And it came to pass as they smote us with a rod, behold, an angel of the Lord came and stood before them, and he spake unto them, saying: Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod? Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities? Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands. And after the angel had spoken unto us, he departed. And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?” (1 Nephi 3:27-31)
The servants of Laban represent those influences, forces, individuals, groups, and powers that seek to prevent the seeker from obtaining the Record of Heaven. Unable to overcome these influences, Nephi and his brothers hide themselves in the cavity of a rock. The cavity of a rock is a cave and the place of the cave in ancient Israel is called the place of correction. It is the place where the light of understanding and this world merge to change Nephi and potentially his brothers into vessels upon whom God can bestow. In this place of correction, the carnal man (the inclination of receiving to covet, etc.) is corrected. The cave is also a place of death where the natural inclinations of the carnal man are buried and the rebirth of the spiritual man can occur.
As Laman and Lemuel are angry with their Father and their younger brothers who represent the maturing child of God, a life and death struggle emerges. It is a struggle between the carnal and the spiritual that resides in each of us. Their smiting their younger brothers with a rod represents the attempt of the carnal man to subdue or even kill the spiritual man or woman that is emerging through sheer force of will.
This incident at the cave or cavity of a rock is reminiscent of another prophet and cave of correction. In 1 Kings 19 we see the epic of Elijah after he fled from before King Ahav and Jezebel seeking comfort and safety in case. Just as the angel of the Lord appeared to Nephi and his brothers so too did an angel of the Lord appear to Elijah to offer instruction and correction as he resided in the cave. In this place the efforts and instruments of the carnal man are left behind and the submissive will of the child of God (of whom Nephi is a type) emerges. Even after the intervention of God’s angel that represents the wisdom and understanding of God, Laman and Lemuel as the carnal man cannot grasp the correction. They are overcome by their adversary Laban as a mighty one who can slay them in their attempts to obtain the record. Here the angel of the Lord explains that Nephi has been chosen to ascend because of his submission and obedience to God as indicated by the phrase, “the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you”. While Laman and Lemuel as a symbol of the natural man cannot because of their self-will and lawlessness (iniquity).