This is an archived copy of a post written by Conflict Of Justice (conflictofjustice.com). Used with permission: Conflict Of Justice may not agree with any alterations made.
“The Lord commands Nephi to murder (decapitate) Laban for the brass plates. Never mind that Laban was drunk and defenseless.” (CES Letter)
|Self-Defense – Laban had tried to kill Nephi and his family three times, and he was liable to try a fourth time. Laban had also committed robbery, which is punishable by execution (see Exodus 22:2). Nephi’s actions were legally justified. Ultimately, it was self-defense. I know, Laban was unconscious and defenseless. Yes, but that just means he put himself in a stupid position. Would you order the killing of some powerful guys twice, steal their stuff, and then get drunk at night and pass out alone on an isolated street? Nephi did not want to kill Laban. “I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.” But he had to because the Lord explicitly commanded him to execute the law, and in order to obtain the brass plates and preserve a nation. I think this was a personal lesson Nephi needed to learn, as he had done everything he could to avoid a violent confrontation.|
The lesson was to do what it takes to defend yourself and carry out divine commandments. In the Spirit’s command to Nephi, He explained why Nephi’s actions were legally justified and why it was necessary in the greater scheme of things–why it was spiritually justified, and repeating that it was a divine command.
“Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property… Behold 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.” (1 Nephi 4:11,13)
Selfish vs. Spiritual Intent – Skeptics in general like to say Mormons are liable to be “told by the Spirit” to kill anyone who stands between what they want. But when inspiration comes from a person’s head rather than from the Spirit of God, it does not correctly reference the law as justification, it does not correctly explain why it is necessary for the purposes of God, and it does not explain why it is spiritually justified. It also tends to be premeditated, while Nephi was surprised to come across Laban.
It is human nature to hear what you want to hear, and it is a very difficult thing to look at the situation objectively and be as receptive to answers we don’t like as to answers we do. We must be careful to be sure that the inspiration truly comes from God.
The point of this story was that it was very difficult to follow direction of the Spirit sometimes when it poses a moral dilemma. It is easy to follow the Spirit when it tells you to do something obviously good, like feeding the homeless or helping the downtrodden. But what about if the Spirit tells you to run away from an abusive household? Isn’t that a violation of the ten commandments–honoring your father and mother? Is it murder to shoot an intruder who is threatening your family? In moments like these, it takes courage to rely on the Spirit and follow through on what is best.
Maybe in the movies some circumstances shows up that allows the hero to get out of doing the killing. If this were a movie, Laban would have woken up just in time, realized that Nephi could have killed him but didn’t, and become his friend. But this doesn’t happen in real life. In real life, God doesn’t protect you from having to make difficult choices. Laban would have successfully hunted down Nephi’s family.
Nephi learned something by killing Laban, as traumatic as the experience doubtlessly was. It is interesting that Nephi talks so much about the justice of God in the chapters following this event. He explains justice and mercy in a remarkable way that delicate readers sometimes get offended by. Nephi had to think through the mechanics of divine justice, and his responsibility toward his family, future generations, and nation’s self-defense.
|Why No Divine Intervention – When Abraham followed through on God’s command to sacrifice his son on an altar, an angel intervened just in time and told him it was just a test of faith. Why didn’t God do the same thing for Nephi? “The argument that Laban would send his servants after Nephi and his brothers is ridiculous considering that the same God who had no problem lighting stones and taming swarms of bees (Ether 2-3) for the Brother of Jared can also preserve Nephi.” (CES Letter)|
Well, that is false. Ether never claimed that they crossed the ocean with bees. But regardless, the point is that God isn’t always going to shield us from painful experiences. We experience tough things in life to grow. The Jaradites needed to stones in order to make the journey; there was no other way. Nephi had a course of action in order to be successful, and he did what he had to do.
CES Letter Logical Fallacies
|Falsehood||CES Letter says, “This story has been used as a defense in killings by religious people.” I assume they are referring to Ron Lafferty, who anti-Mormons frequently claim was inspired by Nephi. But despite these claims, I find zero evidence that Ron Lafferty was at all inspired by Mormons or Nephi’s experience, in his murder of a woman and child over thirty years ago. Lafferty was not a Mormon, and Mormons believe in obeying the law.|
|Etymology||CES Letter uses present tense to describe the story, to make these events sound more recent and important to modern day.|
|Strawman||The Lord did not command Nephi to kill (not murder) Laban only for the brass plates, but also for the sake of self-defense, the survival of Nephi’s new civilization, and because it was legally justified.|
|Appeal To Ridicule||“Never mind that…”|
|Ad Hominem||“ridiculous” This entire argument attacks the character of Mormons and makes them seem dangerous.|
|False Comparison||The comparison to the Jaradites’ situation is illogical. The Jaradites needed illuminated stones in order to sail across the ocean. They had no other option.|
|Red Herring||The Jaradites’ swarms of bees has nothing to do with this.|
|Guilt By Association||Ron Lafferty was a non-Mormon cultist who killed a woman and child for no reason. We could ask CES Letter, why do anti-Mormon atheists hold the same beliefs as Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao, who killed millions of people for “the greater good”? There, see how guilt by association works?|
Normally, people understand that these were biblical times, the laws were different, and we can’t judge ancient history by today’s sensibilities. I’ve never actually seen someone get sincerely upset by the Laban story–just as an excuse. I don’t mind if someone doesn’t like violence and thinks killing is terrible, even in self-defense. But to use this story to imply that all Mormons are dangerous and liable to launch a jihad on their spiritual enemies is crossing the line. Anti-Mormons come up with phony association with crazy killers like Ron Lafferty.
It closes the skeptics’ minds to divine justice. They hold on to their social justice, even though followers of social justice are themselves routinely violent. Communist leaders, environmentalist terrorist groups, Antifa… you don’t need to invent visions of God to justify your violence. It is human nature.
CES Letter is setting the expectation that spiritual communication should not only be a magical oracle or genie that gives us whatever we want, but God should also keep us from having to defend ourselves with violence. CES Letter‘s expectation perpetuates Satan’s solution where all our decisions are made for us and salvation is universal. Just pray and you are saved. The essence of Satan’s plan is universal salvation.
Look at any of the social issues that Mormons get attacked for in the church, from racism, to sexism, to homophobia, and you see the same thing. You think Mormons like telling children of gay couples that they need to postpone baptism until they are adults? The commandment is to “forbid not” worthy and willing people from getting baptized, but there are circumstances that pose a moral dilemma which we can’t ignore. We can either cave in and make the easy choice–disregard the law of chastity, or in Nephi’s case, disregard the Lord’s command to get the brass plates and flee town–or we follow God’s guidance.
Mormons recognize that the gate is narrow and the path strait, but we don’t say that there is always one prescribed solution for everything to cover each individual. Circumstances are different for each person. People are not robots that react the same to each condition. This is why God sends out individual missionaries to talk to people one-on-one while Satan broadcasts programs on TV and messages in the media to millions of people at a time. It is the fate of machines to receive the same programming as if every other machine is built the same way. But we are not machines. We are men and women, and the Holy Ghost talks to us individually on a case by case basis, and most of the time there is not one single “correct” choice that we must make.
We can be sure of the Spirit’s witness of Mormon doctrine because it aligns with our good works, works that consistently lead to final success, and it continues to enlighten and improve our lives. Then, we know it came from a good source. Bad fruit will never be given to us by God, even if someone decides to ruin things for us later along the way. Nephi’s killing Laban probably hurt him a lot, but ultimately it led to good. It is also important to remember that bad fruit is not from our own doing, or an indication that we are cursed to be failures. Our stumbles despite our own weakness are the work of Satan and they can be overcome. If someone exercises their agency to cause us pain, that is on them.
It is painful to watch anti-Mormons spiral in a hole of hopelessness and self-pity. They beat themselves up over painful events in their lives and blame themselves, and they refuse to let go and accept people are free to make bad decisions, or that Satan is the source of temptation and doom. They build this confined box in their minds. Lehi’s advice for Laman and Lemuel was to not think about the gloomy place you are now but to focus one the direction you are headed and be firm in faith on the source that guides you. This is ultimately how prayer and the Holy Ghost delivers us from the problem of human flaws. We improve day by day as the Holy Ghost tutors us and we gain mastery over our intellect, emotion, and spirit.