... through Arabian Sand to the Promised Land--
As an example of the extraordinary ineptitude of Mormonism's highest leaders in struggling to scientifically "prove" the Book of Mormon, I had private conversations with LDS Apostles Neal A. Maxwell and Dallin H. Oaks in Maxwell's Church Administration Building office in 1993, where Maxwell asked if I had spoken to BYU political science professor Noel Reynolds (who served as the director of FARMS) about Book of Mormon research that FARMS was doing in the Middle East. I replied that Reynolds had talked with me about research he had undertaken to investigate Near Eastern influences on the Book of Mormon.
When I had visited with Reynolds in his BYU campus office, he informed me of FARMS' efforts to search for evidence authenticating the Book of Mormon story of the supposed existence of a lush, wooded launching point in the Arabian peninsula for Lehi's boat-building voyage to the New World. Reynolds told me they had not, as yet, found anything definitive, but that they were pursuing tantalizing leads.
(A decade earlier, Reynolds had edited a volume entitled, "Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins," which included a piece by Eugene England entitled, "Through the Arabian Desert to a Bountiful Land: Could Joseph Smith Have Known the Way?" At one time, I had that book in my personal library but eventually got rid of it in order to make room for decently-researched material).
In his article, England tries to conjure up a case that Lehi and his merry band of nautical Nephites wended their way through the Arabian desert over to the Red Sea, where they set up shop in a lovely wooded, oasis-like locale (after having traveled through an alleged place called "Nahom," supposedly located in the Arabian peninsula)--and there settled down by the seashore to hammer out some tools from nearby mountain-mined ore and build boats for sailing to the New World.
--Grasping at "Scientific" Straws: Arab Sandlands to Lehi's Woodlands--
"As late as the 1920s Bertram Thomas was surprised at the 'thickly wooded wadis' of Dhofar, and even in 1939 a scholarly journal of exploration could write, 'It is quite probable that Solomon had to transport his ships, or the material for them, from the Mediterranean, for where on the shores of the Red Sea could timber be found for shipbuilding.'”
--Who Could Have Known Such Stuff?: Joseph Smith Must've Been Inspired!--
"Clearly the information on Arabia available to Joseph Smith was vague, inaccurate, contradictory. He would have been wise to choose a better-known route--or at least to be vague and general himself about the journey through Arabia and the shipbuilding. But he is not. The [Book of Mormon] account is extremely detailed, leaving itself open on nearly every page to easy falsification through subsequent discoveries. . . .
"If we assume Joseph Smith is the author of this story, he has provided us with a daring abundance of unique details about matters unknown in his time, which ought to make it a simple matter to show him factually wrong in the light of later discoveries.”
--Charting Mormonism's Mission Impossible: Book of Mormon Imaginary Arabian Map-making--
“[Lehi] is warned by God in about 600 B.C. to flee for his life. . . . [and] 'took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.' . . .
"The route and times were quite specific, even somewhat mysteriously so: '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 'when he had traveled three days in the wilderness, he pitched his tent in a valley by the side of a river of water . . . [He] saw that the waters of the river emptied in the fountain of the Red Sea . . . 'spake unto Laman, saying, O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually' . . . .
" Lehi's family remained in this 'valley of Lemuel' for some time . . . [then] 'traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction" to a place they called Shazer." . . .
"At Shazer they . . . started traveling again, 'following the same direction, keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea" . . .
"They then again traveled 'nearly the same course as in the beginning . . . for the space of many days . . . and . . . did pitch our tents again, that we might tarry . . . . '
"After living at Nahom 'for a space of time' . . ., probably another growing season, the group started out again, but traveled 'nearly eastward from that time forth' . . . .
"[A]fter a total of eight years traveling and camping, sometimes settling for a season, they 'did come to a land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and . . . beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum . . . many waters' and 'did pitch our tents by the seashore . . . .
"Here Nephi went up 'into a mountain' and was given directions by the Lord to 'construct a ship' (but 'not after the manner of men') and shown where to find 'ore to molten for tools . . . . '
"At one point the rebellious brothers threatened to throw Nephi 'into the depths of the sea' . . . but finally he was able to get them to cooperate and they 'did work timbers of curious workmanship . . . until they had a ship capable of ocean voyage. They loaded it with 'much fruits and meat . . . and honey . . . and provisions . . . and seeds and . . . put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind toward the promised land . . . .', which was America.”
--No Smith Myth: Lehi's Caravan Pit-Stopped at Real Places in Arabia--
“Most dramatic--and most easy to falsify . . . most of all, of course, [was] the abrupt turn in direction and travel eastward--over an unusually desolate area but directly to a remarkably fertile area (fruit, flowers, honey) on the seashore that also meets a unique combination of unusual conditions: a beach, but also cliffs from which someone could be thrown into a deep sea; ore for toolmaking; timbers of sufficient length and quality for shipbuilding; and a prevailing wind to take them toward America.
"But the exploration of the Arabian peninsula by Westerners, which has occurred mainly in the 20th century . . . has produced no single contradiction of Joseph Smith's daringly detailed 'conjectures'and most remarkably has shown a high correlation of the actual discoveries to his specific details.
"Modern research has recovered knowledge of an ancient caravan route, 'The Frankincense Trail,' from Dhofar, the ancient source of that precious material, to near Jerusalem; the trail conforms in detail to Joseph Smith's account of distances, turns, and specific geography. And modern travelers along that route have described details that fit the implications of his descriptions of topography, relative desolateness, weather conditions, etc.
"Of course, this route, and its remarkable beginning point, the uniquely fertile Salalah area in Dhofar, were known and written about anciently . . . , but not with sufficient detail to account for more than a few of the correspondences, even if those documents had been available to Joseph Smith or if they were considered trustworthy or were detailed enough to be related to specific geography by anyone who did have access to them."
--Day-Dreaming in the Desert: How Lehi of Arabia Was Led by the Lord--
"To review, . . . [t]he details that we know now, through direct, modern observation and research into ancient sources unknown to Joseph Smith, correspond to what the Book of Mormon describes:
"An ancient caravan route passed to the east of Jerusalem from Damascus to what is called Salalah in modern Oman, the source of frankincense. Israelite merchants, living in the area of Jerusalem and serving as intermediaries between users of the route and the city, knew the trails and the sheiks who controlled them, and had the means and knowledge to travel in the desert.
"Lehi (who lived 'at Jerusalem,' and had tents, etc.), when warned to flee for his life, most likely went directly to the Frankincense Trail where it moves along the Wadi Al Araba, part of the same geologic rift valley that forms the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea and thus essentially determines the only route south, to Aqaba on the Red Sea. Aqaba is an ancient metal-smelting and shipbuilding area where Lehi's son Nephi certainly could have learned those skills 'after the manner of men'--or at least what he had not learned in the metal-working centers of Jerusalem and Damascus.
"The ancient route then moves long the beach for 18 miles but turns east in the face of impassable cliffs, up the Wadi Umm Jurfayn and then down the Wadi El Afal ('the borders near the Red Sea') to the coastal plain again ('the borders nearer the Red Sea').
"Studies of a number of travel accounts show that the average desert caravan speed for a group the size of Lehi's is nearly 20 to 25 miles a day.
"About 'three days in the wilderness' from Aqaba (76 miles) along the Frankincense Trail is the large oasis of Al Beda, in an impressive valley with a riverbed that flows dramatically after rain and a flowing stream that waters substantial crops, all conditions that fit exactly the 'valley of Lemuel' where Lehi's party stayed for some time.
"In addition the water flows into the Gulf of Aqaba, an arm of the Red Sea which in ancient Hebrew was likely called (in order to distinguish it from an ocean or large sea) a yam, a 'source' or 'fountain,' Joseph Smith's exact word.
"Now paralleling the coast again, the Trail, like that in the Book of Mormon, lies in a 'nearly south-southeast direction.' After traveling for 'the space of four days.' Lehi's group camped at a place they called 'Shazer,' which by normal traveling distance (about a 100 miles) would correspond to the prominent ancient oasis now called Wadi Al Azlan. Here they [stayed] . . . after traveling for 'many days' in the 'same direction,' which would have taken them into the general area of modern Jiddah. . . .
"This area, midway down the eastern shore of the Red Sea, is known for a combination of heat, humidity, sand and salt that rusts car fenders in a few months and turns limber any dry wood brought from other areas. . . .
"After again traveling 'many days' in 'nearly the same course,' Lehi's group stopped 'for the space of a time' in a place which was called Nahom,' evidently a well-established oasis on the route, and then turned and traveled 'nearly eastward from that time.'
"The ancient Trail did indeed take exactly such a turn (because of the interruption of high mountains coming directly to the seacoast) at modern Al Kunfidah, then going up the wadi system to the ancient caravan city of Najran and branching there. The main route then went south to ancient San'a, which by 600 B.C. had developed into an alternate source of frankincense, and the other route continued east, through the southern edge of the desolate sand desert known to modern explorers as 'the Empty Quarter,' until it came out to the fertile Qara Mountains in Dhofar, the original ancient source of frankincense and the only such spot (about 20 miles long) on the entire 1,400-mile southern coast.
"Joseph Smith's account got the turn exactly right and also the area of increased desolation and 'much affliction' . . . .
"Most startling, the Book of Mormon provides exactly all the details (now proven, but which no one knew in the 1820s) of Salalah:
"This small, unique spot is favored six months of the year by southwest monsoon winds that cloak the mountains in mist and produce . . . huge 'sycamore-figs.' These trees Thomas and Thesiger first described for Western man; they can produce long timbers of strong hardwood, remarkably free from knots and resistant to sea water and used even today to make ocean-going dhows.
"There is also iron ore in the mountains, a beach where Lehi's emigrants could 'pitch . . . tents by the seashore' but one which terminates abruptly on the west in cliffs that drop a 100 feet 'into the depths of the sea.'
"And the seasonal monsoon winds that produce the fertility of this unique area also provide a unique source of power that we now know opened up trade across the open sea to India in the first century A.D. and by which Nephi's ship would have been 'driven forth . . . towards the promised land' of America.
"In Joseph Smith's time, as we have seen, neither the shipbuilding skills and materials nor the favorable winds on this desert shore of Arabia were known about in the west.
"What can we make of this remarkable lack of mistakes and the even more remarkable number of correspondences in a nineteenth-century attempt to produce an ancient document?
"Simply that the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon was written in the 1820s is untenable. . . .
"For Joseph Smith to have so well-succeeded in producing over 20 unique details in the description of an ancient travel route through one of the least-known areas of the world, all of which have been subsequently verified, requires extraordinary, unreasonable faith in his natural genius or his ability to guess right in direct opposition to the prevailing knowledge of his time.
"Of course, any particular detail might be coincidental and I do not claim that such things as distances traveled can be exactly proven, but the piling up of parallel detail after detail, with no contradictions, is conclusive.
"As Occam first made clear, and many subsequent logicians have reminded us, of two rationally possible explanations for a phenomenon, the one less demanding of our credulity, the one less dependent on a series of coincidences or complex possibilities, is by that made the most persuasive.
"If we have to choose between explaining the origin of the Book of Mormon as a 19th-century forgery of an ancient account that luckily got a whole series of specific details right, even against the claims of contemporary knowledge and accepting it as a genuine ancient document, the second possibility is by far the more reasonable."
(Eugene England, "Through the Arabian Desert to a Bountiful Land: Could Joseph Smith Have Known the Way?," in "Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins" [Provo, Utah : BYU Religious Studies Center, 1982], pp. 143-56, at: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=110&chapid=1280
Someone please splash some cold water on England and Company's sunstroked face. Book of Mormon apologists are straining at gnats and swallowing sand. Picking apart the apologetics is a rather easy thing to do.
One amateur sleuth (a self-described “formerly-active Mormon”) does a rather good job (which should indicate the depth of FARMS river “research”):
--River?: What River?--
Our formerly-active but-now Mormon critic writes:
“ . . . [T]he claim [is made] that the Book of Mormon accurately portrays the journey of a desert traveler in Arabia. In response to that claim, I [have] asked a simple question about a river mentioned in the Book of Mormon. . . .
"[Apologists have] described the Book of Mormon as an accurate portrayal of a desert traveler's journey through the Arabian desert. Considering that claim, I offer the following question:
"According to the Book of Mormon, the Nephites originated from a man named Lehi who lived in Jerusalem roughly 600 BCE . . . . God (so the story goes) commanded Lehi to take his family and depart into the wilderness . . . . Lehi obliged and 'traveled [three days] in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea . . ., ' Whereupon he came to a valley with a river running through it and emptying into the Red Sea . . . . This is how Lehi describes the river:
"'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 Nephi 2:9).
“[I ask Book of Mormon apologists to] [p]lease name the continually-flowing river that emptied into the Red Sea. Describe its location so I . . . may check [the] answer by consulting other references.
“[In response, a Book of Mormon apologist said it was] "wast [ing] time talking to you,” [adding], '[G]o to a library and get on [sic] of thoes [sic] big satelite [sic] snapshots of the Red Sea. You can pick from the plain “snap shot only” or the one that draws in the rivers and cities for you. Upon doing so, look for rivers. Any rivers, constant or not.”
--Season of Unreason: Book of Mormon Babblings About a Supposedly Constantly-Flowing River--
“The Book of Mormon describes a 'continually' running river, . . . but I have seen no offers to name the seasonal river. The argument about 'seasonal' seems even weaker when those who propose it fail to identify the river, even with this watered-down (pun intended) definition.
“The context of the Book of Mormon strongly suggests the river Joseph Smith used in his story was not seasonal.
"Mormons often tell others about the importance of context. With this in mind, let's examine the context in which we read about Joseph Smith's description of an Arabian river. In [the book of Nephi] Joseph Smith has Lehi arriving in a valley through which ran a river. Lehi named the river Laman and the valley Lemuel . . . .
“While camped next to the river, an impressive number of things happened. The time for these events strongly suggests Lehi was there for a long time. Presumably, Lehi camped next to the river to water his animals and family, and because the valley provided forage.
"When he left, the Book of Mormon says he crossed the river . . . , so a contextual reading says the river flowed the entire time Lehi camped next to it. With this contextual understanding, can we estimate how long Lehi camped in the valley next to the river?
". . . I shall attempt to argue (based on claims in the Book of Mormon) that Lehi camped next to the river more than four months. Furthermore, I shall attempt to show that a contextual reading suggests the river continued to flow during that time. This adds credibility to the straight-forward reading that the Book of Mormon describes a major river, and not simply a wadi that fills only with infrequent rains.”
--Book of Mormon Measuring: (Your Mileage May Vary)--
“Upon arriving in the valley, Lehi sent Nephi and his brothers back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates . . . . They were gone a long time. So long, in fact, that Nephi's mother Sariah thought they had died in the wilderness . . . . Assuming the Book of Mormon is true (which, based on the evidence, it is not), we can estimate how long Nephi and his brothers were away by examining the minimum distance they had to travel.
“It is about 150 miles from Jerusalem to Al `Aqabah (as the crow flies). Add about 20% for overland travel . . . and the distance is about 180 miles. The shortest distance to the Red Sea (as the crow flies) is about 260 miles. Adding 20% for overland travel and we have about 310 miles. From this information, we should be able to estimate roughly how long Nephi was away.
"The Book of Mormon says Lehi '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; . . . .'
“. . . I can imagine Joseph Smith narrating this story with a map of the Middle East in front of him, mistaking the Gulf of Aqaba for the Red Sea. This would make the distance (and time) shorter. Giving Joseph the benefit of the doubt, let's assume Lehi and his family only traveled to the Gulf, and not (as the text says) to the Red Sea. This means they would have traveled nearly 200 miles. The Book of Mormon says Lehi brought only 'his family, and provisions, and tents . . . ' .
"Apparently, traveling on foot, they would have managed about 12 or 15 miles per day. So it would have taken them about 15 days to reach the Gulf of Aqaba. From there, the Book of Mormon implies they traveled three more days to the river . . . . So, they camped about 18 days from Jerusalem.
“They were Hebrew, so they would not travel on Saturday. Thus, elapsed time for their trip would have been roughly 20 days. (A literal reading of the Book of Mormon makes the time much longer than this, since they would have to travel about 100 more miles to reach the Red Sea).
"Sariah would have expected Nephi and his brothers to make the round-trip in about 40 days. Add time for negotiations with Laban and typical delays, and she probably would not have started worrying until they had been gone 45 days. Since they were overdue enough for Sariah to think they had died, and voice her fears openly to Lehi, let's say Nephi and his brothers were gone about 50 days.
“After getting the brass plates, Lehi read them and discovered his genealogy. Meanwhile, Nephi began his own writings . . . . Then, Lehi decided he needed daughters for his sons, so he sent Nephi back to Jerusalem to get another family (headed by Ishmael) to join them . . . .
“Let's suppose Lehi read the brass plates and Nephi started his own writings in about seven days. Further, suppose Ishmael required four days to prepare his family for the journey. Add this to a round-trip time of 40 days (for Nephi, et al., to travel to Jerusalem, get Ishmael and return), and we have another 51 days. Thus, by the time Nephi returned with Ishmael, Lehi had been camped by the river for at least 101 days.
“With the arrival of Ishmael, there was more prophesying. Meanwhile, Lehi's sons paired up with Ishmael's daughters and got married . . . . Let's suppose the prophesying took another seven days.
“Let's also give our Mormon friends the benefit of the doubt and say the courtships were brief and the marriages all arranged. Say it takes three weeks to get everyone married. This is another 28 days camped near the river. So, the total time (on the express track, giving Mormons every benefit of doubt) comes to at least 129 days that Lehi was camped next to the river.
“Finally, Lehi and his troupe leave the valley. The Book of Mormon says they cross the river Laman into the wilderness . . . . The matter of fact way in which Joseph Smith writes this indicates that (in his imagination) the river was still flowing. It was going when they got there and it was still going four months later when they left.
"Presumably, Lehi and his family camped by the river because they and their animals required water and forage. Consequently, even without the mention of them crossing the river, a logical assumption is that the river ran while they camped next to it.
“Thus, if the Book of Mormon is true, we expect to find a valley near the Gulf of Aqaba with a river in it. The river should run at least four months out of the year. The Book of Mormon's description is sufficiently clear that if such a river existed, evidence should be available. Even if the river has since dried up, it would have been close to established trade routes and an important source of water for ancient travelers. Given this, it should be mentioned in ancient texts. . . .
“[Mormon apologists had said they have found 'three seasonal rivers that flowed into the sea long with other geographical sites that could have supported a river flow.'] . . .
"Along the entire length of Arabia? The coast is over 1,500 miles long. The Book of Mormon is very specific in its description. It says the river was in a valley '[three days] in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea . . . ' This constrains the region we are investigating to only a small fraction of the coastline. Are any of the alleged seasonal rivers . . . found within this region? [Please] name these rivers . . . [that have been] found . . . . If the [found] rivers . . . are hundreds of miles away, down the coast of Arabia, then the time for Lehi's encampment next to the river extends to well over six months . . . . Do any of these rivers . . . found run for more than six months each year?”
--The Book of Mormon: Hardly a Reliable Road Map to Arabia--
“[Other apologists have] made a bold claim . . . [that] the Book of Mormon is a geographic guidebook in the Arabian peninsula. Yet here is a clear description of what should be an easily-identifiable feature (a continually-running river in a desert). I [have] asked for the modern name of the river. Has the question be answered? No.
“Instead, [the reply has been] that somewhere in Arabia there appear to be three 'seasonal' rivers . . . [but apologists have] not named the 'rivers.' [They have] not described their locations. [They have] not explained if they are truly seasonal (running regularly with the seasons) or if they only run during infrequent rains. From appearances, [Book of Mormon apologists] simply found three blue lines on a map and considered [their] 'research' completed.
“I suspect a similar mistake led Joseph Smith to include an Arabian river in the first place. [Apologists have] not explained why a desert traveler would describe a ''seasonal' river as 'continually' flowing. [They have] not explained why a natural reading of the Book of Mormon would lead to any other conclusion than that the river was year-round.
"Then, with an extra serving of ambiguity, [they have] hedged [their] bets by referencing 'other geographical sites' that 'could have' rivers in them. What are these sites? Dry gulches? The Book of Mormon says the river was in a valley. Not a canyon, ravine, or gulch.
“If Mormons can accept evidence of a dry gulch for Lehi's continually-running river, then I am not surprised they believe the Book of Mormon can be used in Arabia as a 'geographic guide.'
“[Book of Mormon apologists have argued that] ' . . . using the vague idea that rivers tend to move out of their courses and flow and many times dissappear [sic] altogether during a few hundred years due to climate shifts and other things.' Please provide references for [the] claim that a continually- running river '[three days travel] in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea . . . ' existed roughly 2600 years ago. Provide evidence that the river has since dried up and disappeared. Show that evidence of such a river exists in the same area near the Red Sea as described in the Book of Mormon.
"If such a river existed, evidence of it should be available (river gravel, for example, or mention in ancient texts from the region). The Book of Mormon says the river was in a valley. Valleys do not generally disappear in 2600 years. It should be straightforward to locate a valley that is within 100 miles of Lehi's expected intersection with the Red Sea, and look for evidence that through it flowed a continually-running river. In fact, if [apologists] are unable to name the river, I will be happy starting with the name of the valley.
“Remember, . . . Mormons are the ones claiming the Book of Mormon has been used as a geographic guide in Arabia. It is incumbent upon [them] to support this affirmative claim. Mormons made the claim. Now prove it. If all [they] can offer are suppositions, excuses and disappearing rivers, then [they] need to have sufficient intellectual honesty to stop claiming that the Book of Mormon can be used as a geographical guide. . . .
“[Book of Mormon apologists have said,] 'Ponder on the fact that according to the Book of Mormon it has been over 2,000 years since that river was recorded. Will you be open-minded enough to consider yourself wrong?'
“I was once an active Mormon who, like [them]. believed these improbable excuses for the Book of Mormon. I have since decided the evidence does not support the Book of Mormon, but rather denies its authenticity."
--Geyser of Goofiness: Evidence for Lehi in Arabia is as Strong as Yellowstone Park--
“[A Book of Mormon apologist asks]: 'Would you consider the Book of Mormon false because it describes a "Yellowstone national park-like area" 60 miles away from the one we have today? (FYI, Yellowstone has moved and is moving today).'
“[Such an] analogy is a fantasy. The Book of Mormon's discrepancy is serious and it will take more than wise-cracks to satisfy critical thinkers.”
--Summarizing the Shifting Sands: The Tiny Grains of Apologetic Arguments for a Lehi Caravan Through Arabia--
"If a river is found roughly in the location described in the Book of Mormon it would be of definite interest, but provide little in the way of proof. The reason, simply, is that mention of a river is not too remarkable even if the Book of Mormon is fiction. It is easy to imagine Joseph Smith looking on a map, seeing a blue line, and concluding the existence of a river. Thus if a river is found, its mention in the Book of Mormon is as easily explained by coincidence as by revelation. What the Book of Mormon needs, by way of proof, is consistent agreement with archeological evidence. Sporadic, forced agreement with facts, and ad-hock excuses for disagreement with facts is hardly convincing.
“On the other hand, it takes only one counter example to disprove a theory. Thus, if no evidence of Lehi's river is found, it is much stronger evidence against the Book of Mormon than the presence of a river would be for the Book of Mormon. Add Lehi's missing river to a long list of other Book of Mormon mistakes (steel smelting, domesticated horses and horse-drawn chariots in ancient America, for example) and the evidence against the Book of Mormon is simply too substantial for intellectually-honest people to ignore.
“--1. [The bold apologist claim has been] made . . . that the Book of Mormon accurately describes a desert traveler's journey through the Arabian peninsula.
“--2. The Book of Mormon describes a 'continually' flowing river "[three days travel] in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea . . . .' Contextual reading of the Book of Mormon shows the river flowing for a long time as Lehi and his family camped next to it.
“--3. When asked to provide evidence of the river, [an apologist] responded by:
“--a) saying it was a waste of time;
“--b) [l]ooking on a map and supposedly finding three seasonal rivers somewhere in Arabia. [The apologist] did not name the rivers . . . [and] did not describe them, except to say they are seasonal (apparently his opinion). [The apologist] did not describe where they are located, if they are in coastal valleys or if they are near the place where Lehi's route supposedly intersected the Red Sea;
“--c) [s]uggested the 'continually' running river might have been in some other geological feature (a gully, ravine or canyon?) that 'might' have supported a river;
“--d) [s]uggested the river might have dried up or moved (a distinct possibility) but failed to provide any evidence supporting the idea.
“--e) [c]oncluded with a false analogy to Yellowstone Park, implying that the evidence exists but Mormon critics just don't want to accept it, or are too skeptical; [and]
“--f) [s]uggested that the reason I was asking the question was because I don't have an open mind.
“And still the question remains unanswered. What is the modern name of the river that Lehi described?”
(“Was the Book of Mormon Really Used as a Geographical Guidebook?,” on “alt.religion.mormon,” at: http://www.lds-mormon.com/river.shtml
--FARMS Farmers Throw Up Yemenite Nephite Dirt: “NHM” is Proof Positive that the Book of Mormon's "Nahom” is True--
Researcher Bill McKeever details the astoundingly-desperate and factually-destitute efforts by Book of Mormon apologists to support the unsupportable Book of Mormon:
“At the 'Worlds of Joseph Smith Conference' held in Washington, D.C., in May 2005, BYU professor John Welch spoke about circumstantial pieces of evidence that he believes substantiates Joseph Smith’s claim as a prophet.
"Among the list of 'evidence' Welch supplied was an inscription on a stone from the country of Yemen, which is located on the Saudi Arabian peninsula.
"Welch is not the first Mormon apologist to use this stone to legitimize the authenticity of both Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. The question is, does this stone really have any great significance?
“[The] Mormon Church-owned 'Ensign' magazine covered the discovery of the stone in its February 2001 edition. If this is, in fact, a momentous discovery, then many Mormons must have been disappointed in the mere three-paragraph article that barely filled a quarter-of-a-page.
“Found tucked away on p. 79, the article (titled 'Book of Mormon Linked to Site in Yemen') boasted that 'a group of Latter-day Saint researchers recently found evidence linking a site in Yemen, on the southwest corner of the Arabian peninsula, to a name associated with Lehi’s journey as recorded in the Book of Mormon.'
"The passage from the Book of Mormon to which this stone is linked comes from 1 Nephi 16:34. It reads, 'And it came to pass that Ishmael died and was buried in the place which was called Nahom.'
“The 'Ensign' article went on to say that 'Warren Aston, Lynn Hilton and Gregory Witt located a stone altar that professional archaeologists dated to at least 700 B.C. This altar contains an inscription confirming “Nahom” as an actual place that existed in the peninsula before the time of Lehi. The Book of Mormon mentions that ‘Ishmael died and was buried in the place which was called Nahom.' Included in the article was a picture of the stone with a caption that reads, 'On this altar is written the word Nahom.'
“First of all, it needs to be pointed out that the inscription does not confirm that Nahom was an actual place or that this particular stone validates 1 Nephi 16:34.
"The inscription on the stone merely provides three consonants--NHM. This indisputable fact also exposes the misleading caption in the article that the word Nahom was written on the stone altar, which is not true.
“In an article found at http://www.lehistrail.com
, Warren Aston notes, 'The recent discovery by a German archaeological team of a stone altar in Yemen referring to the tribal name NIHM was announced in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies in 1999. Perfectly preserved under centuries of sand, the altar had been dated by its excavators to about 600-700 BC, thus placing it squarely in the time frame of the Book of Mormon “Nahom” (1 Nephi 16:34), where Ishmael was buried. Unlike most places mentioned in the account of the journey from Jerusalem, Nephi's wording makes it clear that Nahom was already called such by the local population.'
“Can we assume that Mr. Aston is not letting his presuppositions get the best of him? After all, to say that 'Nephi's wording makes it clear that Nahom was already called such by the local population' would carry no weight to someone not yet convinced that a person named Nephi ever existed. Let us not forget that the LDS Church has provided no historical or archaeological evidence that Nephi or any of the unique characters mentioned in the Book of Mormon actually lived.
“It is also important to note that NIHM is believed to be a tribal name, not a place name, and that the three consonants can have a variety of spellings when vowels are inserted. Aston notes in the website article that references to NHM are 'usually given as NiHM, NeHeM, NaHaM etc.' The "Journal of Book of Mormon Studies" reports that this can also be spelled “NaHM” . . . .'
“In an article titled 'The Place That Was Called Nahom: New Light from Ancient Yemen,' BYU professor S. Kent Brown notes, 'Although we cannot determine that at the time there was a place called Nihm or Nehem, it is reasonable to surmise that the tribe gave its name to the region where it dwelt . . . Was it this name that Nephi rendered Nahom in his record? Very probably. . . .'
“Even more interesting is how the article in the 'Ensign' closes. It reads, 'This is the first archaeological find that supports a Book of Mormon place-name other than Jerusalem or the Red Sea . . . . '
“On what little we know of this inscription can a Mormon be all that hopeful? If there is significant examination by unbiased sources showing that this inscription has no relationship to the Book of Mormon Nahom, then it would mean that there are no archaeological finds supporting a Book of Mormon place-name other than Jerusalem or the Red Sea.
"After 180 years the LDS Church would still be batting zero.
"John Hamer, a member of the Community of Christ who has written on numerous topics pertinent to the LDS movement, does not share the Mormon enthusiasm for this discovery. In a blog post he writes:
“'Although some apologists have described the odds of this Nahom/Nihm/”NHM” correlation as “astronomical,” it hardly even rises to the level of notable coincidence. The Book of Mormon derives its names from a book that has Semitic sources, i.e., the King James Bible. Many of the names in the Book of Mormon are just plucked directly from the Bible, e.g., “Lehi” (Judges 25:9), "Laban" (Gen. 24-30), "Lemuel" (Prov. 31:1-9). Other names, however, use the Bible as their inspiration with alterations, e.g., “Jarom” (“Joram” 2 Sam. 8:10), “Omni” (“Omri” 1 Kings 16:16), “Nehor” (“Nahor” Gen. 11:22). “Nahom” easily fits into the latter category: “Nahum” is actually a book of Old Testament.'
“Hamer does not see this as a 'bulls-eye.' For him 'it’s not even noteworthy. Given one has the entire volume of a large, Semitic country in which to find a common Semitic root (again, note that the Nihm in Arabia does not precisely match the Book of Mormon’s “Nahom”), we would be surprised not to find a place-name that is somehow similar to NHM.'
(“'NHM'--A Place Name from the Book of Mormon?,” by Bill McKeever, “Mormon Research Ministry,” at: http://www.mrm.org/nhm
; for the text of an apologist article describing this alleged Book of Mormon “proof,” see, “Newly-Found Altars from Nahom,” by Warren P. Aston, “Journal of Book of Mormon Studies,” Vol. 10, Issue 2 [Provo, Utah: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2001], pp. 56-61, at: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=10&num=2&id=255
Then, this comprehensive dismantling of the Mormon faith fetish for NHM, as found in an article entitled, "Nahom," at the "MormonThink" website:
"There are many criticisms against this proposed theory. We present . . . totally different approaches to answering the LDS apologists.
"Critic's Answer #1--Interpreting the Evidence . . .
"--1. 'The Match Proves Nothing Since It's Not Really a Match'
"Hebrew doesn't have vowels, so the Hebrew name NHM (nun-chet-men) could be transliterated to Nahom. But since we don't know what vowels were supposed to be used, any other vowel permutation is equally likely: Nahum, Niham, Noham, Nuhim, Nuham and so on (25 different combinations are possible--in fact, 30 if the second vowel is left out completely). So, to appeal to the inscription 'NHM' as proving the location 'Nahom' is really unfounded. . . .
"Some have said that the link between Nahom (or Nehhm, as spelled in Niebuhr's work) and NHM is invalid because the vowels between the names Nahom and Nehhm do not match (Tanner & Tanner, 1996, p. 183).
"Others indicate that modern vowel variance is to be expected because Hebrew does not have written vowels. The current pronunciation of the location and tribal area is said to be Nihm rather than Nahom. Some critics state that the time from Ishmael's death to now is not long enough to account for the change in pronunciation (Vogel, 2004, p. 609), although scholars indicate that historical variation in root pronunciation (possibly due to Arabic influence) may allow for this change (Barney, 2003). . . .
"--2. 'The Only Existing Pronunciation for NHM is NOT Nahom!'
"To make matters worse for the LDS apologists, the only evidence we have for the correct vowelsubstitution/pronunciation of NHM is the extant pronunciation: 'Nihm.' Furthermore, it is extremely unlikely a tribal place name changed its pronunciation. Remember the inscription is most probably a tribal name, not merely a location. Are we to suppose the pronunciation was changed from Nahom to Nihm? This is an assumption that we simply cannot make without forcing the evidence.
"--3. 'What About the "But 'Nahom' Means to be Sorry and the Altar Was Found Near a Cemetery" Claim?
"'nahom': 'a Hebrew word . . . which means "to be sorry, to console oneself, to repent, to regret, to comfort or to be comforted."
'"According to this argument, the correct name of 'NHM' must be 'Nahom' because the place is found near a cemetery and the word 'nahom' means 'to be sorry.'
"There are a number of problems with this suggestion. For one thing, if the consonants 'NHM' are pronounced as written, it should be pronounced with the H as hard, not soft (this is what we find in 'nahom'--to be sorry'). So the sound would be like 'ch' as in Scottish 'loch' and we should expect to read of a Book of Mormon placename of 'Nachom,' not 'Nahom.' The Book of Mormon placename doesn't fit the Hebrew word 'to be sorry.'
"In any case, why should we expect this tribe to call itself after an ancient cemetery? The presence of an cemetery nearby is irrelevant, as most, if not all, other tribes had cemeteries too.
"--4. 'What of the Claim That the Proposed Location for "Bountiful" Pinpoints Nahom?'
"Several locations with names somewhat like 'Nahom' are to be found in the Arabian Peninsula. Given the fact that Arabia is a Semitic-language area bordering the lands of the Bible, this should come as no surprise.
"The work of the Hiltons and others in finding these locations only serves to show the imprecision of the Book of Mormon description. After all, if the detail is so good, why the to propose several candidate sites? This is clearly not the case with Biblical archaeology, which, as has been shown, has one location for Jericho, one location for other Old Testament towns, cities, rivers, and mountains.
"Not so with the Book of Mormon. Why not? The simple fact of the matter is, the Book of Mormon description is general enough to be worthless. The location of Nahom is nothing more than shooting arrows, then drawing the target.
"--5. 'NHM Too Populated for a Sneaky Trek'
"Lehi and his family had been commanded by God not to light fires. Why would this commandment be given? There would have to be a good reason, as they could not cook their meat and would thereby violate the Torah. Was it supposed to be a secretive trek? If so, why would they go to the populated location of NHM? This doesn't make sense.
"--6. 'Ishmael Irrelevance'
"[Jeff] Lindsay mentions that Ishmael, one of the companions of Lehi on the trip, died at Nahom and 'that there was 'considerable mourning at Nahom." Why would the NHM tribe name themselves after a passing-through traveler who died there centuries later? This likewise makes no sense.
"--7. 'Grammatical Issue'
"Even if it were derived from 'NHM,' the word 'Nahom' cannot be shown to be an independent word. In other words, it could be the case that the place-name was 'Nah' and the '-om' part is merely a suffix. This point further militates against an identification of 'NHM' with a placename called 'Nahom.'
"In the message board discussion referenced above, David Wright notes an error on the part of LDS apologist John Tvedtnes. Tvedtnes, in his article 'Hebrew Names in the Book of Mormon,' associates Nahom with Hebrew n-kh-m, but errs when he suggests that Nehhem in Yemen is the same root. Nehhem has a soft 'h' but NHM has a hard 'h' as in Scottish 'loch' as we saw earlier. Since the two roots (n-h ans n-ch) differ, there is no point in making an association between them, and, in fact, it is wrong to do so.
"--8. 'Book of Mormon Derivation of Words: No Fixed Method; All Have Separate Origins. Inexplicable.'
"Another point to consider is the inconsistent and unverifiable etymology of Book of Mormon words. How is 'Nahom' explicable in terms of the general etymology of Book of Mormon place-names? . . . [T]here are a number of curious Book of Mormon place names whose derivations are given. . . . The point of the matter is, do these words have Old World roots? Do they have further derivatives in New World usage? One would expect the they should have, but nothing to support this expectation has been forthcoming. Instead, LDS scholars provide separate theories for each Book of Mormon place name. In contrast, when studying the Bible, the place names are derived from Hebrew or a local dialect. Again we see that the Book of Mormon cannot stand up to professional linguistic analysis.
"This inability to withstand professional scrutiny simply isn't good enough. It is clear the Book of Mormon place names can't establish any sort of validity through etymological or linguistical analysis. And there is a very good reason for this. The book is a phony.
"--9. 'Exodus 15:22-27 Indicates the Existence of Oases in the Desert'
"Smith would have known this. Bountiful is the oasis mentioned in 1 Nephi 17:5. The fact that Smith mentions an oasis in the Book of Mormon therefore proves nothing." . . .
"Summary from 'wikipedia':
"Known criticisms include the following (Vogel. 2004, p. 609):
"•The fact that the Book of Mormon does not explicitly mention contact with outsiders during Lehi's journey.
"•It is suggested that there is no evidence dating NHM before A.D. 600.
"•It is suggested that the pronunciation of NHM is unknown and may not relate to Nahom at all. . . .
"Critic #1's Conclusion
"The Nahom case provides evidence, not of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, but of the willingness of LDS scholars to look anywhere in their despair to find a shred of validation for their erroneous beliefs.
"The 'NHM' inscription is the most important piece of geographical'evidence' Mormons have for their claims. The refutation of this inscription in regard to the Book of Mormon place-name 'Nahom' shows once again that there is no archaeological support from Mormonism, and no amount of appealing to 'plausibility' will alter that fact. As mentioned at the top of this article, the 'NHM' find is a classic example of the fallacy of irrelevant proof.
"Critic's Answer #2--Significance of the Evidence
"From ex-Mormon critic Randy Jordan:
"'In his book "By The Hand of Mormon," Mormon apologist Teryl Givens writes of the ancient altars found in Yemen carved with the letters 'NHM':
"'These altars may thus be said to constitute the first actual archaeological evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon.'
"Here's why Givens' statement actually hurts the BOM's case: At that part of the BOM storyline, the Lehites have left Jerusalem and are on their way to the Promised Land. There are only a few dozen people in the party, at most. This carving is in the general area of where the Lehite party supposedly traveled through and dates from the general time frame. So far, so good. Sounds reasonable.
"OK, here's the problem:
"The BOM storyline goes on to say that the Lehites eventually make it to the Promised Land (the American continent, of course) and they grow into a mighty nation of hundreds of thousands of people, occupying the land for 1,000 years (not to mention the preceding Jaredites, who allegedly arrived circa 2500 B.C. and grew to number in the millions.) The Lehites divide and war against each other.
"The BOM gives very specific details about its characters' culture, religion, politics, flora and fauna, etc. The BOM people speak/write Hebrew and some form of Egyptian. They worship the Old Testament God, follow the law of Moses, and even preach and worship Christ both before and after His ministry.
"They train horses and use them to pull chariots as Old World people did. They develop metalworking skills and smelt 'swords of finest steel' and other metal tools and weaponry.
"They grow into a population as vast 'as the sands of the sea' and build great cities which 'cover the land with buildings from sea to sea.' Early in the 5th century A.D., the wicked Lamanite faction battles and eliminates the entire opposing Nephite nation, which numbers more than 300,000.
"Now, here's the problem:
"If the 'NHM" carving truly was 'BOM evidence'--and if the BOM storyline as I've outlined here were true--then scholars should be able to find A MILLION TIMES MORE ITEMS OF PHYSICAL EVIDENCE FOR THE BOM CULTURE SOMEWHERE IN THE AMERICAS THAN THE SINGLE STONE CARVING IN YEMEN. [original emphasis]
"Numerous artifacts of that Christ-worshipping, horse-training, Hebrew-writing, steel sword-making culture should be scattered all over the region in which LDS apologists claim the BOM took place (Central America). But, of course, there aren't any. None, zip, nada. Apologists cite tantalizing "possible evidence" such as
"A few horse bones, meteoric iron ornaments, the Bat Creek stone, etc. They propose excuses for lack of evidence such as 'Maybe the horses were deer,' etc. But they cannot show a single, unambiguous, confirmed item of physical evidence to show that the BOM occurred anywhere in the Americas.
"And that's why Teryl Givens' admission is so damning to the BOM's case: If, in his view, the 'NHM' carving is the *first* item of evidence for the BOM's historicity ever discovered--after 170-plus years of looking for some--then it's safe to say that no artifacts will *ever* be found in the Americas, where the evidence should be thousands of times more likely to be found.
"The obvious conclusion being that the BOM is not authentic."
("Nahom," at: http://www.mormonthink.com/book-of-mormon-problems.htm#nhm
Finally, the following nail in the stone has been provided by an article entitled, “The NHM Stone--Does It Prove the Book of Mormon?”:
“Mormons are so desperate to prove their religion true that they will take anything even remotely related and trump it up to be the final piece of evidence.
"In this case, I am referring to a stone found on the Arabian Peninsula which has engraved in it the letters NHM.
“This stone was found in an area of Arabia that the Book of Mormon names Nahom. Mormons believe that this is evidence that Joseph Smith did not make up the book but that it is an actual record of an ancient group that migrated to the Americas.
“The February 2001 issue of the 'Ensign' mentions this briefly . . . where it openly admits, 'This is the first archaeological find that supports a Book of Mormon place-name other than Jerusalem or the Red Sea . . . .' The article is entitled, 'Book of Mormon Linked to Site in Yemen.'
"It is interesting to note that this article has been removed from the LDS Church's official website. I attempted to find this article in their archives and my search turned up nothing. Hmmm . . . I wonder why? . . .
“Haven't Mormons been claiming all along that there is overwhelming evidence of the Book of Mormon in South America? If so, where are the piles of skeletons, weapons and armor at the Hill Cumorah where hundreds of thousands of people died? If the people of the Book of Mormon flourished and spread, as the book claims they did, then where is the evidence?
“One single stone bearing three letters is the strongest evidence they have. (Insert mocking laugh here). It's amazing how one teeny thing that appears to support the Book of Mormon is trumped up, when the mountains of evidence against it is ignored and passed off as lies.
“NHM . . . Nahom. True, they are similar. But they are different, too.
"NHM has no vowels. If the name of the ancient site really was Nahom and the stone was from that site, then the stone would say 'NaHoM.'
"Furthermore, Roman letters found on a 2,600 year- old stone? The Latin alphabet originated in Italy during that time era (about 600 or 700 B.C.) but was not in the form it is today. And even though the time frame matches, the area does not. Even today, people in Arabia do not use the Latin alphabet.
"Mormons claim that the stone has been dated to the approximate time of 600 B.C. This can't possibly be the case, given the facts I have shared above.
“In short, a rock is their best bet.
"Sorry, LDS Inc. You'll have to do a lot better than that if you're going to impress me.”
(“The NHM Stone--Does It Prove the Book of Mormon?,” posted by ex/born-in-the-covenant Mormon “Mormon411,” 30 November 2010, at: http://mormon411.blogspot.com/2010/11/nhm-stone-does-it-prove-book-of-mormon.html
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/24/2013 06:19PM by steve benson.