Saturday, January 16, 2010

Nephi and His Brothers Hit it Off

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.


Jennifer Kohler said...

Very interesting. I love seeing your perspective. Also, a couple of notes from my scripture journal related to Lehi's dream of the Tree of Life. I'd be interested in any comments you may have.

1. In this case of Lehi’s dream/vision, the way Nephi relates the story puts the focus on Laman and Lemuel, or the part of the family that did not partake of the fruit of the tree of life. Yes, the others are acknowledged for being obedient, but Lehi’s concern is for those he loves that are apparently not enjoying the fullness of joy he sees available. This is an example of the Savior’s lesson of the shepherd who goes after the one lamb that is straying. He can leave the flock of 99 on their own for a bit. They are safe in the fold.

2. Just finished reading 1st Nephi, chapter 15, and was surprised to notice how much the conversation between Nephi and his brothers devolved upon the dream their father saw, as opposed to the vision that Nephi had. In fact I can find no mention at all in this chapter of Nephi sharing his vision with his brothers. Is there a note that he ever shares this transcendent experience with them? None that I see. When they ask him for an interpretation of their father’s dream, I don’t see that he ever refers to his own experience as he answers. It’s a bit unnerving to me that as many times as I’ve read this book, I’ve never really noticed this aspect of the story.
So there are these chapters: 8- Lehi has his dream; 10- Lehi speaks of his dream, and prophesies; 11, 12, 13, 14-Nephi has his vision; 15- Nephi interprets his father’s dream to his brothers, but says nothing about his own vision. Of the seven chapters that address the Tree of Life, three are anchored in Lehi’s experience, and four relate to Nephi’s experience.
How might it have been different if Laman and Lemuel had been teachable? Would Nephi then have shared his own sacred experience? How much of the spiritual feast do we miss out on because of our own pride and hard heartedness?

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! I can't believe I never caught that before. Thanks for sharing.


Joey Green said...


Fantastic insight on the fact that Nephi doesn't appear to share the results of his own vision with Laman and Lemuel. I do, however think he likely shared it with Jacob, as there seem to be implications from Jacob that he too had the same vision.



Michaela Stephens said...

I suspect that one of the reasons Nephi didn't share his vision with his brothers was that it would be hard to know what to share that they could handle, and one never knows where the questions can lead to. I've always assumed that he kept it to himself because he didn't want them to get any hint that someday their descendants would destroy his. That bit of info would definitely have added a layer of complication to an already complicated and difficult relationship.
Could he have shared his vision without sharing that tidbit? Ummm, maybe, but again, it is hard to know where people's questions are going to lead. Plus, if Laman and Lemuel were having troubles with LEHI'S dreams--priesthood authority and all--Nephi's experience wouldn't have a chance.

Joey Green said...

Great points, Michaela.