A Video Supplement for
Come, Follow Me Book of Mormon Lesson 17:
“In the Strength of the Lord” (Mosiah 7-10)
A sibling of mine, if not someone else more immediately famous, once made the statement that, “If you can’t be a great example, at least be a terrible warning.” When we think of scriptural characters that excel in the terrible warning category few can compare with Laman and Lemuel. This is especially true when we look at the consequences their actions and example had on their posterity. Though their relationship with Nephi clearly had its ups and downs, it is clear that they spent a great deal more time remembering the downs. When fights break out, out comes the list of grievances and accusations. This ultimately ruined their relationship with Nephi, but it actually gets worse: their grievance narratives not only ruined their own relationships with Nephi, but precipitated divisions and contention among their descendants that plague the Book of Mormon peoples for most of their history. In fairness to the Lamanites, the Nephites too have their biases.
Lets look at their grievance narratives as set out in Mosiah 10:12-17:
12 They were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, believing in the tradition of their fathers, which is this—
I only read half of verse 12 as a starting point to capture some of the Nephite bias. Most people when you actually get to know them aren’t as interested in murdering others as some give them credit. It pays to question the dirty stories you hear about others, even when they are being told by people you usually agree with because often they are both a little too easy to believe and a little too hard to reconcile with reality. Continuing with the rest of the verse, which lays out the Lamanite’s grievance narrative,
12b Believing that they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem because of the iniquities of their fathers, and that they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea;
13 And again, that they were wronged while in the land of their first inheritance, after they had crossed the sea, and all this because that Nephi was more faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord—therefore he was favored of the Lord, for the Lord heard his prayers and answered them, and he took the lead of their journey in the wilderness.
14 And his brethren were wroth with him because they understood not the dealings of the Lord; they were also wroth with him upon the waters because they hardened their hearts against the Lord.
I would add for those who haven’t just read these stories that they also decided to tie Nephi up until the boat nearly sank in a storm. When threatened with imminent destruction they finally release Nephi, who prays to the Lord, at which point the storm ceases and he guides the boat from then on.
15 And again, they were wroth with him when they had arrived in the promised land, because they said that he had taken the ruling of the people out of their hands; and they sought to kill him.
So Laman and Lemuel let the stories they told about Nephi to justify their own bad behavior and failures of righteousness and leadership push them to the point of planning a premeditated murder. It is helpful sometimes to realize when the Lord says things like (Matthew 5:9), “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” or (Mark 11:25-26) “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” that part of why he asks us to be peacemakers and to forgive is because if we choose to ignore that council we put ourselves in a path leading to blood and horror; hence saying of Jesus such as Matthew 5:22 JST ” …whosoever is angry with his brother (JST omits without a cause) shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.The earliest extant manuscript, by the way, also omits “without a cause” as do Vaticanus and Sanaiticus (https://rsc.byu.edu/how-new-testament-came-be/adding-taking-away-without-cause-matthew-522).
16 And again, they were wroth with him because he departed into the wilderness as the Lord had commanded him, and took the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, for they said that he robbed them.
This is especially ironic when you consider that a prominent reason he was directed to depart into the wilderness was because they were planning to kill him. It becomes more so, when one recalls that the only reason that they have the plates of brass at all is because Nephi refused to give up on their mission to obtain them when both Laman and Lemuel wallowed in frustration to the point that they began beating Nephi and Sam and only stopped when an angel intervened, and only went as close to the city of Jerusalem where the plates were located as the walls after that point. Continuing with verse 17,
17 And thus they have taught their children that they should hate them, and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them; therefore they have an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi.
This is where anger leads and nursing grievances leads. This is its end result. Generations consumed in hatreds they never should have been taught. On the other hand, Jesus offers us the chance to forgive and be forgiven (Matthew 6:14), and truly become repairers of the breach. He offers us the chance to leave the cycles of grievance and retaliation and replace them with love, forgiveness, and service. The choice to forgive and let Jesus help us forget our own cankering stories, consequently, is one of the most powerfully productive ways in which we can embrace the Lord and his ways, and let his grace truly start to heal our wounds. If you insist on continuing to tell grievance stories, beware, because you don’t want to hear your children and your grandchildren telling those same nasty stories to explain why they still hate their family members.