You can read 1 Nephi 17:21-22 here.
Context and General Information
- Laman and Lemuel are murmuring against Nephi.
- They complain about their journey in the wilderness – that they suffered. They complain that instead of suffering in the wilderness, they could have been in Jerusalem and enjoying their possessions. They claim that “they might have been happy.”
- They say that they know that the people of Jerusalem had been righteous. That they kept the statutes of the Lord.
- Laman and Lemuel say that Lehi wrongly judged the people of Jerusalem and then led his family away because they would listen to him.
We Might Have Been Happy
Yesterday we studied a little bit about Laman and Lemuel and their response to discovering that Nephi was going to build a boat. You can read it here. They had a problem for every good solution. They had no solutions whatsoever, and then a list of ill-contrived complaints.
Complaint One – Suffering in the Wilderness for Years
Okay. So this legitimately happened. Even Nephi expressed:
“And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness;…” – 1 Nephi 17:1
Of course, Nephi’s response to the recognition of such trial is very different than Laman’s and Lemuel’s. Instead of complaining about these trials, Nephi is quick to notice the blessings that they experienced that helped them to bear these trials better. Nephi, even in the midst of trial, could find the tender mercies of the Lord. He could find reasons to be happy and rejoice.
And that begs the question – would Laman and Lemuel have been happy if they wouldn’t have suffered any afflictions? The answer is No.
Happiness does not mean that we live in a vacuum – free from any kind of trials or afflictions. This is such a basic thing to understand, and we must understand it, otherwise we will make the same mistake as Laman and Lemuel did. We will constantly think that the grass is greener over there…that if only our conditions were perfect, then we’d be happy.
This really could be the topic for an entire book, but what is coming to mind right now, is that we need to recognize there is a connection between sacrifice and joy. If you think of the most joyful experiences you have had, I bet that there was a measure of sacrifice that you endured to get there.
For example, I have joy in my children. And trust me – I’ve sacrificed for them. Even before they were born, I was sacrificing. Every good parent that has joy in their children has made a sacrifice.
I had joy when I crossed the finish line of a marathon. This required hours and miles of sacrifice.
I had joy when finishing a hike and viewing a magnificent vista. But the view didn’t come easy. It was work to get here!
Now, they hadn’t come to their promised land yet, so even though Nephi could see the tender mercies of the Lord, doesn’t mean that he had experienced the full measure of happiness that would make the sacrifices feel like nothing at all. He still felt the weight of the sacrifices. But he clung to hope – that the Lord would deliver them from their afflictions and trials, and that they would soon experience the joy of being at the promised land. They would experience the joy of knowing that they had crossed the wilderness and the many waters; they endured; and they were able to live freely and blessed by the Lord.
The happiness was yet to come. But the happiness would only come as they sacrificed and endured their trials well – not because they never faced a trial in the first place.
Complaint Two – We Might Have Enjoyed Our Possessions
This is an interesting one.
I suppose it is connected to the first complaint – being in the wilderness. They had to leave all of their comforts and possessions to go into the wilderness.
Not only that, but maybe this is also in reference to what they lost back in chapter 3 – when they tried to “buy” the plates of brass from Laban, and instead he stole all of their precious things and tried to kill them, to boot.
In any case, Laman and Lemuel complained because they haven’t been able to enjoy their possessions. And, as I said before, it’s kind of interesting.
There is something enjoyable about possessions. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. We have gotten rid of 95% of what we own for the moves we have made in the last few years. Yes, there are times when I miss some of my stuff.
But, for the most part, I have learned how little we really need. And while possessions can be enjoyed, and they can make life easier, I know that it isn’t our possessions that make us happy.
Complaint Three – We Might Have Enjoyed the Land of Our Inheritance
I can also see how this would be difficult. They left their land – their home, their friends, the conveniences, the culture – to wander in the wilderness. It would be hard.
By the way – even though Nephi never complains against God, he also never calls these experiences easy. They are afflictions. They are trials. But Nephi accepts these trials with the faith that 1) the Lord will strengthen him. 2) They will soon make it to the promised land. 3) The Promised land will be even better.
So – yeah – the trials are hard. It was hard for them to move away.
However, their assumption that they could have “enjoyed the land of their inheritance,” might be off. Their father would have been killed. Lehi fled for his life. I don’t think that Lehi would have been around for the Babylonian takeover of Jerusalem. He would have died at the hands of the Jews before that time came.
And who knows how this would have effected Laman and Lemuel. They would have been the son of a condemned prophet. I don’t think that they would have done much “enjoying” of their land of inheritance. I don’t think that they have a good idea of the reality of their situation back in Jerusalem.
Complaint Four – We Might Have Been Happy
Sounds like a nice argument. But just because Laman and Lemuel think and say this, doesn’t make it true.
Happy?! In 586 BC, about 14 years after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem, Jerusalem was invaded and destroyed by the Babylonians. This destruction was recorded and described by the prophet Jeremiah in a book called Lamentations (doesn’t sound all that happy to me).
The condition of Jerusalem was deplorable when the Babylonian takeover happened. Many were killed. Others were forced into slavery. The people were distressed, forsaken, and utterly powerless. Children and babies wasted away – with hunger – in the streets of Jerusalem.
This is not the land of inheritance that Laman and Lemuel had in mind, but it was the reality.
I highly doubt that Laman and Lemuel would have liked this scenario. I doubt that they would have then repeated the refrain, “We might have been happy.” Because they wouldn’t have been happy.
The problem with murmuring and complaining, as Laman and Lemuel did, is that it will blind us to the truth.
And one more thing – do you really think, with the kind of attitude that Laman and Lemuel had, they would have ever been happy?
I don’t think it’s possible. I think that no matter what – even if the conditions of their lives were “perfect,” they would have found something to complain about. They would have created another fantasy-filled alternatives and then complained about perceived “wrongs.”
We need to learn from Laman’s and Lemuel’s mistakes. We need to remember the root of their murmuring:
“And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” – 1 Nephi 2:12
We need to learn from them and then strive to be close to the Lord and understand His dealings. It is through understanding His dealings and accepting some of the sacrifices that come with His dealings that will lead us to true happiness and joy.