Thursday, December 5, 2013

Was this Lehi's Route Across the Pacific? – Part I

One of our readers sent this in and asked us to take a look at it and tell her what we thought of it. This particular article, written by L. Swayne Samuelson, entitled Lehi in the Pacific, Powerful New Evidence for the Book of Mormon, has to do with Lehi’s journey across the Pacific and involves an island-hopping journey in which there is absolutely nothing in the scriptural record to suggest any such thing. However, in order to respond, we will reprint the article under separate Comments with our Responses.    
    Comment: “The Lehi party undoubtedly had sufficient supplies on board, including drinking water, to avoid the necessity of a landfall in India. But after crossing the Bay of Bengal they did come ashore on an island in the group which still bears the name they must have given it, the Andaman Islands, practically identical with the name given to Father Adam's home, Adam Ondi-Ahman. (See D&C 78:15, 107:53-57, 116:1)“
Response: First of all, if Lehi went this way, he would have skirted off the south India coast, gone further south in the Laccadive Sea and beyond Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and across to the channel between Great Nicobar and Sabang islands, and into the Andaman Sea at the mouth of the Malacca strait. To have gone north into the Bay of Bengal to the Andaman Islands would not only have been close to 500 miles out of the way, but would have served no purpose whatever. From Ceylon straight across to the Malacca Strait between Malaysia and Sumatra is the only direction that makes any sense. If they needed supplies, they could have landed on Ceylon or across to the Great Nicobar Island, or even to Kota Banda. Since the Valley of Lemuel and the River of Laban, two names given by Lehi, have not survived, nor the name of Bountiful, nor the Irreantum Sea, it is extremely unlikely any name Lehi might have given an island would still be called that.
    Comment: “No non-Mormon scholar has been able to explain how that ancient American name came to be the name of islands in the Bay of Bengal. Lehi obviously knew the name, and bestowed it on these islands in gratitude for God's leading them there for provisions. It must truly have seemed to them like the Garden of Eden where Father Adam dwelt!”
    Response: After spending eight years in the desert wilderness, the Empty Quarter, and the largest sand desert in the world, before arriving at this coastal paradise along the shore, Lehi called it Bountiful. He did not consider it a place where Adam dwelt, or the Garden of Eden. If Lehi went in the direction of the Andamans, they would have arrived their within a few weeks—and been on water with cool winds all the way. Not much chance they would have thought of this place in terms of Adam and the Garden. Nor do we know that Lehi knew the name of Adam-ondi-Ahman, since it was not a name known in the Bible, would not have been on the brass plates, and is known only now to us from a revelation given to Joseph Smith. The chance that Lehi would have known this name is about zero.
As for the Andaman Sea name, it was originally called the Burma Sea. As for Andaman, the name is ancient and has always been in historical times some form of Andaman. According to R.C. Temple, and Hunter, Cotton, Burn and Meyer (1908), as well as the Imperial Gazetteer of India, the Great Britain India Office, and the Asian Educational Services, it is believed to have derived from Hanuman, the Malay form of Hanuman, the Sanskrit name treating the islands as the abode of the Hindu mythological monkey people or savage aboriginal monkey god. The islands have been inhabited since long before Lehi’s time by the negritos Andamanese people, who are thought to have a relationship with the Sernang of Malaysia and the Aeta of the Philippines. Ptolemy called the Andamans by another name, and the Persian navigator Buzurg ibn shahriyar of Ramhormuz called them Andaman al-Kabir (Great Andaman). They are called Timaittivu in Tamil (impure islands), and Marco Polo called them Angamanain.
    Comment: “We can follow Lehi's party as they sail somewhat south, passing the opening to the Strait of Malacca (more about that later!) to follow the southern coast of Sumatra. The name of this large island was probably chosen to reflect the loyalty of Sam to his brother Nephi and Sam's defense of Nephi against the rebellious Laman and Lemuel, since the name appears to be compounded from the name "Sam" and the Hebrew word 'athar' meaning "to entreat, urge". It is probable that somewhere on or near this island Sam entreated the older brothers to obey Nephi. Thus the name means "Sam entreated [here]".
    Response: First of all, from the Andaman Islands to the Malacca Strait is very close to due south, not “somewhat south.” Secondly, nowhere in scripture are we led to believe that Sam ever spoke out against his older brothers. In fact, Sam is basically shown to us as a quiet, reserved, and background type person. At no time does he step forward, and at no time does he “entreat” his older brothers, or the sons of Ishmael, to listen to Nephi. As for the name, it is derived in ancient times from Sanskrit Swarnadwipa, which means “island of gold” and Swanabhumi, meaing “land of gold,” because of the gold deposits on the island’s highland. It is also related to the kingdom name of Samudra Pasai before it was replaced by the Sultanate of Aceh. At the time of Lehi, this island was not inhabited, with people arriving there in 500 B.C. from Taiwan, and would not have known any name Lehi might have given it.
Comment: “The next island they would have encountered, just east from Sumatra, is Java, obviously named by the Lehite party after their God Jehovah. It is likely that Lehi worshiped here, and legends on this island speak of ancient visitors who built altars and worshiped different gods, and then left.”
    Response: Again, whatever name Lehi might have given a place has not been shown to last to another people anywhere the colony traveled. As for Java, the name is attributed to “home,” “distant,” and probably came from “jau” which means “beyond or distant,” a name that is best applied from across the small seas around it, from which it appears beyond the sea or distant island. There is also the fact that the island was covered of wild barley, and in Sanskrit, “yava” means “barley.” There is also the jawa-wut, which was the name of a common plant on the island, which was known as “island of barley” early in its history.
    Comment: “The name of the largest city on the island, Jakarta or Djakarta, still reflects this, being made up of 'Jehu' ("Jehovah") and the Hebrew word 'karath' meaning "to covenant." It is likely, then, that this city is built at the spot where Lehi and his party renewed their covenants with Jehovah.”
Response: Jakarta has been known under several names: Sundra Kelapa, Batavia, Jayakarta, Djakarta, and Jacatra. It originally was a Hindu settlement and port in the Indianized kingdom of Tarumanagara. Its Chinese name, Chu-fan-chi, which was written by Chou Ju-kura, when Srivijaya ruled Sumatra and Malay peninsulas and western Java, which was known as Sunda. Prince Jayawikarta established a settlement on the west banks to control the port of the river there. In short, this island has been known by numerous names, and ruled by numerous princes, kingdoms, and sultanates. The current name more reflects the names of several rulers than any ancient name given it by someone passing through.
(See the next post, “Was this Lehi's Route Across the Pacific? – Part II,” for more of the article in question)

1 comment:

  1. Did you not read the next page of that pretend article about Lehi where the anti-Mormon author said he made up the whole thing to mock Mormon's? There is no need for rebuttal, just a need to warn people.