There are many reasons why Nephi was justified in killing Laban. The first and foremost reason is that the Lord commanded it. Some have correlated it with the direction given in Section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which addresses the Lord’s laws governing the persecutions and afflictions imposed on his people. According to these directions the death of Laban would have been justified. I have written earlier about some of my thoughts regarding the law of judgment, which I believe is another reason that Nephi was justified in slaying Laban. I believe that we are shown how Laban pronounced the judgment on a thief and a robber as death, and when he robbed Lehi’s sons of their property, and became a thief himself, had already decided his own fate. Just recently however, I have seen this experience as a way for Nephi to be proven. This test was given to him by the Lord.
It is important to remember that Nephi followed the correct steps to gain a testimony for himself. (1 Nephi 2:16) Once he “knew” for himself, he then testified to his father Lehi of the truths he knew. (1 Nephi 3:7).
Look for what Lehi “knew” because of this testimony given by Nephi:
1 Nephi 3:8 And it came to pass that when my father had heard these words he was exceedingly glad, for he knew that I had been blessed of the Lord.
Remember the word “blessed” is a key word for entering into the Abrahamic Covenant. (1 Nephi 2:19-24) Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed simply by Nephi’s testimony because it was something that he had experienced himself. It is apparent that Lehi had also been “blessed” of the Lord.
The account in Chapter 3 records that the brothers made three attempts to get the records from Laban. It is interesting to note that after the first failed attempt Laman and Lemuel were ready to go back home. We can attribute this fact to their level of commitment, or in other words, what motivated them to obey in the first place, which was fear. When the fear of Laban became greater than their fear of their father, or the Lord, their first response was to flee and give up the task. This is a lesson in itself for us. Nephi, who received a greater testimony of the principle of obedience, followed a different path.
The record shows a progression of commitment that Nephi exhibits in the following verse:
1 Nephi 3:15 But behold I said unto them that: As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us.
It is interesting to note that the terminology “As the Lord liveth” is the wording used when swearing by an oath. The same wording is used later when Nephi swears his oath to Zoram. (1 Nephi 4:32). Not only has Nephi a great testimony of obedience to the Lord, he now has taken a greater step and entered into a covenant to obey the Lord. We progress in the same manner. We learn of a truth, and covenant to keep that truth. It is because of Nephi’s willingness to enter into a binding covenant, or oath, that the Lord provides a way for him to prove that he is willing to “put his money where his mouth is”, so to speak.
After the second failed attempt, Nephi was “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehard the things which he should do.” It is at this point that Laban is delivered into Nephi’s hand and Nephi is given a test.
Look for how he feels about this test:
1 Nephi 4:10 And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.
I bet Abraham had some of the same feelings as he prepared to take his son Isaac as an offering to the Lord. What do you think?
In the following verses Nephi has a reasoning session with the Spirit about the task he is required to do. Notice what he remembers that finally motivates him to obey:
1 Nephi 4:11 And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.
12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;
13 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.
14 And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.
15 Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.
17 And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.
18 Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.
Nephi remembers his experience with the “Lord in the wilderness” wherein he gained a testimony, and was “blessed” of the Lord because of his efforts. You know, the experience he had back in 1 Nephi, chapter 2. Nephi was taught by the spirit, entered into a covenant, which allowed him to prove himself to the Lord, and was now ready, because of his faithfulness, to receive further instruction from the Lord. He is ready to part the veil and receive further light and knowledge. This completely fits the pattern set by
, which we learned of in this post, in learning the “mysteries of Heaven”. Alma
This test also allowed Nephi to receive power from the Lord. In fact, I believe that this Abrahamic test allowed Nephi to experience the gift of the sealing power. From this point on in his record, Nephi speaks as if the Lord were speaking himself. His word has become the word of the Lord, in other words, the power is in his word.
In just the first few chapters of the record of Nephi we are shown deep gospel truths that are necessary for us to know so that we too can experience these same blessings as Nephi. I absolutely love the Book of Mormon. More great things to come.......