Nephi’s brothers complain that the doctrine that he declared to them is a hard thing and more difficult than we can bare. What hard things did Nephi teaching them? First, that they should humble themselves and ask of God. Second, that they would be scattered from the people of Israel. Third, that they and all of Israel would fall away until a restoration would come. Fourth, that they must give heed to the word of God and keep his commandments. And finally that they would ultimately be judged of God according to their deeds.
When considering these teachings in total, it is clear why they were hard things to bear. I imagine that Laman and Lemuel still dreamed of returning to their “normal” lives. They hoped that this journey in the wilderness was a temporary diversion. They continually thought that they could return to Jerusalem and pressed for that in their moment of rebellion.
Yet, Nephi made it clear that those in Jerusalem would be scattered and destroyed. And no only that, but it would require a great restoration to bring back scattered Israel. These would have been hard things to hear.
The Jews had come to falsely believe that because they were chosen God excuses their sins and follies. But Nephi laid bare that this was false.
Nephi’s teaching regarding the resurrection and judgment would also have been hard to hear. Laman and Lemuel were raised by righteous parents and so would have been painfully aware of the discontent between what they had been taught and their lifestyles. They likely rationalized their sins and thought that they were nevertheless for the most part obedient and trying to do the best they could. Nephi made it clear that excuses are not good enough. Being mostly good and keeping the commandments most of the time isn’t enough. We need to aim for full obedience. Truly, these were hard teachings to bear. As Nephi says, this truth cuts the guilty to their very center.