And, Annotated BoM starting at 1 Nephi 1
If I wanted to encourage thought and try to understand believing Mormons better, I might ask: "Why did Nephi think he had to kill a defenseless, unconscious Laban for the brass plates?"
Context making the killing problematic:
- The LDS Church teaches that when personal revelation contradicts the prophets (as in “Thou shalt not kill”—kind of a biggie), the contradicting personal revelation is wrong.
- Two big themes I gleaned from the Church’s study guide this week are (1) God always prepares a way for a person to do what God commands (1 Ne 3:7), and (2) exercise faith to gain a testimony. God commands “Thou shalt not kill,” but Nephi kills Laban anyway. Doesn’t this show a lack of faith on Nephi’s part?
- Reasons given to obtain the brass plates are to preserve their language (1 Ne 3:19), to have the word of God (1Ne 3:20), to keep a nation from dwindling in unbelief (1Ne 4:13), and to have the law of Moses (1 Ne 4:15). Yet, Lehites were apparently capable of writing to preserve their language, and certainly an all-powerful God could provide revelation to accomplish the other purposes listed.
- But, let's assume the plates were needed. Couldn't the Lord provide a way for Nephi to follow his commandment to not kill? Laban was grossly inebriated which could have led to an alcohol-induced blackout (especially if said God wanted it so) in which all about the night's events were forgotten. Or, God could have given Laban other misdirection so the Lehites could not be thwarted in their escape with the plates. Look at what the God of Abraham allegedly did to protect Israel during the Exodus.
- The explanation given by the Spirit to Nephi (“It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief” - 1 Ne 4:13) is the same explanation given by the high priest Caiaphas for killing Jesus (“It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” - John 11:50).
- "Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records" [plates of brass] (1 Nephi 5:16). It's possible there could be more to the story, but it would seem that Nephi stole the plates owned by or left in the charge of Laban. Again, according to the Church's teaching, personal revelation is trumped by commandments given by prophets (ie. thou shalt not steal). So if these plates belonged to someone else, Nephi does not exercise the faith to follow the prophets and allow the Lord to provide a way for him to keep this commandment. ETA: Random made the following observation, and I think it's important to include it here to show how week my last point is: But Nephi and his brothers brought a ton of wealth to Laban earlier in an attempt to buy the plates. Laban told his servants to kill the boys. He did not succeed in doing that, but he did succeed in stealing their property, therefor it could be logical to suppose they had legally bought and paid for the plates. They made an offer, he took all the "money" they offered him, so the plates were legally theirs - in the eternal sense of fairness (I don't know about their actual laws).
If you could ask believers questions about this week's Come Follow Me lesson, what would you ask?
Have fun studying!
Annotated Book of Mormon
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