Monday, April 10, 2017

Nephi Takes a Stand -- 1 Nephi Chapter 3

What Happens

"Lehi’s sons return to Jerusalem to obtain the plates of brass—Laban refuses to give the plates up—Nephi exhorts and encourages his brethren—Laban steals their property and attempts to slay them—Laman and Lemuel smite Nephi and Sam and are reproved by an angel."
1 Nephi 1 Chapter Heading


The task to get the brass plates is important just because God asks it, of course, but later in the Book of Mormon we see the difference between Lehi's descendants and the people of Zarahemla, who were also led to the promised land from the same area.  The Plates of Brass play a huge part in that meeting, because the other group hadn't retained their language or their culture or religion, and had to be taught all over again, even though they came originally from the same place.  So we, knowing the whole story of why the plates proved so important can mostly see why God made this a priority, but the people living the story probably less so... and really, it's a hard thing to grasp without the perspective of hindsight.  If we were getting ready to colonize Mars, maybe we would plan that far ahead, but so far all Lehi and his family know is that they need to leave Jerusalem.  I don't think that the rest of it has set in yet.

After Lehi has a dream where God asks him to obtain the plates, his older sons complain.  Nephi tells his father that he knows that God will prepare a way.  And it turns out that Nephi's faith is going to be well-tested.

On the first try for the plates, they send Laman in.  He fails, and now Laban is angry and trying to kill him.  Not good.  Since we've read the story before, this seems like a small setback, but I think for them it was huge.  For Nephi perhaps even more so, because his big brothers were scared and they wanted to go back.  They tried, they failed, done.  But he felt compelled to try again.  He made his stand earlier with his father, offering his famous line in verse 7: "I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."  Here, he has to make his stand without his father to back him up, and I imagine it is a touch harder.  In verse 15 he says "As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us."  He convinces his brothers to stick it out, and comes up with an idea for a second try.

Nephi's idea to get all of their wealth and trade it to Laban for the plates deserves an A+ for being a creative solution, but unfortunately it also fails (possibly this is also important later in the story as an additional disincentive for the doubters to turn back).  After this try, they lose all of their wealth that they gathered, and they have to run for their lives.  They hide out in a cave and the older brothers take their fear out on the younger brothers, until an angel comes.

The angel part is where I kind of lose Laman and Lemuel.  I mean, up to this point in the story I kind of get them, you know?  They are in part understandably skeptical, concerned about the complete upheaval of their lives, and their little brother is always taking dad's side and kind of rubbing their noses in it.  I imagine I would have murmured a little too, even though the beating is taking it too far. But this one is hard to take their side on.  Not only are they beating their brothers, which is why the angel has to step in, but this is *exactly* the confirmation of their father's prophetic powers that they needed, and they seem to barely blink at his words, and go back to resisting God.  *Absolutely* true that Laban is still there, and still likely determined to kill them all.  Calls for some serious problem solving, but doesn't seeing an angel have to trump fear on some level?

Anyway, this isn't the end of Nephi having his faith tested, but luckily the Angel buys them a third chance at the plates.  Tune in next time for our further discussion.  And, as always, feel free to add your ideas or insights about chapter in the comments section.

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