Monday, January 6, 2020

What is the Significance of Lehi’s Seeds? – Part I

Nephi gives us a most significant statement shortly after landing in the Land of Promise that should be well understood by anyone searching for the location of Lehi’s land. As is the case elsewhere in the scriptural record, explanations and descriptions crucial to such understanding go unnoticed or ignored by most theorists who seem only interested in promoting their individual location models.
    It should also be understood that in 600 BC, and throughout history, food was available only through someone’s industry. Unfortunately, modern man oft forgets or ignores this most glaring fact—new cultures, immigrants and settlers had one essential requirement and that was food! After food came shelter, but food, its gathering or growing was at the center of their early existence and then their continued survival.
    We also know that these early settlers had to have some kinds of seeds in order to survive after moving into an unknown and empty area, such as took place with Lehi and his party.
    Nephi tells us that before leaving Jerusalem, they “gathered together all manner of seeds of every kind, both of grain of every kind, and also of the seeds of fruit of every kind” (1 Nephi 8:1); then after he built his ship and they prepared to leave and sail out into the sea, they went “down into the ship, with all our loading and our seeds, and whatsoever thing we had brought with us, every one according to his age; wherefore, we did all go down into the ship, with our wives and our children” (1 Nephi 18:6, emphasis added).
The very first thing the Nephites did was to till the ground and plant their seeds brought from Jerusalem

Finally, after reaching the Land of Promise, they “went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land. And it came to pass that we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance” (1 Nephi 18:23-24, emphasis added).
    Arranging an area for planting and harvesting was not a one-time need satisfied, like building a shelter—it went on year after year and survival either completely or partially depended on what you planted and how well was the yield. Because Lehi’s seeds were planted in a land where soil and climate mirrored that from which the seeds came, Nephi could write of his planting efforts: “It came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance” (1 Nephi 18:24).
    The movement of seeds from one location to another was absolutely essential in antiquity. As an example, dandelions originated in Asia Minor but spread throughout the Old World in ancient times. Even as late as the colonial period in North America, plants relative to cooking and its preparation and were brought from the Old World to the New World. Consequently, dandelions were considered so essential for cooking and medicine that every Puritan woman brought seeds to the New World, as did numerous German, French and Dutch colonists. In an article from the University of Illinois Extension, we find that “most Americans emigrated from other lands. Many brought favorite plants from home, changing the land forever.”
    Many people today think that people simply uprooted plants taken from one area and replanted in another; however, the problem with that is most plants, when uprooted, did not fare well in antiquity in replanting elsewhere, which is why seeds were necessary for such movement in the ancient world. It should be noted that early Czechs, Poles, Slovaks, and Hungarian immigrants brought to the New World a foolproof grain to feed their families. They called it Manna grits, which was a form of millet native to central Europe. It had the great advantage of producing a large crop on any soil even when planted late in the season. However, the new immigrants rapidly discovered that wheat and corn could be grown as easily and sold for more money. Within ten years the seeds they brought and planted was abandoned as a crop but had escaped to roadsides and waste areas to become a common weed we now call crabgrass.
    In another example, lettuce developed in Egypt, was later taken to Greece where it was cultivated for 500 years before Christ. Columbus is credited with introducing lettuce, peas, and beans to the New World in 1493, all by seeds. The French, Dutch, Swedes, and English added it to our country's diet. The Shakers especially extolled the virtues of lettuce and by 1840 were selling thousands of lettuce seed packets per year to the growing country.
Top: the early, heavily-built Conestoga Wagon; Bottom: the Famed Prairie Schooner covered wagon that brought the pioneers west

In the nineteenth century, seeds were brought west across the Great Plains in covered wagons called Prairie Schooners, a lighter wagon than the Conestogas, which were created for long distance travel. Around the same time, David Fairchild, at the age of 22, created the Section of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction for the government.
    In the 19th century, at a time when international travel was very rare, botanist David Fairchild (left) traveled over 37 years to more than 50 countries, and met all sorts of people, some hostile, some diplomatic, and some friendly. He caught typhoid at one point, had arrows shot at him in the Malay Islands, and almost fell off a mule over a canyon in the Andes while looking for quinoa.
    He visited markets, observing what people were eating and what they were growing, sending back seeds to try in America. He traveled the world in search of useful plants to bring back, visiting every continent except Antarctica bringing back mangoes, quinoa, dates, cotton, soybeans, bamboo and the flowering Japanese cherry trees that blossom all over Washington D.C. each spring, as well as hundreds of other plants (Daniel Stone, The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of A Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats, E.P. Dutton (Penguin/Random House, Boston, 2018).
    Lehi’s family had gathered seeds of every kind to plant all kinds of grain and all kinds of fruit. They were prepared to produce anything. They did not leave Jerusalem without thought and preparation for the future, wherever that future may be. They were ready to thrive in the promised land All they needed was a land where those seeds would grow—not with modern techniques, but by natural means. In fact, seeds were such an important part of ancient life in growing food for their existence, that the Lord used a fruit tree as the tree of life: “I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen. And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit (1 Nephi 8:11-12).
As every farmer knows, you need to plant your seeds in soil that's warm enough to ensure good germination. In fact, for each type of seed—corn, wheat, quinoa—there is a range of temperatures at which that particular type of seed will germinate (see the chart at right). Beans, for example, will only germinate if the soil temperature is above 60 degrees F and no warmer than 95 degrees F. Obviously, different plants require different temperatures for their seeds to germinate.
    There is also an "optimum temperature" at which seeds germinate most readily, and a temperature range in which corn grows before it decreases in in growth. In fact, in planting, temperatures below the optimum can cause seeds to sit dormant and become vulnerable to diseases, insects, and animal predators.
    As an example, according to Iowa agronomists (experts in the science of soil management and crop production) in the case of corn, it requires a soil temperature of 50° F to germinate, and within the first 24 to 36 hours after seedling when the kernels imbibe water and begin the germination process, the temperature from chilling in any drop below 50º F. As an example, corn planted between April 20 and May 5 will result in 100% yield potential, and close to that by May 20; however outside that range, any planting after this window (through Mid-May) will result in dramatic yield drop-offs (Lori Abendroth and Roger Elmore, “Integrated Crop Management: Corn Planting,” Iowa State University, ICM News, vol.498, Ames, Iowa, pp94-95). Corn also needs a temperature range of 77º to 91º to grow.
On the other hand, the ideal soil temperature for germination of wheat seed is between 65º and 75º F, though it is possible for wheat to be planted in soil temps between 54º and 77º. It should also be noted that temperatures below the optimum can cause seeds to sit dormant and become more vulnerable to diseases, insects, and animal predators, and planting out of the optimum season, as well as temperatures, inhibit growth and provide less than optimum results and drop dramatically along a slippery slope the further off that planting is.
    This is why almost every culture on the planet, in their infancy, built some type of observatory in which to judge the time of year. Many concluded that certain times of the year were “planting or harvesting month or season.”
(See the next post, “What is the Significance of Lehi’s Seeds? – Part II,” for more information about where Lehi’s seeds had to be planted and why)


  1. Del- I'm curious- how long would seeds last? Seems like some of the seeds were what they brought from Jerusalem so would have been >8 years old by the time they got to the promised land. does that make sense?

    And good to know I have the Puritan women to blame for the dandelions in my yard. ;)

  2. I caught up on the last few Book of Mormon videos yesterday and was curious if they would include "we are upon an isle of the sea" in Jacob's preaching at the temple. they did. "we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea."

    Let's make a list of all the models that claim to have been an isle or island at the time of Jacob's preaching:
    That's it.
    And in Helaman 14:23 Samuel prophecies at the death of Christ "many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great."
    which models propose that they include mountains of a great height that were created in 33 AD? Andes. That's all.

    1. I was looking at the videos for their choices in terrain and surrounds, which is silly, since I believe they're filmed in Hawaii. But I do like that they clearly depicted mountain terrain during Nephi's flight, then he smiles when they see a valley in the distance. Welcome to Cusco.

  3. I think Malay is more of a peninsula. I have a hard time seeing a narrow neck too for that one.

  4. David. Seeds can lost much longer than one might imagine; however, some of the seeds Lehi had with him were undoubtedly planted in the Salalah areas--an area surru9nded by a hot tropical climate, except for the Salalah Plain, which is closer to the Mediterranean Climate. How well those seeds grew in the area is not known. But some evidence suggests that the seeds would have grown acceptable crops.