In my last post, "Psalm 1 and 2 as the Tree of Life Vision," I discussed the rod of iron in Lehi's vision and in Psalm 2 as a symbol of authority to rule both temporally and spiritually. The divine kings of the ancient Near East were given a staff at their coronation that assisted them in warding off enemies in war while shepherding their subjects along the correct path. In this respect, there is a curious event involving a rod that plays out with Nephi and his brothers.
When Lehi needs his sons to return to Jerusalem to retrieve the brass plates, he seems to have talked to Laman and Lemuel before talking to Nephi (1 Ne 3:5). This makes sense at this point in the narrative because they were older and assumed some type of ascendency over their younger brothers, even though Nephi has had assurances that he will be "a ruler and a teacher over [his] brethren" at some point (2 Ne 2:22). So after Laman fails at convincing Laban to give them the plates, it is Nephi who steps up to encourage his brothers spiritually and suggest a new plan of action. But when this attempt is not successful either, Laman and Lemuel punish their younger siblings with a staff:
And it came to pass that Laman was angry with me, and also with my father; and also was Lemuel, for he hearkened unto the words of Laman. Wherefore Laman and Lemuel did speak many hard words unto us, their younger brothers, and they did smite us even with a rod. (1 Ne 3:28)
As they use the rod, they are stopped by a divine messenger:
And it came to pass as they smote us with a rod, behold, an angel of the Lord came and stood before them, and he spake unto them, saying: Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod? Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities? (1 Ne 3:29)
It is interesting that the angel appears to tie the use of the rod to the authority to rule. While Laman and Lemuel use Nephi as a piñata, the angel points out that hitting Nephi with a rod (note how only Nephi--and not Sam--is singled out here) is wrong not because it could hurt him but because Nephi should be ruling. It seems to be connected. And the rod (or staff) is the symbol of that authority to rule. Laman and Lemuel misuse that authority and have it taken away from them.