Monday, June 26, 2017

Mountains Actually Shoot Up in Spurts – Paart I

A little over two years ago we wrote a series of articles about the way mountains grow that met with a lot of resistance among people who decided to parrot their beliefs based on old paradigms in their comments. In fact, the idea of the Andes shooting upward “overnight” so to speak especially by the average individual and typical geologists. However, now, two years later, what we wrote about has been coined the “Blob Effect” and is beginning to be recognized by mainstream science as a very likely case scenario for mountain building—a scenario which is both “rapid” and “sudden.”
This new understanding was partially pioneered by Carmala N. Garzione (left) of the University of Rochester, who was quick to say “We've always assumed that the folding and faulting in the upper crust produced high elevation mountains.” However, around two years ago, her beliefs began to morph into a new paradigm regarding mountain building. Her more recent comment, “Now we have data on ancient mountain elevation that shows something else is responsible for the mountains' uplift," suggests her changing attitude based on the studies she has made in the Andes Mountains of South America, considered the youngest mountain range, yet the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, and certainly one, she claims, has shown a tremendous and sudden movement upward defying all the old beliefs.
    In the past, it was generally accepted by NASA and the National Science Foundation, that the rise of the Andes was 1.4 inches per year of the Nazca plate sliding smoothly under South America, with another 1.3 inches per year locked up at the plate boundary, squeezing South America, and was released every hundred years or so in great earthquakes. About 0.3 inches of motion per year crumples South America, building the Andes. Then, two years ago, Garzione found that mountains, especially the Andes, shoot up in spurts as much as two and a half kilometers (8,202 feet) in 7 million years, as opposed to the 70 million years previous understood. Now, however, that 7 million years is being downgraded to 2 million years.
    The problem scientists face, obviously, is that their measurement techniques are minimal at best, since they are trying to measure something that cannot be seen (techtonic plate and their assumed movement) and the height of a mountain growth over millions of years. Now for the scientist, that is really not a major issue, since we are still talking about inches in hundreds of thousands of years. However, the issue then becomes one of exactly how much time are we discussing? If the world is, indeed 4.55 billion years old, then mainstream science is correct and the movement or growth of mountains is so slow by our life-cycle standards, it really doesn’t matter one bit.
 Top: a “Blob” forms along the bottom of the Mantle, these are anchors, keeping the crust from rising and in place; Middle: the density of the “Blob” or anchor begins to falter, its density buildup is too heavy to be held by the Mantle or Lithosphere, as the crust begins to rise slightly; and Bottom: the “Blob” or anchor melts and falls into the Astenosphere to begin again, and with the loss of weight the crust shoots upward, as Casione puts it, “like a popsicle”

    On the other hand, what if the Earth is not that old? What if God knows something that man does not know about mountain building? What if He can alter, change, increase, speedup the process, etc.? As an example, what if God can alter what has been found by Garzione and her colleagues as the “Blob Effect” from a slow process of heating and separating to a much quicker process—say hundreds of years instead of millions? Or even hours? If that is the case, then He can speed up the movement upward of a mountain increasing in height to very short periods of time—all it takes is the increasing of heat to melt the “anchors” (the blob) of the mantle that keeps the crust from expanding upward in those areas where mountains, either buckling, folding, or in the case of Garzione’s words, “popping” upward?
    Consider what we do not know: Despite all the fancy drawings to the contrary, we do not know anything about what is further down into the Earth than we have been able to drill and see for ourselves—the deepest borehole ever drilled to-date is by a Russian project in the far north Kola Peninsula during the 1980s that reached 7.46 miles, or just over 2410 feet (2410.07873)—we have barely scratched the surface of our planet.
 
The Crust is brown, the top of the mantle is gray—the project is to drill down to the gray mantel


According to CNN, there is a project to drill down to the Earth’s mantle, at a project cost of $1 billion. A team of international scientists plan to drill into the Earth's mantle in an attempt to answer questions about the origins and evolution of life. The drills are planned to get through almost four miles of oceanic crust to reach the mantle, and to a point that begins three to five miles under the oceans to as much as 25 miles under continents. The mantle itself is believed to be 1864-miles thick through the slowly deforming rock between the crust and the core which makes up the majority of our planet—and bring back the first ever fresh samples.
Pipe that would be used to drill into the mantle 

Part of this new understanding is the evaluation and measurement of temperatures along the Andes over the past few years concentrating on the Bolivian Altiplano, which is a large, high elevation basin in the Andes Mountains in South America. There Garzione and her team took samples of sedimentary rock that had accumulated between 12 million and 5 million years ago (geologically speaking) from erosion of the surrounding ranges. One type of mineral, carbonate, precipitates from surface water, so the composition of the carbonate is a good indicator of the composition of rainfall.
(Continued in the next post, “Mountains actually Shoot Up in Spurts, Part II,” regarding how mountains have recently been found to have formed sudden and rapid rising based on new understandings of the developing roots beneath the crust that form and act as an anchor until the root becomes too weighty and dislodges, falling into the liquid mantle, allow the earth’s surface to suddenly “bob” upward).

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Land of Promise: Choice above All Other Lands

What is meant in the Lord’s promise to Lehi, when the aged patriarch said: “notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord” (2 Nephi 1:5).    This promise guaranteed to Lehi, his family, and their seed, a perpetual land blessing providing the area of the Nephite Land of Promise to Lehi’s seed forever. This promise, like all promises, cannot be withdrawn by the Lord, i.e., the blessing of this land. Man’s requirement, meaning the people involved (Lehi, his family and descendants) each, in turn have to qualify through their willingness to be righteous and serve the Lord, to inherit the land for eternity. While those who do not qualify will not be part of the promise, all those who do qualify would retain that promise for it was binding, as are all promises of the Lord.
    For some reason, many theorists consider the fact that the Nephites lost their blessings, lost their grace, and were wiped out in their evil state, that they lost the Land of Promise, which the Lord promised to them.
    Nothing could be further from the truth!
    The Lord promised that land to Lehi, and to his seed forever. Because the last of the Nephite seed was evil and wiped out, and none remained after Cumorah and Moroni’s eventual death, does that mean Lehi, Nephi, and the many other righteous Nephites who lived during their 1000-year history lost their inheritance? Of course not. The land was promised to them by the Lord and that promise remains in effect.
    When the Lord promised Israel the land of Palestine, which was later divided among the twelve tribes by his decree, and they lost their land entirely, though now reclaiming a smaller portion of it, does that mean the tribes lost their inheritance?
    Of course not!
    That land of promise will be restored to them in the future, including its fullest dimensions that were promised to Abraham, which basically is from “the River of Egypt” (Nile River) in the south, including the Sinai Peninsula, to the area just north of Seleucia, Antioch, and Karkamisin in the north, and including Tipsah, Damascus, Ammon, Moab, and Edom in the East, to the seacoast of the eastern Mediterranean in the West. That land was given to Abraham for his direct, or priesthood descendant, line (Isaac, Jacob and Joseph) and will be theirs forever.
    Thus, we look at the Lehi Land of Promise, given to Lehi, from the tribe of Manasseh, which included that area described as the Land Northward and the Land Southward, which at one time was an island according to Jacob (2 Nephi 10:20).
The area of land given to the 10 tribes, from the Nile River to the Euphrates and bordering on the Mediterranean is only a small portion of the entire Middle East

Like the land given to Abraham (Isaac, Jacob and Joseph) was only a part of the land we call the Middle East today or the land bordering the eastern Mediterranean, the Land of Promise given to Lehi and his seed did not include the greater area of the Western Hemisphere; however, the Western Hemisphere is the land spoken of in: “that after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof“ (Ether 13:2).
    This greater land, which includes that portion of the Land of Promise that has been dedicated for the New Jerusalem (Ether 13:3), and the remnant of the house of Joseph (Ether 13:8) where “it shall be a land of their inheritance; and they shall build up a holy city unto the Lord, like unto the Jerusalem of old” (Ether 13:8).
    In fact, another quote from Nephi regarding his father’s discussion of the land with his family as he approached the end of his life: “he also spake unto them concerning the land of promise, which they had obtained“ (2 Nephi 1:3), tells us that the land they were in was most definitely the Land of Promise the Lord gave them and they had already achieved it—they were already both in the land and the promise of the land was then in effect.
    One of the things we need to keep in mind when it comes to the Nephite Land of Promise and its current location, is that when the Lord discusses such with man, he is not looking at national boundary lines, but of a land in general—His land that he is giving to those he denotes. We sometimes get caught up in a line between countries that we forget the Lord talks about land, areas, or regions, and not a particular piece between political boundaries.
The land Joseph would have understood was the United States—the red and orange; the purple, at less than 18 people per square miles, with the green two or less per square mile would have been rarely considered as the U.S. in 1830

    Thus, it was not the land of the United States he was discussing with Nephi in the latter’s vision—an area not then in effect, and would have been unknown to Joseph Smith in 1830, but the entire Western Hemisphere of which Joseph would have easily understood.
    Thus, it goes without saying that there is a huge difference between a “promised land” as mentioned in scripture and that of dynasties in the feudal system of men or would-be conquerors. The latter were part of the enduring itch for aggrandizement, a condition aptly described by Machiavelli as “the disease of princes.” On the other hand, the concept of a promised land, as defined in scripture, involved special lands offered to special peoples by God himself. Moreover, receiving and possessing the lands as an inheritance was confirmed by covenant, with God offering both temporal and spiritual blessings for high levels of righteous behavior. If the covenant was broken by man, the divine sanction and protection were forfeit to future generations and hence the loss of the land itself for a time. We see this in the case of Lehi’s seed. For a thousand years the promise was in effect, but after “the day of grace was passed with them, both temporarily and spiritually,” the Nephites lost their land (Mormon 2:15), and there were no future generations to inherit it.
The Western Hemisphere as both Zion and the overall Land of Promise to the Tribes of Menasseh and Ephraim

A “promised land,” prepared and protected by the Lord and tied to the covenant that “inasmuch as ye keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land,” is surely one of the more vivid and pervasive concepts of the Book of Mormon. Both the Jaredites and the Nephites occupied land on the Western Hemisphere under this condition and, failing to keep the covenant, lost it to their utter ruin from that point onward.
    As part of a great land promise, and the vision associated with it, both Lehi and Nephi, witnessed many wonderful things and were instructed as to their meaning as he viewed such things as the tree of life and the iron rod leading to it. Nephi’s guide, an angel, told him of the Land of Promise, of which he was given several views, including what would befall his people, and their final annihilation. He also saw the visit by the resurrected Savior and the glorious two-hundred year “golden years” of the Nephites.
    He also saw that the Lamanites would survive, eventually dwindling in unbelief as a perverted people “full of idleness and all manner of abominations” (1 Nephi 12:23). He also saw numerous events on how the Land of Promise would be unveiled to the world and many people looking for freedom would reach its shores. As Nephite stated of this:

 
 “And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land (1 Nephi 13:12).
    Obviously, a clear reference to Christopher Columbus and his “discovery” of the New World, though when it comes to political lines, never saw or touched what is called the North American continent of today, but only the islands of the Caribbean and South America. Yet, as Nephi looked at the vision, he “beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land” (1 Nephi 13:12).
    Thus, we see Nephi’s vision was not limited to a politically bounded area of land, but of the land in general—of the entire Land of Promise. A choice land. A choice land above all others. He was visioning the Western Hemisphere and the Land of Promise, an area far greater than that of a single nation.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Frankincense Trail Lehi Followed

There seems to be some misunderstanding in the Frankincense Trail Lehi followed to the area he called Bountiful and the fact that in that area the Frankincense trade had not yet spread to the Salalah Plain or the Garbeeb (that fertile strip of land between the Qara Mountains and the seashore. That is, the area of Salalah known today as Khor Rori and Sumhuram, which were not settled during Lehi’s visit there and did not become settled until at least 500 B.C. and Sumhuram not built until around the last century B.C., yet Lehi followed that Frankincense Trail to the Qara Mountains and then down into the Garbeeb Plain.
The misunderstanding comes in not knowing that the Frankincense Business during the time of Lehi was centered in the area Shisr and Uber, and more specifically Dawkah, an area 25 miles north of Salalah, on the way to Shisr, which are on the desert side of the Garbeeb Plain, beyond the Qara Mountains. In old Sumarian texts, Uber is believed to have been a remote desert outpost from about 2800 B.C. (or sometime after the Flood) where caravans were assembled for the transport of the very valuable frankincense across the desert, some caravans going north toward the Persian Gulf, others going west toward the Red Sea, with the Dawkah and Shisr-Uber the center or hub of the frankincense trade.
Thus, while the Frankincense Trail existed between these settlements and north of Jerusalem, which Lehi followed down along the Red Sea dn then across the Rub’al Khali from water hole to water hole, the settlements of the time did not extend south of the Qara Mountains into the area now known as the Garbeeb Plain and communities of Salalah and Khor Rori/Sumhuram.
Frankincense trees along a belt between the Qara mountains and the Rub’al Khali where they are somewhat protected from both the rains and winds, but also the extreme heat

In fact, the best resins from the frankincense trees was thought to be from a belt in the arid zone just behind (north) of the Qara mountain range, beyond the reach of the monsoon rain, but within reach of cooler winds. Today, the current Boswelia belt stretches about 18 miles beyond the jebels. It is also believed that the frankincense trade was already in effect during this third millennium B.C., when a scarce resource in high demand in the ancient civilizations resulted in prices higher than gold and a booming trade in the trading centers along the caravan routes such as found at Shisr in Oman.
    This belt, to the north of the Qara Mountains is best understood by the following image:
From the (Top Left) coast of the Sea of Arabia, which Lehi called Irreantum, the Khareef (monsoon winds) blows into land that Lehi called Bountiful, from the sea, turning the plain into a lush green garden (Top Right) as it continues to blow north toward the distant mountains (Middle Left), which 3,000-foot Jabal al Qara Mountains (Middle Center) blocks the further movement of the Monsoon winds, keeping them from passing on beyond to the (Middle Right) desert, where is seen the sporadic growth of the Frankincense trees, and then further northward beyond the belt of trees, is the (Bottom) Rub’al Khali desert, the famed “Empty Quarter” where the Monsoon winds do not reach

This belt of Frankincense trees beyond the Qara, as well as in the foothills, is where the original trail ended and where the harvest of frankincense was started, long before Lehi. This is where the trading hub of Dawkah, Shisr-Uber were located and where the trail, had Lehi continued eastward would have taken him.
Frankincense Trees being harvested near the location of Shisr north of Salalah near where the original trading hub was located before moving southward toward the port of Khor Rori once Greek and Roman trading vessels entered the sea of Arabia

However, Lehi turned south into the mountains at this point, led no doubt by the Liahona, and emerged along the Garbeeb Plain above Salalah, at which event Nephi wrote: “And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish. And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters” (1 Nephi 17:5).
    Thus, while Lehi basically followed the Frankincense Trail from the Wadi Arabah south of Jerusalem all the way to the area of the Qara Mountains and the Garbeeb Plain, the Old Trail during Lehi’s time did not drop down into the Garbeeb, but ended in the area of Shisr, a settlement that was already playing a major role at the time, an important outpost providing traders with water before they entered the desert of the Rub al-Khali.
    In fact, the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meeting in November 2000 in Cairns, Australia, attached world Heritage Site status to the Frankincense Trail in Oman, with the official citation reading:
    “The frankincense trees of Wadi Dawkah and the remains of the caravan oasis of Shisr/Wubar [Uber] and the affiliated ports of Khor Rori and Al-Balid vividly illustrate the trade in frankincense that flourished in this region for many centuries, as one of the most important trading activities of the ancient and medieval world” (World Heritage Committee Inscribes 61 New Sites on World Heritage List; Land of Frankincense, UNESCO).
When Lehi reached the Frankincense Trail where it veered toward Shisr, he was directed into the pass that led onto the Garbeeb Plain and down into Khor Rori


Thus, while Lehi traveled the trail all the way to the Qara Mountains, the Liahona obviously directed him into the pass that led him through the Qaras and onto the Garbeeb Plain, a marvelous paradise-appearing area during Kareef season after spending some much time in the extreme heat and endless monotony of the Rub’al Khali sand desert.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Not After the Manner of Men – Part III

Continuing from the previous post regarding where Nephi’s ship was constructed, built and launched. 
    One of the unique aspects of Khor Rori is that two huge rock promontories, or cliffs, one on either side of the inlet entrance, and referred to as (east cliff) Inquita’a Taqah and (west cliff) Inqita’a Mirbat, provide very important protection for a ship entering and leaving the inlet.
The cliffs on either side of the entrance to the Khor Rori inlet--top: from inside the Khor looking past the cliffs out into the Sea of Arabia; middle: Inside the Khor looking at the West Cliff on the Yemeni side of the entrance; bottom: Outside the inlet, looking past the East Cliff at the West Cliff in the distance, the inlet is in between. Note the height of the cliff compared to the camels in the middle image. This matches Nephi's comment of "throw me into the depths of the sae" (1 Nephi 17:48)

These flanking rock promontories created safe and convenient breakwaters that allowed ancient ships a corridor for sailing into the sea for nearly 500 yard before they needed to pick up the ocean current. This was the great strength of Khor Rori as a port; the natural breakwaters provided protection from both the summer southwest monsoon and the winter northeast monsoon winds, enabling the port to be used all year for shipping and for the building of ships, such as Nephi’s vessel.
One of the side channels between the entrance and Sumhuram that branches off to the east, providing an extremely attractive location for the construction site of Nephi’s ship

The site has been heavily investigated, beginning as early as the 1950s by an American expedition (the American Foundation for the Study of Man–AFSM) directed by W. Phillips and with the archaeologist F. Albright as field director. And since 1996 the Italian Mission to Oman (IMTO), directed by professor A. Avanzini, has been working in the area of Khor Rori.
    Situated along the southern coast of the Arabian peninsula near the Yemeni border, the Dhofar province (“Zafar” in Arabic) actually appears and feels like a world away from the rest of Oman. This largest of the eleven Governorates in the Sultanate of Oman is separated from just about everywhere else in the country, hugging the coast behind a mountainous area that covers over 38,000 square miles. In fact, the region’s history and identity have always been largely separate from that of the rest of the Sultanate.
An ancient copper bowl burning incense that people traveled more than a thousand miles over sea and desert to obtain and trade

Fabled in antiquity as the source of the legendary frankincense trade, Dhofar boasted one of Arabia’s oldest and most cosmopolitan cultures—whose remains continue to exercise historians and archeologists to this day. The region was only finally brought under the control of the sultans of Muscat in the mid-nineteenth century, while the Dhofaris continued to assert their independence until as recently as the 1970s before finally being brought into the Omani fold.
    What more peaceful and remote place could the Lord have provided for Lehi and his family to spend their time isolated from others while they built their ship that would take them across the “many waters” to the Land of Promise without a soul knowing of their voyage, or its final destination. As Lehi told his family: “And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance” (2 Nephi 1:8).
    Thus, we can see that the Lord brought Lehi and his party some 2400 miles from Jerusalem down along the Red Sea, then across the largest sand desert in the world to this narrow strip of land beyond the mountains and along the seashore where there would be peace and quiet, no disturbances from people, where the Lord could commune with Nephi on a regular basis while he taught and showed this future prophet how to build a ship worthy of traveling into deep water and across the ocean to a land the Lord had promised Lehi.
Experienced shipwrights would have paid no attention to the inexperienced Nephi if he tried to tell them how to build a ship

It should be noted as mentioned earlier, there could have been no other people in the area, especially people experienced in building ships as so many theorists want to claim, for no experienced shipwright and builder would pay any attention to a young man with no building and maritime experience telling him how to build this ship the Lord had instructed. No builders of boats would sit still while a novice told them how to reverse their lifetime experience in building boats to construct a ship “not after the manner of men” (1 Nephi 18:2), but after the manner the Lord instructed Nephi.
    What shipwright worth his salt would sit back and let a young man who had never built even a canoe, raft or rowboat tell him how to construct a large ship capable of carrying fifty people or more out into the deep ocean? What shipwright is going to tolerate Nephi telling him “to work timbers of curious workmanship”? Or to build a boat different from the many others he had built over his life time? Anyone who thinks this way simply has had not experience with the intent and passionate independence of the Arab shipwrights who even today follow the same ancient methods of building their boats.
    If theorists would be honest with themselves on this matter, they would realize that as much as logic tells them experienced builders were necessary to build a large ship like Nephi’s, that it was not to be built after the manner of men, but after the manner the Lord instructed Nephi, there is simply no way men with any experience are going to accept such a change in their life’s work.
Nephi says he went into the mount often to inquire of the Lord. Some theorists claim there are no mountains around Khor Rori, but above the Garbeeb Plain, is the Wadi Dirbat (Darbat), which is itself on a mountain, and above that are high mounts as these images show (the river is the Wadi Dirbat)

It should be noted from Nephi’s words that the Lord told him: “Arise, and get thee into the mountain. And it came to pass that I arose and went up into the mountain, and cried unto the Lord” (1 Nephi 17:7). Later, Nephi said, “I did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord” (1 Nephi 18:3). It is interesting that in neither case does Nephi tell us it is a high mountain as he does during his earlier vision when he said he went “into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen” (1 Nephi 11:1), or when he “did go forth up into the top of the mountain” when he was directed to go for game (1 Nephi 16:30). Is this significant? Perhaps not. On the other hand, we have no reason to assume we are looking for a high mountain around Khor Rori, which, by the way is surrounded by the Jabal Qara mountains.
    All Nephi needed was a mountain. And since the area was bereft of people in 600 B.C., where evidence shows the area was not occupied until at least 500 B.C. onward, all Nephi need was some area of height where he would not be disturbed and where the Lord could  communicate with him—where he went oft.
In fact, the process of building the ship was evidently so complicated and different from anything anyone would have known, that Nephi had to go into the mount frequently for the Lord to show him many great things (1 Nephi 18:3). Nor should we neglect to remember  that Nephi, if he was around ship builders, would never have needed to ask the Lord where to go to find ore that he could melt and make tools to construct the ship--they would have been available for purchase or use.
    We need to recognize when we read the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon, that in addition to all the most valuable knowledge we can acquire about the Gospel and about the workings of God with man, and the Plan of Salvation, and all the other doctrinal information contained therein, is a valuable set of lessons as to how we can do and accomplish things in our lives—Nephi was the perfect example for he tells us quite clearly, “I will go and do the things which the Lord had commanded,” because he knew and makes it also quite clear to us that “for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). This is true whether it is in going back and getting the brass plates, which Nephi understand all the parameters of the assignment, or in building a ship, the parameters of which Nephi had no idea, experience or reason to believe it could be done.
    Nephi did not need help in building his ship other than his own family and that of Ishmael’s sons and people. No experienced ship builders were needed, no maritime knowledge was required. The Lord knew all that man knew and far more and could convey that to Nephi in such a manner that he was fully capable of accomplishing. Obviously, the Lord led Nephi to this one spot, the only natural harbor that exits in southern Oman where an ocean-going ship could have been constructed.
    The ship was not only built “not after the manner of men,” but it was also built not by maritime shipwrights and builders. It was built by Nephi under the Lord’s tutelage, which Nephi makes quite clear in the beginning of 1 Nephi 18.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Not After the Manner of Men – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding where Nephi’s ship was constructed, built and launched. 
   East of Salalah is the natural inlet called Khor Rori. In Lehi’s time, the natural gum resin of Frankincense oil (olibanum, meaning gum of frankincense, with the "franc" meaning noble or pure) from the Boswellia sacra trees in the dry, rocky soil of the mountains surrounding the inlet was harvested. The name, derived from the Old French "franc encens," which means "pure or high quality incense," was an aromatic resinous dried sap anciently used in incense and perfumes. However, long before Lehi and the discovery of Arabian frankincense trees, the incense was grown in Somalia and North Africa and traded on the Arabian Peninsula.
The Frankincense Tree being harvested. First, the tree at 8 to 10 years of age, is selected that is ready for harvesting, called "tapping" (done three times a year), then slices in the bark are made with a blade, called "striping," then the tree begins to seep (called "tears") the sap or resin, which bleeds out, bubbles and solidifies into the harvested crystals

The incense was lit in religious ceremonies, used during meditation or aromatherapy or simply burned for pleasure. One by one, the individual crystals, when lit, began to smolder and a light smoke rose filling the air with a pleasant odor--a mix of slightly charred pine with a hint of lemon in a heady aroma of Frankincense. It could also be used as an insect repellent and an air freshener.
    Frankincense has been popular as an incense for thousands of years and was used in Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. It's mentioned in the Bible as levona (lebonah) and was one of the ingredients in the perfume of the sanctuary (Exodus 30:34), and was one of the three gifts of the wise men to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:11), along with myrrh (to which it was often associated) and gold. Pure, uncontaminated frankincense is edible and can be chewed like gum, although it has a stickier texture than modern chewing gum. An oil can be extracted from the resin, and the oil and the Boswellia plant are said to have many health benefits, a sort of panacea or cure all for what ails one. 
    At the time of Lehi, this gum resin was shipped by camel caravan over the famed Frankincense Trail, and afterward, the inlet became a harbor where ships from all over set in to obtain the resin for trade in foreign ports, including from far off Greece and Rome. To protect the growing industry of harvesting the frankincense, a fort was built sometimes around 100 B.C., not far from where Nephi’s ship would have been constructed, called Sumhuram.
Sumhuram Fort, built on a slight rise, overlooking the entire inlet of Khor Rori. Built around the last century B.C. is safe-guarded the Khor and port from those who would attack the Frankincense business at Sumhuram and the area

In Periplus Marais Erythrael (translated and edited by Lionel Casson, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1989, p170), a handbook for merchants trading between ancient Roman Egypt and southern Arabia and India, dating to between 30 A.D. and 230 A.D., but believed to date to the middle of the first century A.D. because of the sequence of the Nabataen kings, where the port of Khor Rori is referred to as the Moscha Limen of classical geographical texts. The port lies 25 miles east of Salalah on a hilltop on the eastern bank of a sweet-water outlet, called a khor. About 1300 feet from the open sea, it dominates the khor which opens to the sea and anciently served as a natural harbor. The remains of the fortress are located on a rocky spur running east-west, forming part of a wider defensive system, details of which are still evident. The walls have dressed stone faces with rubble cores. The most heavily fortified part is on the north, where the entrance is located, itself a massive structure with three successive gates on the steep entry path, and is flanked by the remains of towers. The port was refounded at the end of the 1st century by LL'ad Yalutas (evidenced by an inscription still in situ) to control the trade in Dhofar incense. It was the hub of the trading settlements on this coast at that time. The process of disintegration began in the 5th century A.D.
    As for the harbor of Khor Rori itself, Frank Lineman, an engineer from the Maritime Academy and the Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and chief engineer in the Merchant Marines, and an expert on where to make safe landfall along coasts, calls the Oman inlet as having "deep calm waters" and "a protective harbor" necessary to construct, launch, and outfit a large ship.
The calm, placid waters of Khor Rori, the inlet where Nephi would have built his ship just east of Salalah along the Salalah Plain

Linehan has stated, "Nephi would have needed this type of calm waters and protective harbor in the building of his ship at Bountiful." 
    Naturally, this area of Khor Rori is the perfect inlet and location for the building of Nephi’s ship, downstream from the wadi Darbat, an area full of various trees that could have been felled and floated downriver. There are various areas along the inland waterway for the building, fitting, handling of cargo and supplies to take aboard for the long voyage
The tranquil Khor Rori behind a pair of headlands that flank the mouth of the estuary—a wonderfully peaceful spot, so quiet you can actually hear the splashes of fish in the water

Three hundred years after Lehi left the area, the fort of Sumhuram (the Moscha of classical geographical texts) was built by LL'ad Yalut, king of the Hadhramawt, to control the trade in Dhofar incense (An alternate theory is that it was built by a local ruler, a king named Samharam in the 3rd century B.C.) Initially, Indian seamen who had brought cotton cloth, corn and oil in exchange for incense found themselves still far from home and decided to overwinter there, waiting for the favorable monsoon winds to take them home. It became a favorite stop-over on the route home and eventually was turned into a port. Soon it became the hub of the trading settlement on this coast during the 1st and 2nd centuries B.C. Its close links with the powerful Shabwa state in Yemen made this small fortified town very rich. The process of disintegration began in the first half of the 3rd century A.D., when the site was reclaimed by the sea and by natural vegetation.
The ruins of Sumhuram, the fort that later guarded the beginning of the Frankincense Trail and the port into which ships sailed from all over the region beginning around the third century B.C.

The entire area between the Qara Mountains and the ocean (Sea of Arabia, the northern extension of the Indian Ocean) is a unique area, for coming off the largest Sand Desert in the world following eight years (1Nephi 17:4) crossing through the wilderness, Lehi and his party would have been confronted with one of the most amazing sights one might ever find—the Garbeeb, or flat plain, a strip of area along the base of the mountains on the sprawling Iteen Plain, they were in view of a nearby large springs in a forest of shady trees that sits at the foot of the surrounding mountains.
Beyond was the massive ocean Lehi called Irreantum, and Nephi wrote: “And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish. And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters. And it came to pass that we did pitch our tents by the seashore; and notwithstanding we had suffered many afflictions and much difficulty, yea, even so much that we cannot write them all, we were exceedingly rejoiced when we came to the seashore; and we called the place Bountiful, because of its much fruit” (1 Nephi 17:5-6).
Such a sight as this plain provides during Khareef Season, the Monsoon turns a normal landscape into the most beautiful of scenery

Anciently called Merbat,which means the “Moorings," the area of the Khor Rori inlet and an adjacent area named Taqah, two miles to the West, are the likely place where ships could moor, and for numerous years after the time of Lehi, well into the Roman period, this area was a favorite mooring area. According to radio-carbon dating and Marine Archaeologist and micropaleontologist, Professor Eduard G. Rheinhardt, School of Geography and Geology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, the final closing of the harbor’s mouth of Khor Rori occurred between 1640 to 1690 A.D.
(See the next post, “Not After the Manner of Men – Part III” for more information about the building of Nephi’s ship and where it was constructed)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Not After the Manner of Men – Part I

What exactly is meant in Nephi’s comment when he said, “Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men” (1 Nephi 18:2).     What was the manner of men?
 
It certainly was not the European hulled ships of the 14th century, nor the ships of Magellan or Sir Francis Drake, or that of Columbus or even Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama, for those types of rudimentary ships had not yet been invented.
    At the time of Lehi, there were two maritime peoples, one in the Mediterranean (Phoenicians) and one in the Sea of Arabia (Arabs, which also included the lands eastward even to China).
    Most historical works report: “The best navigators and shipbuilders of the ancient world in 1500 – 1000 years B. C. were Phoenicians who lived on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The famous Libyan cedar, which covered slopes of their motherland, gave an excellent material for building of strong seafaring ships.”
Left: Phoenician Ship carved on a sarcophagus 2nd century A.D.; Right: A depiction of the 2nd century A.D. Phoenician ship. Note, this is not in Lehi’s time or before as so many historians want to claim and give the Phoenicians credit for what they did not do

The picture depicts a Phoenician merchant ship dated 1500 year B. C. It is claimed that this was “a sufficiently capacious vessel with powerful posts and two stern oars. Twig gratings were strengthened along the boards of the ship to protect the deck cargo. The mast carried a square sail fastened to two curved yards of an Egyptian type. A large amphora made of burnt clay was erected on the stem to keep drinkable water. Phoenician helmsmen contributed to the navy science introducing separation of a horizon circle into 360 degrees and they composed reliable celestial reference-points for future generations of seafarers.”
    However, the fact of the matter is as shown on the carving above, these Phoenician ships were not sailing until around the 2nd century A.D., not 1500 or 1000 B.C., at which time the Phoenicians had oar-driven coastal vessels as we have stated here many times. 
    Today, the remains of Phoenician ships can be observed restored in museums. Their hulls were a thin shell of planks joined edge-to-edge and then stiffened by a keel and light transverse ribs. No doubt Nephi understood this was the technique used to build boats after the manner of man near Jerusalem (or at least that is the meaning the Lord conveyed to him). 
    An important question theorists never ask is: “If the Phoenicians truly had ocean-going ships, why didn't Lehi, with his stated wealth, simply buy a ship already built by the Phoenicians?” 
 
Phoenician ships of Lehi’s time still had oars and external rudders; Right: A Phoenician ship during the time of Christ: note the extreme width compared to the length, a design that would never survive in deep water oceans, but served well in the Mediterranean and would have been the type of ship Paul sailed on to Rome

The answer, of course, lies in the ancient evidence of these ships that were not built for deep-ocean travel, and despite a lot of rhetoric to the opposite, Phoenician ships were used for coastal trading enterprises along the north and south Mediterranean coasts. On only a couple of occasions do we have evidence of Phoenicians sailing along the coast of Africa, and as far north as coastal voyages to Gaul.
    Obviously, those ships were not made for deep ocean sailing, having been designed and built to basically travel the waters of the Mediterranean—and like all Mediterranean vessels, as late as the Roman period, were mainly driven by oars, with sails in case of a favorable wind, which often rose and fell on the Mediterranean, requiring oars for any lengthy sailing venture.
Phoenician Settlements (green) along the western and southern Mediterranean coasts 
As history shows, Phoenician exploration was along the Mediterranean coasts where the established settlements for the purpose of extending their trading empire. The would rarely have traveled out of the sight of land, and then only in the Mediterranean which was an almost entirely enclosed sea basically surrounded by land, providing a sunny, gentle climate, turquoise sea, balmy weather and tranquil waters. This sea, of course, was an important route for merchants and travelers of ancient times that allowed for trade and cultural exchange between emergent peoples of the region, and an easy sea to sail requiring no or very little knowledge of boats and currents. 
    In addition, Phoenician ships were not designed or built for the open sea, while ships built of heavier wood along the Red Sea, where Lehi passed, were larger and constructed of a heavier wood, they were sewn together with rope, which was the Omani way of building ships "after the manner of man," that existed well after Lehi left on his ocean voyage
    While many theorists want to place ship builders and people already in the Salalah/Khor Rori area of Oman, who Lehi could have employed to build their ship, Nephi tells us he asked the Lord where he could find ore to make tools (1 Nephi 17:10), which he used to “make tools of the ore which [he] did molten out of the rock” (1 Nephi 17:16). The question never asked by these Theorists but should be, is if there were others in the area already making ships, why did Nephi need to make his own tools when surely tools would have been available in the area? And also, if he needed to make his own tools, surely shipwrights in the area would have known where ore was in which to make those tools.
    Certainly the knowledge of where such ore to make tools was located would have been known by local ship builders, but it it was a competition thing, obviously  people in the area not building ships would also have known and been able to help. This again suggests that there were no others in this area of the Salalah Plain, which was the area Lehi called Bountiful.
Another probability is that Nephi needed ore to make metal nails and spikes, items not being used in that area at the time, for the Omani shipwrights sewed planks together with rope and did not use nails or spikes. Yet, nails and spikes would be required to provide the securing of planks and frame that would have been needed to endure a voyage across the ocean far beyond the coastal voyages of the day. 
(See the next post, “Not After the Manner of Men – Part II” for more information about the building of Nephi’s ship and where it was constructed)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Understanding Lehi’s Desert Trek

When we think of things from a western mindset, we often see things quite different than they were (or are) in the Middle East. Take the idea of a “road,” for example. We think of a road as something paved with cement or asphalt, or at worse, a hard-packed dirt area with specific boundaries and alignment. However, in the Middle East deserts, it is simply a wide place in the desert that may stretch for a mile or two in width (or more) that is basically flat but appears little different from the rest of the topography.
A typical “road” through the desert, such as the Frankincense Trail, or King’s Highway—often little more than a wide place in the desert between water holes or oases

A “wadi,” which is typically thought of as a dry river bed, sometimes is hard to distinguish from the rest of the surrounding wilderness in the desert. It can also be a valley, ravine, or channel that is dry except in the rainy season.
    It was down the wadi Arabah to the south, from the southern tip of the Dead Sea to the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba that Lehi took his family as they fled “into the wilderness” from the area of Jerusalem.
Top: a more recognizable wadi, which is free-flowing river in the rainy or wet season; Bottom: a wadi not so recognizable  because it is not specifically a river during the wet season, but a periodic water flow

The old meaning of Wadi Arabah, which was in use up to the early 20th century, covered almost the entire length of what is today called the Jordan Rift Valley, running in a north-south direction between the southern end of the Sea of Galilee and the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba at Aqaba/Eliat and the seaport of Ezion-Geber. This included the Jordan River Valley between Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea to the north, and the wadi Arabah to the south. 
    Once in the desert, Lehi’s family would have been taken with the harsh difficulty of the place. Loose rocks cover the ground as far as the eye can see to the south of Jerusalem. Shrub-like trees provide the only shade against the sun’s unrelenting heat. Cutting through the landscape are large canyons formed in the past by dangerous wadi floods, which provide a constant reminder of one’s danger. All who travel there know that if the floods come, and they do so without warning, that they will be in constant danger, and have already taken many lives each year—no doubt the reason why the people of Israel are since this southern half is so harsh and dangerous for many to settle.
    How much of this Lehi knew before entering the wilderness is not known, but since he had tents and donkeys and knew how to use them and appeared comfortable in the wilderness, we can safely assume he well understood the dangers through which he passed. He also probably knew that anytime God wanted to test a person and prepare him for a great work, he too him into such hard places where survival depends on the Lord and not upon one’s own expertise.
    Obviously, this was the case with Lehi and his family, and especially Nephi who was being prepared to lead this journey and found a new nation in a promised land. Perhaps this is why it took eight long years before they reached Bountiful. 
The Wilderness of Judea, located to the south of Jerusalem between the Judean Hills and the Dead Sea, through which Lehi would have had to take his family to go south toward the Red Sea

While the term “wilderness” does not necessarily mean an uninhabitable wasteland, that description pretty much denotes the area to the south of Jerusalem through which Lehi traveled to the Red Sea. Beyond that, the term wilderness more describes a country such as nomads may inhabit, with oases and wadis where crops may be planted and harvested, but where no permanent settlements exist. So at this point Lehi's wilderness had "more fertile parts" in which survival was possible (1 Nephi 16:16).
    As Hugh Nibley wrote in “Lehi in the Desert,” (Improvement Era 1950): “The particular waste in which Lehi made his first camp is among the most uninviting deserts on earth; though some observers think the area enjoyed a little more rainfall in antiquity than it does today, all are agreed that the change of climate has not been considerable since prehistoric times—it was at best almost as bad then as it is now. Even if Lehi took the main southern route down the Arabah, as he very probably did, since it was the direct road to the Red Sea, and a caravan way known to all the merchants, he would be moving through a desert so repelling that even the hardened Bedouins avoid it like the plague.”
    Of all the places in the Middle East, perhaps none other than this desert could have tried Lehi and his family to the point of breaking and in the process forging future leaders. It is well known that Romans, Crusaders and the Arabs all passed over these tracks, and they have given us place-names and no more. Probably, as the old saying goes, they found the country too detestable to merit further reference”—certainly Lehi and his family, especially Laman and Lemuel, who "murmured" bitterly at being led into such a place would have described it that way.
Lehi’s journey from outside Jerusalem down to the Valley of Lemuel, their first semi-permanent camp, after wading through the Wilderness of Judea, along the Wadi Arabah, and the desert east of the Gulf of Aqaba—some of the worst desert anywhere

Once reaching the area of the Gulf of Aqaba and the settlement of Eliat, Lehi would have veered to the east into the Wadi Rum (pronounced Ramm), meaning “high” or “elevated,” located  in the southern tip of Jordan, an area frequented by the Nabateans—a people who were exceptionally skilled traders, and who furthered commerce between China, India, the Far East, Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome, dealing in such goods as spices, incense, gold, animals, iron, copper, sugar, medicines, ivory, perfumes and fabrics.
    This area is also the location known as the Valley of the Moon because of the rock formations, and was the area T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) passed through several times during the Arab Revolt of 1917-1918, and where he helped in the revolt against the Ottoman Empire, assisting in gaining Jordan’s independence from the Turks in 1916. This area, because of its ruggedness has also been used to make several movies, three about Mars, including the recent “The Martian,” with Matt Damon.
    Further south, near the mouth of Aqaba, in 1995, researchers Richard Wellington and George Potter and colleagues found a hitherto unrecognized wadi, which has parallels to the requirements of 1 Nephi 2:10), including a river of water which is "continually running, steadfast and unmovable" which suggests a year-round water flow.  
Top: The Wadi Rum; Bottom: The upper valley of Wadi Tayyib al-Ism (near maqna, Saudi Arabia), the Wellington and Potter’s proposed site for the Valley of Lemuel

Called a “spectacular valley” named Wadi Tayyib al-ism, by Potter, this wadi, or small valley, is typical for the area and contains perhaps the only stream that flows year-round in the region today and empties into the Red Sea. This canyon’s solid granite walls are an impressive sight, and they offer plenty of shade in an area where the temperature in the summer is usually over 110ºF.
    After receiving the Liahona and from this point onward, Lehi traveled the Frankincense Trail southeastward that saw caravans of 300 camels and more anciently, along this portion of the original 2,000-mile-long trail more or less beside the Red Sea, and eventually eastward through the scorching Empty Quarter desert.
    As has been said, there is no greater character-testing and building than desert travel along the route Lehi took. Out of this travel, came two prophets and the fathers of several prophets among the Nephite Nation. Perhaps the greatest prophet we know was that of Nephi, who knew the Lord would ask nothing of man without providing a way for im to accomplish the task. And Lehi, who went into the wilderness without comment and provided the underpinnings of a great nation that lasted for a thousand years.