Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Greatness of Nephi – Part I

Nephi comes on the scene in the Book of Mormon as an obedient son, a strong believer in God, and with a most positive outlook on just about everything. When his father asked him to do something difficult, he replied, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7); and when the Lord said build a ship and he said whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship” (1 Nephi 17:9). In a day when many people feel to busy to serve, we should appreciate the greatness of this man who did everything he was ever asked.
Nephi was “born of goodly parents” (1 Nephi 1:1), his father had been given a great vision (1 Nephi 1:8) and called to prophesy to the disobedient and wicked Jews of his day (1 Nephi 1:18). Nephi learned from his father obedience to the Lord, for though he had a comfortable life and acquired great wealth, Lehi obeyed the Lord and left everything behind and went into the wilderness as commanded (1 Nephi 2:4). While his older brothers murmured against their father (1 Nephi 2:11-12), Nephi was willing to do whatever his father asked (1 Nephi 3:2, 7), and when he brothers wanted to give up, he pressed on to obtain the brass plates by himself, trusting in the Lord (1 Nephi 3:15; 4:1, 6). Despite all the problems, difficulties, threats, and attempts at his life by his older brothers, Nephi said of Laman and Lemuel, “For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry” (2 Nephi 33:3).
When the Lord showed Nephi how to build his ship, and despite the negative attitudes of his older brothers and not wanting to help (1 Nephi 17:18), he built the ship, laboring intensely to accomplish something he had never tried before, nor do we know he had built anything before this time. We only know that he trusted in the Lord and set about to accomplish what he was commanded (1 Nephi 17:50-51) with the kind of faith few men have ever possessed (1 Nephi 17:50). He was so close to the Spirit that the Lord could imbue him with such power that his brothers could not even touch him, but he could stretch “forth my hand unto my brethren, and they did not wither before me; but the Lord did shake them, even according to the word which he had spoken” (1 Nephi 17:48, 54).
Nephi built his ship in the manner in which the Lord instructed him so that it would withstand the pounding of deep ocean winds and waves and strong currents to reach the Land of Promise
He built his ship in a special way, after the manner the Lord had instructed him (1 Nephi 18:1, 3), working timbers unlike how men worked wood in his day (1 Nephi 18:2), and it was such a fine job that it impressed even his reluctant and unbelieving brothers (1 Nephi 18:4). Once on board, they put forth into the Sea (1 Nephi 18:8). Now, at this point, this exceptional man of God, who walked and talked with God, who was instructed in the ways of building his ship, tells us that his ship, once into the Sea, “was driven forth before the wind towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:8). He says that again, stating: “And after we had been driven forth before the wind for the space of many days” (1 Nephi 18:9), evidently to make certain we understood that his vessel was propelled by the winds and was carried along on the currents of the sea that the winds created.
To the “land lubber” that might not mean much, but to anyone who sailed from the beginning of sail up to around the Age of Discovery, they knew that once in the water, you sailed where the winds took you. To compensate for going against the winds, the ships of the Mediterranean could furl their sail and use men at oars to propel their ship when the winds did not take them where they wanted. However, long distance sailing was only by wind and waves, by the sea currents that followed known patterns throughout the entire globe. It should also be pointed out that when the storm came up, “a great and terrible tempest, and we were driven back upon the waters for the space of three days; and they began to be frightened exceedingly lest they should be drowned in the sea” (1 Nephi 18:13). Now they did not want to be driven back upon the waters, but the winds of the storm took them where the winds blew, whether they wanted to go in that direction or not. Then, when the storm blew itself out, the storm did cease, and there was a great calm. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land (1 Nephi 18:21-22).
Currents and winds move in known and constant directions, and those of the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean preclude any movement eastward toward India and the Indonesian islands
As has often been said in this blog, that if one wants to know the path Nephi’s ship took, and where it landed, all one has to do is 1) accept Nephi’s words that his ship was driven forth before the wind, and 2) know where the winds blew and currents moved from the point Nephi embarked to where he would have reached the Western Hemisphere. It is not rocket science, nor does one need to learn it from an academician. All one has to do is look in any atlas or look up waves and currents on the internet to find out where the winds blew from the Arabian sea coast, and where they would have taken a weather sailing ship that was “driven forth before the wind.”
Now Nephi’s wordage at this point is also very important. In one verse he says, “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:22), and the very next verse, he says, “And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:23). The very next verse they landed! Yet, so many Theorists, from Sorenson and the Mesoamericanists to most other theorists, they want us to believe:
1) That after Nephi got control of his ship again, he headed toward Indonesia against the winds and currents;
2) They passed thousands of islands, mostly traveling against winds and currents;
3) They stopped at numerous islands for supplies without a single noteworthy comment or incident;
4) That Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael caused no more trouble as they wound their way around and between the South Seas island paradises that led to numerous mutinies of seamen during the Age of Discovery.
Clear water, beautiful lagoons, white beaches, warm weather—all of which would have been very attractive and tempting to Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael. It is hard to imagine that if they went this way, that they would not have wanted to stop here as opposed to some distant, unknown land
All one has to do is read the first 18 chapters of 1st Nephi and see where Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael caused numerous problems, from wanting to go back to Jerusalem (1 Nephi 7:6-7) to threatening to kill their father (1 Nephi 16:37). In all of this, they continued to be rebellious, resenting Lehi and Nephi’s obedience to the Lord, wanting to kill them both, tying Nephi up in the desert and on his ship, wanting to throw Nephi into the Ocean from a high cliff, and numerous other evil intrigues. And all of this Nephi dutifully recorded through eighteen chapters. Yet, when Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael would have had ample opportunity to jump ship for the safety and serenity of paradisiacal south seas islands, and most certainly would have made some attempts at that, or taken over the ship and setting in and not continuing along what they thought was a foolish journey based on the “the foolish imaginations of [Lehi’s] heart (1 Nephi 17:20).
There is another, most important point to suggest why Nephi’s ship did not island-hop or weave its way through Indonesia—a point that Nephi makes very clear.
(See the next post, “The Greatness of Nephi – Part II,” for even more on the greatness of this first Nephite prophet, and especially why their ship would not have gone where any islands were located, and especially not stopped off on islands along the way)

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