The old dichotomy, under various names (Chapel v. Internet, Iron Rod v. Liahona), classed us either as folks who thought breaking rules was the same as following the Spirit or as folks who thought following rules was the same the as following the Spirit. What about those people—they exist, I met one once—who thought . . . following the Spirit was the same as following the Spirit? I therefore propose a new Mormon classification.
Our stake out here just started reading the Book of Mormon on a fixed daily reading schedule, the idea being that, for one, we should be reading scripture anyway, and why not the Book of Mormon? And for another, that every stake member reading the same chapter on the same day makes us more compact, more unified, like Saints crossing the plains together. I agree. And so I’ve been going along (in a fashion. If we’re crossing the plains together, I am ‘To They of the Last Wagon.’ I shall do better.).
We’re in, where else, First Nephi. Laman, Lemuel, Nephi,and Sam. Laman and Lemuel being the bad sons. What I’ve noticed is that Laman and Lemuel are pretty sympathetic characters. They have their settled expectations frustrated, and they don’t like it. Entirely natural. And who, really, can help not wanting to affront a powerful man (Laban) in his own home, or striking out in anger at the nearest available target when you’ve just escaped with your life from his guards? Laman and Lemuel, in short, seem very much like me (Ambrose Bierce: “ADMIRATION, n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.”). This is a common experience, I think.
Hence my scheme for classing Mormons into three different types.
The first type reads 1st Nephi and doesn’t sympathize with Laman and Lemuel at all. The first type identifies wholly with Nephi. Or Sam or Zoram, if they’re humble. Even Lehi.
The second type identifies with Laman and Lemuel and decides that they must not be so bad after all. After all, the story is only told from Nephi’s point of view, there were really faults on both sides, etc.
The third type, to which I belong, identifies with Laman and Lemuel and still thinks that they were the bad sons. The third type sees himself in Laman and Lemuel, and not to his advantage.
Oh, and I should add that there’s a fourth type. One who recognizes he’s a sinner like Laman and Lemuel but doesn’t feel smug about it.