Source:Nibley:CW06:Ch22:1:Names in the Book of Mormon—General Observations

Names in the Book of Mormon—General Observations

Parent page: Book of Mormon Names

Names in the Book of Mormon

Joseph Smith may have known that Hebrew was the language of Lehi, but how did he know of the huge cultural impact of Egypt on Israel in 600 B.C.? Lehi's descendants used "Reformed Egyptian" to write on the metal plates for brevity, and the 2 languages/cultures clearly influenced the Book of Mormon people.

The existence of so many Hebrew and Egyptian names and phrases in the Book of Mormon is strong evidence of its truthfulness.

Hugh Nibley explains:

[W]e [can now] test certain proper names in the Book of Mormon in the light of actual names from Lehi's world, unknown in the time of Joseph Smith. Not only do the names agree, but the variations follow the correct rules, and the names are found in correct statistical proportions, the Egyptian and Hebrew types being of almost equal frequency, along with a sprinkling of Hittite, Arabic, and Greek names. To reduce speculation to a minimum, the lesson is concerned only with highly distinctive and characteristic names, and to clearly stated and universally admitted rules. Even so, the reader must judge for himself. In case of doubt he is encouraged to correspond with recognized experts in the languages concerned. The combination of the names Laman and Lemuel, the absence of Baal names, the predominance of names ending in -iah—such facts as those need no trained philologist to point them out; they can be demonstrated most objectively, and they are powerful evidence in behalf of the Book of Mormon....
  1. There is in the Book of Mormon, within one important family, a group of names beginning with Pa-. They are peculiar names and can be matched exactly in Egyptian. Names beginning with Pa- are by far the most common type in late Egyptian history, but what ties Pahoran's family most closely to Egypt is not the names but the activities in which the bearers of those names are engaged; for they sponsor the same institutions and engineer the same intrigues as their Egyptian namesakes did centuries before—and in so doing they give us to understand they are quite aware of the resemblance!
  2. There is a tendency for Egyptian and Hebrew names in the Book of Mormon to turn up in the Elephantine region of Upper Egypt. It is now believed that when Jerusalem fell in Lehi's day a large part of the refugees fled to that region.
  3. The most frequent "theophoric" element by far in the Book of Mormon names is Ammon. The same is true of late Egyptian names. The most common formative element in the Book of Mormon names is the combination Mor-, Mr-; in Egyptian the same holds true.
  4. Egyptian names are usually compound and are formed according to certain rules. Book of Mormon names are mostly compound and follow the same rules of formation.
  5. Mimation (ending with -m) predominated in Jaredite names, nunation (ending with -n) in Nephite and Lamanite names. This is strictly in keeping with the development of languages in the Old World, where mimation was everywhere succeeded by nunation around 2000 B.C., that is, well after the Jaredites had departed, but long before the Nephites.
  6. A large proportion of Book of Mormon names end in -iah and -ihah. The same ending is peculiar to Palestinian names of Lehi's time but not so prevalent other times.
  7. The names in the Book of Mormon that are neither Egyptian nor Hebrew are Arabic, Hittite (Hurrian), or Greek. This is in keeping with the purported origin of the book.
  8. Lehi is a real personal name, unknown in the time of Joseph Smith. It is only met with in the desert country, where a number of exemplars have been discovered in recent years.
  9. Laman and Lemuel are not only "Arabic" names, but they also form a genuine "pair of pendant names," such as ancient Semites of the desert were wont to give their two eldest sons, according to recent discoveries.
  10. The absence of "Baal-" names (that is, names compounded with the theophoric Baal element) is entirely in keeping with recent discoveries regarding common names in the Palestine of Lehi's day....

Out of a hundred possible points we have confined ourselves to a mere sampling, choosing ten clear-cut and telling philological demonstrations by way of illustration. The force of such evidence inevitably increases with its bulk, but we believe enough has been given to indicate that Eduard Meyer did not consider all the factors when he accused Joseph Smith of "letting his fancy run free" in inventing the Book of Mormon names.46 The fact is that nearly all the evidence for the above points has come forth since the death of Meyer. Let us be fair to him, but let us in all fairness be fair to the Book of Mormon as well.[1]


  1. Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), Chapter 22, references silently removed—consult original for citations.