In this day and age of process reengineering and Six Sigma, the story of Lehi's flight into the wilderness and Nephi and his brothers subsequent return (not once but twice) to Jerusalem, I can't help but wonder, "Couldn't God have done this more efficiently?" Surely He could have gotten Lehi's family along with Ishmael and the plates of brass out of Jerusalem in fewer steps.
But then what is my wisdom compared to the Lord's? I have noticed several blessings that resulted from the seemingly inefficient manner in Lehi's exodus.
First and most obvious, Sariah's faith was strengthened by her sons first return to Jerusalem. 1 Nephi 5 makes it plain that up to that point Sariah's confidence in her husband's visions had been somewhat shaky. It seems she may have been just going along with her husband's hair-brained schemes. The safe return of her children with the plates, as Lehi prophesied, helped her recognize her husband was not just following the vain imaginations of his heart.
Second, the seemingly inefficient manner the plates were obtained resulted in the addition of Zoram to the band of travelers. Zoram was able to take one of Ishmael's daughters to wife, diversifying the Nephite gene pool. Without Zoram, the eldest daughter of Ishmael may have ended up the old maid of the new world. Or worse, without Zoram as an additional suitor, Nephi and his brothers may have been unsuccessful in persuading Ishmael to leave Jerusalem. It seems that Zoram also acted as a good friend for Nephi, which given his older brothers recalcitrance must have been most welcome.
In the first journey back, Nephi also obtained the sword of Laban. This then, once they reached the Americas, the Nephites used as a model for weapons as protection against the Lamanites.
I also wonder if Nephi and his brothers losing to Laban all of their father's gold and silver and precious things made it easier for Laman and Lemuel to leave Jerusalem. Perhaps the draw of these precious things would have been too great for Laman and Lemuel when they, together with a few of Ishmael's daughters, rebelled and threatened to return to Jerusalem.
But I'm now speculating... The one thing I take away from all of this is what may appear inefficient to my mortal eyes may actually be the most efficient way for the Lord to achieve his many diverse purposes.