I’m sure you’ve already seen things from a different perspective, even if it’s just from reading about our experiences. Although we all have our own way of seeing things, our understanding can be enlarged and our opinion totally changed through different people and different experiences.
Nephi - The Brass Plates
Such was the case with me and the story of Nephi getting the brass plates. I had read this story so many times, but it always left me feeling uncomfortable. Here is a brief summary of how I’d always understood this story.
In 1 Ne 3:1-7, Lehi tells about the Lord’s command for Nephi and his brothers to return to the house of Laban in Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates. While Laman and Lemuel murmur, Nephi commits to go, knowing that The Lord will provide a way for them to accomplish what has been asked.
First Attempt (vs. 10-15)
Upon arriving in Jerusalem, the brothers cast lots to see who would go to Laban for the plates. Laman won. When he went to Laban and asked him for the brass plates. Laban called him a thief and sought to slay him. Laman runs back to hisbrothers and, discouraged, wants to return to his father. Nephi bears witness that the Lord will provide a way and tells them they will not return until they have the plates.
Second Attempt (vs. 16-27)
Nephi suggested they propose a trade to Laban: their rich possessions they had left behind when they left Jerusalem, for the brass plates. They do so; greedy Laban takes the property but keeps the plates, and sends his servants after Laban and his brothers, to kill them.
Meanwhile, (vs. 27-31 & 1 Ne 4:1-5) the brothers escape and hide in the rocks just outside the city. Furious, Laman and Lemuel begin to beat Sam and Nephi. (Brothers listed in order of age.) An angel appears, stops the attack, and reminds them of the Lord’s charge. He tells them the Lord will deliver Laban into their hands. Again, Laman and Lemuel murmur. Again, Nephi testifies that the Lord will provide a way.
Third Attempt. (1 Ne 4:6-38)
Nephi doesn’t know what he’s going to do, but he follows the Spirit. In walking towards Laban’s house, Nephi sees him drunk, laying on the ground. Having a knowledge and skill in metal work, Nephi is drawn towards Laban’s sword. Impressed with the craftsmanship, Nephi picks up the sword and begins to admire it. The Spirit tells Nephi to slay Laban. Nephi’s shocked. He has never killed a man before and doesn’t want to. Again, the Spirit tells Nephi to slay Laban. Nephi obeys the Spirit and Laban is slain; the plates of brass are obtained; Nephi, his brothers, and Zoram (Laban’s servant) return to their father’s tent, in the wilderness.
Many teaching this story often refer to the first two attempts as failures, stressing the fact that it took three tries to obey the Lord. The fact that Laban’s life was taken to get the plates was always so unsettling to me. However, new insight, seeing things through a different perspective, took me from feeling uncomfortable with this story to it being one of my favorites. On the surface it may not appear like it, but, this story truly shows how much the Lord loves and looks out for each of us and desires to help us.
Reexamining the First Attempt
We need to remember, Laman and Lemuel didn’t want to go into the wilderness with their father. They didn’t want to leave their riches behind. They didn’t want to return to Jerusalem for the brass plates. So why was Laman, the oldest, the one to win the draw among the brothers to approach Laban about the brass plates? What if this first attempt was for LAMAN?
The Lord knew Laman's heart. He knew that riches meant a lot to Laman and he may not have been willing to give them up unless he had done all in his powers to get the plates first. The Lord knew Laman needed to try to get the plates before he could give away all of their riches? It looked to me like this first attempt was for LAMAN.
Reexamining the Second Attempt
What about the second attempt? Doesn’t it seem a fair trade - that all of Lehi’s treasures were offered in exchange for the brass plates? What if the Lord had LABAN in mind because He also knew Laban and his love for wealth? Wouldn't this exchange of a family's inheritance for the plates be satisfactory? What if Laban didn't have to die? The outcome sure would have been different. It was beginning to look like this second attempt was for LABAN!
Reexamining the Third Attempt
In the third attempt - Nephi, was not just "led by the Spirit," but was now being directed and instructed by the Spirit how to proceed. He was told to slay Laban. After first shrinking back, not desiring to take the life of another man, he listens to the Spirit and begins the reasoning process.
The Spirit first tells Nephi:
1. that the Lord has delivered Laban into [his] hands;
2. that the Lord slays the "wicked" to bring about His righteous purposes. (Laban's wickedness appears to be his greed in that he wouldn't make the trade of Lehi's wealth for the plates; he wanted to keep both the rich treasure and the plates, and then he sought the life of Nephi and his brothers.)
Nephi remembers the importance of keeping the commandments of the Lord, needing the law of Moses and their scriptures that were found on the brass plates, and realizing that the Lord knew all this and had delivered Laban into his hands to be destroyed, Nephi obeyed the command and slew Laban.
I thought this story was so beautiful. The Lord loves each of them! The Lord was thinking of each of them! The Lord could not control the choices of any of them. They each made their own choice!
Through this story, my perspective of life has changed. Now I think of the many times I learned a lesson on a “deeper” level. How many lessons were being taught in that one event? How many lives were being affected? Who else might the Lord have been working with, through my experience?
The Lord is efficient! He knows what he’s doing! He has a way of effecting many lives through one experience. Our perspective can be enlarged not only through different experiences, but by trying to understand different people’s points of view.
This story allowed me to see more, by seeing through eyes of Nephi, Laman, Laban, and to some extent, the Lord. There is real power in “likening scriptures unto ourselves,” as Nephi counseled.