Researcher takes a new look at the death of Laban

To some in ancient Jerusalem, it was murder, theft and kidnapping. To others, it was a divine mission of deliverance for a family and a nation. Even today, Mormons sometimes find that the death of Laban is a difficult event to understand.

In the latest issue of The FARMS Review, researcher Steven L. Olsen found a new way to interpret Nephi's account of Laban and the brass plates.

Olsen didn't look at how the account matches the "cultural, political and linguistic features of sixth-century Jerusalem." He didn't look at it for moral or ethical lessons. He didn't look at how perfectly the situation fits ancient Hebrew law.

Instead, Olsen took another perspective: literary criticism. He looked at "the author's selection and ordering of particular words into meaningful phrases, images and events." He wrote that Nephi demonstrates enough literary expertise that the text by itself can give great insights.

The Book of Mormon in 1 Nephi 3 tells of a mission by Nephi and his brothers to obtain the brass plates -- a version of the Hebrew scriptures -- from a "powerful religious leader in Jerusalem named Laban." Olsen called it Nephi's family's "riskiest venture."

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