Category:Laman

The name "Laman" in the Book of Mormon

Parent page: Book of Mormon Names

Book of Mormon Names—Laman and Lemuel

The name of LMN 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]

Laman and Lemuel's behavior is culturally appropriate

The character and behavior of Laman and Lemuel conform to the normal pattern. How true to the Bedouin way are their long, bitter, brooding, and dangerous outbreaks! How perfectly they resemble the Arabs of Doughty, Burton, Burckhardt, and the rest in their sudden and complete changes of heart after their father has lectured them, fiery anger yielding for the moment to a great impulse to humility and an overwhelming repentance, only to be followed by renewed resentment and more unhappy wrangling! They cannot keep their discontent to themselves but are everlastingly "murmuring." "The fact that all that happens in an encampment is known, that all may be said to be nearly related to each other, renders intrigue almost impossible."51 "We were all one family and friendly eyes," Doughty recollects, but then describes the other side of the picture—"Arab children are ruled by entreaties. . . . I have known an ill-natured child lay a stick to the back of his good cherishing mother, . . . and the Arabs say, 'many is the ill-natured lad among us that, and he be strong enough, will beat his own father.' "52
The fact that Laman and Lemuel were grown-up children did not help things. "The daily quarrels between parents and children in the Desert constitute the worst feature of the Bedouin character," says Burckhardt, and thus describes the usual source of the trouble: "The son . . . arrived at manhood, is too proud to ask his father for any cattle . . . the father is hurt at finding that his son behaves with haughtiness towards him; and thus a breach is often made."53 The son, especially the eldest one, does not feel that he is getting what is coming to him and behaves like the spoiled child he is. The father's attitude is described by Doughty, telling how a great sheikh dealt with his son—"The boy, oftentimes disobedient, he upbraided, calling him his life's torment, Sheytan, only never menacing him, for that were far from a Beduin [sic] father's mind."54 It is common, says Burckhardt for mothers and sons to stick together in their frequent squabbles with the father, in which the son "is often expelled from the paternal tent for vindicating his mother's cause."55 Just so Sariah takes the part of her sons in chiding her own husband, making the same complaints against him that they did (1 Nephi 5:2), and she rates him roundly when she thinks he has been the cause of their undoing.[2]

Laman and Lemuel and rank in the family

Is it any wonder that Laman and Lemuel worked off their pent-up frustration by beating their youngest brother with a stick when they were once hiding in a cave? Every free man in the East carries a stick, the immemorial badge of independence and of authority, and every man asserts his authority over his inferiors by his stick, "which shows that the holder is a man of position, superior to the workman or day-labourers. The government officials, superior officers, tax-gatherers, and schoolmasters use this short rod to threaten—or if necessary to beat—their inferiors, whoever they may be."56 The usage is very ancient. "A blow for a slave" is the ancient maxim in Ahikar, and the proper designation of an underling is abida-'asa, "stick-servant." This is exactly the sense in which Laman and Lemuel intended their little lesson to Nephi, for when the angel turned the tables he said to them, "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?" (1 Nephi 3:29).
Through it all, Laman, as the eldest son, is the most disagreeable actor. "When only one boy is in the family he is the tyrant, and his will dominates over all."57 So we see Laman still thinking to dominate over all and driven mad that a younger brother should show superior talents. The rivalry between the sons of a sheikh "often leads to bloody tragedies in the sheikh's household,"58 and Nephi had some narrow escapes.
In the sheikh's tent the councils of the tribe are held and all decisions concerning the journey are made (1 Nephi 15:1-3), but "no sheikh or council of Arabs can condemn a man to death, or even inflict a punishment; it can only, when appealed to, "impose a fine;59 it cannot even enforce the payment of this fine." Why, then, if there was no power to compel them, did not Laman and Lemuel simply desert the camp and go off on their own, as discontented Arabs sometimes do?60 As a matter of fact, they tried to do just that (1 Nephi 7:7), and in the end were prevented by the two things which, according to Philby, keep any wandering Bedouin party together—fear and greed. For they were greedy. They hoped for a promised land, and when they reached the sea without finding it, their bitter complaint was, "Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions" (1 Nephi 17:21). And their position was precarious. Nephi pointed out to them the danger of returning to Jerusalem (1 Nephi 7:15), and where would they go if they deserted their father? As we have seen, with these people, family was everything, and the Arab or Jew will stick to "his own people" because they are all he has in the world. The family is the basic social organization, civil and religious, with the father at its head. To be without tribe or family is to forfeit one's identity in the earth; nothing is more terrible than to be "cut off from [among the people]," and that is exactly the fate that is promised Laman and Lemuel if they rebel (1 Nephi 2:21; Genesis 17:14). "Within his own country," says an Arab proverb, "the Bedouin is a lion; outside of it he is a dog."61[3]

Names in the Book of Mormon—General Observations

[W]e [can now] test certain proper names in the Book of Mormon in the light of actual names from Lehi's world, unknown in the time of Joseph Smith. Not only do the names agree, but the variations follow the correct rules, and the names are found in correct statistical proportions, the Egyptian and Hebrew types being of almost equal frequency, along with a sprinkling of Hittite, Arabic, and Greek names. To reduce speculation to a minimum, the lesson is concerned only with highly distinctive and characteristic names, and to clearly stated and universally admitted rules. Even so, the reader must judge for himself. In case of doubt he is encouraged to correspond with recognized experts in the languages concerned. The combination of the names Laman and Lemuel, the absence of Baal names, the predominance of names ending in -iah—such facts as those need no trained philologist to point them out; they can be demonstrated most objectively, and they are powerful evidence in behalf of the Book of Mormon....
  1. There is in the Book of Mormon, within one important family, a group of names beginning with Pa-. They are peculiar names and can be matched exactly in Egyptian. Names beginning with Pa- are by far the most common type in late Egyptian history, but what ties Pahoran's family most closely to Egypt is not the names but the activities in which the bearers of those names are engaged; for they sponsor the same institutions and engineer the same intrigues as their Egyptian namesakes did centuries before—and in so doing they give us to understand they are quite aware of the resemblance!
  2. There is a tendency for Egyptian and Hebrew names in the Book of Mormon to turn up in the Elephantine region of Upper Egypt. It is now believed that when Jerusalem fell in Lehi's day a large part of the refugees fled to that region.
  3. The most frequent "theophoric" element by far in the Book of Mormon names is Ammon. The same is true of late Egyptian names. The most common formative element in the Book of Mormon names is the combination Mor-, Mr-; in Egyptian the same holds true.
  4. Egyptian names are usually compound and are formed according to certain rules. Book of Mormon names are mostly compound and follow the same rules of formation.
  5. Mimation (ending with -m) predominated in Jaredite names, nunation (ending with -n) in Nephite and Lamanite names. This is strictly in keeping with the development of languages in the Old World, where mimation was everywhere succeeded by nunation around 2000 B.C., that is, well after the Jaredites had departed, but long before the Nephites.
  6. A large proportion of Book of Mormon names end in -iah and -ihah. The same ending is peculiar to Palestinian names of Lehi's time but not so prevalent other times.
  7. The names in the Book of Mormon that are neither Egyptian nor Hebrew are Arabic, Hittite (Hurrian), or Greek. This is in keeping with the purported origin of the book.
  8. Lehi is a real personal name, unknown in the time of Joseph Smith. It is only met with in the desert country, where a number of exemplars have been discovered in recent years.
  9. Laman and Lemuel are not only "Arabic" names, but they also form a genuine "pair of pendant names," such as ancient Semites of the desert were wont to give their two eldest sons, according to recent discoveries.
  10. The absence of "Baal-" names (that is, names compounded with the theophoric Baal element) is entirely in keeping with recent discoveries regarding common names in the Palestine of Lehi's day....

Out of a hundred possible points we have confined ourselves to a mere sampling, choosing ten clear-cut and telling philological demonstrations by way of illustration. The force of such evidence inevitably increases with its bulk, but we believe enough has been given to indicate that Eduard Meyer did not consider all the factors when he accused Joseph Smith of "letting his fancy run free" in inventing the Book of Mormon names.46 The fact is that nearly all the evidence for the above points has come forth since the death of Meyer. Let us be fair to him, but let us in all fairness be fair to the Book of Mormon as well.[4]

Book of Mormon Names—Laman and Lemuel as "Pendant names"

Pendant names are two names that "hang together" (like a pendant). When you hear one, you think of the other, or they seem to "go together." Modern examples might be "Mike and Ike," "Abbot and Costello," or "Ken and Barbie."

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.[5]

Lehi names his children appropriately for each phase of his life?

It should be noted in speaking of names that archaeology has fully demonstrated that the Israelites, then as now, had not the slightest aversion to giving their children non-Jewish names, even when those names smacked of a pagan background.21 One might, in a speculative mood, even detect something of Lehi's personal history in the names he gave to his sons. The first two have Arabic names—do they recall his early days in the caravan trade? The second two have Egyptian names, and indeed they were born in the days of his prosperity. The last two, born amid tribulations in the desert, were called with fitting humility, Jacob and Joseph. Whether the names of the first four were meant, as those of the last two sons certainly were (2 Nephi 2:1; 3:1), to call to mind the circumstances under which they were born, the names are certainly a striking indication of their triple heritage, and it was certainly the custom of Lehi's people to name their children with a purpose (Helaman 3:21; 5:6).[6]

Laman properly paired with Lemuel?

It is a striking coincidence that Conder saw in the name Leimun, as he renders it (the vowels must be supplied by guesswork), a possible corruption of the name Lemuel, thus bringing these two names, so closely associated in the Book of Mormon, into the most intimate relationship.[7]

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 19, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  3. 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 19, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 6, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  7. 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 6, references silently removed—consult original for citations.