Saturday, June 17, 2017

Little Understood, Misunderstood or Ignored?

As we have recorded here for the past eight years and in at least two of our books, one of the least understood part of Lehi’s voyage to the Land of Promise, and one of the most important keys available to us to follow his path, is connected to the ship Nephi built, Nephi’s statement of direction, and how to understand its meaning and importance. 
   Until we come to grips with this all important point, no other factor involved in finding or locating the Land of Promise is of much important, for if we are not looking in the correct area where Lehi sailed and landed, how can we think to start looking for cities, lands, rivers and seas? Yet, that is exactly what the vast majority of theorists have done over the years, beginning with the early BYU-directed claim of Mesoamerica, which was based on the ancient ruins found there. 
Unfortunately, how Nephi’s ship negotiated the winds and ocean currents was a secondary thought of little importance with the guru of the Mesoamerican theory claiming it might have been simply “across the Pacific,” or possibly up over the Kuroshio current in the northern Pacific, or a reversal counter-current during El Niño. The point is, it was not a factor of much importance and very little, if any, effort to understand it was undertaken. Lehi sailed to Mesoamerica and that was his and other’s points. But how do we know Nephi did that? Do winds and currents actually take someone there? And could Lehi and his combined family have negotiated the difficulty of heading eastward, even if winds and currents would have allowed him to do so, and woven his way through the thousands upon thousands of islands of Indonesia between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific?
    Other theorists, like Phyllis Carol Olive, stated that the place to begin in looking for Lehi’s Land of Promise was to start with the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York. However, since that hill has not been considered by most theorists as the same hill as mentioned in the scriptural record, and the hill descriptions Mormon gives us do not match that hill in western New York, it seems unlikely that we can start there.
    While Nephi gives us numerous directional statements in the family's overland trek from Jerusalem to Bountiful, including directions, and numerous events that took place along the way, he gives no directional setting for his ocean voyage. Since he had the Liahona, he would have known where to go and where he was along the way, and in leaving the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, in Oman just east of the Yemen border, he had only one direction he could have gone to get out of the Arabian Sea and into the Indian Ocean—south.
White dotted arrow: traveling southwest would be into the Gulf of Aden; Blue arrows: traveling south to southeast; Red dotted arrows: traveling east by southeast to east to northeast would have taken him into the sub-continent of India

In order to clear the sub-continent of India, which separates the Arabian Sea from the Bay of Bengal, and is the north-south terminus of the Sea of Arabia, Lehi would have had to sail southward between 1250 miles (due south) to 1750 miles (southeast).
    On the other hand, the monsoon winds, as mapped by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, as found in the Woods Hole Oceanus magazine in an article by Robert A. Weller and Susumu Honjo,” Monsoon Winds and Carbon Cycles in the Arabian Sea,” (December 1, 1997, Vol 40, No 2), perhaps the most respected oceanographic organization in the world (one of Woods Hole engineers, Loral O’Hara was recently selected by NASA as an astronaut—one of 12 out of 18,300 applicants), and the most famous and accredited research and higher education facility dedicated to the study of all aspects of marine science and engineering and to the education of marine researchers for 87 years (established in 1930), show that a sailing vessel with fixed sails capable only of being “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8,9), could not move across these monsoon winds to reach the east in the Sea of Arabia.
Top: Distances Lehi would have had to sail to reach the Indian Ocean and be able to turn east toward Indonesia: Bottom: the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s chart of the monsoon winds prevalent throughout the year. Note the arrow points of these yellow to gold arrows and keep in mind Lehi’s vessel could only have moved in the direction of those arrows and could not have jumped over two or three arrows to reach one pointing in the desired direction

Also keep in mind that these charts from Woods Hole are not someone’s idea of plotting a supercomputer to move in certain directions at certain times, but those compilations during the entire year based on 87 years of mapping and knowledge of those winds and currents.
    The point is, that when Lehi set sail (1 Nephi 18:8), Nephi writes: “after we had all gone down into the ship, and had taken with us our provisions and things which had been commanded us, we did put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land,” he tells us three things of extreme importance—after getting into the ship:
1. we did put forth into the sea;
2. were driven forth before the wind;
3. towards the promised land.
    So the first point, they set out into the sea, i.e., they passed out of the cove, inlet, or bay in which they built the ship and into the sea itself. This sea was the Irreantum Sea (1 Nephi 17:5), and at that point they were no longer protected by whatever mild breezes, etc., that were provided by the protection of the area where the ship was built. They entered the ocean where the winds and currents at this point took over the movement of the ship. Next, the ship was driven forth, i.e., propelled forward, before the wind, i.e., by a following wind blowing into the sails from aft or stern or the rear of the ship, i.e., from behind them. Third and lastly, that wind blowing them forward was pointing them toward the Land of Promise.
    Now the word “toward” means (Webster 1828) “in the direction to,” and today (Oxford 2017) “in the direction of,” which literally means Lehi’s ship was “moving toward the direction of the Land of Promise.” The word comes from the Old English “toweard” meaning “in the direction of” with original reference to “facing and approaching.”
The four basic approaches to the Western Hemisphere (destination) from the Arabian Peninsula (embarkation)
In the above image, one of these routes (southeast) is directly “toward” (Red arrow) the Land of Promise; one (east) is somewhat directly, i.e., several minor changes in direction (Blue arrow); and one (northeast), similar route through Indonesia, then northward (White arrow) up and over the Pacific and down the west coast of North America; and the last one, (southwest) is not “toward” at all (Yellow arrow), but in the opposite direction for nearly half of the voyage. Based on Nephi’s terminology, that should eliminate an Atlantic crossing and an eastern North American landing (Heartland, Great Lakes, Eastern U.S., etc.)—which also should eliminate those theories from matching Nephit’s directional statement; and lastly is the (White arrow) route, which heads north, in a direction away from the landing site, and should eliminate that route entirely.
    Now, having said that, the next step, now that we know what we are looking for, i.e., a course leading “toward” the Land of Promise, i.e., Western Hemisphere, we only need to find a series of winds and ocean currents that would carry Nephi’s ship “driven forth before the wind” from the Arabian Peninsula to the landing in the Land of Promise.
Problems with currents: Black circle: Indonesian and Bay of Bengal currents; Purple circle: South Equatorial and Pacific Ocean currents
First of all, the route through Indonesia is not only in opposition to the numerous currents moving off the Pacific Ocean but also through Indonesia and into the Indian Ocean. Stated officially, “When the Indonesian Throughflow (ITF) through Lombok Strait, Ombai and the Timor Passages, enters the Indian Ocean it is transferred in a horizontal movement towards Africa within the Indian South Equatorial Current.”
Indonesian Throughflow

Continuing: it provides a low-latitude pathway for warm, fresh water to move from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean and this serves as the upper branch of the global heat conveyor belt. Higher ocean surface topography in the western Pacific than in the Indian Ocean drives upper thermocline water from the North Pacific through the western route of the Makassar Strait to either directly exit through the Lombok Strait or flow eastward into the Banda Sea. Weaker flow of saltier and denser South Pacific water passes over the Lifamatola Passage into the Banda Sea, where these water masses are mixed due to tidal effects, Ekman pumping, and heat and fresh water flux at the ocean surface. From the Banda Sea the ITF exits Timor, Ombai, and Lombok passages. These global-scale ocean waves are reduced with the northeastward flow during the other six months of the monsoon winds.
    Thus, the statement of Nephi’s direction “towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:8), and “that we sailed again towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:22), which from the earlier definitions, both at the time of Joseph Smith, and today, mean “in the direction of” eliminates any route because of both direction and winds/currents other than the southeast direction penned by Frederick G. Williams in the 1830s and still holds true today.
    However, most theorists either misunderstand such importance of Nephi’s written record, or ignore it because it does not fit their narrative and beliefs. But the bottom line, the record was written for our understanding. And it is important that we do understand what was written—every single word, so we can benefit from the record what was, originally, meant for us to know in its entirety.


  1. Isn't the course followed by your theory generally shown as more directly south until eastward moving currents and winds south of Africa and Australia?

  2. I'd have to agree with Michael Richardson's comment. You say that the red one makes more sense because it's "towards the promised land", but it's definitely not. If we were to take Nephi's words verbatim, it'd have to be the blue route, which as you pointed out has problems because of the currents. But you're not taking into account that they were "driven back on the sea for many days" because of the wickedness of his brothers. I'm very interested in all of this. How are the hill descriptions given by Mórmon different from in New York? Can you site that so I can study it better?

  3. Unknown--both your comment and your question have been answered in numerous blog articles here over the years. Obviously, we cannot write everything involved with any one article. That is why we write so many articles on the same subject scattered throughout our blog over time. If you were to study the history and facts involved in the Indian Ocean, as we have done and written about often, the "driven back" has a particular meaning and one that seems beyond your comment and matches the specific situation of the Indian Ocean as we have shown in drawings of the past. As for the blue line and the white line, we are not drawing lines on a map because of where we want them to go, but how the ocean currents and winds have always blown and where marine experts have placed them from almost two centuries of study. We have written scores of articles on this issue and they are all available on this blog's history.