Whenever we read the scriptures, we like to identify with the good guys. We’ve heard many times how we should identify and imitate Nephi’s simplicity, Alma’s faith, Moroni’s rhetoric, Mormon’s tranquility and humanity. However, listening to Hugh Nibley’s speech “Leaders and Managers,” he brought up a good point made by a perceptive BYU student:
In my latest class, a graduating honors student in business management wrote this – the assignment was to compare oneself with some character in the Pearl of Great Price, and he quite seriously chose Cain:
Many times I wonder if many of my desires are too self-centered. Cain was after personal gain. He knew the impact of his decision to kill Abel. Now, I do not ignore God and make murderous pacts with Satan; however, I desire to get gain. Unfortunately, my desire to succeed in business is not necessarily to help the Lord’s kingdom grow [a refreshing bit of honesty]. Maybe I am pessimistic, but I feel that few businessmen have actually dedicated themselves to the furthering of the church without first desiring personal fratification. As a business major, I wonder about the ethics of business – “charge as much as possible for a product which was made by someone else who was paid as little as possible. You live on the difference.” As a businessman will I be living on someone’s industry and not my own? Will I be contributing to society, or will I receive something for nothing, as did Cain? While being honest, these are difficult questions for me.
I’ve noticed that. I once spoke in Sacrament meeting about my mission recently after my release, and said the missionary in the scriptures I identified with the most (when being perfectly honest) was Jonah. My brother, a more radical and thoughtful Mormon than I can ever find, said the Book of Mormon heroes he could not identify because they were too sanitized, they were too clean. Were they great men? Yes. But how often do we feel as great as Moroni or Alma? How often do we feel as prideful and stubborn as Laman and Lemuel, or as reckless as Coriantumr?
I’ve been meaning to re-read the Book of Mormon for months now, but had no real focus. Suddenly, I found one. What if I read it from the Lamanite perspective? Not only the racial Lamanites, but the cultural and intellectual Lamanites, the Korhiors, the Nehors and the Amlicites. Of course, I want to pay attention to the “good” Lamanites, too. Why did Lamoni convert when his forefathers were so stubborn? What traits do I find in myself, and how can I purge them? The goal, of course, is not to follow the Lamanite philosophy, but to find Lamanite aspects within myself and to fight them. But in the process, perhaps we may find a more humanistic view of the Lamanites, who seem so much like us – easily confused and scared, impulsive, proud, flawed, but with great potential, if only harnessed correctly.