Easy URL for these pages:
Book of Mormon Evidences, Part One discusses some of the many factors supporting the plausibility of the Book of Mormon as an ancient document. It is part of a collection that includes Book of Mormon Evidences, Part Two, Book of Mormon Evidences, Part Three, and Book of Mormon Nuggets.
Contrary to the claims of our critics, there are many interesting findings that make it difficult to explain away the Book of Mormon as a nineteenth-century fraud from Joseph Smith. Such evidence is not "proof" but should encourage readers and seekers of truth to give the Book of Mormon a chance. These pages are maintained by Jeff Lindsay, a Book of Mormon aficionado, who takes full responsibility for the statements and opinions offered on this page. This page is neither sponsored nor endorsed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This page is the work of Jeff Lindsay of Appleton, Wisconsin (now living in Shanghai, China since 2011). I served an LDS mission in the Switzerland Zurich mission and have held a variety of Church callings. However, don't blame the Church for any errors here: I write, ramble, and stumble on my own.
Not that it matters, but I have a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from BYU, I'm registered U.S. patent agent, I love science, inventing, photography, writing and learning. Professionally, I have been in academia and corporate research and development, have many technical publications and patent, and have been active in IP and innovation strategy.
Mormanity is my LDS blog, in operation since 2004. Numerous Book of Mormon issues have been discussed there. Also see the Neal Maxwell Institute, FAIRLDS.org, SHIELDS, the Book of Mormon articles at BYU Studies, Mormonism Researched and The Backyard Professor.)
You can order a free Book of Mormon at Mormon.org.
Parts of this page are translated into Spanish: see Evidencias del Libro de Mormon by Marco Royo.
Much more to come...
I assume that you are already familiar with what the Book of Mormon is. If not, please see my Introduction to Book of Mormon.
The purpose of the Book of Mormon is to convince the world that Jesus is the Christ, our Lord and Redeemer. It was written by prophets anciently, preserved, and translated in our era by the power of God as a tool to bring souls to Christ. Intellectual evidence of Book of Mormon authenticity is an issue worthy of careful consideration. However, intellectual evidences on their own do not change lives and bring souls to Christ--that requires a spiritual witness through the power of the Holy Ghost. Nevertheless, intellectual evidences can be valuable in opening minds and strengthening one's spiritual testimony of the truth. I am greatly impressed with the evidence of Book of Mormon authenticity, especially factors that seemed like laughable mistakes in 1830 that now have become powerful witnesses that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be -- an authentic ancient document that Joseph Smith DID NOT write. He translated it through the power of God.
While I have much to say below about some of the impressive Old World finds related to the Book of Mormon, we are still in our infancy in understanding the geography of the New World setting for the Book of Mormon, but there is a consensus among many LDS scholars now that the most plausible settiing for the Book of Mormon in the New World is a small region, not the entire hemisphere, and that region is set in Mesoamerica, the area covering part of sourthern Mexico, Guatemala, and nearby regions. Mesoamerica fits in many ways. For those interested in understanding the geography debates and the growing evidence in this area, here are some resources to consider:
This section is based largely on the book In the Footsteps of Lehi by Warren P. Aston and Michaela K. Aston (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Comp., 1994). Also see the resources at FAIRMormon on Old World Geography and the Book of Mormon, and the article, "The Arabian Bountiful Discovered? Evidence for Nephi's Bountiful" by Warren P. Aston, and see Chapter 13 of Reexploring the Book of Mormon, as cited above. Or download the large PDF document that includes Warren Aston's "Across Arabia with Lehi and Sariah: 'Truth Shall Spring Forth Out of the Earth,'" Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 15, no. 2 (2006), pp. 8-25, along with other great articles and photos related to the Arabian Peninsula. This one link is a motherload of info on the Arabian Peninsula evidences for the Book of Mormon.
Recent Updates: The Debate Around Arabian Locations. Valuable information on the plausibility of Nephi's journey through Arabia is provided in the new book by George Potter and Richard Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, Inc., 2003), which is a highly significant work, even if some of the specific sites identified end up being surpassed by other candidates. Yes, there is a healthy debate going on over which sites are the most likely sites for several scene in the Book of Mormon. As part of the healthy quest for understanding among LDS thinkers, there have been criticisms offered against some of the proposed sites identified by Potter and Wellington. The contrarian side is found in "The Wrong Place for Lehi's Trail and the Valley of Lemuel" by Jeffrey R. Chadwick (FARMS Review, Vol. 17, No. 2, 2005). Potter and Wellington remain in the strong position of having done actual fieldwork in Arabia, and Chadwick's proposed candidate for the Valley of Lemuel seems problematic in comparison, being a dry, barren valley without the river of water Potter and Wellington have found. But he does score some important points. Further clarity came when Kent Brown reviewed candidates for the Valley of Lemuel. Wadi Tayyib al-Ism proposed by George Potter based on his field work stands as the most plausible candidate.
Modern critics with far more education and knowledge of the Arabian Peninsula than Joseph Smith ever had have scoffed at the Book of Mormon's description of the impressive Valley of Lemuel with its "river, continually running" into the Red Sea (1 Nephi 2:9-10). "Everyone knows" that there are no such rivers - yet a highly plausible candidate for exactly such a place exists. (The story repeats itself with the place Bountiful - mockery at the preposterous, uneducated fabrication of Joseph Smith, followed by relative silence in the face of impressive evidence that such a place may be plausible after all.) Now if the Book of Mormon were completely fabricated based on what Joseph could glean about the world from upstate New York in the late 1820s, would we now have the luxury of discussing which actual wadi in Arabia best matches the textual details for the Valley of Lemuel and the River Laman? Or would we be discussing the impressive merits of one candidate for Bountiful versus another, as we see below, when "everyone knows" (until recently!) that no such place could possibly exist? It should give one pause, at least.
Related video content includes George Potter and Richard Wellington giving a 2003 presentation on their work, Lehi in the "Wilderness: 81 New Evidences" (part 1). Also see Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6. There are points one can take issue with, but the scope of their on-site work demands attention and serious consideration.
|Overview: The Book of Mormon describes an ancient journey through the Arabian peninsula with plausible details such as directions, a verified ancient place name, geographical details, and the description of an unexpected place called Bountiful that now also appears to be verified. These details could not have been fabricated based on what was known in 1830--even modern "general knowledge" of the Arabian peninsula would not allow a typical educated adult to provide the confirmed details in the Book of Mormon. The only plausible explanation for this is that the author of First Nephi, the book containing the account of the ancient Arabian trek, actually made that trek. The most logical candidate for authorship of First Nephi is Nephi, not Joseph Smith.|
The Book of Mormon begins in a well-known location, Jerusalem, in 600 B.C. The book of First Nephi, the first book in the volume, describes the actions of Lehi and his family in leaving Jerusalem before its destruction, following the counsel of the Lord, and wandering through the wilderness for several years before embarking on a transoceanic voyage to somewhere in or near Central America. Several hints are found in the text that provide information about the journey through the Arabian Peninsula--information which proves to provide powerful evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
Following the exodus of Lehi and his group from Jerusalem, they passed near the Red Sea, traveled "south-southeast" (1 Nephi 16:13), roughly parallel to the Red Sea or near its borders (1 Nephi 2:5, 1 Nephi 16:14), until they reached Nahom (1 Nephi 16:34), where Ishmael was buried. (Ishmael was the father of a family that fled Jerusalem with Lehi's family, whose daughters became wives to Lehi's sons.) There was considerable mourning at Nahom. After a while, they traveled eastward (1 Nephi 17:1) until they reached a place they called Bountiful (1 Nephi 17:5) on the coast of the Arabian peninsula, described as rich, green garden spot with trees, abundant fruit, water, honey, and a mountain. At this wonderful site they stayed at least long enough to construct a ship from the abundant timber. Metal obtained from ore was also used to make tools.
The description of Lehi's journey through the desert has been attacked in anti-Mormon literature. Finding a garden spot on the coast of the Arabian peninsula was laughable and was laughed at in the 1800s, because nobody knew of a place that could come anywhere close to being a candidate for Lehi's Bountiful. Indeed, recent anti-Mormon books continue to mock the possibility of a place like Bountiful existing. "The Arabian desert does not have luscious garden spots: Joseph Smith blew it. Case closed." Today we are in a much better position to assess Lehi's journey. It comes as no surprise to me that the journey described in the Book of Mormon now has substantial support behind it.
Enjoy these scenes from the coast of Oman, used with kind permission from the official site for the Ministry of Information of the Sultanate of Oman, Magneto (that's right: it's dot "om", not "com"). The original, larger photos are in their beautiful photogallery. To access it, go to their site and click on "gallery" and then "tourism," and then click through their photos. Amazing views! Also see the photogallery at ExploreOman.com, and my post on Oman photos at my blog, Mormanity.
|After rain in Dhofar, near a candidate site for Bountiful (Wadi Sayq). Note the trees.||A view in Salalah, another candidate region for Bountiful in Oman.|
First, an analysis of the ways of the desert Arabs shows remarkable consistency with the actions taken by Lehi's group and with the language and metaphors used by Lehi as he spoke to his family while traveling in the desert (well covered in Hugh Nibley's Lehi in the Desert). His general path along the Red Sea also follows what are now known to correspond with the ancient frankincense trails in Arabia, which were major trade routes. (See an online map at Latter-day.com of the proposed route, or a group of maps at NephiProject.com. Also see K.C. Kern's satellite map showing the locations of Nahom and Bountiful at BookofMormonOnline.net.) And, as discussed elsewhere on this page, an excellent candidate location has been found for the Valley of Lemuel and the River of Laman--so excellent and amazing, that critics will be ignoring this issue for years to come.
But thanks to the explorations of the Astons in Yemen and Oman, and more recently the work of George Potter (the force behind the Nephi Project--see www.nephiproject.com), we now know much more. As the Astons show in their book, the many details of Lehi's journey in the Book of Mormon can be given solid plausibility based on modern discoveries. For example, the Astons show that there is indeed an ancient site called Nehem that is south-southeast of Jerusalem which was on the frankincense trail and has an ancient tradition of being a place for burial and mourning. Ancient tombs are still abundant in that area. The name Nehem/Nahom ("nhm"--which can also be rendered "Nihm") is a rare place name--with the only known site in the Arabian peninsula being at a place consistent with the Book of Mormon account. Along with detailed documentation and references, the Astons' book includes a photograph of the 1976 Royal Geographical Society map--apparently from the University of Sana'a in Yemen--showing Nehem as a significant burial site in the right place to agree with the Book of Mormon description of Nahom. The existence of this site was not known to LDS scholars until a few years ago and certainly could not have been known to Joseph Smith. (By the way, the Semitic name Nahom can refer to mourning and consolation, and may also refer to groaning and complaining, giving it special significance in Nephi's account as a possible Hebraic wordplay. See 1 Nephi 16:35.)
Some critics have argued that references to Nahom/Nehem/Nihm in writing could be traced no earlier than about 900 A.D., not to 600 B.C. That argument lost it basis with a recent discovery of an artifact dating to the sixth or seventh century B.C. bearing the tribal name of "Nihm." S. Kent Brown describes the find (note that I have simply left out several Semitic markings in the names below that I cannot type with ANSI characters):
"A German archaeological team under the leadership of Burkard Vogt has been excavating the Baran temple in Marib, the ancient capital of the Sabaean kingdom that lies about 70 miles due east of modern Sana, the capital of Yemen. (It is likely that the queen of Sheba began her journey to visit King Solomon from Marib.) Among the artifacts uncovered at the temple, the excavators turned up an inscribed altar that they date to the seventh or sixth centuries B.C., generally the time of Lehi and his family. A certain "Biathar, son of Sawad, son of Nawan, the Nihmite" donated the altar to the temple. the altar has been part of a traveling exhibit of artifacts from ancient Yemen...."
(S. Kent Brown, "'The Place That Was Called Nahom': New Light from Ancient Yemen," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1, 1999, pp. 66-68; also see "Nahom and the 'Eastward' Turn" at the Maxwell Institute.)
Impressive evidence from three inscriptions on ancient altars from Yemen has been discussed by S. Kent Brown (see "On NAHOM/NHM"), who notes that inscriptions from ancient altars in Yemen soundly demonstrate the existence of the name "NHM" in a time and place consistent with Nephi's account of the place Nahom. See also my Book of Mormon Nugget #15, "More Support for the Place Nahom", "The Arabian Bountiful Discovered? Evidence for Nephi's Bountiful" by Warren P. Aston, "Nahom and the 'Eastward' Turn" at the Maxwell Institute, and S. Kent Brown, "'The Place That was Called Nahom': New Light from Ancient Yemen," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 66-68, as well as Warren P. Aston, "Newly Found Altars from Nahom," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10/2 (2001): 56-61). The previous link is to the PDF version of the article, which is a must-read. (The HTML version without the photos is here.) There is simply no question that "Nahom" in the Book of Mormon now has solid support--a direct hit in terms of Book of Mormon evidence. The critics have tried to dismiss this evidence, making some serious errors along the way. See "Book of Mormon Minimalists and the NHM Inscriptions: A Response to Dan Vogel" by Neal Rappleye and Stephen O. Smoot in the Mormon Interpreter. Also see my response, "Noham, That’s Not History (Nor Geography, Cartography, or Logic): More on the Recent Attacks on NHM."
Thus, there is ancient evidence referring to the tribe of Nihm, a member of which was wealthy enough to donate an altar to a temple. The reference cited above shows a picture of the finely carved, beautiful altar. The reference to the tribe of Nihm doesn't prove the existence of a place by the same name. But as S. Kent Brown puts it, "it is reasonable to surmise that the tribe gave its name to the region where it dwelt, evidently a few dozen miles north of modern Sana, in the highlands that rise to the north of Wadi Jawf. Was it this name that Nephi rendered Nahom in the record? Very probably." (ibid.)
As one travels south-southeast of Jerusalem along the major trunk of the ancient Arabian trade route, the route branches east toward the southeastern coast at only point: in the Jawf valley (Wadi Jawf) just a few miles from Nehem. From thence the eastern branch of the trade route goes toward the ancient port of Qana--modern Bir Ali--on the Hadhramaut coast, where most of the incense was shipped. This eastern branch was the major route--the pathways to the south were less used.
Now if Nehem is the Book of Mormon site Nahom, then is there a Bountiful to the east of it on the coast? Amazingly, we have the luxury of two excellent candidate sites that are roughly due east of Nehem on the Oman coast. The Astons propose Wadi Sayq as the best candidate for Bountiful, and it impressively fits the criteria that one can derive from the Book of Mormon. It is a most unusual seashore site which appears to meets virtually every criterion for the site Bountiful in the Book of Mormon. George Potter and Timothy Sedor in their new video, "Following the Words of Nephi: The Land Bountiful," propose the area of Salalah and the nearby ancient port of Khor Rori as the general site for Bountiful (to order the video, see George Potter's site, www.nephiproject.com). It meets many of the criteria that Wadi Sayq does, if we allow Bountiful to include a harbor two or three miles away from an area rich in tropical fruit (the port Khor Rori and the lush regions of Salalah aren't all within a stone's throw of each other, but are close enough).
The Astons make an impressive case and clearly show that the book of First Nephi could not have been fabricated by Joseph Smith. Their candidate site of Wadi Sayq appears to offer almost all that we could hope for in terms of marvelous, even stunning evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon. Their work is further supplemented by the photographic work of Maurine and Scot Proctor, reported in the article, "Where Did Nephi Build the Ship?" from Meridian Magazine, Sept. 30, 2000. The Proctors provide some additional details beyond the work of the Astons that show the plausibility of the Wadi Sayq location. The NephiProject.com site also provides a page of maps, including a map showing a proposed route for Lehi's trail with a candidate for the Valley of Lemuel, as well as Nahom/Nehem and an alternative good candidate for Bountiful not far from the one proposed by the Astons. Also see "Where Did Nephi Build His Ship?" by Rex Jensen at Latter-day.com, discussing additional tentative evidence for Wadi Sayq as a candidate for the Bountiful site from which Nephi sailed. Also see "Where Did Nephi Build the Ship?" by Scot and Maurine Proctor. As for the challenge of sailing from Bountiful to the New World, see "Is This the Wind that Blew Nephi to the Americas?" by Warren Aston. The weather phenomenon known as El Niña could have done the trick, perhaps.
The proposal of George Potter seems rather convincing at first, but Wadi Sayq may still be the superior candidate. See the Mormanity blog post, "Warren Aston on the Superiority of Khor Kharfot as a Candidate for Bountiful." Also see "Finding Nephi's Bountiful in the Real World" by Warren P. Aston, where he offers some arguments against the Khor Rori site, and see the blog for Discover Nephi's Bountiful. Based on the video, Salalah appears to offer much more in the way of fruit and timber than does Wadi Sayq, but this may be due to recent irrigation. Khor Rori does provide a good harbor with an ancient tradition of ship building, but there is no evidence that ship building skills were there anywhere close to Nephi's time. Wadi Sayq, on the other hand, offers an inlet that anciently may have been quite suitable for launching a ship. At Khor Rori, Potter argues that Nephi could have learned the art of ship building, could have learned how to outfit and operate a ship, could have learned how to train a crew, could have done practice runs in the harbor so his family could see that it was a good ship, could have used existing moorings and literally had his family do down into the ship, and so forth. But Wadi Sayq has all the elements of Nephi's story--the mountain, the trees, the place to build a ship--all close together.
Both Wadi Sayq and Khor Rori fit the description of being nearly due east of Nehem, as the Book of Mormon requires (1 Nephi 17:1). But the path to Wadi Sayq better fits Nephi's description of nearly due east from Nahom, while more zig-zags are needed to reach Khor Rori. Regarding the other Book of Mormon criteria for the place Bountiful, the Astons list the following, along with several others:
Wadi Sayq appears to be the most compelling fit. The mountain for Khor Rori/Salalah, for example, isn't really close enough and overlooking the depths of the sea as the mountain at Wadi Sayq. Both sites are relatively close, within a journey of about two days on foot. Ore has been found at both sites, though it had not been found at Wadi Sayq when the Astons published their findings in 1994. (A 1995 FARMS-sponsored geological expedition has tentatively confirmed that ore does exist at Wadi Sayq which may have been suitable for use as described in the Book of Mormon; and on July 12, 2000, BYU's Daily Universe reported that Dr. Ron Harris of the Department of Geology had found abundant and usable iron ore at nearby Dhofar.) Wadi Sayq offers the largest body of coastal fresh water on the Arabian peninsula, with a beautiful freshwater lagoon, visible on the color photo on the dust jacket of the book "In Lehi's Footsteps." Wadi Sayq has dates, honey, and several species of trees, such as the sycamore fig and tamarind, that may be suitable for ship building. Both sites have coastal areas ideal for an encampment on the seashore, and it is accessible from the interior desert.
In the Aston's book, you'll see trees, greenery, mountains, cliffs, etc., that bring Bountiful to life. While there are two interesting candidates, I strongly favor Wadi Sayq. Warren Aston in e-mail from Oct. 2000 told me that those who have been to both sites agree that Wadi Sayq/Khor Kharfot is the superior location. But the very fact that anything remotely close to a plausible candidate exists is in stark contrast to the oft-repeated claims of critics of the Book of Mormon. Critics, how can you explain this?