Why is the brother of Jared called the brother of Jared? He is far more important in the narrative of the Book of Ether than Jared, so why isn’t Jared called the brother of Moriancumer instead? Here’s my swipe at this much-pondered issue.
One might think that Jared is more of a political leader, even though his brother is clearly the more spiritual one, and it is Jared’s political importance that makes him the one with the name recognition. At times, it looks like Jared is telling his brother what to do. Jared asks him to pray for them and their friends, so that their language will not be confounded.
When the revelation comes, however, Moriancumer (for short?*) is told to gather Jared and his family and friends. Jared isn’t the one to do the gathering. In fact, the Lord says that Moriancumer is to go at the head of them all as they travel (Ether 1:42). When they come to the seashore, they name the place Moriancumer, presumably after their leader. When he is consulting with the Lord about building the barges, there is no indication that Moriancumer is taking orders from Jared. Rather, it looks like Jared and his brother have the kind of mutual, cooperative relationship one might expect of good-hearted brothers, so that Moriancumer talks to his brother, listens to him, and is happy to do what he asks or follow his advice sometimes, because he is persuaded, or because it’s his brother asking, and not because of any special authority Jared has. Jared and his brother relate to each other as brothers, but as far as political leadership goes, Moriancumer is the main event.
So how is it that the line of kings is traced through Jared? The trick is, Moriancumer initially didn’t want their people to have a king at all. He was clearly enough the de facto leader during his lifetime, but when he became old, the people wanted Jared and him to formally name one of their sons as king (Ether 6:22-3). When they consent, the people choose Pagag, Moriancumer’s firstborn, reinforcing the point that Moriancumer is the primary leader, although he genially shares the role with his brother.
But Pagag refuses, as do all his brothers, apparently appreciating their father’s concerns about kings. So the first formal king, after all the other sons refuse, ends up being one of Jared’s sons, Orihah, and with the kingship staying in that line for many generations, Jared is established as the father of the royal line, rather than Moriancumer. Between that and the fact that Ether himself is a descendant of Jared, it is pretty well settled that Jared is the one with the big name, especially by the time the Jaredites have been through several full-scale apostasies, disregarding the prophets, including in the time of Ether.
We still might wonder, though, after all that: so many other figures get referred to by name, and not just by their relationship to someone else, that even if Jared has more name recognition, why does the brother of Jared not get referred to by his own name? Maybe it is because “Mahonri Moriancumer” is so long, after all . . .
*this post, naturally enough, was sparked by a conversation with the other T&S bloggers, in which, for instance, Adam Miller suggested that just the “Moriancumer” part of “Mahonri Moriancumer” was meant to reflect the brother of Jared’s name. Since “Moriancumer” appears prominently in Ether while “Mahonri” doesn’t, for now I’m just going with “Moriancumer.”