The Book of Mormon is an intriguing read and carries many similarities in style to that of the King James Bible, but what is perplexing is perhaps the extent of the violent death of Laban at the hands of Nephi.
In the traditional Bible there are many instances of God smiting, but the death of Laban seems to take it into new territory. Laban was a man of great wealth with many followers, he was also a distant relative of Nephi and Lehi’s kin as they both descended from Joseph. God had commanded that Lehi’s sons retrieve the brass plates with the stories of his ancestors in order to bring them to the new promised land. Laban had originally resisted and threatened to kill Nephi, the second confrontation saw Nephi and his brothers (Lemuel and Laman) offer all that was precious to them in exchange for the plates. Laban accepted the offer but stood them up and had his men attempt to kill them. Upon this occurrence God appears before the three brothers stating that he will deliver Laban into their hands. Upon their next attempt to retrieve the sacred brass plates, Laban appears before them inebriated and God orders Laban to kill him. At which point he grabs Laban by the scalp and beheads him in glory. This is excessively violent and also really scary. There are many passages similar to this in the Book of Mormon and the Bible but the symbol it seems to portray is that God is violent. If God is all powerful why did He not confront Laban and tell him to hand over the plates? Did he expect Laban to have an anagnorisis? Laban is human and is also protecting his family’s plates, if three strange men entered your home and asked to hand over a piece of jewelry or a luxury that had been part of the family for generations would you just give it to them? It seems utterly illogical.
On the other hand Laban is very corrupt, is cruel to his servants and was portrayed as an irresponsible drunk but are his frailties so much that they do not deserve redemption from God- the redeemer himself? Shockingly Nephi passes the test of killing in the name of God. Karen Armstrong would be proud.