It's one of the first and most controversial notable events in the Book of Mormon. Nephi is commanded by God to kill Laban. Nephi, being the near-perfect guy that he is, follows the command.
Nephi and his brothers needed the plates of brass, which local rich asshole Laban had in his possession. When Nephi snuck into Laban's house, he discovers the man passed out drunk. Aaaaaaaaaand...he has to die.
Wait...if he's hopelessly drunk and asleep, why can't Nephi just take the plates and run? Sure, the story goes in Mormon (folk)lore that Laban was a powerful man who would have hunted Nephi's family down and killed them, but I doubt that this is a realistic analysis. If Laban had been permitted to live, here's what I think could have happened:
- Laban decides that if Nephi ever returns to his town, he'll kill him. Or...
- Laban realizes that Nephi's family is gone and he doesn't bother wasting manpower searching for them in the desert. He's angry, but he eventually forgets about it. Or...
- Laban's men track down Nephi and his family but the Lord creates a devastating sandstorm that disorients Laban's men. By a very Biblical-esque miracle, Nephi and company navigate the storm with no trouble, escaping Laban's hit men.
But instead, Nephi gets to cut his head off while he sleeps. Because that makes way more sense.
Another thing I find interesting about this passage is that it makes God sound defensive. Nephi comes across Laban's passed-out body, and God tells Our Fearless Leader to kill him. Before Nephi shares any of his own thoughts on the subject, God launches into a reasoned-out explanation of why Nephi should kill him and why it's totally okay by God to do it. That doesn't sound very...godly.
Remember Abraham and Isaac? "Hey go kill your son, I know it sounds wrong, but trust me." The supposed "same" god also told Nephi, "Hey, go kill this guy, and let me explain exactly why you should do it beforehand, just in case you're questioning my judgement or whatever." That sounds more like some guy who wrote the Book of Mormon and realized it might be controversial to have a prophet commit god-sanctioned murder decided he needed to throw in a rationale.
And that doesn't seem right to me.