Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Greatness of Nephi – Part II

Continuing with the previous post regarding the first Nephite prophet, and how he was beloved by the Lord and one of the great examples in the scriptural record for each of us to pattern our lives after.
As for the other reason why Nephi’s ship would not have gone through Indonesia, nor island-hopped across the Pacific, is that of secrecy.
It was made very clear that after the Lord had shown so many marvelous things unto my father, Lehi, yea, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, behold he went forth among the people, and began to prophesy and to declare unto them concerning the things which he had both seen and heard” (1 Nephi 1:18), and “When the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away” (1 Nephi 1:20). Soon, the “Lord spake unto my father, yea, even in a dream, and said unto him: Blessed art thou Lehi, because of the things which thou hast done; and because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee, behold, they seek to take away thy life” (1 Nephi 2:1).
Now in a dream the Lord commanded Lehi to “take his family and depart into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:2), which he did, leaving behind “his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:4). Evidently no one knew where Lehi went, for later, when Nephi and his brothers went back to obtain the brass plates and encountered Zoram, Laban’s servant who had the keys to the treasury (1 Nephi 4:20), Nephi states: “we were desirous that he should tarry with us for this cause, that the Jews might not know concerning our flight into the wilderness, lest they should pursue us and destroy us” (1 Nephi 4:36).
It was the habit of the time for Jews to pursue fleeing prophets who spoke out against them even into Egypt to capture and bring them back for trial. On some occasions they outright killed them. This would have been known to Lehi and it was important to him and his family that no one know of their journey into the wilderness for fear of being pursued and killed. Obviously, Lehi wished to travel quickly, and took a route in order to escape the priests and  Zedekiah’s sphere of influence as quickly as possible. It is likely he knew of this route from his dealings toward the south and with Egypt, or it is possible the Lord simply instructed him where to go. In any event, Lehi was traveling swiftly and secretly, as much as possible, and would not have had time nor the desire to go into Jerusalem to purchase tents, supplies, or “seeds of every kind” (1 Nephi 8:1).
Thus, when the colony entered Nephi’s ship and set sail, they would not have taken any course that would have led them through populated areas, nor would they have even gone anywhere on their trek to Bountiful where they might have been recognized and word carried back to Jerusalem, where priests were always ready to send men  after a heretic guilty of blasphemy. Lehi would have been very careful to remain isolated from other people because of such a concern. Obviously, Nephi well understood the fear and need for secrecy and when he encountered Zoram, he could not let the man go free and return to Jerusalem to tell of the family’s journey into the wilderness. This was such a concern that Nephi states “And it came to pass that when Zoram had made an oath unto us, our fears did cease concerning him” (1 Nephi 4:37).
Obviously, this was not a minor issue. Fearing the Jews trailing them into the wilderness and killing them was evidently a grave concern for Lehi as well as he sons. This should also suggest that for those who think Lehi had a home inside Jerusalem, the city was so crowded for space, that the leaving of an entire family with supplies for a trip, tents and donkeys (1 Nephi 2:4), would have obviously attracted people’s attention—and Lehi would have been well known at the time for he had been preaching in the city (1 Nephi 1:18-19).
All of this should show us two very important facts: 1) Nephi’s route to the Western Hemisphere would have been along a course where there were no lands to tempt the trouble-making sons; and 2) a route where the major winds and currents flowed away from the Arabian coast. And that route has been shown here numerous times in this blog, and is one of the main issues covered in the first part of the book Lehi Nevere Saw Mesoamerica.
Nephi’s course (red line) from Arabian coast (left) to the Western Hemisphere (right), traveling with the only currents and winds that move in that direction all year long and without encountering any contrary currents, winds, or obstructions
Lehi’s course followed the winds and currents away from the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, picked up the winds and currents of the Indian Ocean gyre, and flowed into the Prevailing Westerlies and West Wind Drift of the Southern Ocean across the Pacific, flowed northward into the Humboldt (Peruvian) Current and stopped where the winds and currents died down along the 30º South Latitude in Chile. Along this course, which would be the shortest route from Arabia to the Western Hemisphere, and the fastest, there would be no chance for any mutinous attitudes. The waves and currents are so strong, and so direct, that all those on board needed to do was hold on and watch the sun cross the sky and the moon and stars in their places throughout the journey. No food or water replacement would be necessary as Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki voyage showed. It would have been an easy, though somewhat frightening voyage, and given the rebellious sons no opportunity to make any trouble. Thus, Nephi wrote in two verses that he got the ship into the wind once again and sailed to the promised land, landing without incident or comment.
The greatness of this initial Nephite prophet should be well understood. What he wrote he wrote in simplicity, for that was what he loved--as he said, “I shall prophesy according to the plainness which hath been with me from the time that I came out from Jerusalem with my father; for behold, my soul delighteth in plainness unto my people, that they may learn.” Now if we are to learn, we need to recognize that Nephi’s words were plain and simple, geared to our understanding. When he says they ” were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:8), he meant exactly what he said, i.e., his ship was propelled by the winds (and thus the currents), toward the promised land. That is, from the time he set sail, he tells us the winds were driving his vessel toward the Land of Promise.
So where does the wind blow from the Arabian coast toward the Western Hemisphere without contrary winds and currents? Only along the Southern Ocean (see image showing Lehi’s course above).
The Monsoon winds and currents blow inland (left) for six months of the year and blow out to sea (right) six months of the year. The large arrows indicate winds, the small arrows indicate currents. Any attempt to sail in a sailing ship “driven forth before the winds” when the SW monsoon is blowing (left) would send a ship into the area of Karachi  to Mumbai along the northwest India coast (winds are stronger than currents)
Now that is plain and simple. No questions needed. We can follow Nephi’s course across the ocean to where he landed, for the winds and currents move swiftly in that direction, but stop blowing and die down at the 30º South Latitude along the Chilean coast at the Bay of Coquimbo. It is as simple as that.
Yet, there is more to understand—see the next post, “The Importance of Knowledge."

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