Monday, April 14, 2014

More Comments from Readers – Part XV

Here are more comments, questions and criticisms that have been sent in from readers of our blog, along with our responses.
    Comment #1: “Do we know where the river of running water is located at which Lehi stopped? I read an article about there being no permanent rivers or lakes in Saudi Arabia as stated by the Saudi government” Kingsley S.
    Response: Minds more knowledgeable than mine have located that area and I see no reason to doubt them. It is where the Wadi Tayyib al-Ism, a year-round river, empties into the Red Sea. George Potter, who has been there, also claims it is the Elim campsite of the Exodus, which had 12 springs of water and 70 date palms—both this Elim and Marah were in the Wilderness of Shur (Exodus 15:27), which is in this location accortdiung to Steve Rudd’s extensive research.
    The article which you read was probably the one written by James Banta in November 2009, which criticized Mormons as having “wishful thinking, an apparition seen by armature archaeologists trying to find something, anything that could support their claims of truth for the BofM.” Banta also claims that the Wadi Tayyib al-Ism is “NOT a full time river, there is no Green well watered valley in the area. It is a bone dry place that rarely sees a flash flood during a sudden thunder shower as it pounds on the hard baked earth.” He further stated that “Joseph Smith didn’t know anything about the world and thought everywhere was like upstate New York. He wrote this ‘river’ into the BofM thinking it would be quite normal but he was wrong again. There is not nor has there been a river in this area of the world for at least 6,000 years.” He uses for his source a comment made by the Royal Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington D.C., which states: “Saudi Arabia is a desert country with no permanent rivers or lakes and very little rainfall. Water is scarce and extremely valuable, and with the country’s rapid growth, the demand for waters is increasing.” However, since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are three pictures of the Wadi Tayyib al-Ism. You decide whether there is a place like Nephi described.
Top: Elevated view of the Wadi Tayyib al-Ism (Jabel Tayyib al-Ism) secluded among the granite cliffs; Bottom Left: Partially hidden among the cliffs with plenty of water and trees; Bottom Right: Where the Wady Tayyib-al-Ism empties into the Red Sea
    This is a small valley beneath tall granite canyon walls, and is an impressive sight providing isolation (Lehi no doubt would have still feared being found by the Jews who sought his life and taken back to Jerusalem as other prophets had been), offering plenty of shade where summer temperatures can reach over 110 degrees (F). It is, perhaps, the only year-round river in the region today, and empties into the Red Sea.
    While “Mormons” do not consider it a “Paradise in the desert” as Banta writes, it would be a place where Lehi and his family could have stopped for a time and rested after their lengthy journey to that point. Evidently, Lehi did not consider it a paradise either, for he did not give it a name to suggest such as he later did the area he called Bountiful along the Oman coast. By his own admission, Banta has never been in this region, relying upon maps and official government comments, but there are always areas of “wells” or water access when traveling in this desert. Interestingly enough, they are spaced conveniently for travel along the Red Sea, but are much further apart once they turned “eastward” and crossed the Arub al Khali (Empty Quarter), which Nephi acknowledges that at that time they did “wade through much affliction in the wilderness” (1 Nephi 17:1).
    Comment #2: Have you put on a map where they say NHM is? According to your map.. #3 would be where they go east from that time forward. Yet NHM is not near the borders of the Red Sea. Trying to figure out how they got to NHM without being off course in some way. Yet during this time.. they were following the Liahona” Mr. Nirom
Top: The area considered to be Nahom today through which Lehi would have passed; Bottom Left: The path Lehi took from Jerusalem. Some feel he traveled to the east of the mountains that parallel the coast area, but the scriptural account seems to suggest a more coastal journey “nearer the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 2:5), “in the borders near the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 16:14), “more fertile parts of the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:16); Bottom Right: Stone altars recently discovered with a form of the name Nahom inscribed on them that date back to the sixth or seventh century B.C.
The city of al-Qunfudhah (Kunfuda) in the Tihamah region along the coast of the Red Sea. Though the largest Red Sea seaport today, it did not originate until 709 AH (Hijri or Islamic calendar) which was 1212 AD on our calendar. Note the different in height from the sea level port to the village on top of the cliffs, which is the old Frankincense Trail (yellow) that split off from the inland route (east of the mountains) to that along the coastal shelf where Lehi traveled that led inland to Nahom
    Response: At the point where they turned east, they had already gone up from the sea level to the tops of the cliffs that run along the coastal shelf at that point. Today’s Nahom is a little further along the trail than where they camped before setting out. Assuming they spent some time where they camped grieving (a lengthy process among the ancient Hebrews, with much formality involved), the burial could have been anywhere around that area, but most likely they carried Ishmael’s wrapped body into the area called Nahom where they sought a suitable burial site.
    Comment #3: “I don't know which model is correct. I don't know where the Book of Mormon took place. But I find it very difficult to believe that the Lord is pleased with the contention that has surrounded this subject” Don L.
    Response: I doubt if the Lord is very pleased with most of what takes place on this earth among his children. On the other hand, being in support of the scriptural record is far more commendable than running off at the mouth spouting opinions that bear no resemblance to Mormon’s descriptions of the Land of Promise. One should take a little responsibility for what they promote and put in print, which seems very lacking on this subject matter. You may not care where the Land of Promise was located, but then, in not knowing, how is it possible to appreciate both its accuracy and its message. Outside the Christian world today, there is much controversy over the numerous events in the Bible, their locations, and veracity of the stories—millions argue in the opposite daily. Think how much worse it would be if Jerusalem, Bethlehem, etc., were unknown locations historically. In my opinion, for whatever it might be worth, the scriptures come alive and are far more poignant when they can be placed in a setting that is accurate and consistent with the writings of these ancient prophets, both in the Bible and Book of Mormon.
    After all, despite all the rhetoric to the opposite, Jacob was correct about being on an island (2 Nephi 10:20) and that can be shown; Nephi was correct when he said his steel bow broke and his brothers’ wood bows lost their spring (1 Nephi 16:18, 21), because of the area through which they traveled, and that can be shown; there are two earlier unknown animals (Ether 9:19), that today can be easily identified; there actually is a small neck of land between two larger lad masses (Alma 22:32), that can be seen today; there really was an herb that cured fever and kept people from dying (Alma 46:40), that was uniquely found in only one place in the world before being transplanted in the 19th century, and that is well known; there really are two specific grains (Mosiah 9:9), that can be identified in this same area of the same value as corn, wheat and barley, which can be identified today; and the list goes on and on.
    All of this moves the scriptural writing of the Book of Mormon out of the realm of story telling and into the real world of true experiences suffered or encountered by real people in a long past age. It is a testimony to me that the words found in the Book of Mormon can be verified in every case, and though it has take many years for all of them to rise to that level (thanks to constant new discoveries in the geological and archaeological worlds), a person can stand as did Abinadi, knowing without question that all that had been written was fact and true.

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