Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2009, September 18

“Are There ‘Others’ in the Book of Mormon?: A Critique and Partial Rebuttal of the article “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land… Did They Find Others There?” by John L. Sorenson and other similar “‘Others’ Were in the Book of Mormon Lands” articles by Brant Gardner; Matthew Roper; Michael Ash; etc.” Part 1 by grego

“Are There ‘Others’ in the Book of Mormon?: A Critique and Partial Rebuttal of the article “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land… Did They Find Others There?” by John L. Sorenson and other similar “‘Others’ Were in the Book of Mormon Lands” articles by Brant Gardner; Matthew Roper; Michael Ash; etc.” Part 1

(c) 2004-2009

Part 1

Over the past few years, a line of thinking and persuasions for it have become prevalent in LDS writings–that there were “others” in the Book of Mormon lands, and even though the Book of Mormon might not come out directly and clearly say so, there are lots of places that prove it, backed up with other areas that provide evidence.

This article is a response to the article “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There?” by John L. Sorenson, of FARMS, in which the claim is made that the Book of Mormon is full of proof that there were others there before, during, and immediately after the Lehites, and that there was plentiful interaction between them and the Lehites. I aim to show that the Book of Mormon evidence does not prove outside groups, and that most all of the instances that are used that try to show that it does, are actually based on wrested interpretation and speculation–kind of like Cinderella’s sisters trying to scrunch their large feet into that small shoe.

Since others since have picked up many lines of his reasoning (Brant Gardner, Matthew Roper, Michael R. Ash, James E. Smith, Richard D. Grant), and even repeat the same in many articles, I also respond to some of these, especially where they follow the same line of reasoning, but add on to or differ somewhat from John L. Sorenson’s.

Here is a list of the articles:
When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There? John L. Sorenson
(FARMS) When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There? – FARMS JBMS

“Multiply Exceedingly: Book of Mormon Population Sizes.” John C. Kunich, Pp. 231-67. Nephi’s Descendants? Historical Demography and the Book of Mormon Reviewed by James E. Smith

“A Social History of the Early Nephites” by Brant Gardner (maybe one or two others by him, too)

“Nephi’s Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations”
Review of Nephi’s Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations
Reviewed By: Matthew Roper
Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2003. Pp. 91—128

“Were the Lehites Alone in the Americas?”
Written by Michael R. Ash for the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), Copyright ©2004.

Proving whether there were others there or not, whether in the Book of Mormon or otherwise, is not my purpose, though I sometimes note other thoughts regarding this issue (from the Book of Mormon)–in either direction (there were or there weren’t).

My purpose is to provoke much greater and intense thought and assessment about the subject. If there are evidences and proofs of “others” in the Book of Mormon, let there be; if there are not, let’s not try to untextually and illogically force them!!

Author’s Note:
About my writing: writing articles on the Book of Mormon, etc. is a hobby of mine, not my profession (unlike many of the authors’ articles to which I am responding). I have not responded to every argument in every article–not enough time, not enough thought put into it, not enough expertise, not enough…
Also, I am not paid to write in any certain style. Therefore, a few explanations might be helpful. A line of alternating dash/double dash (-=-=-=) separate each section of the original article(s) and my response; three dashes (—) and with ****, denote my response to the original article. I changed the way I quote the authors, so they should all be given by name, but there might be an attribution mistake or two. Sometimes CAPS are used to show stress, clarity, or to single out an important part of a larger section. But aren’t CAPS yelling, and very rude? Only if you want it to be. So why not italics, or bold, instead? Italics are an absolute pain to work with in some computer writing programs, and it costs too much to print bold type. Besides, my email contains caps, but not italics or bold. I started using caps here a long time ago for this, and have continued. Unless noted, all CAPS are mine.
There might be mistakes–all sorts of mistakes, of different types. The length of the articles, the redundancy sometimes within them, the redundancy between them, the way I have tried to break them up, my redundancy in answering, interrupted work over periods of time, etc., didn’t help. If you see something, please let me know. This ain’t set in stone. ;)


When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There? John L. Sorenson
When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There? – FARMS JBMS
Abstract: A number of statements in the Book of Mormon text are examined, which indicate the presence in Lehi’s “promised land” of peoples other than those descended from Lehi’s party. Reasons are considered why the topic is not addressed more explicitly in the record. It is concluded that there is clear evidence for the presence of “others.” Several puzzles about the history of the Nephites and Lamanites are linked to the question of whether they found others already living in their promised land. It seems important enough to call for serious examination of the text of the Book of Mormon for all possible evidence. Let us first look at what the Nephite writers say about their own group. Then we will see what we can learn about other groups described or mentioned in the record. In each case we will not only look for direct data on population size, ethnicity, language, and culture but also will draw plausible inferences about those matters.

Arguments from LEHI to NEPHI

John L. Sorenson:
Population Growth among the Nephites
Two questions about Nephite population size are of major concern. First, how fast did the Nephite group grow as a result of the natural fertility and mortality of the original party? We need to examine whether the numbers attributed to them at various points in their history can be accounted for in terms of natural increase by the Nephite portion of Lehi’s group. If the numbers cannot be explained by that means, then recourse to “others” is required to account for the apparent excess.
****Whoa, pardner! Already from the start we have a big problem… Let’s slow down a second, such a fast start. John L. Sorenson assumes a huge thing that I can’t: the number and membership of the original party. Who was in the original party? We don’t really know, do we? Is it possible that some might not be mentioned, such as possibly Lehi’s servants? I imagine that he had many–he was a man with a large family, and great wealth–enough that Laban, who had many servants and a high position, became so envious that he would kill for it. Though not necessary, it wouldn’t not make sense that the servants went with him on the journey–otherwise, the reason Zoram went wouldn’t make good sense. (I imagine Lehi could have sent his servants away, or had a wicked family member take over his matters and kept the servants working–saying he and his family were going somewhere to do something, and would be back after a lengthy period oftime, etc.) The record doesn’t say so, but it would seem such an understood and small matter–unlike joining other groups of people, which would warrant much more mention in the Book of Mormon. For example, Lehi’s daughters are mentioned only one time. Did they go? How many were there? Who did they marry? We don’t know how many daughters he had, nor how many sons of Ishmael, nor his daughters, nor how many servants Ishmael might have had that went with them also, nor how many children the married ones might have already had. It is probably safe to assume that nobody among the two households was left behind in Jerusalem, as Mormon says in 3 Nephi 5:20 that “. . .he [God] brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem, (and no one knew it save it were HIMSELF AND THOSE WHOM HE BROUGHT OUT OF THAT LAND)” (3 Nephi 5:20).

Matthew Roper:
After telling us that “Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael were angry with me because of the admonitions of the Lord” (2 Nephi 4:13) and were planning to kill him (2 Nephi 5:3), Nephi then relates:
And it came to pass that the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me. Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words. (2 Nephi 5:5-6)
At the time the Nephites and the Lamanites separated, then, Nephi was accompanied by his own family, Zoram and Sam and their respective families, his younger brothers Jacob and Joseph, and his sisters, in addition to “all those who would go with me.” Who were these others who “believed in the warnings and the revelations of God”? The most likely answer seems to be other people living in the land, not of Lehi’s family.

Brant Gardner:
The best hypothesis, then, to explain Nephi’s mention of “all those who would go” is that he referred to those of the hamlet or hamlets who had joined with the Lehites and who, in recognition of the greater social and technological sophistication of the newcomers, had permitted them to occupy roles of leadership over their hamlet in exchange for the new knowledge or goods they brought with them (in addition to the gathering power of religious conversion; see 2 Nephi 5:6).
Lehi’s company had every reason to accept aid from, and a merger with, local populations. Lehi’s group planted seeds from the Old World, but a rapid acquisition of information about survival skills particular to the New World would have been extremely important. They would have needed to know about the local food sources that were successful, the local sources of materials for clothing, the locations and types of clay for pottery, and any number of location-specific cultural items.

Brant Gardner:
“Does the text lend any credence to the idea that “others” had come into the Lehite colony this early? Nothing points definitively to that conclusion, but on at least one occasion (in 2 Nephi 5:6) the most plausible explanation rests squarely on the presence of “others.” Nephi describes the flight of his family and of those who would follow him from the machinations of Laman and Lemuel:
And it came to pass that the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me. Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words. And we did take our tents and whatsoever things were possible for us, and did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days. (2 Nephi 5:5-7)
The identity of “all those who would go” with Nephi rests on those who are specifically named and the probable division of Lehi’s clan. Not specified among Nephi’s followers are the children of Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael, thereby leading us to assume that they remained behind. A comparison of Lehi’s final counsel to the sons and daughters of Laman and Lemuel (see 2 Nephi 4:3-9) with his words to the seed of Sam (see v. 11) makes the loyalties of the children of Laman and Lemuel to their fathers appear obvious. Previous alliances of the sons of Ishmael to Laman and Lemuel (see 1 Nephi 16:37; 2 Nephi 1:28), as well as their behavior immediately following Lehi’s death (see 2 Nephi 4:13), suggest that they were not inclined to follow Nephi. It is rather unlikely that any of the wives chose to split into a clan separate from their husbands, and indeed the Book of Mormon indicates the early preferences of the wives of Laman and Lemuel (see 1 Nephi 7:6; 18:9) and Nephi (see v. 19), although their individual alliances at this time of division are not specifically mentioned. When we account for the named or mentioned persons and those likely to remain behind, very little room remains for “others” from the original Lehites. In fact, using individuals mentioned in the text and their logical progeny, we can account for everyone. Regardless of how the group split up, however, if “all those who would go” were only one or two people we would expect that Nephi might make mention of them, at least by their head of household, as he does for the families of Zoram, Sam, Jacob, and Joseph.

****Well, this surely isn’t the necessary case. We cannot expect Nephi, Mormon, or any of the other writers to act like this. We don’t see where they act as we would expect them to act, or write as we would expect them to write. To say this, is hoping for nothing substantial. And, not everyone is mentioned. For example, what is said about Sariah, or Ishmael’s wife? There is no mention of them by name as to their death or their choosing to go or remain. If they were so important, and Sariah had even been mentioned many times previously, why is she not mentioned by name at this point? So, we conclude it isn’t the case. Once more, without actually knowing the original party members (and ones that might have been added over the course of travels!), it’s impossible to draw these types of conclusions.
And what, then, did the Nephites give the hamlets, in exchange for all that the hamlets gave them, such as corn, costly apparel, the location of pottery clay and metals, local food sources, etc.? Or, were these free to the Nephites? Or, did they unfairly steal this knowledge, or such? Did they buy the leadership with religion? Unlikely, right? But why would the hamlets tell them where the money was? Isn’t that like the banker teaching someone how to rob a bank? And besides, if the other people that were already there had all that precious ore that was so plentiful, what good would it do the Nephites to go after it, too, unless it profited them?

Brant Gardner:
Indeed, Nephi’s descriptions of “his people” begin very early to have the appearance of referring to more than the named individuals, if only in the characterizations of the activities mentioned, activities that, from John L. Sorenson’s internal perspective, would indicate a larger population.

Michael R. Ash:
Who were these others who, in addition to those already mentioned, followed Nephi? It is at this point that we get the terms “people of Nephi” and “the people who were now called Lamanites” (2 Nephi 5:9, 14). It’s possible that at this point such terms took on a cultural perspective and referred to all peoples who aligned themselves with Nephi or his contentious brother.

Matthew Roper:
Significantly, at this point in the text Nephi introduces the term people of Nephi for the first time in reference to his followers (2 Nephi 5:9), a term that may be suggestive of a larger society including more than his immediate family.

****Quote: “Indeed, Nephi’s descriptions of ‘his people’ begin very early to have the appearance of referring to more than the named individuals.”
And how does one infer that? What of his description lends to that interpretation? I am unaware of any.
What is being proposed here, is that a very small group of foreigners completely overtook the political and cultural systems from a huge group of related people, all in the space of just a very few years. Possible? Yes–but highly unlikely, in my opinion. Can anyone provide examples from history where this has happened, and especially had similar outcomes?

In 2 Nephi 5:6, it says: “Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, AND ALL THOSE WHO WOULD GO WITH ME. And ALL THOSE WHO WOULD GO WITH ME WERE THOSE WHO BELIEVED IN THE WARNINGS AND THE REVELATIONS OF GOD; wherefore, they did HEARKEN UNTO MY WORDS.” This seems to be people who were not of Nephi’s immediate family group. Did Ishmael have any other daughters? Did any of Laman et. al.’s grandchildren follow? If Nephi’s sisters were all married to Ishmael’s sons, which ones left, and how many? What about the children? Servants may have later intermarried with both Nephites and Lamanites, especially after the split between the two groups. Lehi’s servants, and especially anyone serving Laman and Lemuel, might have also valued this opportunity to escape from men like Laman and Lemuel, making up part of the others who saw Nephi as the true inheritor of Lehi, and/ or respected, believed Nephi, and left with him. Did the Lehites meet up with anyone in the desert, or along their travels, who joined their group?

When it talks about other groups very early in the Book of Mormon, we have the problem of language. How would a stranger “other” understand and believe the “warnings and the revelations of God”, and be able to “HEARKEN unto [Nephi’s] WORDS”? (The split between the Nephites and Lamanites came very early.) Unless, of course, there were people in the land who already spoke the same language. Which meant that they probably had the same, or at least similar religion, and maybe culture, too. But how probable is this?

Yes, it seems likely that the “others” included some not of Nephi’s immediate family.
Once again, refer to my first remark for more info.

Richard D. Grant:
Have you noticed in your study of the Book of Mormon, the Lamanites and Nephites appear to be totally different cultures. While the Nephites continue many of the Hebrew traditions and practices, the descriptions of the Lamanites give no hint of Hebrew background. In a very short time they developed a totally new, or at least different, life style. To me, it seems probable that Laman and Lemuel, together with the sons of Ishmael, joined with a people who they found inhabiting the land upon their arrival. While Lehi’s descendants adopted the life style of this established population, Laman and Lemuel, together with their descendants became leaders of this new society which Nephi and his descendants identify by the name of Nephi’s eldest brother.

****Yes, they are different cultures. Remember that with Lehi, most of their lives were oriented according to the law of Moses and religion. After Lehi and the big split, the Lamanites didn’t have revelation, religion, and hard work as “restrictions” anymore. When you have two groups of people with very different values, differences result quickly. The result? You very quickly have two nations. Outside cultural or religious influences are not necessary. Look at a family where two children have very different values–family reunions already show the results. Just after a few years of leaving home and getting married, the children’s lives can be VERY different. Stick on another generation, and the differences could be so far apart you would never recognize them as being related. Anyone other than me ever felt that at a family reunion?

Brant Gardner:
We necessarily begin with the origin of Lehi’s people in the New World. It is indisputable that Lehi and his company landed on a coast, and the coast of Guatemala is our plausible location, according to John L. Sorenson’s reconstruction. If a ship carrying Lehi’s party were to have arrived on the coast of Guatemala approximately 590 years before Christ, what might they have found? Would they have been alone or were other people already there?
The archaeological survey of the Middle Formative sites for the coast of Guatemala deals with sites dated some two hundred years earlier than Lehi’s landing, so we need to make some inferences. Two hundred years prior to Lehi’s arrival there were seven settlements ranging from one household to twelve households.1 After this time, the coastal areas saw a peak of population density not seen until the Late Classic period, over a thousand years later. It is important to understand that the settlement areas were not necessarily larger, but simply more numerous.2

****Seven whole small settlements, of maybe four people in a settlement? Spanning a whole coast, in a POSSIBLE place/ country? And of those settlements that were later discovered, could they possibly have been Lamanite settlements, instead of those of “others” already there? Isn’t it just as likely that the Lamanites wiped the “others” out and those settlements were theirs?
While Guatemala might be A/ ONE “plausible location”, it is far from the only possibility, and need not be accepted as one, much less THE one.

John L. Sorenson:
The second question concerns the relative size of the Lamanites and other groups compared with the Nephites. An analysis has already been published of the age and gender of the personnel in Lehi’s party.1 Nephite demographic history obviously begins with that information. My reading of the text puts about eleven adults and thirteen children in Nephi’s group when they split with the faction of Laman and Lemuel. However, the adults included only three couples. None of the unmarried persons, including Nephi’s brothers Jacob and Joseph and, probably, their sisters, would have had marriage partners available until nieces or nephews came of age, so for some interval the group’s reproduction rate would have been even lower than those numbers seem to suggest. The Lamanite faction I estimate to have included four couples with the likelihood that the oldest grandchildren of Ishmael were just coming into the age of reproduction.2 Within a few years the Lamanites should have had on the order of half again as many persons as the Nephites, and that size advantage should have continued thereafter. Within a few years Nephi reports that his people “began to prosper exceedingly, and to multiply in the land” (2 Nephi 5:13).

****Nephi says, “began to prosper exceedingly, and to multiply in the land”, not “began to prosper, and to multiply exceedingly in the land”–a big difference. Nevertheless, let’s continue.

Here, I won’t include many others who might have been included (see previous response above).
Nephi’s sisters, especially the older ones already married to the sons of Ishmael, and Laman and Lemuel had had children in the desert (1 Nephi 17:20), and Nephi, Sam, and Zoram probably had a few, also (1 Nephi 18:19). Nephi’s sisters could have already had a few children each before they even started out from Jerusalem, especially if they had married young, and if they were much older. Some of the desert children could have been older (by maybe four years) than Jacob. And what if some of Lehi’s children were from another mother?

When you start out with a small group, it looks big fast. Comparatives and superlatives are relative, and sometimes figures of speech. Have you ever been to a large group of people seated outside, say like for a concert? Looks huge, yet, it’s only a few thousand.

(Hey, how about a family reunion of my great-grandparents’ posterity? Mine was so huge that it took up more than a whole huge church, and that wasn’t even everyone; I hardly knew any of my relatives, and I was pretty involved with genealogy. Yes, most married outside of the family; but even if they had married in the family, it would have been big.)

About 2 Nephi 5:13–note that the reason Nephi gives for this, is “And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly”–NOT, “and others were with us; and we did prosper exceedingly” or “and because others helped us, we did prosper exceedingly”, etc.

John L. Sorenson:
When about fifteen years had passed, he says that Jacob and Joseph had been made priests and teachers “over the land of my people” (2 Nephi 5:26, 28). After another ten years, they “had already had wars and contentions” with the Lamanites (2 Nephi 5:34).

****Yes, only two priests and teachers over the entire people? That right there shows a much smaller number initially than what Sorenson et. al. allude to.
“Wars” do not need large groups of people. I believe most of us don’t find anything wrong with the term “war” to signify something smaller. Many gangs with small groups have “wars”, such as in the term “gang wars”. Look at the ways many native tribes (such as in Africa, Southeast Asia) fought/ fight battles and wars with small groups of men.

Brant Gardner:
With the addition of “others” into Nephi’s party we have a larger core of people than we could possibly have with the segregation of only those who arrived with Lehi. Three events described for the early city of Nephi would appear to confirm the presence of more people than those who had come from the Old World. About thirty years after the departure from Jerusalem, Nephi describes some of the events of the establishment of the city of Nephi. First, Nephi describes having not only built dwellings, but also a temple.4 Public building projects require excess labor. Even on a modest scale, a public building takes time and resources away from daily life. The very existence of a public building suggests a larger population than the pure Old World immigrants and their natural increase.

**** Since when does “dwellings” (um, where is that in the Book of Mormon text?) mean “large, difficult-to-build, separate houses for everyone”?
And why does one all of a sudden take “temple” in the text to mean “large and extensive public building projects”, which one temple hardly justifies. This “public building” is not really what seems to be implied. It is not a government building, for example. It is a temple. It isn’t required to hold a great many people inside its walls. To us, it might be comparable to building a house–labor-intensive, takes time and work, but not that difficult for someone who sees the necessity of having one.
How big was Solomon’s temple? In 2 Nephi 5:16, Nephi says he “did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things… but the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon”. “After the manner”: does that mean it’s the same size? It could, but it doesn’t. If it were a large temple, that might be a great undertaking for so few people.
Possibly, notice that Nephi mentions nothing of rock or cement at this point. (In fact, nothing is mentioned of cement until Helaman 3:7.) What was the temple constructed of, huge blocks of granite? Possibly wood, or clay temple? Would that seem such a difficult task, if so?

Brant Gardner:
The second event that indicates the presence of a larger population is the declaration of Nephi as king.5 Small hamlets do not have kings. To name one of a dozen men “king” is an insult, not a compliment. Finally, we have the designation of Jacob and Joseph as priests and teachers “over the land of my people.”6 Were we to assume only Old World peoples at this point, we have a king and two priests servicing perhaps ten households. The early Nephite political/religious structure is too top heavy for so few people. The only situation that sufficiently explains our text is the presence of non-Old World peoples at this early date.

****Kings do not need lots of people under them to be called kings. I don’t find any “insult” in this, in the Book of Mormon or otherwise–perhaps there are many historical references I could be pointed to? Do any annals of history show that to be called a king over a few people is an insult? And when does it stop being an insult and becomes a compliment? 200 men? 400 men? 700 men? Wouldn’t that be convenient to know! Then we could figure out how many men there were. Gardner often protests using “presentism”, and I would like to point out that here he does not just use “presentism”, he uses “‘personalism'”–he asks that all give substance to his pure opinion. Sorry!

Remember, King Noah had many priests–at least 24, if not more–yet his subjects were a small group, which had grown from a very small group, which had had… a king: Zeniff. (The history and growth of king Zeniff’s people, which could/ should serve as a subset to the Nephite growth, hasn’t, unfortunately, been treated by any of these researchers, as far as I can tell.) Hey, how about that Alma guy–another small group of about 200 people (children included, if any over the age of eight?).

I see this differently–I see that one ruler and two religious teachers shows that there probably weren’t many people at that time. These religious leaders were possibly responsible for both Melchizedek priesthood ordinances and Law of Moses rites, not to mention other duties. Also, unlike the priests in Jerusalem, it is likely that Jacob and Joseph also worked for a living. Wait… how many men are in a branch presidency? I’ve been in branches that had less than 10 families in them. So how is this “top heavy”, especially if you throw in Jacob and Joseph doing home teaching ;) ?

John L. Sorenson:
The reports of intergroup fighting in these early generations also seem to refer to larger forces than growth by births alone would have allowed. At the twenty-five-year mark of their history, Nephi already reported that they had had “wars” with the Lamanites (see 2 Nephi 5:34), yet the male descendants of the original Nephites could not reasonably have numbered more than a score by the time these “wars” are mentioned. Later, in Jacob’s old age, the “wars” mentioned in Jacob 7:26 would have been fought with a maximum of fifty on his side and not dramatically more for the attackers. Either the expression “war” was being used loosely at this point in the account or else the population springing from the original Lehites had already been augmented by “others,” it appears to me.

****See response to small numbers of fighting men for “war” at the beginning of page 4.
Later (Jacob 7:24, 25), Jacob writes: “And it came to pass that many means were devised to reclaim and restore the LAMANITES. . .and they had an eternal hatred against US, THEIR BRETHREN. And they sought by the power of their arms to DESTROY US CONTINUALLY (this sounds like war). Wherefore, the people of Nephi. . .became as yet, conquerors of THEIR ENEMIES (“the Lamanites”, in the plural–not the Lamanites AND (lots of) others).
Also, in Words Of Mormon 1:13: “And it came to pass also that the ARMIES OF THE LAMANITES came down out of the land of Nephi, to battle against his people. But behold, king Benjamin gathered together his armies, and he did stand against them. . .
Words Of Mormon 1:14: And in the strength of the Lord they did contend against their ENEMIES, UNTIL THEY HAD SLAIN MANY THOUSANDS OF THE LAMANITES. And it came to pass that they did contend against the Lamanites until they had driven them out of all the lands of their inheritance.”
Thus, here it seems that only Lamanites are their enemies.
Then, in Jacob 7:26: . . .and HATED OF OUR BRETHREN, WHICH CAUSED WARS and contentions. . .
In Helaman 12:2, it says that the Lord helps the Nephites by making sure their “enemies don’t declare war on them”; at this time, it is the Lamanites and Gadianton robbers (Helaman 11:1, 2) that make the plural.
The end of the great Jaredite war goes through the process of dwindling numbers, though most of the Lamanite/ Nephite wars seem to have hardly been to the death of everyone.
Also, it seems probable that especially at the beginning the weapons, especially on the attacking Lamanite side, would not have been as advanced or of as high quality; and, the Nephites would hardly want to actively and pursuingly kill the Lamanites, as the verses above and elsewhere show.


  1. There is an interesting (seems like) anomaly that takes place once Zarahemla is discovered by the Nephites. They discover that the Mulekites are twice as numerous as they are but that the Lamanites are twice as large as both of them put together. The question I ask myself is, how could the Lamanite society grow so much larger as hunter, gatherers as the Nephites who were farmers unless their numbers were added to by indigenous groups? My understanding is that farmers are able to supply a much larger population within a smaller area than hunter gatherers.

    Comment by Lyman Dayton — 2012, September 26 @ 2:01 am

  2. Hi Lyman,

    My understanding is that it’s based more on Lamanites destroying Nephites than a straight comparison of the two societies separate from each other.

    When King Mosiah left, only a few (the righteous) went with him–all the rest of the Nephites got destroyed by the Lamanites, in fulfillment of Jacob’s prophecy:

    Jacob 3:3 But, wo, wo, unto you that are not pure in heart, that are filthy this day before God; for except ye repent the land is cursed for your sakes; and the Lamanites, which are not filthy like unto you, nevertheless they are cursed with a sore cursing, shall scourge you even unto destruction.
    Jacob 3:4 And the time speedily cometh, that except ye repent they shall possess the land of your inheritance, and the Lord God will lead away the righteous out from among you.

    You can see the decline of the Nephites in Enos, Jarom, and Omni.

    Here, the Lamanites already outnumber the Nephites:
    Jarom 1:5 And now, behold, two hundred years had passed away, and the people of Nephi had waxed strong in the land. They observed to keep the law of Moses and the sabbath day holy unto the Lord. And they profaned not; neither did they blaspheme. And the laws of the land were exceedingly strict.
    Jarom 1:6 And they were scattered upon much of the face of the land, and the Lamanites also. And they were exceedingly more numerous than were they of the Nephites; and they loved murder and would drink the blood of beasts.

    But then, they were outnumbered from the beginning.

    Remember, the Nephites lost dissenters to the Lamanites, but never the other way around. I’m sure they had contentions and likely deaths among themselves, in addition. On top of that, I think many of the more wicked died in the wars.
    Jarom 1:13 And it came to pass that two hundred and thirty and eight years had passed away–after the manner of wars, and contentions, and dissensions, for the space of much of the time.

    Here, it happens:
    Omni 1:5 Behold, it came to pass that three hundred and twenty years had passed away, and the more wicked part of the Nephites were destroyed.
    Omni 1:6 For the Lord would not suffer, after he had led them out of the land of Jerusalem and kept and preserved them from falling into the hands of their enemies, yea, he would not suffer that the words should not be verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall not prosper in the land.
    Omni 1:7 Wherefore, the Lord did visit them in great judgment; nevertheless, he did spare the righteous that they should not perish, but did deliver them out of the hands of their enemies.

    Omni 1:8 And it came to pass that I did deliver the plates unto my brother Chemish.
    Omni 1:9 Now I, Chemish, write what few things I write, in the same book with my brother; for behold, I saw the last which he wrote, that he wrote it with his own hand; and he wrote it in the day that he delivered them unto me. And after this manner we keep the records, for it is according to the commandments of our fathers. And I make an end.
    Omni 1:10 Behold, I, Abinadom, am the son of Chemish. Behold, it came to pass that I saw much war and contention between my people, the Nephites, and the Lamanites; and I, with my own sword, have taken the lives of many of the Lamanites in the defence of my brethren.
    Omni 1:11 And behold, the record of this people is engraven upon plates which is had by the kings, according to the generations; and I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written. And I make an end.

    Omni 1:12 Behold, I am Amaleki, the son of Abinadom. Behold, I will speak unto you somewhat concerning Mosiah, who was made king over the land of Zarahemla; for behold, he being warned of the Lord that he should flee out of the land of Nephi, and as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord should also depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness–

    So it’s just a small part of the Nephites that leaves, which makes all the other rations more easily understandable.

    A few more things: part of the purpose of the Lamanites was:
    1 Nephi 2:24 And if it so be that they rebel against me, they shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance.
    2 Nephi 5:25 And the Lord God said unto me: They shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction.

    I think the Lord strongly preserved the Lamanites for their familial fidelity (as Jacob says:
    Jacob 3:5 Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father–that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them.
    Jacob 3:6 And now, this commandment they observe to keep; wherefore, because of this observance, in keeping this commandment, the Lord God will not destroy them, but will be merciful unto them; and one day they shall become a blessed people.)
    and for their being able to fulfill this prophesied purpose.

    We also read that:
    Omni 1:17 And at the time that Mosiah discovered them, they had become exceedingly numerous. Nevertheless, they had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time…

    so that helps explain why there weren’t as many of them as there could/ should have been.


    Comment by grego — 2012, September 26 @ 7:41 am

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