Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Evidence from Arabia: The Eastward Turn at Nahom

"Nahom and the 'Eastward' Turn" is a short note in from a 2003 Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. I missed it until now, but feel it adds an important new insight into the growing body of evidence from the Arabian Peninsula related to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon as an ancient text. After mentioning the impressive archaeological finds supporting the existence of the ancient inhabited placed called Nahom, an interesting observation about Nephi's eastward turn at Nahom is made:
The case for Nahom, or NHM, in this area is made even more tight by recent study. It has become clearly apparent from Nephi's note--"we did travel nearly eastward" from Nahom (1 Nephi 17:1)--that he and his party not only had stayed in the NHM tribal area, burying Ishmael there, but also were following or shadowing the incense trail, a trading road that by then offered an infrastructure of wells and fodder to travelers and their animals. From the general region of the NHM tribe, all roads turned east. How so? Across the Ramlat Sabhatayn desert, east of this tribal region and east of Marib, lay the city of Shabwah, now in ruins. By ancient Arabian law, it was to this city that all incense harvested in the highlands of southern Arabia was carried for inventorying, weighing, and taxing. In addition, traders made gifts of incense to the temples at Shabwah. After this process, traders loaded the incense and other goods onto camels and shipped them toward the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian areas, traveling at first westward and then, after reaching the edges of the region of the NHM tribe, turning northward (these directions are exactly opposite from those that Nephi and his party followed). Even the daunting shortcuts across the Ramlat Sabhatayn desert, which left travelers without water for 150 miles, ran generally east-west. What is important for our purposes is the fact that the "eastward" turn of Nephi's narrative does not show up in any known ancient source, including Pliny the Elder's famous description of the incense-growing lands of Arabia. In a word, no one knew of this eastward turn in the incense trail except persons who had traveled it or who lived in that territory. This kind of detail in the Book of Mormon narrative, combined with the reference to Nahom, is information that was unavailable in Joseph Smith's day and thus stands as compelling evidence of the antiquity of the text.
As we have previously discussed (see many related posts on this blog and also see MormonEvidence.com), the ancient burial place Nahom/Nihm/Nehhem/NHM is located just where Nephi says it is and, by following his eastward direction (deviating from his previous south-southeast direction after leaving Jerusalem), one can in fact reach an excellent candidate for the ancient place he called Bountiful on the shores of modern-day Oman.

The eastward turn at Nahom fits new information not available to Joseph Smith. It is one of many little clues suggestion that it may be premature to dismiss the Book of Mormon as an absurd fraud. I suggest it's worth reading and investigating carefully.

11 comments:

Nathan said...

Jeff, having read Hugh Nibley's "Lehi in the Desert" and also this article, it's just more evidence to me that a) places and things mentioned in the Book of Mormon ARE able to be proven scientifically - and even have been acknowledged by scientists that are NOT OF OUR FAITH and b) there is absolutely no way Joseph Smith even knew about places such as NHM in the early 19th century, certainly not enough to be so descriptive as to directional patterns from one place to another or the climates of Wadis along the Arabian Peninsula.

The Book of Mormon is true. I love it!

There will be detractors commenting following this post. To them, I say: Before you codemn the things of God... Read the book. Pray to know if it is the Word of God and you will, as millions have before you, come to a knowledge that it is indeed true.

I am grateful to know that the heavens are NOT closed, that God hears our prayers in 2009, and that he has continued to give revelation in these, the latter days.

Thanks for this wonderful blog Jeff! Keep up the good work!

Fox said...

Hey Mormanity, do you know of any other historians that have documentation of Christ during his life other then Josephus? Well even Josephus was a bit after Jesus' time, but you get me. Before I have to sift through internet drivel I was wondering if you have any recommended reads.

A little off topic here I apologize.

Nathan I respect your testimony. Something you said peaked my interest. You said that God has continued to give revelation in these the latter days. I just got done reading 'Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith' and noticed that the early prophets had some very striking and distinct revelations and visions, especially Joseph. I mean tons of new doctrine via visions, and even a few visitations from angels. The Prophets nowadays seem to lack this sort of bold revelation. Were you referring to prophesies and visions or scientific confirmations like the evidence from Arabia and the like? Im not too up to date on recent prophetic revelations though, so please do describe any you may know of.

I sometimes wonder why all the extraordinary stuff doesn't happen anymore. I mean, the bible, BoM, and even early presidents seemed to soak up all the action.

Nathan said...

Fox - I was just thinking that to myself earlier today. Sometimes I wish President Monson was bold as Noah in predictions, especially with the economy and natural disasters lately. However, it doesn't seem to me that is how the Lord prefers to warn His children at this time.

Think about it. Noah lived for 950 years. I highly doubt he did much "bold" and "extraordinary" preaching the majority of the time. Just when commanded to, leading up to the flood, in the latter stages when God was giving His children their last chance at repentance before the great deluge.

In our day it does seem that the prophets and apostles speak strictly to the church audience as opposed to raising a warning voice to the entire world. Perhaps God is giving His children just a bit more time to repent on their own (after all he's a very patient Father) before "bold" and "extraordinary" prophecies start occurring.

In 1995 the First Presidency released "A Proclamation to the World." In a sense that can be viewed as a global prophetic statement.

As to your point about Joseph Smith stating many prophetic things in the early stages of the Church. It is my belief that he and Brigham have given more prophetic utterances since they were at the forefront of the rise of the Church and those things were necessary for the Church to grow and flourish in the States and eventually other countries as well. For all we know President Monson could be receiving similar revelations as Joseph did (D&C sections) but they aren't being made public for whatever reason - just a thought, not doctrine.

In conclusion, I would hesitate to say that prophets today "lack this sort of bold revelation." I'm certain that they have it. I'm certain they've seen what will befall this nation and the world as we tick-tock our way towards the Second Coming. Every now and then you will hear their prophetic warnings aimed at the Saints in Conference addresses: be righteous, get out of debt, work on your food storage, read the scriptures, etc. All things that will help prepare THE SAINTS to be a righteous people, while at the same time doing missionary work to warn non-members as well.

I firmly believe that as time gets closer to great catastrophic events the warning voices of the prophets will be much more "bold and "extraordinary" and that the world will hear their voices.

Remember, Samuel the Lamanite didn't prophecy "bold and extraordinary" doomsday prophecies to the Nephites until five years from the time of Christ's birth (38 years until the destruction that befell America).

Perhaps it will be the same in the 21st century.

Nathan said...

Also Fox, the great thing about revelation is this:

It is NOT reserved solely for prophets. Everybody can have things revealed to them. This is the doctrine of 'personal revelation.' That is more so what I was referring to.

For a great talk on this subject I direct you to Elder Bruce R. McConkie's Conference talk entited 'Receiving Personal Revelation.'

It's a great thing to know that our Heavenly Father knows us, loves us and is aware of our daily struggles and that he will not leave us comfortless (John 14:18). We can receive revelation for our own lives and those under our stewardship (note: this does NOT mean we can receive revelation aimed at authority higher than us).

But also, the heavens are NOT closed. God hears your prayers. God answers prayers. God knows and loves each of us and will help guide us back to His presence if we only let Him. If we turn our whole selves over to Him and let Him make us into the people He would have us be.

Anonymous said...

Simply watch conference and you will receive your revelations!

I too had a question. The Church has been established. Changes are made every year. Subtle and large. 100 + temples, mini temples, perpetual education fund, changes in Temple ceremonies, the parable of the 3 white dresses, the parable of the two keys etc . . . What we want is for the Prophet to stand and say, I saw God yesterday and he said!!! Where's our faith.

Most people forget that a lot of what Joseph Smith revealed wasn't new. It's all found in the Bible. When my Grandfather went on his first mission he didn't have extra copies of the book of Mormon. The mission President told him to use the Bible. Everything we believe is there. Think about it. Baptism for the Dead. 3 degree's of glory. etc. . .

sorry it's anonymous. can't figure out my password.

Mike

John said...

Surely there were in Old Testament times periods when the Lord's spokesmen led the people but didn't have open revelations. An example might be the time of Eli, for it says, "And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision." (1 Samuel 3:1)

And, there may have been such times in Book of Mormon history. Did not Abinadom write, "I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy." (Omni 11)

If one or more of the church presidents goes through part or all of their administrations without an open revelation, I am okay with that.

Papa D said...

Jeff, I find it fascinating that the ONLY part of the Book of Mormon where we have any idea where it might have been located is the pre-sailing part (only a few pages, really) - and that part is bolstered by quite a bit of evidence. We really have no concrete understanding of where the rest took place - so the vast majority lack credible "scientific" evidence.

There's enough evidence to keep any objective reader from dismissing it out of hand but not enough to make it clear and obvious. Personally, I think there's an important message in that fact - both about faith and how God operates.

Fox said...

That was very refreshing Nathan thank you. Can't say I agree totally but you definitely have some good points, especially about Joseph and Brigham recieving more bold revelation possibly because they were more involved with restoration. Whether or not Monson is receiving bold revelation is rather a mystery though, where-as the early prophets were known for it. I think it would be very exciting to contemplate some "new" doctrine or prophecy... just a thrilling thought =] I can only imagine the excitement the saints experienced when Joseph announced that he had yet again been ministered to by angels, and that they had important truths to reveal.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but the Eastward Turn at Nahom in Arabia although interesting it is a stretch to make it fit into the Book of Mormon. Can you suckers take a second and try to prove the Book of Mormon False. It's easy. Now trying to prove it true, that's next to impossible. And I'm not comparing Bible to Book of Mormon so don't use that as your defense.

ltbugaf said...

Anonymous on 9 April, it's rather hard to engage your argument since you haven't made one. You're giving conclusions with none of the evidence you've used to reach them. If you say it's a stretch then say why you think so, so we can at least understand where you're coming from. If you say it's easy to prove the Book of Mormon false, then provide something to back yourself on that point (and please, not just more re-hash of the same tired and long-disproven junk that anti-Mormons have been hurling for more than a century).

Matt Robertson said...

Papa D, I think perhaps one of the reasons it is much easier to pin point an exact location in the old world is because we started in a position that was already known to us, Jerusalem. It is much easier to follow the geographical trail when we know where to look, that is why it is much easier to find geographical evidence for the Bible.
However, in the new world there is so no such Jerusalem and such exact explanations for where exactly things are in comparison to such a known point. I don't know if this is true or not, but it is my way of looking at things.