Sometimes, the right tool for a job, is a sword.
“Wherefore, I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thresh the nations by the power of my Spirit; And their arm shall be my arm, and I will be their shield and their buckler; and I will gird up their loins, and they shall fight manfully for me; and their enemies shall be under their feet; and I will let fall the sword in their behalf, and by the fire of mine indignation will I preserve them.”
Last week, myself, my wife, and two oldest kiddos got to do something pretty amazing. We all went camping. Well, I was enjoying the camping in a regular tent with my wife, while the two kids were in survival mode in group tents covered in about 4 inches of dirt and dust. Bear Grylls might have even called it quits. I think the front door of the kids’ tents acted more like a vacuum sucking in the dust, than a barrier to keep it out. Every time I went to visit the Young Men’s tent, I thought I was experiencing an indoor haboob.
It was quite a bit more than just a regular campout however. It was a four day youth camp called Moroni’s Quest. While we were there, we were able to watch several reenactments of the stories from the Book of Mormon. It was like watching a 4 day long play or a production.
All of the scenes were awesome. Every single one. But one theme really stood out to me. It was the reoccurring presence of the sword of Laban. His sword was obviously a big part of how the story of the Book of Mormon really got started. It was the “means” by which Nephi was able to obtain the Plates of Brass, or scripture record, from the very beginning…
“Therefore 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 4:18
In addition to being a fatally convincing tool for Laban, it also was on Nephi’s hip as he pretended to be Laban as he then convinced Laban’s servant to give up these records containing the law of God. These plates of Brass were the beginning of the record that Nephi and his descendants would keep from that point forward.
A few years later, and several thousand miles away, across a sandy wilderness and a vast ocean, this same sword acted as the template that Nephi used to make other swords that were needed to defend themselves against their splintered off nemesis, the Lamanites.
“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 5:14
It didn’t really stop there either. If we fast forward even more, we catch glimpses of it all through the Book of Mormon. Nephi, who had used the sword as a defense against the Lamanites, had also kept the record that always seems to accompany the sword. He passed the record keeping and protecting duty to his brother Jacob. Jacob then wrote in and guarded the record, and then passed it on to his son, Enos.
After Enos, it gets interesting. The records, and likely the sword also, passed from father to son from generation to generation. So, from Enos it went to to Jarem, then Omni, and all the way through Amaron, Chemish, Abinadom, and Amaleki. Then the chain of the record keeping by the direct descendants of Nephi gets broken, and the record then goes to the next best thing- a righteous king named Benjamin.
With King Benjamin, we see the Sword of Laban again mentioned, and this is what gives us the clue that it always accompanies the record, as King Benjamin was not a direct descendent of the line of record keepers since Nephi.
“And it came to pass also that the armies of the Lamanites came down out of the land of Nephi, to battle against his people. But behold, 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
Benjamin then, just as before, passes on the record and the sword and a few other extra goodies to his son, Mosiah….
“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.”
Its funny, but because of my previous thoughts about this amazing sword, my wife and I had mentioned it to our tribe (the great group of kids we were in charge of) on the first day. We mentioned how they should try and watch specifically for it, and try and see how many times this sword would come into play. And, come to find out, it did. Over and over again.
I feel there is something really extraordinary about that sword and what it represented. Its amazing to think about how long it survived right alongside the record that was being kept. It was almost like a constant reminder to the one entrusted with the care of the sacred record, that God would protect his words.
If we fast forward again, many, many years, the record passed through all the prophets. And finally made it all the way to Mormon, who abridged the massive accumulation of plates documenting the last thousand years. This abridgment, known now as the Book of Mormon, ultimately then passed to Moroni, who buried it along with the sword in a continuation of the protection of the record of the people.
This sword had passed from the hands of Laban in 600 B.C. in Jerusalem. It had then traveled all the way across the ocean, and through the hands of many writers and prophets, until it was buried in A.D. 421 by Moroni with the gold plates. That is a 1000 year old sword. Amazing. It then laid interred under that stone on a hill in New York for 1400 years, when the same man, Moroni, now in angel form, showed where the records had been deposited to Joseph Smith. Im sure that today, it still stands by the record just as it has for the last 2600 years and counting!
It is a testament to me of the power, and importance of the Book of Mormon. God’s hand protected it by any means necessary from the time it began, until it was finally translated, and beyond. I now have a better appreciation for the Book of Mormon, and the sacrifices, and lives that were given so that I could enjoy it.
It was a special 4 days. I watched and felt the stories and saw them come to life and change the lives of several young people over the course of the camp. But having my wife with me (and a real tent), as well as my older two kids to experience this amazing book in such a different way, was the icing on top!
The Sword of Laban
From deep within Jerusalem,
The sacred, Holy land,
Came precious gleaming sword – born of
the forge, to Laban’s hand.
Its sharpened blade of precious steel,
And hilt of purest gold,
Would slay its way through history,
To see God’s plan unfold.
Its master, one who’s greed was blind,
Cast pearls before the swine,
And spent his time in sinful waste,
His love, on casks of wine.
Then God, through angel tongue, inspired
A visionary man,
To seek, procure, his holy words,
From evil’s clenching hand.
This sword protected Plates of Brass,
Upon which lay the law
Of God, but lay unused, unread-
dormant treasure sent by God.
By fate, and lots, one night a son,
Was led by Spirit voice,
To Laban’s side- as he lay still,
Then struggled with the choice
Of taking life, and thus providing
Hope of gospel light.
Or shrinking, and condemning
All to ignorance’s night.
This son, this valiant, faithful, son
Then took that stainless sword,
And severed Laban’s guilty head,
As soldier of the Lord.
It traveled then through deep travails,
And miles of wilderness,
Arriving then in promised lands,
It never left the side of all
The records of the Lord,
Standing up as symbol of the
Power of God’s word.
From Father down to son it passed,
And fought, defending truth,
For centuries, and then beyond,
Endured, providing proof
That God protects his record still,
And does what must be done,
Ensuring all his people will
have knowledge of his Son.
E’en then, when God’s own people fell,
In sinful, prideful ways,
The sword remained as pure and clean,
As truth, that never fades.
Lastly, now its day had come,
Its final duty shown-
Remain interred with record pure,
Its angel now had flown.
And in the earth it stayed, alone,
For fourteen-hundred years.
Until its flying angel once again
Returned! Its time was near!
To once again defend God’s word,
Against its wicked foe,
God’s record, pure, inspired, now lay
Inscribed on plates of gold.
The record now has gone throughout
The world in purity,
Translated by God’s gift, and pow’r,
Through his divinity.
This sword of Laban, precious steel
And gold, endured, survived
A people blessed, and holy, who
Had faltered in their pride.
But warning words remained, engraved,
To help all come to Christ,
And teaches of the Son of God’s
This sword, this symbol of the pow’r of God
Now still defends,
The sacred record, as it has,
And will, until the end.