Friday, January 4, 2019

Were There Other People Available to Help Nephi Build His Ship in 600 BC? – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding the habitation of the area in which Nephi built his ship, and whether or not he would have had experienced ship-buildings there to help him construct his ship.
    As mentioned in the last post, based on the Periplus Maris Erythrael, Pliny the Elder, the Atlas of ancient and classical geography, the Moscha Limen, the Official Omani records and the Omani World Heritage Site listings, Khor Rori was not settled before 500 BC, and most likely closer to 400 to 300 BC, and therefore could not have had anyone in the area when Lehi reached Salalah.
Fort Sumharam at Khor Rori, where Nephi built his ship, was not built and the area occupied until about 300 BC, 300 years after Lehi left for the Land of Promise. Note the khor inlet in the background and the protected harbor

The works citing Berenike, a portion the Red Sea coast of Egypt to which frankincense was shipped from the Salalah area dates the trade—in fact, the trade route between Berenike and Myos Hormos in Egypt to a few sites in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), passed directly past the Salalah area and the port of Khor Rori/Sumhuram). This dating hows that the development of the Salalah area (more specifically Khor Rori and Sumhuram) to the 3rd century BC.
    However, no factual history exists of Salalah before about the 6th century AD when Arabs are claimed to have migrated eastward to Oman, and the incursion a little before that of peoples from Kharaji, Iran, who were displaced by the 7th century AD. Their name in Arabic, the Khawarij or kharijites, literally means "the outsiders" or “exchangers: those who gave up something for something else,” and were members of a sect that appeared in the first century of Islam (7th century AD) and has been established throughout the centuries since. If there was anyone in the area before that, other than Khor Rori, there is no positive record of such.
    As for Sorenson’s reference to 1 Nephi 18:2, (mentioned in the previous post by skeptics of Nephi building his ship by himself with his brothers), in which Nephi says he “did not build the ship using the method or design of men,” Sorenson added that such statement implied that “Nephi had some familiarity with those methods and designs,” is the wrong inference. Whether or not Nephi had any knowledge of how ships were built in his day, which is highly unlikely, is missing the point that the Lord told Nephi how to build a ship, no doubt conveying it would not be after the manner of men, but far different. Nephi stresses this twice in his written record, a fact that is more likely one the Lord told him and probably explained why, and what the differences were to be.
    After all, for someone to build something they had no experience with, or no ability to do, would require some in-depth instruction, and high amounts of visual imprint, as through visions, which is in keeping with the Lord’s method of teaching, as shown earlier in the incident of Nephi wanting to see his father’s vision (1 Nephi 10:17; 11:1).
A coastal dhow of the type built and sailed along then Oman and Yemen coasts and in the Red Sea, which Nephi probably saw on his journey to Bountiful

Thus, the question of Nephi not building the ship using the method or design of men, which in his day generally meant the small coastal dhows they might have seen along the Red Sea in their eight-year travel in the desert, but rather, he was to build a ship that would survive in deep ocean water. This would have entailed providing Nephi with not only a “blueprint” he could understand, but a step-by-step visual instruction.
    In this sense, he would not have needed anyone to build it for him, for anyone other than the Lord to tell him what to do or how to do it. He would not have needed mortal “expertise,” for he had as his instructor the Lord who had created the heavens and worlds beyond number. Let us not sell the Lord short in his abilities. Nephi said of this enterprise, “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). He needed no one other than those in his party, all of which living outside Jerusalem on farms, would have been knowledgeable and experienced building and repairing with saw, adze, mallet and nail.
    Now, in keeping with Elder Widtsoe’s question of “Do you read the Scriptures…as though you were writing them? …Do you read them as though you stood in the place of the men who wrote them?” let us consider the event involved and personalities of those claimed to have been there by such skeptics.
    Ship-building in the Middle East, which dates back to before Lehi’s time, was carried out by men who had histories of father-to-son teaching for generations. It is believed that the Yemeni Hadhrami people, as well as the Omanis, came to Beypore in Kerala for centuries to obtain their dhows. Beypore, in the northern precincts of Kerala and located in the outskirts of Kozhikode, is a sleepy town until one reaches the banks of the Chaliyar river. Here one can spot partially built structures of these small ships and a number of carpenters busy working on wooden logs.
A uru boat is a wooden dhow, mainly made of Malabar teak, probably the biggest handicraft in the world, and were being built in Beypore in the time of Lehi

Urus (the word for dhow in the Malayalam language of Keralta and the Lakshadweep) are still being built in southeastern India and take 40 craftsmen working for two years to build—today’s uru is 140-foot long, 30 feet wide, weighs 275 tonnes, has a large kitchen, 20 sleeping rooms, several bathrooms, and carries 40 people. Urus built in Lehi’s time were far less luxurious, took far less time to build and could carry more people.
    Uru making in Beypore is an ancient tradition that was established since India began its maritime trade with Mesopotamia in the last two millennia BC. It is claimed that ancient traders from Yemen settled in Kerala who practiced uru-making, and passed on the craft to the local carpenters, which has been handed down father-to-son ever since. These early dhows used along the Omani coast were built in India because of the fine timber in the Kerala forests, the availability of excellent white coir (cord made of fibers found between the hard, internal shell and the outer coat of a coconut) for the rope and cordage, as well as the highly skilled carpenters who specialized in ship building.
    Anciently, the dhow’s sheathing planks were made of coconut fiber and the coir in India was considered the best available. Today, urus are still being made as in ancient times by settlers from Yemen known as “Baramis,” who are still active in Kerala. This method, handed down through the generations is followed religiously today, making these coastal vessels in the same manner and with the same natural products as anciently.
    Putting ourselves in the place of not only the writers of the time but also understanding the people and their practices of the time, as Elder Widtsoe suggests, it should not be hard for us to understand that if Nephi solicited men with ship-building experience in helping him to construct his ship, they would have objected vehemently at having a novice such as Nephi telling them how to “work the ship,” and how to “build the ship,” which was “not after the manner of men,” but by the Lord’s design. These ship-builders of the time, as today, jealously guard and implement their time-practiced techniques and would not have deviated from it to accommodate the design and methods of someone else. There would have been no possibility that ship-builders of his time would have allowed Nephi to build a ship “not after the manner of men.”
There were only eight people saved in the Flood in Noah’s Ark: Noah and his wife; their sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth, and their wives (Genesis 7:13; 1 Peter 3:20; 2Peter 2:5). Who else would have been available to help with a project that did not save them as well?

As for the numbers of worker claimed to be needed to build one of these smaller vessels, or one like Nephi’s ship, we should keep in mind that Noah not only built an ark with only his immediate family of three sons, and perhaps some of their older children, that was far larger and far more involved than the simple ship Nephi built. Noah did not need local help, he did not require other laborers, and certainly did not need any ship-building experts to assist him. Why is it that so-called “experts” today claim Nephi needed more people than himself, his brother, and the sons of Ishmael, as well perhaps as their older sons, to build a ship. As for experience, Noah had none, nor did his sons, who built the Ark hundreds of miles away from any sea.
    When we put ourselves into the writing of what we read, and understand the attitudes, knowledge and ability of the people of the time, what may seem difficult to grasp in a quick read becomes clearer and far more understandable. It also keeps us from falling prey to peoples’ opinions, manipulating and altering of intended scriptural meanings.


  1. Very good arguments. The lack of sincere exegesis and logic and honesty in many writings about Book of Mormon geography is very troublesome. Even if a writer can present an argument for there being others helping Nephi build the ship -- even arguing against the points brought up in this post -- they still are not justified in presenting that argument and then acting as if that settles the matter. They cannot throw out the possibility of just what the scriptures actually say and do not say.