John L. Sorenson, forever trying to show that there were other people in the Land of Promise besides Nephites, Lamanites and Mulekites, has written of the confrontation between Sherem and Jacob:

1. “By the time Sherem showed up in the first Nephite settlement, the maximum population that could have resulted from the most rapid conceivable natural descent from Nephi and his fellow settlers would not have exceeded a few dozen adults.”

In looking at the dates, we know that Enos was old in 420 B.C., probably just before his death, 179 years after Lehi left Jerusalem (Enos 1:25). If he lived to 100, then he was born in 520 B.C., making Jacob about 60 at that time. To determine this, Jacob was born sometime between 597 B.C. and 589 B.C., while Lehi was in the wilderness (1 Nephi 18:7) after leaving Jerusalem in 597 B.C., in the first year of Zedekiah’s reign (1 Nephi 1:4). From the time Lehi left, he spent some time in a valley he called Lemuel (1 Nephi 2:6;16:6). During that time, Nephi and his brothers went back to get the plates (1 Nephi 3:9), then later went back to get Ishmael’s family (1 Nephi 7:2-3). Also, while there, there were 5 weddings (1 Nephi 16:7). Some scholars, like Lynn and Hope Hilton, have placed this time as about two years. From there they wandered along the Red Sea, then turned east into the desert (1 Nephi 17:1) where babies were born and they spent 8 years (1 Nephi 17:4) before reaching Bountiful. Thus, it might be concluded they spent 10 years “in the wilderness,” where at some point, Jacob was born and later Joseph (1 Nephi 18:7)

Now, if Jacob was born toward the end of that ten year period before reaching Bountiful, he would have been born around 588 B.C., making him 68 years old when his son, Enos, was born. On the other hand, if Enos lived beyond 100 years, to say 110, then he would have been born when Jacob was 58 years old—a more reasonable figure.

In any event, if Jacob lived to be 100 years old, he would have been somewhere between 70 and 80 years old (or possibly older) when he confronted Sherem (Jacob 7:7-23), for it is the last entry in his record before his death (Jacob 7:27). Thus, we can conclude that Jacob was pretty well along in years by the time Sherem gained an audience with him (Jacob 7:6).

So we need to take a look at what occurred between 597 B.C., when they left Jerusalem and about 520 to 500 B.C. when Sherem confronts Jacob.

• There were 3 families involved in the desert that later became Nephites: Nephi, Sam, and Zoram. Since the ages of Nephi’s sisters (at least 2) are unknown (2 Nephi 5:6), we cannot include them at this point.

• If three families had the same number of children that Lehi had, which is 8 that we know of for certain (Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Nephi, Jacob, Joseph, and 2 sisters), and 10 if we accept Lorenzo Snow’s statement that Lehi’s daughters married the sons of Ishmael before leaving Jerusalem, and was why the two families were connected. That would make (3x8) twenty-four children who, by 520 B.C. would be around 60 years old if born by 580 B.C.

• If those 24 intermarried, that would be 12 couples having children around 560 B.C., and if each couple had 8 children, that would be 96 more people who were adults, or about 40 by 520 B.C. If those 40 intermarried, that would be 20 couples having 160 children who would be adults (20 years old) around 520 B.C. That makes a total of about 286 adults by 520 B.C. between the ages of 20 and 60 years of age. If we use the figure of 10 children, which Lehi may have had, then those figures become 936 adults between 20 and 60 years of age.

• Including Jacob, Joseph and 2 sisters marrying around 565 B.C., they would have 20 children who intermarried in 545 B.C. for a total of 100 more adults by 520 B.C. Or a combined total of 1,136 adults by the time Sherem confronted Jacob.

• With multiple wives (Jacob 1:15) toward the last generation, those numbers would be increased. In addition, with about 193 couples in 520 B.C., we can see that there would probably be about 200 children at the time, making an overall community of about 1,336 people.

• In addition, we do not know who was included when Nephi said, “and all those who would go with me” (2 Nephi 5:5). If that included others (Lehi’s or Ishmael’s servants who came out of Jerusalem, or some of the Ishmaelitish children, etc.), then the numbers would even be greater.

Even in his own book, Sorenson claims that “the Nephites—would reach a far higher population level than a people characterized as hunters.”

Thus, Sorenson’s “the maximum population that could have resulted from the most rapid conceivable natural descent,” would be at least 1336 people, not "a few dozen adults."

(See the next post, “What Was the Population in Jacob’s Time When He Confronted Sherem? Part II” for the rest of Sorenson’s comments about Jacob and Sherem in trying to prove there were other people in the land of Promise)

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