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 citation 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 conclusions. 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 intended 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 departed 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 “mountains” 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 and 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 beautiful 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 mile 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 the 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 gist 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 referred 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 ‘Arabiyyah, 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 where 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.)
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.
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.