Monday, September 21, 2009

Book of Mormon Evidences Revisited

by Joseph W. Grammer

All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2009 Joseph Warren Grammer

Cover: The Hill Cumorah


Author's Note

This work is not intended to be a book of original research by this author. It is, for the most part, a compilation and arrangement of the research done by others. In that light, I do not intend to take the credit for anything presented herein, other than the editing and arrangement of information for the purpose of my own presentation. Although I have done some of my own research on the subject covered, the majority of information will be from other sources.

Where possible, all references to other works will be cited. However, there may be instances where I fail to give credit where credit might be due. If such be the case, it will not be for the purpose of plagiarizing the works of others as being my own. Under any such circumstance, I sincerely beg forgiveness of any I might offend by such neglect, and due credit goes to the originator of the information presented.

Internet web sites will be offered as citations, as well. However, sometimes web sites are discontinued by their owner, and relative URLs may not be operable for that reason; as of this writing, though, the sites offered are in operation. URLs are placed at the end of each chapter, and each is indicated by a number placed in parenthesis in its respective place within the document — Example: (1).

The views expressed in this work are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Any editing and emphasis, such as boldings, capitalizations and italics, may be of the authors doing. In addition, many illustrations are used throughout the book. The sources of some illustration have been lost over time and, therefore, may not be offered. For such I beg forgiveness, as well, for such is not my intention.


The thesis of this book is in support of evidence that the Book of Mormon is a divinely inspired work, and the word of God to His people.

Many get hung up with the claim that the Book of Mormon is the word of the Lord, thinking that the statement means that the Book of Mormon is the “only” word of God. That is not the case, for it is divinely inspired just as the Holy Bible is inspired — both contain His words. So the Bible and the Book of Mormon can go hand-in-hand, and side-by-side, as scripture and God’s word to His people.

Now if this is truly the case, that the Book of Mormon is the word of the Lord, why wouldn’t anyone want to read and consider the Book of Mormon as being what it purports to be — divine revelation and scripture?

At this point, let’s ask, What is scripture? Is it not that which is given by the inspiration of God? Of course it is, for we read in Second Timothy, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Tim. 3:16.) Let’s ask another question: If scripture comes by divine inspiration, how does the Lord inspire the individual to write scripture? That answer comes from Peter: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Pet. 1:21.) So scripture is given by the inspiration of God through holy men as they are inspired by the Holy Ghost.

These holy men are usually called prophets. So let’s pose another question: What is a prophet? John the Revelator gives the answer in Chapter 19 of Revelation. Turning to verse 10 we read in part, “... worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev. 19:10.)

Therefore, if one professes to be a witness of Jesus Christ, that individual must possess the spirit of prophecy; and that constitutes them being a prophet. Therefore, he who witness or teach of Jesus and, at the same time, denies the spirit of prophecy, must be, by this same criteria, a false prophet. If, therefore, someone speaks or writes anything under the influence of the Holy Spirit and testifies of Christ, that individual can be considered a prophet; and his words can be considered scripture. This is exactly what the Book of Mormon claims to be — scripture written by men of God as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost.

As stated, the purpose of this book is to present evidence that upholds the Book of Mormon as being what it claims to be — sacred scripture from God. But one of the claims against the book is that there is a lack of scientific evidence in support of that claim.

Does the lack of anything disprove its existence? Of course not. Take Thomas, for example. When our resurrected Lord appeared to the remainder of the twelve after His resurrection, Thomas was not there. When the disciples told Thomas of the event, Thomas said, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Eight days later, when they were all together, and after Thomas not only saw but handled the resurrected Christ, Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29.) Again, does the lack of visual evidence prove the nonexistence of anything? If that belief is true, then there is no God for in John we read, “No man hath seen God at any time;...” (John 1:18.)

At no time in history has anyone proved the Holy Bible wrong based upon the lack of evidence. But abundant physical proof, which has come forth in recent years, such as the discovery of the “real” Mt. Sinai, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, has provided monumental credibility to the claim that it is God’s word. But such evidence cannot “prove” the Bible to be the Lord’s word to man, for that proof can only come by reading it, applying the precepts presented therein, and through testimony of the Holy Ghost. Accordingly, the lack of something cannot disprove the Book of Mormon from being what it purports to be.

The truly amazing thing about the majority of the facts presented in this work is that they were not known to scientists, much less to Joseph Smith in 1829 ,when the Book of Mormon was translated. The Book of Mormon lacks very little, if anything, when it comes to supporting scientific evidence. In fact, and with all due respect, I personally believe that the Book of Mormon has just as much going for itself, as far as scientific proof is concerned, as does the Bible.

In 1830, when Joseph Smith first published the Book of Mormon, archaeology was hardly a viable science. There is some indication that archaeology didn’t truly begin on a scientific level until 1842 when Paul-Emile Botte excavated Nineveh in 1842 and Khorsabad in 1843; that’s twelve years after the first publication of the Book of Mormon. In his book, A Hundred Years of Archaeology, British archaeologist, Glyn E. Daniel, professor at Cambridge University, expressed the idea that the birth of Archaeology was between 1840 and 1870. He said, “Excavations began with Warren’s work in and around Jerusalem in 1867-70 and the work of Petrie and Bliss at Tell el-Hesy in 1891-92.” (See The Improvement Era, April 1962.)

So as we consider scientific proofs surrounding evidences in favor of the Book of Mormon, we note that its publication was well ahead of the real birth of true archeology and the modern scientific discoveries we will be considering in this study.

This book is not designed to be a work of doctrinal consideration, only objective scientific facts relevant to the subject at hand. Furthermore, this study into the Book of Mormon is not presented for the purpose of converting anyone to Mormonism, for many humble followers of Christ have received a spiritual witness to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon without being members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the “Mormon Church.” The study is strictly my attempt to show, through worldly scientific evidence, that the Book of Mormon, along with the Holy Bible, is also the word of God to mankind today.

As physical evidence continues to mount supporting the Bible as coming from God, so it is with the Book of Mormon; evidences continue to come forth supporting it as divinely inspired as well. With this increasing evidence comes the inevitable conclusion that Joseph Smith must have been a true Prophet of the Living God.

However, the spiritual aspect of the Book of Mormon being of the Lord comes only through reading it and asking the Father, in the name of Christ, if it is true. The only catch is that this must be done with total sincerity and with true intent. God knows our hearts. He knows if we are sincere and truly want to know, and if our intent is to accept its truth or not. He will not cast pearls (Matt. 7:6). But when you ask Him with a sincere heart, with honest intent, He will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Keeping all of this in mind, the reader is invited to truly consider the following evidence in a logical manner — not emotionally. Endeavor to set aside all previously conceived notions about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, regardless from whatever source derived. Open up your reasoning mind, with which God blessed you, and judge the facts of the matter for yourself. Have the courage to honestly accept truth when it is presented, and fear not man; for only God’s approval is of eternal worth.
Background of the Book of Mormon

Before we actually start presenting the evidences for validating the existence of the Book of Mormon, let’s first have a quick overview of the book, itself, and then briefly review its coming forth, especially for those who have little knowledge of the subject.

Short Overview of the Book of Mormon
It is stated in the Introduction of an 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon that it, “... is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel.”

Like the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon is comprised of a series of smaller books; in this case there are 15 such smaller books. In order of presentation their names are: First Book of Nephi, Second Book of Nephi, Book of Jacob, Book of Enos, Book of Jarom, Book of Omni, The Words of Mormon, Book of Mosiah, Book of Alma, Book of Helaman, Third Nephi, Fourth Nephi, Book of Mormon, Book of Ether, and Book of Moroni.

These books were written through the spirit of revelation by ancient holy men, known as prophets, who testified of Jesus Christ. The history contained in the Book of Mormon involves a very brief history of two great civilizations, made up of four specific people, that lived here upon this, the North American Continent.

The first of the two civilizations mentioned in the book came from Jerusalem in about 600 B.C. A prophet of god, by the name of Lehi, was warned by God to take his wife, Sariah, and four sons, Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi, and flee Jerusalem, which he did just before its fall to the Babylonians.

The Book of Mormon tells of their trials in the wilderness and eventual arrival to a “promised land.” When father Lehi died, this family split into two opposing and warring factions. The rebellious Laman and Lemuel revolted against Sam and Nephi. The followers of each group became known as the Lamanites and the Nephites, the Nephites, generally, being the more righteous group. The Book of Mormon tells of the struggles, the wars, and the interrelationships between these two groups.

A third group of people, known as the Mulekites, was encountered by the Nephites approximately 320 years after Lehi’s arrival in the new land. Mulek was a son of King Zedekiah, of Jerusalem; one whom King Nebuchadnezzar did not slay. Mulek, probably with the aid of seafaring associates, also fled Jerusalem just after Lehi, about 586 B.C. Eventually arriving in the new land, also, the people of Mulek merged with the people of Nephi about 200 B.C.

The second civilization mentioned came to this land much earlier at the time that God confounded the languages of the people while they were building the Tower of Babel; this group of people were known as the Jaredites. The beginning of the Nephite civilization very briefly overlapped the ending of the Jaredite people.

The major event mentioned in the Book of Mormon is the personal appearance and ministry of our Lord, Jesus Christ, among the Nephite people after His resurrection. To them He put forth the Gospel of salvation as He did among those in the holy land during His mortal ministry.
Many beautiful truths are taught which have been lost due to erroneous translations of the of the Holy Word. And the Book of Mormon stands as a true witness of the Savior’s redeeming love for all of mankind throughout the world.

From that point forward, all of the Book of Mormon people lived in peace and righteousness for nearly 200 years. However, as the people became more prosperous they also became proud, eventually drifting backwards from their righteous condition to that of great wickedness once again. After many hundreds of years, from about 600 B.C. to 421 A.D., the people of Nephi became so spiritually depraved that the Lord allowed the Lamanites to annihilate the Nephite people.

Brief History of Pre-600 B.C. Jerusalem
To begin our review of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, we will have to travel back in time when the northern Kingdom of Israel was first invaded by Assyria, in 770 B.C., under the hand of Put, one of the Assyrian kings.

Shalmaneser besieged Samaria for three years and destroyed the Kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C., and Sennacherib invaded the kingdom of Judah in the reign of Hezekiah. Between 770-686 B.C. the ten tribes of the northern Kingdom of Israel (House of Israel), together with the larger portion of the southern Kingdom of Judah (House of Judah) were taken captive into Assyria. (2 Kings 17:6-18.)

The Assyrian kings didn’t leave a real estate vacuum, but placed some of their own people in Samaria and in the cities round about. (2 Kings 17:24.) The descendants of these foreigners, who occupied Samaria, were the ones referred to in the New Testament as the Samaritans, who the Jews despised, and of whom Jesus gave the parable of the good Samaritan.

Because of their wickedness, for which they were previous reprimanded by God, Assyria fell to the Medes in about 626 B.C., as previously prophesied by Isaiah (Isaiah 10:5-19), under the hand of Nabopolassar. The prophecies of Nahum against Assyria were probably delivered shortly before the final catastrophe.

Nebuchadnezzar, of the Babylonian empire, invaded Judea about 609 B.C. At the time, Johoiakim was king of Judah (609-598 B.C.). Nebuchadnezzar permitted him to stay on the throne as a vassal, or servant king. It was probably about this time that Daniel was taken to Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar desiring “... certain of the children of Israel,... Children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge,...” (Dan. 1:3-4.)

Shortly thereafter, Johoiakim rebelled, so Nebuchadnezzar had him deposed and put to death, installing Johoiakim’s son Jehoiachin as the new vassal king. It was during the reign of Jehoiachin that Ezekiel was taken to Babylon.

Symptoms of disaffection raised its ugly head again and Nebuchadnezzar re-entered Jerusalem for the third time. He took Jehoiachin and a large portion of the population of the city, along with a large part of the temple treasures, into Babylon, installing Jehoiacin’s uncle Zedekiah as another vassal king.

Through all of this the southern Kingdom of Judah had a series of kings of various repute; some righteous and some not so righteous. But even during the times of good kings, the general populace continued to be idolatrous. Consequently, God sent prophets, such as Jeremiah, to warn the people to repent.

Many Prophets in the Land
The Bible names some of those prophets around about Jerusalem at about 600 B.C., and the Book of Mormon mentions another — Lehi. The Prophet Lehi dwelt at Jerusalem. He had a wife, Sariah, and four sons, Laman, Lemuel, Sam (Samuel) and Nephi.

Lehi preached repentance to the people of Jerusalem, or they would be destroyed. The Book of Mormon tells us that, at the time, “... there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent.” (1 Ne. 1:4.)

Being a student of trivia, I often wondered just who some of these many prophets were, so I did a little research. I found a few prophets who were contemporary to that of Lehi, and some of them were: Nahum (660-606 B.C.), Zephaniah (642-608 B.C.), Habakkuk (626-612 B.C.), Jeremiah (626-570 B.C.), Urijah (608 B.C.), Ezekiel (617-571 B.C.), Obadiah (613-583 B.C.), Daniel (604-520 B.C.), and Baruch (603 B.C.). These are all I have come up with at this time, perhaps there were others.

Flight from Jerusalem
During the reign of Zedekiah, the people were quite idolatrous, worshiping graven images and Babylonian gods and goddesses, such as Baal, Tammuz and Ishtar. Not only that, since God had saved the city of Jerusalem many times in the past, they became a haughty and proud people, thinking that their great city was impregnable. So the proud and wicked, not taking well to being called to repentance, sought to take the lives of some of those who had the courage to follow God’s voice and call them to task for their unrighteousness.

For example, Jeremiah was placed in prison by Zedekiah. But we know that Urijah also prophesied against Judah at the same time Jeremiah did during the days of Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim sought Urijah’s life, so Urijah escaped south as many of the prophets did. But Urijah was soon captured in Egypt by Jehoiakim’s men and taken back to Judah. There Urijah was slain by the King and buried in a common grave. (Jer. 26:20-23; Smith’s, A Dictionary of the Bible, 1966, p. 722.)

The Prophet Lehi was no exception. He was warned by God in a dream to take his family and flee Jerusalem before it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. We know that Jeremiah and Baruch fled south to Egypt, but Lehi headed south in another direction, down the east coast of the Red Sea.

As prophesied by Jeremiah, Lehi, and other prophets, Jerusalem was leveled to the ground. Zedekiah, who Nebuchadnezzar installed as king, disaffected, and for the fourth and last time Nebuchadnezzar took the city in 586 B.C. Zedekiah fled by night but was overtaken in the plains of Jericho where he and his sons were taken captive. Nebuchadnezzar had all the sons of Zedekiah killed while their father watched, and then put out the eyes of Zedekiah so that the last thing that Zedekiah would remember seeing was the death of his sons. Zedekiah later died in chains in a Babylonian prison.

The Book of Mormon informs us, however, that Zedekiah had one son that was not killed. His name was Mulek. Mulek was warned of the plot and somehow escaped the slaughter. He eventually sailed to a new world, along with his servants and followers. (Hel. 6:10; 8:21.)

We are not told in the scriptures much about Zedekiah’s daughters except that he had some, nor does the Bible give any historical account of what happened to them beyond telling us that they were taken to Egypt with Jeremiah, Baruch and others.

It was during this tumultuous political backdrop of wars and invasions, of both the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah, that the stage was set for the rise of a new civilization of people. The seed was planted from which sprang the sacred record of those people, the Book of Mormon.

Modern Day Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon
In the short overview of the Book of Mormon we read earlier, it was mentioned that after many years the Nephite nation became so wicked that they were destroyed by their enemies. During the end of this period, which stretched from about 600 B.C. to 421 A.D., a prophet, by the name of Mormon compiled all the records of his people. He abridging some of the most important points, then left them in the charge of his son, Moroni.

The interesting thing about these people is that their records were kept on thin sheets of gold, or gold plates, instead of parchment or leather scrolls as appeared to be the custom in the middle east. This phenomenon of writing on gold plates will be considered more thoroughly in our study at a later time.

Having been entrusted with the plates containing the abridged records at the time of his father’s death, Moroni proceeded to add some of his own account pertaining to the demise of his people. Upon completing this, he sealed those plates in a stone box, and hid the box in a hill which was known by his people as Cumorah. This is the same Hill Cumorah found in up-state New York today.

The records remained in that hill, undisturbed, for nearly 1,400 years until, in 1823, this same Moroni, now a resurrected being, appeared to the young man, Joseph Smith, Jun., and gave him information concerning the buried plates and the ancient people mentioned thereon. He also gave Joseph instruction relevant to their eventual recovery and translation. Three years later, Joseph Smith was instructed to retrieve the plates, which he did.

It is interesting that, as word spread concerning his story, he was ridiculed and disbelieved as being a fabricator of a great lie. Yet, as knowledge got around of Joseph having the golden plates, some tried, on various occasions, to steal those plates which they claimed he didn’t have in the first place.

Nevertheless, by the gift and power of God, and by the use of the Urim and Thummim, which Joseph called “interpreters,” Joseph translated those plates from an ancient language and had that translation published, in 1830, at Palmyra, New York, as the Book of Mormon. Because of Mormon’s work in abridging the records of his people, the published book was named after him — the Book of Mormon.

The Urim and Thummim
Mention was made that Joseph Smith used what was called the Urim and Thummim when he translated the plates. Many say they have never heard of such things, being quite ignorant of the Holy Bible. (See Ex. 28:30, Lev. 8:8, Num. 27:21, Deut. 33:8, 1 Sam. 28:6, Ezra 2:63, Neh. 7:65.) The Smith Bible Dictionary (1966), page 723, has the following to say about the Urim & Thummim:

"U’rim and Thum’mim (Light and perfection). When the Jewish exiles were met on their return from Babylon by a question which they had no data for answering, they agreed to postpone the settlement of the difficulty till there should rise up 'a priest with Urim and Thummim.' Ezra 2:63; Neh. 7 :65. ... Urim means 'light,' and Thummim 'perfection.' Scriptural statements. — The mysterious words meet us for the first time, as if they needed no explanation, ... They are mentioned as things already familiar both to Moses and the people, connected naturally with the functions of the high priest as mediating between Jehovah and his people. ... In the blessings of Moses they appear as the crowning glory of the tribe of Levi: 'thy Thummim and thy Urim are with thy Holy One.' Deut. 33:8, 9. In what way the Urim and Thummim were consulted is quite uncertain."

Exactly how Joseph Smith employed the Urim and Thummim in translating is sometimes disputed, but the fact remains that such instruments existed in ancient times for prophets to use for guidance and revelation. Why, then, would it be so strange for God to have the same done today, especially since He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

This is a very sketchy background of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, but it should be enough to set the stage for our investigation for evidences in support of that book.
Lehi in the Wilderness

It will be noted that this chapter, and the next, are not intended to be comprised of original research; rather they are, for the most part, a compilation of research performed by others, so most of what is presented will not be original with me. I will only edit and arrange the information as I see fit for the purpose of my own presentation. With that in mind, this Chapter 2, and the next (Chapter 3), will be mainly comprised of a work by George Potter and Richard Wellington entitled, Lehi in the Wilderness (Springville, Utah; Cedar Fort, Inc., 2003.)

Most of the findings, along with some of the color graphics, will be taken from that book, and citat
ion referencing the book will be noted as, LITW, for Lehi in the Wilderness. Any illustrations used are also taken from that book, unless otherwise noted.

My purpose is not to rewrite the book, but to narrow down the specific facts relevant to our discussion, without all of the very interesting side trips and dialogue that really bring the book alive. At this point, you have probably already noticed that I took the liberty of naming this chapter after the title of that book.

Potter and Wellington were not strangers to Saudi Arabia, who just decided to take an excursion through some of the most inhospitable wasteland on earth
to prove a point. First Wellington had “years of experience in exploring the wilderness of Africa and Arabia,” plus being a photographer of birds in the wild. He had already spent over eighteen years taking numerous desert trips in Arabia visiting archeological sites. Potter, on the other hand had formerly been an amateur explorer in Peru and Bolivia in the Andes, the land of the Incas, exploring ancient ruins.

Admitting that neither of them were scholars of history or archaeology, nor were they linguists; however, they both had lived in Arabia twenty-seven years, had
the wilderness skills to explore Arabia’s dangerous deserts, had lived and worked among the Arabs and heard their history and legends, had available a rich pool of resources of technical experts to draw upon, and they had spent endless hours in libraries and on the internet studying the history, geography, and tribes of the area they were to enter. Not only that, they both were very familiar with the Book of Mormon, and its history. They stated that,

“Often, we would work separately taking the same piece of the text of First Nephi, independently contact leading experts on the subject via the internet, search the racks of the libraries, and then sit down together to discuss our independent conclu
sions. Only then, with a set of thoroughly researched assumptive criteria, did we head to the desert to begin our field studies. The five years of our work together proved fascinating and yielded numerous new evidences that Joseph Smith truly translated an ancient record.” (LITW, p. 12.)

So George Potter
and Richard Wellington were not newcomers to either the area nor the task in which they set out to try and accomplish as they ventured into forbidding deserts of Arabia by Way of the Wilderness.

This work is not in
tended to be a study in doctrine, but only an objective scientific probe designed to validate some of the claims surrounding the Book of Mormon. For that, it will be necessary to address some of the verses within the Book of Mormon. And as we get started, let’s do so from the beginning of Lehi’s flight from Jerusalem into the wilderness. (Right: Map of the old route of the Way of the Wilderness.)

Drawing your attention to the second chapter of the first book in the Book of Mormon, let’s read what Lehi’s youngest son, Nephi, had to say.

4. And it came to
pass that he [Lehi] departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.
5. And he came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea; and he traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea; and he did travel in the wilderness with his family, which consisted of my mother, Sariah, and my elder brothers, who were Laman, Lemuel, and Sam.
6. And it came to pass that when he had traveled three days in the wilderness, he pitched his tent in a valley by the side of a river of water.
7. And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God.
8. And it came to pass that he called the name of the river, Laman, and it emptied into the Red Sea; and the valley was in the borders near the mouth thereof.
9 And when my father saw that the waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea, he spake unto Laman, saying: O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness! (1 Ne. 2:4-9.)

Borders of the Red Sea
These verses are very important in helping to establish the route in which Lehi and his family took as they d
eparted into the wilderness. First off, let’s note that verse 5 points out that they traveled in the BORDERS near the Red Sea.

The mountains in northwest Arabia are called the Hijaz. What is interesting to note is that the word “mounta
ins” means “borders.” There are many scholars of ancient languages who can show that in the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian languages, the word border means mountain. This is also true in the Semitic language. Not only that, but the Hebrew word, “gebul” means “border,” which relates to the Arabic word, “Jabal,” which means “mountain.”

So this is consistent with what Nephi said about traveling “in” the borders near the Red Sea. The word “in” shows that they were “in” the mountains, and “in” a canyon or wadi, not necessarily always along the borders, or edge, of the Red Sea.

Since Lehi and his family departed into the south wilderness near the Red Sea, we can assume that Lehi’s wilderness was actually Saudi Arabia. This is important to note so we can stay on the correct trail as we follow their flight into the wilderness.

Apparently, where they traveled was the area of Midian, where Moses’ high priest father-in-law, Jethro, originated. There are two mountain ranges in Midian, both running north and south; one along what is now known as the Gulf of Aqaba, which empties into the Red Sea, and the other about 20 miles inland. (Left: Al Bada’a in the mountains, and known anciently as Midian, home of Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro.)

Three Days to the River of Water
Since Nephi
said that they traveled “three days” in the wilderness (perhaps by camel) and found a “river of water”(v.6), they figured that somewhere there was a valley and a river of water that emptied into the Gulf of Aqaba, or “fountain” of the Red Sea — the term “fountain” meaning where it began.

In their book, Lehi in the Wilderness, Potter and Wellington stated from their travels in the northwest deserts of Arabia that, “The mountains a
nd valleys were naked of life. ... Hogarth argues that Arabia ‘probably never had a true river in all its immense area.’ The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Agriculture and Water, with the assistance of the U.S. Geological Service (U.S.G.S.), spent forty-four years surveying the kingdom’s water resources. Their study consisted of seismic readings, surface and aerial surveys, and even land satellite photo analysis. They concluded that “Saudi Arabia may be the world’s largest country without any perennial rivers or streams.”

These two authors
noted, “Scientific research has shown that the climate in this part of the world was as arid in 600 B.C. as it is today.” Then they queried, “How could Lehi have found a river in this land? Without a river of water, how can the Book of Mormon claim to be an accurate historical record? Actually, the lack of a river of running water in Arabia has long been a criticism of the Book of Mormon.” There are quite a few wells and oases in the region, but where can be found a river?

The Book of Mormon said that Lehi found a valley and a river, which was about three days journey into the wilderness. (1 Ne. 2:6.) He named the valley, the Valley of Lemuel, and the river he found he called Laman. Potter and Wellington remarked: “Finding the river of Laman would have been a faith promoting experience and a great blessing to Lehi. Finding the river today would seem to fly in the face of critics of the Book of Mormon and the forty-four year survey of Arabia by the U.S. Geological Survey.” (LITW, pp. 5-6.)

The Valley of Lemuel and the River of Laman
In Arabia and northern Africa, the term “wadi” can refer to either a ravine or valley; or to a river channel or water course either wet or dry. The name of the valley under consideration is known by the locals as the wadi Tayyib al-lsm.

What is quite interesting is what these two explorers (George Potter and Richard Wellington) said happened after about a three days journey in the direction taken by Lehi.

“Eight miles north of Maqna, we came to the southern end of the shoreline mountain range. ... Rounding the base of a cliff, we came upon a truly spectacular sight. A magnificent narrow canyon just ahead of us ended in a palm-lined cove. ...

“We decided to walk up the spectacular wadi or canyon. After three and three-quarter miles it opened into a be
autiful oasis upper valley with several wells and three large groves of date palm trees. These wells are known as the water of Moses.... [a] stream ... started in the canyon near its upper end and ran down the wadi virtually all the way to the sea [Red Sea]. From the vegetation in the valley and the erosion on the rocks, it appeared that the small desert river flows continually night and day, year after year. At the time the Book of Mormon was first published, the claim that a river ran in arid northwestern Arabia could not be checked. Western explorers did not venture into this remote area until well after 1830.

“Yet Lehi spoke of ‘a river of water’ that ‘emptied into the Red Sea’ and that was ‘continually running’ (1 Ne. 2:6, 9).” (LITW, p. 9.)

It’s easy
to identify wadi Tayyib al Ism as the Valley of Lemuel, for Nephi was quite detailed in his description of a place no one would expect to find in northwest Arabia: a fertile valley in the “borders,” or mountains, near the mouth of the Red Sea (1 Ne. 2:5, 8); a valley Lehi described as “firm, steadfast, and immovable” (v. 10); with seeds, grain, and fruit (1 Ne. 8:1); that was just a three-days journey into the wilderness (1 Ne. 2:6); and a river with water that actually does flow continually and does empty into the “fountain” [beginning] of the Red Sea (vv. 8-9). Of course the river was not a large river, like the Nile in Egypt (wadi El-’ Arish) or the Snake River in Idaho, but it was sufficient for the needs of Lehi and his family. (Right: River of Laman in the Valley of Lemuel.)

Of the valley and river, Potter and Wellington noted, “Since our initial discovery of wadi Tayyib al-Ism, we have explored the entire Arabian shoreline of the Gulf of Aqaba. There are no other streams to be found in a wadi near the Gulf of Aqaba, and nothing we have learned subsequently has given us reason to change our opinion.”

Continuing the description of the valley and river, they said, “The grandeur of the valley is difficult to describe in words or even portray in photographs... It consists of three sections which we will refer to as the upper valley ..., the canyon of granite, and the lower canyon. The upper valley constitutes an oasis that lies at the south end of a twelve-mile long wadi — known locally as Wadi Tayyib al-Ism — that leads down from the north. The upper valley site is like a pleasant jewel, spread out over approximately one square mi
le with several hundred palm trees and twelve wells that local residents call the Water of Moses.” (LITW, 32-33.)

Seeds, Grain, and Fruit
In 1984, all of Midian and the entire shoreline mountain system, including the entire length of the wadi (save the last four miles), have been classified as having “poor” soil with 0% being arable — totally unfit for plowing and growing.

The first verse of 1 Nephi, Chapter 8, reads as follows: “And it came to pass that we had gathered together all manner of seeds of every kind, both of grain of every kind, and also of the seeds of fruit of every kind."

How could this be if the entire northwestern part of Arabia is so useless for growing? How could Lehi feed his family for many days is such a place? The exception to the rule is the last four miles of wadi Tayib al-Ism, where is found the only sign of edible
vegetation. Of this miraculously small arable spot, the authors said,

“To our surprise we found small patches of a wild grain growing in places along the stream. ...Whether the grains the family harvested were wild or sown, there is ample evidence that the wadi Tayyib al-Ism, unlike the surrounding lands, is capable of growing them.

“Our final answer came in January 1999 when we reached the canyon, well after the time grain would have been harvested. However, no hard rains had fallen in the valley that rainy season. To our delight one of the grasses in the canyon still had large amounts of grain hanging on it. We found this grain growing in five areas of the canyon. Not only did this grain seem to grow in ample quantities in the canyon, it was also easy to strip from the shaft and separate. Using a plastic bag to gather it, we then crushed the bag against the hood of the car for a minute or two. In a total of ten minutes, we separated enough wheat-size grain for several bowls of cereal.” ( LITW, 35.)

Above we noted that Nephi gave us to know that his family gathered and took “... all manner of seeds of every kind, both of grain of every kind, and also of the seeds of fruit of every kind.” (1 Ne. 8:1). Speaking of the seeds of fruit, one they certainly would have taken would have been that of the date, for both the sweet flesh and the pit comprise the seed of the date palm. These dates are the traditional food source for travelers in Arabia. Potter and Wellington wrote that, “Along with the camel, the Arabs consider the date to be one of God’s greatest gifts to them. Without the camel, travel across the desert would have been impossible. Without the date, one of the few foodstuffs that do not perish in the heat of the desert, they would have had nothing to eat. In the wadi canyon of granite and upper valley, dates are found in abundance.” (LITW, 35.)

Lehi Builds an Altar

Verse 7, of 1 Nephi Chapter 2, says that after Lehi found the river of water he, “... built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God.”

Potter and Wellington, in pointing out the dangers of traveling in this arid land, quoted T.S. Lawrence (the real Lawrence of Arabia) as saying, “Even for the very strongest, a second day in summer was all — but very painful, for thirst was an active malady: a fear and a panic which tore at t
he brain and reduced the bravest man to a stumbling, babbling maniac in an hour or two; and then the sun killed him.”

After quoting
Lawrence, they went on to say, “One look at this nearly lifeless landscape, and one can see why the privileged Laman and Lemuel thought they would perish. ... Their first need was to find a source of drinking water. No wonder Lehi built an altar and gave thanks to the Lord when he found a flowing river (1 Ne. 2:6-7, 9).”

The picture at right shows the remains of what appears to be an alter of stone in the wadi Tayyib al-Ism. No one is attempting to claim this is the same alter that Lehi built of stone, but it is an interesting thought, and it does show that alters were used in the area at times in past history. (Above right: An alter of stone in the Valley of Lemuel.)

The Name of Nephi
Potter and Wellington say that, “Given how important the altar was to Lehi, we perhaps have a clue as to the Hebrew origins of Nephi’s name.” And in a footnote attached to this subject they recorded:

“Randolph Linehan cites the Authorized Version of the Bible to English speaking Churches, later referred to as the King James version, published in 1611. An edition published by Cranston and Stowe in Chicago included the Old Testament, Apocrypha, New Testament, and Bible Dictionary. The text had extensive notes. 2 Maccabees of the Apocrypha, 1:33-36 describes the return of the faithful to clean out the temple to initiate temple use during the time of the Priest Nehemiah... ‘And Nehemiah called this thing Nephthar, which is as much to say a cleansing: but many men call it Nephi’ (v. 36).

“In some versions, Nephi is called Naphtha: pure colorless oil which was very rare and found only in certain seeps in Arabia. Some versions calls the substance water (not liquid) and the process nephthar: ritual cleansing, which would be the meaning for the colloquial noun Nephi. The gis
t of this story is that the sacred fire, which was buried by Jeremiah, had turned into a sacred water (liquid) when the exiles returned to Jerusalem in 560 B.C., looking for the temple ark, fire, and instruments. The cleansing of the initial temple sacrifices with the liquid was known colloquially as Nephi, and this took place only forty years or so after Nephi left ‘the land of Jerusalem.’” (LITW, pp. 40, 50.)

Departing the Valley of Lemuel
From the time element mentioned in the Book of Mormon, it appears that Lehi and his family probably stayed in the Valley of Lemuel for quite some time. They had ample food, continually flowing water from the River of Laman, and they were relatively safe from their former pursuers. But the time came that they must depart this place and continue south on their way to Bountiful, and what we know as being the Indian Ocean but which Nephi called, “Irreantum.”

And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish. And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters.” (1 Ne. 17:5.)

But Lehi and his people did not arrive at Bountiful and Irreantum very quickly. They had other places and incidents to experience first. Turning to the sixteenth chapter of Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, let’s read what Nephi recorded there:

12. And it came to pass that we did take our tents and depart into the wilderness, across the river Laman.
13. And it came to pass that we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction, and we did pitch our tents again; and we did call the name of the place Shazer.
14. And it came to pass that we did take our bows and our arrows, and go forth into the wilderness to slay food for our families; and after we had slain food for our families we did return again to our families in the wilderness, to the place of Shazer. And we did go forth again in the wilderness, following the same direction, keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea. (1 Ne. 16:12-14.)

Nephi informs
us that they left the Valley of Lemuel and “traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction,” until they came to a place he called, “Shazer.” The route they took was most likely what was anciently called the “Frankincense Trail.” Further south, from wadi Tayyib al-lsm (the Valley of Lemuel), and through this parched and desolate part of the world, Potter and Wellington came across wadi Agharr. (Left: Wadi Agharr - possible Shazer.)

Here was found some of the most fertile farmlands in northwest Arabia. It was through this land that ran the “Frankincense Trail,” being the only land route down the western part of Arabia to the Indian Ocean. It was “over two thousand miles long, and wound through some of the most forbidding deserts on earth.” This fertile piece of land could very well be the place Nephi was speaking of when he wrote, “And we did go forth again in the wilderness, following the same direction, keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea.” (1 Ne. 16:14.)

The name, "Shazer," seems like a strange name for Joseph Smith to come up with. But let’s check it out. Potter and Wellington quoted Hugh Nibley, a Linguist and Professor of Ancient History, who wrote, “The name [Shazer] is intriguing. The combination shajer is quite common in Palestinian place names; it is a collective meaning ‘trees,’ and many Arabs (especially in Egypt) pronounce it shazher.” (Nibley, Old Testament and Related Studies, pp. 78-79.) They continued by referring to professor Nigel Groom, who refe
rred to the same place as "Shajir," who said the name applies to, “A valley or area abounding with trees and shrubs.” (Groom, Dictionary of Arabic Topography and Placenames, s.v. “Shajir”.)

About fifty miles southeast of the Valley of Lemuel can be found wadi Agharr. It is a fertile valley with an oasis over fifteen miles long, “bounded on each side by high walls stretching up a few hundred feet,” and which was an active trade route in the time of Nephi. Not only that, but Potter and Wellington were told that the best hunting in the entire area is in the mountains of Agharr, which corresponds with Nephi’s statement, “... we did take our bows and our arrows, and go forth into the wilderness to slay food for our families; and after we had slain food for our families we did return again to our families in the wilderness, to the place of Shazer.” (1 Ne. 16:14.) Potter and Wellington recorded:

“Here, after three years of fruitless searching, systematically visiting all the wells in a seventy-five mile radius of wadi Tayyab al Ism, we had finally found Shazer.

“Nephi describes how at Shazer the men went to hunt. It seems likely that there would have been a settlement there if they were to leave the women unattended. At the point where the trail crossed wadi Agharr we found a hamlet called Hymun. A short distance to the east of Hymun, on a small rise on the north side of wadi Agharr, there are a number of ancient ruins. These may well have been the location of a settlement in Lehi’s time. We do not know the date of particular monuments, but wadi Agharr contains the highest density of archeological sites in the Northwest Hijaz, with a large concentration being found next to Hymun. Many of these contain Iron Age pottery known as “Midianite.” These “Midian” sites are dated at late second to mid-first millennium B.C., a period which covers the time that Lehi would have been passing through the area. Though the farms were modern, the presence of archaeological sites shows that the valley was fertile anciently, and there were doubtless farms there since the northwest portion of Arabia was densely populated in antiquity.” (MacDonald, “North Arabia in the First Millennium B.C.E.,” 2:1350.)

Interestingly, Potter and Wellington figured that a trip from wadi Tayyib al-lsm (Valley of Lemuel) to wadi Agharr (Shazer), by camel, would be just about a four day journey. They said, “Here at wadi Agharr is a site that perfectly matches Nephi’s Shazer. It probably has the best hunting along the entire Frankincense Trail. ... it is a four days’ journey from the Valley of Lemuel.”

Another interesting thing about the word, "Shazer," is that in Hebrew it means “twisting, intertwining.” While Potter and Wellington were making this point, they said, “immediately after leaving Shazer the trail became very narrow for a few miles and wound its way through the mountains. ... It seems to us that the choice of the name Shazer may well have been a clever word play by the intelligent Lehi combining the elements of the twisting trail and the fertile valley.” (See LITW, pp. 73-78.)

Also, Nephi referred in his travels of going through the “most fertile parts” of the wilderness on their trek south, which would be a logical thing for them to do. He did not say “part,” singular, as though the fertile area was only one place, but their trail southward took them through many “fertile parts,” plural. (1 Ne. 16:14.) At this point I would like to insert a very large quote from Potter and Wellington regarding this area of Arabia and its relationship to the Book of Mormon:

“If Joseph Smith,
or anyone else, had made up the Book of Mormon, one has to wonder what could have possessed him to state that there were “most fertile parts” in this type of landscape. Here would be an obvious place to show that the Book of Mormon was a fraud. Yet what might at first seem to be a great flaw in Nephi’s text is actually one of the most compelling witnesses for its historical accuracy. Not only were the large oasis towns mostly located on the Frankincense Trail (al Bada’a, Al-Aghra at wadi Agharr, Shuwaq, Shagbh, Dedan, Medina, etc.) but also each of these oases had a farming community associated with it. There is also a second, equally compelling argument supporting the veracity of Joseph Smith’s translation. (Above right: The old town at al Ula, the fertile place known as Dedan in Old Testament Times.)

“In pre-Islamic times there was a series of villages found along a 215-mile-long section of the Frankincense Trail which incorporated the twelve frankincense halt settlements between Dedan and Medina. They were known anciently as the Qura ‘Ar
abiyyah, or the “Arab Villages.” These villages with their cultivated lands were linked together by the Frankincense Trail. Surrounded by thousands of square miles of barren terrain, the cultivated lands stood out from the surrounding desert like pearls adorning a chain along the south-southeast course of the trail. These villages are located in valleys surrounded by mountains, thus Nephi’s reference to fertile parts in the “borders” or “mountains” is in harmony with the geography of this section of the trail.

“The old name for this area is interesting in light of the fact Nephi refers to it as “the most fertile parts.” According to the Saudi Arabian Department of Antiquities and Museums wadi Ula (Qura), at the northern end of the Qura Arabiyyah wh
ere the ruins of Dedan are located, was called Hajar (Hijr) since at least the time of Ramses II, 1290 to 1124 B.C. The related word ajar simply means “farms.” ... Hajar could also be translated “a fertile part of land.”

“Even more interesting is that the name is applied to all the Qura Arabiyyah, for the Prophet Mohammed referred to the villages as the Muhajirun, which means “the fertile pieces of land” (the plural form of Hajar) or alternatively the “fertile parts of land.” The title Muhajirun (fertile pieces) seems only to have applied to the villages that were located on the Frankincense Trail from Egypt, the route Lehi would have taken from the Valley of Lemuel to Medina.

“Thus, as amazing as it might seem, if Lehi traveled on the main Frankincense Trail from Dedan to Medina
, the historical names for this section of the trail were the Muhajirun (“fertile pieces” or alternative translation, “fertile parts”). The villages away from this trail were considered the infertile lands of the Bedouins. In other words, when Nephi referred to the “most fertile parts,” he appears incredibly to have been using the actual place-name for the area that they were traveling in, the Muhajirun.” (LITW, pp. 82-83.)

The Borders
An interesting observation is made by Potter and Wellington when they said, “Nephi only used the phrase ‘in the borders’ in the initial phase of the journey after leaving their second camp at Shazer; he drops the word ‘borders’ after they leave the most fertile parts.” (LITW, p. 62.) The reason for this would be because the Frankinsense Trail travels east of the mountains, so Lehi and his family would not be in the borders by the Red Sea any more. The actual geography matched Nephi’s recording of their travels.

In Summary
Lehi traveling the Frankincense Trail would have had to come in contact with probably the largest of the “most fertile parts,” that of Dedan (Ula). Dedan existed long before Lehi’s time, for both Jeremiah and Ezekiel made mention of it. It was a large and powerful commercial center with trade coming from Egypt, India, Syria, Iraq, and the like. Potter and Wellington visited Dedan, and the following is an interesting observation of their exploration in this part of Arabia:

“We had traveled the most fertile parts and found farms and evidence of ancient settlements all along a more than two-hundred-mile part of the ancient trail. Keohane wrote of the Arabian desert that it 'is a land on the brink of survival.... The desert is too arid to support a settled population, and land impossible to cultivate except around the oases.' The oases have not changed their locations. However, knowledge of most of them, and the course of the Frankincense Trail through them, has become known only recently to the western world.

"We must remember that Joseph Smith was a young man who was raised in the rural backwoods of New York, having only a third-grade education. Unless the unlearned farm boy was able to read classical Arabic and had access to the medieval texts containing the writings of the Arab geographers who traveled this route, it would have been impossible for him to have known of the existence of this unlikely phenomenon; for example, that amidst the vast wasteland of Arabia, the rich farmlands are partitioned off by strips of desert into most fertile parts.

"No reliable record existed of a westerner visiting these most fertile parts of the Frankincense Trail until after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Department of Antiquities and Museums of Saudi Arabia cites: “Charles Doughty was the first who visited al-Ula (Dedan) in 1876 and opened the doors of study and research for the others.” (LITW, p. 92.)

The conclusion of this chapter will be approached, like the previous chapter, by offering a series of questions, such as: How did the slightly educated young man, Joseph Smith, from rural up-state New York, know that:

1. The word “borders” (in the languages of ancient Judah, Arabia, Egypt, and Mesopotamia) meant “mountain”? And that,
2. There were such “borders” or mountains by the Red Sea (1 Ne. 2:5, 8)? And that,
3. A three-day journey into the wilderness would bring you to a valley with a continuously flowing river that emptied into the Red Sea (1 Ne. 2:6, 8-9)? And that,
4. The valley had tall, firm, immovable and steadfast wall as described by Lehi (1 Ne. 2:10)? And that,
5. In that valley would be found seed, grain, and fruit, unlike anywhere else in northwestern Arabia (1 Ne. 8:1)? And that,
6. Alters of worship had been built and used there in the ancient past (1 Ne. 2:7)? And that,
7. The name of Nephi was an actual word during the time of Nehemiah and in certain parts of Arabia? And that,
8. The “most fertile parts” of the wilderness was in this particular area of Arabia (1 Ne. 16:14)? And that,
9. An authentic and ancient name for the “most fertile parts” of the wilderness would be “Shazer” (1 Ne. 16:14)? And that,
10. To reach this part from the Valley of Lemuel (wadi Tayyib al-lsm) they had to travel about four days in a south-southeast direction (1 Ne. 16:13)? And that,
11. The name that Nephi used for this place, Shazer (meaning “many trees”), is a common name used in Arabia and Egypt for this exact type of place with trees and shrubs (1 Ne. 16:13-14)? And that,
12. A trip from wadi Tayyib al-lsm (Valley of Lemuel) to wadi Agharr (Shazer) would be about a four-day journey (1 Ne. 16:13)? And that,
13. In the mountains of Agharr is found some of the best hunting in the area (1 Ne. 16:14)? And that,
14. This same spot was well inhabited during the time of Lehi (MacDonald, “North Arabia in the First Millennium B.C.E.,” 2:1350)? And that,
15. Using the words most fertile “parts” (plural) was a more accurate description of the real terrain in the Hijaz mountains, instead of the words most fertile “part” (singular) would have been (1 Ne. 16:14)? And that,
16. Joseph Smith knew when not to have Nephi make mention of the borders “near the Red Sea” any more, so that the geography alluded to in the Book of Mormon would perfectly match the actual terrain of that specific part of western Arabia about which he obviously knew nothing (1 Ne. 16:14 )?

But we are not through yet. Lehi and his people have not reached Bountiful, nor have they reached the Promised Land. So, let’s continue venturing on down the trail of Lehi and see what other experiences Lehi and his people had.

Land of Bountiful

Nephi makes a distinct difference in his wording in verse 16 compared to verse 14 of 1 Nephi Chapter 16. In verse 14 he uses the words, “most fertile parts,” but in verse 16 he says, “more fertile parts.”

As Lehi and his family traveled south, they encountered fewer and fewer oases and fertile places. Potter a
nd Wellington discovered that in a distance of more than seven hundred fifty miles, there were only five oases. Obviously, Lehi and his people would have encountered some very difficult times by not having water available very often. It is pointed out that the mountains in this area of Arabia are called the Asir mountains, which means “difficult” for obvious reasons to the traveler. So Nephi records that they left the “most” fertile parts for the “more” fertile parts. (1 Ne, 16:14, 16.)

But from the “more” fertile place they continued on further south, where the trail would have covered a distance of almost four hundred miles with only two oases. It was probably in a place like this that Nephi spoke of when he wrote:

15. And it came to pass that we did travel for the space of many days, slaying food by the way, with our bows and our arrows and our stones and our slings.
16. And we did follow the directions of the ball, which led us in the more fertile parts of the wilderness.
17. And after we had traveled for the space of many days, we did pitch our tents for the space of a time, that we might again rest ourselves and obtain food for our families.
18. And it came to pass that
as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel; and after I did break my bow, behold, my brethren were angry with me because of the loss of my bow, for we did obtain no food.
19. And it came to pass that we did return without food to our families, and being much fatigued, because of their journeying, they did suffer much for the want of food. (1 Ne.16:15-19.)

Nephi Breakes His Bow
As verse 18 points out, Nephi broke his bow while hunting and was not able to obtain food for the people, and his brot
hers became angry.

Nephi recorded that things were so tough that not only his elder and rebellious brothers murmured against him, but his father, Lehi, also “began to murmur against the Lord his God...” (v. 20.) In verse 23 we find that Nephi made a bow and arrow out of wood, and then says, “...I, Nephi, did go forth up into the top of the mountain.... And it came to pass that I did slay wild beasts, insomuch that I did obtain food for our families.” (vv. 30-31.) From all indication, it appears that this incident occurred in the southern part of Arabia, much further down the trail from the fertile valleys of Lemuel, Shazar, or Dedan, towards the country of Yeman.

Potter and Wellington estimated that it took place at Bishah, a high wadi of the Asir mountains. They stated, “When Nephi’s bow broke, he needed to quickly construct a new one. He would have needed a quality hardwood that had the unusual characteristic of remaining flexible when it was dead. Most trees in Saudi Arabia are generally short, brittle, and warped. Only a few hardwood species exist, yet Nephi could not have used any old wood to
make a good bow. Over a century ago the notable English archer H. Walrond described the characteristics of wood needed to make a good bow: “The grain should be close, straight, and even; the line dividing the sap and wood should be clear, even and well defined, and it should be free from knots and pins. (Archery, 288.)

Most of the wood in this part of Arabia is brittle and breakes when dry, so could Nephi have found bow wood in the mountains, and if so where? While on the side of Mt. Jasim at Bishah, an Arab was asked where wood for a bow could be found. He point
ed out the Atim tree. The Atim, or olive tree (Olea europaea), is found on both the western and eastern slopes in the Hijaz, Asir and the Yemen mountains. A person knowledgeable on the subject was contacted and it was found that the Atim was used anciently for bows, and that it was the best wood in the world. It is the hardest, closest grained wood of the area, and according to Theophrastus (Flowers of Greece and the Aegean, 115), wild olive wood was used to make hammers and gimlets; also for making arrows, staffs, throwing sticks, and spears (Plants of Dhofar, 216), and Olive seems to be the wood of choice for weapons in southern Arabia.

What is interesting is that on the western and wooded side of the mountain, very few of the Atim oil trees are foun
d. But on the eastern side of the mountain, groves of Atim trees were found above the flats where the Frankincense Trail ran; the exact area west of Bishah where it is believed Lehi would have stayed for a while before traveling on. Another interesting thing is that the extent of where the Atim tree can be found is just a few miles north of Bishah and once the trail left Bishah it was headed away from the Atim groves. But the most abundant Atim olive groves are found just west of Bishah.

Over a thousand years earlier the Egyptians made bows out of Acacia, Tamarisk, and Jujube wood, but those w
oods are not as available as the Atim olive in this part of Arabia. So it is not known for sure, but could it have been this Atim olive tree wood from which Nephi made his bow and arrow? I am certain that the exact choice of wood is not all that important, but it does point out that, according to Arabs, the Atim olive tree is the best wood in the world for bows, tools and weapons; and that such a wood was available to Nephi at the time of his need in southern Arabia. (See LITW, pp. 99-105.)

If the previous
suffering at Bishah, and before, were not enough, Lehi and his people were in for even more hazardous experiences as they reached a place called, "Nahom." Sometime after their arrival at Nahom, Nephi recorded:

33. And it came to pass that we did again take our journey, traveling nearly the same course as in the beginning; and after we had traveled for the space of many days we did pitch our tents again, that we might tarry for the space of a time.
34. And it came to pass that Ishmael died, and was buried in the place which was called Nahom.
35. And it came to pass that the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly, because of the loss of their father, and because of their afflictions in the wilderness; and they did murmur against my father, because he had brought them out of the l
and of Jerusalem, saying: Our father is dead; yea, and we have wandered much in the wilderness, and we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue; and after all these sufferings we must perish in the wilderness with hunger.
36. And thus they did murmur against my father, and also against me; and they were desirous to return again to Jerusalem.
37. And Laman said unto Lemuel and also unto the sons of Ishmael: Behold, let us slay our father, and also our brot
her Nephi, who has taken it upon him to be our ruler and our teacher, who are his elder brethren.
38. Now, he says that the Lord has talked with him, and also that angels have ministered unto him. But behold, we know that he lies unto us; and he tells us these things, and he worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes, thinking, perhaps, that he may lead us away into some strange wilderness; and after he has led us away, he has thought to make himself a king and a ruler over us, that he may do with us according to his will and pleasure. And after this manner did my brother Laman stir up their hearts to anger.
39. And it came to pass tha
t the Lord was with us, yea, even the voice of the Lord came and did speak many words unto them, and did chasten them exceedingly; and after they were chastened by the voice of the Lord they did turn away their anger, and did repent of their sins, insomuch that the Lord did bless us again with food, that we did not perish. (1 Ne. 16:33-39.)

Before Lehi
left Jerusalem he persuaded the companionship of Ishmael and his family, comprised mostly of daughters, to travel with him. Lehi had sons and Ishmael had daughters, the logic of which should be obvious for the survival of a family. But after years of extreme hardship and hazardous travel, they settled for a while in even a more inhospitable place called Nahom. There it was that Ishmael died and was buried. (v. 34.) (Above right: Possible route taken by Lehi into the Wilderness of Saudi Arabia.)

And as the above verses point out, Lamen and Lemuel were at it again, rebelling against their father and younger brother, Nephi. At one point they claimed that he led them away into “some strange wilderness.” (v. 38.) They had already gone throu
gh much unbelievable wilderness as they traveled the Frankincense Trail down the length of western Arabia, so what was so strange about this particular wilderness?

The rebellious
brothers even got the daughters of Ishmael to mummer against Lehi and Nephi, for they said, “Our father is dead; yea, and we have wandered much in the wilderness, and we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue; and after all these sufferings we must perish in the wilderness with hunger.” (v. 35.) What was so different about this place that would bring such a revolt? What was more “strange” about this wilderness that was different from the previous wilderness they had already past through?

wilderness is where the southwestern part of Arabia, the Rub‘ al Khali, called the Empty Quarter, meets the northwestern part of Yemen, known as the Ramlat Dahm, the sands of Dahm. It is one of the most inhospitable places on planet earth, if not the most inhospitable. (Left: Ramlat Dahm, the empty quarter.)

Potter and Wellington commented about their first experience upon arriving at this point of their exploration: “We left the road and followed the old trail [old Frankincense Trail] along the foot of the mountains. Now heading south, we rounded the promontory of the last peak in the range and drove up to get a view of the trail. We were quite unprepared for what we saw. As far as the eye could see, great sand dunes formed in ranks, disappearing into the heat haze of the distance. This was Ramlat Dahm, the sands of Dahm, which marked the southwestern corner of the infamous Rub‘ al Khali, or Empty Quarter. ...”

“As we looked out over Ramlat Dahm, we were dumbfounded. We had never seen anything like this on the trail. This was the first time the trail came in contact with the largest sand dune desert in the world. ... To be lost here would mean almost certain death.”

In their book, Potter and Wellington pointed out that, “Even in this day and age, traveling through the Ru
b‘ Al Khali, even along established trails, is not without its perils. On August 21, 2001, the Arab News newspaper reported the death of fourteen people as they tried to cross the Empty Quarter.”

They continued
by saying, “Here, then, is the possible explanation for the ‘strange’ wilderness of which LamanMap of main trade routes of Lehi’s time. and Lemuel spoke. After leaving Najran the family would have encountered the first huge dune desert on their journey. Southeast of Najran is Ramlat Dahm, an arm of the Rub‘ al Khali. The trail [old Frankincense Trail] skirts to the west of the dunes, hugging the side of the mountains... The sand dunes are huge and the soft sand quickly drains the strength of the traveler.” (Above right: Map of the main routes southern Arabia in Lehi’s time.)

The authors of Lehi in the Wilderness point out a very interesting thing saying that, “Nephi informs us that they tarried at a place that “was called Nahom.” (1 Ne. 16:34.) It has been suggested that the place already had this name since the family do not give the place a name, as they did at Shazer and the valley [of Lemuel]. In fact, there are a number of places in Yemen which bear the name “NHM” (more common variant spellings are: Naham, Nahm, Neham, Nehem, Nehhm, Nihm), which many feel could be identical to Nephi’s “Nahom.” In Arabic vowels are not written down, and while NHM does not have the same emphasis on the second syllable that Nahom does, the word may have been pronounced differently 2,600 years ago. In fact, one would be surprised if it weren’t!” (See LITW, pp. 107-112.)

Entering Bountiful
the old Frankincense Trail, which hugs the side of the mountains and skirts around to the west of the deadly dunes of Ramlat Dahm, Lehi continues from Nahom into what we know as modern-day Yemen and Oman. This old trail helped direct Lehi and company south to the Indian Ocean (which Nephi called “Irreantum”) and the land he referred to as Bountiful, “because of its much fruit.” (1 Ne. 17:5-6.) Considering those verses we read:

5. And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these th
ings were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish. And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters.
6. And it came to pass that we did pitch our tents by the seashore; and notwithstanding we had suffered many afflictions and much difficulty, yea, even so much that we cannot write them all, we were exceedingly rejoiced when we came to the seashore; and we called the place Bountiful, because of its much fruit. (1 Ne. 17:5-6.)

George Potter and Richard Wellington, authors of Lehi in the Wilderness, wrote about their experience as they crossed over the mountain and saw what Lehi and his family might have seen:

“As Lehi ‘s family turned south from Shazer, they would have passed near the groves of frankincense trees that were responsible for the great wealth the inhabitants of Dhofar enjoyed at the peak of the frankincense trade. The family began to climb the desolate inland side of the Qara mountains, and once at the crest of these mountains, they would have beheld the green Salalah plain and the Indian Ocean. Nephi tells us upon arriving at Bountiful that they beheld the sea (1 Ne. 17:5). We can only guess how they must have felt
when they gazed for the first time upon the vast emerald waters of the Indian Ocean — Irreantum. Below them the forty-mile long plain stretched out to the white sandy beaches where they could see the thin white lines of breakers tumbling onto the shore. There may well have been huge groves of coconut palms near the beaches, just as there are today.

“As they descended the pass leading down the mountains, they would have been met with a view of the tree-lined slopes — quite the opposite of what they had seen as they ascended the dry inland side of the mountains. Acacia, wild cherry, olive, sycamore, fig, and baobab trees still flourish there, watered by the annual monsoon rains. After the rains, the hills become awash with green, and waterfalls cascade from the limestone cliffs. Further down the slopes, flourishing frankincense plantations would have been found.

“In contrast to the burning, desolate silence of the Empty Quarter Desert, sweet songs of birds would have filled the cool mountain air. As we walked the slopes of these mountains, we observed cinnamon-breasted buntings calling to each other from the treetops, and African paradise flycatchers sitting lazily on the overhanging branches before darting after insects. In the distant past, it is not difficult to imagine the same kind of birds being startled into flight by the dusty and weary party of travelers as they made their way along the well worn trail. After eight years in the desert, Nephi tells us they ‘were exceedingly rejoiced.’ (1 Ne. 17:6).” (Above right: What Lehi and company might have seen as they crossed over the mountain into Bountiful.)

Now that’s quite a change of scenery from where they had been for the previous eight years after leaving their homeland. This fertile area, known to us as modern-day Yemen and Oman, boasted of groves of banana and coconut palms, mangoes and sugar
cane, and various other kinds of fruit, besides the abundance from the sea. And many of these were probably foreign from the fruit they were familiar with in Jerusalem.

In 1 Nephi 17, verse 5, Nephi stated that along with much fruit they had “wild honey.” However, in Dhofar, honey is still collected from the wild bees. Even today, those bees are considered only “somewhat managed,” and people still collect “wild honey,” which commands a high price. Bees are rare in Arabia, and the Dhofar coast is one of the few places they are found. (See LITW, pp. 121-122, 129.)

Nearly Eastward

Once Lehi and company arrived they turned easterly to the land of Sephar, known today as Dhofar, to where the old Frankincense Trail ended at the fertile Salalah coastal plain of Oman. Of this part of the journey Nephi wrote, “And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward ...” (1 Ne. 17:1.)

Once the old Frankincense Trail came over the Qara mountain from Ramlat Dahm, it veered easterly. But not exactly east, for the coast of Dhofar is approximately 3° off true east from where the eastward trail to Dhofar splits off the main Frankincense Trail. Isn’t it interesting that Nephi didn’t write that they traveled “east,” but that they traveled “nearly” eastward, as we just read. How in the world did Joseph Smith know this three degree difference in 1829? (See LITW, pp. 124.)

They Were Not Alone
Of course, Lehi and his family would not be the only ones in this area. This very fertile and fruitful area was well populated, for it had already been a center of trade and commerce for many years. It was on the coastline of the Indian Ocean where boats came and went from India and the Orient; to Persia (Iran) and Babylon (Iraq) by way of the Persian Gulf; to Africa, Egypt, and points in the Mediterranean; and, of course, the Frankincense Trail stretched toward Jerusalem and other points north.

Those in the Salalah plain have traded with India as far back as 1000 B.C., and the trip along th coast between India and Africa would have taken the sailors straight past Dhofar and the ports of the Salalah Plain. India is the homeland of the mango, muskmelon, rice and sugar, and bananas came from Africa. So many of the fruits considered modern may well have been introduced previously in the first and second millennia B.C. (See LITW, pp. 124.)

Nephi to Build a Ship
After their arrival in Bountiful, Nephi was commanded by God to build a ship to carry Lehi’s family over the seas to another land, and that God would show him how to build it. “And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a
ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters.” (1 Ne. 17:8.) But was this Bountiful, now modern-day Oman, the place where Nephi built his ship? In their book, Lehi in the Wilderness, Potter and Wellington said,

“Stephen Done traveled to Oman to visit khor Kliarfot — a site that some believed to be the place Bountiful — and returned very disappointed. He told us without reservation that it could not have been Bountiful. Why not? Because there were none of the raw materials one would need to build a large ship. Additionally, even if proper materials could have somehow been found there, the site is today an open beach with no protected harbor and there is no evidence that it was anything different in Lehi’s time. Stephen made it clear to us that a large sailing ship could not be launched in shallow water and breaking surf. The Bountiful story, he reminded us, ‘centered around the building of a great ship; one large enough and strong enough to cross two great oceans!’ His advice was, ‘If you want to find Bountiful, start looking for a protected harbor where Nephi could build and launch a large ship.’ He thus provided us with a paradigm shift.

“Everyone before us had been looking for a site that is/was green or ‘bountiful,’ but now Stephen had given us some concrete requirements for Nephi’s Bountiful. The essential ingredient for Bountiful was not fruit, but the resources needed to build a large ship and a place to launch it.” (LITW, pp. 140-141.) But was there large timbers suitable for building such a ship, and could there be such a protected harbor?

Wood for a Ship
Leading experts in Omani marine archaeology uniformly state that hardwood trees tall enough for building a large ship like Nephi’s have never grown in the wild in Oman. There are two exceptions, however, a German marine archaeologist, Norbert Weismann, suggested that such timber might have come from mango and coconut trees that were cultivated on the Salalah plain.

It was discovered that there is one notable exception, the large upper valley of Taqah, wadi Dharbat has produced an area capable of growing large trees, which are the only large trees in Dhofar. And the locals call wadi Dharbat “the valley of the big trees.
” If Nephi had to rely on locally grown timber for his ship, Bountiful would have to have been located along the Salalah plain, the only place in Oman where these trees grow. He could have used, mango, coconut palms and large hardwoods from wadi Dharbat.

In the Book of Mormon Nephi wrote, “Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.” (1 Ne. 18:2.)

Historians tell us that the ships of Nephi’s time were “probably over fifty feet long, pointed at both ends with small or perhaps no decks. They used a quarter rudder, square sails, which were sewn together with coconut ropes instead of fastened by nails.” This style of boat was definitely not suitable for taking a large family over thousands of miles of unfamiliar sea ways. But Nephi did not build a ship as man did, the Lord gave him instruction on how to build it. (See LITW, pp. 124, 130-133,140.)

Ore for the Tools
Nephi inquired of the Lord where he could find ore to make tools with which to build the ship. "And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me? And it came to pass that the Lord told me whither I should go to find ore, that I might make tools." (1 Ne. 17:9-10.)

We are not sure what kind of ore was used by Nephi. In 1998 five researchers spent nine days in Oman researching ore in the country. They found very small deposits of Magnetite and Hematite. These small deposits would relate to Nephi’s needing help from God to find the ore. Professor Ronald A. Harris, said that, “The Dhofar region is one of the few places throughout the Arabian Peninsula where the ore deposits are exposed,” and Professor Jeffrey D. Keith reported, “These deposits occur in two areas along the southern Oma
ni coast in concentrations sufficient to have enabled Nephi to make tools for building his ship.” (See LITW, p. 130.)

Two Stones for the Fire
Nephi said that after he made the bellows from skins of beasts to blow the fire for molting ore, that he “... I did smite two stones together that I might make fire.” (1 Ne. 17:11.) Potter and Wellington said that “Flint is usually the stone of choice for making sparks,” and that around two sites, between Shisur and Taqah, they found “flint lying in abundance on the surface,” which Nephi could have simply picked up off the ground. Of course this may not be any big proof of the story of Lehi’s, but to me it’s fascinating how it fits so easily.

A Harbor for Building and Launching
The ship that Nephi built must have taken quite a long time to construct, for it had to carry quite a few people, Lehi and his wife and five sons, Ishmael’s family, and all of Lehi’s grandchildren, and how many others might have been with them, such as servants, we do not know. But we do know that at least one other went with them, and he was Zoram, whom Nephi brought back from Jerusalem after Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban (1 Ne. 4).

The ship had to be large enough to have an ample size deck so the people could dance (1 Ne. 18:9); large enough to carry enough food and water for a long and tedious crossing of seas they knew nothing about; large enough to carry their tools, ext
ra material for sail and ship repair due to damage (vv. 13-15); tents, weapons, personal gear, etc. (v. 23); large enough to have living or sleeping quarters for all aboard; and large enough to survive large storms at sea (vv. 13-15). So for a ship of this size, where could a protective harbor be found suitable enough for its construction and launching?

A large survey
was undertaken, and although there are other ports up and down the coastline, there is only one port adequate enough to have served a ship as large as was needed by Nephi’s ship. And that was a port near modern-day Taqah, the port of Khor Rori in southern Oman, called Moscha during Nephi’s time. It was stated that, “Our findings are clear and definitive in showing that the strongest candidate for Nephi’s harbor was Khor Rori. On the one hand, it is very doubtful that a large ship could have been built or launched at any of the other sites. On the other hand, Khor Rori had every resource and feature needed by Nephi. It has been suggested that Khor Rori has been in use as a port as far back as 3000 B.C. (LITW, p. 152-153; see pp. 139-160.) (Above right: Harbor where Nephi could have built his ship.)

It is figured that at the time that Greek ships traveling between India, Persia, Arabia and Egypt visited the harbor at Moscha, few places would have provided Nephi with such a wealth of maritime tradition of sea traveling and shipbuilding.

When Lehi and family crossed over the mountains into Bountiful, they saw “many waters” (the Indian Ocean) which they called Irreantum. “And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish. And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters.” (1 Ne. 17:5.)

Interestingly, based on ancient South Semitic language construction, a reasonable (though uncertain) theory for the origin of irreantum is “irre-an,” meaning “watering,” plus the root “-tm” or “-tum,” meaning “wholeness” or “completeness.” The combination “irre-an-tum” can convey the meaning of “watering of abundance” or, as the Book of Mormon puts it, “many waters.” So such a South Semitic construction from the area in which Lehi traveled makes sense. (“Irreantum”, with Brian Hauglid and John Gee, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 11, no. 1 (2002): 90-93, by Paul Y. Hoskisson.)

In Summary
In his work, Through the Arabian Desert, p. 152, Dr. Eugene England said, “Most startling, the Book of Mormon provides exactly all the details of Salalah.” And it is not only startling, but also amazing that Joseph Smith had the inspiration to record such a change in Lehi’s surroundings as stated in the Book of Mormon, so it perfectly agreed with the actual geography, fertility and bounty of the land.

So in summarizing this chapter, which is a continuation of the previous Chapter 2, lets present a few more inquiries, such as how did the unlearned Joseph Smith know that:

1. He needed to make word changes, such as when Lehi left the “most” fertile parts for the “more” fertile parts, and that it got even more difficult as they continued traveling south (1 Ne, 16:14, 16-19)? And that,
2. He knew that a wood suitable for making a bow and arrow was available to Nephi at the time of his need (1 Ne. 16:23)? And that,
3. This wood (Atim olive tree wood in this case) is most plentiful in that same part of Arabia in which Lehi traveled and probably stayed for a while? And that,
4. There was a place of extreme concern as Lehi and his people arrived at Nahom, which known as the Rub‘ al Khali (the Empty Quarter) where is found the Ramlat Dahm, the sands of Dahm (1 Ne. 16:33-39)? And that,
5. The name, Nahom, is a common form of a place name, with similar spelling, in Yemen? And that,
6. Joseph Smith had the inspiration to record such a change in terrain, from Ramlat Dahm to Bountiful, as stated in the Book of Mormon, so it perfectly matched the actual geography of the land (1 Ne. 17:5-6)? And that,
7. By having Nephi say they traveled “nearly” eastward, instead of just simply “eastward,” was to also prove out geographically (1 Ne. 17:1)? And that,
8. Calling the name of the place “Bountiful, because of it’s much fruit,” was to be justified by the actual presence of much fruit in that same locale (1 Ne. 17:5-6)? And that,
9. Joseph Smith’s mentioning the “wild honey” situation in Oman was to prove out correct (1 Ne. 17:5)? And that,
10. Good hard wood trees could be found to build a ship (1 Ne. 17:8, 18:2)? And that,
11. Proper metal ore, for Nephi to make tools, would be easily available (1 Ne. 17:9-10)? And that,
12. Finding flints, for striking fires, would be an interesting fit into Nephi’s story (1 Ne. 17:11)? And that,
13. There is only one place in the entire coastline suitable for building and launching a ship as large as Nephi had to build to cross the vast seas to the Promise Land? And that,
14. The use of the word, Irreantum, made sense considering South Semitic language construction (1 Ne. 17:5)? And that,
15. All of these things must agree, exactly, with the geography of southern Arabia and Oman about which Joseph Smith could hardly have known anything?

The majority of the information presented in this and the preceding chapter, and alluded to in the questions presented, was not known to most of the world in 1829, let alone to a young man of 24 years of age, raised in the rural backwoods of New York, with only a third-grade education — not known until years after his death. Could such a possibility be very likely? The thinking man with a logical brain to reason with will say, emphatically, No!

Of course I have heard some say that, the reason for all of this is that Joseph Smith was very cleverly inspired of Satan when he brought forth the Book of Mormon. But this same argument could be used by critics of the Holy Bible as well, or any other good book for that matter. Even though Satan can inspire man to do evil, that’s a cheap argument that can never hold water.

The same argument is often used against anything a particular critic can’t prove otherwise. This type of response is an emotional one based upon fear — fear that any rebuttal against the validity of the Book of Mormon being of God cannot be validated objectively. When one has no other grounds upon which to base a response, such shoddy retaliations as this is often employed.

There are many more examples that could be given to help establish the Book of Mormon as being inspired of God, but for the sake of time and space, the forgoing should be enough to satisfy the honest seeker of truth. The claims and scientific data should be conclusive and irrefutable, to the rational thinking mind, that the Prophet Joseph Smith had something more going for him, in bringing forth the Book of Mormon, than a fertile imagination, or that the devil made him do it.

In this study (comprising Chapters 2 and 3) at least thirty (31) points have been brought out concerning Lehi’s travels in the wilderness of western Arabia, into Yemen and Oman, and building and launching a large ship, about which Joseph Smith knew absolutely nothing, nor could he have.

Of course a few points he could have guessed at. But even if he was guessing, he was able to guess so accurately that he got all of those guesses right, with nothing having been proven wrong. So, objectively and scientifically speaking, what conclusions can be arrived at from the facts just presented in the forgoing two chapters? To my mind it is that Joseph Smith was, indeed, inspired of God to have had written such an accurate description of an area, on the other side of the world, about which he could not have known anything.

For the sake of interest, I would like to present a very large quote from the book, Lehi in the Wilderness, for the sake of understanding the magnitude of what Nephi had to experience in getting his ship built, launched and sailed across the seas. Reference will often be made to someone with the name of Severin; this is Tim Severin, a Marine archaeologist, who built a replica of an Arab ship and sailed it to China. Now for the quote from pages 148-150 of Potter’s and Wellington’s book:

“It is probably a fact that when Nephi arrived at Bountiful, his knowledge of shipbuilding was nil. John L. Sorensen goes so far as to state: “No hint can be found in the text that anyone in Lehi’s party had any knowledge whatever of nautical matters.” Linehan believes that to build his ship Nephi needed access to very skilled shipwrights. Nephi could not have developed the required expertise in Jerusalem. While the Lord gave Nephi the instructions on how to build the ship, he did not give him the lifetime of experience that shipwrights need to perform their craft. Nephi built a ship that was large and of fine workmanship (1 Ne. 18:4).
“It takes many years of experience to take a ship’s blueprints and turn them into a sea worthy vessel. Severin noted the skills required of the shipwrights who constructed his replica:

‘Whether cutting a foot-thick lump of timber to size, or shaping the finest sliver of wood for a delicate joint, 90 per cent of the green shirts’ [his shipwrights] work was done with hammer and chisel; only very reluctantly did they pick up a saw or a plane. The soft iron chisel was their tool, and with it, they could work wonders. They could carve a plank into delicate curves, or they could shape the 60-foot spar into a taper as if it had been turned on a giant lathe.’

“To prevent leaks ... planks had to be planed to 1/64 of an inch in exactness. How could Nephi have learned to do this if not at the side of an experienced shipwright? The same can be said for sailing a large multisail ship. It takes years to learn and practice the skills needed to master a large sailing ship at sea.

“One could argue that it was no problem at all for the Lord could have simply supplied Nephi with all the materials, knowledge and skills he needed on request. We refer to this as the “storybook” version of Nephi’s ship. It is a scenario that we think grossly misrepresents how the Lord deals with his faithful servants and significantly undervalues what Nephi actually accomplished through applied faith and works, and it also leads to a mythological rather than factual understanding of the Book of Mormon. Besides, the storybook version makes no sense. If the Lord simply wanted to supply everything for Nephi, one miracle after another, why build a ship in the first place? Why not have them walk across the ocean?

“The likelihood of the Lord-did-it-all theory seems even more doubtful if one considers the context in which the ship was built. Why would the Lord suddenly start intervening in every matter, after having Nephi and his group suffer great afflictions for eight years in the desert where they nearly died and having them later almost drown in a great tempest at sea? Nephi seems to have had to suffer through each ordeal the same as any man. The sun shone just as hot on him as anyone else, the rain fell just as wet on him, and the wind blew just as hard.

“Like the desert journey, building a ship was part of Nephi’s development under the hand of the Lord. He, too, would have had to learn line upon line, precept upon precept, as all who had gone before him or would go after. The Lord seems to have made a pioneer par excellence of the faithful Nephi, who on his journey acquired all the basic skills necessary for the creation and settlement of an ancient society in the strangeness of the promised land.

“Building a ship required Nephi to learn from local tradesmen how to smelt ore to make tools, to cut stones to form anchors, to work wood within very tight specification, to weave sails, to fabricate rope, to mold pots for storing water, to tan hides for bellows and how to fasten the ship’s riggings. Culminating with the building of a great ship, Nephi’s journey was, we might say, his university. In the New World he became a ruler and teacher (2 Ne. 5:19), passing on to a new society a storehouse of knowledge that took civilizations thousands of years to acquire. Nephi personally taught his people the basic skills of metallurgy (2 Ne. 5:15), high quality wood working skills — manifested in the wilderness family’s ability to construct a temple of “exceedingly fine” workmanship (2 Ne. 5:16), building construction, and to work in all manner of woods (2 Ne. 5:15).

“Nephi’s account of building and sailing the ship is far from a storybook. As Shakespeare penned, “Ships are but boards, sailors but men.” Nephi and his helpers built an actual ship from timbers, and real men — not angels had to learn to sail it. Nephi himself taught this principle in terms of personal salvation: “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23).

“When it came time for Severin to build his replica, he had already constructed a small sailing ship and sailed it across the Atlantic. The shipwrights he found from the Laccadives Islands were effectively “the only men left in the world who still retained the ancient art of sewing boats of oceangoing size.” Severin wrote of his shipwrights: “Their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers, and untold generations before that, had been carpenters.... They had begun work as soon as they were big enough to pick up a mallet.” He also wrote:

‘The accuracy expected of the carpenters was extraordinary. Because the hull was being stitched together, it could not be caulked: that is, it would not be possible to stuff filling material into any small cracks between the planks before the ship was launched, as is the normal practice when building large wooden ships. The action of hammering in a filling material would merely stretch the stitching and force the planks wider apart. So the hull of the new ship had to be made a perfect shell before it was ever put into the water. This meant placing planks edge to edge, without even a hairline crack, along a length of as much as 80 feet.’

“Without a master shipwnight it seems impossible to envision Nephi building a complex sailing ship. Here is a very short list of some of the essential competencies exercised in building the Sohar: (1) Forming the hull from preshaped planks. (2) Wood working: Severin noted of the work it took to work just one twelve-foot-long garbord plank, “this piece was 3 inches thick, and it took us four days to twist, bend and chisel it into the right curve. (3) Rope-working and sewing timbers: Sevenin called the fifty-two-foot-long coconut hulk ropes pythons. These ropes were then stretched and sewn into place using more rope by teams of men working up and down the length of the planks. He noted that “the operation was very precise there had to be exactly the right number of strings and at the correct tension.” (4) Bending planks into exact shapes using steam boxes. (5) Caulking the ship and knowing how to mix the caulking compounds: Severin relates that his shipwrights “spent a week stuffing coconut fiber plugs into the stitch holes in the planking, a tedious but essential task. I estimate that we had drilled more than 20,000 holes in the planking, and if these holes were not pegged properly the ship would leak like a huge sieve.” (6) Oiling the ropes: Without oiling on the ropes of a sewn ship, the ropes and the ship will fall apart in a matter of months. (7) Antifouling coating: To protect against shipworms. (8) Outfitting the ship: Nephi needed to know how and where to anchor the masts. He then needed to install a complicated set of riggings and sails.

“This is only a partial list of the scores of skills Nephi needed to master in order to construct a large sailing ship. His statement that “I had finished the ship” (1 Ne. 18:4) certainly did not mean that he built it all by himself. History tells us that the hanging gardens of Babylon were built by King Nebuchadnezzar for his wife, but we don’t think that he was down on his hands and knees doing the work. Nephi does not tell us how many people worked on the construction of his ship, only that “we did work timbers” (1 Ne. 18:1), and that at least on one occasion his workers were his reluctant brethren (1 Ne. 17:18).

“However, his brothers were not working on the ship when it was being finished (1 Ne. 18:4). Still, it would have been impossible for a lone man to have outfitted and finished a large ship by himself. Simply lifting the heavy timbers would have required many men. If his brothers were not helping him build the finished ship, then who was? We believe it was imperative that Nephi needed at least one experienced shipwright to train and assist him, as well as, a number of other workers.”

Potter and Wellington mentioned other aspects related to the ship, such as, having a trained crew to sail the ship, and how to captain and command the ship. We won’t take time to discuss them, but it is quite interesting what Nephi had to learn to be the Captain, and he probably hired on several experienced seamen for the journey, which would have brought other bloodlines to the New World.