strtoupper('“T')he People Began to Be Very Numerous”

Culture: Mormon credits Yahweh with the prosperity of the Zarahemla kingdom. While this may certainly be true, what cultural and economic factors would predictably create a “large and wealthy” people?

Mormon describes the people as both “very numerous” (v. 6) and also “large” (v. 7). Possibly Mormon simply meant both terms as synonyms; however, it is also possible that the two terms differ in meaning. “Numerous” may refer to the count and “large” to the geographic extent. A “large” people may cover a broad territory and include a large number of affiliated cities, giving the kingdom of Zarahemla a greater and more important presence. With a large kingdom covering multiple city-states, Zarahemla presents a more powerful potential ally and, even more importantly, trading partner. Increase in wealth stems from a people’s ability to increase their physical possessions. Internally, all may become wealthy relative to an outside community when the industry of the internal unit produces more of the markings of wealth. Thus, the larger labor base could create more elaborate civil/religious structures, and those visual signs of a people’s wealth (measured by their ability to harness labor) become apparent to all.

Here, Mormon appears to describe a society that is growing large and increasing its dependent city-states, allowing a pool of disposable labor that can be used to improve the public architecture (“building large cities,” v. 6). This communal use of disposable labor increases community wealth vis-à-vis communities that are not part of Zarahemla. This comparative wealth also provides an incentive for outlying hamlets to join Zarahemla to avail themselves of those same benefits: disposable labor, affluence, and visible public monuments. The communal wealth comes from growth and leads to growth. The peace that Mormon describes comes from either the communal nature of the creation of wealth or, less benevolently, the early stages of internal social stratification by wealth.

Literature: Mormon is building his story with a series of contrasts. He gives the good, then the bad in linked sets. In this particular case, it seems likely that balancing this period of peace and prosperity is the upcoming rebellion of the sons of Mosiah and Alma2.

Brant Gardner -

Brant Gardner

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3