ask forgiveness is not to him, but to God for having rebelled against His commandments.

Upon returning, they perform sacrifices and burnt offerings in accordance with the law of Moses to complete their repentance process and to show thanks to God.