In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Book of Mormon and Mesoamerican Military Numbers

Battle of Cumorah aftermath
If the average Mormon was asked about the ending of the Book of Mormon most would speak of the great battle of Cumorah roughly around 380 AD.  Was this a legitimate "final" battle so to speak?  It would appear not.  Although it is considered the end of the Nephite civilization we know that the Lamanites and Gadianton Robbers did survive.  Among those two groups there were many Nephites who found it easier to deny their God and join forces with either the Lamanites or the Gadianton robbers to avoid being targeted for genocide. In the battle at Cumorah Mormon speaks about a massive amount of soldiers who were under his command and the command of 22 other Nephite leaders.  Each of these commanders had a regiment of 10,000 men whom they led to this final battle.  Now the Nephites were decimated but the numbers involved in this war has raised concern for critics of the Book of Mormon.  Because the Book of Mormon never names the modern day land where this takes place most LDS scholars have determined that due to these numbers, the use of a calendar system and a written language (among other geographical correlations) that the most logical location to support these points would be Mesoamerica (modern day Guatemala, Mexico and Belize).

John Sorenson emeritus professor of anthropology at BYU shares some interesting insights on military numbers in Mesoamerica in his book "Mormons Codex" so that we can compare them to the numbers reported in the Book of Mormon.

"Around AD 380, in the final battle that resulted in the extermination of the Nephite people, Mormon reported a Nephite force of 230,000 under his command (Mormon 6:10-15), although it is unclear whether the number referred only to warriors or the total population of the Nephites at the battle.  A legitimate question to ask is whether a quarter-million or even half a million (counting both sides), would make sense in Mesoamerican terms.

One relevant comparative datum comes from a tradition about the Toltecs in the 10th century.  Native historian Alva Ixtlilxochitl reported a tradition proclaiming that a three year war resulted in 5.6 million Toltec deaths.  Even discounting vastly for probable exaggeration, the size of the armies engaged in the conflict in Central Mexico would have been of an order of magnitude that easily encompasses the Nephite figure.  Furthermore, certain peoples in highland Guatemala shortly before the conquest are reported to have fought with armies of up to 200,000 on a side for decade after decade."

Bernal Diaz del Castillo
Conquistador of Spain
I share this information on the heels of a previous blog post that I put together entitled, "A couple of Nephite Combat Correlations" (link provided below) just a few short weeks ago.  It includes an insight that when combined with the above links in military numbers gives Mormon's account of Nephite war more probability in the Mesoamerican setting.  It is as follows,

"In correlation with the organization of the Nephite armies in groups of ten thousand as found in Mormon 6:14 in the climactic battle at Curmorah the Tlaxcalan forces whom Cortez met on his approach to the Aztec capital were organized into five armies: "of the followers of the old Xicotenga...there were ten thousand, of another great chief...another ten thousand, and of a third...there were as many more."  All this according to Bernal Diaz del Castillo: The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico."

From the following insights provided by John Sorenson we can see that the numbers provided in the final battle at Cumorah would be more than fitting in a Mesoamerican perspective.  This combined with Bernal Diaz del Castillo's insights on how these armies were divided  and commanded also makes the Mesoamerican connection to the Book of Mormon that much more probable.

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