“King Laman Died”

Brant Gardner

As was discussed earlier, while it is possible that “king Laman” is a regnal name and is the reason that the son was named the same as the father, it does not appear to explain this particular case. There is no indication of enthroning the new king Laman, but the intimation that one who was already named Laman succeeded his father to the throne. Regnal names are given after accession to the throne, as a father cannot be certain that any given son will live to inherit the throne. If a child were given a regnal name at birth in anticipation of his accession, and then were to die, it would have the appearance of disaster. The solution to this little problem has always been to make the name change upon accession to the throne. That does not appear to occur in this case.

We have the new king Laman stirring up his people. Why does this occur after the death of his father, but not before? As with most social commentary on the Book of Mormon, we must speculate with the available evidence. There are three important points that help explain the timing of this preparation for war:

  1. King Laman the father made a treaty with king Zeniff.
  2. King Zeniff led a retaliatory campaign against Lamanites in his land, killing over three thousand. Even if possibly seen as justified, the hamlets were under the protection of Shemlon, and therefore it was an attack against the rulership of Shemlon, while not against Shemlon directly.
  3. King Laman dies, and his son sits on the throne.

We have no more information than this, so the answer must be speculative. It would appear that king Laman the father intended to honor the treaty he had made, in spite of the provocation of the killing of the Lamanites (see discussion for Mosiah 9 about the probable nature of that attack).

While the attack was justifiable in the eyes of the Zeniffites, it probably was not in Lamanite eyes. The Lamanites would probably make a distinction between the “renegades” who attacked Zeniff’s people and the Lamanites who were killed. While king Laman the father chose to honor the treaty rather than retaliate, it is likely that there was a demand for a continuation of blood justification – a life for a life. With the accession of king Laman the son, the original treaty may have been seen as personal between king Laman the father and Zeniff, and therefore not binding upon the son. Without the person who made the treaty, the son could more easily argue that the blood price was more important than a treaty to which he was not personally a party. Thus the death of the father set in motion the conditions that would allow for the military action that the Lamanites planned.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon