After his brothers show a total lack of faith and trust in God’s ability to help them, Nephi comes back at his brothers with his testimony of God’s power versus man’s.
God “is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?”1 Nephi 4:1 (Book of Mormon)
He reminds them of Moses and how God divided the Red Sea, so they could walk through on dry ground when the Egyptians chased after them.
Nothing is impossible to God.
When we know the dealings of God with man in the past and believe He is our Creator, then we know He has all power, wisdom, and understanding. This knowledge helps us know God can help us do anything, even the impossible.
But just because we’re on God’s side, doesn’t mean He’ll make the road easy for us. He wants us to increase our faith along the journey…which means hard work to prove our commitment to Him.
I love this quote by our prophet, Pres. Russell M. Nelson:
The Lord likes effort. He could have said to Moses, ‘I’ll meet you halfway.’ But Moses had to go all the way to the top of Mount Sinai. He required effort from Moses and Joshua and Joseph Smith and from all of the subsequent Presidents of the Church. He requires effort from bishops and stake Relief Society presidents and elders quorum presidents. There is always a test. Are you willing to do really hard things? Once you’ve shown you’re willing to do your part, He will help you.”Insights from a Prophet’s Life by Sheri Dew
Nephi refused to give up. God had given them a job to do, and he wasn’t returning to his father until he accomplished it. His older brothers are still angry with him, but he convinces them to go back to the city and try again (well, he tries, while they hide outside the walls).
And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.1 Nephi 4:6
Though Nephi didn’t know HOW, he had faith that God would help him accomplish the task.
I love that he doesn’t wait around for God to tell him how to get the brass plates. He sets out into the city on his own, trusting that the answer will come when the time is right.
That is a spiritual state to strive for—to be worthy to be led by the Spirit, not knowing how Heavenly Father will help us accomplish certain tasks, but knowing He WILL.
Nephi had a Plan A and Plan B. When those didn’t work, he didn’t complain. He relied on the Spirit to help him figure out a Plan C.
President Nelson gave a talk to young adults, outlining four steps to becoming a true Millennial, in the best of ways.
- Learn who you really are.
- Expect and prepare to accomplish the impossible.
- Learn how to access the power of heaven.
- Follow the prophets.
Nephi expected to accomplish God’s command, even though his brothers thought it impossible.
Think of what we could do in our lives if we stopped setting limits for ourselves and trusted God’s infinite power and possibilities.
Nephi discovers a man on the ground near Laban’s house. A drunk Laban. This part can be disturbing when one first reads it. The Spirit constrains Nephi to slay Laban. Nephi has never killed a man before and shrinks from the command.
A professor in Israel made me understand this gory scene better by explaining that whatever God commands is right. He is the Lawgiver. He gave the commandment: Thou shalt not kill. But when He tells Nephi to break that commandment, it’s like a superior officer in the army superseding a previous command. Nephi is given a new order, for this moment: Thou shalt kill Laban.
Nephi reacts probably like most of us would. Killing is reprehensible to him. He has to be prompted again and given the reason before he gains assurance to do it.
In verse 12, God gives him the understanding—“The Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.”
God had given Laban two chances (maybe even more previously), but the man would not listen to the Spirit. He is evil and tries to kill innocent men for no other reason than they asked to purchase the plates from him. He is greedy and power hungry. He’s a thief. A bully. God had proven the state of Laban’s heart. Now, he commands Nephi to kill him, so God’s purposes can unfold.
Laban would have been a major threat to them if he had lived. With his army, he could’ve hunted Lehi’s family down in the wilderness. Nephi knows if they don’t get the plates, they can’t keep God’s commands…because they won’t have a written account of God’s laws with them.
Nephi obeys “the voice of the Spirit” and slays Laban with his own sword (18). Though he’d followed God’s command, I wonder if this scene caused him nightmares for the rest of his life (like men who have to go to war and kill deal with PTSD and other demons). Maybe this led to those “wretched man” feelings he writes about later in his life.
Nephi dresses in Laban’s clothes, tricks Zoram, Laban’s servant, into bringing the plates to him and taking them to his elder brethren outside the city gates. Zoram thinks he’s talking about the elders of the city, not Nephi’s actual brothers. When he realizes the truth, he tries to run away. Nephi seizes him and makes an oath that he can be a free man and have a place with their family if he joins them.
Zoram must have been a decent man, because he didn’t relax completely until Nephi tells him in vs 34, “Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing…” That’s when he “takes courage,” and follows them into the wilderness.
When we surely know God has commanded us to do certain things, that knowledge gives us courage and faith to move forward, even if the task seems impossible in the world’s eyes.