Nibley – An Approach to the BoM ch 10 – Portrait of Laban
For me, one of the best things to learn about this chapter is how to really read the Book of Mormon. As Nibley notes:
“Laban is described very fully, though casually, by Nephi….”
There isn’t much said directly about Laban, but lots that we can learn from the dialogue and events that occur.
We find from Laman and Lemuel that Laban commands 50 soldiers, which Nibley can then show us was a standard number for a garrison. From Zoram, we find that it is not unusual for Laban to sneak around at night, to meet with the elders at all hours, to take the sacred records out at night, or to even take those records out of the city at night. From Nephi, we see that Laban is a drunk, and often goes out dressed in his finest warrior attire at night.
My initial point is, we tend to read the Book of Mormon as a novel. We read it from beginning to end, marking a favorite scripture on occasion. But we do not scratch the veneer of what is lying behind the things we read. We can tell the stories, but cannot dig deep underneath the surface to really see what is going on.
With Nibley’s description of Laban, we see Laban as a real person, not just a caricature invented by Joseph Smith. He is a garrison captain with power. He deals with people of power. He seeks wealth and power, and gets it any way he desires that is within his power.
It is expected of Laban to call Laman a thief and drive him off. It increases Laban’s power and wealth to call the sons of Lehi thieves, take their portable wealth, and reduce them from equals to the average poor person found in Jerusalem’s streets.
This is one of the reasons I started the book club with Nibley’s An Approach to the Book of Mormon: it may teach us how to look behind the story line, and find out more of what is actually going on.