There are 22 thoughts on “Book of Mormon Minimalists and the NHM Inscriptions: A Response to Dan Vogel”.

  1. “For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness; for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not;” (1 Nephi 17:12)

    I am going to go our on a limb here. Webster, in his 1828 dictionary, defined cook as “1. To prepare, as victuals for the table, by boiling, roasting, baking, broiling, &c. To dress, as meat or vegetables, for eating. 2. To prepare for any purpose.” If we assume that the word cook simply means to “prepare food,” in any manner or for any purpose, then the passage would read, “I will make thy food become sweet, that ye prepare it not.”

    Here is the limb: Perhaps the Lord prepared “manna” for Lehi’s family (after the broken bow incident, of course), just as he did for the Israelites in the wilderness. Maybe there was no fire, or little fire, because their food, although raw, was ready to eat. No need to prepare it because the Lord had already done that for them. Just as the Israelites complained about eating manna all the time, Laman and Lemuel also complained about their time in the wilderness. Just a thought.

    • Whether or not your speculation about “manna” is correct, it’s certainly an interesting parallel to the story in the Bible–one that probably deserves more investigation.

  2. Vogel’s question, “What need was there for a compass if Lehi followed a well-known route?” presupposes that Lehi know two things in advance:

    1. The frankincense trail, and;
    2. The final destination.

    Even if we assume that Lehi was well aware of the frankincense trail, how would he know to take it if he did not know the final destination in advance? Vogel only has the luxury of asking that question because he is using hindsight, knowing the path that Lehi travelled, which hindsight is always perfect. There is no indication in the Book of Mormon that Lehi was aware of a place that he later called Bountiful, or that that Bountiful was to be the final destination.

    • We shouldn’t forget that the Liahona gave very different information than just a compass. 1 Nephi 16:24-30 describes the use of the Liahona in resolving the food crisis that followed the loss of the bows.

  3. I find it interesting that appeals are made to the Comoros Islands and the capital city of Moroni along with the infamous Captain Kidd. I have to admit that I can see Vogel’s point that if we insist that NHM is Nahom of the Book of Mormon, then we should be able to understand his point that Muruni (Arabic) bears a somewhat similar relationship between the word known as Moroni in the Book of Mormon. It should be remembered that just because he says so, does NOT make it so. But his point can at least be understood.
    As always and once again, I am convinced that the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon doesn’t boil down to place names and locations, but instead to the affirmation of the witness of the Spirit of God. I love the saying, “one man and God make a majority.” My testimony of the Book of Mormon doesn’t hinge upon Comoros, Moroni and Captain Kidd. My testimony hangs on my personal witness from the Holy Spirit of God.

    As a side note, an interesting review of an effort made to find the word “Moroni” on maps of the 1830’s can be found here: http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Plagiarism_accusations/Comoros_Islands_and_Moroni

  4. What kind of compass was the Liahona where it took 8 years to travel a relatively short distance? (1 Nephi 17:4) Is God a poor compass maker? Was Lehi’s company simply unrighteous? Poor compass readers? Given how the story is portrayed, the unrighteousness and poor navigator reasons seem unlikely. Doesn’t this raise questions as to authenticity of the BofM historicity, too?

    • Good question, although I guess you would have to then ask why it took Moses and the Israelites FORTY years to travel a relatively short distance, also. Doesn’t this raise questions as to the authenticity of Bible historicity, also?

  5. Mr. Baxter: The Nahom/Nihm correlation is more problematic than my brief endnote could convey. However, note that I have conceded two points: the dating of the altars and the unlikelihood that Jews would go out of their way to bury Ishmael in a heathen cemetery, a cemetery which is never mentioned in the text. I don’t believe the above authors have refuted the other points. They have merely defended apologetic speculations with more speculation.

    The facts remain: (1) The compass was given because Lehi’s company was about to travel in the wilderness along the seashore, not on the Frankincense Trail, where many traveled without such aid. Putting them on this trail either at the beginning of the journey or in their turn east is speculation that is inconsistent with the text. (2) The BOM does not mention contact with others, but according to Nibley’s (pre-Nihm) interpretation avoided such contact by not using fire. Putting Lehi’s group in contact with the inhabitants of Nihm is speculative and inconsistent with the text. There is no mention of a change of direction until after Ishmael died and was buried, which means they were still in the borders by the Red Sea, not miles inland in the desert. Question-begging speculation is needed to get Lehi to Nihm. (5) The association of Nahom and Nihm, as place names, is speculative, both in sound and meaning. Brown admits that while NHM means “comfort” or “compassion” in Hebrew, in Old Arabic “it referred to masonry dressed by chipping.” Thus the words had different sounds and different meanings, causing apologists to speculate about the mind of Nephi. As Brown argues: “Although the sound of the middle letter, h, may be different in the two names, it is reasonable that when the party of Lehi heard the Arabian name Nihm (however it was then pronounced), the term Nahom came to their minds, a term that is familiar from the Old Testament.” It’s much like critics imagining Joseph Smith changed Comoro to Cumorah to disguise the source, a speculation which seems justified by the fact that he searched for Captain Kidd’s treasure.

  6. Enjoyable article using good logic and support. I hope to hear more from Mr. Smoot if this is an example of his writing. I’m somewhat surprised Mr. Vogel doesn’t just admit he was seriously caught out, and leave it at that. He listed 5 doubts and 5 doubts were refuted. Misdirection on other subjects is hardly an answer to Mr. Smoot.

  7. Robert: I agree with your comments about the trail. So why would Lehi leave the coast to travel right through the desert and violate the logic of staying in the more fertile parts? There is no reason to place Lehi’s group in the middle of the desert than to get them to Nhm, which might be justified if historicity wasn’t an issue or the text gave more details such as meeting people there. In the text, Nahom is situated in the borders by the Red Sea before the nearly eastward direction is taken to take them to Nihm. How do your reconcile that detail without having Lehi follow the Frankincense Trail?

    • Hi Dan,
      It’s like taking the modern coastal Saudi Hiway 5 (along the Tihamat ash-Sham), instead of Hiway 15 inland. Try Google Maps (“Arabia”), or take a look at the large National Geographic Atlas of the World to get a feel for it. In Lehi’s time, this was wilderness, not desert – such as the Rub’ al-Khali (“The Empty Quarter”), where there is nothing but sand. I see no problem at all in Clan Lehi ascending from the coast to the highlands as they pass through NHM and bury Ishmael. Even without their divine compass, the Liahona, there is nothing irrational about the direction of travel. Talk about “the more fertile parts” is entirely subjective and presentist at this remove. As I pointed out in my 1996 JBMS piece, the region was far wetter, less populated, and less eroded in Lehi’s time, and the game more readily available.

      I Ne 16:34 doesn’t actually claim that they were at the coast when Ishmael died, but it does have a transitional “it came to pass,” and we are not informed of the actual direction until 17:1. Biblical treks and directions are frequently equally opaque to us and for the same reason: Lack of modern descriptive precision.

  8. Brett: There are problems with the Nhm evidence that have nothing to do with my overall conclusions about BOM historicity. Even if BOM historicity were established in Mesoamerica, these questions would come up. The coincidence of a similar name isn’t a slam-dunk, and given the absence of a direct connection of the BOM to ancient America one should be cautious not too overstate such nebulous connections. I give the same criticism to skeptics who think they have evidence that Joseph Smith wrote the BOM in the discovery that Captain Kidd sailed his pirate ship among the Comora Islands, the capitol town of the largest Island being Moroni. One needs more than interesting coincidences in names to produce convincing historical evidence. Incidentally, Nihm is to Nahom as Comora is to Cumorah. The question is: Am I minimizing this evidence or are Rappleye and Smoot trying to minimize the problems?

    • Mr. Vogel, if the “problems” you have with the NHM evidence are the five problems set forth in your 2004 book about the Prophet, then your latest post is more proof of my axiom. The objections you have with NHM don’t stand scrutiny. You claim that even if the Book of Mormon’s historicity were established in Mesoamerica, these questions would come up. Indeed, but raised by who? Someone objectively and fairly reviewing the documented evidence? You claim NHM is a coincidence. What a coincidence! Something truly a coincidence would be worthy of little review and discussion. Yet you can’t let go. You claim there is no direct evidence of the Book of Mormon to ancient America, and of course I do not know what you mean by direct, but surely your eyes are not blind to the voluminous research that has been published that DO point to correspondences (Sorenson’s word) between the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica? Any objective reader would acknowledge the connections. Finally, your skepticism that the Prophet wrote the Book of Mormon based upon Captain Kidd adventures does not give you more credence in the discounting of NHM.

      • Brett: I mentioned my skepticism of the Comora-Moroni evidence used by some critics because we both know that you dismiss that as a coincidence, don’t we? This shows that my position is at least consistent, which brings into question your original ad hominem that my skepticism of the NHM apologetic stems from my having some ax to grind. My skepticism in both matters is well founded, for it is well known that most people grossly underestimate the odds for coincidence and often improperly assign meaning to such chance occurrences. What are the odds that out of the hundreds of place names in the BOM that one would pose an interesting or surprising correlation? Higher than you assume, obviously, which is the reason for my Comora-Moroni example. The game can be played with surprising results when the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy are compared, for example. Trying to bolster the coincidence of similar names by reference to Bountiful, which was known in Joseph Smith’s day, is like the critics pointing to Moroni as the capitol of Comora and that it was the place where JS’s favorite pirate hung out. More is needed to move this interesting pattern in your data set and make it compelling evidence for BOM historicity. Ignoring the hundreds of unconfirmed cities and focusing on this one vague and problematic example is nothing to get excited about.

        On the five points mentioned in my footnote: It seems that I erred on the dating of the altars and possibly the avoidance of heathen burial grounds, which after a decade I’m unsure why, but the other points were designed to show that apologists have adjusted their interpretations to make Nihm more appealing, which I don’t believe Rappleye and Smoot have overcome. I rejected the Frankincense Trial theory for the same reason Gardner gave above, and the text strongly implies that Lehi’s group followed the fertile coastline all the way, which is miles from Nihm. I see that as a significant problem.

    • Dan,

      This article plainly lays out five dimensions of alignment, not one. You repeatedly decline to even acknowledge the several other dimensions, and revert to “the coincidence of a similar name” alone. As if it were alone. Why not address the other dimensions? Please, refute that the proposed Bountiful is not East of NHM, etc., etc..

      At least you did claim that the 600 BC dates don’t align. I have to praise your bravery for going out on that limb, which appears to have been cut off behind you. Can you make a stronger case for the non-existence of NHM at the time and place?

      – Buck Steele

  9. Neal & Stephen,
    All that palaver about the ancient Arabian incense trail is totally irrelevant and unnecessary, because the text of the Book of Mormon makes it clear that Clan Lehi did not at any time use that trail – although they must have crossed it while stopping at Nahom and making their turn to a “nearly eastward” course, which would also take them well away from the great incense trail.

    In fact, Clan Lehi avoided that incense trail right from the outset, instead heading directly along the Red Sea shore for three days after reaching Eilat (I Ne 2:5). They continued along that Red Sea shore after crossing the River Laman, and continuing on “a south-southeast direction . . . in the borders near the Red Sea” (I Ne 16:13-14). As I pointed out long ago, this was a lowland coastal region known in Arabic as the Tihama (“Book of Mormon Event Structure: Ancient Near East,” FARMS Preliminary Report/Study Aid, SMI-84 [Provo: FARMS, 1985/1986], published in JBMS, 5/2 [1996]:141 n. 238, online at http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/5/2/S00005-50be20af2868e5Smith.pdf ). The great and very heavily traveled incense trail was inland (through Wadi al-Qura), far from the Red Sea, and not part of the Tihama.

    As to linguistics: Even though you do mention it in a footnote, it would be well for all concerned to carefully examine the data on Nahom presented in the Book of Mormon Onomasticon at https://onoma.lib.byu.edu/onoma/index.php?title=NAHOM .

    • Robert:

      Thanks for sharing your Book of Mormon Event Structure with us. I must confess, I was previously unaware of that resource, though it looks extremely useful.

      That said, I find the work of George Potter and Richard Wellington, showing that the “fertile parts” and the apparently decreasing fertility as the group travels further south (from “most fertile parts” or only “more fertile parts”) fits the Frankincense Trial remarkably well. See pp. 29-31 here:

      http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/15/2/S00007-50bf64ad1b8fe4WellingtonPotter.pdf

      This is expanded on in their book. The lingustic arguments are somewhat tenuous, but the overall correlation to “fertile parts” along the trial is what I find compelling.

      • Neal,
        Potter & Wellington say many things which make good sense, but their notion that Clan Lehi used the old incense trail (and Hajj route) is noteworthy for their careful neglect of what Nephi says about traveling “in the borders near the Red Sea” (I Ne 16:13–14). I agree that the inland trail would have made more sense, just as it made good sense for the Ottoman Turks to place the Hijaz Railway inland. But that is not what the Book of Mormon says, and the text should be primary.

  10. Thank you for an informative article. Vogel’s efforts to denigrate the relevance of the Book of Mormon’s reference to Nahom as evidence for the historicity of the Book are, if nothing more, proof of what must be an axiom, namely that where one has an agenda to pursue or an ax to grind, no amount of reason or evidence will suffice to cause the ax grinder to withdraw.

  11. Excellent article! As to whether there was a serious attempt to avoid contact with others, I would offer the following excerpt from Scott Anderson’s book Lawrence in Arabia: “While it might seem counter-intuitive, the desert is one of the more difficult places to keep one’s presence a secret. Travelers are wedded to moving between available sources of water, and in a landscape where others are also constantly on the move, crossing the desert is rather akin to traveling a highway possessed of very few side roads.”

    I might add, as one who has crossed and traveled on parts of the Frankincense Trail, equipped with both GPS and maps, access to a liahona would have been most appreciated.

  12. I would like to comment on the necessity of the Liahona. It was not only necessary for travel in Arabia but absolutely essential for traveling over the “many waters” (1 Nephi 17:5). With Nephi being bound in strong cords on the ship, the “compass, which had been prepared of the Lord [a direct translation of the name Liahona], did cease to work. Wherefore, they knew not whither they should steer the ship” (1 Nephi 18:12-13). After Nephi was untied, he “took the compass, and it did work whither I desired it” and Nephi “sailed again towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:21-22). This is explicit evidence of the importance of the Liahona in leading them to the “land of promise.”

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