Saturday, October 15, 2016

Finding Lehi’s Isle of Promise – Part VI

Continuing with this series, and as we wrote in Part I, in addition to the three points already covered, there were two other points to understand after Nephi separated from his brothers: 
1. Where and about how far he traveled;
2. Where he settled and what he did there.
    In the earlier three and now these two points, we can be led to the location of the Land of Promise overall, and to the area of the City of Nephi in the overall Land of Nephi that Nephi’s followers named of the area he settled.
Lehi blesses each of his sons and the sons of Ishmael and their families, and also prophesied unto them what would happen to them if they remain valiant or if they fell away

    To set the stage to determine the answer to these two points, let us recall that after Lehi landed, several things took place (see previous five posts), and then, nearing death, Lehi set about to leave a blessing with each of his children, including the sons of Ishmael and their families (2 Nephi 1:1 to 2 Nephi 3:25). After Lehi’s death, Nephi notes regarding his brothers: “their anger did increase against me, insomuch that they did seek to take away my life” (2 Nephi 5:2). It became so intense and Nephi’s position so precarious, that the Lord intervened: “the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me” (2 Nephi 5:5).
    Now Mormon describes the location of this first settlement as being far to the south in the Land Southward, along the seashore of the West Sea: “on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers' first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore (Alma 22:28). Nephi then tells us: “all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words. And we did take our tents and whatsoever things were possible for us, and did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days. And after we had journeyed for the space of many days we did pitch our tents. And my people would that we should call the name of the place Nephi; wherefore, we did call it Nephi” (2 Nephi 5:6-8, emphasis mine).
The distance from Jerusalem to where Lehi stopped in what he called the valley of Lemuel is about 210 miles and took about 12 or more days

    The problem anyone has with the Land of Promise is trying to determine distances, since there really are very few helpful clues in the scriptural record as to how far apart are the places mentioned. As an example, “many days” is first used in travel from Jerusalem to the Red Sea (1 Nephi 16:15, 17), which was a distance of about 210 miles, or around 12 to 14 days travel. The next mention of “many days” travel was after finding the Liahona in the valley Lehi called Lemuel to a point perhaps midway along the Red Sea, or a distance of about two hundred miles (where Nephi broke his bow), or another 12-14 days travel (of course, this type of travel was from water hole to water hole, sleeping in the open each night among the brush around or near the water oases or ancient hand-dug wells Bedouin style—with the specific stops mentioned when they broke out the tents and spent several days relaxing or “tarrying”). In fact, there are 118 waterholes at an average distance of eighteen miles (about a day’s easy travel).
 Top: Typical shoreline along the east shore of the Red Sea—Lehi’s course was in the more “fertile parts” of the inland valleys the parallel the Red Sea shoreline by benefit of the Liahona; Bottom: Anciently, there were water holes in partial oasis (no trees) along the Red Sea; however, today, these have turned into sinkholes and the fresh water of the water holes is now mixing with the layers of salt water underneath the soil. The fresh water from the springs dissolve the layers of salt to a point that the upper non-salty layer becomes thinner and sinks

    These stops at the conclusion of “many days” travel would have been necessary from the arduous travel and resting for several days around a water hole (oasis) in the comfort of their multi-room tents a welcome respite. This is born our when later, “many days” travel is again mentioned in connection with travel along the Red Sea  “that we might tarry for the space of a time” (1 Nephi 16:33). Such “tarrying” in the Bedouin fashion could be up to around thirty days
    The next time “many days” is used, it is not in conjunction with travel, but of resting in Bountiful, where theh pitched their tents (1 Nephi 17:7) before the Lord called upon Nephi to build his ship. Of course, in between time, Ishmael had died and some time was spent in mourning around the area of Nahom (1 Nephi 16:34). Afterward, they continued on in nearly an eastward direction across the Rub’ al Khali desert (1 Nephi 17:1) where they suffered greatly along this eight year journey.
    The other factor we can use to suggest a distance is the reason for the journey in the first place. It could probably be stated that a group would not travel any further than they had to if their destination was up to them. However, in the case of Nephi and those who went with him, there were two very compelling factors that need to be considered:
1. Nephi was escaping from the location of his brothers and the sons of Ishmael, all of whom wanted to kill Nephi and probably his family;
2. The Lord, knowing all things, was guiding where he wanted Nephi to settle. As an example, he knew that at some point in the future, he would lead a descendant of Nephi further northward to discover a remnant of Israel the Lord had led into the land to the north—the Mulekites or people of Zarahemla as  we know them in the scriptural record.
    So how far would Nephi feel he needed to travel to get beyond the reach of his brothers?
    We have already suggested that “many days” travel equated to anywhere around two hundred miles in Lehi’s travels along the Red Sea. We can also suggest it meant a great deal further when Nephi used it to described their sea voyage across the ocean after the storm subsided and he reclaimed the control of the ship (1 Nephi 18:23).
    Another factor in travel distance should also be considered, and that is the topography of the area. While we cannot say exactly where Nephi was and over what ground he traveled as he moved northward from his brothers and their first settlement, we can assume that it was not all good countryside to settle in. There may have been canyons, high mountains, desert, barren ground, or some other topographical feature(s) that precluded them from stopping.
Atacama Desert, north of the Chile landing site written by Williams, around 1840, runs 600 miles north of La Serena to the Peruvian border, obviously not a stopping place for Nephi as he traveled north to escape his brothers. While it would not be a good place to stop, it would be an excellent place to put between Nephi and his brothers 

    As an example, if we use the South American landing site of 30º South Latitude in Chile as has been suggested by either Joseph Smith or his secretary, personal physician, and first counselor in the First Presidency of Joseph Smith, Fredrick G. Williams, then north of La Serena and the Bay of Coquimbo is the Atacama desert, a plateau running for 600 miles along the coastal area and covdering 49,000 square miles. It seems likely that Nephi would consider putting that area between himself and those who sought his life. He would certainly think that such an area might deter them from following.
    The Atacama, considered the driest non-polar place in the world and because of its hyperaridity is the oldest arid region on earth, runs from the coast up to and including the barren lower slopes or foothills of the Andes, and is made up of stony terrain, salt lakes, sand, and falsic lava, all of which sounds like an ideal buffer zone for the safety of Nephi and his family and entourage.
(See the next post, “Finding Lehi’s Isle of Promise – Part VII,” for the second point of the previous post, which is the fifth area of Nephi’s writing about their location)

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