Both personal names and place names in the Book of Mormon once were a source of ridicule. Like many Book of Mormon weaknesses, recent discoveries have increasingly turned these weaknesses into strengths. Examples include Alma, long ridiculed as a modern woman's name misapplied by Joseph Smith to an ancient Nephite male, an embarrassment that became a strength when modern archaeologists examined the Bar Kochba documents from around 100 A.D. in Israel and found a deed signed by Alma, a Jewish male. But what is especially interesting about many of the names in the Book of Mormon is not just that they may be plausible, but that they are used in ways suggesting that the writers of the Book of Mormon understood the meaning (or range of meanings) of the name and skillfully drew upon the meaning with word plays or other literary tools. In many cases, this can strengthen the message being conveyed in that passage.

A recent find in these arena is the name of the hill where Alma and Amulek taught a group of poor people who had been mistreated by the lofty, arrogant Zoramites. A reader of the translated text may well wonder why the hill's name is mentioned at all. But when its plausible Hebrew meaning is examined, one sees that the meaning of that name is being exploited by a skillful writer to teach us about grace and the Lord's knowledge of our afflictions here in mortality. It's a fascinating case study of the beauty of names in the Book of Mormon. See Matthew L. Bowen, "He Knows My Affliction: The Hill Onidah as Narrative Counterpart to the Rameumptom," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 34 (2020): 195-220.

Abstract: The toponym Onidah, attested as the name of a hill in Alma 32:4, most plausibly derives from Hebrew ʿŏnî /ʿōnî/ʿônî (ʿonyî, “my affliction”) + yādaʿ/yēdaʿ (“he knew,” “he knows”) — i.e., “he has acknowledged my affliction” or “he knows my affliction.” This etymology finds support in the context of the Zoramite narrative in which it occurs. In view of the pejorative lexical associations of the Rameumptom, the “high” and “holy stand,” with Hebrew rām (< rwm, “high”) and haughtiness, arrogance, and pride, we see Mormon using the Rameumptom, the “high” platform for Zoramite self-exalting worship, with Onidah, the hill from which Alma and Amulek taught the Zoramite poor and humble. The latter name and Alma’s teaching from that location constituted a sign that the Lord “knew” their “affliction.” Alma devotes a significant part of his message not only extolling the spiritual value of their state of “affliction” and humiliation or compelled “humility” (ʿŏnî Exodus 3:7, 17), but teaching them how to “plant” the “word” (even Jesus Christ himself) in their hearts through prayer — the word that would grow up into a “perfect knowledge” of God — experientially “knowing” God (Alma 32:16‒36) and being known by him (cf. Alma 7:12).

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