Most of us stand in awe of how Joseph Smith accomplished writing the Book of Mormon, particularly when it’s easy to understand it didn’t come from a divine source. But sometimes this awe has been manufactured by the church, and it takes years of investigation to learn the truth behind every falsehood perpetrated at the hands of the religion.
One such item is the chronology of the Book of Mormon. It’s easy to tell when events happened, because the church has given us the approximate years of BOM events, when definite years are not identified in the text. The fact that Joseph didn’t have this benefit as we do, adds to the awe.
How could he have given such accurate chronology without divine intervention?
Regardless of what we’ve been taught, it not only wasn’t divine, it wasn’t accurate either.
Not even close.
Colt Kalcich has recently finished an in-depth evaluation of the Book of Mormon chronology. Mr. Kalcich postulates there are (conservatively) at least 10 “missing” generations in the chronology; but the REAL number may be closer to 20. Here is the full study:
Book of Mormon Chronology by Colt Kalcich
There have been several historical studies which seem to refute the historicity of the Book of Mormon. In contrast, there are also several studies which seem to support the chronology and the belief that the Book of Mormon was written by ancient peoples. What we lack is an independent study of the Book of Mormon itself, wherein we analyze the book at face value in and of itself with little outside support. This is the purpose of this study: to match the chronology of the Book of Mormon against itself to determine if there are any contradictions.
After writing this report, I found https://byustudies.byu.edu/book-of-mormon-charts. This website diagrams out the lineages of the Book of Mormon. Unfortunately, they don’t give exact dates and some of their guesses of birth or death dates make no sense compared with this study. However, their study shows in picture form the overall idea that most writers of the Book of Mormon had children in the last years of their lives.
From the time I was a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, part of my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel was built on how complicated the chronology and story line of the Book of Mormon is to understand and follow. My belief was “How could any unlearned man (Joseph Smith) write such a complicated book in such a short amount of time?” It had to have been divinely inspired. However, as my faith has begun to transition and I have been taught to skepticize everything, I decided to critically examine my original belief of the Book of Mormon. This report of the examination is not “anti-mormon.” You will not find a smoking gun herein. This study might be very hard to follow if you have not read and studied the Book of Mormon. There are likely some new questions which apologists will have to consider, but I doubt anything read herein will sway one’s beliefs on the divinity of the Book of Mormon, whether they be in the belief camp or not. For those of you who believe the Book of Mormon was written by ancient peoples, I believe this study will further help your overall understanding of the Book of Mormon.
There are several exact dates given of events, births and deaths in the Book of Mormon. Unfortunately, several educated guesses have to be made for this study. A lot of critical thought has gone into the guesses to make sure this examination is fair to the supposed chronology set forth in the Book of Mormon. These guesses are annotated accordingly. The Chronology is set up to be 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ or during the first year of the reign of King Zedekiah in Jerusalem. History may have slightly different correlations for these exact dates, but this report assumes the Book of Mormon chronology is correct in and of itself. This study does not attempt to combine outside studies to prove or disprove when specific Book of Mormon dates occurred. This is necessary because we have to take the Book of Mormon at face value to determine if there are any major inconsistencies in the book itself. In conjunction with this, most of the suggested dates in the chapter headings are used or considered. As far as we can tell, these dates were originally added in the Book of Mormon by the apostle, Elder James E. Talmage, in the 1920’s. All guessed or actual dates are to be considered with a deviation of +/- 1 year.
Across the Book of Mormon generations we have 6 men living to be at least 90 years and two of them living more than 120 years. Five men had children after the age of 60 years, with Amos 1 setting a record of becoming a father again at the age of 97 years. We are missing about 10 generations over the span of the millennia the Book of Mormon covers. Most writers spent their early years fighting the Lamanites or going on missions. They married in their 30’s or 40’s to Nephite girls in their teens and 20 years their junior. Many of the writers had to re-marry after the death of their 1st wife to continue having kids into their 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s. Of course there is nothing wrong with this, but it is just something you do not generally consider as you read the Book of Mormon.
Before we get into each individual writer of the Book of Mormon and how long they lived and what they were doing when they lived, I did a generational study. From the first writer, the Prophet Lehi (born ~645B.C.) to the last writer, Angel Moroni (born ~350A.D), it is about one millennia. This makes 20 generations +/- 1. I found it easier to do this study based on the dates of birth of the writers as opposed to the dates of death; even though we have 17 exact death dates compared to 3 birth dates.
A cursory search of the internet postulates there are about 30 generations in 1000 years. This estimates the new generation is born when the father is about 33 years old on average across the whole millennia. This is a heavy contradiction to the Book of Mormon (excluding Book of Ether) with only 20 generations with the average age of the father at 50 when his progeny is born. A quick reference to Addendum 1 shows 19 of 24 writers were having kid(s) at 40 or older with several (8 writers) having children at 54 or older.
Psalms 90:10 was written during the time of Enos1 and it intimates people could live to be 70 years during that time. In ancient Greek history2, there are rumors of multiple people living to be 100 years old. So, this is not too much of a mental stretch to think ancient prophets in the Americas were living long lives, longer than the age expectancy of an American male today3. A major question is, up until what age could the writers realistically impregnate their wives? Modern instances show men in their 80’s and 90’s have “begat” children4.
Almost all of the writers were warriors who fought in battles. They were all Nephites, but not all of them were righteous. However, the Book of Mormon teaches against polygamy and concubines. Consider most writers were in their 40’s and still having children. Studies today tend to show only 13% of females can have children past the age of 453. Even if most of the writers married women 20 years their junior, the wives would likely have had to die for them to continue having kids into their 60’s 70’s or even 80’s and 90’s! Your mind can wander thinking about how many consecutive wives some of these writers had and at what age they were marrying the Nephite girls.
Study of the Writers
The following is a summation of Addendum 1 and of each of the 20 generations and other key writers or actors of the Book of Mormon. Anything highlighted in yellow is an exact date. A few assumptions are made to help with the date estimations. We assume a rule the writer dies the same year or soon after he passes on the plates to the next writer. Another assumption is a writer cannot give the plates to anyone younger than 20 years unless explicitly stated. A rule of 50 which can be calculated from the generational study says most men, on average, were having children at 50 years old unless exact dates tell us otherwise. And just for fun, if possible, we like to have the writer die at the age of 76 (Age of a tree) assuming it fits with the given chronology.
Generation 1: LEHI Born 645 BC– Died 585 BC (2 Nephi 4:12)
Lehi likely had teenage children prior to 600 BC, so a rough estimate is he was born no earlier than 645 BC. His death date really doesn’t matter, but the earliest he probably died was 585BC, making him approximately 60 years when “he waxed old.” He was having kids (Joseph) as old as 53 years. Sariah, Lehi’s wife, would have been having children into at least her 40’s.
Generation 1.5: Nephi 1 Born 615 BC – Died 545 BC (Jacob 1:9)
Amazingly, for this study, Nephi is rather unimportant. However, to investigate his life story here, we can predict he was a teenager by the time he first left Jerusalem in 600 BC, making his birth around 615 BC. He passed on the plates about 545 BC and died at the age of 60 years. He had children, so why didn’t he pass the plates on to one of his sons? We know the plates were generally given to a righteous man if there was one, but it was rarely ever given to the first born son (maybe 6 times).
Generation 2: Jacob (son of Lehi) Born 593 BC – Died 490 BC
Jacob was the firstborn of Lehi in the wilderness prior to coming to the Americas. He received the plates at about 37 years when Nephi died. His death has to be guessed and it does really matter. Our best guess for his death date would precede his son’s birth by 20 years. So, if his son Enos is born in 510 BC, and he dies 20 years later, Jacob lived to be about 103 years old. He was still having kids at the age of 83 years! He doesn’t win for the oldest conception age however.
Generation 3: Enos (son of Jacob) Born 510 BC – Died 421 BC (Enos 1:25)
We know Enos died in 421 BC or later and we make a guess he died at the age of 89. You basically have to split the age of Jacob and Enos, so if you make Jacob younger at his death, you have to make Enos older at his death. Either way, they lucked out in the gene pool despite Lehi and Nephi living to be only 60 years. Enos had a kid at about the age of 60 years.
Generation 4: Jarom (son of Enos) Born 450 BC – Died 362 BC (Jarom 1:13)
Jarom died in 362 BC and we rule he had to have been born before the death of his father by 20 years. But just to keep with the good genes, and to not make his dad or himself too old to be having kids, we estimate his birth to be about 450 BC. This applies the rule of his age to be about 50 years when he spawned the next generation and he died at 92 years.
Generation 5: Omni (son of Jarom) Born 400 BC – Died 318 BC (Omni 1:3)
We know when Omni died, and we estimate his birth using the popular age of 50 for his father. Sure, he could have been older, but there is no reason to assume he was having kids past the age of 50. Omni died at a young age of 82 years, compared to his ancestors. Most interesting is our guess that he was still having kids at the ripe old age of 50 (Chemish).
Generation 4.5: Amaron (son of Omni) Born 355 BC – Died 280 BC (Omni 1:5)
We estimate the birth of Amaron by 45 years after Omni’s birth. This means he only lived to be 75 years. Any younger does not make sense for the gene pool, and any older gets us farther away from the magic number of 50 for his dad to be having kids. Amaron did not have any male sons still living at the time of death, so he pulled a Nephi and gave the plates to his brother, Chemish. Overall, Amaron’s birth date estimate is fairly important to help us determine the age of his brother, Chemish.
Generation 5: Chemish (Son of Omni) Born 350 BC – Died 260 BC
We have to completely estimate the birth and death dates of Chemish. We assume his dad was 50 when he was born. Chemish died several years after his brother Amaron who died in 280 BC. His son was born in the same year Amaron died. Using our general rule that the father can only give the plates to a son who is 20 years or older, we have a death date. He dies at 90 years while having children at 70 years.
Generation 6: Abinadom (Son of Chemish) Born 280 BC – Died 210 BC
Abinadom’s life span isn’t important for our study. We assume he was born around 280 BC but you could go 10 years in either direction. He has a child at 50 and passes on the plates to him when he turns 20 years.
Generation 7: Amaleki (Son of Abinadom) Born 230 BC – Died 140 BC
Amaleki is born 20 years before he receives the plates from his dying father. He is born in the days of Mosiah 1 and dies before King Benjamin. Using those two reference points, we know he lived to be old (Omni 1:25) and we assume that to be 90 years in this case. Using his statement that he was “born in the days of Mosiah” to mean Mosiah was a young king at the time of his birth, we use Amaleki as a half generation or Mosiah 1 was 24 years senior to Amaleki.
Generation 6.5: Mosiah 1 (Unknown father) Born 254 BC – Died 174 BC
Although not of the previous writer lineage, Mosiah 1 lived to be an old age. We have to really work backward here from the known death date of Mosiah 1’s son. He could have been born prior to 254 BC, but we are assuming he was a young king already by the birth of Amaleki and he had his son, King Benjamin, at the age of 50 years.
Generation 7: Zeniff (Unknown father) Born 235 BC – Died 165 BC
Zeniff was born before Mosiah left the Land of Nephi, so we assume he was born slightly before Amaleki in the land Nephi in 235 BC. This assumption makes him about 35 years when he attempts to return to the land of his birthplace. He was a righteous leader. He led for many years and fought many battles before dying at the age of 70. He was having kids into his 50’s. The big question with Zeniff is, is he is the brother of Amaleki (Omni 1:30)? He kept his history on plates which is evidence that suggests he was a son of Abinadom.
Generation 7.5 King Noah (Son of Zeniff) Born 185 BC – Died 145 BC
Zeniff was too busy to have children until after he returned to the Land of Nephi. This gives us a birth year of 198 BC for King Noah. He was a very young leader at the age of 21 years which may have contributed to his wickedness. His reign ended after killing the prophet Abinadi. He went into the wilderness and “suffered “death by fire” around 145 BC. He lived to be at least 53 years while having kids early on in his 20’s.
Generation 7.5: King Benjamin (Son of Mosiah 1) Born 204 BC – Died 121 BC (Mosiah 6: 4-5)
We know the death date of King Benjamin and it seems like he was extremely wise and beloved by his people. He probably reigned as king for a long time (53+ years?). He didn’t necessarily live to be 83 years, but it fits in with the overall chronology if we use this estimation. Plus, using this birth date, he was a sensible 30 years when he began his reign.
Generation 8: King Limhi (Son of King Noah) Born 170 BC – Died 99 BC
King Limhi’s dad had a lot of concubines and started having kids even before he was made King. Despite his father’s wickedness, King Limhi had a soft spot for his conscience. This was probably because King Limhi was born a few years before the death of Zeniff who also partially helped raise him. Mosiah 2 sent Ammon to find the people of Zeniff. Ammon saved King Limhi from the Lamanites and King Limhi died about 10 years after being baptized by Alma in 99 BC in the Land of Zarahemla. We know nothing of his posterity. He died at the age of a tree.
Generation 8.5: Mosiah 2 (Son of King Benjamin) Born 154 BC – Died 91 BC (Mosiah 29:46)
Mosiah 2 is one of the few writers whose birth and death years Mormon gives us. He died relatively young at 63 years. His sons and Alma 2 were probably persecuting the church around 100 BC. This implies he likely started having children in his mid 20’s.
The study of Zarahemla and the reign of the Judges
This is where the chronology really starts to get complicated. We have to back up to a few years to the birth of Alma 1 which gets us back to the eighth generation. Even though Alma 1 was 20 years senior to Mosiah 2, their kids were contemporaries. But it is more realistic Alma 1 was 7 generations from Lehi as opposed to 8 generations. The reign of the judges started in 91 BC.
Generation 8: Alma 1 (Unknown father) Born 174 BC – Died 92 BC (Mosiah 29:45)
Mormon gives us the birth and death years of Alma 1. He died at the age of 82 years. If Abinadi died by fire in 148 BC (see chapter headings), Alma gained his testimony and became the leader of the church at the age of 26. He baptized in secret, and then spent time in the wilderness with his followers before returning to Zarahemla around 120 BC. He had to return to Zarahemla after the death of King Benjamin.
Generation 9: Alma 2 (Son of Alma 1) Born 115 BC – Died 72 BC (Alma 45:2)
It makes much more sense if Alma 2 is born in the Land of Zarahemla as opposed to the wilderness, making him missionary age (20 years) by the time he is converted to the gospel after persecuting the church. We have some evidence he was born in the land of Zarahemla (Mosiah 27:16). He had several sons of missionary age in 74 BC, meaning he was having children very soon after his conversion to the gospel at about 21 years. This contrasts to the sons of Mosiah 2 who went on missions while Alma 2 stayed behind to become the chief Judge in 91 BC. Our estimation has Alma 2 “dying” younger than any previous writer at the age of 43. He was on his way to proselyte when he vanished, so he was probably just killed in a stampede of wild horses or something else on the way.
Generation 10: Helaman 1 (Son of Alma 2) Born 94 BC – Died 55 BC (Alma 62:52)
We have to assume a lot here to determine the birth of Helaman 1. Assuming we have the correct dates for Alma 2 and we use the suggested date for Alma 2’s conversion at 95 BC in chapter headings, and we assume Helaman 1 was born post-conversion of Alma 2, we have him born in 94 BC. Mormon gives us his death date, meaning he was 39 years when he died. You really can’t add any time to his life, 39 years is gracious.
Alma 2 was hardly ever home after he was converted because he was on missions almost non-stop for the next several years. He had just a couple of years near his hometown to make a family.
Generation 11: Shiblon (Son of Helaman 1) Born 75 BC – Died 52 BC (Alma 63: 10)
The rest of the Book of Mormon chronology should have went through Shiblon, but he died at the age of 27. We know it was not a very sudden death because he verbally and/or physically gave the plates to his brother Helaman 2. This is one of the most interesting stories left untold in the Book of Mormon. He is the youngest writer to die by far. He probably had kids, but they were too young to get the plates so we just follow Helaman 2’s lineage from here.
Generation 11: Helaman 2 (Son of Helaman 1) Born 72 BC – Died in 38 BC (Helaman 3:37)
If Helaman 2 received the plates when he was 20 years, we get his birth date at 72 BC. We know he died in 38 BC making him 34 years when he died. There is definitely a story here with both righteous brothers dying at such young ages. Luckily, he started having kids early on in his 20’s, or else we would have had to jump lineages again.
Generation 12: Nephi 2 (Son of Helaman 2) Born 50 BC – Died 01 AD (3 Nephi 1: 1-2)
We don’t know when Nephi 1 was born, and he could be slightly older than the 50 BC birth date we give him, but it’s a moot point other than to say he was probably the youngest prophet at the age of 12. We are told by Mormon, Nephi 2 simply gave charge to Nephi 3 concerning all of his affairs just prior to the birth of Christ in AD 1. Nephi 2 then pulled an Alma 2 and walked off at the age of 50 years never to be seen again.
Generation 13: Nephi 3: (Son of Nephi 1) Born 20 BC – Died 56 AD
Nephi 3 is known as the disciple because he was the prophet prior to Christ’s visit and became a member of the quorum of the 12 apostles after Christ visited the Americas. We assume he was born at least 20 years prior to receiving the plates giving us a 20 BC birth date. We know he died before 79 AD, but just for fun we assume he died in 56 AD which is the age of a tree (76 years). He was having kids into his 50’s.
Generation 14: Nephi 4 (Son of Nephi 2) Born 34 AD – Died 110 AD (4 Nephi 1:20)
Nephi 4 was considered the first generation of Christ (4 Nephi 1:18) and he was dead at 110 AD. If he was born at the time of Christ’s death, this also makes him the age of a tree just like his father when he gave up the ghost. He was having kids into his 60’s.
Generation 15: Amos 1 (Son of Nephi 3) Born 96 AD – Died 194 AD (4 Nephi 1:21)
We know Amos lived a long time. He kept the plates for 84 years until he died in 194 AD. So when did he get the plates? We bend our long standing rule of 20 for this study and give the plates to Amos 1 when he is only 14 years old. It sounds better to have him born when Nephi 3 is in his 50’s instead of making his birth date younger and his dad being really old. We can pretty confidently say he lived into his late 90’s while still having kids as late as 97 years!
Generation 16: Amos 2 (Son of Amos 1) Born 184 AD – Died 305 AD (4 Nephi 1:47)
We have to break the 20 rule again and given the plates to Amos 2 when he is only 10 years old because his dad dies in 194 AD. With this birth date, we can still give Amos 1 more time to make more children (Ammaron). This still gives us a lifespan of 121 years for Amos 2! With genes like this, maybe we should make Amos 1 born earlier, like around 66 AD?
Generation 17: Ammaron (Son of Amos 1) Born 194 AD – Died 321 AD (4 Nephi 1:48)
Sure, Ammaron could have been born more than one year prior to his father’s death, but we know he lived until at least 320 AD making his lifespan a minimum of 126 years. He wins the Book of Mormon longevity war. Unfortunately, we don’t know anything about his family. He was born in one of the most pacific times of the Book of Mormon, and died in one of the most war-torn times. He likely had several sons who were killed in the ending war with the Lamanites. As a result he prepared a “sober child” named Mormon to take the plates.
Generation 18: Mormon (Father of Mormon) Born 260 AD – Died 320 AD
This is all a guess, but a great trivia question is asking who Mormon’s father was. Because Ammaron lived for so long, Mormon the elder could even be put into generation 18.5 if we wanted to.
Generation 19: Mormon (Friend of Ammaron) Born 310 AD – Died 386 AD (Mormon 2:2)
We know when Mormon was born and when he received the plates. His death date is not exactly given. The battle of Hill Cumorah was probably around 385 AD and he was hunted down and died after that with all other survivors except his son Moroni. This makes him also the age of a tree at his death, although he was brutally killed by the pursuing Lamanites. He was having kids as late as 40 years.
Generation 20: Moroni (Son of Mormon) Born 350 AD – Died 426 AD
The birth date of Moroni is a complete guess; it could go 10 years in either direction from 350 AD. He died after he buried up the plates in 421 AD. This makes him too tired to carry the plates at the age of 71 years so he hides them up and wanders around the wilderness for another 5 years until he is transfigured at the age of a tree.
A study of the Book of Ether
The Book of Ether compares itself to the bible and then ties into the Book of Mormon. Ether himself gives us an almost complete genealogical history of his ancestors. By our study, the Brother of Jared was a contemporary of Nimrod and they were both the third generation from Noah, who was the 9th generation from father Adam.
Ether lists 30 names of his direct ancestors. If you include Ether and assume Coriantumr was a generation later, you have about 32 generational names. Unfortunately, Ether admits the list is incomplete and skips the names of some of his ancestors in the original chronology. In Ether 1, there are three specific instances where Ether states the son “was a descendent of” another person. However, “son of” and “was a descendent of” seems to be interchangeable. Ether calls himself a “descendent of Coriantor” in Ether 1, but then says in Ether 11:23 he is the “son of” Coriantor. Also, In Ether 1, Shez is said to be the “son of” Heth, but in Ether 10:1, it says Shez “was a descendant of Heth.” There are other instances as well Aaron/Heth (Ether 10:31) and Ahah/Ethem (Ether 11: 11). Why is there such an ambiguity between the phrases “son of” and “descendant of”?
So, we can assume there is only one chronological skip in the book of Ether: Between Morianton/Riplakish. This incompleteness leaves us missing about 11 names of ancestors. This begs the questions, why would anyone give a genealogy that is only 75% complete? What would we think of the Bible if it did this with the genealogy of the Jesus? The Bible gives us 42 straight names from the time of Nimrod to contemporaries of Coriantumr. It then continues all the way to Jesus. Does this incompleteness in Ether make this “…the most correct book…”?
Also, compare Ether 1: 11-12 with Ether 11: 4-5. We get two spellings for the son of Com: Shiblom and Shiblon. Which is correct? In the Book of Mormon Comparative5 by Dan Wees, it shows the ‘Original Manuscript’ and the ‘Printer’s Manuscript’ for the early editions of the Book of Mormon have this exact same mistake. Royal Skousen blames this mistake6 on Oliver Cowdery.
We learned a lot from this study. We learned most writers lived long lives and were having children past normal child bearing ages. Most writers re-married to continue having children. The plates were generally not passed on to the first-born son, rather to one of the last-born sons whether they were righteous or not. There are a lot less generations in the Book of Mormon than one would expect based upon historical research. The Book of Ether has its own problems to include misspellings and ambiguity. It also has its own lack of generations mostly due to an incomplete genealogy.
Despite these errors and inconsistencies, the Book of Mormon can stand upon itself in its own chronology. There are no major problems with the chronology. This leads one to admit the book is either a true historical document or it was produced by a “learned man.” The Book of Mormon was not written in a short amount of time or told from memory. If it is not historical, someone spent A LOT of time to make sure there were very few mistakes. Whether you believe in the divinity of the Book of Mormon or not, I hope you learned some foundational information for some of our favorite childhood heroes.
I did this study for my own personal reasons. I am open to feedback via e-mail. I hope one way or another you will be able to use some of the information provided here to help your overall understanding of the Book of Mormon.
-Colt Kalcich 9/21/17 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
How to read Addendum 1:
^ gives the age of the father when the corresponding writer is born.
545 Gives an exact year for a birth, death or event which gives a Book of Mormon reference in the study
~645 Gives an approximate date for a birth, death or event based upon explained rules or other information given
*Denotes important events with the corresponding year
The left column gives the basic chronology of the writers from start to finish. The right column including Zeniff, King Noah and King Limhi shows how interconnected the timeline is.
How to read Addendum 2:
Most of the genealogy was taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Genesis_patriarchs.
Jesus’ genealogy was taken from Luke 3:23-28 or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogy_of_Jesus
Adam was born in the year 3988
The missing generations of Ether were just guesses on where they would be in comparison to the Genesis Patriarchs and the Book of Mormon writers.