I was talking to my sister yesterday for a good long while, and part of the conversation near the end of the phone call was me telling her that I had left the Church and had started reading the Book of Mormon away from the view that we always had while in the Church. I said that it’s been interesting so far, though there are many questions that are being raised that are making no sense to me.
She asked what these were, and I jumped right in. A lot of people bring up Nephi’s steel bow, and that’s a good question too, but mine is “WTF is up with the timeline?”
She didn’t know what I meant, and it only took a moment to go to the exact point that’s bugging me. The first four books are 1&2 Nephi, Jacob, and Enos. 1 Nephi starts out in 600 BCE when they leave Jerusalem. It never says how old Nephi is when this happens, but he’s old enough that he was able to take a wife, behead Laban, and then fool Zoram into thinking that he was Laban in order to get the brass plates. So I’d guess that he was at least an older teenager.
Nine years later, (1 Ne. 18) we hear the first about Nephi’s younger brothers that were born in the wilderness. Jacob and Joseph. This is the beginning of the problem. It specifies that Joseph was the younger, so even if he was born then, in 591 BCE, Jacob couldn’t have been born after 592 BCE.
Nephi keeps the records until the book of Jacob, when he apparently turned the large and small plates over to his brother. In Jacob 1:1 it’s stated that it’s been 55 years since Lehi (I’m not sure why he’s talking about his father by name like that…just seems kind of odd) left Jerusalem, which would make Jacob 47 (approximately, at best) at this time.
In this chapter, we see Nephi’s death, and also a lot of talk about the Nephites and Lamanites, and how there’s already division among the people and how there’s already enough of them that they bothered to appoint a king to rule over them after Nephi’s death. Two families left Jerusalem, and in 55 years (not much over two generations’ time) they have enough people to have contentions between the factions and a king?
Jacob passes the plates on to his son Enos, and we don’t get a good time at the end of the book, as it just says it’s between 544 and 421 BCE. But at the end of the chapter that is the book of Enos, he says that it’s been “an hundred and seventy and nine” years since the beginning of this book. So Jacob, who was born within eight years of 600 BCE, had a son who got old and recorded that it was 179 years since the Lehi family exodus from their homeland.
That’s like me saying that Lehi left Jerusalem back in 1838, Jacob was born in 1846, and Enos is just now getting old and worrying about his mortality. Now I don’t know about you, but to me those numbers just don’t add up. Especially when you look at the fact that the ancient Greeks didn’t live any longer than we do now.
No matter how I look at it, the numbers just don’t add up right, and I wonder how anyone who reads this and pays attention to the details can think that it makes sense and is truthful. When even the simplest math is screaming about the impossibility, I needed to listen. Numbers this simple don’t lie.