2 Nephi 5:5-6, 13-18, 29. Two Nations
It is unreasonable to believe that a people who had left Jerusalem only thirty years earlier could have already divided into two nations (2 Nephi 5:5-6, 13-18, 28).
The critics who raise this question misrepresent the Book of Mormon, since it does not, in the passages noted, use the term “nation.” Even had it done so, this would not necessarily refer to millions of people, as we think of it in our day. Several Hebrew words are sometimes rendered “nation” in the King James version of the Bible. Perhaps the most common of these is cam, which really refers to the paternal clan and makes more sense for the Nephites and Lamanites, who descended from Lehi’s sons. The Book of Mormon does not give us any idea how many people there were at this time, so we cannot assume that there were two huge groups.
Another Hebrew term that is sometimes rendered “nations,” sometimes “gentiles,” is goy (plural goyim). When Isaac’s wife Rebecca was pregnant with twins (Esau and Jacob), the Lord told her, “Two nations [goyim] are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). To be sure, this was a prophetic statement, referring to the peoples who would descend from the two brothers, but in the Book of Mormon we have a similar situation, two peoples being named after two brothers, Nephi and Laman.