Tomorrow’s GD lesson begins with these verses from Mosiah 25:
2 Now there were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness.
I planned to use this text to make a comment about whether there were “others in the land,” since the vast numerical disparity between the Nephites and Lamanites (who at the time of original separation were more or less equal in number) would seem to support the position that there were indeed others in the land, and that the term Lamanites is being used generically for those opposed to the Nephites (as the BoM explicitly tells us). My focus in making that point was going to be on the numerical disparity between the Lamanites and the Nephites. But as I thought about it, I realized that this passage actually reflects an even more dramatic rationale for accepting the presence of others in the land.
The reason this other rationale occurred to me was a total fluke. Last week I had hoped to talk a bit about the stolen daughters of the Lamanites, but we were almost out of time so my comments on that topic were brief. I thought I might say a few more words about it at the beginning of tomorrow’s lesson, along the lines of this old blog post of mine.
As you may recall, in that old blog post I compared the stolen daughters of the Lamanites to the famous story of the Rape of the Sabine women as recounted by Livy and Plutarch. In the story, which dates to the legendary time of Rome’s founding in the eighth century B.C.E, the Roman tribe under King Romulus consisted almost entirely of men. While that can be an efficient thing for military purposes, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that without women and marriage the tribe will cease to exist after a single generation. The surrounding tribes feared the Romans and therefore denied them rights of intermarriage, so the young Romans became desperate to obtain wives, which led to the famous raptio [abduction for marriage] as recounted in the story.
Thinking about that story turned my attention from the numerical disparity between the Lamanites and the Nephites to that between the people of Zarahemla (= Mulekites) and the Nephites. Let’s reflect for a moment on where the Mulekites came from.
Mulek was a son of Zedekiah, the king of Judah. Zedekiah had been allied with Babylon, but he foolishly listened to advisers who pushed him to ally with Egypt instead. At some point it became clear Babylonian forces were coming to exact severe punishment on Zedekiah. And so apparently Zedekiah, realizing that he was toast, took steps to save the life of his (oldest?) son Mulek (possibly = the Malkiyahu the son of the king mentioned in Jeremiah as several Mormon scholars have suggested). If his oldest son (or one of the oldest), Mulek probably would have been about 15 years old at this time.
Zedekiah sent his son to Egypt in the effort to save him. Since he had allied with Egypt he obviously had official friends there; it was the logical (and perhaps only) choice for a destination to keep his son safe. In fact, Zedekiah then takes his officials and leads the Babylonians on a wild goose chase to Jericho. There he is finally captured by the Babylonians, who kill his (other) sons while he watches, then blind him and carry him back to Babylon. (Is it possible I wonder that Zedekiah intentionally led the Babylonians north and east away from Jerusalem so as to increase the odds that his son, traveling south and west [IE exactly the opposite direction], would successfully reach Egypt?)
Zedekiah of course would not have sent his son alone on such a journey, but with a guard or entourage, small enough to be inconspicuous but large enough to be able to protect him from brigands on the journey (half a dozen? a dozen?).
Recall that when the Lehites made their journey, the purpose was explicitly that of colonizing the new land. That is why Lehi sent his sons back to get Ishmael and his family, and critically Ishmael’s five daughters. But the purpose behind Mulek’s journey was not colonization of anything; it was to get the boy as far away from the power of the world superpower of the time–Babylon–as quickly as possible. So it seems doubtful to me that there were any women in the entourage making the journey.
One might think that once the group made it to Egypt they would be safe and could stop. That probably would have been true for official, governmental purposes. But he would have remained susceptible to kidnapping by people willing to sell him to the Babylonians for a rich reward. So the group didn’t just stay in Egypt; they continued west desperately trying to put as much distance between themselves and Babylonian influence as possible.
At some point they apparently contracted with Phoenician sailors to get even further away. (Exactly where they thought or hoped they were going is unclear, and perhaps didn’t matter that much to them so long as it was far from Babylonian influence.) A large Phoenician ship that could have made the transoceanic journey would typically have a crew of at least 20–all men.
So by now I trust you see where I’m going with this. The 30 or so people on board the Mulekite vessel were in all likelihood all men or, if there were some women, they would have been a small number, no more than 10% of the total. After a long ocean voyage they arrive in the New World. If they were all men–and there were no “others in the land”–they would have died out after a single generation, just as the Roman tribe would have died out but for the raptio of the Sabines. If there were a small number of women on board, conceivably they might have limped along as a people, but there’s no way they would have far exceeded the Nephites in population as Mosiah 25 asserts. That the Mulekites not only survived but actually flourished and far outnumbered the Nephites at this time provides prima facie evidence that there were preexisting women available in the New World with whom the Mulekite men could mate and preserve their society.
 For those unfamiliar with the argument from population dynamics (and other reasons) for the presence of others in the land, see the seminal treatment by John L. Sorenson, “When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There?” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1/1 (1992) (A pdf is available online, just do a google search). (For those who do not believe in BoM historicity, just consider this question in terms of the internal logic of the text.)
 It is possible that instead of being an older son Mulek was the youngest son, perhaps even a baby. In such a case women (two? three?) might have accompanied the group as wetnurses. This strikes me as a less likely possibility than Mulek being an older son.
 If the ship landed with no other human beings around, 30+ men and a small number of women, it seems likely that many of the men would have killed each other off in the competition for the small number of women. The sexual imbalance in that situation would have been extremely destabilizing and very well could have led to their destruction as a group.