“Laman, Arch- Murmur”

Ed J. Pinegar, Richard J. Allen

Few figures in the Book of Mormon teach as powerful a lesson as does Laman—not by exemplary and admirable deeds, but rather in the inevitable consequences of disobedience, rebellion, and evil. Laman is the archetype of dissension. He rejects the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ and is therefore subjected by choice to the ultimate penalty of being “cast off from the presence of the Lord” (1 Nephi 8:36).

What is the perilous agenda of Laman and the source of his discontent? When Lehi heeds the warnings of the Lord and takes his family into the wilderness around 600 b.c. to avoid the impending destruction of Jerusalem, Laman joins his brother Lemuel in accusing Lehi of being a “visionary man” who “had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart” (1 Nephi 2:11). Thus Laman and his brother demonstrate a governing preference for earthly, rather than heavenly, treasures; for creature comforts rather than the challenges and opportunities of discipleship and spiritual growth. Moreover, they are jealous of the leadership role played by their younger brother Nephi: “We will not that our younger brother shall be a ruler over us” (1 Nephi 18:10). Consequently, they abuse Nephi and attempt to take his life, just as they have sought to kill their own father.

Laman casts a long, dark shadow across the landscape of the Book of Mormon. Whenever his descendants persist in following a philosophy of prideful jealousy, rage against spiritual authority, and rejection of the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they sink into a benighted state characterized by separation from God and a loathsome, warlike lifestyle.

We can learn from the negative example of Laman—and other dissenters and murmurers in the Book of Mormon—that happiness and joy flow only to those who “press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron” (1 Nephi 8:30) until they reach the tree of life and partake of the fruit thereof. The irony of the matter is that even the descendants of Nephi, when they eventually succumb to the devastating forces of pride, become cast off and lost, as Mormon mournfully observes at the end of the Book of Mormon: “Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction” (Moroni 8:27).

Commentaries and Insights on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1