Saturday, September 26, 2015

What Did Nephi Mean: “Driven Forth Before the Wind” Part II

Continuing from the previous post in determining what the words and statement “Driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8-9) actually meant as Nephi used them. The previous post ended with Nephi being tied up aboard his ship and the ensuing storm that struck the vessel as the liahona stopped working.
Not being mariners, Laman and Lemuel must have felt tying up Nephi would not be a problem, but as the storm increased and the liahona stopped working, the rebellious brothers watched, no doubt, with fear and trepidation as the waters began to swamp the ship, yet were unwilling to until Nephi
    All of this, of course, would have taken some abilities that are not previously stated or discussed, but given the lack of experience involved, one can only imagine the extreme fear and terror the rebellious souls must have felt, causing Nephi to add, “and they began to be frightened exceedingly lest they should be drowned in the sea” (1 Nephi 18:13),” yet given the hardness of their natures and the stubbornness of their character, “nevertheless they did not loose me.”
Conical sea anchors could be made out of almost any material, with (left) strong drag in a closed device, or (right) partial drag in an open device—the idea of an anchor seems to date to the Sea of Galilee, and is found in the Bible when Jesus said, “I am the anchor,” both for mooring and stabilizing--moorings, of course most people understand about an anchor, but to stabilize, an sea anchor is used to lower the center of gravity of the vessel and keep it stable in high seas
    Of course, we do not know all that the Lord instructed Nephi in the building of his ship, but knowing there would be a storm encountered that would eventually be needed to subdue the rebellious sons of Lehi and Ishmael, the Lord may well have instructed Nephi to include a “sea anchor” in his preparations. Also known as a drift anchor, drift sock, or boat brake today, it is a device used to stabilize a boat in heavy weather. The sea anchor, when deployed, increases the drag through the water and thus acts as a break, and when attached to the stern of a vessel, the sea anchor prevents the vessel from turning broadside to the waves and being overwhelmed and sunk.
    A vessel, when drifting downwind in a severe storm, requires expert seamanship, likely far beyond Laman and Lemuel’s abilities at the time, but with a sea anchor dragging behind the ship would be slowed in the fast moving current and winds, and kept stable (stern to the wind), providing time for the rebellious ones to fear sufficiently for their lives that they would succumb and give up their hardened natures to control the ship. This not only taught them a lesson, but evidently subdued them for the rest of the voyage, especially in the fast-moving West Wind Drift of the Southern Ocean, causing Nephi to make no further comment of any problems from them.
    One important issue here is that two things are obviously involved that aid in understanding the location of the storm in relationship to the land: 1) Such a seamanship maneuver required plenty of sea room, and shows the importance of following a southerly course toward the Southern Ocean so that this sea room (out into the open ocean of the Sea of Arabia and northern Indian Ocean) was available so they had the necessary sea room to avoid running the vessel onto the northward lee shore (which would have been the case along an easterly course toward Indonesia); and 2) The hand of the Lord was heavily involved for these rebellious men would not have  had such expertise to conduct such action on their own without having direction, perhaps from the Lord through Lehi (1 Nephi 18:17) or even Sam.
    Of course, even the most rebellious often see that they face either immediate death unless they reverse their course, and the brothers freed Nephi, who immediately gave thanks (1 Nephi 18:16), and picked up the liahona (1 Nephi 18:21), to see where he needed to steer to get them back onto the outer band of the clockwise swing of the north gyre.
White Circles: Indian Ocean Gyres; Blue Pointed Lines: Monsoon Winds blowing out to sea from the northeast to the southwest; Circle: Storm area encountered; Red Line: Lehi’s Course
    After the storm, Nephi and his family continued traveling south, running to the east of Africa, and picking up the South Indian Ocean Gyre which pulled the vessel toward the east and eventually into the West Wind Drift that flows uninterrupted around Antarctica—a fast-moving ocean current, uninterrupted by any land mass, and circles in a very short distance the globe. This fast-moving ocean current of the Southern Ocean would have been sufficient to continue cowing Laman and Lemuel with fear since the weather in the Southern Ocean is somewhat stormy, with high winds and fast moving waters, which would have continually reminded the rebellious brothers of their near-death experience in the earlier storm.
    Normally, we would not spend much time on such a simple and easily understandable concept except for the fact that nearly every theorist who has ever written about the location of the Land of Promise fails to look at the significance of this simple phrase and how it bears on the direction Nephi sailed and where that direction took him, thus where the Land of Promise was actually located.
    It is when we include Nephi’s simple description within the reality of sailing in 600 B.C. and any advanced sailing design that the Lord implemented (1 Nephi 18:2), we get a better idea of the restrictions of course and location, since we know the starting point of his voyage, i.e., southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, thus where the winds and currents would have taken the more-or-less drift voyage of Nephi's ship "driven forth before the wind."
    Consequently, it is most likely that the square rigged sailing vessel was the design the Lord gave to Nephi which, at the time, was still many centuries from being discovered by man.
    Thus we come back to the statement “Driven forth before the wind.” With such a sailing vessel, Nephi would have been able to sail in only one direction and that is where the wind blew his ship along the current the wind created in the ocean. And the monsoon winds blowing off the India and Arabia coasts and out to sea, coming from the northeast and blowing toward the southwest are clearly defined and understood and have been for centuries.
The red line shows the direction of the winds and currents that would take a drift voyage from the southern coast of Arabia to the Western Hemisphere, landing at Coquimbo Bay, Chile; yet the yellow route looks much straighter, faster and shorter, even though the winds and currents do not move in that direction. However, with the curvature of the earth, the red route is actually far shorter than the yellow one, which would move around the bulge of the equatorial earth. The yellow route is 14,190 miles, compared to the red route which is 4,520 miles, that is, the Southern Ocean route is 9,670 miles shorter!
    The problem is, that theorists with their own agendas have to find a way to get Lehi from Arabia to Mesoamerica, or the Atlantic Ocean, and look elsewhere for such possibilities. Those of Mesoamerica, like Sorenson merely stating that Lehi probably traveled the routes of early traders along the India coast to Indonesia and through the islands, etc. However, those early traders were not ocean-going vessels, but coastal ships traveling coastal routes that relied less on winds and currents as other means—originally from oars and finally from lateen style sails in small, flimsy coastal vessels that could manage the ease of coastal travel, but not strong enough to manage deep-sea sailing. It was like comparing apples and oranges, but if their readers and followers don’t know the difference between blue water sailing and coastal trade routes, then they have no idea of how inaccurate the idea is, and impossible it would have been to accomplish in 600 B.C.
    Even today, sailors talk about, design and build replica ships to duplicate early ancient routes, but do so with GPS, modern construction, constant radio contact, very experienced sailing knowledge, charts, and sonar, radar, etc. Even then, far more of these attempts resulted in failure than success, though we tend to hear about those that made it as opposed to those that did not, but in several cases the ships were wrecked, or had to turn back before sailing very far.
    Also, today, even those using true sailing techniques (no engines), have modern crews, rigging, sails and experience, which is far different than Lehi’s voyage in 600 B.C. In addition, all sailors today know how to tack, sail into the wind, etc. That is, none are actually involved in true drift voyages of which Nephi was only capable of accomplishing—otherwise, he would have chosen a different language to describe his voyage.
    It is a matter of either accepting the language of the scriptural record and its 1829 meaning of words and phases used, or embarking on one’s own ideas and inserting thoughts inconsistent, or misleading, or inaccurate into the record.
    Take, as an example, a book called 2 Hour Book of Mormon: A Book of Mormon Primer, by Larry Anderson (Cedar Fort, 2000), in which he writes (there are no page numbers, only chapter and verse references) under 1st Nephi 18, “We sailed for days and finally came to the Promised Land.We all thanked the Lord for sparing us and leading us. We pitched our tents and  began to farm the ground.We planted our seeds and they grew fast and plentiful.” The problem, in such modern writing, a very important fact was left out of Nephi’s description and Joseph Smith’s translation, i.e., “we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance” (1 Nephi 18:24, emphasis mine).
    That is, those seeds he planted were brought from Jerusalem, which is extremely important to know, and in understanding. Such seeds were brought from a Mediterranean Climate, and they “grew exceedingly and provided an abundant crop.” In 600 B.C. seeds needed to be planted in like climates, soils, precipitation and temperatures, otherwise they simply did not grow and emigrants depending on their ability to grow crops perished--just ask the Pilgrims at Plymouth would have had it not been for the Indians showing them how to plant in that climate. 
As has been written, the pilgrims were woefully ignorant of the New England weather. Their early pea crop failed because the settlers planted at the wrong time and the seed pods rotted in the cold, damp soil. Part of their survival was they lived on blossoms of naturally-growing calendulas (marigolds), roses and several members of the cress (mustard) family. In 1621, the Patuxet Indian, Squanto (Tisquantum), part of the Wampanoag tribal confederation, who is credited with the survival of the Pilgrims, taught them how to plant corn, beans, and squash, by spreading cinders around tender crops to foil cutworms, and use old dishwater on plants to kill vermin. He taught them the Indian way of no-till, no-weed planting, an ancient yet efficient style some gardeners still use today, showed the Pilgrims how to plant corn in a mound of soil and encircled it with pole beans, which clamored up the growing stalks and used them for support; low-growing pumpkins and squash were then sown as a ground cover, to maintain ground moisture and prevent soil erosion. In using the methods that worked in that climate, the Pilgrims were finally able to bring in sufficient crops and avert starvation.
    Obviously, leaving that simple statement out removes a critical understanding of the events Nephi writes about, plus giving a very clear picture of where he would have had to have landed. That type of writing, to me, is unconscionable unless you are writing fiction or fairy tales. But it shows the thinking of some theorists, and especially those who write about the Location of the Land of Promiseno theorist I have ever read writes about those seeds and their significance to understanding where Lehi would have had to have landed.    Consequently, when we read that Nephi’s ship was “Driven forth before the wind,” we need to understand that Nephi, Joseph Smith and the Spirit brought to us a language specifically known and understood in our day and age with very important significance in our better understanding of Nephi’s vessel, what it could do, and where it took them.
    The “meaning of words and comments” in the scriptural record are important, and should not be altered, changed, or adjusted to fit either a writing style or a personal belief or pet theory, nor passed over out of ignorance. When Mormon tells us he could only use about one hundredth of what was written in his record, we ought to pay attention to those words he chose and their meaning.

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