Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Why Nephi Killed Laban: Part 1

To say I have struggles with the question of why Nephi killed Laban is not entirely accurate. I would not categorize my relation with this question a struggle, but rather a constant area of intrigue. For some time now I have considered this question, hoping to find some solace in why Nephi felt, or was prompted to kill Laban, however, regrettably, the questions is harder to answer than I had originally thought.

I started my search for the answer in reading Eugene England's essay, "Why Nephi Killed Laban". Ultimately, what he boils it down to is another but, "I don't know," but he does provide a starting place. Firstly, he feels that it may have been some Abrahamic test, but for Nephi. I don't buy this as I question the Abrahamic test (in him having to sacrifice Isaac) already (but that is for another post). However, secondly, one important understanding that he highlights is the way that Nephi writes about this event. It should be said, also that Nephi is not writing this as a journal entry. He did not get back to his brothers camp and sit down to chisel these events out. These are written years later, in the Americas by (a supposedly) wiser man. England argues that the details that Nephi gives of this account, describing the hilt of the sword, etc. (and which is not typical of Nephi) indicate a type of post-justification. As if what he had done, in his later understanding needed to be justified. This brings up some important points that I'll discuss later on.

Some time later, I came across another discussion brought by Brad Kramer, in his book Beholding the Tree of Life. Through his deep reading, he compares the phrase "smote off his head" to the same (an only other) scripture where those lines are used. In Ether, we read of Coriantumer decapitating (mostly) Shiz's head. He compares the act's, showing the difference in how they are justified, further arguing the famous line, "it is better that one man should perish than a nation should dwindle in unbelief." It was without the plates that the to-be Nephites would have no doctrine to help them continue the faith. Kramer also points out that Nephi did not make his decision lightly but interrogated the spirit's communications several times, unsure of what to do.

Both of these arguments have valid points; points that need to be taken seriously. I feel that both contribute to our understanding of the question and what ultimately is at stake. However, I feel that to really analyze Nephi's decisions, we need to look deeper into the culture he was a part of; what we know of his and his family, what we can guess, and the reliability of the events. Furthermore, I believe it is important that we look into the character of Nephi, the events he'd recently been in, and finally, can we come to an answer?

In the following post, I will attempt to address these concerns to paint a picture of the events as I see them taking into account the above and discuss the ultimate question further; why did Nephi kill Laban?

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