11 And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.
Moses “went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burden.” Before Moses could be a force of change for his people, he first needed to understand what their afflictions were. This, again, is a type for Christ, who came personally to Earth and “hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Isaiah 53:4, Alma 7:12). It is also a hallmark for any good leader. If the problem is going to be fixed, if the situation is going to be improved, first one must care enough to really understand the nature of things as they currently are.
Moses then illustrates the second step of leadership that follows curiosity and concern. Attention to injustice naturally causes a compulsion to act. Having come to see the suffering, Moses saw a particularly egregious abuse occurring right then and there, and he was compelled to rush forward and slay the tyrant. Though, it should be noted, he was not perfectly bold. He did first pause to look “this way and that way,” and only acted “when he saw that there was no man.” Moses’s heart yearns for these people, but he has yet to grow into the totally fearless protector that he will ultimately become.
One final thought from this passage is that I wonder whether Moses knew at this point what his true lineage was. Did he go out to see the plight of the Israelites because he knew that they were his real people, or did he believe he was a genuine Egyptian, and was merely curious about these unfortunate people? The Biblical record never tells us when Moses first became aware of his true heritage. One thing is clear, though, even if he already knew where he came, he still had yet to throw in entirely with them. He was already a good man of conscience, but he had not arrived at his full destiny yet.