When the family of Lehi fled Jerusalem they provided both a literal account of a divided family following the gospel path and it presents also as an archetype of the covenant people in the last days. From this covenant family comes a great division that creating the two great nations in the promise land. We can learn much from these archetypical characters recorded in this ancient record.
One of many patterns and types we can take from the early account is that of the happiness of Laman and Lemuel. Much like the children of Israel after fleeing Egypt (Numbers 14: 4), they desired to return to the land and live in comfort and happiness of Babylon. It is important to really digest that this happens after they have been called into the wilderness.
When Nephi was receiving revelation to build a ship his brothers lamented and exclaimed:
“Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy” (1 Nephi 17: 21).
Laman and Lemuel define happiness as enjoying possessions in the land of their home. Their comforts, their home and their tradition, and the comforting cultural assumption that they are an accepted people by the Lord because they are both prospered and living ostensibly the terms of the covenant. Their priests told them so. And so they were ripe for destruction.
Laman and Lemuel defended the wicked members of the covenant who remained in Jerusalem that they were righteous because they kept the statutes of God. They argued the following:
And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a ; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words; yea, and our brother is like unto him. And after this manner of language did my brethren murmur and complain against us” (1 Nephi 17: 22). people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people
The happiness of Laman and Lemuel was found in possessing their material wealth and at the same time considering themselves a favored covenant people because they judged themselves as keeping the statutes and and commandments of the law of Moses.
They were blessed to be invited out of Jerusalem, as were the Children of Israel out of Egypt. What was that path? It was very difficult. Both the children of Lehi and the children of Israel were invited out of their telestial comfort and down a path of being stripped of things telestial in order to be prepared to ascend into the Celestial. The children of Israel rejected the invitation to ascend the mount into the presence of the Lord and were thus left to learn obedience and faith by the things they suffered in the wilderness.
It was in the wilderness that the children of Lehi could make the same decision. Nephi ascended the mount into the presence of the Lord and thus had power to deliver his family to the promise land (2 Nephi 4: 25).
The choice of two paths are before us today. Will we seek to be comfortable in Egypt? Do we seek to sit in self-satisfied righteousness in Jerusalem, believing that we are keepers of covenants all the while relying on the strength and comfort of a telestial kingdom?
Do we desire to walk into the wilderness and yield to the stripping away of those things that keep us from the presence of God, or do we pray and desire return to Egypt?
We are invited by a myriad of witnesses – if we reject the warnings sent to us (see President Kimball’s The False God’s We Worship and President Benson’s A Witness and a Warning as two great examples), and these latter-day warnings fade into the distant memory of this generation, the Lord warns and awakens through the witnesses of the earth – earthquakes, plagues, economic desolation and pestilence.
We should consider ourselves all as Nephi or Laman and Lemuel. Will we seek to leave the trappings and comforts of Jerusalem and accept the invitation and venture into the wilderness – sacrificing all things so that we can partake of the Tree of Life, or will we make the case that the covenant people is righteous and keeping the statutes and we long to return to the comforts of our normal life?
What type of happiness will we seek?