Saturday, August 8, 2015

Are Laman and Lemuel Misunderstood? – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the rebellion of Laman and Lemuel and what caused it. After commenting on the faith of Nephi and his explicit trust in the Lord, we come to Laman and Lemuel, who seem at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Even though the previous account of choices Laman and Lemuel made in carrying out their responsibilities, looking only at the positive results of their efforts, which is basically stated correctly, they in no way came close to those shown by Nephi and, though silent on the issue, his brother, Sam seems to have been of Nephi’s caliber. His father said of him, “after he had made an end of speaking unto them, he spake unto Sam, saying: Blessed art thou, and thy seed; for thou shall inherit the land like unto thy brother Nephi. And thy seed shall be numbered with his seed; and thou shalt be even like unto thy brother, and thy seed like unto his seed; and thou shalt be blessed in all thy days” (2 Nephi 4:11).
    How different the story of Lehi’s family in the land of Promise would have been had Laman and Lemuel possessed the nature of Sam. While faith seems to have come to Lehi’s two younger sons more readily, it was not something Laman and Lemuel possessed most of the time—in fact, it is the sad story of both their lives and tragic stories.
    What was it that drove the faithfulness of Nephi and Sam and did not drive Laman and Lemuel? Both were born to the same parents, both raised by the same parents, both were more or less taught the same, and belonged to the same Hebrew and Jewish heritage. Of course, this is the question every parent with a wayward child or two asks himself. And while the exact answers regarding Laman and Lemuel might not apply in specifics to every wayward son or daughter, certainly the concept behind Laman and Lemuel’s actions can be applied in many if not most cases.
    Certainly, Laman and Lemuel lacked spiritual maturity. From the beginning they failed to comprehend the purpose of leaving their home and wealth—continually rejecting the idea that the Lord would destroy Jerusalem because of its wickedness. They also had an obvious flaw of thinking they knew more than those the Lord called to lead and direct. Like many of the spiritually immature in Jeruslaem, Laman and Lemuel thought they knew more: “we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words; yea, and our brother is like unto him” (1 Nephi 17:22.
    That sounds a lot like our modern day theorists who claim they know more about what the ancients meant than what they actually said. After all, when these modern theorists change the direction of the lands, the placement of one land to another, and utilize their own judgments superior to those Nephite prophets who wrote about their lands, we find a level of spiritual immaturity and a strong belief in their own knowledge  above that of those called to speak upon matters.
In understanding this spiritual immaturity, and knowing the potential for greatness these older brothers had, their failure to be obedient and accept the Lord’s direction and their leader’s counsels becomes even more tragic and pitiful.
    Laman’s biggest concern regarding the interaction between himself and his brothers, was that he held the birthright and to him was to flow the leadership of the Family at some point in time. He should have had the respect of his brothers, should have been in charge of the affairs flowing downward from their father, and the one to stand up and take charge when such was needed.
    Yet, despite that being his desire, he seemed to think that he needed to put out little or no effort at all in the carrying out of such responsibilities. After all, when Lehi received a vision from the Lord to send his sons back to Jerusalem to obtain the Brass Plates of Laban, the patriarch did not go to some other member of the family to make the assignment. He went to his oldest son, his first born, the one he should be able to count on to carry out the wishes of the Lord and his as patriarch.
    It was not that the events of the record caused Laman to gripe and complain—it was his nature to gripe and complain, irrespective of the cause. He griped and complained when Lehi obeyed the Lord and took his family into the wilderness, even after Lehi took the time “making known until him the things which the Lord had manifested…yet he would not hearken unto [the Lord’s] words” (1 Nephi 2:18).
    As Lehi put it, when speaking to Nephi after being turned down by Laman: “And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord” (1 Nephi 3:5).
    Four personal weaknesses become obvious as we study the lives of Laman and Lemuel: pride, worldliness, slothfulness, and anger. These weaknesses inhibited them from developing a living faith in Christ and laid the groundwork for their complete rejection of God. Each weakness was not only a symptom of but also a reason for their failure to come unto Christ and be saved.
    Ultimately, it was Laman and Lemuel’s failure to develop living faith in Christ that prevented them from overcoming their personal weaknesses and led to their spiritual destruction. The Savior promises to help us overcome our weaknesses and redeem us from our fallen state (see Ether 12:27). Laman and Lemuel’s failure to develop faith in Christ left them to battle their weakness by themselves, ultimately a losing cause.
    Their refusal to “grow up in Christ” left them to become “for themselves” (3 Nephi 1:29). Therefore, even though Laman and Lemuel did many good things, when left to their own merits, they failed to become what the Savior desired them to become. To better understand how this happened, it is helpful to examine the relationship between these four weaknesses and Laman and Lemuel’s lack of faith in Christ.
    Pride was a fundamental problem for Laman and Lemuel. It has been stated that: “The great weakness of Laman was his pride. He was a man with a strong personality, capable of impressing others as a leader. He, no doubt, had as much education as his younger brothers.
He was skilled in oratory, and he had the legal advantage of being the firstborn. But with all these qualifications he was weak, because he lacked humility.” Laman and Lemuel’s pride is evident throughout the scriptural record. They always claimed their right to rule over their siblings (1 Nephi 16:37; 2 Nephi 5:3).
They continually chafed under the directing hand of Lehi. Even with a belief in God, they regularly questioned His guidance and commandments, especially when it came through their brother or their father (1 Nephi 2:11; 3:31; 7:6; 17:18). Ultimately, however, pride precluded the possibility of their spiritual growth. It made the requisite dose of humility unobtainable: “Humility is a concept that plays an essential role in the origins of spirituality. Naturally, there are other important considerations, but the scriptures are clear and consistent on two points regarding humility and spirituality. First, the absence of humility virtually precludes the development of spirituality. And, second, the presence of humility is essential for spiritual growth.”
    Likewise, a materialistic orientation kept Laman and Lemuel’s focus earthbound. One author stated that “Laman can be viewed as a prototype of the ‘natural man.’” From their first complaint at having to leave their possessions behind (1 Nephi 2:11) to their lament on the seashore (1 Nephi 17:21), Laman and Lemuel continually focused on worldly things.
(See the next post, “Are Laman and Lemuel Misunderstood? – Part III,” for more information on the plight of these two older sons of Lehi and the fate they chose for themselves rather than the one Lehi blessed them to receive and the Lord desired for them to have)

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