Monday, August 13, 2012

More Covino Comments Answered-Part IX-A Small Land of Millions?

Peter Covino in his True Book of Mormon Geography website, in discussing the destruction mentioned in 3 Nephi and prophesied elsewhere, he writes:

1. Covino:Some have mistaken verses like "they began to cover the face of the whole earth" (Helaman 3:8, 11:20; Mormon 1:7) to mean the Nephite population was exceedingly large, and that their land was exceedingly large.”

The statements made in Helaman are not intended to show the size of the Land of Promise, or even the large numbers of the Nephite Nation, but that the Nephites at certain points in time were expanding and moving into previously unclaimed areas and filling up that land. In Helaman 3:8, 46 B.C., the Nephites moved into the Land Northward, which began six years earlier (Alma 63:9), which was the first recorded movement of people into the old Jaredite lands. Helaman is merely telling us that those emigrants settled down, multiplied, and spread throughout the land. About 25 years later, Nephi calls down a famine on the land because of the unrighteousness of the people (Helaman 11:4). Later, the people repented, drove the robbers and evilness out of the land, and Nephi asked for the famine to pass (Helaman 11:17), and the people prospered once again, causing Helaman to write: “the people of Nephi began to prosper again in the land, and began to build up their waste places, and began to multiply and spread, even until they did cover the whole face of the land, both on the northward and on the southward, from the sea west to the sea east” (Helaman 11:20).

A similar event and expression is found in Ether, after a severe famine destroyed many of the Jaredites and rain again fell, the prophet wrote: “the people began again to spread over all the face of the land” (Ether 10:4). This is also found earlier, when the population of the Jaredites had reached less than one hundred after the wars between Akish and his sons (Ether 9:12), yet a few years later “the people had spread again over all the face of the land” (Ether 9:26)

In these cases the statement has nothing to do with the size of the land or the number of people upon it. In Mormon, however, we find a different thought. Here we have an incident of a very young person leaving his home in the Land Northward, which evidently was not that well populated, and being taken into the Land Southward and to the city of Zarahemla. Along the way, he was so impressed with the size of the land, the buildings, and numbers of people (consider walking the streets of News York City for the first time), that he wrote from his memory, “And it came to pass that I, being eleven years old, was carried by my father into the land southward, even to the land of Zarahemla. The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea” (Mormon 1:7).

2. Covino: “In reality, it only means their land was small.”

In none of these instances can we claim that the scriptural record is telling us “the Nephite population was exceedingly large, and that their land was exceedingly large” as Covino claims. Whether the Land of Promise was large or small, we cannot discern this from the record. We can choose to interpret this that 1) the Nephite population was so great that it filled up a very large area of land, or 2) the land was so small, that a small amount of Nephites filled it up. There are other scriptures to tell us a little about the size of the land, but these mentioned by Covino and listed above do not.

3. Covino: “After the Nephites joined with the Mulekites in Zarahemla (The largest city ever) they set up churches. It says that after their largest conversion ever, there were only seven churches in all of the Land of Zarahemla (Mosiah 25:23), and their total population was half that of the Lamanites. (Mosiah 25:3)”

First of all, the City of Nephi was likely the largest city ever, since it houses Lamanites who were, in numbers, a much larger population than the Nephites. Secondly, the city of Bountiful, where the Temple was built, and where the Nephites congregated toward the end, must have been largely populated. The point is, we do not know it was “the largest city ever.” However, it was the capitol of the Nephite Nation.

Third. One of the reasons the Nephites were half the population of the Lamanites is because a very large number of Nephites chose not to go with Mosiah when he was warned to flee the city of Nephi (Omni 1:12-13). How many, we do not know. How many were left behind, or what happened to them, we are not told. But evidently, since defection is stated elsewhere, many, most, or all joined the Lamanites when they arrived to control the city and land of Nephi. Also, keep in mind that this was around 200 B.C., 400 years after the Nephites and Lamanites reached the Land of Promise. By contrast, the United States has been a country only 236 years, about half the time the Nephites were in the Land of Promise.

Compare that to the statistics shown in the Bible of population expansion. Seventy Israelites went into Egypt. 400 years later, 1.2 million left.

If we use 1.2 million population increase at the time of the above figures, then the total population would be about 800,000 Lamanites, 400,000 Nephites. Using Covino’s 75 miles by 125 miles, we have 9,375 square miles. That is 128 people per square mile in population density compared to the United States average of 88 people per square mile, and greater population density than 29 states in the U.S. And that was only around 200 B.C. Let’s take this to 200 A.D., another 400 years, and just doubling the Egyptian figures, the population would be about 2.4 million, that would be approximately 1.6 million for the Lamanites and 800,000 for the Nephites, or 256 people per square mile, which would make it the 76th most densely populated country in the world today, with 116 countries less populated per square mile; the 11th most populated state in the U.S. (even more densely populated than California), and more densely populated than the 11 states combined of Iowa, Kansas, Utah, Nevada, Nebraska, Idaho, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota.

On the other hand, we know that the Jaredite Nation during the years of their final battle of annihilation, had a population of at least 8 million dead--2 million men, 2 million wives, and 4 million children (Ether 15:2), with a still intact fighting force on both sides, which should equate to at least 10 million overall. 10 million in just the Land Northward, say half of the Land of Promise, or 4688 square miles, equals 2133 people per square mile. That would make it twice as densely populated as New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the U.S., the seventh most densely populated country in today's world.

As for only 7 churches, it might be considered that when I was a bishop, we had 1 building, 2 wards, for a population of 36,000 people in the city—which Elder Howard W. Hunter made it quite clear that I was responsible for all 18,366 people in my half of the city. In Southern California at the time there were 2 million members and only one temple.

Nephites building one of the churches in Alma’s time. In 100 B.C., it would have been quite a process, and undoubtedly took some time to accomplish

It is difficult to equate population and number of churches, especially in 122 B.C., right after Alma reached Zarahemla. Prior to this time, the prophet preached to the people—one prophet for all of the Land of Zarahlemla (Mosiah 2).

Preaching to the people was done in open areas by prophets

Or by prophets from the Temple, as in the case of king Benjamin

Evidently, Alma started out with seven churches, and the church had not really been established, since Alma only then gained acceptance to create churches from Mosiah. In addition, within 30 years, “Aaron and his brethren went forth from city to city, and from one house of worship to another, establishing churches, and consecrating priests and teachers throughout the land among the Lamanites, to preach and to teach the word of God among them; and thus they began to have great success” (Alma 23:4).

It should be noted, as always, that what was considered manageable in size of congregations in the Book of Mormon days is not necessarily what we would consider appropriate today.

(See the next post, “More Covino Comments Answered-Part XX, for more of Covino’s so-called “errors,” which, in fact, are errors he makes in the defense of his model)

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