17. Who Were the Twenty-four Survivors of the Final Battle?


17. Who Were the Twenty-four Survivors of the Final Battle?

Copyright © 2015 by Jerry L. Ainsworth


The Maya have a great affinity for using numbers to express religious ideas and other unique concepts in their culture. This fact caused me to wonder whether certain numbers used in the Book of Mormon may also have special meaning.

Principal among the numbers I have found used in the Book of Mormon is the number twenty-four:

  • There were twenty-four plates of Ether.

  • Mormon was to retrieve the plates of Nephi from the hill Shim when he was “about twenty and four years old.”

  • There were twenty-four regiments, and therefore twenty-four commanders, in the Nephite army during the last struggle of the Nephite nation (see Mormon 6:11–15).

  • Although not explicitly stated, it appears there were twenty-four plates in Mormon’s abridgment. (This is explained on pages 237–41 in my book, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni.)

Twenty-four Survived the Final Battle

When contemplating these kinds of issues, we can easily see why Ether would use twenty-four plates for his account. The same is true for Mormon. Each of these records gave an account of a complete/whole time period of the people about whom they were writing. A numerical way to express the fulness of this time period is to express it in a total or full day—twenty-four hours.

To the Maya, and I believe to the Nephites as well, the number of plates used was to convey a specific meaning—as well as that of the record itself. This is one of the ways the Maya used numbers to convey additional information.

When making a record, a writer can predetermine that the account will fit onto twenty-four plates. A writer makes the twenty-four plates and plans his writing accordingly. But it is far more complicated to end a battle where almost a quarter of a million people were killed and end up with twenty-four survivors.

Who Were the Survivors?

Twenty-four people survived the battle of Cumorah, where around 230,000 Nephites were killed. I have often wondered how this came about and who the twenty-four survivors were. It was not until Esteban and I visited the killing fields of the battle of Cumorah that I discovered a possible explanation for the survival of these twenty-four Nephite soldiers.

One of our first discoveries about these killing fields is that some were very far from the hill itself (Cerro Bernal, in the state of Tamaulipas, the one I consider to be Cumorah)—so far, in fact, that it would have been next to impossible for Mormon to see what was taking place with those contingents of ten thousand warriors who were at least fifteen miles away.

I thought I remembered reading that Mormon observed all twenty-three groups of ten thousand from the top of the hill. However, upon rereading the text, I found that was not the case. Mormon states that the only two groups Mormon observed from the top of the hill were (1) his ten thousand men and (2) another group of ten thousand who had been led by his son Moroni. The record does not say he was able to see all groups of ten thousand:

And when they had gone through and hewn down all my people save it were twenty and four of us, (among whom was my son Moroni) and we having survived the dead of our people, did behold on the morrow, when the Lamanites had returned unto their camps, from the top of the hill Cumorah, the ten thousand of my people who were hewn down, being led in the front by me.

And we also beheld the ten thousand of my people who were led by my son Moroni. (Mormon 6:11–12; emphasis added)

Communicating through Runners

If that were the case, how did Mormon know what was happening with the other twenty-two commanders and their contingents of ten thousand? The obvious answer is “runners.”

Each group of ten thousand, excluding his own, would have to send runners back to the command post, which it appears was at the hill Cumorah. The runners would then return with directives from Mormon himself.

Presumably, these runners would report on the status of each regiment of ten thousand until each contingent had been annihilated. At that point, there would be but one person—the runner—remaining from each of these military contingents to report the news of destruction to General Mormon.

Because Mormon did not need a runner for his ten thousand men, that left twenty-two groups who needed runners. Therefore, at the end of the battle of Cumorah, twenty-two runners remained who had survived the battle, as well as Mormon himself and his son Moroni, a total of twenty-four, just as the record indicates.

Mormon 6:10 states that Mormon himself had been wounded and left for dead, but he recovered from his wounds. He also had presumably arranged for his son to be out of harm’s way, as Moroni had to survive the battle so he could complete Mormon’s abridgment (see Mormon 6:6).

It appears that either by way of serendipity or as a result of essential communications (runners), twenty-four Nephites survived the battle of Cumorah. And thus, in a rather ironic way, the message of completeness was conveyed. The twenty-four hours in the day were up, and “the day” was ended, all of which convey a subtle, but powerful, message about those who stray from the teachings of Jesus Christ. That is, for those who apostatize, their day (time) is up.

One Day with the Lord

I also remind readers that the Nephite nation began around 600 BC and ended around AD 400, for a total of one thousand years. When we bear this in mind, the following scripture concerning twenty-four seems to apply to this article: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [twenty-four hours] is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).

Contact me with a question or comment: eljefejla@aol.com


Ainsworth, Jerry L.