|A painting depicting Nephi in one of numerous tussles with his brothers, Laman and Lemuel. I wonder how Laman would have recorded the events while they travelled for eight years through the Arabian desert?|
Monday, 21 December 2015
The missing voice of the Lamanites
For years now I have wondered about the Lamanites and the absence of their voice in the Book of Mormon. The BoM is pretty much written entirely by those who identified themselves as Nephites and is therefore heavily biased in their favour.
We are heavily influenced to feel that the Nephites were the good guys and the Lamanites were the bad guys during this 1,000 year record of these people.
Could one family really cause 1,000 years of hatred and enmity, so bad that it resulted in the entire annihilation of both peoples, leaving just one man remaining to complete the history and bury it in the ground?
You see, history is just that. It's written by one voice at a time, while other voices are either lost or subterfuged so that they are blurred from existence. We can never understand the full history of anything. Which leads me to the lost voice of the Lamanites.
The lost voice of the Lamanites.
It all started with two intolerant Arabs named Lehi and Nephi, who, in the BoM record, are obviously cast as the 'good guys' who believe in God while Laman, the elder brother of said Nephi, is continuously painted as the instigator of all contention. But it was simply because of Laman's disbelief in the God that his father and brother so devotedly trusted, that led to him losing what was rightly his - his father's inheritance.
We always look at it from the point of view of Nephi, well, because that's the only perspective we are offered in the BoM.
What if we looked at things from a different angle?
What type of record would we see if it was written by Laman?
We only ever get told about Laman, and his 'partner-in-crime' Lemuel, by Nephi. Unfortunately, we don't get to hear their thoughts and feelings, like we do with Nephi. We are made aware that things became so heated between the brothers that Laman attempted to kill Nephi on a few occasions, which was hardly surprising given the strict Old Testament Law of Moses this family would still have followed and which pervaded everyday life.
I can appreciate that that didn't help the family relationship too. But do we understand why Laman felt so bad about his younger brother?
Laman was enjoying life in Jerusalem, was part of a rich family, and as the firstborn, was in line to rightfully receive his father's inheritance. His perfect life was shattered by a dad who claimed to see visions telling him to leave Jerusalem and wander around the desert. They were then sent back and forth on long journeys home only to trade away all their possessions to a king who tried to kill them - for a historical record.
You can see why Laman would have 'murmured' while traipsing through the Arabian desert.
After giving up their house, possessions and guaranteed meals each day, Laman and Lemuel were obliged to wander through the hostile Arabian desert for 8 years with suddenly no hope for the future, no idea where they were going, or what would become of them. Then after landing in America, after struggling through one perceived injustice after another, their father hits them with this bombshell:
"And now my son, Laman, and also Lemuel and Sam, and also my sons who are the sons of Ishmael, behold, if ye will hearken unto the voice of Nephi ye shall not perish. And if ye will hearken unto him I leave unto you a blessing, yea, even my first blessing.
But if ye will not hearken unto him I take away my first blessing, yea, even my blessing, and it shall rest upon him."
(2 Nephi 1:28-29)
Can you begin to imagine the utter disbelief and shock that Laman must have felt after hearing that his very birthright would be taken away from him if he didn't follow his little brother, who would now be a leader over him?!
From Laman's point of view, this must have felt like a scandal.
I similarly come from a spiritually divided family. But just because the non-believing parent doesn't go to church, read the scriptures or hold the same values as we do, doesn't mean that parent is in the wrong. He is still the leader of the home and no decision should be made without his approval or consent. His voice is just as important as our religiously-influenced voices.
And so I wonder with great intrigue about the missing voice of the Lamanites and how it would have sounded.