The Truth Will Set You Free

population36. How can we Account for the Astounding Population Growth Spoken of in the Book of Mormon?

How do we overcome the problem of large populations and armies arising in such a short period; from a handful of people to many millions?

The unparalleled population growth suggested in the Book of Mormon is also problematic. Could huge populations and armies arise in such a short period; from a handful of people to many millions?

The Book of Mormon tells us that in less than 30 years from the time Lehi arriving in America, their population multiplied so rapidly that they had to be divided into two ‘great nations.’ Nations? Even if they reproduced like rabbits they could only produce several dozen offspring in that amount of time. 

Professional demographers agree that this population growth rate would have to be about thirty times the rate that existed in the world as a whole during the same era to reach anything close to the numbers spoken of in the Book of Mormon.

Population growth during this pre-agricultural period was virtually nonexistent, roughly .0001 percent per year or less. This is an established fact that can easily be confirmed.

“For the Amlicite-Nephite war of 87 B.C.E., Alma 2:17-19 reports a total of 19,094 fatalities. On the basis of these figures John Sorenson, a professor of anthropology at Brigham Young University, estimated the total Nephite-Lamanite population to be over 600,000 at that time (about 200,000 Nephites-Amlicites and over 400,000 Lamanites). For an original band of thirty reproductive individuals in 590 B.C.E. to proliferate even to 19,094 by 87 B.C.E. would require an average annual growth rate of 1.3 percent sustained over the span of five centuries. To reach the 600,000 level Sorenson determined to have existed at that point; the growth rate would have had to be 2 percent, again maintained for five centuries. This is a level never reached on a global scale until C.E. 1960 and fifty times the actual world rate of the pre-industrial epoch.” 1

Also, who was producing the food for the hundreds of thousands, even millions of soldiers, so they could wage war? It is estimated that just 100,000 soldiers would need 400,000 farmers to produce enough food for them. As well, it would take thousands of tradesmen to produce weapons of war, armor and other tools, and basic needs – barrels, clothing, lumber, etc. Not to mention the thousands of workers dragging everything around on wheel-less carts dragged by tapirs!

FairMormon’s Comments

“How do we overcome the problem of large populations and armies arising in such a short period?

Question: Was the Lehite colony too small to produce the population sizes indicated by the Book of Mormon?

The Book of Mormon contains many overt references, and some more oblique ones, to ‘other’ peoples that were part of the demographic mix in Book of Mormon times

A superficial reading of the Book of Mormon leads some to conclude that the named members of Lehi’s group were the only members of Nephite/Lamanite society.

The Book of Mormon contains many overt references, and some more oblique ones, to ‘other’ peoples that were part of the demographic mix in Book of Mormon times. Indeed, many Book of Mormon passages make little sense unless we understand this. The Nephite record keeps its focus on a simplistic “Nephite/Lamanite” dichotomy both because it is a kinship record, and because its focus is religious, not politico-historical.

But, as one author observed, it is inescapable that there were substantial populations in the “promised land” throughout the Nephite record, and probably in the Jaredite era also. The status and origin of these peoples are never made clear because the writers never set out to do any such thing; they had other purposes. We cannot understand the demographic or cultural history of Lehi’s literal descendants without taking into account those other groups, too.

Hereafter, readers will not be justified in saying that the record fails to mention “others” but only that we readers have hitherto failed to observe what is said and implied about such people in the Book of Mormon.”

DOUGLAS’ RESPONSE

As I say in my letter, the population growth suggested in the Book of Mormon is unrealistic. If we work from the assumption the western hemisphere was empty when the Book of Mormon peoples arrived. Professional demographers agree that the population growth rate indicated would have to be about thirty times the rate that existed in the world as a whole during the same era to reach the numbers spoken of in the Book of Mormon. This suggests other preexisting populations.

This. however, conflicts with The Book of Mormon which seems to claim that the hemisphere was empty at the time of Lehi’s arrival. 2 Nephi, Chapter 1:

8 And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.

9 Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever. . . .

This NEW theory of other populations may help the apologists deal with their DNA problem.

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