Book of Mormon/Geography/Old World/Bountiful

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The place called "Bountiful" in the Book of Mormon

Summary: If Nehem is the Book of Mormon site Nahom, then is there a Bountiful to the east of it on the coast? Amazingly, we have the luxury of two excellent candidate sites that are roughly due east of Nehem on the Oman coast. The Astons propose Wadi Sayq as the best candidate for Bountiful, and it impressively fits the criteria that one can derive from the Book of Mormon. Potter and Sedor propose the area of Salalah and the nearby ancient port of Khor Rori as the general site for Bountiful.

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Question: Is there a real-world match in the Old World for the land "Bountiful" described in the Book of Mormon?

There is a very good candidate for the Old World "Bountiful" that is located in the correct place for Lehi's group to arrive at after the made the "Eastward turn" at Nahom

There was considerable mourning at Nahom. After a while, they traveled eastward (1 Nephi 17:1) until they reached a place they called Bountiful (1 Nephi 17:5) on the coast of the Arabian peninsula, described as rich, green garden spot with trees, abundant fruit, water, honey, and a mountain. At this wonderful site they stayed at least long enough to construct a ship from the abundant timber. Metal obtained from ore was also used to make tools.

If Nehem is the Book of Mormon site Nahom, then is there a Bountiful to the east of it on the coast? Amazingly, we have the luxury of two excellent candidate sites that are roughly due east of Nehem on the Oman coast. The Astons propose Wadi Sayq as the best candidate for Bountiful, and it impressively fits the criteria that one can derive from the Book of Mormon. [1] Potter and Sedor propose the area of Salalah and the nearby ancient port of Khor Rori as the general site for Bountiful. [2]

Finding a garden spot on the coast of the Arabian peninsula was absurdly funny, and was laughed at in the 1800s, because nobody knew of a place that could come anywhere close to being a candidate for Lehi's Bountiful.

Both Wadi Sayq and Khor Rori fit the description of being nearly due east of Nehem, as the Book of Mormon requires (1 Nephi 17:1). But the path to Wadi Sayq better fits Nephi's description of nearly due east from Nahom, while more zig-zags are needed to reach Khor Rori. Regarding the other Book of Mormon criteria for the place Bountiful, the Astons list the following, along with several others:

  • The journey from Nahom must have provided reasonable access from the interior to the coast (not a trivial requirement given the difficult obstacles posed by mountains along much of the coast).
  • Bountiful was on the coast, offering a place suitable for camping on the shore (1 Nephi 17:5,6) and for launching a ship (1 Nephi 18:8).
  • It was very fertile, with much fruit and honey, possibly game (1 Nephi 17:5,6; 1 Nephi 18:8).
  • Enough timber existed to build a durable ship (1 Nephi 18:1,2,6).
  • Freshwater was available year-round to enable a prolonged stay.
  • There was a nearby mountain that Nephi described as "the mount" (1 Nephi 17:7; 18:3).
  • Cliffs were available from which Nephi's brothers could threaten to cast him into the sea (1 Nephi 17:48)
  • Ore and flint were available (1 Nephi 17:9–11,16).
  • The winds and ocean currents there could permit travel out into the ocean.

Salalah appears to offer much more in the way of fruit and timber than does Wadi Sayq, but this may be due to recent irrigation. Khor Rori does provide a good harbor with an ancient tradition of ship building, but there is no evidence that ship building skills were there anywhere close to Nephi's time. Wadi Sayq, on the other hand, offers an inlet that anciently may have been quite suitable for launching a ship.

But Wadi Sayq has all the elements of Nephi's story—the mountain, the trees, the place to build a ship—all close together.

Wadi Sayq offers the largest body of coastal fresh water on the Arabian peninsula, with a beautiful freshwater lagoon. Wadi Sayq has dates, honey, and several species of trees, such as the sycamore fig and tamarind, that may be suitable for ship building. Both sites have coastal areas ideal for an encampment on the seashore, and it is accessible from the interior desert. [3]

Ore has been found at both sites, though it had not been found at Wadi Sayq when the Astons published their findings in 1994. The subsequent discovery of iron ore suitable for tool making using wood-fired furnaces in the region of Bountiful is a far more impressive find than one might realize, for there are very few places in the Arabian Peninsula that have such ore. [4]

Figure 5: After rain in Dhofar, near a candidate site for Bountiful (Wadi Sayq). Note the trees.
Figure 6: A view in Salalah, another candidate region for Bountiful in Oman. [5]


S. Kent Brown: Lehi's desert journey: Old World Bountiful

S. Kent Brown:

There is only one area along the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula that matches botanically Nephi's description of Bountiful as a place of abundant fruit, wild honey,[6] and timbers (see 1 Nephi 17:5–6; 1 Nephi 18:1–2, 1 Nephi 18:6). It is the Dhofar region of southern Oman. The summer monsoon rains turn the area into a green garden. In addition, one finds small deposits of iron ore there from which Nephi could have made his tools for building the ship that would carry the party to the New World. There is no way that Joseph Smith could have known these facts.

Although one must view attempts to tie Bountiful to a specific locale in Dhofar with deep caution, Latter-day Saint writers have rightly pointed to this area as the probable general region where the party of Lehi and Sariah emerged from the desert.[7] It is almost as if one can hear party members singing in Nephi's narrative when he writes of their escape from the harsh desert into an area teeming with fruit: "We did come to the land which we called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey; and . . . we were exceedingly rejoiced when we came to the seashore" (1 Nephi 17:5–6).[8] At long last, the group had escaped the grasp of the living death of desert famine.[9]

S. Kent Brown: Lehi's desert journey: Old World Bountiful: Fruit

Wendell Phillips calls "the narrow half-moon shaped coastal plain of Dhofar . . . the only major fertile region between Muscat and Aden."105 Jörg Janzen adds the note that "the hothouse climate which prevails in the oasis plantations for most of the year permits the cultivation of many sorts of fruit, particularly bananas and papayas, and of vegetables, cereals and fodder. At least two and sometimes even three harvests a year could be achieved."106 Clearly, Dhofar has been a fruitful area.[10]

S. Kent Brown: Lehi's desert journey: Old World Bountiful: Honey

The wide availability of domesticated bees and honey in certain regions of Arabia has been known since Eratosthenes of Cyrene wrote about the subject (ca. 275–194 BC) and Strabo quoted him.107 But it is impossible that Joseph Smith would have had access to this source because Strabo's Geography did not appear in English translation until 1854. Only recent years have seen biologists take a firm interest in the bees of the Arabian Peninsula.108 Terry Ball and others of the faculty of Brigham Young University reported that wild honeybees—to be distinguished from Eratosthenes' domesticated bees—live in the rock cliffs of the escarpment that rises above the maritime plain near Salalah, making the retrieval of honey an interesting challenge.109 Thus, wild bees and their honey are still in this part of Arabia.[11]

S. Kent Brown: Lehi's desert journey: Old World Bountiful: Timbers

Trees form part of the luxuriant, tropical growth in Dhofar, Oman. One question, of course, is which of the species Nephi shaped for his ship (see 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."110 On the other hand, it seems more likely that Nephi secured timbers that were nearby, because he relates that he and his brothers "did go forth" to obtain timbers (1 Nephi 18:1).

Although we do not know the species of tree that Nephi may have used—he may have cut different trees for different parts of his ship—trees have been growing in the Dhofar region for millennia. To be sure, most trees grow on the escarpment above the maritime plain and coastal waters of the sea. But there is evidence that trees once grew closer to the sea before people stripped them from the lower lands, most recently in the 1960s. In fact, Jörg Janzen writes that apparently the coastal plain of southern Oman was once "thickly wooded," at least in the vicinity of the wadis.111 Before him, Bertram Thomas had seen in 1928 the "the seaward slopes [of the foothills] velvety with waving jungle."112

The heavy vegetation of southern Oman is something of an oddity. Why? Because the rather scantly vegetated mountains of northern Oman, hundreds of miles away, actually receive on average 10 percent more rain per year. Janzen explains that the vegetation of Dhofar is far richer because of the relatively slow rate of rainfall during the summer monsoon—it comes in the form of mist and drizzle—and thus the ground absorbs the water better. In addition, the monsoon cloud cover slows evaporation.113 As a result, the vegetation remains rich and diverse and supports a wide variety of life forms.114[12]

S. Kent Brown: Lehi's desert journey: Old World Bountiful:Mists

The mention of mists brings us back to Lehi's dream, noted earlier. To be sure, inhabitants experienced mists in desert regions, a mixture of dust and fog. And it may be these that Lehi envisioned in his dream.115 On the other hand, the mists of Lehi's dream could certainly anticipate the mists that build along the coasts, particularly in Dhofar during the monsoon season, an aspect that Joseph Smith could not have known about. In this connection, Janzen writes of a "coastal mist during the summer months" in Dhofar. Against the middle altitudes of the mountains, "the clouds most frequently stack up, giving rise to thick fog near the summits." Because of the weather patterns, Janzen calls the area "a tropical 'mist oasis.'" The increased moisture, as one might expect, means that much more dew forms in the desert areas north of the mountains.116 The main point is that the notation about mists in the Book of Mormon narrative fits an Arabian coastal context.[13]

S. Kent Brown: Lehi's desert journey: Old World Bountiful:Ore

Where could Nephi have found ore to make his tools? (see 1 Nephi 17:9–10,16). We know that there were copper mines at ancient Magan near the Persian Gulf that had been worked as early as the Sumerian period (third millennium BC). But the mines were more than six hundred miles to the north of where the party of Lehi and Sariah reached the coast.117 And because Nephi offers no hint that he had to travel far to find ore, particularly a trip that would have taken him back into the desert, it seems out of the question that he traveled to the distant Persian Gulf region in order to obtain copper. Moreover, concerning iron ore, Hourani observes that "Arabia does not . . . contain iron for nailing [ships], nor is it near to any iron-producing country."118

For the record, Nephi did not need a large deposit of copper or iron ore for his tools. Fifty pounds or so would have met his needs. In February 2000, geologists from Brigham Young University discovered two large deposits of iron ore in the Dhofar region of Oman. And they both lie within a few days' walk of any campsite along the seacoast.119 Although iron ore in the amounts that make mining profitable do not occur in southern Oman, ore does occur in sufficient quantities that Nephi could easily have traveled to a substantial deposit and extracted enough to smelt for his tools. Thus, the natural occurrence of iron ore in the Dhofar area offered a clear solution to Nephi's need for tools.[14]

Warren P. Aston, "The Arabian Bountiful Discovered? Evidence for Nephi's Bountiful"

Warren P. Aston,  Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, (1998)
The Book of Mormon tells of a land of "Bountiful," a fertile place on the Arabian Peninsula where Nephi built the ship that carried Lehi's group to the New World. In Joseph Smith's day, and for more than a century after, it seemed impossible that such a place could exist in seemingly barren Arabia. However, a beautiful, wooded valley that fits Nephi's description of the place in detail has recently been identified on the remote southern coast of the country of Oman.

Click here to view the complete article

See FairMormon Evidence:
More evidence of the land "Bountiful" in the Old World


Video

Notes

  1. Warren P. Aston and Michaela Knoth Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi: New Evidence for Lehi's Journey across Arabia to Bountiful (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994), 1. ISBN 0875798470 See also Warren P. Aston, "The Arabian Bountiful Discovered? Evidence for Nephi's Bountiful," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7/1 (1998): 4–11. off-site wiki; S. Kent Brown and Terry B. Ball and Arnold G. Green, "Planning Research on Oman: The End of Lehi's Trail," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7/1 (1998): 12–21. off-site wiki
  2. George Potter and Timothy Sedor, "Following the Words of Nephi: The Land Bountiful," video presentation, available by order from[www.nephiproject.com|here].
  3. Jeff Lindsay, "Warren Aston on the Superiority of Khor Kharfot as a Candidate for Bountiful," mormanity.blogspot.com post (12 June 2006, accessed 8 September 2006) off-site; citing Warren P. Aston, "Finding Nephi's "Bountiful" in the Real World, Meridian Magazine off-site
  4. Ron Harris, "Geologists Discover Iron Ore in Region of Nephi's Bountiful," Meridian Magazine, (28 July 2004). off-site
  5. Used with kind permission from the official site for the Ministry of Information of the Sultanate of Oman, http://www.omanet.om. The original, larger photos are in their beautiful photogallery. To access it, go to their site and click on "gallery" and then "tourism," and then click through their photos.
  6. Brown notes "That domesticated honey—different from wild honey—was available along the south coast of Arabia is recorded by Strabo, quoting Eratosthenes (ca. 275–194 BC) (cited in Groom, Frankincense and Myrrh, 64). But it is impossible that Joseph Smith could have known this."
  7. Brown: "Hugh Nibley was the first to point to Dhofar, "a paradise in the Qara Mountains on the southern coast of Arabia" (Lehi in the Desert, 109–12; the quotation is from p. 109). The Hiltons sought to narrow the locale of Bountiful to the area of the city of Salalah (In Search of Lehi's Trail, 40–41, 105–16), while the Astons argue for Wadi Sayq, almost fifty miles west of Salalah (In the Footsteps of Lehi, 43ff.). Paul Hedengren points to southeastern Oman, without being more specific (The Land of Lehi [Provo, Utah: Bradford and Wilson, 1995], 10–15). Potter and Wellington argue for Khor Rori (Discovering the Lehi-Nephi Trail, 209–12, 225–54). "
  8. Brown: "Bertram Thomas similarly relates his deep relief and joy at seeing the greenery and the sea at Dhofar after a trip through the desert of only a few weeks (Arabia Felix, 48–49)."
  9. S. Kent Brown, "New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 5, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  10. S. Kent Brown, "New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 5, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  11. S. Kent Brown, "New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 5, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  12. S. Kent Brown, "New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 5, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  13. S. Kent Brown, "New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 5, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  14. S. Kent Brown, "New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 5, references silently removed—consult original for citations.