The Book of Mormon narrative begins with a small group of people who arrived in the Americas around 600 b.c. and numbered less than 30 people. Yet, within 1,000 years, grew to a civilization of hundreds of thousands of people. While the dynamics of such a population growth seems astronomical, it has been dealt with by previous scholars. 1 What is important to realize is the vast amount of people that compose the Nephites and Lamanites in The Book of Mormon. For example, after the Nephites fled the land of Nephi and joined the Mulekites in the city of Zarahemla, it is said that the group was “exceedingly numerous” (Omni 1:17). Although, there were many people located in Zarahemla it was not even “half so numerous” (Mosiah 20:11) as the Lamanites, meaning the Lamanites were at least double the population of the Nephites.
Throughout The Book of Mormon, we begin to see hints of what “exceedingly numerous” actually means. Throughout this sacred text we see repeated mentioning of thousands 2, and tens of thousands 3 of Lehites in regard to lives lost in war, conversions, or armies. In the last battles between the Nephites and the Lamanites around 400 b.c., these numbers increase to hundreds of thousands people 4. James E. Smith, one of the creators of the Cambridge model for estimating historical populations noted that “With a moderately positive population growth rate of .1 percent per year, a population of 300,000 in Zarahemla in 87 B.C. would produce 450,000 in Mormon’s day.” 5
Any candidate for consideration to be Book of Mormon people must have a large civilization with tens and hundreds of thousands of people. If the population was not there to match these numbers, then they could not be Nephites and Lamanites. [Read more…] about The Hopewell culture (in the Great Lakes area) and The Book of Mormon: Do they match?