Orihah’s Uncle, Moriancumer

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.”

14 comments for “Orihah’s Uncle, Moriancumer

  1. Travis
    February 1, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Maybe it’s analogous to how the author of the fourth Gospel always refers to himself as “the apostle whom the Lord loved” rather than by his name, John. Just as John was emphasizing his relationship with the Lord, Ether may be trying to emphasize the sibling relationship—possibly because Jared was the subject of the nation’s founding mythology while Moriancumer was a mere historical footnote. By Ether’s day, the Jaredites had been in spiritual decline for a long time, and Ether may have felt it necessary to reinforce the importance and respectability of his religious message by emphasizing that it originated with a man who was the brother of their founder.

    Another possibility is that by Ether’s day, hundreds and even thousands of years later, Moriancumer’s name had been forgotten. Joseph Smith learned it by revelation, or at least that’s what it appears that he claimed. Ether may not have known the name, neither by history nor revelation.

  2. Jeremy
    February 1, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Maybe it was just really hard to write.

  3. Cameron N
    February 1, 2014 at 5:08 pm


    Maybe it was name length?

  4. Sharee
    February 1, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Loved the cartoon, Anita.

  5. February 1, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    Interesting post! But as someone named Mahonri, I’m kind of annoyed that you opt to call him Moriancumer. ;)

  6. Ben Huff
    February 2, 2014 at 12:53 am

    Travis, I really like your suggestion, at least the way I am taking it. John the Beloved doesn’t refer to himself by name, and even sometimes just refers to himself generically as a disciple, presumably to avoid seeming to aggrandize himself in his own version of the narrative. Maybe Moriancumer did the same sort of thing in his record. Then we account for the fact that others are generally referred to by name by the fact (which I infer) that they are not the primary writers of their narratives, or at least that by the time Moroni is making his abridgment he is not following their own accounts very closely in his rapid survey of the history. Moroni understandably gives us much more detail on Moriancumer than on anyone else in Ether, and may be quoting or closely paraphrasing Moriancumer’s own account a fair bit, since it seems unlikely anyone else would have been making an account at the time with so much detail on such sacred experiences.

  7. Carole
    February 2, 2014 at 1:08 am

    To me, what’s even more remarkable than the fact that the Brother of Jared isn’t mentioned by name is that, in the entire Book of Mormon, only four women are mentioned by name at all.

  8. February 2, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Carole, there are actually six named women in the BoM. However, three of them aren’t BoM women, they are Bible women.

    The named women are Sariah, Abish, and Isabel; plus Mary, Eve and Sarah.

  9. February 2, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    And yes, it’s a ridiculously low number. Ridiculously low.

  10. Carole
    February 2, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    Kaimi, Thanks! I was thinking of Sariah, Abish, Isabel, and Mary. I should have remembered Eve. I’m not surprised I missed Sarah since she’s only in the Isaiah chapters – and I have to confess that I really only skim those, usually.

  11. February 3, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    The time before last that we did BoM in Gospel Doctrine, when we got to the Book of Ether someone asked, “Why did Jared always ask his brother to pray to the Lord, instead of going to the Lord himself?” So I raised my hand and said, “Obviously the Brother of Jared was the leader, but since Jared’s descendants were the kings they rewrote the story to make Jared look more important.” There was a stunned silence for a few minutes, and then a friend leaned over and whispered in a faux-shocked voice, “You mean it’s not TRUE?”

    I stand by my statement, though.

  12. Ben Huff
    February 4, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Good point, Curtis! I could totally imagine that happening . . . through the work of *extremely*, even comically cautious, revisionist scribes!

  13. C. A. Rytting
    February 15, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    Following up on Cameron’s point, length may well play a role for an oft-mentioned name in an abridged account. This is particularly plausible if we assume that Moroni was writing in a language and writing system with similar characteristics to Hebrew, at least in the following regards:

    1) Few characters needed to write the word “brother”
    2) Few or no characters needed to represent the concept of possession (“of”) or definiteness (“the”).
    3) Many characters needed for either “Mahonri” or “Moriancumr”

    I am not an expert in Hebrew, but I believe one can write ‘Jared’ with three characters (???) and “brother” two (??), and word order (construct state) takes care of possession and definiteness. Five characters in all (not counting the space) for “the brother of Jared” (?? ???). By contrast, Mahonri alone would take at least five (assuming one writes the final ‘i’), and more if either the ‘a’ or ‘o’ are long.

    Also, in Arab culture, a nickname based on the name of one’s child, called a kunya, “is … frequently used with reference to politicians and other celebrities to indicate respect” (quoting Wikipedia article on “Kunya (Arabic)” accessed 2014-02-15). Perhaps something similar is going on here?

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