Remember that old poem “Casey at the bat”? It tells of the mighty Casey, the greatest hitter in baseball who famously, and heroically came to bat at the end of a game and had so much confidence, that he let the first two pitches go by without even a second thought to even swing. Then, on the dramatic third pitch in a cloud of dust, he whiffed on the third and final pitch, striking out, and ending the game. He had let two perfect opportunities go by, and when crunch time came, he blew it. The mighty Casey had struck out.
Amazingly, a very similar story took place in real life about 2600 years ago in a little town called Jerusalem. Instead of the mighty Casey, the man was Laban. Lets check out the drama that unfolded.
Laban was an important man in the community, and was known to be kind of a big deal among the Elders of the Jews. He was likely very wealthy, and had in his possession the plates of Brass, which included the Law of the Jews, as well as the record of his entire genealogy down from the first prophets, through Joseph, and all the way to him. These Brass plates would basically be the prize that would go to the winner in the epic “at bat” that took place all those years ago. The mighty Laban at the plate and the humble Lehi as the starter on the mound.
The first pitch from Lehi occurred after he was shown a vision of the coming destruction of Jerusalem. It would be destroyed if its people would not repent. He then went about the city preaching. This first pitch was not received well. The scriptures explain, “And it came to pass that the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them¹”
Now, Laban and all his Jerusalem buddies, the Jews, had decided to mock Lehi, instead of listen. But that wasn’t all, the scripture continues, “And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away².” Well, the mighty Laban, as well as his friends, decided that they didn’t quite like that first pitch from Lehi, and decided to let that go, and instead opted for attempted murder and death threats. Lehi’s fastball right down the middle, his call to repent and be saved? The mighty Laban decided to pass. Strike 1.
For the second pitch, Nephi took over on the mound, with a fresh arm, and he and his brothers traveled back to Jerusalem from their wilderness hideout. They decided on an even more direct approach, to just go ahead and ask Laban for the plates. Besides, its not like he was actually reading the scriptures or following their teachings right? Worth a try. So, the next pitch was another straight fastball right down the middle. “Hey, Laban, can we just go ahead and have the brass plates?” How’d that go? “And it came to pass that Laban was angry, and thrust him out from his presence; and he would not that he should have the records. Wherefore, he said unto him: Behold thou art a robber, and I will slay thee³.” So, after the second middle of the plate fastball, and perfect chance #2, Laban not only watched it go by, but also threw out a false accusation of robbery, and dished out death threats. Strike 2.
Now, the mighty Laban seemingly was oblivious to the dire situation he found himself in, he had not only rejected the words of the prophets, but he had also threatened to kill them, and falsely accused them of robbery. Both big no-no’s in Jewish law at the time. But, we will get into that later.
The third pitch delivered by Nephi was an even slower, perfectly straight softball floating beach ball pitch. Nephi and his brothers went back to their place, gathered up all their gold and silver in an effort to buy, or trade for the plates of brass. What a deal right? Lehi was likely a very wealthy man, and had a lot of precious things. So the 4 brothers headed in to see Laban again, this time loaded with their treasure, and what happened?… ”[Laban] did alust after it, insomuch that he thrust us out, and sent his servants to slay us, that he might obtain our property4” Nice. So another 4 counts of attempted murder, and armed robbery. Or, in other words, Strike 3.
Laban probably didn’t even realize he was up to bat. He didn’t even swing. The Lord handed him 3 perfect opportunities to do it the easy way, the way that would have left him alive with his head still attached, but he was blinded by lust. Lust for power, and for money.
The story and life of Laban ended a few hours later that night when Nephi was led by the spirit to the street where Laban was passed out drunk. Nephi was constrained to slay him. He shrunk, but eventually did slay Laban by cutting off his head with his own sword, disguised himself in his clothes, and obtained the brass plates for his posterity and fulfilled the commandments of the Lord.
Nephi was commanded to kill Laban. To some, this may seem strange. A righteous prophet commanded to slay another man while he lay drunk in the street? Was that necessary? Lets look at it through 2600 year old eyes.
In 600 B.C. Jerusalem, the laws were a bit different than they are here in the USA in 2015. The “Law” was the law of Moses as it was written in the old testament. And Laban over the months and especially the last few days of his life was certainly breaking many of those laws.
Laban’s first problem was that he was likely among the “Jews” who mocked Lehi, and sought to take away his life. Not exactly living up to “thou shalt not kill”
Laban’s second problem was that he had falsely accused Laman of robbery. Robbery at that time was a capitol offense, or punishable by death. Also, in Deuteronomy 19:18 the law regarding false testimony is spelled out. “And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother” Wow, so if you falsely accused someone of a capitol crime, guess what? Congratulations, you were guilty of a capitol crime!
Laban’s third problem was a combination of his 1st problem and his second problem. He actually had committed robbery, and actually had tried to kill Nephi and his brothers. Capitol offense, capitol offense. This is starting to be like OJ driving away in a white bronco.
So, in many ways, Nephi, who did not want to kill Laban, as was demonstrated by his entering into the city unarmed, and shrinking when the spirit constrained him to do it, was, in essence, carrying out the legal punishment for Laban’s crimes, even though he didn’t necessarily want to.
This story is a perfect example of how the Lord is in perfect control of every aspect of his plan for his children. He gave Laban plenty of chances to play nice, but he didnt. It also demonstrates how the Lord will always prepare a way for his children to succeed if they rely on him. The Lord provided the way for the brass plates to come into the possession of Lehi’s family, and did it in a perfectly planned out and fair way. God bless Nephi for following the promptings of the spirit even when it was very difficult to do.
I hope each of us can develop the amount of confidence in the Lord, and in ourselves to follow the spiritual promptings we are given. If we do, we never know what hidden blessings are in store for us or our family further down the line..
1 1 nephi 1:19
2 1 nephi 1:20
3 1 nephi 3:13
4 1 nephi 3:25