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Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Sword of Laban

Near the end of the most recent Transfer meeting, I sat in the back of the room right next to my new companion. At this point, it is common to have our minds leave the meeting because we did what we needed to do there. However, there is a tradition in the church to close with a spiritual thought. The mission president said, "We will invite [my lovely wife] to share with us her testimony, then I will share mine; and we will close with our mission song, and... A prayer." This common experience was earlier described by a member in a previous area as "a long and boring meeting," and that the only excitement was to find out who your new companion is, and where you are going. So, I sat, in the back, with all of these thoughts in my mind; as the Mission President's wife stood behind the podium. She looked around at the audience with that loving smile of hers and proceeded to express the love she had for all of the missionaries. Then she shared what she had seen in her studies. She read, "And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us; for I knew their hatred towards me and my children and those who were called my people." (2 Nephi 5: 4) She continued to share a spiritual thought on why he did that. Nephi had "been a great protector for them, having wielded the sword of Laban in their defence." (Jacob 1: 10) The sword of Laban was wielded in righteousness to defend his people. That is why he created many swords after that manner. At this point, I was listening, but was not focused. Thoughts and impressions were coming to the foreground of my mind, and the eyes of my understanding were opened. I truly felt, "the Almighty pouring down knowledge from heaven upon [my head]" (Doctrine and Covenants 121: 33). I was taught by the Spirit as He brought to my remembrance the history of the Sword of Laban.

"I, Nephi, crept into [Jerusalem] and went forth towards the house of Laban. And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. Nevertheless I went forth, and as I came near unto the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he had fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban. And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel. And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him. And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property. And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief. And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words... I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword." (1 Nephi 4: 5-14, 18)

This sword, the Sword of Laban, had been in the hands of a wicked man. It was used to persecute, torture, and kill those who were righteous, and bring further unrighteousness to the wielder, who was Laban. Sister Craven likened the sword to us, and the Spirit taught me deeper. We in the hands of the wicked one can cause death and destruction, but in the hands of the Most Righteous, we can be wielded for good. As I thought about this, The Sprit brought to my mind two literal scriptural examples, and I saw the words of Alma the younger who told his son, Helaman, "I went about with the sons of Mosiah, seeking to destroy the church of God... I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction..." (Alma 36: 6, 14) And I thought of the account of Paul who, "made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison." (Acts 8: 3) and continued "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord..." (Acts 9: 1) Alma and Paul had been in the hands of the wicked one, both doing the same thing as the sword, in a spiritual sense: killing righteous and innocent people.

Just as the Sword of Laban had been taken from Laban, and killed him, it was done with Alma (and those with him), and Paul. We read of Alma's experience, "Now the sons of Mosiah were numbered among the unbelievers; and also one of the sons of Alma was numbered among them, he being called Alma, after his father; nevertheless, he became a very wicked and an idolatrous man. And he was a man of many words, and did speak much flattery to the people; therefore he led many of the people to do after the manner of his iniquities. And he became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them.

"And now it came to pass that while he was going about to destroy the church of God... behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto them; and he descended as it were in a cloud; and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder, which caused the earth to shake upon which they stood; And so great was their astonishment, that they fell to the earth, and understood not the words which he spake unto them. Nevertheless he cried again, saying: Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God? For the Lord hath said: This is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people. And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith. And now behold, can ye dispute the power of God? For behold, doth not my voice shake the earth? And can ye not also behold me before you? And I am sent from God. Now I say unto thee: Go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers in the land of Helam, and in the land of Nephi; and remember how great things he has done for them; for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them. And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off. And now it came to pass that these were the last words which the angel spake unto Alma, and he departed. And now Alma and those that were with him fell again to the earth, for great was their astonishment; for with their own eyes they had beheld an angel of the Lord; and his voice was as thunder, which shook the earth; and they knew that there was nothing save the power of God that could shake the earth and cause it to tremble as though it would part asunder. And now the astonishment of Alma was so great that he became dumb, that he could not open his mouth; yea, and he became weak, even that he could not move his hands; therefore he was taken by those that were with him, and carried helpless, even until he was laid before his father. (Mosiah 27: 8-19)

Alma's experience is similar to that of Paul. "as he journeyed, [and] came near Damascus." When "suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." (Acts 9: 3-6)

Alma later described his experience, "I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!" (Alma 36: 17-20) I am sure within those three days, Saul felt similar torment as he fasted (Acts 9: 9) and, more than likely, prayed to the Almighty. But after they were taken from the custody of the Satan. The Lord used them for works of righteousness. The Lord said of Paul "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel." (Acts 9: 15)

The future of the Sword of Laban after it had slayed Laban is of important significance. It was handed down generation after generation after "having [been] defence" of righteousness in the hands of Nephi. (Jacob 1: 10) it was given to another righteous king. "King Benjamin gathered together his armies, and he did stand against them; and he did fight with the strength of his own arm, with the sword of Laban." (Words of Mormon 1: 13) "And it came to pass that after king Benjamin... gave [Mosiah] charge concerning all the affairs of the kingdom. And moreover, he also gave him charge concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass; and also the plates of Nephi; and also, the sword of Laban, and the ball or director, which led our fathers through the wilderness, which was prepared by the hand of the Lord that thereby they might be led, every one according to the heed and diligence which they gave unto him." (Mosiah 1: 15-16) The Sword of Laban is also said to be the sword Captain Moroni fought with in the wars against the Lamanites. It was passed down continually and was with the gold plates in the Hill Cumorah (Doctrine and Covenants 17). This demonstrates the eternal nature of our being in the hands of Righteousness, and fighting on that same side.

These stories, or experiences, do not need to be "Paul, or Alma" experiences. They can be "your, our, and my" experiences. Can the Lord say  to you, "you are a chosen vessel unto me to bear my name before [all the world]?" Will you say that for yourself? Would you tell someone to pattern their life after yours as Paul told us? The Story of the Sword of Laban is in similitude of us; and if it is not in similitude of you, my invitation to you is to apply the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord wants you to become a chosen vessel for Him, and the Doctrine of Christ is the only way to become. I promise this is the only way to find true and everlasting happiness and peace.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, that was a great insight