69 Nephi kills Laban

Nephi acknowledges the fact that Laban was not "innocent blood" (Deuteronomy 19:10). He was guilty of crimes that make him worthy of death under the law. He robbed and sought to commit murder by bearing false witness and abusing his grant of sovereign power.

  • 1 Nephi 3:25 reads: “And it came to pass that when Laban saw our property, and that it was exceedingly great, he did lust after it, insomuch that he thrust us out, and sent his servants to slay us, that he might obtain our property.”
  • Exodus 21:13–14 shows that not all killings were culpable under biblical law. If a killing qualified as excusable under this provision, the law provided that the Lord would appoint "a place whither he [the slayer] shall flee." 
  • If it was found that a slayer had not planned the event in advance, he might still be tainted by blood but he would be granted safe refuge in a city of asylum until the death of the reigning high priest, at which time he could safely return to his former city. Nephi, of course, was prepared to flee—not only from his city of residence, but from the land of Israel entirely.
  • If Nephi’s behavior was evil, it is unlikely he would have included it on the plates. Nephi chose only those episodes and details that were most richly endowed with meaning and that served his rhetorical purposes. In his response to the Lord's mandate to kill Laban, Nephi seems to have found an experience that could be framed as a symbolic tableau of the relationship between sovereign and subject and that could be linked through intertextual allusion to Mosaic and Davidic biblical narratives of sovereignty assumed and exercised.

Additional Sources:

Legal Perspectives on the Slaying of Laban –  by John W. Welch

Killing Laban: The Birth of Sovereignty in the Nephite Constitutional Order –  by Val Larsen

FAIR Issues 60: Nephi, Laban and the brass plates, Michael R. Ash, 0:09:06

Faith and Reason 24: Killing Laban and the Oath of Zoram, Michael R. Ash, 0:04:47

Faith and Reason 23: Laban and his “Fifty”, Michael R. Ash, 0:04:47

Notes and Communications: Nephi’s Jerusalem and Laban’s Sword –  by William J. Adams Jr.

The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts –  by Garold N. Davis

The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts –  by Mark J. Johnson

The Sword of Laban as a Symbol of Divine Authority and Kingship –  by Brett L. Holbrook

Prophets, Kings, and Swords: The Sword of Laban and Its Possible Pre-Laban Origin –  by Daniel N. Rolph