“They Did Cease Lamenting and Howling for the Loss of Their Kindred”

George Reynolds, Janne M. Sjodahl

After the people had heard this glad message of forgiveness, they ceased their mourning and howling for their kindred who had been lost in the great destruction that had visited the land, and there was a thoughtful silence among them for many hours. They meditated on the scene presented before them, and wondered at its severity.

Howling was a part of funeral services to all orientals, and it seems the custom of doing so continued down from generation to generation among the Nephites whose fathers were from the orient. Among the near-Easterners, sadness was best expressed by the more noise they made. It was measured in the same ratio. To lament in a loud manner caused many professional mourners to offer their services that the added wails they gave would impress the general public with the importance of the deceased person. In a modified form this custom persisted with the descendants of Lehi.

Another evidence of this custom, showing that it was of long standing, the Jaredites gave vent to this same practice. At the final and great battle in which the Jaredites were all slain save it were Coriantumr and the Prophet Ether, the people set up a cry that "did rend the air exceedingly." It is recorded of them thus: "And it came to pass that when it was night they were weary, and retired to their camps; and after they had retired to their camps they took up a howling and a lamentation for the loss of the slain of their people; and so great were their cries, their howlings and lamentations, that they did rend the air exceedingly. And it came to pass that on the morrow they did go again to battle, and great and terrible was that day; nevertheless, they conquered not, and when the night came again they did rend the air with their cries, and their howlings, and their mournings, for the loss of the slain of their people." (Ether 15:16-17)

Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 7