Laman and Lemuel murmur against their father. Nephi is obedient and prays in faith; the Lord speaks to him, and he is chosen to rule over his brethren.
1 Nephi 2:12–23
12 And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.
13 Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father.
14 And it came to pass that my father did speak unto them in the valley of Lemuel, with power, being filled with the Spirit, until their frames did shake before him. And he did confound them, that they durst not utter against him; wherefore, they did as he commanded them.
15 And my father dwelt in a tent.
16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.
17 And I spake unto Sam, making known unto him the things which the Lord had manifested unto me by his Holy Spirit. And it came to pass that he believed in my words.
18 But, behold, Laman and Lemuel would not hearken unto my words; and being grieved because of the hardness of their hearts I cried unto the Lord for them.
19 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.
20 And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.
21 And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.
22 And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.
23 For behold, in that day that they shall rebel against me, I will curse them even with a sore curse, and they shall have no power over thy seed except they shall rebel against me also.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said:
“. . . Laman rejected the role he should have played, and, instead, wanted to be ‘top dog in the manger,’ resenting all the while Nephi’s spiritual leadership. Lemuel was not only Laman’s dutiful satellite, but he was also his enabler by allowing himself to be ‘stirred up’ by Laman (see 1 Ne. 16:37–38). . . .
“Exhortations given to Laman and Lemuel ‘were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought’ (1 Ne. 15:3). . . .
“Laman and Lemuel did not realize . . . that a loving God will inevitably be a tutoring Father, who wants His children to be truly happy and to come home. Not understanding God’s ‘dealings’ sufficiently, Laman and Lemuel missed the most important attribute of God’s character—His love! Thus their murmuring was a symptom of a pathetic pathology. . . .
“. . . Laman and Lemuel became rebels instead of leaders, resentful instead of righteous —all because of their failure to understand either the character or the purposes of God and His dealings with His children.
“As to their spiritual significance, Laman and Lemuel were sad ciphers. True, we could know more facts about them, but it would not change the ‘bottom line.’ If, in some respects, they seem to be undeveloped characters, it is because theirs was a haunting emptiness, which could have been filled by the ‘love of God.’ In vision, there was the forlorn scene when Lehi cast his eyes anxiously about, searching for Laman and Lemuel that ‘perhaps [he] might see them.’ Finally, Lehi saw them, ‘but they would not . . . partake of the fruit’ (1 Ne. 8:17–18; see also 1 Ne. 11:25; 1 Ne. 8:35; 2 Ne. 5:20). Of all self-inflicted punishments, this eight-word epitaph describes the most awful and consequential!
“Mercifully, brothers and sisters, the rich Restoration gives us added ways to understand the dealings of God with His children, including with each of us personally. We can partake of His love by applying Jesus’s glorious Atonement in order to become more like Him. By likening precious scriptures to ourselves we will hasten that precious process! May we so do, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen!”
(“Lessons from Laman and Lemuel,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 6, 7, 8.)