Why is it almost universally taught (even in General Conference) that, in 4 Nephi, the Nephites experienced 200 years of peace and prosperity? My math shows that it was no more than 166. Am I missing something or is everyone just rounding up?
Thanks for the question, William. I have often wondered along the same lines. If the Nephite Zion period began at the end of AD 34 with the appearance of the resurrected Christ, and ended with the destruction of living in a sort of united order (“they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them”, 4 Nephi 25) in AD 201, then that sounds like a period of no more than 168 years—if you count as generously as possible, using “inclusive counting”.
But perhaps what people like you and me may fail to consider is that the peaceful Zion period for the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of that time might well have extended for some decades beyond the event mentioned in verse 25. It appears that beginning in AD 201, the people of Nephi in general no longer held all things in common. But that does not mean that the members of Christ’s Church all quit living in that manner. On the contrary, it seems reasonable to me to suppose that this practice may very well have continued among the faithful for another two or three generations. During that period, while they were still living a community-oriented “united order” of sorts, they may well have had access to the great blessings of Zion that come from living under and keeping sacred covenants, even if the world around them was deteriorating.
So let me engage in some mild speculation. The Book of Mormon account says that the people divided in AD 231 into their old factions of Nephites and Lamanites. If Zion still existed among the Church of the time, then after the great division they would be free to continue the practice unhindered. We read further than wickedness continued to increase among all the people of the land; apparently AD 244 and AD 250-260 were especially momentous times for the establishment of wickedness among the Nephites. I suggest that the Zion established among the Nephites at the coming of Christ in AD 34 continued for a couple of generations past the general dissolution of common holdings in AD 201, continuing until perhaps some time in this period between AD 244 and AD 260. Using the earlier date would provide a period of as much as 210 years in which the Nephite Zion flourished. This would explain the 200-year figure that we commonly hear.
Another possibility is that the Nephite Zion period endured until AD 200, being dissolved the following year, and that those who talk about that Zion period enduring 200 years are simply failing to account for the fact that Jesus didn’t come among them to establish Zion in its mortal fullness until AD 34. I think this explanation is reasonable, though I prefer the one given previously.
In either case, the question is more academic than doctrinally important. Zion was established among the Nephites, it has been established to some lesser degree among us today, and will be established in its fullness in a time to come. We look forward with great anticipation to the blessed event when we will be able to live in that celestial order. That’s the important take-away.