How Nephi's Hatred of His Brothers May Have Affected Entire Nations
We usually think that because Nephi in the Book of Mormon was the gallant Nephi that he never did anything wrong. For example, we take at face value that his claim of having been inspired by the Lord to take the life of Laban, when in reality his passion may simply have overcome him.
There was a stark difference between the way Laman/Lemuel handled going back to Jerusalem and confronting Laban with the way Nephi did, and it seems like that event drove a forever wedge between the brothers. It was supposed to have been Laman’s job to get the plates, and it seems, with Nephi's derogatory comments about him and Lemuel throughout his early Book of Mormon record, that Nephi never really forgave him for that.
Nephi’s retelling of his history seems to have an epic quality about it--where he magnifies the heroics of his own actions and to some extent dehumanizes his brothers so that he can make their actions more evil than they really were. This weakness of Nephi should be a warning to us all, in our personal lives, and as we contemplate how we view ourselves as perpetually in the right when it comes to political struggles between nations.
Ultimately, following the split with his brothers in the new world, Nephi was crowned king of his faction. His larger than life presence, and his including in the history of his people the fact that he had found justification in the killing of Laban likely cemented the idea in their minds that it’s okay for “one man to die rather than a nation to dwindle in unbelief.” And it also seems to have given justification to the Nephites to follow the "two legs [anything Nephite] Good, four legs [anything Lamanite] bad" policy described by George Orwell in his book Animal Farm.
A description of warfare in the Book of Mormon, when read the wrong way, can seem like a glorification of war. But it’s not. When compared with the missionary activities of Alma and the sons of Mosiah, warfare yielded pitiful results. Alma and his cohorts were at one point in their lives worthless rapscallions who had no redeeming virtues, who suddenly were able do more through their missionary work than all the armies throughout Nephite history to bring peace between the Nephites and the Lamanites.
But doesn’t seem to be until the end of the Book of Mormon that Mormon and his son Moroni notice how degrading and counterproductive warfare really is.
But most readers of the Book of Mormon don’t seem to have recognized the awfulness of war. We celebrate the 2000 Stripling Warriors and think of our (United States) involvement in today’s wars as being just, because we have been wronged in much the same ways that the Nephites feel that they were wronged by the Lamanites.
The Book of Mormon mirrors our time almost perfectly, but in a way that we scarcely notice. Just like the war-inclined Nephites, we often resort to warfare to solve our problems, only making them worse. We would do well to follow the example of Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah, however, if we truly want the world to be a better place. They didn't improve the world through warfare, but rather broke down the walls of eternal hatred between the Americans and the Arabs (i.e. Nephites and Lamanites) through their peacemaking.