He Hearkened Unto the Words of Laman – 1 Nephi 3:28

28 And it came to pass that Laman was angry with me, and also with my father; and also was Lemuel, for he hearkened unto the words of Laman. Wherefore Laman and Lemuel did speak many hard words unto us, their younger brothers, and they did smite us even with a rod.
(1 Nephi 3:28)

What do we know about Lemuel? Not much. We never hear of him doing anything on his own. His name appears 31 times in the Book of Mormon, almost always in conjunction with his older brother, Laman. The two of them act together so often that it almost seems superfluous to list both of their names. When Laman complained, you can bet that Lemuel was complaining too. When Laman got angry, so did Lemuel. When Laman was frightened, Lemuel was too. They persecuted their brother Nephi together, were chastised together, and repented together. They even appeared together in their father’s dream and jointly rejected his plea to eat the fruit of the tree of life (1 Nephi 8:17-18).

How much of an active role Lemuel might have played in their decisions is not clear, but passages like the one above give the impression that Laman was the ringleader. Nephi tells us that Lemuel became angry because “he hearkened unto the words of Laman.” Does that make him less culpable? Perhaps. But as Neal A. Maxwell pointed out, Lemuel cannot escape full responsibility for his behavior:

Lemuel was not only Laman’s dutiful satellite, but he was also his enabler by allowing himself to be “stirred up” by Laman (see 1 Ne. 16:37–38). If, instead, Laman had been fully isolated, certain outcomes could have been very different. We have enablers in our society too. They allow themselves to be stirred up against that which is good. They are not entitled to a free pass any more than Lemuel. Like him, their comparative visibility is low, but their hypocrisy is high! (“Lessons from Laman and Lemuel,” General Conference, October 1999).

Today, I will choose to stand up for what is right. I will remember that I am never merely a passive spectator to what is happening around me. I am either contributing to positive outcomes or allowing negative ones. I will not allow myself to be influenced by people who are behaving in inappropriate ways.

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