Slay Laban

During this last fireside in Lindon I said something I had never before considered, but which, when I said it, I knew it was true. It answered a long-standing question I have had about why Nephi killed Laban without being guilty of murder.

The discussion we were having was on the Law of the Celestial Kingdom. I have written about this quite a few times, so I will condense the conversation to this: Jesus Christ governs all of His creations via the “light of Christ”, which is His voice. In mankind, this Light of Christ begins as our conscience, and quickly matures and grows into a voice of great revelatory truth. The 88th section of the D&C teach us, among many other things, that this is the “Law of the Celestial Kingdom” and whosoever abides the law, qualifies for the kingdom. Almost all of the Un-Blog is aimed at teaching this one thing – that we must identify the voice of Christ, and obey it, because it is the Law of the Celestial Kingdom, and the highest law of mortality.

Lehi’s commandment to go back to retrieve the Brass Plates was a horrendous challenge for Nephi and his brethren. They tried everything, including buying the plates. When that failed, and they were turning back in defeat, Nephi declared that he would return to Jerusalem and obtain the plates.

Nephi records “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.” (1 Nephi 4:6) “And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban.” (4:10) He didn’t want to and reasoned with the Lord against killing Laban. “The Spirit said unto me  again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands.” (4:11) “And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again; Slay him! . . . It is better that  one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” (4:12-13)

Finally, after all this conversation with Jesus Christ, whose voice is the “Holy Spirit”, Nephi obeyed God. “Therefore I obeyed the voice of the Spirit and . . . smote off his head.” (4:18)

“Thou Shalt Not Kill: is a Telestial law, and the command to slay Laban was the Celestial Law, because it came from the voice of God. Nephi would have been condemned had he yielded to his fear and obeyed the lesser law.

I believe it was this supreme act of obedience which was Nephi’s “Abrahamic Trial”. These great and exalting trials are always a paradox of some type. Nephi’s paradox was that he knew the telestial law, and did not want to slay Laban. I dare say that he also knew Laban, who was his relative and likely a familiar part of his life. Still, the Celestial law was through obedience, and Nephi triumphed in a way that few mortals do.

Brother John

© September 2011, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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11 Responses to Slay Laban

  1. Kevin says:

    We should also remember that Laban tried on multiple occasions to kill Nephi and his siblings. He also stole everything from Lehi’s family. Both of those crimes, under Mosaic law, would justify Nephi in defending his life and property.


  2. Brent says:

    I have heard this discussed several times. I never really identified with it because I always saw these verses in a different light. Nephi was literally being led moment by moment by the spirit. He could literally do no wrong, he had submitted in full. When the commandment came, it was clear to my heart that he did not shrink from the task for sake of guilt, nor from the sight of blood. The Mosaic law affords plenty of blood. He could feel the sacred nature of human life, and even though wicked, hesitated to end it. I can only think his reborn nature that would have held all life as precious, now had to come face to face with ending a human life, most precious above all.

    Even Abraham paused long enough for the angel to tell him to stop.


  3. dmarie says:

    Brother John,
    I’ve wondered if Emma Smith’s Abrahamic trial might have been when Joseph was commanded to practice polygamy. It seems it might have been that kind of trial for Joseph, as well, which brings me to the question, are we ever given more than one Abrahamic trial? Joseph Smith, and Emma (and others of the pioneers, it seems) had many trials that I would consider to be of the caliber of Abrahamic trials?


    • John Pontius says:

      I had to think about your question for a minute, and I’m not sure I have the full answer below.

      I think there is only one Abrahamic trial required to qualify for these blessings, but that we keep experiencing trials because this is mortality, and we don’t escape the “opposition in all things” clause in the contract until another world. I don’t believe the Lord engineers these lesser trials, as He does the greater ones. I think they just keep coming, working greater purity in our hearts.

      The real answer is – I’m not sure at this point. I’ll keep thinking about it.


  4. James says:

    I hadn’t thought before of Nephi’s slaying Laban as an Abrahamic trial for Nephi, but I’m sure it was based on the context presented here. Even though it would have had to have been easier for Nephi to justify killing Laban than for Abraham to justify offering up his son, in both cases holy men were required to recognize and pay heed to the voice of the Lord over their natural tendencies.

    Another Abrahamic trial in the Book of Mormon I believe was the offering up of 2060 young sons by the people of Ammon in the land of Jershon. I believe those mothers and fathers had no assurance that their sons would ever return alive, heading into a long drawn out war that was not going well at all. As in the case of Abraham, where an angel was sent to spare Isaac, angels were sent to aid and miraculously spare these faithful young men. God’s will was done, the collective sacrifice of His faithful saints was accepted, and the account of the greatest youth army ever known was preserved to inspire faith for centuries of saints to come.


  5. Sharon Cox says:

    I’ve always struggled with understanding what the Lord means when he says “Keep my commandments” – Does He mean the 10 given to Moses; or the 10 plus the ones asked in a temple recommend interview, or all those plus write in my journal, study the scriptures, do my calling, do visiting teaching, give service, etc. When I consider keeping His commandments in that way, I feel overwhelmed, because I fall so very short of keeping them all perfectly all the time.

    However, I am beginning to understand that keeping the Lord’s commandments mean not only striving to obey the written laws and admonitions given through former and latter day Prophets, but more importantly, to obey the moment by moment commandments revealed to me personally through the voice of His Spirit which may or may not include those written laws. For example, if I am sitting in sacrament meeting (obeying His commandment to do so) but the Spirit tells me to leave church and go back home, then keeping His commandment is to do the latter.

    My challenge is to always remember that the Lord is mindful of me personally and individually and succors me to Himself separately from the way he succors anyone one else on the planet. The idea that if I am not engaged in keeping all His written commandments perfectly at all times, I have fallen short, is a false notion. I have only fallen short when I disobey the commandments he writes in my heart and mind at any given moment, which may or may be “Go do visiting teaching”.


  6. Mike Hamill says:

    Nephi’s slaying of Laban was in fact justified under the Mosaic Law, though he likely didn’t see that at the time, making it a great trial. Ex. 21:13 notes that if you kill a man when it is not premeditated, and the Lord delivers him into your hands, then an escape shall be provided for you. Not only is this an apt description of Nephi’s account, but when he wrote his account decades later, some of his words seem obviously chosen to align with this scripture. Wisdom gained after the trial of his faith it seems.


  7. Eric says:

    I think it’s also worth considering that the ten commandments are given to maintain order among a large audience of Gods children. God certainly could not give mankind the permission to kill as most of mankind is not capable of being an ultimate judge. Thou shalt not kill is a commandment because to give life or take away is Gods decision and his alone. We should also consider the difference between killing and Murder. God frequently has sanctioned and allowed killing, but never murder. The difference is murder robs justice, reason and innocence. God can perfectly reason and is perfectly just and the only who can give mercy. This was certainly about obedience. But I think we must not forget it was also necessary… so that a whole nation would not perish in un-belief and be deprived the word of God. Very good reminder, however, that ultimate obedience is celestial.


  8. Kim says:

    John wrote:
    “These great and exalting trials are always a paradox of some type.”

    All I can say is “WOW”. That hit me with such force when I read it, I’m sure it is true.


  9. mj says:

    What if Laban was guilty? What if Laban was enforcing a law upon thieves among the people that had to suffer death for their crimes… giving Laban the same judgement that he exacted upon his own people? He stole Lehi’s riches and chased them off. He would not give them the brass plates. He disobeyed the command of the Lord’s sertant (Nephi being directed by the Lord to do get them), plus stole their goods. It was also the big test for Nephi to have his C&EMS. But Nephi also had the opportunity to do this, as him and is family where about to dissappear, so the vengeful repurcussions of this event would not affect them. Probably another thought that didn’t occur when he was standing there with the sword.

    Key is to know first that the Lord is talking to you. Having a wider understanding of all laws and ways, the Lord could see why it was needful for this to happen. Nephi was listenign to someone, as he couldn’t understand how it could be possible himself and doubted it could be right. No one can go on and do such a Abrahamic test without first beginning to know the Lord by hearing His voice. Those who think they are doing the big test of obedience with the Lord, but the Lord is not really testing him, would be doing it for nothing. I think the hosts of sheol seek hard to confuse people to do it at the wrong time, thinking it was the right time. We know Nephi went right because the Lord continued to be with Him, even doing greater things.

    Key = make sure you know darn sure the Lord is talking with and directing you.


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