1 Ne 7:2-3 Why don't Laman and Lemuel murmur about having to return to Jerusalem again?
This might be the only time Laman and Lemuel happily kept the commandment of the Lord. This time they were headed back to Jerusalem for something they were interested in-women. This is another example of Book of Mormon characters behaving in a manner so common to human nature that the book must be about real people with real lives and not the excited imagination of an unschooled fiction writer.
1 Ne 7:5 the Lord did soften the heart of Ishmael
Ishmael must have been a man of sufficient faith and humility to respond to such a bold invitation. Unfortunately, we do not learn much more about Ishmael from the record.
1 Ne 7:5 How do we know that Ishmael was from the tribe of Ephraim?
In The Articles of Faith, James E. Talmage cites the prophet Joseph as teaching the doctrine that Ishmael was from Ephraim:
"Ishmael an Ephraimite - 'The Prophet Joseph Smith informed us that the record of Lehi was contained on the one hundred sixteen pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen, and of which an abridgment is given us in the First Book of Nephi, which is the record of Nephi individually, he himself being of the lineage of Manasseh; but that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi's family, and Lehi's sons married Ishmael's daughters, thus fulfilling the words of Jacob upon Ephraim and Manasseh in the 48th chapter of Genesis [verse 16] which says: 'And let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.' Thus these descendants of Manasseh and Ephraim grew together upon this American continent, with a sprinkling from the house of Judah, from Mulek descended, who left Jerusalem eleven years after Lehi, and founded the colony afterwards known as Zarahemla found by Mosiah -- thus making a combination, an intermixture of Ephraim and Manasseh with the remnants of Judah, and for aught we know, the remnants of some other tribes that might have accompanied Mulek. And such have grown up upon the American continent.' -- From "Discourse by Apostle Erastus Snow," at Logan, Utah, May 6, 1882, see Journal of Discourses, vol. 23, pp. 184, 185." (James E. Talmage, A Study of the Articles of Faith, p.504-5)
1 Ne 7:6 How many were there in Ishmael's family?
It is from this verse that the composition of Ishmael's family can be determined. Ishmael and his wife had two sons and five daughters. When they left Jerusalem, the sons had already married (and possibly had children) as implied by the phrase, the two sons of Ishmael and their families. The five daughters, on the other hand, were all single. The math works out nicely. Each of Lehi's sons marry one of Ishmael's daughters, and Zoram marries the oldest daughter. Therefore, there are no unmatched members of the camp until Jacob and Joseph are born.
"Our tradition that Ishmael's ancestry went back to Ephraim, son of Joseph, is based on a discourse given by Elder Erastus Snow, in Logan, Utah, on May 6, 1882. He said, 'The prophet Joseph informed us that the record of Lehi was contained on the 116 pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen, and of which an abridgment is given us in the First Book of Nephi, which is the record of Nephi individually, he himself being of the lineage of Manasseh; but that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi's family, and Lehi's sons married Ishmael's daughters.'
"From the above quotation and from 1 Nephi 7:6 we may propose that two of Ishmael's sons had married daughters of Lehi and Sariah. That would mean the two families were already related by marriage, which might explain Lehi's seeming nonchalance about instructing his sons to bring Ishmael's family down into the wilderness. There might already have been marriage plans between the two families-only the setting for the ceremonies would now have to change from the city to the desert. Another reason why Ishmael's family in particular was elected to join Lehi's was that Ishmael's had five unmarried daughters; the four sons of Lehi along with Zoram would in time marry Ishmael's daughters-a perfect five-way match set up in advance by the Lord." (Kent P. Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 7: 1 Nephi to Alma 29, p. 30.)
1 Ne 7:10-12 How is it that ye have forgotten?
Nephi marvels at his brothers' rebellion. Part of any good rebellion is to forget the goodness of God. Laman and Lemuel had seen an angel, been preserved by the hand of the Lord, and had known of the great blessings given to the children of Israel as God's covenant people. Still they chose to rebel. Thus we see how quick the children of men do forget the Lord their God (Alma 46:8). Many latter-day saints have fallen because they have likewise forgotten the goodness of God. How many have at one time had strong, irrefutable testimonies only to be dimmed by the amnesia of inactivity and iniquity? Maybe that is why the Lord has asked us to partake of the sacrament weekly, remembering the body and blood of Christ, that we might not forget the goodness of God.
1 Ne 7:14 Jeremiah have they cast into prison
The events surrounding Jeremiah's imprisonment are consistent with Nephi's description of conditions in Jerusalem. Jeremiah had been rejected by his own people.
"The people's response to Jeremiah was anything but positive. The men of Anathoth, Jeremiah's home town, sought his life (see Jer. 11:21), leading him to cry unto the Lord to know why the wicked prospered. (See Jer. 12:1.) He further lamented over his being born 'a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth.' (Jer. 15:10.) His enemies devised ways to oppose his counsel and sought to take his life. (Jer. 18:18, 23.)
"Jeremiah was taken before the princes of Judah and accused of being 'worthy to die' for having prophesied against Judah. But as he faced his accusers in the temple courtyard, Jeremiah fearlessly repeated his prophecy. His life was spared, however, because of the intervention of a high-ranking officer. (See Jer. 26.) Jeremiah was placed in stocks overnight for prophesying against Jerusalem and all Judah's cities. (See Jer. 19-20.) This was a punishment to bring public scorn and ridicule upon an offender." (Monte S. Nyman, "Jeremiah's Prophetic Warning Rejected by People of Jerusalem," LDS Church News, 1994, 12/31/94)
The political situation of the time was precarious. The kingdom of Judah was sandwiched in between two great powers, the Egyptians and the Chaldeans (or Babylonians). The Jews had hopes that the Egyptian army would protect them from the Babylonians. In one instance in which the Babylonians had besieged Jerusalem, the army of Pharoah came up to Jerusalem and scared them off. After this, Jeremiah made it clear that Zedekiah was in trouble. He prophesied, 'Behold, Pharaoh's army, which is come forth to help you, shall return to Egypt into their own land. And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire' (Jer 37:7-8). Soon thereafter, Jeremiah was taken, accused of desertion, and imprisoned (Jer 37:12-15). Jeremiah would be in prison, off and on, for most of the next 11 years.
1 Ne 7:15 now, if ye have choice, go up to the land....if ye go ye will also perish
This is a commonly used parenting technique. Here, Nephi uses it on his brothers and new traveling companions. It is the old, "go ahead! Try it and see!" argument. When a whining teenager lacks the wisdom to see the consequences of a given action, a parent might try this argument. It does two things, 1) places the responsibility for the action in the court of the complainer, and 2) allows the complainer to learn by sad experience the consequences of their decisions. At any rate, the complaining promptly stops because permission for the action has been conditionally granted. Nephi makes it clear to the rebellious-there are going to be consequences if you return to Jerusalem; remember the words which I speak unto you, that if ye go ye will also perish; for thus the Spirit of the Lord constraineth me. Unfortunately for Nephi, their response was more rebellious than that of the average teenager-they decided to kill him.
1 Ne 7:16 they sought to take away my life
"...in spite of all they were taught, Laman, the archvillain, and his tag-along brother Lemuel emerge as fundamentally corrupt men. Their record was dismal: they were materialistic, faithless, disloyal, cowardly, complaining, cruel, lazy, untruthful, and, like Jacob's son Reuben, 'unstable as water' (Genesis 49:4)-humbling themselves one day and breathing out threats the next (1 Nephi 7:20; 16:5, 32, 39; 18:4, 15, 20). The only thing that really impressed them was power (1 Nephi 18:20). Above all, they were would-be murderers of their own father and brother. In the end, they polluted their posterity with their lies and brought a curse upon them that was not to be removed for more than a half a millennium.
"On the other hand, Nephi was a man of astonishing faith, profound humility, and consistent steadiness. In the latter, he was unequaled even by his parents...why the striking contrast between Nephi and his two brothers? Was one so good, and the others so bad? Is it a case of self-serving manipulation of the facts on Nephi's part? Hardly. If anything, Nephi has moderated his own virtues. I believe that Nephi and Laman symbolize that essential opposition between good and evil drawn so vividly in the Book of Mormon. They represent the two extremes found therein: life versus death, heaven versus hell, the kingdom of God versus the kingdom of the devil, the spiritually minded versus the carnally minded, the saved versus the lost-those sealed up to Christ and those sealed up to the devil (Alma 34:34-36; 40:23-26).
"Lehi knew that Laman and Lemuel...had seen an angel (1 Nephi 3:29; 4:3; 7:10; 17:45), had experienced the power of God (1 Nephi 7:18; 17:48, 52-55), and had heard the voice of the Lord and received of his Spirit (1 Nephi 16:39; 17:45). Yet they plotted Nephi's murder on at least four occasions (1 Nephi 7:16; 16:37; 17:48; 2 Nephi 5:2; compare 1:24), and their father's at least once (1 Nephi 16:37). Nephi accused Laman and Lemuel of being 'murderers in their hearts' (1 Nephi 17:44). They were prepared to shed innocent blood.
"These were not ignorant men; they stood self-condemned. When literally shocked by the Spirit, they testified: 'We know of a surety that the Lord is with thee, for we know that it is the power of the Lord that has shaken us' (1 Nephi 17:55; compare 2 Nephi 4:22)." (Rodney Turner, First Nephi: The Doctrinal Foundation, edited by Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., pp. 82 - 83.)
1 Ne 7:16 that they might leave me in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts
"Our recent Book of Mormon Sunday School lesson brought back a memory that has made 1 Ne. 7:16 very meaningful to us. Nephi says he was bound with cords, 'for they sought to take away my life, that they might leave me in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts.' What wild beasts were there in the desert south of Jerusalem that could devour a man?
"A frightening experience in 1988 has made this scripture very real to us. One night my wife and I were camped on the Saudi Arabian desert near ancient For Olayah, eight kilometers from the Red Sea and halfway between Jeddah and Yanbu, where we lived. We were studying the antiquities and ruins of ancient civilizations that are found along the trail Lehi may have traveled....We had no weapons and felt no danger until about midnight when we were awakened by terrifying, panting noises just outside the car.
"'It is only some wild dogs,' said my wife as she looked outside the car with half-opened eyes. 'Throw some stones and they will go away.'
"A second look caused both of us to freeze with fear. There stood two huge, black hyenas, double the size of any dog we'd ever seen, and much larger than those brown-spotted hyenas seen in zoos. Their barrel chests were heaving, and their long tongues hung from gaping mouths as they panted from what we guessed was a long run across the desert to arrive at our camp. They had muscular shoulders which narrowed down to small rumps and short hind legs. They were wild, carnivorous beasts, fully capable of destroying a man. By the full moon, we could see them perfectly just 15 feet away. Their yellowish eyes gleamed in the dark, and their pointed ears were erect and directed toward us.
"Unprotected as we were, we had to take some action. I got out of the car, gathered a few stones and started to yell and throw the stones. To our great relief, the hyenas backed away. I gathered some of the camp gear and jumped in the car, slamming all the doors, only to see not two but four wild beasts approaching us. We honked the horn, turned on the lights and started the engine, but the 'devil dogs' ominously edged toward the car. But now we were safe, and soon the four of them lined up in a single file and started trotting out across the barren desert.
"Later, we related this experience to a friend, Bill Rogers, who had worked in Ethiopia. He was amazed that we had survived. He said that in Ethiopia they also have large, black hyenas. The villagers fear them more than lions, for they are known to come into the natives' huts and compounds and carry away small children to devour in the desert. Perhaps we felt the same fear Nephi had felt centuries before, for now we had a very good idea about the threat of being actually devoured by wild beasts in the wilderness." (Lynn B. Hilton, "Wild Beasts Still Stalk Lehi's Route," LDS Church News, 02/08/92).
"The Book of Mormon, in giving us not a few such clear and vivid snapshots (there are many more to come) of life in another world, furnishes picturesque but convincing proof of its own authenticity. Nephi's complaint, 'they sought to take away my life, that they might leave me in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts' (1 Nephi 7:16), is ever in the mouth of the Arab poet, for to leave one's enemy lying in the desert to be devoured by wild beasts is standard and correct procedure when Arabs quarrel, and for all its popularity with the poets, no mere figure of speech." (Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites/There Were Jaredites, edited by John W. Welch with Darrell L. Matthews and Stephen R. Callister, p. 44.)
1 Ne 7:21 I did frankly forgive them
Nephi's response to this murderous attempt and apology was to frankly forgive his brothers. This response was remarkable for two reasons. First, Nephi had an incredible generosity of spirit to forgive his brothers so quickly and freely. Secondly, he understood that they had not only sinned against him but had also sinned against God, necessitating that they pray unto the Lord their God for forgiveness. Nephi exemplified the true spirit of forgiveness. DC 64:9-10 states, Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
Howard W. Hunter
"How are we supposed to act when we are offended, misunderstood, unfairly or unkindly treated, or sinned against? What are we supposed to do if we are hurt by those we love, or passed over for promotion, or are falsely accused, or have our motives unfairly assailed? Do we fight back?...Do we revert to an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, or as Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof, do we come to the realization that this finally leaves us blind and toothless?...We can all be a little more forgiving." (Ensign, Nov. 1992, p. 18 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p.25)
Neal A. Maxwell
"[Refusing to forgive others is] to hold hostage those whom the Lord would wish to set free." (Conference Report, Oct. 1991 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p.26)
Richard G. Scott
"When anguish comes from evil acts of others, there should be punishment and corrective action taken, but the offended is not the one to initiate that action. Leave it to others who have that responsibility. Learn to forgive; though terribly hard, it will release you and open the way to a newness of life. Time devoted by one injured to ensure the offender is punished is time wasted in the healing process." (Ensign, May 1994, p.9 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p.26)