Okay, maybe not ALL my life lessons. They definitely didn’t teach me how to calculate a tip or change a tire (which I still can’t do, to be totally honest, because I have the upper body strength of a newborn mouse). Honestly, Laman and Lemuel could be pretty bad dudes and, at first glance, it may seem like there’s not a whole lot to learn from their examples. But even still, I did learn a few (“I learned a few of my life lessons from Laman and Lemuel” wasn’t as catchy of a title, okay?) of my most important life lessons from them. Namely, they taught me that so much of life and the joy that we find in it boils entirely down to our attitude.
Making the Right Choices
When I think of Laman and Lemuel, I won’t lie — the first thing that comes to my mind is the Living Scriptures depiction of them… And my sister’s complaint that Nephi’s dress didn’t come to his knees. From there, though, I usually think about how much grief they caused others simply by being stubborn and selfish.
But despite their frequent foolishness, the reality is that they actually made some really good choices before they spoiled it by having a bad attitude. Let me give you a few examples:
- When their father had a vision that they needed to leave Jerusalem, Laman and Lemuel chose to leave with their family even though they loved their home.
- After Lehi received a vision that they needed the brass plates, they went back with Nephi and Sam to Jerusalem — and returned with them instead of staying there.
- Even after Laban chased Laman off, the brothers all continued trying to get the plates by attempting to sway Laban with riches instead of giving up and leaving.
- Although returning to their home was probably painful and sad for them, Laman and Lemuel again agreed to go back when Lehi commanded them to go persuade Ishmael’s family to join them in the wilderness. (Plus, I’m sure that conversation was kind of an awkward one. “So… My dad told us to tell you to give up all of your comfort and come camp with us in the wild. Sound good? Also, we’re going to marry your daughters; hope that’s cool.”)
- After they received a “hard” doctrine, they humbled themselves and repented.
So clearly, there are plenty of instances where Laman and Lemuel did choose to do the right thing even when it was difficult. They, like their brothers, obviously understood the importance of family and the reality of God. Likewise, they had every opportunity to be righteous and choose to live by God’s commandments — but instead they chose to have a bad attitude and forego His blessings by being obstinate and cruel.
All of the good they did — all of the righteous choices they made — ended up being totally overshadowed by a really bad attitude that they allowed to completely rule their lives.
This is seriously one of my favorite words (although yes, I do realize it’s not a word, in case my tenth grade English teacher is reading) and I like to say it often. A combination of bad + attitude, it works in so many situations. “I’ve had enough of your baditude, little missy.” “Not with that baditude!” “Don’t you cop a baditude with me, mister!”
Obviously, the opportunities to use that word are endless, but I can’t think of anyone to whom it applies better than Laman and Lemuel. They are the prime example of baditude.
Me: Here are the examples you’re all begging for!
- Remember that time that Laman and Lemuel LITERALLY SAW AN ANGEL?! That’s an experience had by so few people and instead of being amazed and in awe, they’re just like, “Ugh.” Direct quote. But really, they immediately started complaining rather than being grateful that they had such an incredible and rare spiritual visitation.
- Instead of being thankful that their dad was saving them from destruction, they got mad at him and talked about him behind his back.
- Rather than being grateful for all of the incredible things Nephi had done (and all of the times that he saved their skin), they were constantly resentful of him and physically abusive toward him.
- When Nephi broke his bow, they were LIVID with him and showed a complete lack of empathy and compassion — even though they had obviously broken their own bows, too. In a BYU devotional, University Librarian Jennifer Paustenbaugh remarked, “The fact that [Laman and Lemuel’s] own bows had ‘lost their springs’ (from being overshot or from the sheer laziness of not unstringing them at the end of the day and releasing the tension on the bow) and the fact that they had done nothing to replace these crucial tools seemed lost on them.” Their frustration at not being able to get food is understandable, but the attitude they chose to submit to is one of total hypocrisy.
The list containing examples of their bad attitudes could go on basically forever, but I’ll leave it at those few. Despite the countless blessings they received, they continuously eschewed the opportunity to grow closer to and understand God. Instead of choosing happiness, they chose a bad attitude.
Nearly twenty years ago, Neal A. Maxwell gave a talk about Laman and Lemuel’s lack of spiritual understanding. Nephi writes that “they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” Elder Maxwell’s talk focused on this description and on the blessings these stubborn brothers forfeited because of their failure to know God.
“If we have a love of God and know His goodness, we will trust Him, even when we are puzzled or perplexed.
Thus Laman and Lemuel did not understand the relationship of mortals with God, and, worse still, they did not really want to understand. They sought to keep their distance from God. Furthermore, being intellectually lazy, they did not count their blessings, when gratitude could have lessened the distance. But it was never inventory time for Laman and Lemuel.“
They intentionally kept their distance from God, centering their hearts instead on worldly things like power and popularity. Elder Maxwell further explained:
“Easily riled and quick to complain, they could scarcely remember their last rescue long enough to meet their next difficulty. Instead, lacking gospel perspective, the situational cares of the day, like worry over a broken bow, of all things, dominated the things of eternity. Ours, too, is a day of every-man-for-himself situational ethics, as if the Ten Commandments came from a focus group!
. . . Ironically, many like Laman and Lemuel who are the first to demand signs are then the first to discount them. Some demand more miracles even while consuming a daily menu of manna and forgetting its remarkable Source.”
Laman and Lemuel constantly chose to ignore God’s hand in their lives. They conveniently disregarded His divine counsel when they felt those commandments didn’t suit them and constantly opted for a bad attitude.
Even though their own stories didn’t end well — they were cut off from the Lord’s presence because of their increasingly bad decisions and lack of humility — we can learn from them. They teach us, by the consequence of consistently choosing hate and disbelief, the value of adherence to God’s commandments, the importance of brotherly love and kindness to all those around us, and the principle of faith in adversity.
Above all, they teach us that instead of choosing a bad attitude, we can always choose positivity and joy.