Journal of Book of Mormon Studies


Charles Swift


Nephi, Laban, The Book of Mormon, slay, narrative


Many would agree that the most disturbing narrative in all of the Book of Mormon is that of Nephi being commanded to slay Laban. Few encourage their friends to turn to that passage when introducing the book. It is the rather detailed account of what appears to be an unconscionable act. Its closest parallel elsewhere in scripture is the story of Abraham and Isaac, with the all-important difference that, for Nephi, there was no ram in the thicket. How can we justify a man coming upon another man lying in a street, completely helpless, incapacitated because he is passed out from being drunk, and that first man decapitating the second man, stealing his sword and clothing, and then impersonating him so he could steal a most precious item from his treasury and lead one of his servants away from his household? On the surface, this is what appears to be happening. The fact that Nephi feels led by the Spirit to commit this act may be of little comfort to us as members of society since "few, if any of us, would want to live in a society where individual citizens are free to kill drunken fellow citizens-however guilty the drunk may be-because the citizen feels he has been constrained by God to do so."