11 Now this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel; for behold they did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart.
12 And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.
(1 Nephi 2:11-12)
Context is everything. Because Laman and Lemuel lacked a clear understanding of the gospel, they placed too much value on their earthly possessions and on their status in society and too little value on spiritual things. As a result, their father’s decision to leave their comfortable life in Jerusalem made no sense to them. Naively, they discounted the sins of their neighbors and criticized their father for being overly judgmental (1 Nephi 17:22). Not being familiar with the voice of the Spirit, they attributed their departure from the city to “the foolish imaginations of his heart.”
It’s not clear to me why they didn’t stay behind. Were they too young? Did they suspect, deep down, that there was more to their father’s words than they were willing to admit? Did they feel a responsibility to the family? Regardless of their reasons, they participated in the journey, but they didn’t like it, and they took every opportunity to complain about the hardships they had to endure. As Nephi explains, “they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught that an understanding of the plan of salvation can help us see clearly and make wise decisions:
We misread and misuse life—except with this plain and precious perspective of the gospel, which puts the things of the world in their lesser places. Then, on that essentially unchanging mortal stage, we can see things for what they really are, such as the demanding cadence called for by the cares of the world. Like birds and animals performing some inborn ritual, amusing to everyone but the participants, these maneuverings of materialism would be comedy if they were not tragedy. So would the posturings as to power and the thirsty seeking of the praise of the world. The ploys are so transparent when seen in the gospel’s light (“‘God Will Yet Reveal’,” General Conference, October 1986).
Today, I will strive to maintain a gospel perspective as I meet the challenges of the day. I will avoid overvaluing worldly things, such as money or status, and I will make an effort to see things as they really are.