This chapter is one of the most revealing as to why some people soften their hearts and are able to understand the things of the lord while others harden themselves and are closed of from the things of God
Laman and Lemuel are often sterotyped or dismissed, by the truth is that they are incredibly real people and their struggles are very much like many of those is our day
Elder Neal A. Maxwell gave a masterful talk on this subject many years ago.
Laman and Lemuel became rebels instead of leaders, resentful instead of righteous—all because of their failure to understand either the character or the purposes of God.
Elder Maxwell asserts and I fully agree that the key is found in verse 12
Failing to understand the “dealings” of the Lord with His children—meaning His relations with and treatment of His children—is very fundamental. Murmuring is but one of the symptoms, and not the only consequence either; in fact, brothers and sisters, this failure affects everything else!
To misread something so crucial constitutes a failure to know God, who then ends up being wrongly seen as unreachable, uninvolved, uncaring, and unable—a disabled and diminished Deity, really—about whose seeming limitations, ironically, some then quickly complain.
The truth is that from a wordless perspective father Lehi’s actions were completely unacceptable. He left behind everything that had ever mattered to his sons in response to a dream. He likely left behind many friends and relatives with whom he had previously enjoyed a wonderful relationship. Furthermore, to leave behind the temple and Jerusalem seemed to go against the ritualistic religion of Laman and Lemuel. Without a proper understanding of God it is no wonder that they murmured and fault every step of the way. Indeed, it may be more surprising that despite their lack of understanding they dutifully obeyed for so long!
The problem with Laman and Lemuel was that they were unwilling to consider that their conventional way of thinking was wrong. They were unwilling to know the will of the lord and not prepared to take the necessary steps.
Nephi on the other hand likely heard his fathers words with the same bit of skepticism at first. What set him apart from his brethren was that he was willing to go against the conventional wisdom and turn to the lord. He was willing to suspend his disbelief long enough to receive a confirmation from God and come to know that his father’s words were true
Michael T. Ringwood spoke about nephi’s easiness and willingness to believe:
We are blessed with others in the scriptures who teach us how we can obtain an easiness and willingness to believe. Nephi, son of Lehi, is one example. His first act when he heard his father teach about the destruction of Jerusalem was to cry unto the Lord till his heart was soft and he believed all the words spoken by his father
I love the words of Nephi
16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers. (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi, Chapter 2)
This is a pattern of revelation for all of us:
First, Nephi had a desire to know the truth and to understand God
Second he cried into the lord to help soften his heart and help him understand
Third, he shared his spiritual promptings and feelings with his brother Sam
Finally, Nephi is commended for his diligence and loveliness of heart in seeking the Lord
Nephi here gains a preliminary testimony…He has a witnesses of the truth of the revelation of his father. His knowledge is far from perfect, yet Nephi has learned enough to cast away his doubts and act in faith!
Yet, what is admirable is that Nephi continues to grow his testimony and seek greater light and knowledge… ( we will get to that in chapters 10 an 11)
May we always follow the example of Nephi and not his brothers so that we grow each day in our knowledge of the mysterious of that being who created us!