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Nephi and Laban

January 6, 2012

Because we’re supposed to be talking about Nephi and Laban this week in Gospel Doctrine, I’m posting this poem, which will appear in the Justice and Mercy issue of Segullah this spring.

I did a ton of drafts with it, thanks to the excellent feedback of the Segullah poetry staff, and I think I like where this is. I don’t think it captures the full impact of Nephi’s experience over his lifetime. There’s no “and thus we see that they got the plates, which are really really important,” there’s just the moment right after a teenage boy kills an evil old man because God told him to. But I liked writing it; I didn’t write much last year, so it was good to do something, even if it’s a short little poem.

NEPHI AND LABAN
by Emily Milner

I thought
the Lord prepares the way
would mean a softened
Laban’s heart,
an easy path,
at most a gold-encrusted
bargain,
not a choice demanding all my
honor, all my soul.

I will go and do
the thing.

His head thunked.
His glassy eyes rolled back.

I gave
my innocent
and blameless self
to God,

it is better that one man
should perish

a trade
for bloodied clothes,
a stolen sword,
and brass plates.

I have become
what I disdained.
I too can kill.
Laban’s blood
and my relief,
my guilt,
welled up together,
mingled,
joined.

I was led
by the Spirit,
not knowing.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 6, 2012 10:03 pm

    .

    This is a terrific poem, Emily. The more I think about this story the more difficult it becomes to parse, which is why works of literature like this are necessary. I like in particular how you made “one man” seem to refer to Nephi instead of Laban. Nicely done.

  2. January 7, 2012 11:51 pm

    Thanks, Theric! Yes, I think it is hard to parse. It’s kind of like Nephi’s own Abrahamic sacrifice, with all the difficult questions inherent in being order by God to kill. Glad you enjoyed it.

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