The revealed text

The revealed text
The light of revelation at the Whitmer farm where Joseph and Oliver worked upstairs to finish translating the Book of Mormon

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lesson 5 "Hearken to the Truth, and Give Heed unto It"

The title of this lesson could be the motto for this blog. Let's see what the truth is about Book of Mormon geography.

This lesson covers the departure of Lehi from the Arabian peninsula for the new world. This event presents what may be the single most important important question about Book of Mormon geography:

Which way did Lehi go?

If he went east, he crossed the Pacific and landed on the west coast of the Americas.

If he went west, he crossed the Atlantic and landed on the east coast of the Americas.

(Someone will say that he could have gone around Cape Horn, but that's unlikely for many reasons.)

So, which way did he go?

The answer to this question will determine what you think about Book of Mormon geography. And the answer really depends on when they left the Arabian peninsula.

Fortunately for us, Nephi tells us all we need to know to answer that question.

As you'll see, there is abundant evidence, both from the text and from real-world experience, that Lehi's group went west and crossed the Atlantic, landing in North America. Next week we'll look at where they actually landed, but for now, let's just look at which direction they went from Arabia.

Here is a graphical explanation:


The monsoons determine which direction Lehi traveled. If they left in the November time frame, they went southwest along the coast of Africa. How do we know they left in November? Because Nephi tells us they harvested fruit and honey in abundance before they left.





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Here's an excerpt from Moroni's America:

Nephi gives some additional information that may tell us when they left Bountiful. He says they entered the ship to leave “after we had prepared all things, much fruits and meat from the wilderness, and honey in abundance.” (1 Nephi 18:6) To gather fruit, Nephi would have waited until after the September wet season when the fruit would ripen. In Israel, grains were typically harvested in the spring while fruits, including grapes, figs, pomegranates and olives, were harvested in the fall. Presumably Lehi’s family followed this pattern. Perhaps they observed the Feast of the Tabernacles in late September to mid-October before leaving. This feast celebrates the fall harvest of fruits. In Oman, the first honey harvest is in June and July—too early for harvesting other fruits, and coinciding with pounding surf making a launch difficult—while the second is in October and November.[i]
I Nephi 18 tells us they sailed with the wind.

8. And it came to pass after we had all gone down into the ship, and had taken with us our provisions and things which had been commanded us, we did put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land…. 22 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land. 23 And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land...

Brother Hilton mentioned the unique seasonal weather feature of the sea off the Arabian coast: the cycle of seasonal monsoons that correspond with changes in ocean currents. From July through September, warming land in Asia causes the air to rise, which pulls air over the Indian Ocean north and east. Because the air flows from the southwest, this is called the Southwest monsoon season. Starting in November, the effect reverses, and the Northeast monsoon blows wind west and south.
The surface currents flow in the same direction as the wind. During the Southwest Monsoon, the current flows eastward, and during the Northeast Monsoon, the current flows west.[ii] 

Accordingly, if Lehi left in the summer, the ship would have traveled eastward, making its way around India, through Indonesia, and across the Pacific. But if Lehi left in the late fall or winter, the ship traveled west and south around Africa, crossing the Atlantic.

Because Lehi’s group harvested fruits and honey prior to leaving, they most likely left the coast of Oman in November or December. The ocean currents and the Northeast Monsoon would have taken them west toward the coast of Africa.






They would have followed the eastern African coast south, then turned west to cross the Atlantic.
The Atlantic crossing, including the circumnavigation of Africa, is shorter than any proposed Pacific crossing. Proximity to Africa offered Lehi’s group multiple stops for supplies, including food and water, that they wouldn’t have crossing the Pacific. The winds and ocean currents work for an Atlantic crossing, but make a Pacific crossing implausible.



The Mulekites, who presumably left from the coast of Israel or Lebanon, would also have crossed the Atlantic. Brother Sorenson agrees with that route, and he documented other evidence of transoceanic voyages.[iii] 







There is also historical evidence to support ancient voyages such as those of Lehi and the Mulekites. Around 600 B.C., Phoenician mariners circumnavigated Africa. Columbus crossed the Atlantic, using the same currents and winds as the ancient explorers did.
In 2008-2010, the Phoenicia, a ship reconstructed using 600 B.C. materials and technology, circumnavigated Africa. Keith Johnson, an LDS researcher who suggested the relevance of honey and fruit harvest seasons, was on part of the voyage. The currents and winds sent the ship across the Atlantic to within a few hundred miles of Florida before they managed to turn the ship around back to Africa.[iv] This is the map of their route:

Figure 13 - Phoenicia voyage
The Phoenicia is an ideal test of the veracity of the Book of Mormon account. It shows not only that the materials and technology of 600 B.C. allowed construction of ocean-going vessels for both Lehi’s group and the Mulekites, but that both groups could have crossed the Atlantic and landed in North America—coming from the east.

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For more information about the Phoencia, go to http://www.phoenicia.org.uk/

For more on an LDS perspective, go to  http://www.firmlds.org/feature.php?id=15




[i] “Beekeeping in Oman,” the Honey Bee Research Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Sultanate of Oman (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2014), available online here: http://bit.ly/Moroni33.
[ii]Chapter 11 (December 2006)  http://bit.ly/Moroni34.
[iii] John L. Sorenson and Carl L. Johannessen, “Scientific Evidence for Pre-Columbian Transoceanic Voyages to and from the Americas,” available online here: http://bit.ly/Moroni35.
[iv] See Phoenicia, the Phoeneican Shop Expedition, at this website: http://bit.ly/Moroni36

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