My Father Dwelt in a Tent

When Lehi abandons Jerusalem in 1 Nephi Chapter 2, the scripture is explicit in stating that he abandons his gold, silver, land, and possessions in the process. He takes only his family, provisions, and tents. That’s it.

That makes sense: when leaving behind wicked people, leave behind as well the objects of wickedness’ desire. Verse 15 underlines Lehi’s abandonment of the comforts of the city for the sparseness of the wilderness by stating, “And my father dwelt in a tent.”

We also see the first indications of trouble with Laman and Lemuel. What is identified as the source of their troubles? A desire to return to those comforts of home, the gold and the silver. They are with their family in the wilderness, but a stronger desire in their hearts is to leave the family behind and partake of the riches they knew. This is what Jeremiah identified as wickedness and abomination, as leaving behind God for to worship the works of their hands.

Laman and Lemuel are not drunkards, neither are they fornicators, adulterers, or robbers. Their sins stem from attitudes that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying luxuries and that what’s theirs is theirs. They see themselves as property owners, not as property stewards. The gold and silver is for them to enjoy, not to be spent in doing the work of God.

Lehi, by contrast, knows that time is, ultimately, short, and that it is better spent in doing the will of God than in idle enjoyments. He flees to the wilderness with nearly nothing. He could have fled to Egypt or on to Carthage. While Egypt fell under the rule of the Babylonians, Carthage remained independent. So why not go to those places? Even without riches, an astute man such as Lehi, with four enterprising sons, would be able to make a comfortable living in such places. There would also be the option to get ahead of the curve and go into Babylon itself, thereby avoiding becoming casualties in a siege and sack of Jerusalem. But, no, Lehi’s flight abandons not just Jerusalem, but all the cities and their riches – and the sins that go with those riches, as well.

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