Monday, February 10, 2014

Better that one man should perish.....

We are still reading First Nephi as a family for evening scripture study.

I think the kids need to read some of the story so they are engaged now to keep their attention as well as the interactions I provide in the meantime.

But as we read about Nephi taking Laban's life to get the plates (sending Laban to the Spirit World and taking out of the Mortal world) a few more things jumped out at me that I hadn't seen.

One, Laban was apparently a very powerful military commander of some significant military force in Judea who commanded "tens of thousands" (1 Nephi 4:1).

So, now Jerusalem has lost one of their powerful military commanders to....drunkenness. And his head was chopped off in the middle of the night.  I imagine that put a dent in the war effort of the military at Jerusalem.

And all that was taken was....his armor and the brass plates.  And he was left.  Beheaded in the city. Unclothed.   A young boy did it.  Led by the spirit.  At night.  Interesting to think what the man had that was really important.  Not like his house was razed or anything.  All the Lord wanted was his life, his armor, and the plates, that's it.  Undoubtedly his armor would serve as a prototype for future military endeavors among the civilization that was to come as was his sword.

Probably a good thing they fled into the wilderness first with that kind of an outcome before they headed back now that I think about it so they weren't just rattling down the road, pots and pans clattering on the side of their donkeys or camels or whatever with the uproar that would result and them being found and tried for it and put to death. I always wondered why they were sent out then back, seemed shortsighted.  Until now. 

Interestingly, as I understand Mosaic law, Laban's actions did make him worthy of death and the Lord commanded Nephi to carry out the sentence.  In the dark.  Unseen.

Hm, gives new meaning to the phrases "Behold, I come as a thief in the night" and "Whether by mine own voice (or actions) or the voice (or actions) of my servants it is the same." 

Of course, you wonder who ended up the patsy for that crime after Nephi and his brethren left and Laban's servant was nowhere to be found.  I bet if the servant had family they were questioned.  At length.  And that's not all.

But there was the saying by the Lord to Nephi that it is better that one man should perish than a nation dwindle in unbelief.  Well, going to Jacob's allegory of the Olive Tree in Jacob chapter 5, we see here some scattering in the Lord's vineyard taking place.  But what nation would dwindle in unbelief that is mentioned in verse 13?  Was it the Nephite nation?  They did dwindle in unbelief.  So did the Lamanites.  So....what good did the book do?  Or would they have dwindled faster?

Ah, but when we look at the Mulekites who had no records, their language had become corrupt and they became lost very quickly as recorded in Omni - the Mulekites did dwindle in unbelief.

Did the Nephites and Lamanites dwindle in something other than unbelief?

Or....was the Lord talking about another nation?  Perhaps ours?

I am comfortable saying that this was also referring to our nation in our day, the Latter Day Church on the earth.  But here we have a man who was beheaded in about 600BC, and a new nation arose about 1830AD.  So....2,400 years to the beheading of a man for the building of a new nation that wouldn't dwindle in unbelief?   Ah, the Lord truly does work over lifetimes, millenia and in small and simple ways.

It truly makes me think that for all the awesomeness of the military might of our day, how little it takes to bring it down.  In my training as a nuclear engineer in the US Navy I saw where a single misstep could cripple an entire aircraft carrier or a submarine, and thereby a battle group and turn the tide of a war.

All of this makes me think of the rhyme: 

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

And thus it is that the Lord can bring about his great and eternal purposes by the weak and simple things.

This wasn't just a man who perished in 1 Nephi chapter 4 - but this was a mighty military man who commanded tens of thousands.  And Jerusalem did fall after Lehi's departure, no doubt affected by Laban's loss.  Although if he was a drunkard I would wonder at his performance.  One of the reasons I was glad I was LDS in the military because I never drank and was always ready to go.  In one place I was stationed, the Marines had 2 minutes from first alert to be in full battle gear and in position and that was from dead asleep in the middle of the night.  120 seconds.  I wasn't a Marine but our job related to theirs for ground defense.  At any rate, I never found myself not-ready due to keeping the word of wisdom. 

Makes me think again of the saying from Alma 30 regarding Korihor, And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day but doth speedily drag them down to hell.

So it was with Laban.  So it was with Jerusalem.

And much of it began with....a boy.  Led by the spirit. In the dark.  Not knowing what he was going to do.

By weak and simple things...it was better that one man should perish - the Lord did not say it is good that a man should perish, only that it was better - than a nation dwindle in unbelief.

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