I was reading this chapter as part of my scripture study today. Around verse 48 or so Nephi was talking about them and they and "my brethren" and I started wondering exactly who he was talking about. I had typically thought of any wicked brethren as Laman and Lemuel. Or as Baboo used to say when she was little "Nemenemuel." Because, you know, lamanandlemuel are the epitome of wickedness in the early days of the Book of Mormon.
But I realized it wasn't really explicit. And as I went back, there was no specific mention of Laman and Lemuel at all. Nephi refers to these people who are refusing to help him build a ship and murmuring as his brethren. Additionally, in previous chapters, he had differentiated between lamanandlemuel and Sam. Sam believed him and helped him. Sam was also beaten by a rod going to get the brass plates before the angel came and stopped it. As I went back and looked, that's been going on for quite a while. There's Nephi and there's his brethren.
Now at this point they've been wandering in the wilderness for 8 years. There have been children born. They've been eating raw meat. No fires. All the men are married and children have been born in these conditions. They've mostly been hunting and walking, following their compass, for 8 years.
Eight years ago, Mack was only 6 months old. Eight years ago, we lived in another house and my husband was still in the beginning of his solo practice. Baboo was in fifth grade.
I'm thinking of this small group of people totally cut off from the rest of the world travelling day by day, sleeping in tents, hunting for their food. There is no civilization. They only have each other. I'm also thinking about when you go to camp. Like scout camp or EFY or youth conference or some of the other camps I went to when I was younger. You get taken out of the world, dropped into a whole different type of situation. It's amazing how spending 24/7 with a group of people binds you. So that even after only a week together, you feel much closer. It feels like you were there for more than a week.
So when Nephi says "my brethren", at the very least he has to also be including Sam. I wonder if he is actually referring to all the other men in the group as well. Because we don't hear anything about the sons of Ishmael or Zoram. Without their being mentioned, I have to think he's including them all in "my brethren". I don't know tons about Jewish culture and history, but I'm pretty sure that marriage was a big deal and I have the impression that brothers-in-law would be considered brothers.
At any rate, I had never thought before that maybe Sam was one who was also refusing his help and murmuring. I mean you can kind of see that. Sam is married to a daughter of Ishmael and they don't get far on their journey before Ishmael dies. We know that all of his daughters are grieving him and they all begin to complain and want to go back to Jerusalem. You can kind of see poor Sam in this difficult circumstance where he's had experiences that make him a believer. But he's also a good husband and his wife hasn't had those experiences and she's suffering and wants to go back. What if he really was not Nephi's ally by this point? If that's the case, Nephi must have felt so alone with that heavy burden and only his and his father's faith.
Even more interesting is that in the next chapter, Nephi does in fact differentiate between his brethren and the sons of Ishmael. And again when he gets tied up in the boat, that is attributed to Laman and Lemuel. Sam is omitted from that.
Really though, Sam is only specifically mentioned twice more. Once in 2 Nephi 4 and again in 2 Nephi 5. In chapter 4 he receives a blessing from Lehi that he blessed like Nephi and will inherit the land along with him. And again in chapter 5, Sam is one who Nephi takes with him when they separate from Laman and Lemuel to save their lives. But it seems to me that with all these attempts on Nephi's life that Sam is conspicuously absent. He may not be mentioned with Laman and Lemuel--who are often named. But he is also not mentioned as being mocked and ridiculed, tied up with Nephi. It never seems to be his life that is in danger when we know that Laman and Lemuel want to kill Lehi and Nephi at different points.
Anyway, something to think about.