Friday, December 5, 2014

Lehi in the Desert with Father Lehi

When the Lord has a task to be done, he picks a man who is both available and willing, and often has been prepared for the calling through various experiences and trials. As an example, Abraham, Moses and Lehi underwent such preparation through their life’s experienes.
Abraham, Moses and Lehi
    When Abraham was to be tested, he was told to sacrifice his only son in the same manner he had nearly been sacrificed himself by his own father to the evil priests of his youth. When Moses fled Egypt, he walked in the very deserts through which he would later lead the children of Israel, and married among the people of the desert in whose way of life he was later to instruct his own people. Lehi was no less prepared and qualified for his great task of founding a great people in a new land. He was wealthy and accomplished, knew the desert ways of the nomad, and had both the experience and resources to lead his family into the wilderness and keep them together despite many years of hardship.
    All three were men of great wisdom and understanding, leading with patience and long-suffering, without prodding or provoking, though aggravated by disobedience; they mastered their challenges and led their people through unmatched difficulties and challenges.
    In Lehi’s case, it is a shame we do not have his full story and able to see the full extent of his greatness—a prophet who led a quarrelsome family through eight years in the wilderness and desert in fulfillment of the Lord’s command; keeping rebellion ever at arm’s length, and by his stature and love for his children, diffusing most of the difficulty with his eloquence and spiritual greatness.
    The fact that Laman and Lemuel were grown-up sons did not help things. It has been written that "The daily quarrels between parents and children in the desert constitute the worst feature of the Bedouin character.” Typically, the oldest son is the usual source of family trouble, especially when arriving at full manhood (about 30 years of age), and is too proud to ask the father for what he feels is due him in cattle, goods, or funds. The father is unhappy at the haughtiness of the son towards him; and thus a breach is often made, with the father thereafter calling his son to correction or penitence.
    As one Bedouin expert stated, “The son, especially the eldest one, does not feel that he is getting what is coming to him and behaves like the spoiled child he is. The father oftentimes upbraids the disobedient son, calling him his life's torment, though never menacing him, for that were far from a Bedouin father's mind."
It is also common that the older son(s) would work off their frustration by beating their younger brother(s). The experience of the beating in the cave is a fine example of such Bedouin behavior: “Laman was angry with me, and also with my father; and also was Lemuel, for he hearkened unto the words of Laman. Wherefore Laman and Lemuel did speak many hard words unto us, their younger brothers, and they did smite us even with a rod” (1 Nephi 3:28).
    Such was the nature of Lehi’s sons, so typical of the nomadic Bedouin of the desert that one can only marvel at the accuracy of which their interactions were revealed in Nephi’s words. In fact, according to K. Douglas Baddett (Doctrinal Insights to the Book of Mormon, Vol 1, 2007, pp 16-17), “Every free man in the East carried a stick, the immemorial badge of independence and of authority; and every man asserted his authority over his inferiors by his stick, which "shows that the holder was a man of position, superior to the workman or day-laborers. Even today, the government officials, superior officers, tax-gatherers, and schoolmasters use this short rod to threaten—or if necessary to beat—their inferiors, whoever they may be."
    Hugh Nibley (Improvement Era, 1950): "The nature of Lehi's authority is clearly set forth in the Book of Mormon. Of the Arab sheikh we have noted Burkhardt's remark: 'His commands would be treated with contempt; but deference is paid to his advice. The real government of the Bedouins may be said to consist in the separate strength of their different families…the Arab can only be persuaded by his own relations.' The sheikh's 'orders are never obeyed, but his example is generally followed.'"
This is especially so on the march; while the tribe is in motion the sheikh "assumes all responsibility and the whole power of government." Yet in leading he gives no orders: when his tent is struck "it is the rahlah," and all the others without a word strike theirs; and "when the place of encampment is reached the sheikh puts his spear in the ground, and at once the tents are pitched."
    Once the goat-hair oblong tent is raised and secure, a fire pit is dug inside, as well as one outside, where cooking during the heat of the day would take place. Several stones are placed around the pit and fires kindled, then cooking pots, kettles and dishes are placed on the rocks and over the fires. Rugs cover the ground and the camel packing racks and seats are brought inside and set up for furniture, and such things as a handmill and mortar in which grain is pounded, and other utensils are put in place, such as platters, drinking cups, eating mats and large dishes around the hearth. A leathern bucket is put in place to draw water from the well or oasis, and an earthen pitcher to carry the water to the tent and cooking areas, and hanging from the poles will be the skin bags or bottles, for water and other liquids. Hooks are fixed in the poles to hang articles on, and the rain-proof goats' hair covering cloth is sewn or twisted round a stick, to the ends of which are tied leather loops. To these loops one end of the tent ropes is fastened, the other being tied to a hooked sharp pin of wood, which is driven into the ground with a mallet. Rugs are then hung for curtains and at night, sleeping mats and bedding are brought out, with a primitive lamp burning olive oil illuminating the tent.
The quickness and ease with which this is all set up, and later struck, is an accomplishment known to all Hebrew and Arabic Bedouins, and it is interesting that Lehi and his sons were knowledgeable of the processes. It should also be kept in mind that this was not done every night on the trek down the Red Sea or across the desert, but such stops were made “After we had traveled for the space of many days, we did pitch our tents for the space of a time, that we might again rest ourselves and obtain food for our families” (1 Nephi 16:17). These stops were intermittent—a few days travel, then stopping for a time: “and after we had traveled for the space of many days we did pitch our tents again, that we might tarry for the space of a time” (1 Nephi 16:33).
    Nomadic life is a simple one, and Lehi seems to have been well knowledgeable of it. This seems to bear out the Hilton’s claim that Lehi would go down and camp out along the king’s highway at the foot of the mountain on which Jerusalem sat and await the camel caravans. With them he would trade or buy and then take the goods up to sell to the merchants in Jerusalem. Certainly, Lehi had knowledge of tents, camels, and camping out like the Bedouin.
Among all the righteous men in and around Jerusalem at the time, Lehi was singled out for a task requiring a combination of qualifications and a degree of faith that few men have ever achieved. And though Lehi was no ordinary man, one fact about him should be obvious—he was an actual person in a real situation, and no artificial character of romantic fiction moving among a sequence of haphazardly associative imagery like a dream, that was once thought to represent the elegant East. He lived the life described, walked the wilderness and deserts mentioned, and led his family and Ishmael’s with the power of his character and the influence and directions of the Lord along a journey that took him halfway around the world at a time when such journeys were unknown. Few men of the billions that have lived have ever been called upon to do more.

No comments:

Post a Comment