Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Pachacamac: The Larger Zarahemla Capital – Part III

Continuing from the previous post regarding the larger area of Zarahemla, that would have been required as the Nephites grew in number between about 100 B.C. and 300 A.D. 
    As indicated in the last post, we do not know the numbers of the Nephites when they reached Zarahemla with Mosiah, or the numbers after the Mulekites and others joined the Nephites. We also do not know the population of the Nephites after the crucifixion, how many survived the destruction, and how many were part of the Nephi Golden Age, the two hundred years following the Savior’s appearance in the Americas.
Evidently the Nephites before the crucifixion, were a large number (3 Nephi 4:3), partly because all the converted Lamanites joined with the Nephites (3 Nephi 2:11), “and their skin became white like unto the Nephites” (Mosiah 2:15).
    However, while the scriptural record uses such general and expansive terms as “multiply in the land,” “fill the land,” “multiply exceedingly,” or “numberless,” all of which are relative terms and could mean anything from thousands to millions. Such terms, of course, are not particularly helpful in determining actual numbers. As an example, in one case the Nephites increase until they are so numerous that they "cover the whole face of the land, both on the northward and the southward, from the sea west to the sea east" (Helaman 11:20), but then thirty three years later they are able to all gather in one body, in the central part of the land, to defend themselves against the Gadianton Robbers (3 Nephi 3), and since we do not know how large that central part of the land might have been, we cannot derive or compare these two events to obtain any numbers.
    Consequently, one must understand the terminology, i.e., cover the whole face of the land does not suggest, as subsequent comments point out, that they were occupying every single area, but that they were spread in all parts of the land, in the north and south and in the east and west, yet there would have been numerous areas where they were not located, thus we find the term “wilderness” (an unoccupied tract of land) used frequently when a Nephi leaves an occupied area, like a city, and heads for another occupied area, like another city.
    In another instance, the Lamanite armies are described as being “numerous almost, as it were, the sands of the sea" (Alma 2:27), while apparently gathered in one body, fighting with Alma and his army at a localized ford on the River Sidon. Unless one has been in combat, it might be difficult to follow this line of thinking, but if you are a squad of 13 men and suddenly attacked by a Battalion of some 500 to a thousand men, they would seem like as many as the sands of the seashore, or if you are a Battalion of 700 and suddenly set upon by a Brigade of 3000 men, the numbers would seem overwhelming.  
    Mormon frequently condenses his explanations into minimal language, especially in comparing one set of numbers against another. All we have to do is continue and we recognize that in this case, both commanders, Amlici and the King of the Lamanites are present with this single “army.” It is likely that this single body of armed men numbered around forty thousand, as the numbers did when Mormon later faced Aaron, the Lamanite king who “came against us with an army of forty and four thousand. And behold, I withstood him with forty and two thousand” (Mormon 2:9). Of course it could have been as little as 30,000 or as many as 50,000, the numbers Mormon illustrated later in another battle (Mormon 2:25).
Fifty thousand men gathered on one battle field to face your force of 30,000 might seem “numerous almost, as it were, the sands of the sea" as you face a force apparently twice your size, made up of fierce and possibly crazed warriors, all dedicated to your destruction.
    It may well just come down to a matter of perception.
    It is also very likely that on the battlefield itself at the time, these large armies were divided up into smaller units but Mormon did not delve into that kind of detail as he often chose not to do. He is abridging a much, much larger record, writing roughly about 1% of what he has at his disposal (Words of Mormon 1:5; Helaman 3:14; 3 Nephi 5:8; Ether 15:33). Consequently, if we are going to glean such information, we have to put situations together and understand the point of view or perception of the people at the time.
    What we do know is that the numbers of Nephites in the greater Zarahemla area would have been significant. James E. Smith, the professional demographer has written the most comprehensive evaluation of Nephite populations available (Review of John C. Kunich, "Multiply Exceedingly: Book of Mormon Population Sizes." FARMS Review of Books. Vol. 6: 1994.) He judges the numbers in 87 B.C. (the year Alma reaches Zarahemla) to be about 300,000 to 1.5 million, which “includes a double portion of Mulekites who were double the Nephties and Mulekites plus Nephites were much fewer in number than the Lamanites” (James A. Smith, Study of Population Size in the Book of Mormon. FARMS. 1994).
    In fact, Smith goes on to say, “It is not hard to imagine a significant population of Nephites in Mormon's day [350 AD]…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…about 28 percent of this population would be 15 to 30 years old. This, in turn, implies about 63,000 males of these ages...presumably being the male population from which the armies were drawn. Mormon reports armies of 40,000 (Mormon 2:9) and 30,000 (Mormon 2:25) troops in the years A.D. 331 and 346, numbers easily attainable according to our demographic speculations...a much larger army of 230,000 is reported at the final battle of Cumorah in the later fourth century. If this large army included all of the 15-to-30-year-old males in the Nephite population, the total population size would have been about 1.6 million people.”
This is supported more or less by Washburn, who said, “In that battle at Cumorah at least a quarter of a million men were killed. Add their women and children, and we might have a million to a million and a half. That, apparently, was all of the Nephites at that time...How, under such conditions [conditions of almost constant warfare], which existed throughout the long history of dealings between the two peoples, except for two periods of nonviolence, could the population have grown into many millions?" (Washburn, J. Nile. Book of Mormon Lands and Times. Salt Lake City, 1974).
    Washburn seems to be closest in his mirroring the scriptural record. Mormon tells us that as he looked out over the dead, he describes the destruction of his 230,000-man army: “And it came to pass that my men were hewn down, yea, even my ten thousand who were with me, and I fell wounded in the midst; and they passed by me that they did not put an end to my life. And when they had gone through and hewn down all my people save it were twenty and four of us, (among whom was my son Moroni) and we having survived the dead of our people, did behold on the morrow, when the Lamanites had returned unto their camps, from the top of the hill Cumorah, the ten thousand of my people who were hewn down, being led in the front by me. And we also beheld the ten thousand of my people who were led by my son Moroni. And behold, the ten thousand of Gidgiddonah had fallen, and he also in the midst. And Lamah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Gilgal had fallen with his ten thousand; and Limhah had fallen with his ten thousand; and Jeneum had fallen with his ten thousand; and Cumenihah, and Moronihah, and Antionum, and Shiblom, and Shem, and Josh, had fallen with their ten thousand each. And it came to pass that there were ten more who did fall by the sword, with their ten thousand each; yea, even all my people, save it were those twenty and four who were with me” (Mormon 6:10-15).
At no time does Mormon suggest that women and children were involved in this fighting, or numbered among the 23 Divisions of 10,000 soldiers each. There were of course wives and children present (Mormon 6:7), and whether the women and children and old men were sequestered to the rear, or up a ways on the hill Cumorah is not known, however, throughout the use of the military terms, like “army” in all of Mormon’s writings, women and children were never included except as a separate segment (Mormon 4:14,15,21). But, in the case of the Jaredites, the opposite is true, where “both men women and children being armed with weapons of war, having shields, and breastplates, and head-plates, and being clothed after the manner of war” (Ether 15:15) shows all Jaredites actually fought in their last battle (Ether 15:12).
(See the next post, “Pachacamac: The Larger Zarahemla Capital – Part IV,” to see why it was necessary to have a much larger City of Zarahemla and greater area of Zarahemla than might have been earlier imagined)

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