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Killing Laban: The Birth of Sovereignty in the Nephite Constitutional Order

TitleKilling Laban: The Birth of Sovereignty in the Nephite Constitutional Order
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsLarsen, Val
JournalJournal of Book of Mormon Studies
Pagination26-41, 84-85
KeywordsKingship; Laban; Law of Moses; Nephi (Son of Lehi); Sacrifice; Valley of Lemuel

The slaying of Laban has been a stumbling block for many readers of the Book of Mormon. Although Laban appeared to have legally merited the execution, any explanation of the act is unsatisfactory if Nephi is considered to be acting as an individual. Larsen illustrates that Nephi was acting as a sovereign, with a clear political purpose. When Lehi offered a sacrifice in the Valley of Lemuel, his family became a separate people, with Nephi repeatedly promised the role of ruler. Nephi’s symbolic and literal assuming of this sovereign authority through the act of killing Laban is explained through six different layers: (1) substitutional sovereignty, (2) the assumption of Mosaic authority, (3) the assumption of Davidic authority, (4) private and public motives, (5) the Nephite constitutional order, and (6) explicit declarations of Nephi’s reign. Nephi did not formally assume the role of king for many years, but by slaying Laban he proves that he will be a dutiful king.


Scripture Reference

1 Nephi 4:1-38