Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Learning from Imperfect Reactions

More than appreciation for the characters themselves, I have come to appreciate the imperfect assumptions they make when faced with new situations. The Book of Mormon, along with the Bible, provide insight into people that make decisions differently than perhaps you and I would, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. Whatever the case, it is interesting to read these holy texts pretending that we don't know the end from the beginning, putting ourselves in the shoes of the men and women and thinking how we would respond to their set of circumstances.

The brother of Jared provides one such example. When he sees the finger of God, he has many options for his reaction. Surely, anyone would feel humbled. One could feel overjoyed, disbelieve the sight, or at peace at first glance. But this is not his reaction. Instead, the brother of Jared states, “I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.” What does this tell us about the brother of Jared’s assumptions about God? Did he perhaps misunderstand the rebukes of God in earlier occurrences as signs of a temperamental and harsh personality? Surely not everyone would immediately conclude that God would smite them upon seeing him. But this tells us about both the personality of the brother of Jared and, perhaps, more about the nature of God.

In another instance, we see the often scrutinized Laman and Lemuel question an angelic messenger after just being reprimanded for turning on their brothers while returning to Jerusalem to retrieve the scriptures before their long journey in the wilderness. While most people would likely adhere to the counsel of an angel, at least in an immediate sense, Laman and Lemuel instantly question the veracity of the angel's assertions. They comment, "How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?" While many of us would likely react with more faith after such a divine intervention, Laman and Lemuel are not the first people to run away from a celestial mandate out of fear. The likes of Jonah and others provided us with insight into a certain kind of person, whose fears can often cloud their faith.

We tend to condemn Laman and Lemuel for their every mistake, knowing the end from the beginning, but as readers, we should keep in mind that this moment of weakness was not damning. Surely, some of us would fear the loss of our lives as well against such a formidable foe. Therefore, reading the scriptures can teach us through the personality and responses of its characters.


  1. I really like the example you give from the brother of Jared. I agree that we are often too quick to misjudge the imperfections and honestly human reactions to the people that we otherwise put on pedestals, such as when Peter began to sank. We don't first think of him walking on water, but sinking.

  2. I agree that these mistakes and misunderstandings simply prove the humanity of the characters in the Book of Mormon. It's interesting that almost each of these mistakes was based first on a misunderstanding. Maybe that's one reason the scriptures are so important: so we can better understand God and therefore prevent heartache.