“King Laman Died”

Brant Gardner

While it is possible that “king Laman” is a regnal name, in this case it seems to be a personal name. (See commentary accompanying Mosiah 9:10.) The record does not mention a coronation ceremony; rather, the son named Laman simply succeeded his father. Regnal names are given after accession for the simple reason that a father cannot be certain that any given son will live to inherit the throne. If a successor-son were given a regnal name at birth but died in childhood, it could easily be interpreted as a disaster. In consequence, the regnal name is bestowed as a substitute for the personal name upon accession to the throne.

This new king Laman3 apparently begins his reign by stirring up his people. Why had such agitation not occurred before his father’s death? Although the Book of Mormon provides no social commentary on this event, we know three pieces of information that help explain this timing:

• Laman the father made a treaty with Zeniff.

• Zeniff led a retaliatory campaign against the Lamanites in his land, killing over three thousand. Even if such slaughter was seen as justified, the hamlets were under Shemlon’s protection; therefore, Zeniff was attacking the rulership of Shemlon, though not attacking the city itself.

• Laman dies, and his son, Laman3, inherits.

It is possible that Laman intended to honor his treaty, despite serious provocation in the deaths of three thousand subjects. (See commentary accompanying Mosiah 9:17–19.) While the Zeniffites no doubt felt justified in their counterattack, certainly the Lamanites felt differently, distinguishing between the “renegades” who attacked Zeniff’s people and the “innocent” Lamanites who were killed. No doubt the kin of the dead Lamanites demanded retaliation in turn: life for life. The accession of new king created a potentially new situation. Laman3 may have seen the treaty as a personal agreement between his father and Zeniff which was not binding upon him. If Laman3 were experiencing pressure for retaliation, the death of Laman removed the brake stopping the forces that were pressing for military action.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3