- Laban (Book of Mormon)
:"This article is about Laban, a person in "The Book of Mormon". For other uses, see
Laban was the name of a personage in the first part of
The Book of Mormon, a scripture of the Latter Day Saintmovement. Although he only makes a brief appearance in the narrative, his brassplates would play an important role amongst the Nephites, who are the book's main protagonists. These plates would later be cited as the source of the Book of the Law of the Lord, published in 1851 by James J. Strang, one of the would-be successors to Joseph Smith, Jr.during the 1844 Succession Crisis.
In the book of
First Nephi, chapters three and four, Laban is described as a notable citizen of Jerusalemwho commanded great wealth and many servants. Among his possessions was a set of brassplates containing the genealogyof Lehi, a major character in the early portion of the Book of Mormon. Lehi, having left the city with his family in response to God's command, enjoined his four sons to return to Jerusalem and retrieve them: "For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass." [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=3|verse=3.] Lehi furthermore stated that this injunction did not originate with himself, but with the Lord, who had spoken to him on this matter in a dream. [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=3|verse=2.]
Retrieving Laban's brass record
Lehi's two older sons,
Laman and Lemuel, were reluctant to obey their father's order at first, fearful of Laban's power and ruthless reputation. However, Lehi's fourth son, Nephi, vowed that he would obey God's command: "For I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=3|verse=7.] Accordingly, the four sons of Lehi set out for Jerusalem.
First, Laman went to Laban alone to request the records, but Laban cast Laman out of his house and threatened to kill him. [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=3|verse=13.] Next, Nephi and his brothers offered all of their valuables to Laban in return for the brass plates. Laban took the money but then refused to keep his end of the deal, ordering his men to slay Lehi's sons. [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=3|verse=25.]
After fleeing Jerusalem, the elder brothers Laman and Lemuel were angry with Lehi and their younger, more faithful, brothers Sam and Nephi, so they beat their siblings with rods. Suddenly, an
angelappeared, commanding the elder duo to desist and all of them to return forthwith to the city, where Laban would fall into their hands. Laman and Lemuel demurred: "Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?" [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=3|verse=31.] Though Nephi encouraged his brothers by reminding them of God's might, it was only with great reluctance that they agreed to press on. [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=4|verse=4.]
Undaunted, Nephi slipped back into Jerusalem alone that night, where he soon found Laban lying unconscious in a drunken stupor. The Spirit of God told Nephi to kill Laban with his own
swordand seize the records, saying "It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief." [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=4|verse=13.] After complying, Nephi disguised himself as Laban and entered his house. There he found one of Laban's servants, Zoram, whom he commanded to retrieve the brass plates [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=4|verse=20.] and to follow him out of the city. [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=4|verse=24.] Zoram obeyed, joining Nephi and his family in their journey to the New World.
The content of the brass plates
Upon returning to his family in the wilderness, Nephi turned over the "Plates of Laban" to Lehi, who made a complete inspection of them. Lehi determined that the plates contained:
Five Books of Moses(the Jewish Torah); [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=5|verse=11.]
*A history of the Jewish people, down to the reign of [then current] King
Zedekiah; [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=5|verse=12. Zedekiah's story is found in II Kings 24:18-25:7 and II Chronicles 36:11-21.]
*The prophecies of the Israelite prophets down to
Jeremiah, seen in the Book of Mormon as a contemporary of Lehi; [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=5|verse=13.] and
*A genealogy of Lehi's own ancestors, revealing him to be a descendant of Joseph, son of the patriarch
Jacob. [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=5|verse=14.]
After reading the contents of the brass plates, Lehi prophesied that they would "never be dimmed any more by time," [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=5|verse=19.] and that they would ultimately "go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed." [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=5|verse=18.]
word of Laban
When Nephi encountered the unconscious Laban, he noticed that Laban was wearing a fine sword made of "precious steel" with a hilt of "pure gold." [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=1 Nephi|chapter=4|verse=9.] After slaying Laban, Nephi took this sword for himself. He would later use it as a model for manufacturing similar weapons for his peoples' defense. [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=2 Nephi|chapter=5|verse=14.]
Apparently Laban's sword was passed down through the centuries to future prophets, kings, and warriors, as it is mentioned many centuries later in the Book of Mormon. [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=Mosiah|chapter=1|verse=16.] The sword exists to the present-day, and was hidden away with the
Gold Platesfound by Joseph Smith, Jr.. [cite web |url=http://lds.about.com/library/weekly/aa111402a.htm |title=The Destiny of the Sword of Laban |publisher= About.com|accessdate=2006-01-18]
Book of the Law of the Lord
James J. Strang, one of many contenders to succeed Joseph Smith during the 1844 succession crisis, asserted that he had been given the "Plates of Laban" in fulfillment of Lehi's prophecy. His purported translation of them was published in 1851 as "The Book of the Law of the Lord: Being a Translation from the Egyptian of the Law Given to Moses in Sinai". [" [http://www.mormonbeliefs.com/book_of_the_law.htm Book of the Law of the Lord, Being a Translation from the Egyptian of the Law Given to Moses in Sinai] ". (The Royal Press, St. James, 1856), pp. 312-28.] In its preface, Strang clearly identifies the "Plates of Laban" as the source for most of his book. [http://www.strangite.org/Law.htm. See under Table of Contents.]
Strang's tome contains none of the material Lehi described in I Nephi 5:11-14, except for the
Ten Commandments. Rather, it embodies a constitution for a Mormon monarchy, wherein the Prophet-leader of the Latter Day Saint church equally rules as king over God's kingdom on earth. It also contains other revelations and teachings unique to Strang. It is possible that "Book of the Law" comprised only part of the Plates of Laban, rather than the whole.
Seven witnesses testified to having seen and handled the plates Strang claimed to possess. They described the plates as being eighteen in number, each measuring approximately seven and three-eighths inches wide, by nine inches long. The plates themselves were "occasionally embellished with beautiful pictures," and all appeared to be of "beautiful antique workmanship, bearing a striking resemblance to the ancient oriental languages." ["Testimony," from Book of the Law, pg. iv. http://www.mormonbeliefs.com/book_of_the_law_1.htm.]
The subsequent history of Strang's "Plates of Laban," and their current whereabouts, is a mystery.
The Latter-day Saints and
Community of Christchurches, the two largest factions of the Latter Day Saint movement, each reject James Strang's claims to prophetic leadership and his "Book of the Law of the Lord."
Book of Mormon chronology
List of plates (Latter Day Saint movement)
* [http://farms.byu.edu/publications/bookofmormonview.php?subcat=136&cat=4 LDS research articles on the Sword of Laban]
* [http://scriptures.lds.org/inp/pltsbrss References to Laban] in the index to the LDS edition of The Book of Mormon
* [http://scriptures.lds.org/inp/pltsbrss References to brass plates] in the index to the LDS edition of The Book of Mormon
* [http://www.mormonbeliefs.com/book_of_the_law.htm "Book of the Law of the Lord, Being a Translation from the Egyptian of the Law Given to Moses in Sinai"] . The Royal Press, St. James, 1856.
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