Why Didn’t Laman and Lemuel Just Go Back to Jerusalem and 2 Additional Questions from 2 Nephi 1–5


Editor’s Note: Tammy Uzelac Hall is the host of LDS Living’s newest podcast, “Sunday on Monday,” a weekly podcast focused on Come, Follow Me that dives into the hidden treasures of the gospel. Here are three questions readers might have in their studies of the Book of Mormon this week, accompanied by Hall's insights that add new meaning to the beloved verses.

Question: Nephi sure has a lot more patience than I would have had with his brothers. I think I would have said that if they keep complaining, they are free to go back to Jerusalem and stay there. This made we wonder—why didn’t they just go back?

Answer: This is such a great question and I have also wondered the same thing. I wonder if it had anything to do with the Assyrian Captivity which happened in 721 BC. The Assyrian Army was so vicious and violent that even the Lord used them to demonstrate His power to the Israelites (and ultimately us) when he said, “O, Assyrian, the Rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation” (Isaiah 10:5).

The Assyrians were known for their savage brutality. They were also known for effective and incredible warfare which struck terror into the hearts of the Near Eastern world. You can find a description of the brutal techniques they used in the Old Testament Student Manual, "The Assyrian Conquest and the Lost Tribes."

Of all the people who should have understood that wickedness will be punished, it should have been the people living in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, where Jerusalem was located at the time. Lehi and his family left Jerusalem around 600 BC. They would have heard about the history of how the Northern Kingdom fell to Assyria and how ten of the twelve tribes were taken and thus becoming, “lost.” They would also know that the Southern Kingdom of Judah had been miraculously delivered from the Assyrian army because they had heeded the words of Isaiah (2 Kings 18-19).1

I believe that there was a part of Laman and Lemuel that was scared and believed that the prophecies of their father, as well as Isaiah, Nahum, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, and Jeremiah might be right. They were fearful enough to follow Lehi and yet when times were tough, they were prideful enough to think maybe the prophets got it wrong (1 Nephi 17:20-21). I wonder if there is a similar parallel to us when it comes to living in the last days. We are told how awful it will be if we don’t repent, what we can do to be saved, and are even given the signs to look for Christ’s Second Coming. But when times get tough, how willing are we to keep the commandments of God?

Question: It seems like the main message in 2 Nephi 1 is, “Keep the commandments and be blessed.” Did Lehi have as many commandments to keep as we do? What exactly is this referring to?

Answer: This is a good question. The commandments Lehi is referring to in 2 Nephi 1 are the Ten Commandments. When we are told to keep the commandments, it is also the basic Ten found in Exodus 20. Latter-day Saint religious scholar Robert Millett taught in Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon:

“Some have mistakenly supposed that the Ten Commandments were a part of the law of Moses. In fact, they are a part of the higher law or the fulness of the gospel. This is illustrated by their reiteration to us as part of the restoration of all things (see Doctrine and Covenants 59:5-12). The Ten Commandments were a part of the fulness of the gospel as first given to Moses on Sinai. Though the higher priesthood and its ordinances were taken from Israel because of her transgressions, when Moses returned to Sinai to receive what we know as the law of Moses, the Ten Commandments were retained as a part of Israel's covenant with God."2

When Christ was on the earth, a lawyer tried to test or trick the Savior by asking him which is the great commandment in the law. Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-38)

From Matthew 22, we learn that the two great commandments are to “love God and then love man.” The Ten Commandments support this— the first five laws relate to our relationship with God, while the last five relate to our relationships with loving man.

Knowing the Ten Commandments and their order helps us understand and check our relationship with God and man. All other rules and commands fall under the Ten Commandments. For example, sometimes our many pursuits, passions and, problems become our priority over our relationship with Heavenly Father. If this happens, the first and second commandment are being ignored: “And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.” (Deut. 8:19)

In 1988, then-Elder Russell M. Nelson issued a challenge to us concerning the Ten Commandments:  “The Ten Commandments comprise the great moral code of our society. They have been repeated over and over again. They were cited more than once in the Old Testament (see Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5), reiterated in the New Testament (see Romans 13:9), written in the Book of Mormon (see Mosiah 13:12-24), and recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants (see D&C 42:18-28). We had better memorize them, just as we have learned the alphabet and multiplication tables.3

Take the challenge and memorize the Ten Commandments in order this week. I promise it will be worth it. In this week’s podcast, I teach a way to memorize them, in order, using a mnemonic device that was taught to me by Dr. Susan Easton Black and it absolutely works!

Question: Agency, really?! I’ve about had it with “opposition in all things.” I’m tired. Is it really necessary? 

Answer: Amen! I totally get it. President Howard W. Hunter said, “The law of opposition makes freedom of choice possible.”4 That freedom of choice sure can get sticky. 

I like the example President Hunter gives of rowing a boat.5 The pulling of the oars against the resistance of the water creates the force that causes the boat to move forward. Resistance creates both the opposition and the forward movement. 

Lehi certainly faced afflictions, but he also added these words that have become classic: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Ne. 2:11).

The opposition that personally frightened me the most came a few years ago as I watched my own child struggle to believe in God. At the time, I was struck by these words from Sister Sharon G. Larsen, who served as second counselor in the Young Women general presidency from 1997 to 2002. In her talk, “Agency, a Blessing and a Burden,” Sister Larsen talks about being a follower of Christ:

“To become a committed follower of Christ, we must have the option to reject him. So Satan is permitted to exercise his power, and yielding our will to God can sometimes become difficult. Yet it is in this exercise of acting for ourselves that we grow.”6

I had never considered my agency, or rather my child’s agency, in this way. As a mom, I don’t want my children to have the agency that would allow them to reject Christ. That really scares me. And yet, 2 Nephi 1–5 taught me of its importance. My only hope is that while my children still live at home, I can help them make the right choice.

The "Sunday on Monday" study group is a Deseret Bookshelf PLUS+ original presented by LDS Living. You can access the full study group discussion through the Bookshelf app. Listen to a segment of this week's episode below or listen to the full "Sunday on Monday" episode here.


1. Old Testament Manual Kings-Malachi, Babylonia and the Conquest of Judah, Enrichment D, p. 231.

2. Robert Millett, Joseph Fielding McConkie, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, DB 1998, p. 21

3. Russell M. Nelson, The Power Within Us, Deseret Book, 1988, p. 124.

4. Howard W. Hunter, “God Will Have A Tried People,” Ensign, May 1980

5. Howard W. Hunter, “God Will Have A Tried People,” Ensign, May 1980

6. Sharon G. Larsen, “Agency, A Blessing and a Burden,” Ensign, Nov. 1999

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