On Nephi’s last attempt to get the brass plates from Laban, we read that he was led by the Spirit without knowing what he was going to do. The next verse jumped out at me recently for some reason.
7 Nevertheless I went forth, and as I came near unto the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he had fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine.
8 And when I came to him I found that it was Laban.
(1 Nephi 4:7-8)
This is a miracle that gets totally overlooked. It is a miracle that makes it possible for Nephi to get the brass plates at all. It is such a simple thing, and yet it is extraordinary. Laban, considered a “mighty man” who can “command fifty”, is found in a vulnerable position. He is:
  • Near his house (which makes it possible for Nephi to find him)
  • Alone and unprotected (which means none of his army of fifty are any help)
  • Drunk and inert (which means he is unable to protect himself)
How he arrives in this vulnerable position is interesting too. Nephi records this bit of information many years after the fact: “And he [Zoram] spake unto me [Nephi] concerning the elders of the Jews, he knowing that his master, Laban, had been out by night among them.” (1 Nephi 4:22) This makes it even more amazing that Nephi finds Laban where he is. Evidently Laban spent a portion of the night drinking and carousing with the ‘venerable’ elders of Jerusalem—a fine illustration of the depth of debauchery the city had sunk to—and in his inebriated state he is just barely able to totter and weave his way home before collapsing. Except that he doesn’t make it close enough to get in the door, or even within earshot of his fabulous army of fifty. But he’s close enough that Nephi finds him on the way.

But why would Laban be out with the city elders at night? This implies the worst sort of chicanery afoot. It could be a secret kangaroo trial of the type that condemned Jesus. It could be a plot against one of those pesky prophets preaching death and destruction against Jerusalem, and Laban was there to learn what part he was to play. That might explain why he was bereft of an armed escort. No sense in anyone else knowing the plan and spreading it around. After all, one of them might have let slip a warning.

So when the angel told Nephi and his brothers that the Lord would deliver Laban into their hands, he was telling no more or less than the truth.
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