Category:Valley of Lemuel

Valley of Lemuel

Parent page: Book of Mormon Geography in the Old World

George Potter photo of "continuously running" river in hypothetical Valley of Lemuel.

Wadi Tayyib al-Ism as a candidate for the Valley of Lemuel

The valley of Lemuel requires several characteristics. In 1995, George Potter and colleagues found a hitherto unrecognized wadi [1] which has parallels to the requirements of the Book of Mormon text, including a river of water which is "continually running," which they interpret as requiring a year-round water flow. Although Saudi and US geological surveys have concluded that Saudi Arabia " without any perennial rivers or streams," visits to the area in April, May, July, August, November, December, and January have all found flowing water in the candidate valley which Potter's team identified.

The grandeur of the valley is difficult to describe in words or even portray in photographs. It is a narrow gorge cut through a massive granite mountain. It consists of three sections: the upper valley (or the Waters of Moses), the canyon of granite, and the lower canyon. The upper valley constitutes an oasis that lies at the south end of a twelve-mile long wadi—known locally as Wadi Tayyib al-Ism— that leads down from the north (see map). The upper valley sits like a pleasant jewel, spread out over approximately one square mile with several hundred palm trees and 12 wells that local residents call the Waters of Moses.[2]

Bir Marsha as a candidate for the Valley of Lemuel

Let us assume, though, that Wadi Tayyib al-Ism was two to four hundred feet lower in 600 BC than it is today and that its stream did in fact meet the Red Sea's waters inside the "granite canyon." Even if this had been the case, the valley itself would still have failed to meet Nephi's description. Nephi noted that the valley of Lemuel "was in the borders near the mouth thereof"—that is, near the mouth of the river Laman (1 Nephi 2:8). This means that the entrance to the valley of Lemuel was not right at the mouth of the river, nor was the mouth of the river in the valley itself. The mouth of the river, where it met the Red Sea, has to have been outside the valley, not exactly at the valley entrance or in the valley. The valley has to have been near the river's mouth, not right there at the mouth. There has to have been a short distance (perhaps a hundred meters or so) between the mouth of the river (where it met the sea) and the rising mountains in which the valley entrance was located. No realistic assessment of the features of Tayyib al-Ism and its stream can match Nephi's description. The site cannot have been the valley of Lemuel. Potter and Wellington's sincere and impressive efforts notwithstanding, "they're digging in the wrong place."

But there are a number of sites along the Gulf of Eilat's eastern shoreline that do meet the general description given by Nephi. My own guess is that one of the wadis near the shore at Bir Marsha would be the strongest candidate for the actual valley of Lemuel. Why Bir Marsha? Because it is the furthest point south that one can travel along the east shore of the Gulf of Eilat. About fifty miles south of Ezion Geber, along that shoreline, high mountain cliffs jut out into the sea, cutting off the coastal path just south of Bir Marsha.

It would take at least two days for Lehi's party to cover those fifty miles on camels. If they proceeded more slowly (looking for a campsite) or if any were traveling on foot, it would take the group three days to go from the Ezion Geber area to Bir Marsha. They would then have pitched their tents in a secluded canyon in the mountain face just a few hundred meters from the Bir Marsha shoreline. With a seasonal winter stream running in the wadi to provide them with water, Lehi then gave the small river and the high walled valley the names of his two eldest sons.[3]

George Potter photo of cove of hypothetical Valley of Lemuel


  1. George Potter, "A New Candidate in Arabia for the "Valley of Lemuel"," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 54–63. wiki
  2. George Potter, "A New Candidate in Arabia for the 'Valley of Lemuel'," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8:1 (1999).
  3. Jeffrey R. Chadwick, "The Wrong Place for Lehi's Trail and the Valley of Lemuel," The FARMS Review 17/2 (2005).

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