I love the continuation of the story from Chapter 1, verse 20 to Chapter 2, verse 1. Remembering that there was no chapter break here in the original 1830 edition makes this connection more clear. Nephi says that the “tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he has chosen because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” Which he follows up with “For behold, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto my father, yea, even in a dream….” These verses echo Lehi’s own words in Chapter 1, verse 14. This is perhaps wrapped up in the question of the Abrahamic Covenant, but since I’m not sure that’s Nephi’s focus with these verses I’m going to move on for now.
It’s got to be significant that the family travels near to the Red Sea. This must make them think of Moses and the time before Jerusalem was a holy city. Later Nephi will compare Laban to Pharaoh and themselves to the children of Israel.
Laman and Lemuel don’t believe they should be leaving Jerusalem. They call their father a “visionary man,” which, I think, is probably trying to accuse him of being a false prophet. They might even be using Jeremiah’s words against their father, depending how much they’ve heard of Jeremiah’s words directly? At any rate, I think they are accusing him of doing something false. I think that phrase must have been going around the city.
The description of Laman and Lemuel’s disbelief in verse 13 strikes me as complex. They don’t believe the city could be destroyed, but is that simply a matter of lack of faith? They don’t believe the prophets who say that the city will be destroyed. But do they feel as those they are trusting in the great promises the city had been given in the past? Jerusalem is the city where the temple is. It has been protected in the past. Laman and Lemuel see the residents as righteous because they are performing the rituals of the Law of Moses. Remember Josiah and his reform? I think that was only 2 kings before Zedekiah. So likely in Lehi’s lifetime, I believe. I can see Laman and Lemuel totally justified in thinking that their city should be protected according to how they understand God’s promises and plans.
Now, they may have some other personality flaws that make us question their motives BUT, their position is rational and I think that ought to be taken into consideration. If nothing else, their place in the story allows Nephi to respond to the position generally. And that, perhaps, it useful to its future readers.