22 And it came to pass that we went down to the land of our inheritance, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things.
23 And after we had gathered these things together, we went up again unto the house of Laban.
24 And it came to pass that we went in unto Laban, and desired him that he would give unto us the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, for which we would give unto him our gold, and our silver, and all our precious things.
(1 Nephi 3:22-24)
Why did Nephi and his brothers have to make three attempts before they were able to retrieve the brass plates as the Lord had commanded? One reason might have been to teach them persistence. But as I’ve thought about this story recently, I’ve thought of another possible reason: each of the attempts may have been specifically designed to teach them an important lesson.
- For their first attempt, they cast lots to decide who should go make the request. “The lot fell upon Laman,” the oldest (1 Nephi 3:11). But Laban refused to give the plates to Laman, and even accused him of being a robber. Perhaps this attempt taught the following lesson: You can’t do this alone. Even the oldest and most experienced among you can’t do it without help.
- The passage above describes the second attempt. Nephi convinced his brothers to go to their abandoned home, gather all of their “gold and silver and precious things,” and offer them to Laban as payment for the plates. This attempt was also unsuccessful. Ironically, Laban, who had called Laman a robber, had no scruples about forcibly taking their possessions. But this second attempt may have taught them the following lesson: The word of God is more valuable than silver and gold.
- By the third attempt, the older brothers were done; they wanted to go back to their father without completing the assignment. Nephi left them at the walls of the city and went into the city alone, following the promptings of the Spirit of the Lord. This attempt surely reinforced the following lesson: If we will listen, the Holy Ghost will teach us what we should do.
I think it’s particularly noteworthy that Laman and Lemuel both participated in the second attempt. They had previously complained about having to leave “their gold, and their silver, and their precious things” because they “knew not the dealings of…God” (1 Nephi 2:11). Now, at Nephi’s urging, they offered to trade those same possessions to obtain the word of God. However reluctantly they did this, it must have reinforced in their minds the principle which they needed to learn: the scriptures are worth more than the possessions we have left behind.
Today, I will look for lessons in both my successes and in my failures. As I work to accomplish good goals, I will not give up if I’m not successful the first time; I will keep trying. But I will also remember that my failures can teach me as much as my accomplishments, if I am willing to be taught.