There are 18 thoughts on “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Map: Part 2 of 2”.

  1. Another lead for possible sources Joseph may have theoretically had access to is the Rochester Athenaeum, whose materials became part of the Rochester City Library. The 1839 listing of that library is available at There is a book about Niebuhr, but apparently none by him. Conder’s works aren’t listed. If you see anything there or anywhere else that might be relevant, please let me know.

  2. It is unfortunate that photographs cannot be included in these comments. Otherwise I would include a nice picture of our good friends Verl and Hilda Woodbury when they visited Salalah, Oman, sometime ago. Pictured is Hilda standing in front of an electronics store. The name of the store is “Moroni Electronics.” No doubt Joseph Smith came across the name on one of his visits to the Arabian Peninsula and included it in his book, “for local color.”

  3. Pingback: KnoWhy OTL13B — What Can We Learn About the Historical Exodus from Outside the Scriptures? | The Interpreter Foundation

  4. This is the best overview of the evidence for and questions about Lehi’s journey that I have ever read. Thank you for putting all of this together, and for going through the logic of the critiques in such an even-handed way. This has been invaluable to me. Again, thank you.

  5. Just curious if you have read Israel Finkelstein and Silberman book The Bible Unearthed on their arguments from archaeological evidence that the exodus and conquest did not happen. Fikelstein works at the Tel Aviv University. He has a lot of interesting videos on Youtube.

  6. Jeff. Thank you for a wonderful set of articles. I appreciate your reasoned responses to RT’s and Jenkins’s criticisms. Without casting stones at them, they are like the various two-dimensional shapes living in Flatland (novel by Abbott) – incapable of comprehending or accepting the possibility of a third dimension. BTW, say hi to the Wardles and the the Lambs for us.

    • RT and Jenkins deserve a lot of credit for seriously considering the Arabian evidence and dealing with important details with reason. Some of the issues they raise help us discover new things that can enhance our appreciation of the text. For example, the objections about the “mouth” of the River Laman and the term “fountain of the Red Sea” lead to the interesting possibility that that the River Laman, which descends into the ground shortly before reaching the Red Sea, was viewed as having a mouth that entered into the subterranean “fountain” feeding the Red Sea. What looks like an obvious problem in the text, when considered in light of the actual geography of the leading candidate for the River Laman, suddenly makes more sense.
      RT’s analysis of Exodus themes in Nephi’s writings also helps us appreciate the skillful, pervasive use of that motif in Nephi’s writings, with many artful elements not appreciated until recently.
      The proposed maps that Joseph “certainly” must have used help us appreciate just how unlikely it was that Joseph or anyone in his day in North America could have fabricated Lehi’s Trail using available resources.
      The objection RT makes to the implausibility of an uninhabited place like Bountiful beautifully highlights the unique and even miraculous nature of this unusual place, which remains uninhabited in spite of some ruins and cave paintings. It is uninhabited apparently because it is difficult to access and not readily recognizable for what it is when viewed by passing boats. While shielded by mountains making access very difficult from other inhabited areas along the coast, access is possible if one comes from nearly due west, entering the 25-mile long Wadi Sayq, which could have been done froming from Nahom, following Nephi’s directions. It’s a remarkable issue which RT unintentionally highlights for us, strengthening the impressive nature of Bountiful and the beautiful fit of Khor Kharfot as the leading candidate. We should be grateful for the skeptics who help us understand more in the long run, and also point to areas where further work and research is needed. There is still much to learn. (I’ve just acquired a couple of new books on Yemen for future study, and hope to continue learning more from the ongoing work of Warren Aston, the Khor Kharfot Foundation, and other researchers, and hope that more can be done to follow up on George Potter’s remarkable candidate for the Valley Lemuel.)

  7. Maurice, and anyone else, outside of this excellent article all you need to do is check of the new documentary (Lehi In Arabia) comparing the various potential bountiful candidates. It’s all there on the video you can compare them for yourself and it answers a lot of the other critics problems. I bought my copy from Thanks again for the article Jeff.

  8. Thank you. A real tour de force response to those seeking to undercut the historicity of the Book of Mormon as it relates to the journey of Lehi and his family in the Arabian desert.

  9. Excellent articles! Thank you!
    I do have a question: Why do Warren Aston and others insist that Bountiful must have been uninhabited when Lehi and his party reached the shores of the Arabian Sea? From that assumption, they conclude that the isolated Khor Kharfot must have been Lehi’s Bountiful, as opposed to the more easily accessible Khor Rori about 100 km to the east.
    My wife and I lived in Saudi Arabia for five years. It was our opportunity to visit what we believe was the Valley of Lemuel, Shazer, and both Khor Kharfot and Khor Rori, the two most likely sites for the ancient Bountiful.
    Aston relates that he and his daughter reached Khor Kharfot by boat, not by land. Meridian Magazine carried a nice picture recently of the expeditionary party traveling by boat to Khor Kharfot. Our own little group from Riyadh also went there by boat. Why by boat? Because it is almost impossible to travel from the mountains in western Oman down the Wadi Sayq to the Khor Kharfot inlet. Yes, the locals can do it. But some of the novice LDS explorers living on the Arabian Peninsula who have tried to reach the inlet by land tell us they had to call upon government national guardsmen to rescue them.
    Nephi says nothing about anyone else’s being in Bountiful when they arrived. Is that a good enough reason to assume it was uninhabited? Nephi says nothing about encountering anyone else when they stopped to camp, presumably where they found water, at the already-named Shazer. Nephi says nothing about encountering anyone else along their eight-year journey along what must have been the well-traveled Frankincense Trail. Nephi says nothing about finding anyone else in the Promised Land when they completed their ocean voyage, although Book of Mormon scholars today are satisfied that there were other peoples in the New World at that time.
    Displays at the Museum of the Frankincense Land in Salalah, Oman, show that archeologists have documented shipbuilding and oceanic commerce out of Khor Rori at least 500 years before Christ. In my humble opinion, there is no need for LDS scholars to devote too much time to defending Khor Kharfot as the site of Bountiful from critics of Nephi’s account.

    • Dear Maurice, appreciate your comments.
      As has been often pointed out in commentary on the points you raise, published in the JBMS and in popular format in Meridian Magazine, while we cannot have absolute certainty, it is not Nephi’s lack of mention of other peoples that suggests that Bountiful was uninhabited at the time of the group’s arrival. Rather it is the fact that embedded in his account are a host of reasons that imply quite strongly that the land “prepared by the Lord” for them was uninhabited, despite its unique characteristics. It makes little sense, for example, that Nephi required specific revelation from the Lord to locate ore, then considerable effort to smelt it and fashion tools for shipbuilding when he could surely have obtained basic tools in highly-populated Khor Rori. He also had to rely on his brother’s labor in building his ship, when there would have been a labor pool at Khor Rori. And there are several other logical reasons that have been discussed at length.
      Khor Rori certainly functioned as a port from about 400 BC onwards, but to date there is zero evidence for ANY ship construction there at ANY period – it was effectively a transit facility, as Raysut is today. Ships were constructed only in the north of the country where timber had to be imported from India. In contrast to Khor Rori, Khor Kharfot offers several species of suitable hardwoods.
      So far as land access to the ocean at Kharfot is concerned, Wadi Sayq leads directly from the interior desert plateau without any obstacles even today. I have visited the actual beginning of Wadi Sayq and have also arrived at Kharfot through it numerous times, as do local people today bringing their camels and cattle to graze. In modern times, however, the beginning of the wadi is in a sensitive military area now almost on the Yemen border and no longer accessible. This is why the exploration of the eastern coast of Arabia (from Aden to the UAE) from 1986 to 1992 used boats for the initial exploration of the 12 or so miles of the Qamar coast of Oman and why boats are used today to reach the site.
      When both locations are compared to the 12 descriptors embedded in Nephi’s account, only one site matches all 12: Khor Kharfot. “Bountiful” was far more than just a port -it was a place with ALL the resources available for the Lehite group. For that reason, over recent years a general consensus has arisen among LDS scholars that Kharfot is by far the most plausible candidate; in fact I know of only two researchers who still feel otherwise.

      • Perhaps, perhaps. On the other hand, I am intrigued by the preliminary findings of what may be the remains of an ancient Israelite structure at Khor Kharfot. Unless it was a “sanctuary” built by Lehi intended for use by only his own family, the existence of such a structure would imply that Khor Khorfiot has not always been so completely uninhabited. I look forward to learning what more can be discovered, and I appreciate the efforts underway to make those discoveries.

      • Thanks for a good question, Maurice, and thanks, Warren, for an answer based on years of real fieldwork.
        In addition to the need to find their own ore, make their tools, and provide their own labor, the fact that they didn’t report a name from others for Bountiful is consistent with (but does not require) an uninhabited region (Nephi did report the local name for Nahom). Laman and Lemuel’s threat to cast Nephi into the ocean in broad daylight is also consistent with the lack of abundant population, though not a significant issue.
        Had Bountiful been populated with enough people to make it lively and interesting, I also think it would have been much harder to convince Laman and Lemuel to get on board the ship when it was time to sail into the unknown.

        • Yet Laman and Lemuel were convinced to pack up the tent(s) and go out of their beloved Jerusalem, riches, relatives, fellow countrymen and all into the rugged wilderness. Seems they would be more inclined to stay with family than in a strange place with no wealth or connections.

  10. It’s a fascinating article, Jeff. Over on his blog, the anti-mormons are out in force, on this article. And it is really interesting: they completely ignore it and only say stuff like “Joseph used a map with Nehem.” And that’s as far as they go before they bring up, currently, “Italicized words prove that Joseph just ripped off the Bible!”
    None of them have dared to come to grips with this. Critics very rarely do, because I think it’s too hard.
    Excellent work, again, Jeff!

  11. Thank you, Jeff, for the well-documented critique of the critics’ most recent commentary on the Arabian Peninsula.
    For me, the supposition that Joseph had access to and used some variant of a high end European map to fabricate his story loses plausibility when framed in a larger, holistic apologetic argument.
    If the Arabian Peninsula were the only avenue of investigation wherein Joseph would have likely needed the aid of scholarly information and literary acumen, then the appeal to maps and available literature on the topic would seem more understandable (from a critic’s perspective). However, the number of issues wherein the critic is constrained to hypothesize such scenarios is far too abundant. Joseph would have needed access to information about Hebraisms, ancient literary traditions and metal recordkeeping, warfare, olive culture, throne theophanies, ancient coronation patterns, catastrophism, etc. He also would have needed an uncanny comprehension of the Bible. He would have needed literary genius. He would have needed to fabricate calendrical systems and lineage histories/traditions and a consistent geography. He would have needed to access to the information about Mesoamerican cultures that simply wasn’t available during his time. Not only would he have needed all of these things, but he would have needed a way to fabricate the plates, deceive the numerous witnesses to the plates and the translation process, or somehow convince the said witnesses to join him in his fraudulent activities.
    Surely, not every theory in every avenue of LDS research on such topics is valid. But enough of them show enough unlikely parallels and convergences that attempting to explain their holistic evidentiary power by an appeal to Joseph’s supposed attempts at scholarly research seems to be highly implausible. As Jeff has largely demonstrated, the critics have a hard time fleshing out such theories with reliable evidences and argumentation.
    Thanks Jeff, for your invaluable contributions.
    And thank you critics, for always raising questions and concerns that generally help refine our understanding of our sacred texts.

  12. “Evidence for that proposal includes the heavy use of “Lord” instead of “Jehovah” among the names for deity in the Book of Mormon: apart from a quotation from Isaiah, “Jehovah” only occurs once, in the last verse of the book.”
    YHVH is largely translated in the KJV as “LORD”, so I’m not sure this can be held to be conclusive.
    I think there’s further reasons to have reservations about the documentary hypothesis. However, I have found interesting that at least some descriptions of the hypothesized composition process for the “Deuteronomistic History” sound very familiar compared to what Mormon describes doing.

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