Sunday, August 9, 2015

Are Laman and Lemuel Misunderstood? – Part III

Continuing from the previous post regarding the rebellion of Laman and Lemuel and what caused it. We concluded with a focus on Laman and Lemuel and their opposite attitudes from Nephi and Sam. 
Laman and Lemuel, despite being the oldest, found it difficult to focus on spiritual matters, preferring the ease of life to the labors of the Lord
    This focus made it hard for them to appreciate spiritual manifestations, even when those manifestations led them through the “more fertile parts of the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:16). President James E. Faust taught, “As the scales of worldliness are taken from our eyes, we see more clearly who we are and what our responsibilities are concerning our divine destiny.” Laman and Lemuel were never able to see clearly through the lens of worldliness through which they had chosen to view life. Laman and Lemuel’s worldliness decreased the possibility that they would focus on the things of the Spirit. This kept them from viewing Christ as a necessary part of their lives.
    In connection with Laman and Lemuel’s pride and worldly focus, they were slothful and easily discouraged when faced with difficult tasks. This further complicated any effort to build a relationship with God. When they were sent back to get the plates, they complained that it was a “hard thing” Lehi required of them (1 Nephi 3:5). When their first attempt failed, they wanted to give up and leave (1 Nephi 3:14). When Laman and Lemuel didn’t understand Lehi’s words, they would argue among themselves and even ask Nephi about their meaning; but they refused to exercise the faith and effort necessary to obtain an answer from the Lord (1 Nephi 15:8–9). Their lament that “the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us” was not an indictment of God but of their own lack of effort.
    This sounds a great deal like our modern-day theorists who say, in effect, the Lord didn’t make it known to me that the Land of Promise ran north and south; therefore, I can argue an east-west alignment and still be within the confines of the scriptural record.
    When their bows lost their springs and Nephi’s bow broke, Laman and Lemuel murmured instead of working to find a solution (1 Nephi 16:20). When Nephi was commanded to build a ship, they “were desirous that they might not labor” (1 Nephi 17:18).
    Laman and Lemuel showed a consistent pattern of slothfulness in starting tasks commanded by the Lord and were easily discouraged when those tasks proved difficult. One scholar refers to part of this problem as the “wilderness factor.” He questions Laman and Lemuel’s willingness to adjust to the hardships of the wilderness. “As the hardships of their journey increased, perhaps Laman and Lemuel began to lose faith in the entire venture and became defensive when Lehi and Nephi continued to attribute their journeyings to the Lord’s will.”
    These examples clearly illustrate that it is impossible to sustain a relationship with God without the requisite effort and sacrifice. We should keep in mind that it is not possible for us to enjoy optional obedience to the law of God, or place our own limits on the law of sacrifice, or mitigate the charges of righteous conduct connected with the law of the gospel. We cannot be willing to sacrifice only that which is convenient to part with, and then expect a reward. To try to do so is no different than accepting part of the scriptural record that agrees with our point of view and beliefs, and reject those parts that do not fit into our way of thinking.
    As an example, we cannot reject Jacob’s statement in the scriptural record of being on an island because we do not agree with it, while accepting those statements with which we do agree. Mormon’s writing is not a cafeteria list in which we can accept those parts we like and reject those parts that do no fit into our way of thinking.
It should also be pointed out that when Laman and Lemuel refused to obey the Lord’s commandments, they were inevitably censured by Lehi, Nephi, or an angel of the Lord. Because of the hardness of their hearts, they typically refused to accept correction and chose to be offended. This further stunted their spiritual growth and reduced the possibility of a meaningful relationship with the Lord. Nephi did not even have to rebuke them to make them angry. He simply had to be an example of obedience. “Just as Abel’s righteousness aroused Cain’s hatred, so Nephi’s righteousness aroused the hatred of Laman and Lemuel.”
    In fact, Laman and Lemuel’s most serious outbursts and wickedness flowed from uncontrolled anger at being rebuked. When Nephi rebuked them for their desire to return to Jerusalem, they became so angry that they bound him and “sought to take away [Nephi’s] life.” (1 Nephi 7:16). When Nephi rebuked them for their unwillingness to help build the ship, “they were angry with me [Nephi], and were desirous to throw me into the depths of the sea” (1 Nephi 17:48). When Nephi rebuked them for their rudeness on the boat, Laman and Lemuel once again were angry with Nephi and tied him up (see 1 Nephi 18:10–11). Ultimately, their anger at Nephi’s rebukes led them to seek his life. Each of their murderous attempts came because of uncontrolled anger at being rebuked.
    As with each of the weaknesses reviewed previously, Laman and Lemuel’s anger was not only a symptom of but also a reason for their failure to come unto Christ and be saved. In addition to the obvious wickedness engendered by their anger, the anger created a wedge between Laman, Lemuel, and those who were best situated to help them. It turned their hearts cold and hard, closed to the promptings of parents, siblings, and the Holy Spirit.

Laman and Lemuel, so caught up in the pleasures of the world, argued pitifully and complained bitterly about being called upon to sacrifice for their own benefit. Completely rejecting that Jerusalem would fall and its occupants being driven into captivity, Laman complains: “Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy” (1 Nephi 17:21), yet had they actually known, that even as they spoke these words, Jersualem was under siege by the Babylonians who would eventually break down the walls, put many of its inhabitants to the sword, and force thousands of others into exile to serve as slaves where they would not be enjoying life.
    But such is so often the case when the arrogance of individuals who think they know things begin to reject the knowledge of God and the wisdom of those who serve him and provide us with the information we are intended to have. Think of Laman, complaining bitterly about their condition, knowing nothing, though have been told but rejected the information, that those in Jerusalem had suffered an ignoble defeat at the hands of Nebuchadneezer, says: “And thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart; yea, he hath led us out of the land of Jerusalem, and we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years; and our women have toiled, being big with child; and they have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death; and it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions” (1 Nephi 17:20).
    How foolish are the vain complaints of those who know so little, yet are offered so much. Laman and Lemuel were offered the world, an honored life in a land choice above all other lands, yet rejected this while thinking they knew more than the Lord, more than their father, more than their younger brother.
    Again, this seems so reminiscent of our modern theorists who, given all the knowledge in the scriptural record and information of their own world to match it, choose to ignore the words of the ancients about their land and seek for places that do not match Mormon’s descriptions because they know more than the Lord, more than the ancient prophets, more than those who lived upon the land.

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