Source:Echoes:Ch5:9:Lehi's dream - architecture

Cultural and Geographical Dimensions of Lehi's Dream: Architecture

Cultural and Geographical Dimensions of Lehi's Dream: Architecture

The "great and spacious building" of Lehi's dream appeared unusual enough to his eye that he called it "strange" (1 Nephi 8:33). He also wrote that this building in his dream "stood as it were in the air, high above the earth" (1 Nephi 8:26). Why would Lehi, who had evidently traveled a good deal during his life (he possessed "tents," 1 Nephi 2:4), call a building strange? And does the word strange fit with the fact that the building soared into "the air, high above the earth"? Evidently, Lehi's descriptions of this building point to architecture unfamiliar to him. Furthermore, his words prophetically anticipate architecture that he and his party would see in south Arabia.

Recent studies have shown that the so-called skyscraper architecture of modern Yemen, featured most vividly by the towering buildings in the town named Shibam in the Hadhramaut Valley, has been common since at least the eighth century BC and is apparently unique in the ancient world. The French excavations of the buildings at ancient Shabwah in the 1970s, including homes, indicate that the foundations of these buildings supported multistoried structures. In addition, "many ancient South Arabian building inscriptions indicate the number of floors within houses as three or four, with up to six in [the town of] Zafar." Adding to the known details, "these inscriptions also provide the name of the owners" of these buildings.30

In this light, it seems evident that Lehi was seeing the architecture of ancient south Arabia in his dream. For contemporary buildings there "stood as it were in the air," rising to five or six stories in height. Such structures would naturally give the appearance of standing "high above the earth" (1 Nephi 8:26). Could Joseph Smith have known that any of these architectural features existed in the days of Lehi and Sariah? The answer has to be no.[1]

Notes

  1. ↑ 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.