Question: What is known about the name "Laman" in the Book of Mormon?

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Question: What is known about the name "Laman" in the Book of Mormon?

"The name of LMN [i.e., LaMaN, since Semitic languages at this point have no written vowels] is also found among the inscriptions"

Hugh Nibley noted:

The name of LMN [i.e., LaMaN, since Semitic languages at this point have no written vowels] is also found among the inscriptions. Thus in an inscription from Sinai: "Greetings Lamin, son of Abdal." (Shlm Lminu bn Abdl).33 Recently the name Laman (written definitely with a second "a") has turned up in south Arabia and been hailed by the discoverers as "a new name."34 In an inscription reading "Lamai son of Nafiah erected this monument,"35 the final Yod is defective and suggests that the word is really Laman. In Palestine the name of Laman is attributed to an ancient Mukam or sacred place. Most of these Mukams are of unknown date, many of them prehistoric. In Israel only the tribe of Manasseh (Lehi's tribe) built them.36 The name of Lemuel, as we have seen, also comes from the deserts of the south.[1]

Pendant names

Even more impressive is the issue of pendant names--names that go together, like "Mike and Ike" or "Ken and Barbie".

Nibley points out:

But the most striking thing about the names of Laman and Lemuel is the way they go together; as we saw above it has been suggested that the former is but a corruption of the latter.37 Whether that is so or not, the musical pair certainly belong together and are a beautiful illustration of the old desert custom of naming the first two sons in a family with rhyming twin names, "a pair of pendant names," as Spiegel puts it, "like Eldad and Medad, Hillek and Billek, or Jannes and Jambres. The Arabs particularly seem to enjoy putting together such assonant names Yāǵuǵ and Maǵūǵ for Gog and Magog, HārÅ«n and KārÅ«n for Aaron and Korah, HābÄ«l and KābÄ«l for Abel and Cain, ḪillÄ«t and MillÄ«t for the first dwellers in hell."38 Speigel is here discussing the names Heyya and Abeyya, and might well have included in his parallels the recently discovered romance of Sul and Shummul. Harut and Marut were the first two angels to fall from grace, like Laman and Lemuel, according to Arab tradition of great antiquity. These names never go in threes or fours but only in pairs, designating just the first two sons of a family with no reference to the rest. This "Dioscuric" practice has a ritual significance which has been discussed by Rendel Harris, 39 but of the actual practice itself, especially among the desert people, there can be no doubt, for we read in an ancient inscription: "N. built this tomb for his sons Hatibat and Hamilat."40 One could not ask for a better illustration of this little-known and, until recently, unsuspected practice than we find in the Book of Mormon where Lehi names his first two sons Laman and Lemuel.[2]


Notes

  1. Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), Chapter 22, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  2. Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), Chapter 22, references silently removed—consult original for citations.