Laban’s Execution and the Manifesto on Plural Marriage

January 21, 2014    By: DavidF @ 6:31 pm   Category: Ethics,Personal Revelation,Theology

Laban’s execution ranks among the most troubling stories in Mormonism.  It’s often used as a story to show that obeying God is more important than what we think is right.  Alternatively, it’s used as an example to show how we should question commandments.  It’s been explained away as a justifiable action under Jewish law.  It’s been entertained as a possible example of Satan’s power to deceive (Nephi in this instance).  Nephi and Laban have been compared to Abraham and Isaac, and David and Goliath.  Critics cite it to discredit Mormonism, and apologists use it to bolster Mormonism.  What makes Laban’s execution so interesting is not only what it tells us about Nephi, but what it tells us about God.

Laban’s execution takes us through three stages in Nephi’s mind.  When Nephi discovers Laban stumbling through the dark Jerusalem streets, God prompts him to kill the defenseless drunk.[1]  Nephi refuses to obey God because killing, ironically enough, is against God’s commandments.  God again commands Nephi to kill Laban.  The second time, Nephi pauses to come up with a reason to justify what God has asked him to do.  Nephi contemplates Laban’s offenses.  Just earlier that night Laban took all of Nephi’s family’s possessions and tried to kill Nephi and his brothers; he had disobeyed God.  The rationalization may be compelling for some, but Nephi evidently couldn’t convince himself.  So God commands Nephi a third time to take Laban’s life.  But this time, God explains why Nephi should obey his commandment.  God points out “It is better that [Laban] should perish than that [the future Nephite civilization] should dwindle and perish in unbelief.”  God has Nephi weigh the literal death of one man against the spiritual death of a whole nation.  Put in modern parlance, God gives Nephi a utilitarian reason for executing Laban.  Nephi then obeys.

It would be easy to draw some harmful lessons from this story.  Presumably, Nephi did the right thing by refusing to obey until God gave him a reason to obey.  Should we adopt Nephi’s unwillingness when we face tough commandments?  Probably not.  The Book of Mormon itself contains other stories where people took the leap of faith before knowing fully what would happen.  Nephi had just declared, one chapter earlier, that he’d obey whatever God told him to do.  Laban’s execution gives us the rare look at how a prophet, and how God, works through a situation where two commandments clearly contradict each other.  And while Nephi tries to obey the more newest one, he waits for God’s approval before acting.  There was simply no third way for Nephi, and I suspect that most people would rarely be put in Nephi’s position.  But at least one modern prophet faced a similar situation.

Wilford Woodruff had a dilemma.  God commanded the Saints to practice plural marriage.  But had they continued, the United States would imprison church leaders, close the temples, and confiscate many of the Saints’ property; the church would, in effect, perish.  Woodruff couldn’t obey one commandment (plural marriage) without failing on the other  (preserving the church).

Woodruff’s decision is sometimes taken as evidence that Mormonism is not what it claims.  If God really was in charge, He would have found a way to allow plural marriage to continue and the church to go on as it had.  Instead, he didn’t intervene, and he made Woodruff and the Saints abandon an immensely important commandment.  Clearly then, the argument goes, God doesn’t lead the Church.

The story of Laban’s execution offers an alternative conclusion.

Nephi

Wilford Woodruff

Choice 1: Kill Laban, save the church End plural marriage, save the church
Choice 2: Not kill Laban, church perishes Not end plural marriage, church suffers/perishes
Decision: Applies the greater good Applies the greater good

Laban’s execution shows that God will sometimes entertain a utilitarian judgment over directly intervening in some way to avoid the utilitarian solution.  Why?  The answer may be related to the answer to another, similar question: Why does God have imperfect people lead His church?  Perhaps it’s because the greater good is served by having people work together to improve an imperfect church rather than by having God so directly involved.  Sometimes God drops a Liahona in the sand, sometimes he commands his prophet to make do with the best of two bad choices.[2]

_______

[1] As an aside, some people have other problems with Laban’s execution.  Why couldn’t Nephi have just knocked Laban out, or what about all of the blood on Laban’s clothes that Nephi had adorned?  These aren’t criticisms of the story as it is told, but elements that Nephi didn’t explain.  I imagine that if Nephi anticipated these criticisms, he might have offered more detail on how the events unfolded.  For all we know, Nephi stole Laban’s clothes, Laban recognized him, and Nephi just recounted the order of events in reverse.  Stranger things have happened.

[2] The same argument I’ve offered here might also apply to Eve’s choice in the Garden of Eden.  However, it’s not entirely clear that Eve was thinking in utilitarian terms about her decision to eat the forbidden fruit and have children.

25 Comments »

  1. I liked how you framed Wilford Woodruff’s dilemma as one involving competing commandments (as opposed to the simpler paradigm that assumes he just caved to pressure). Good thought exercise. Thanks.

    Comment by Hunter — January 22, 2014 @ 9:20 am

  2. Interesting thoughts. If you haven’t done so, you may be interested to read the comments George Q. Cannon and Wilford Woodruff made when the Manifesto was presented at General Conference on October 6, 1890, especially GQC’s since he discusses the points in this post in detail. (He doesn’t compare the decision to Nephi or Laban, though.)

    Comment by Amy T — January 22, 2014 @ 10:24 am

  3. On a lighter note, my daughter was reading the BOM to her 3 year old daughter and came to the Laban and Nephi incident. Julia, the mother, hesitated reading that portion due the subject matter, but she decided that it was scripture and all would be well. The child didn’t seem to even notice.
    The next day Julia caught the three year old climbing in the pantry. Julia, scolded her and told her that it was important to obey. The child looked up at her mother with wide eyes and replied, “oh, ya, or Heavenly Father might sword you”.
    Needless to say, she had heard and she had formed an opinion on the subject. Haha!
    I liked the discussion. Thanks for posting. It is always a bit of a dilemma when I read it. Greater good is where I placed it but it’s not entirely comfortable there.

    Comment by melanie — January 22, 2014 @ 1:27 pm

  4. I realized that my post was meant for a different blog post that I read about Nephi and Laban recently…. You could remove it if you want.

    I totally agree with this post… Sorry…

    [DavidF: No problem. I've done that too.]

    Comment by Daniel Ortner — January 22, 2014 @ 3:16 pm

  5. We should not forget some of the examples of scripture that show that Nephi and descendants were blessed of the lord. Here are some examples that show the blessings the Lord promises to Nephi and his descendants (there are others as well).

    1) Lehi conditions blessings to Laban and Lemuel on hearkening to the words of the righteous Nephi

    “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.

    And I exceedingly fear and tremble because of you, lest he shall suffer again; for behold, ye have accused him that he sought power and authority over you; but I know that he hath not sought for power nor authority over you, but he hath sought the glory of God, and your own eternal welfare.

    And ye have murmured because he hath been plain unto you. Ye say that he hath used sharpness; ye say that he hath been angry with you; but behold, his sharpness was the sharpness of the power of the word of God, which was in him; and that which ye call anger was the truth, according to that which is in God, which he could not restrain, manifesting boldly concerning your iniquities.

    And it must needs be that the power of God must be with him, even unto his commanding you that ye must obey. But behold, it was not he, but it was the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, which opened his mouth to utterance that he could not shut it.

    And now my son, Laman, and also Lemuel and Sam, and also my sons who are the sons of Ishmael, behold, if ye will hearken unto the voice of Nephi ye shall not perish. And if ye will hearken unto him I leave unto you a blessing, yea, even my first blessing.”
    (2 Ne 1: 24-28)

    2) Lehi Continually blessed his other children by saying that they would be blessed like Nephi:

    “And after he had made an end of speaking unto them, he spake unto Sam, saying: Blessed art thou, and thy seed; for thou shalt inherit the land like unto thy brother Nephi. And thy seed shall be numbered with his seed; and thou shalt be even like unto thy brother, and thy seed like unto his seed; and thou shalt be blessed in all thy days.” (2 Ne 4:11).

    3) Lehi Expressly says that Nephi will be saved

    “And behold, because of the thing which I have seen, I have reason to rejoice in the Lord because of Nephi and also of Sam; for I have reason to suppose that they, and also many of their seed, will be saved.” (1 Ne 8:3).

    4) Nephi testifies that he will be at the judgment bar with Christ at the last day:

    And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.

    And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.

    And I pray the Father in the name of Christ that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day.

    And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come. (2 Ne 33: 10-13).

    Comment by Daniel Ortner — January 22, 2014 @ 3:20 pm

  6. Interesting article, I have often wondered about the case of the manifesto, and as you’ve mentioned, Eve’s decision in Eden.
    Nephi’s situation seems a little different to me, however. When God first commands Nephi to kill Laban, he doesn’t refuse to kill because killing is against God’s commandments (as you’ve mentioned in your article – the word murder would be closer to the Hebrew original) Instead, Nephi says he refused because he’d never before shed the blood of man. I think often people confuse this phrase with Nephi thinking he would be breaking the sixth commandment, but this is never specifically mentioned. Killing another human is a hard thing, especially for the first time, regardless of the legality of the act (such as in war), and from Nephi’s words here, it seems this is the reason – his previous inexperience with taking of human life. Lawful, or otherwise. He is hesitant to obey God, because he has been asked, as God often asks us, to do an impossibly difficult thing.

    Comment by Seth — January 22, 2014 @ 3:30 pm

  7. Seth,

    This is a good point. I sort of read into Nephi’s intentions on his initial hesitation. I think the point about the conflicting commandments still holds, but you’re right to point out that Nephi’s internal debate isn’t exactly the same one that Woodruff had, at least according to Official Declaration 1.

    Comment by DavidF — January 22, 2014 @ 3:48 pm

  8. David,
    Thanks for your reply!
    Superficially, it’s easy to see the conflict. God told Nephi to kill Laban, whereas previously he had commanded Israel “thou shalt not kill”. I suppose that’s the trouble with translation literature. As I mentioned in my previous post the commandment “thou shalt not kill” in English makes it sound like God condemns all killing, and yet on many occasions, even before Nephi came along, God commanded individuals and groups in Israel to do just that – kill. Digging a little below the surface will reveal that the Hebrew here clarifies the command to be “thou shalt not murder”. Now that seems clear to us. However, “murder” in Israel under the law of Moses wasn’t even what we consider murder now. It indicated premeditated murder, which was, of course, punished by death. Interestingly it didn’t include accidental murder, or manslaughter as we might say, or even sometimes cases where in the heat of the moment someone was killed intentionally. And so Nephi, who “knew not beforehand” how things would turn out, is safe from breaking the commandment. Often in the past I considered this a seemingly conflicting commandment, however, when viewed in cultural context and seeing there is no actual mention of Nephi worried about breaking God’s laws (just our assumption from our English translation of the commandments), we may say there is less conflict than first appears. I believe also this may be said of the manifesto, God commanded the cessation of plural marriage (perfectly fine to do scriptually, as this is a law given only at times throughout history for a specific purpose, not as the “norm”) thus negating Woodruff’s need to make the best of a bad situation. Thus, no conflict.

    Comment by Seth — January 22, 2014 @ 7:16 pm

  9. Seth,

    That’s an interesting position, and I know that Jack Welch has tried to show that Nephi was guilty of, at most, unintentional homicide, not murder. I have some doubts about it though. In order to say that Nephi didn’t murder Laban, we have to make the case that the killing wasn’t premeditated. Granted, Nephi didn’t plan to kill Laban before Laban was lying helplessly before him, but he certainly had a moment to think before he decapitated him. Is that premeditation? Welch thinks Nephi gets off because the Israelites thought that a premeditated killing can’t possibly be done without serious forethought. Nephi also probably gets off because he didn’t entertain hostile intent, which, apparently, the Israelites also held out as a requirement for murder.

    I think Welch’s argument is pretty good, but not air tight. He rests a lot of it on Jewish law that came centuries after Nephi and Laban. I’m not ready to hang my hat on it, anyway.

    Comment by DavidF — January 22, 2014 @ 9:04 pm

  10. David,
    Good point. Though compelling, the argument isn’t without it’s faults. I suppose it really isn’t a simple matter and hard for us to judge from our 21st century point of view. This story reminds me of Teancum’s assassination of the apostate Nephite brothers. Premeditated, not in the arena of battle, without permission from his CO (the law/judge/king) while they were in a similar state as Laban. Thoughts? (if this is an inappropriate forum for this question I understand and feel free to ignore it).

    Comment by Seth — January 22, 2014 @ 11:21 pm

  11. Seth,

    I think that’s a very appropriate topic. I’ve never thought about the moral rightness of Teancum’s assassination. Teancum seems like a clear candidate for a murder conviction under Jewish law. Supposing that the Nephites dared to charge him (which I would doubt), and supposing they used the same elements for a murder claim (which they might have), perhaps he could get off (assuming he lived) because the assassinations were wartime strategies. I imagine he was given quite a bit of license to do anything he thought was effective. That’s how I’d distinguish Teancum’s acts. Is that persuasive, or do you think Teancum wasn’t legally justified in assassinating his enemies?

    Comment by DavidF — January 23, 2014 @ 9:39 am

  12. David,
    Was Teancum legally justified in assassination? I suppose that would at the least require us to know what kind of license he was given in his command (whether it extended to this type of action given Moroni’s per chant for repentance ultimatums – impossible to issue while a person is sleeping, seems dubious, but then again, maybe war justifies the killing of enemy combatants regardless of circumstance). I’m afraid I’m not familiar enough with Jewish martial law to make a recommendation on this one. A while back I read an article which made a case for the Lehites becoming a separate nation when they left Jerusalem, citing such examples as Lehi offering sacrifice in the wilderness, and not at the temple, as was customary and lawful for Jews. Could this make Nephi’s killing of Laban, who had unlawfully declared ‘war’ on this new nation when he sent his guards to kill the brothers without provocation, a more similar act to Teancum’s, instead of a possibly premeditated murder in the streets?

    Comment by Seth — January 23, 2014 @ 7:27 pm

  13. Seth,

    That’s an interesting analogy. I’d be interested in reading that article, if you remember where you found it.

    I suspect that in some sense that the truth behind why God had Nephi kill Laban might have more to do with the lens with which we use to look at it than anything else. From a legalistic perspective, perhaps Nephi did nothing wrong. Of course, even with that legalistic perspective, we have to take the assumption that God operated with a different definition for murder than what we use today (and perhaps he still does?).

    If, as far as God is concerned, a killing is only murder if it’s seriously premeditated (unlike Nephi’s mental state), then there are probably quite a few murderers in prison today that would be morally clean. I find myself a little uncomfortable with that line of reasoning. If we follow it, then many crimes that I would have thought were murder, actually aren’t murder, at least not morally speaking. And the only way that I could know whether something was actually murder is by consulting ancient Jewish law. I like to think that murder can be understood without relying on inobvious interpretations of ancient law, understood and interpreted through commentaries written as late as the early middle ages.

    I’m a little more comfortable with my approach, which has its own faults, but avoids the problems of trying to figure out the distinction between immoral murder (in the eyes of God) and illegal murder (in the eyes of modern civilization). But maybe my approach is naive.

    Comment by DavidF — January 27, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

  14. David,
    I suppose not living the law of Moses puts us in a different perspective.
    Here’s the article I mentioned. http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/16/1/S00007-50cf96ad9a82c3Laban-Lar.pdf
    From the Journal of Book of Mormon studies 2007, I believe.
    Let me know what you think.

    Comment by Seth — January 31, 2014 @ 5:59 pm

  15. Seth,

    Interesting article. As I understand the premise, since Nephi was a sovereign, it was in his sovereign right to execute the law. I didn’t catch it in the article, but I guess Nephi was right to carry out the execution at that time (even though there wasn’t any trial, or testimony of two witnesses, or other components that I assume traditionally go into a conviction). That might raise a problem with Larsen’s argument, but I don’t know enough about Jewish Law to make it.

    Larsen’s argument may save Welch’s. As I mentioned, Welch’s argument raises difficult questions of how God judges homicide. God seems to accept a difference between premeditated murder, and a non-premeditated killing. But if a non-premeditated killing is excusable, then what we typically call second degree murder today is a morally blameless offense.

    One way of getting around this dilemma is by arguing that Nephi did commit murder, in a legal sense (which is my position). I’m not sure that Welch’s argument is so airtight that my position is demonstrably wrong.

    Larsen’s sovereign role argument may also get around this problem. If Laban is guilty of his crimes, which he almost certainly is, then a sovereign retains the legal right to execute him. Thus, Nephi didn’t commit an unpremeditated killing like one done in the heat of the moment, but a justifiable execution.

    I like Larsen’s argument because it distinguishes Nephi from crazy people who say God told them to kill their victim. Those people would claim that they were justified because God excused them. Nephi, on the other hand, could claim that he acted with a legitimate political right. So I’m hesitant to try to find fault with Larsen’s position. It’s useful, and I think he supports it well (actually, I think some of his arguments are a stretch, but some of them are quite strong).

    If I were teaching a Seminary class on the topic, I’d probably teach Larsen’s, Welch’s, and my ideas (as well as some of the others I link to in the OP), and have people discuss them. It surprises me how many ways there are to read this story.

    Comment by DavidF — February 6, 2014 @ 1:54 pm

  16. it distinguishes Nephi from crazy people who say God told them to kill their victim. Those people would claim that they were justified because God excused them.

    If their claim were true, however, would they really be crazy (after all, Nephi wasn’t crazy)? Had he been caught, the authorities wouldn’t necessarily believe either of his claims, whether he was directed by God to do it or that he was acting as a legitimate sovereign.

    I’ve never had a problem with this scenario. The Lord holds the keys to death and hell. I think people tend to understand that as having power over death and hell. Keys are not the power to do something, however, they are the authority to direct that power. Thus the commandment to not kill is essentially a pronouncement that he alone holds the keys to death. Much like how a priesthood holder may be authorized to baptize but not authorized to chose whom he baptizes, an individual is not authorized to chose whom they will kill. In other words, the commandment isn’t necessarily, “you don’t have the authority to kill”, but it’s, “you don’t have the authority to choose who to kill”. Commandments from The Lord to kill (whether or it be Laban, Isaac, adulterers, witches, or entire nations) do not violate the commandment that we are not to take the decision to kill for ourselves. In is the difference between The Lord deciding who dies and the individual deciding who dies.

    As an aside, it does bring up an interesting thought of whether or not killing itself is morally wrong. After all, in the eternal realm, it’s not even possible; it doesn’t make sense to consider the morality of an action that can not take place. It is only applicable to mortality, wherein The Lord certainly seems to have no problem with it, whether accomplished personally or not. He’s killed a lot of people, and not just on the basis of satisfying the eternal law of justice either (I’m also pretty sure that only hell can satisfy it anyways and the death penalty is simply to execute that judgement more swiftly). The reasoning to kill Laban was given as for the greater good and not as punishment for his crimes.

    Comment by Eso — February 8, 2014 @ 3:26 am

  17. Eso,

    If their claim were true, however, would they really be crazy (after all, Nephi wasn’t crazy)? Had he been caught, the authorities wouldn’t necessarily believe either of his claims, whether he was directed by God to do it or that he was acting as a legitimate sovereign.

    And herein lies the dilemma. Suppose you were on the jury stand for a guy who claims that God told him to murder his family. Would you acquit him? I sure wouldn’t (assuming he actually did it). So what if Nephi was on trial? I find myself in a dilemma because, as a good citizen I would have to convict him. However, as a good Mormon, I would be betraying my belief that Nephi is actually innocent. Or more precisely, he’s innocent before God, and since murder is a moral crime (a moral extension of the already brutal homicide), I could only convict him by betraying my moral beliefs.

    This dilemma gets compounded since, after all, who’s to say that God didn’t tell the “crazy” man to murder his family? Maybe God did. If we try to argue that Nephi didn’t commit murder because God told him it was okay, then we end up, in my opinion, in a pretty disturbing place.

    If, like Larsen, we argue that Nephi is innocent of murder because he is a sovereign, then you’re right, the authorities would still probably call bs and stone him. However, asserting a political right would be a legitimate legal excuse to show why Nephi couldn’t have committed murder. In other words, there can’t be any legal recognition of God’s direction making murder excusable, but there could be legal recognition of Nephi asserting a political right as an excuse for murder.

    Then again, Nephi doesn’t necessarily have sovereign authority over Laban. Obama can execute someone guilty of a capital offense, but that doesn’t mean he can execute someone from a different state (well…let’s not get into that topic). So maybe Nephi still can’t be excused on a political basis.

    The reasoning to kill Laban was given as for the greater good and not as punishment for his crimes.

    That’s also where I arrive at.

    Comment by DavidF — February 10, 2014 @ 4:20 pm

  18. David,
    Thanks for the discussion!
    All the best.

    Comment by Seth — February 11, 2014 @ 12:43 am

  19. I still have a few concerns about this, though.

    1. I can buy that there are differences in Kill and Murder. After all, in the same Books of Moses in which He commands us to not kill, he lists several crimes for which people must be taken outside the camp or city and stoned to death. But that is exactly where I have the first problem with this. God is VERY specific about crimes that are punishable by death. Is there anywhere else in any of the Scriptures that God commands a man or woman to kill someone “for the greater good”? There are plenty of places in the scriptures in which people die for lesser good than is proposed here, such as Nabal (odd coincidence), who treated David and his men unjustly. But God didn’t send an assassin. God handled it himself.

    2. Which leads to the other problem. All throughout Scripture, God acts in ways to bring glory to Himself. Nephi himself mentions the Red Sea crossing to his brothers in his pep talk to them. Is there any other place in any Scripture in which you see God send in a sneak to kill a man for any reason? More to the point, is this story in keeping with the nature of God as He has revealed Himself? When I hear a story about God that appears to contradict what He has revealed of Himself, I re-read it to make sure I haven’t misunderstood it. But if I haven’t, I don’t question God. I question the story.

    Comment by Ed — June 16, 2014 @ 6:51 am

  20. A few points that don’t seem to get mentioned on the subject:

    1. “Smote off his head” is not necessarily a literal decapitation by a blow that severs the neck and spinal column. In the case of Jael killing Sisera, compare Judges 4:21 to Judges 5:26. The former is a penetrative wound to the temples, but the latter calls it “smote off his head”.

    I suggest there are two ways of parsing the phrase. it could be an idiom that refers to _any_ mortal head wound, or it’s possible that a more descriptive or better translation could be “smote [a blow] _upon_ his head.” I personally lean to the idiomatic explanation.

    If either alternate parsing is correct then the blow upon Laban could have been an easy-to-make penetrative wound by the point of the sword at the base of the skull which would have disrupted the medulla oblongata and resulted in instant death.

    That place of the brain is known as the “off switch” or “kill switch” to snipers or other combat experts. If done correctly, it causes the subject to drop like a rag doll, with no convulsions, twitches or death throes. And there is little to no blood.

    This also explains how Laban’s clothes could have remained bloodless. Also when the heart stops pumping, there is no further bleeding, so an instant death at the very monent the wound is made results in no blood. A bloody scene merely means that death was not instant, or that the heart didnt stop bleeding right away.

    Either of the alternate parsings that I suggest also explain the problem people have with Coriantumr and Shiz. I suggest that the “smote off his head” was merely an idiom for a mortal head wound, which in Shiz’s case, was not immediately/instantly fatal (likely not completely disrupting the medula oblongata, or else it was inflicted at another point) and therefore Shiz had time for one last convulsion or reflex or death throe.

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 21, 2014 @ 5:30 pm

  21. 2. Nephi actually did Laban a favor. Laban was anesthetized and unconscious. A quick disruption or sufficient penetrative wound to the medula oblongata is actually the quickest and least painful way to go in those circumstances.

    HAD LABAN SURVIVED THAT NIGHT, he likely would have died in the siege and battle for Jerusalem, or in the aftermath of the slaughter of military prisoners. Being a military leader, an officer, but also being the scumbag he was, he would likely not have been on the front lines, and died in actual fighting. But he would have been captured when Jerusalem fell.

    The Babylonians, like the Assyrians before them, executed captured military officers, and tortured them to death in gruesome ways, first cutting off ears, noses, appendages, etc. It was not the officer class or military class that was taken captives. Those were reserved for the political and militarty leaders of the conquerors to dispatch in ritualistic manner, and they kept track of names and numbers who who got to kill who.

    The phrase “numbered to the sword” refers to the tallies kept by ancient conquerors. After the enemy was subdued, the conquering generals and kings then got the privilege of executing, in a big “show”, the captured officers and generals or other important prisoners who wern’t going to be taken as slaves or captives.

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 21, 2014 @ 5:45 pm

  22. 3. The Lord had to do something to prevent Laman and Lemuel from ditching the family and going back to the homestead. The Lord “needed” Lamanites in the New World, likely in order to be a scourge to the Nephites, but also for the role he wanted them to play in the latter days, and also to fulfill promises made to Lehi and Joseph son of Israel. I don’t think the Lord’s purposes for “Lamanites” ended in 421 AD.

    The apparent murder of Laban prevented them from going back to Jerusalem openly, as they were likely the prime suspects. Laban’s entourage would have known Lehi’s boys asked for the plates, and the plates went missing. Laban stole their stuff and tried to kill them, so it was an easy deduction.

    The loss of the family treasure also meant Laman and Lemuel couldn’t sneak back, get the family treasure, and start life again somewhere else in the Levant. They couldn’t go to Jerusalem, and they would have started out as paupers anywhere else.

    Yes, they did go back to get Ishmael and his family, but that was likely done surreptitiously. And Ishmael may have confirmed that they were suspected and being looked for.

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 21, 2014 @ 6:01 pm

  23. 4. Part of this may contradict part of #3. Had Nephi merely stripped the drunk Laban of his clothes and just tied him up, obtained the plates, and left, the humiliated Laban would have likely been hell-bent on pursuing and killing Lehi’s family at all costs. If Laban was unpopular and despised, his survivors may have been secretly glad he was out of the way, and not been so concerned on finding his killer at all costs. They had all Laban’s stuff, plus the Lehi family treasure. They may have thought that Nephi did THEM a favor.

    5. And this is the most speculative. The execution of Laban gave some sort of stature or gravitas to “little Nephi”, the youngest brother. I suspect this killing caused L & L to fear Nephi to a degree, that he might impose his claim to rule over them with the sword. “Are you going to kill us, like you did Laban if we don’t do what you say?”

    I’m going on the assumption that the Lord wanted the Lamanites in the New World, but wanted them separate from (but not too far away from) the Nephites. Their fear of Nephi would likely have been enhanced by his willingness to shed blood in what he believed to be the cause of the Lord.

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 21, 2014 @ 6:17 pm

  24. “Their fear of Nephi would likely” should have read, “their fear and hatred of Nephi would likely”.

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 21, 2014 @ 6:27 pm

  25. “When I hear a story about God that appears to contradict what He has revealed of Himself, I re-read it to make sure I haven’t misunderstood it. But if I haven’t, I don’t question God. I question the story.”

    I am puzzled and intrigued by this comment. What if this story *is part* of God’s revealing of Himself? How can you so cavalierly reject the story merely because it offends your social conceits?

    Your assumption that God *doesn’t* kill people is unwarranted. He kills people all the time, every minute of the day. I just don’t fathom your position because it’s based on faulty sentiments.

    Comment by Michael Towns — June 24, 2014 @ 3:43 pm

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