Scriptural Giants: Nephi’s Courage

It grieved Nephi that his older brothers Laman and Lemuel rebelled against their father, Lehi. However, Nephi’s older brother Sam believed the words of Nephi, who had been visited by the Lord. In answer to Nephi’s fervent prayer “to know of the mysteries of God,” the Lord blessed Nephi for his faith and humility and promised him that “inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.

“And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.”

One day Father Lehi told Nephi that in a dream “the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem.

“For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.

“Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness.”

Laman and Lemuel complained that it was too hard a task, but Nephi declared, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for 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.”

Nephi and his brothers journeyed through the wilderness to Jerusalem, camping along the way in their tents. But before they arrived, they determined, by drawing lots, that Laman would go into the house of Laban and talk with him. After gaining entrance to Laban’s house, Laman said that he wanted the brass plates to take back to his father. Laban became angry at the request and threatened, “Behold thou art a robber, and I will slay thee.”

Laman escaped and warned his brothers about the danger. Nephi’s older brothers were afraid and wanted to return to their father empty-handed. But Nephi was steadfast in his resolve to retrieve the brass plates. “As the Lord liveth, and as we live,” he said, “we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us.” Nephi persuaded his brothers to go with him to their former home in Jerusalem to gather the gold, silver, and other precious possessions left behind when their family had fled into the wilderness.

When the brothers returned to Laban’s house, they sought to obtain the brass plates in exchange for the treasure that they had brought. But when Laban saw the great size of the fortune before him, his greed inspired him to order his servants to slay the brothers so that he could seize their property.

The brothers fled and found safety in a cave. But Laman and Lemuel’s anger over their sorry predicament soon boiled over, and they said many harsh words against their father and younger brothers. They were beating Nephi and Sam with sticks when an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them and asked, “Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod? Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen [Nephi] to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities? Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands.” Then the angel departed.

Laman and Lemuel still complained, but Nephi was heartened. “Let us go up again unto Jerusalem,” he urged, “and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?”

“… an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt?”

Fearful for their lives, and grumbling that their third try to get the plates was sure to fail, Laman and Lemuel did agree to hide outside the walls of Jerusalem while Nephi “crept into the city and went forth towards the house of Laban.”

Nephi said that he “was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.” As he approached Laban’s house, Nephi found him on the ground, drunk. He noticed Laban’s gleaming sword and withdrew it from its sheath. The hilt was of “pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and … the blade thereof was of the most precious steel.”

The Spirit directed Nephi to kill Laban, but Nephi shrunk from the idea, knowing that he had never taken the life of anyone. He knew that Laban was evil, that he had tried to kill him (Nephi) and his brothers, and that he had stolen their fortune. But kill a man? … However, the Spirit was insistent: “Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;

“Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.”

Nephi, remembering the words of the Lord spoken to him in the wilderness—“Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise”—decided to “obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and … smote off his head with his own sword.”

Quickly Nephi put on Laban’s garments, armor, and sword and headed for Laban’s treasury. On the way he met Zoram, the servant who had the keys to it. Disguising his voice to sound like Laban’s, Nephi ordered the servant to accompany him and obtained the brass plates. Afterward, the unsuspecting servant walked along with Nephi until they came to Nephi’s brothers, who were waiting. But Laman, Lemuel, and Sam, thinking that it was Laban who approached, started to flee. Nephi had to call to them in his own voice.

When Zoram realized that he had been tricked, he tried to escape. But Nephi, who was large in stature and very strong, seized him, explained the purpose of their mission, promised that they would spare his life, and invited him to go back with them to the wilderness as a free man.

Zoram took courage at Nephi’s words and pledged that he would go with them. “And it came to pass,” Nephi wrote, “that we took the plates of brass and the servant of Laban, and departed into the wilderness, and journeyed unto the tent of our father.”

[illustration] Painting by Ronald Crosby