Saturday, November 14, 2015

What Did Nephi Mean” Before the Wind”?

Sooner or later the John L. Sorenson’s of the theorists Land of Promise world need to come to grips with the wordage of the Book of Mormon and its meaning. In this case, what exactly did Nephi mean when he said his vessel was “driven forth before the wind”? 
    While we have written about this several times before, even in this series, there seems to be a lack of understanding of two points here:
1. Why did Nephi write that they were “driven forth before the wind”?
2. Why was it inserted twice in the scriptural record?
In fact, we might ask why any particular wordage was inserted into the scriptural record, since language is often a factor that can be manipulated in several ways. That is, why did Nephi insert a parenthetical note into his explanation about his father when he wrote: “For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed” (1 Nephi 1:4).
    Obviously, in the very beginning, Nephi is telling us a little about his father as well as the area of Jerusalem. Not only is he saying that there were many prophets who were prophesying to the people about repentance, but that his father, also, had been called to go into Jerusalem to prophesy. This tells us four things:
1. Lehi was a prophet;
2. He had been called of God;
3. The people of Jesusalem were in need of repenting;
4. Jerusalem was to be destroyed.
In addition, we learn from this that Lehi was called, in part, because he lived in the area of Jerusalem and that the people would have known him.
    And if we read carefully, and not just glance over it, we learn an important fact as well—that Lehi did not live in Jeruslam, but at Jerusalem.
    In this little understanding, we also can verify why, later, when he was called to flee into the wilderness, he had such things available to him as tents, donkeys and seeds—none of which he would have had were he a resident of the city. This also shows us the consistency of the storyline and the accuracy of the facts involved.
    And we see this not just once, but twice in the narrative. For a few lines later, Nephi writes: “And it came to pass that he returned to his own house at Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 1:7,emphasis mine).
    Thus in little words and simple statements we can find deeper meaning and clearer understanding, which leads us into a more precise insight of what has been written for our benefit and our comprehension.
    So later Nephi tells us his ship was “driven forth before the wind.” Now we need to understand why that was inserted into the narrative by Nephi (twice) and for what value—that is, what should we learn from that insertion.
Driven. This word means to be urged forward by force; impelled to move. That is, in stating his ship was driven, we are told that his vessel was impelled (driven forward, urged on, moved by any force or power, physical or moral).
    By the Wind. That is, the wind was the compelling force that drove his ship forward.
    Forth. Means “forward.”
    Thus, without question, we can see that Nephi’s ship was propelled by the wind, i.e., it had a sail that caught the wind that pushed the ship forward.
    In sailing, two things push a ship forward. The first and most important is a sail catching the wind. By definition, “driven forth” means the wind was behind them; “Before the Wind,” means the wind was behind them. That is, the wind was pushing the vessel forward, not dragging or pulling it forward as it would be when “tacking.”
    And the second thing is that for wind to push a ship forward, the ship has to be moving within the confines of an sea current, since the wind moves the ocean currents.
Basic wind and sea currents in the Sea of Arabia and Indian Ocean showing that a ship leaving the southern coast of Arabia “driven forth before the wind” would be driven south into the Indian Ocean and then east into the Prevailing Westerlies and the West Wind Drift of the Southern Ocean
    Thus to know where Nephi’s ship went, one need only know 1) where the winds blew in the area where he sailed, and 2) where the sea currents flowed in that area.
    A ship can drift in a sea current without wind, however, the larger and heavier the ship, the slower that movement. Because of this, there are times when ships have been known to be “dead in the water,” which is because there is no wind moving a current at that time, and/or the current itself is not sufficient to move the ship. 
In certain areas around the world there are sea areas called “doldrums,” which is a colloquial expression derived from historical maritime usage, in which it refers to those parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean affected by the Intertropical Convergence Zone, a low-pressure area around the equator where the prevailing winds are calm.  This is also somewhat true in the maritime areas referred to as the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. The former, in the southern tropic is the circle of latitude that contains the subsolar point on the southern solstice, currently at about 23º south latitude (its northern equivalent is the tropic of Cancer).
 At the tropics (Cancer in the north and Capricorn in the south), the winds die down on the surface and air pressure drops as air and wind flows upward in circular fashion and head back toward the equator, leaving "dead calms" along the ocean surface
 In this area is the “calms of Capricorn,” or the “horse latitudes,” 30º to 38º south latitude, is a ridge of high pressure called the subtropical high, and receives little precipitation and has variable winds mixed with calm. The horse latitudes are associated with the subtropical anticyclone and the large-scale descent of air from high-altitude currents moving toward the poles. After reaching the earth's surface, this air spreads toward the equator as part of the prevailing trade winds or toward the poles as part of the westerlies. The belt in the Northern Hemisphere is sometimes called the "calms of Cancer" and that in the Southern Hemisphere the "calms of Capricorn." This often resulted in ships being becalmed in mid-ocean in this latitude, slowing their progress or voyage.
    This also results in a strange slowing of currents and winds when moving northward on the Humboldt Current along the central Chilean coast, which would allow a vessel “driven forth before the wind,” to change a course and steer out of the northerly currents and make landfall—around 30º south latitude in Chile, an area called the Bay of Coquimbo and La Serena.
Everyone has sent a piece of wood, small sailboat, or leaf down such a ditch and watched the current take it some distance. Such a “voyage” would be called a “drift voyage,” meaning the object is drifting with the current
    The point is, that when a vessel is “driven forth before the wind,” it is subject to the direction in which the winds blow and the current moves. Much like a child playing in the irrigation ditch in front of his house and putting a wood chip (his boat) in the water as it drifts down the ditch. The wood chip goes exactly where the current takes it until something blocks its path. A ship, “driven forth before the wind,” does exactly the same thing. Therefore, one cannot decide arbitrarily to take Lehi across the Pacific, Indian Ocean or anywhere else unless the currents and winds went in those exact (not general) directions.
    So in answering the earlier questions, Nephi included this statement for its simple instruction:
1. Why did Nephi write that they were “driven forth before the wind”? Because his vessel was drifting with the winds and currents and went where those winds and currents took it. Thus, one can follow Lehi’s course from where he set sail and where he landed, and in this way know where the Land of Promise was located.
2. Why was it inserted twice in the scriptural record? To make sure the future reader understood that at all times, before and after the storm, the ship was drifting with the winds and currents and went where they took it.
    Thus, we can know where Lehi sailed and the course of Nephi’s ship, and in so doing, know from where the winds die down and enable moving out of the current, where he landed and the location of the Land of Promise. Therefore, it is not a guessing game where one looks at a map and says, “Oh, this is a good course for Lehi to take,” but to look at the winds and currents and know where Lehi went, or pick a place where one thinks the Land of Promise to be then tries to lay a course for that area contrary to winds and currents, as nearly all theorists have done.

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