“The Brother of Jared”

Brant Gardner

Although we are introduced first to Jared through the genealogy, we have introduced to the brother of Jared as the first actor in the events. As this story progresses we will see a division between functions of Jared and his brother. Jared is the king-line, and the brother of Jared is the priest accompanying his brother. Why does the Book of Mormon consistently refer to this great religious leader as the brother of Jared rather than by his own name? The best answer is that Ether is writing this history, and it the story as he has received it has traveled through the king-line of Jared. Thus it is Jared’s story as the king, and transmitted to his descendants as Jared’s story. To that king-line, the brother of Jared is peripheral, even though we can see that his faith was tremendous.

The name of the brother of Jared is never disclosed in the Book of Mormon itself, but was revealed later:

“At this place we record an authoritative statement regarding the name of the Brother of Jared. In the Juvenile Instructor, Volume 27, p. 282, one of the authors hereto, President George Reynolds of the First Council of Seventy, furnishes this information:

‘While residing in Kirtland, Elder Reynolds Cahoon had a son born to him. One day, while the Prophet Joseph Smith was passing by his door, he called the Prophet in and asked him to bless and name the baby. Joseph did so and gave the baby the name of Mahonri Moriancumer. When he had finished the blessing he laid the child upon the bed, and turning to the father, Elder Cahoon, he said, ’The name I have given your son is the name of the Brother of Jared; the Lord has just shown (or revealed) it to me.’ Elder William F. Cahoon, who was standing nearby, heard the Prophet make this statement to his father; and this was the first time the name of the Brother of Jared was known in the Church in this dispensation.” (George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, edited and arranged by Philip C. Reynolds, 7 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1955-1961], 6: 69.)

In this commentary, the brother of Jared will be referred to by that reference, not by the later revealed name. While it is interesting to know the name, the text’s insistence on the description “brother of Jared” rather than a personal name will be respected during discussions of the text.

History: Hunter and Ferguson key on the idea that the Jaredites were “large and mighty men” to make a connection to Ixtlilxochit’s “giants.” (Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson. Ancient America and the Book of Mormon. Kolob Book Company. 1950, pp. 46.) A sample of their too-enthusiastic use of the text comes from reading Ixtlilxochitl’s term quinametzin and a Maya word, which it is clearly Nahuatl. The etymology they give in Maya is therefore absolutely fanciful (Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson. Ancient America and the Book of Mormon. Kolob Book Company. 1950, pp. 45.) Unfortunately, Ixtililxochitl’s orthography is sometimes difficult to correlate to the actually nahuatl words, but it we can certainly see the –tzin ending as the standing nahuatl honorific. There is no root quiname-, but there is a quenami, which is the probable term meant in this case. Quenami means “in what manner, in what condition.” (Fray Alonso de Molina, Vocabulario en lengua Castellana y Mexicana y Mexicana y Castellana.. Editorial Porrua, S.A. 1970). The rough translation would be “the respected whatever-they-were.” Ixtlilxochitl is correct that native legends related giants as remnants of one of the destructions, but the connection between the Mesoamerican giant tradition and the Nephites continues to be wishful thinking at best and a distortion of the native texts at worst. (see Brant Gardner. “Reconstructing the Ethnohistory of Myth: A Structural Study of the Aztec ‘Legend of the Suns.” Symbol and Meaning Beyond the Closed Community: Essays in Mesoamerican Ideas. Ed. Gary H. Gossen. Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, University at Albany, State University of New York, 1986, pp. 33).

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon