Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Importance of Nephi's Sailing Adventure

In reading the Book of Mormon, have you ever wondered why Nephi spent so much time writing about his adventure building a ship and sailing to the Land of Promise? Or what about the extensive record of the Jareditres building barges and sailing across the great waters? Yet, at the same time, we have but a single sentence of the Mulekite crossing.
Doesn’t it seem strange that so much was written about the two events, but almost nothing about the third?
Yet, though we might reasonably relegate the Mulekite adventure to something of little meaning, the Lord thought enough about Mulek and those who came with him, to preserve Mulek’s life, save them from the Babylonians, and lead them across the ocean to Lehi’s Land of Promise.
“Behold, it came to pass that Mosiah discovered that the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon. And they journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth” (Omni 1:15-16). Sixty-six words, of which only 12 relate to crossing the ocean, and not one word on how it was done, in what manner it was done, or what their conveyance might have been.
We might conclude that since no further explanation of their voyage is given, that it might have been like one of the two more extensively written about—that of the Jaredites or the Lehi colony. And since the Jaredite built barges some 1500 years or more before Nephi built his ship, and since the Mulekite voyage was within about 10 years of the Lehi colony, we might conclude that the Mulekites came by ship similar to that of the Nephites.
Did they come by a Phoenician ship as most Mesoamerican Theorists claim?
Now we are left with a further speculation. Did the Mulekites sail to the west, through the Mediterranean as so many theorists claim, or did they sail eastward like the Nephites?
At this point, one might ask, “does it really matter?”
The answer to that question might be found in the tendency of readers of the scriptural record to accept the words of the Book of Mormon as they are written, or inject their own beliefs and opinions into the reading, thus coming up with answers not verifiable by the scriptural record.
Is that important? I have always thought so.
As an example, every Mesoamerican theorist claims the Mulekites landed along the east coast in the Land Northward, had a lot or some interaction with the Jaredites, eventually traveled south, settled along the east coast in the Land Southward, then eventually migrated across the land to the west and built Zarahemla, where Mosiah found them. Of course, the scriptures do not tell us this at all, but state a different landing site entirely.
However, such an east coast landing scenario typically involves seeking passage on a Phoencian ship, and brought from the Mediterranean Sea to the Land of Promise by Phoenician sailors. What became of the Phoenicians, who were not Jews, not even Hebrews, but Canaanites, is never mentioned. Nor is it ever suggested how a small band of Jews, escaping from the massive Babylonian army which controlled the entire region, including southern leads into Egypt, the western approaches to Jerusalem, including the entire east coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and all northern approaches, managed to even get to the Phoenician ports.
The Phoenician ships were powered by a single sail and oars, were not known to have sailed beyond the Mediterranean Sea except along the European coast northward to present day France and England, or along the coasts of Africa, but never into deep oceans, except by modern historians who bestow upon them achievements not recorded in ancient histories
It is also never suggested what prompted a trading society like the Phoenicians, whose sailing is recorded along the eastern and northern shores of the Mediterranean, to cross the entire known world at the time to the Gates of Hercules (Gibraltar) and head out into the unknown Atlantic Ocean. Nor how a sailing vessel, typically powered by a single sail and oars, managed to fight against winds and currents that kept much larger, and more capable ships along the European and African coasts for another two thousand years before sailors like Columbus discovered the southern winds and currents that blew westward across the Pacific from Easter Island off the west African coast.
Despite all these problems with historical facts, the Mesoamerican Theorists blithely have the Mulekites being carried to the Western Hemisphere by a non-religious people in an age when nothing was known to have existed to the west of Spain. What would have prompted a trading people to forego trades of monetary value to explore or taxi an unknown people, who were being chased by a fearful enemy to the Phoenicians, who would have been more likely to curry favor with Babylon and turn them in for a profit, than concerned about Jerusalem, across an unknown sea, for an unknown reason.
Yet, writers of today, like those at National Geographic, love to tell us how important the Phoenicians were and that they dominated sea trade in the Mediterranean for 3,000 years, but at the same time having no idea who the “mysterious Phoenicians” really were, where they came from, nor know anything about their society until about 1100 B.C., when it is claimed they rose as a significant cultural and political force in the Levant, where they established important trading centers from Cyprus in the east to the Aegean Sea, Italy, North Africa, and Spain in the west. Still, the writers of today report that the “Phoenicians have become ghosts, a vanished civilization” that though not a single Phoenician evidence of their writing ability survived, are claimed not only to have had a rich literature, to have invented the alphabet, but of having thousands of written records on papyrus—but their conquerors built on or over their building and evidence of their writing has disintegrated over time.
The Babylonian empire in 600 B.C. controlled the eastern Mediterranean and south into Egypt and north. Though they claimed the land to the southeast, toward the Red Sea, it was not guarded and there were no Babylonian outposts—only on the roads into Egypt
Such an unknown people dropped their lucrative trade business to transport Mulek and his people across the ocean to the New World, though there is no knowledge of any Phoenician vessel having made such a trip. Then, too, the Mulekites are said to have landed along the east coast of the Land Northward at a time when the Jaredites were in a murderous rage, fighting for many years, killing more than two million in battle, and allowing an unknown people, small in comparative stature, obviously not well armed, to invade their land and later escape to the south.
The simple truth is, Amaleki, an eye-witness to the events he writes about, tells us of being with Mosiah when he fled from the City of Nephi and “they traveled through the wilderness until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:13), and there “discovered a people, who were called the people of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:14) who had “journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth” (Omni 1:16).
 So is it important to know how the Mulekites came to the Land of Promise? I think it is important to understand what the scriptural record tells us of that event and not make up scenarios that are contrary to the Book of Mormon. Amaleki tells us that the Mulekites were brought across the ocean by the hand of the Lord and landed in the area of Zarahemla, where later Mosiah found them, and had lived there since their landing.
It is as simple as that.

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