Context and General Information
- After Lehi’s death, Laman and Lemuel are angry with Nephi – because of the Lord’s admonitions.
- Nephi was constrained by the Spirit of God to speak to them – most likely a warning.
Trouble in Paradise
Well, it shouldn’t come to a surprise to any of us that as soon as Lehi dies trouble brews between Nephi and his brothers. We read:
“And it came to pass that not many days after his death, Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael were angry with me because of the admonitions of the Lord.
For I, Nephi, was constrained to speak unto them, according to his word; for I had spoken many things unto them, and also my father, before his death; many of which sayings are written upon mine other plates; for a more history part are written upon mine other plates.” – 2 Nephi 4:13-14
Nephi Was Constrained
First of all, a quick reminder on the definition of the word constrained:
appearing forced or overly controlled
Before blogging the Book of Mormon, I think that when I read that Nephi was “constrained” to speak to his brothers, I underestimated the severity of this spiritual impression. I also underestimated, or even forgot, Nephi’s responsibility to God.
I’ve never been in the Nephi was an annoying younger brother camp. Mainly because I think that it is an over-simplistic view, and it doesn’t match with what we know about Nephi. I’m even the oldest in my family. I have plenty of younger siblings. They have all excelled in various ways beyond my capabilities. My siblings are smarter, funnier, and more successful than I am. And rarely am in charge. In fact, I was shorter than my next sibling by the time I was four.
In other words, my siblings were the ones that were “large in stature.” Not me.
This isn’t to say that I don’t lead. Of course I have been a leader in my family. I had to babysit when I was a kid (like every oldest child – no big deal). I had the opportunity to be a cheerleader and help get my siblings excited about something or the opposite. Usually, I just “led” my siblings to do weird things like make potty jokes and sing weird songs that would annoy the grown ups of the house.
Often, I did treat my siblings poorly. We fought from time to time – especially when playing video games. I know I started some of those fights. I certainly didn’t prevent many fights. And, there may have been more punching (on my part) than I would like to admit.
My point is, I don’t want to make it sound like I was perfect. I wasn’t. I tried to be a nice sister because I loved my siblings, but we were also real.
Anyway, my family didn’t have the dynamic of Lehi’s family. So, it’s hard to really compare my family with his.
But I want to say that, as an oldest sibling, I have never been bothered or jealous of the wins and successes of my siblings. I was proud when my sister went on a mission. I love that my brother is a great cook. I know that my other younger brothers are much funnier than me. It doesn’t bother me that I have a brother that runs, we share this love. I went to a simple state college, and was not threatened (instead excited) when younger siblings were awarded entry and scholarships to really good schools.
The successes of my siblings have no bearing on my self worth. I love them and rejoice in their wins. Additionally, I know that the Lord doesn’t have a limited supply of blessings. We don’t have to compete for God’s blessings or love.
All of this shapes how I feel about Nephi. I don’t think that he was trying to be some annoying “know-it-all” younger brother. He knew the Lord. He loved his brothers. He forgave them time and time and time again. He never exercised power over them.
Instead, he was constrained by God to correct them.
Let’s think about this for a second:
Nephi was a special witness of the Savior. In 1 Nephi 11, Nephi sees the vision of the tree of life and its meaning. Nephi sees the coming of the Savior. Nephi sees a vision of Christ’s life on the earth. After this experience, Nephi doesn’t merely have faith, he has knowledge. Even before showing Nephi this vision, the Angel warned:
“And behold this thing shall be given unto thee for a sign, that after thou hast beheld the tree which bore the fruit which thy father tasted, thou shalt also behold a man descending out of heaven, and him shall ye witness; and after ye have witnessed him ye shall bear record that it is the Son of God.” – 1 Nephi 11:7
The knowledge that Nephi both sought and obtained came with responsibility. He not only had to qualify for such knowledge with faith, but he also had to have real intent – meaning that he intended to live according to the knowledge that he received.
If Nephi wanted to be nurtured by the Spirit, then he had to nurture the Spirit in his soul. This is done by obedience to the whisperings and promptings of the Spirit that we receive.
So, Nephi couldn’t be a wallflower. He knew too much. He couldn’t stand back while his brothers were plotting to kill his father. He couldn’t just pretend that Laman’s and Lemuel’s exceeding rudeness were okay. The Spirit wouldn’t let him.
It wasn’t Nephi that wanted to correct his brothers, It was a commandment from God given to Nephi to go and correct his brothers.
Think of how this usually ends for Nephi: getting beat, getting tied up and dragged into the wilderness, nearly getting pushed off a cliff, getting tied up on a boat. Do you really think that Nephi enjoyed these experiences? Do you really think that Nephi liked correcting his brothers – knowing that it would result in abuse?
Of course not!
I wouldn’t have wanted to be Nephi.
But Nephi always obeys the Spirit. He corrects his brothers. He does this out of his devotion to God. And probably his love for his brothers. (Even though eventually he refers to them as enemies. But hey – he loves his enemies!)
The point here is, because Nephi was a special witness of the Savior and because Nephi was a devoted disciple of Christ, he knew he had to obey, or then he would be sinning.
Lehi reminded Laman and Lemuel:
“Rebel no more against your brother, whose views have been glorious, and who hath kept the commandments from the time that we left Jerusalem; and who hath been an instrument in the hands of God, in bringing us forth into the land of promise; for were it not for him, we must have perished with hunger in the wilderness; nevertheless, ye sought to take away his life; yea, and he hath suffered much sorrow because of you.” – 2 Nephi 1:24
Laman and Lemuel can think of what they want about Nephi. Modernly, we can deride Nephi and imply that he was a know-it-all younger brother. HOWEVER, without Nephi, all of Lehi’s company – both Lehi’s family and Ishmael’s family – would have died in the wilderness with hunger.
Nephi got the brass plates.
Nephi made a new bow and hunted food in the wilderness.
Nephi built a boat.
He wasn’t just some know it all trying to correct his brothers at every chance. He wanted to get out of the wilderness and get to the promised land!!!!!! He lived worthy of the Spirit, and that Spirit constrained him to admonish his brothers.
I really should probably have ended this blog post already, but I want to say one thing about the word “admonition.” When I read the following verse, I think that I have misunderstood it in the past:
“And it came to pass that not many days after his death, Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael were angry with me because of the admonitions of the Lord.” – 2 Nephi 4:13
For some reason, I don’t have the right connotation of the word “admonition.” I’m trying to think of where my misunderstanding stems. I think that it is from the 13th article of faith – when I think of the phrase “the admonition of Paul.”
In a way, I have kind of mistakenly signified the word “admonition” to mean something like “doctrine.” I tend to define the “admonition of Paul” as the directives or doctrine of Paul – to believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things.
I tend to mentally define the scripture in 2 Nephi as “…Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael were angry with me because of the doctrines of the Lord.”
In both cases, I realize, I’m wrong.
(This is why the dictionary is such an important tool in scripture study. If we misunderstand a word, then we can misunderstand an entire concept).
Instead, admonition means the act of admonishing. Okay…that already starts to feel different. Laman and Lemuel, the sons of Ishmael: they didn’t dislike God’s doctrine. They disliked God’s admonishing.
What is admonishing? To warn or reprimand someone firmly.
Paul’s admonition isn’t just some fun little doctrine. It’s a warning: Believe all things, hope all things, endure all things…It’s strong advice that will keep us safe!
Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael…they weren’t angry about God’s doctrine. They were angry because of the warnings of the Lord. They were angry with the warning words that Lehi left them with (keep the commandments and prosper; don’t keep the commandments, be cut off!). They are like toddlers, but the anger that they have against these sound warnings will have deleterious effects.
This is along blog post. I will wrap it up now. But I feel that these things are important for us to recognize. Understanding these things helps me to consider my own discipleship. Do I get angry at the warnings and gentle correction of God? Do I get angry at the messengers of God’s word?
Do I have charity, and rejoice in truth – even if the truth is I have made a mistake and need correction?