Saturday, May 20, 2017

Did Nephi Have Help Building His Ship? – Part III

Continuing from the previous post regarding what help, if any, Nephi had in building his ship other than his own family and those in Lehi’s party. 
    Potter and Wellington go on to ask the question: “Why would the Lord suddenly start intervening in every matter, after having Nephi and his group suffer great afflictions for eight years in the desert where they nearly died and having them later almost drown in a great tempest at sea?

Laman and Lemuel tied up their brother Nephi onboard his ship and a terrible storm broke out and the Liahona stopped working
Nephi seems to have had to suffer through each ordeal the same as any man. The sun shone just as hot on him as anyone else, the rain fell just as wet on him, and the wind blew just as hard.”
    Suffering through those hardships, developing the nature of a leader, preparing him to take command and charge when it would be required of him in the face of constant bickering and disagreement by his brothers and the sons of Ishmael, the hardships he faced refined his abilities to the point he could carry out the assignments the Lord gave him. There is no mystery in this. The Lord works the same way in most of our lives, some of us rise to the occasion, and some don’t, but the Lord is always preparing us for the future events of our lives. And so he did with Nephi. When the time came, Nephi was fully capable of carrying out his role without requiring shipwrights in an area where they did not exist and would not for two or three hundred years after Lehi left Bountiful in Nephi’s ship.
    As though Potter and Wellington caught a glimpse of this, they write: “Like the desert journey, building a ship was part of Nephi’s development under the hand of the Lord. He, too, would have had to learn line upon line, precept upon precept, as all who had gone before him or would go after. The Lord seems to have made a pioneer par excellence of the faithful Nephi, who on his journey acquired all the basic skills necessary for the creation and settlement of an ancient society in the strangeness of the promised land.” Yet, they turn right around and disqualify it when they think the task was beyond the man the Lord raised up to carry out the task, when they add: “Building a ship required Nephi to learn from local tradesmen how to smelt ore to make tools, to cut stones to form anchors, to work wood within very tight specification, to weave sails, to fabricate rope, to mold pots for storing water, to tan hides for bellows and how to fasten the ship’s riggings. Culminating with the building of a great ship, Nephi’s journey was, we might say, his university. In the New World he became a ruler and teacher (2 Nephi 5:19), passing on to a new society a storehouse of knowledge that took civilizations thousands of years to acquire. Nephi personally taught his people the basic skills of metallurgy (2 Ne. 5:15), high quality wood working skills—manifested in the wilderness family’s ability to construct a temple of “exceedingly fine” workmanship (2 Nephi 5:16), building construction, and to work in all manner of woods (2 Nephi 5:15).”

Yes, he did all that, but he did not teach his people how to build ships as far as we know. Nor did he have anyone teach him, other than the Lord, how to build his ship. What he taught his people were the skills he developed over a lifetime and honed to perfection in the construction of his ship. After all, the Lord was fully capable of teaching Nephi what he needed to know, and seeing that he developed the skills during his lifetime that would lead him to be able to carry out his assignments. Thus, Nephi did not need outside help, and none is mentioned or even suggested in the scriptural record that he had any or sought any.
    Isn’t it time we trust in the Lord to be able to do all that he needs to do, and to see that we develop, if we are willing, all that he needs in us, and accept his word in the scriptural record as it is written and not go around trying to add things that are not there?
    Yet, Potter and Wellington go on to press their viewpoint: “Without a master shipwright it seems impossible to envision Nephi building a complex sailing ship. Here is a very short list of some of the essential competencies exercised in building the Sohar:
1. Forming the hull from preshaped planks.
2. Wood working: Tim Severin, a Marine archaeologist, who built a replica of an Arab ship and sailed it to China, noted of the effort it took to work just one twelve-foot-long garbord plank, “this piece was 3 inches thick, and it took us four days to twist, bend and chisel it into the right curve.
Example of sewn planks and framework
3. Rope-working and sewing timbers: Sevenin called the fifty-two-foot-long coconut hulk ropes pythons. These ropes were then stretched and sewn into place using more rope by teams of men working up and down the length of the planks. He noted that “the operation was very precise there had to be exactly the right number of strings and at the correct tension.”
4. Bending planks into exact shapes using steam boxes.
5. Caulking the ship and knowing how to mix the caulking compounds: Severin relates that his shipwrights “spent a week stuffing coconut fiber plugs into the stitch holes in the planking, a tedious but essential task. He estimates that they had drilled more than 20,000 holes in the planking, and if these holes were not pegged properly the ship would leak like a huge sieve.”
6. Oiling the ropes: Without oiling on the ropes of a sewn ship, the ropes and the ship will fall apart in a matter of months.
7. Antifouling coating: To protect against shipworms.
8. Outfitting the ship: Nephi needed to know how and where to anchor the masts. He then needed to install a complicated set of riggings and sails.” 
    However, the point is, Nephi had an expert shipwright in the Lord to teach him through visions, and "showing" him how to perform whatever tasks that might have been outside his pervue. He did not need another.
    Yet, Potter and Wellington go on to ask: “One question, of course, is which of the species Nephi shaped for his ship (1 Nephi 18:1-2,6). We do not know. It is possible that Nephi somehow acquired teak logs floated from India, because sources earlier than Lehi speak of this kind of import for the work of shipwrights in the area of the Persian Gulf, hundreds of miles to the north. It is the judgment of George Hourani that "Arabia does not. . . produce wood suitable for building strong seagoing ships," and thus "the materials for building strong vessels had to be brought from India."
    We do not know, of course, which wood or tree species Nephi may have used—he may have cut different trees for different parts of his ship as is common today among shipwrights who claim they are doing exactly what their great ancestors did—but suitable trees have been growing in the Dhofar region for millennia.

The luxuriant growth of trees and flora in Dhofar near Khor Rori
In fact, when some theorists touting Khor Kharfot or elsewhere claim there were no trees in Khor Rori area from which Nephi could have built his ship, we should understand that the trees form part of the luxuriant, tropical growth in Dhofar, Oman, along the Salalah Plain, and around Khor Rori, were made up of Mango and Coconut palm trees, both of which could be used to build the ship.
    Potter and Wellington add: “This is only a partial list of the scores of skills Nephi needed to master in order to construct a large sailing ship.”
    Of course, the one thing Nephi had on his side in learning and performing all this was time. They had all he time in the world to accomplish the task the Lord set before them.
(See the next post, “Did Nephi Have Help Building His Ship? – Part IV,” for more information on this and a clearer understanding of why Nephi did not need outside help or assistance in building his ship)


  1. Mr Potter says: "Building a ship required Nephi to learn from local tradesmen".

    But Nephi clearly states in 1 N 18:1-2 twice that the Lord showed him how to build the ship and twice that he did not build it after the manner of men. If he did not build it after the manner of men why did he need men to show him how to build a ship?
    And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the cship.

    2 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.