Feast upon the Word Blog

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Brother of Jared: Missing Names and Mis-named Lands

Posted by BrianJ on December 9, 2008

I noticed something interesting about “the brother of Jared” story during Sunday School. Just a few verses after he is blessed for crying to the Lord (Ether 1:43), the brother of Jared is chastised for three hours for not calling on the Lord. This has raised several questions about his prayers: were they less intense, sincere, or frequent, or did he forget to express gratitude, or not ask for enough? Along with all these questions is that one nagging question: Why didn’t Ether/Moroni ever write down the guy’s name?

As I read the chapter during Sunday School, I noticed that the brother of Jared’s name, in part, is recorded in Ether 2:13. And immediately following is this episode of Mahonri Moriancumer getting chewed out:

13 …the Lord did bring Jared and his brethren forth even to that great sea which divideth the lands. And as they came to the sea they pitched their tents; and they called the name of the place Moriancumer; and they dwelt in tents, and dwelt in tents upon the seashore for the space of four years.14 And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord. 15 And the brother of Jared repented of the evil which he had done, and did call upon the name of the Lord for his brethren who were with him. And the Lord said unto him: I will forgive thee and thy brethren of their sins; but thou shalt not sin any more, for ye shall remember that my Spirit will not always strive with man; wherefore, if ye will sin until ye are fully ripe ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And these are my thoughts upon the land which I shall give you for your inheritance; for it shall be a land choice above all other lands.(Ether 2:13-15)

I started thinking, “Is there some connection between naming the land Moriancumer and the Lord chastising Moriancumer?” I really don’t think there’s a strong case to be made here, but I wonder whether the Lord was upset by the naming of the land—a sort of move by Moriancumer to take some credit for the Lord’s work? The focus of the Lord’s visit seems to be the land he plans to give the Jaredites (based on that being the last thing the Lord mentions; i.e., it’s the take home message for Moriancumer).

So maybe the issue wasn’t prayer, per se, but other ways in which we show devotion to God. Think about it: Joshua could have said all of his daily prayers, but if he neglected to make the daily sacrifices as instituted by Moses, then Joshua could be accused of failing “to call on the Lord.”

Now, to really speculate, maybe this land naming makes sense both of the confrontation and of the weird naming scheme:

  1. Moriancumer is the spiritual leader of the Jaredites (more than that, he seems to be the only one who ever approaches the Lord),
  2. He manages to secure certain protections/blessings from the Lord,
  3. The Jaredites honor Moriancumer by naming one of the greatest of those blessings (a rich land where they live for four years) after him,
  4. The Lord is upset because credit is given to Moriancumer and not the Lord,
  5. The Lord reminds Moriancumer from whom blessings flow; i.e., “Name it after me next time!”
  6. (Even more speculative) As an act of penitence, Moriancumer foregoes the use of his name henceforth, erasing his connection (and thus, the associated honor) to the land Moriancumer (I’ll just point out that we have no reason to believe that the bother of Jared was called the “the brother of Jared” from birth, or even that he was the younger brother).

As I said, I can’t think of any good evidence for this, and the answer isn’t going to get you into heaven. However, once in heaven, those who correctly answer such mysteries will be given an eternal supply of rich dark chocolate, while those answering incorrectly or refusing to play will have none.

9 Responses to “Brother of Jared: Missing Names and Mis-named Lands”

  1. ed42 said

    “Name it after me next time” doesn’t mix well with ‘Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain’.

  2. NathanG said

    To take this with Janet’s post on the same subject, perhaps the naming of the land as Moriancumer suggested a type of permanancy to living there, but the Lord intended them to keep moving to a different land. He failed to call on the Lord’s name and get continued guidance because they were content to be in this land. Then again, why did they stay in tents?

    It is an interesting thought as to why the brother of Jared may have been referred to that way.

  3. Not to mention, he may well have rested from prayer for a while and gone for four years that way, accepting credit for the land, much as Moses did for the water.

    Interesting thoughts, thank you for them.

  4. Robert C. said

    Great speculation, Brian. I really do think that this kind of exploration of the ideas in scripture is a very important part of study that we should be engaging in—even if we discard ideas after speculating on them, the journey will surely teach us a lot, and I’m not sure how else to study the scriptures diligently, without engaging in these kind of speculative thought journeys. And of course the dark chocolate is esp. enticing for me….

  5. joespencer said

    Yes, indeed, these are great thoughts. Thanks much!

  6. BrianJ said

    ed42: Lots of people/places were given names that glorified God: Isra-El, Beth-El, Joseph, Jehoiachin, Jeshua….

  7. Ian S said

    As far as I understand, it was customary to name the land after the first person to settle in a particular area, granted the custom seems to occur for several different purposes and in various circumstances(eg, the river Laman, 1 Ne 2:8, the land of Nephi in the promised land, etc). However, I don’t believe the correlation between Moriancumer’s namelessness lies with his lack of perseverance in prayer, but rather with his lineage. The genealogy at the beginning of Ether is headed by Jared (which gives Moroni reason to use the term Jaredite near the end of his own record). The purpose of the outlined lineage in chapter 1, of course, is to account for the succession of the kings–something obviously important to record keepers of the time. Jared’s son Orihah is pronounced the first king at the end of chapter six, and afterwards we start to get the back-story on the “begats.” We also learn that Jared complied with the popular desire for a king in the land and presented the people with the choice of who would be their king. His sentiments are juxtaposed against his brother’s grief and foresight into the people’s captivity. These feelings are reflected by Moriancumer’s son Pagag, who refuses to be king (Ether 6:25). In contrast, Orihah’s crowning illustrates that neither he nor his cousin fall far from their respective trees, and thus begins the tragedies of the Jaredite kingdoms. All of the capturing, captivity, and re-capturing of the throne may give some insight into why we see some “the son of”s disrupted by several “descendant of”s back in the genealogy. Regardless, it seems from the text that we know Moriancumer as the brother of Jared largely because the royalty fell in the bloodline of his brother, and not because of his neglect in worshiping the Lord.

  8. Robert C. said

    Ian, I like your thoughts, but I don’t see why you insist they are a replacement rather than a complement to Brian’s—why not both, or, in other words, do you have anything against Brian’s reading other than there being another reading (which doesn’t necessarily displace it)?

  9. Kathleen McNaughton said

    Also’ we should keep in mind that the Book of Ether as we have it, is only an abridgement of the original, and the original has been sealed. The brother of Jared’s name may well be in the sealed portion. But since it was given to Joseph Smith and subsequently used as a name for a bunch of other people, as I’ve discovered while trying to find an answer to the name question, I think it’s kind of a mute point. As for why he was upbraided for three hours, I sort of think that although the Brother of Jared was “highly favored of the Lord” he was also human.The trip to the seashore had to have been harrowing. They took a variety of animals, equipment, honeybees, and even a fish tank to carry fish in. They had to build barges of the same kind used to cross the pacific ocean to “cross many waters” which would have required a lot of packing and unpacking. The whole process would have required a lot of hard work. So when they finally got to the seashore and set up tents I think life became a little like bliss. (I think it would be fantastic to tent on a seashore for 4 years.) Anyway the Jaredites as a whole may have become a little too a-problematic. Their daily living would have become pleasant and routine to the point that the need to “call upon the Lord” just wasn’t there. Forgetting the Lord gets us in trouble every time doesn’t it?

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