The other day I was asked a question about the demographics in the Book of Mormon, and I was hoping that you could help with an answer to the question. This person told me that she believes that the population growth that is discussed in the Book of Mormon by the Nephites and the Lamanites is not possible. How is it possible to explain the population growth patterns that are discussed in the Book of Mormon?
Brandon, from Mesa, Arizona
Since very little information on the population of the Nephite and Lamanite nations is given in the Book of Mormon it would be interesting to have some concept of what this person believes about the population of the Book of Mormon people. We do know that Lehi’s company numbered 57 people when they left Jerusalem in 600 BC, and we know that 230,000 soldiers were killed in one day in the final great battle between the Nephites and Lamanites in 385 AD.But only estimates can be made of the population density at any given time. So, without knowing what this person’s opinion is of the population growth it is impossible to answer your question.A number of studies have been made to provide estimates of what the population of the Book of Mormon nations may have been, but there is no way of confirming any of the estimates from information given in the Book of Mormon. A high side estimate of population growth would be 3 % per year. If this were applied to the 57 people from Lehi’s company and projected to the year 385 AD, the number would be 148 trillion! If we were to use a more reasonable estimate of 1.25% the population in 385 AD would be on the order of 1.2 million.As an interesting point of comparison, Jacob and his twelve sons and their families migrated to Egypt in 1706 BC and the exodus occurred in 1491 BC–a duration of 315 years. Josephus tells us that during the exodus the number of Israelites consisted of 600,000 men “fit for war,” but that the total multitude was not numbered. Women, children and elderly men could have been on the order of twice the number of those fit for war, which would give a total population on the order of 1.8 million over a period of 315 years. That would suggest that the Lehite growth rate of 1.25% would be rather on the low side. So those are a few thoughts on the subject that you might take back to your incredulous friend.