There are 14 thoughts on “Lehi the Smelter: New Light on Lehi’s Profession”.

  1. Nephi definitely had working knowledge of metallurgy. Other than recognizing Laban’s craftsmanship he mentioned that his bow was made of fine steel. Understand that steel is made of iron ore,metallurgical coke ( derived from hard cooking coal ) and limestone resulting in pig iron which then must be added ferro-alloys tô become steel. Also God showed where the ores were to make tools for ship building but Nephi obviously knew the process to make iron and steel implements using billows in reduction segment same principals used today in the modern day blast furnace.
    Likewise this knowledge was applied in the Americas. I think it would be reasonable to think Nephi learned this trade from his father, Lehi. When his brothers rebelled against Nephi stating that Nephi was placing himself above brothers due to his knowledge of craftsmanship.

  2. The operative words are “if I understand correctly:” Levites held the Aaronic Priesthood by right, but others could be ordained to it. Restricting the priesthood to Levites was a feature of the post-exilic period. When Ezra kicked out of the priesthood anyone who couldn’t prove his Levitical genealogy, it was to suppress these “other” priesthood holders, who were mostly from the former Northern Kingdom

    • Lehi and Nephi held the Melchizedek Priesthood, of which the Aaronic and Levitical are subsets. There was no need for Levites in America.

  3. Great work!
    Apropos of very little, I’ve wondered if Lehi was sufficiently wealthy to have brought a house Levite with him to America. Given that Levites couldn’t be numbered, it would make sense not to mention them in the text.

  4. Interesting stuff. It is fascinating to consider that while Nephi was forging tools from the ore that he “did molten out of the rock” (1 Ne. 17:16) in order to build a ship, the Lord, for His own purposes, was forging Nephi as an instrument in His hands. The Lord was testing Nephi’s metal in the wilderness, and molding him as he had molded his father Lehi. This sort of shaping foreshadows the shaping of the prophet Joseph Smith, the instrument of the Restoration: “I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, … Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty.”

  5. Interesting theory. Lehi working as a metal worker would certainly make sense of those verses describing Nephi teaching his people to work metals (just as the theory that Nephi was a scribe in training makes sense of his talents in writing). In my opinion the lack of metallurgy in ancient Mesoamerica (pre-Classical Era) is probably the most serious anachronism currently weighing in against the historicity of the Book of Mormon — hopefully one that we will see resolved by future discoveries, just as the cement “anachronism” has been resolved. The absence of advanced metallurgy prior to the Classical Era might indicate the uniqueness of Nephite technology, so it makes sense if this started with Lehi and Nephi.

  6. Additional evidence for the metallurgical knowledge of Lehi and Nephi is demonstrated after their landing in America. Nephi wrote, “And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.” (1 Nephi 18:5) Looking for metal ores, recognizing the ores of gold, silver and copper, and knowing how to refine them, requires considerable metallurgical knowledge and skill.
    This statement of Nephi could also be used as yet another test for the validity of the Book of Mormon itself. Is there a place on the Pacific coast of North America where there are known deposits of gold, silver and copper within a reasonable thirty-mile radius? According to US Geological Survey maps, from California to Columbia there is only one such point and that is at the middle of the Costa Rica Pacific coastline. Further evidence for this location are the pre-Columbian almond trees in Cost Rica, which are indigenous to the Levant. This information could not reasonably have been known to Joseph Smith when he translated The Book of Mormon. ( )
    Also, when Nephi and party left Lehi’s Landing to escape the persecution of Laman and Lemuel, the travelled “many days” to a place where Nephi wrote:
    “And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance.” (2 Nephi 5:15)
    Nephi obviously had knowledge and skills to find the ores and work the metals. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc and it would take considerable metallurgical knowledge and skill to find, refine and properly combine these metals.
    Does a location exist within “many days” travel from Costa Rica where these ores all exist within a reasonable proximity? Again, according to the US Geological Survey, such a location does exist where there are gold, silver, copper, iron, and zinc ores. Nephi could have found them all in central Guatemala. Again, Joseph Smith could not have known that when he translated the book.

  7. I’m not throwing out the idea presented here, but there are a few things to consider. Once they arrived in the valley of Lemuel, the reason they traveled the way they did was because of the Liahona not because of some previously traveled route.
    On the plus side of the proposal though, Laman Lemuel accused Nephi somehow creating the Liahona and deceiving them. He could’ve only been accused of that if he had some familiarity with metalworking.

    • Hi Kelley,
      I appreciate your comment. It is true, the accusation of Nephi’s brothers is among the many evidences that point toward the families expertise in metallurgy.
      Timna is just north of the Gulf of Aqaba, and probably only about a 4-day distance from the Valley of Lemuel (about a day to the Red Sea/Gulf of Aqaba, and then a 3-day trip to the Valley of Lemuel, per 1 Nephi 2:5-6). Reaching Timna, therefore, would make up the bulk of their journey from Jerusalem to the Valley of Lemuel (Wadi Tayyib al-Ism, in my view), the part they did not have the Liahona for, and which Lehi’s sons traveled back and forth repeatably. It is this part of the journey to which I, and Peterson and Chadwick whom I cite, are referring to. The question is why did they not need the Liahona for this leg of the journey, but did for the later part? If Lehi was a smelter who had spent time working near the mines of Timna, or traveling there to purchase ore, then he and his sons would have known this route well, and therefore who not need the Lord’s compass.

  8. Young Nephi, in the moonlight or starlight, recognized that the sword of Laban had a hilt of pure gold, “and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel” (1 Nephi 4:9). This instant analysis could only come from an experienced metallurgist, well trained by his father.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

All comments are moderated to ensure respectful discourse. It is assumed that it is possible to disagree agreeably and intelligently and comments that intend to increase overall understanding are particularly encouraged.

Close this window

Top of Page

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This