Sympathy For The Devil… Er, I Mean Laman

Rusty - August 12, 2005

As I was reading this morning on the subway (don’t you just love BoM for the Palm?) I was wondering how the Book of Laman would be written. (I don’t mean something like the farsical Book of Lemuel, found here that has some amusing one-liners but overall is just too silly.) What I’m talking about is Laman’s perspective.

I should probably begin by saying that I respect Nephi and value his faith and have learned a great deal from his words and example. I also thoroughly enjoyed Ryan Bell’s take on the Nephi/Lehi relationship.

That being said, it appears that Nephi saw things as black and white, therefore he painted his pictures the same way. This leads me to wonder if he embellished those experiences we know so well. I mean, the guy could do no wrong and his brothers could do no right (except for repent). Let’s look at a few of these:

1) He believes and follows his father into the wilderness without any kind of internal struggle (if there was one he saw no reason to record it). “Leave our home, our friends, our possibility for marriage, our beds, our good food, our education, our crops and go into the wilderness with an open-ended timeframe when there’s absolutely no visible reason for doing so? Of course I’ll go. And anyone that doesn’t want to leave all of this is a murmurer.”

(Like Ryan points out in his post, there seemed to be no outward manifestation of Lehi being “the” prophet. Sure, he was a visionary man, but he wasn’t President Hinckley or even Moses clearly a leader of many people. As it was L&L were looking at their dad as the guy who played catch with them and has crazy dreams sometimes, not as a modern-day prophet leading masses of people.)

2) He forgives his brothers immediately after they tried to kill him. Either Laman and Lemuel are true psychotic killers with no allowance for sympathy or Nephi said they wanted to kill him when they were actually just really pissed at him for telling them what to do so they beat him up for it. How many times do siblings say, “I swear, he wanted to kill me!”?

3) Nephi exhorts his brothers to look to the example of Moses and the children of Israel and how the Lord released them from bondage. Um, yeah, when you’re in physical bondage it’s easy to look around and say, “dang, this sucks, let’s ask the Lord to release us from this crappy bondage.” But Laman and Lemuel weren’t in any physical circumstances that would suggest any danger, any logical reason to leave Jerusalem.

These are just a few of my thoughts as I’ve been reading this time around. Now, I understand that if L&L were close to the Spirit they would have understood why they were leaving, or at least been more humble in their obedience. But a lot of people don’t pray, aren’t close to the Spirit, don’t follow the commandments and aren’t painted as such a stark manifestation of wickedness. I wonder how Nephi would have painted me in his writings.

23 Comments »

  1. Steve Evans just posted his similar sentiments here at almost the exact same time as I posted this. Hmmm…

    Comment by Rusty — August 12, 2005 @ 3:10 pm

  2. You?

    You would have been painted as a pansy-waist who was more interested in the trappings of mammon that the things of the Lord.

    And you’re short. Which is worse.

    Comment by Silus Grok — August 12, 2005 @ 4:17 pm

  3. You? A designer?

    You would have been painted as a pansy-waist who was more interested in the trappings of mammon that the things of the Lord.

    And you’re short. Which is worse.

    Comment by Silus Grok — August 12, 2005 @ 4:19 pm

  4. Nephi is very black and white. When you don’t agree with him, he paints you black.

    It’s amazing they made it thru the wilderness and land of Bountiful without killing someone.

    Nephi was loved by his brothers the same as Joseph was by his. I wonder how Joseph would have written about his brothers?

    Comment by don — August 12, 2005 @ 4:23 pm

  5. There is an article, Richard L. Bushman. “The Lamanite View of Book of Mormon History” By Study and Also by Faith v.II, p. 52-73.

    From http://home.uchicago.edu/~spackman/masterbom

    Comment by Ben S. — August 12, 2005 @ 4:47 pm

  6. 1 n 2:16 indicates Nephi prayed about Lehi’s instructions, etc.

    It also indicates that w/o the prayer, and answer to it, he would have rebelled.

    This seems to indicate some effort/doubt on his part…

    Comment by lyle — August 12, 2005 @ 4:55 pm

  7. Isn’t Silus confusing Rusty w/ Napoleonic Steve?

    Seriously, Kurt and I had an exchange similar to this regarding the Onan story. Couldn’t we say this for most, if not all, scripture: it’s like any other story. We’re only getting one side and are really left clueless as to what really happened. In effect, we’re left w/ a point of a story as scripture while the actual events are largely irrelevant.

    Comment by Steve EM — August 12, 2005 @ 5:03 pm

  8. I thought most of this was written near the end of Nephi’s life. That means it was long after his family and frieds broke off from the main group in the promised land and wars had already begun between the two clans. That sounds very much like a messy divorce today. Think about how one side of the family remembers and talks about the ex-spouse after a divorce. I suspect that perspective helps explain why Laman and Lemuel look like such weasels in Nephi’s history.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 12, 2005 @ 5:23 pm

  9. Please accept my apology if I tend to side with the B/W account of a Prophet over those who proved their apostasy via actions. Why are we so sympathetic? I really don’t get it. Maybe because we feel more like sinners, more like Laman/Lemuel?

    Why not sympathize with “a” Prophet?

    Comment by lyle — August 12, 2005 @ 5:33 pm

  10. Lyle,
    I always have sympathised with Nephi. This time around I was just seeing it a little differently. Not to say that I think Nephi was a jerk and Laman is now my new hero. All I’m saying is that we are only given one perspective and I would imagine Laman wasn’t as terrible as he is painted by Nephi. I mean, do you know ANYONE as wicked as Laman is portrayed? About a year ago Ryan Bell posted on wickedness and I think he used Laman as an example, asking this question. Very interesting post, I can’t find it though.

    Comment by Rusty — August 12, 2005 @ 5:46 pm

  11. Personally, when I read the scriptures, I sympathize with Satan.

    Clearly the scriptural accounts of his fall into perdition are biased by the fact that they were all written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost (hardly an impartial, objective character in the dispute).

    Was it really a “war” in heaven? I suspect that the Holy Spirit embellished an event after the fact–after all, he was inspiring Abraham to write about the controversy maybe even thousands of years after it happened. It was probably really more like a minor “quarrel” in heaven rather than a “war”.

    Satan probably made some off-hand, minor joke about wanting the Father’s glory, and the The Older Brother (as older brothers are inclined to do) went and blew it all out of proportion. Next thing you know Satan find himself, plop, out on his arse–over a minor misunderstanding.

    I mean, sure, Satan is the bad guy, but the Holy Ghost can be a real jerk about it sometimes.

    I think we can learn from both sides of the story.

    A lot of people want to follow their own plan instead of the Father’s and want to have the glory for themselves and aren’t painted as badly as Satan. I sometimes wonder, if the Holy Spirit were to inspire some scripture about me, how he would have painted me.

    Personally, I’m waiting for someone to make a movie about the war in heaven told sympathetically from Satan’s point of view.

    Comment by Prudence McPrude — August 12, 2005 @ 6:00 pm

  12. thanks steve…humor poacher extraordinaire

    Comment by lyle — August 12, 2005 @ 6:30 pm

  13. I collaborated on a stage production having to do with Lehi’s journey. One of the writers, as an exercise in developing the theme, wrote “The Book of Laman”. He merely told the story from Laman’s point of view–about ten pages worth of reading. This Laman was no one-eyed pirate. He was in training to become a scribe–as might have been expected of the eldest. He knew the Holy Writ, and in fact, used it to justify his purposes.

    Comment by Jack — August 12, 2005 @ 11:18 pm

  14. Prudence,

    That’s hilarious.

    Of course, in Laman’s case there is a little room for sympathy as he repeatedly fell from some level of grace into rebellion–which would imply that he was actually trying, on ocassion, to do good–which effort, on at least one ocassion, caused Nephi to have great hopes for him.

    Comment by Jack — August 12, 2005 @ 11:26 pm

  15. I grew up thinking Nephi was so fabulous and thinking that L&L were such shmucks, but the older I get the more I can sympathize with L&L. Nephi was probably a hard standard to live up to.

    I don’t feel that it’s wrong though. Hopefully as we get older we learn to have compassion, charity, and forgiveness for everyone.

    Jesus Christ didn’t love L&L and less, He just wan’t handing them the keys to the kingdom any time soon.

    Comment by kristen j — August 13, 2005 @ 12:29 am

  16. Well, and Nephi had some serious communication problems. I mean, he gets frustrated with his brother’s unrighteousness, and he gets his up on a soapbox. No wonders they got mad at him.

    But to Nephi’s credit, he might not have really known how to show his love and frustration for them, but I really get a sense from his account that he felt for them.

    MRKH

    Comment by Mark Hansen — August 13, 2005 @ 1:58 am

  17. “I’m waiting for someone to make a movie about the war in heaven told sympathetically from Satan’s point of view.”

    Well prudie Aaron Brown, ever hear of “The Matrix”? Great flicks, covers all sides, including viewpoints of HM and the Devil. Yeah, they’re rated R, but so is “The Passion of the Christ”.

    Comment by Steve EM — August 13, 2005 @ 1:38 pm

  18. Your overall idea isn’t bad but like Lyle pointed out, there are some problems.
    1)Nephi said his “heart was soften” clearly showing he needed heart softening.
    2)Lehi was one of three prophets (not including Daniel whowas a kid at that time) that we know of preahing the destruction of Jerusalem at that time. Jeremiah got put in prison and Ezekial was already in Babylon, so maybe Lehi was “the” prophet” for a while. Maybe there were more. Anyway, the system was a bit different in the OT with the law of Moses and only a few Melchizedek holders (that is, the prophets).
    3) L&L DID have physical trials later on and they NEVER cried unto the Lord for help. Why should we beleive they were any different in Jerusalem? Anyway, this was just before the THIRD siege on Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. They were already being ruled by Babylon but decided to rebel a second time till their temple was utterly wasted and everyone was taken over there. So yeah, they were in a pretty bad spot before that. Only the most hard hearted (which must have been the majority of the people in the city at that time) would still believe God was on their side and would help them in their fight.
    Ya know what? It’s actually like pretending New York isn’t going to be destroyed by an earthquake as Wilford Woodruff predicted and continuing to live there>8p
    Anyway, so yeah. Nephi probebly did some embellishing in his writing (when you try to get a point across do you digress, on gold plates no less, and say “But there were some times when they were good guys and such and such.”) but the stories are still pretty clear.
    Oh, and Nephi would probebly wonder why you made such an effort to worry about what font was in your plates and how pretty the document looked instead of what kind of messege you were trying to get across.

    Comment by Bret — August 13, 2005 @ 11:30 pm

  19. By the way, what is the objective of having sympathy for the bad guys? Is it to just help find a different perspective? To help see how you look in their place (I think it’s fine to seeif you have any of the same traits, maybe)? To find more compassion for the sinner? A combo fo those?

    Comment by Bret — August 13, 2005 @ 11:33 pm

  20. Bret,
    First of all, try spell/grammar check before you hit post, I could barely get through your comment.

    Secondly, you’ve completely missed the point of this post. I know L&L were bad kids, they didn’t have much faith, they had a lot of need to repent. But you know what, so do I. Sure we can say, “Well, at least I’m not THAT bad…” but that’s bullcrap. We’ve all fallen short, we’re all in need of the Savior. What, is it okay for us to lack compassion for those making bad decisions because our own decisions aren’t THAT bad?

    Thirdly, what’s WRONG with having sympathy for the bad guys? Are you suggesting sympathy for one side and faith inspiring from the other side are mutually exclusive? And am I now going to go out and smoke because I had sympathy for a smoker? I guess if I keep looking through the lense of the self-righteous Nephi maybe some day I can tell everyone how righteous I am and how everyone around me needs to repent.

    Fourthly, I don’t know what the h you’re talking about with the font and the plates thing. That has nothing to do with anything we’re talking about on this thread. If this is a separate beef you have with my opinions, write a post about it, but it’s superfluous to this convesation.

    Steve EM,
    Are you five?

    Comment by Rusty — August 14, 2005 @ 12:38 am

  21. Bret: There is another prophet we know about, Uriah. He was threatened with death, fled to Egypt, brought back, and killed by the king.

    See Jeremiah 26:20-24.
    http://scriptures.lds.org/jer/26#20

    Comment by Ben S. — August 14, 2005 @ 1:26 pm

  22. Ben,
    Thank you. I’m not sure I remember him at all.

    Rusty,
    Holy cow! Did I hit a nerve somewhere? Cool your jets, bro.
    First of all, I’m sorry for the bad spelling. I don’t know how to spell check in this comment box.
    Secondly, if I missed the point of this post so badly, (you missed the point of my second comment) then I don’t understand why you made the points you did. All I was trying to do is point out some things you may have missed in your study.
    Thirdly, you may be just a little worked up over this to start calling a prophet of God “self righteous.” That’s dangerous territory if you ask me.
    Fourthly,
    My comment about the font on “your” plates was just playful banter off of what you said you thought Nephi might write about you. (referring to you being a graphic arts major) No need to cuss me out over it.
    Gee, maybe I have a harder time seeing L&L point of view because MY older brother sometimes sounds like them!:)

    Comment by Bret — August 14, 2005 @ 2:43 pm

  23. Well Rusty, as Jesus said “Except you become as this little child…….”

    Comment by Steve EM — August 15, 2005 @ 2:49 pm

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