Evidence #164 | March 9, 2021

Bountiful

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Scripture Central

Abstract

Two locations in the Dhofar region of Oman provide suitable candidates for Nephi’s Bountiful.

Nephi’s Bountiful

After journeying in the wilderness for the “space of many years,” Lehi and his family eventually came to a coastal region which they “called Bountiful, because of its much fruit and also wild honey” (1 Nephi 17:4–5). This location not only served as a refuge from the harsh desert landscape, but also as a place where they could build and then launch a ship toward their “promised land” in the New World (1 Nephi 18:23).

The Search for Bountiful in the Arabian Peninsula

Considering Arabia’s arid climate, some have questioned whether a coastal paradise like the one described in Nephi’s account ever existed there.1 In 1950, Hugh Nibley proposed that Bountiful could plausibly be located in the Qara Mountains of southern Oman, in what is known as the Dhofar region.2 He based his suggestion on an explorer’s account of “seaward slopes velvety with waving jungle, their roofs fragrant with rolling yellow meadows.”3

Hugh Nibley proposed that Bountiful could plausibly be located in the Qara Mountains of southern Oman, based on an account given by Bertram Thomas in Arabia Felix. Image via walkaboutbooks.net. 

It wasn’t until 1976, however, that this region’s first Latter-day Saint explorers, Lynn and Hope Hilton, sought to verify a specific site for Bountiful in their groundbreaking, though brief, trek into Oman.4 Since then, a number of Latter-day Saint explorers and researchers have surveyed Dhofar’s coastal inlets (see Appendix). Today, two particular inlets—Khor Kharfot and Khor Rori—are seen as the primary candidates for Bountiful. Either site can potentially meet the requirements in Nephi’s account, depending on what assumptions one brings to the text. The following sections compare the two proposed sites to one another and to criteria derived from Nephi’s record.

“Nearly Eastward” from Nahom

Nephi reported that after his family departed from Nahom, they “did travel nearly eastward from that time forth” (1 Nephi 17:1) until they reached “the land which we called Bountiful” (v. 5). The location of Nahom has been confidently identified with the Nihm tribal grounds in Yemen,5 and the Dhofar region (where both Khor Kharfot and Khor Rori are located) is almost due east from that area. So, as far as directionality is concerned, both sites would comply almost equally well with the text.6

A Coastal Area

Nephi mentioned that upon reaching Bountiful, “we did pitch our tents by the seashore” (1 Nephi 17:6). Khor Kharfot and Khor Rori are both situated along the coast of the Indian Ocean—undoubtedly the same waters that Nephi’s family called “Irreantum” (1 Nephi 17:5).7

Shoreline at Khor Rori. Photo via stanlydcunha.blogspot.com.

Accessible from the Interior Desert

Nothing in Nephi’s account explains the specific path needed for his family to reach the coast, but it would stand to reason that their campsite along the shore must have been accessible from the interior desert. Khor Kharfot is accessible by foot and camel through a long east-west wadi.8 Khor Rori, situated in the Salalah Plain, could have been accessed by following the ancient incense trail through the Thammarit pass—a route that has been used for thousands of years and is still in use today.9

View from Thammarit Pass. Image via Google Earth.

Fresh Water

Although not mentioned specifically by Nephi, it can be assumed that a constant source of fresh water would have been necessary to sustain Lehi’s family during their long stay at Bountiful (likely multiple years). Just two miles inland from Khor Kharfot, the “primary drainage for the Qamar mountains,”10 called Wadi Sayq, bursts into “a remarkable concentration of lush vegetation and trees.”11 Three major springs provide freshwater to the lagoon throughout the year.12 Similarly, a large freshwater lagoon, fed primarily by spring water from Wadi Dharbat, sits only a few hundred feet from the current shore at Khor Rori.13 Thus, “both sites have freshwater sources.”14

Large spring at Khor Kharfot. Image by Warren Aston. 

Much Fruit

The name Bountiful suggests a place of abundance, and Nephi’s account describes it as having “much fruit” (1 Nephi 17:5). Khor Kharfot has been described as “the most fertile coastal location on the Arabian Peninsula with abundant freshwater, large trees, fruit, and vegetation.”15 Today it features dates, tamarinds, passion fruit, and three species of wild fig.16 Importantly, “Only at this place could a traveler arrive in ancient times and find uncultivated fruit already near the ocean as Nephi indicates.”17 The name Kharfot (which derives from a pre-Arabic Mahri term) has connotations of both abundance and ripe fruit.18

Figs at Khor Kharfot. Photo by Warren Aston. 

Just a few miles west of Khor Rori, a few farms near the coast are cultivated through irrigation at a settlement called Taqah.19 The major farming activities along the Salalah Plain are even further west (15–20 miles) of Khor Rori. “Present day farms on the coast grow coconuts, bananas, sugar cane, tobacco, cotton, indigo, cereals, pulse, and vegetables.”20 Most of these irrigated crops, however, have been introduced in modern times. It is uncertain to what extent the area might have been fertile and cultivated around 600 BC.21

Fruit stands at Salalah. Image via ttnotes.com.

Wild Honey and Flowers

In addition to the presence of “much fruit,” Lehi’s party gave Bountiful its name because of its “wild honey” (1 Nephi 17:5). Since bees require flowers to make honey, it suggests that flowers were also abundant in the area. Khor Kharfot is home to “some 850 species of plants,”22 and beehives can be found in trees and in the caves lining the cliffs that flank the harbor.23 Beehives can also be found in cliffs just 2.5 miles north of the harbor at Khor Rori.24 Especially during the monsoon season, Wadi Dharbat (about 6 miles north of Khor Rori) is a place of flowers and verdant plant life.

Sodom apple flowers in Wadi Dharbat. Photo by Phoebe Smith. Image via wanderlust.co.uk

Local Wildlife

Before they set sail toward their promised land, Lehi’s family gathered up their provisions including “meat from the wilderness” (1 Nephi 18:6). And in order to make tools, Nephi had to make a bellows “of the skins of beasts” (1 Nephi 17:11). Thus, wildlife was evidently available in the surrounding area.

An abundance of aquatic and land-dwelling wildlife has been identified in the area surrounding Khor Kharfot, including leopards, hyenas, wolves, foxes, and hyraxes.25 An archaeological survey of the ancient ruins of Sumhuram at Khor Rhori found remains of cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and gazelle.26 It is unknown precisely what animals would have been present in Nephi’s day at these sites, but evidence from both locations suggest that procuring skins for a bellows, as well as relying upon local fauna for food and other needs, would have been feasible at either site.

Nubian Ibex on rocky terrain in Oman. Photo via Office for the Conservation of the Environment, Sultanate of Oman.

Flint and Ore

Nephi explained that he “did smite two stones together that I might make fire” (1 Nephi 17:11). Although his family could have retained flint stones from a different portion of their journey, or could possibly have obtained them through trade, it is significant that flint deposits can be found near Khor Kharfot27 and Khor Rori.28

Nephi also mentioned that “the Lord told me whither I should go to find ore, that I might make tools” (1 Npehi 17:10). Like the flint, usable deposits of iron ore can be found at locations close to Khor Kharfot and Khor Rori.[xxix] While the amount of ore present in the region isn’t sufficient for commercial use, it would have been plenty for Nephi to make all the tools he needed.30 Importantly, the iron deposits in this region are rare, available right at the surface for easy extraction, and unusually suitable for smelting.31

Ore deposit at Khor Kharfot. Photo by Warren Aston.

A Nearby Mountain

After Nephi had been in the land of Bountiful for many days, the voice of the Lord declared, “get thee into the mountain” (1 Nephi 17:7; emphasis added). The use of the word the suggests there was a particularly prominent mountain in the area with which Nephi was familiar. Nephi also mentioned that he went “into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord” (1 Nephi 18:3). The frequency of his visits implies that this mount was close to their campsite.

A particular mountain at Khor Kharfot provides an ideal match with Nephi’s description. It towers immediately over the bay where Nephi could have built his ship, and at its base is a small plateau “where evidence of former settlement is most abundant and on which Lehi’s family would have been most likely to camp.”32 Additionally, the “rocky peak contains several natural cavities and platforms that would offer readily-accessed privacy for anyone wanting a place to pray and receive revelation.”33

Mountain at sunset towering over the shoreline at Khor Kharfot. Photo by Warren Aston. 

The closest elevated terrain near Khor Rori are the bluffs situated approximately two miles north of the lagoon.34 While none of these hills particularly stand out as a candidate for the mountain spoken of in Nephi’s account, any of them could potentially have served as an elevated place of revelation.35 And they are close enough to the bay that Nephi could have visited them regularly.

Cliffs along the Shore

On one occasion, after censuring his older brothers, Nephi reported that they “were desirous to throw me into the depths of the sea” (1 Nephi 17:48). This description seems to only makes sense if there were steep cliffs along the shoreline from which Nephi’s brothers could toss him into deep water.36

Along the plateau at Khor Kharfot where Nephi’s family would most likely have camped “lie cliffs averaging 50–60 feet [15–18 meters] high with sharp rocks at their base, providing an eminently suitable place to dispose of a troublesome younger brother.”37 Similarly, flanking the seaside entrance to Khor Rori are large sheer cliffs. Protruding into waters estimated to be “twenty-five to thirty-five feet deep,”38 these cliffs form “breakwaters that allowed ancient ships to sail out 400–450 yards into the Indian Ocean proper with protection from the surf.”39

Cliffs at Khor Rori. Photo by Warren Aston. 

A Sheltered Inlet

Because of the danger posed by monsoon storms, any long-term shipbuilding project along Arabia’s eastern coast would have required “a sheltered inlet or lagoon that protects from tides and storms while still allowing ready access to the ocean.”40 Both Khor Kharfot and Khor Rori offer lagoons where Nephi’s family could have safely constructed and then launched a ship.41 While sandbars currently impede water access to the ocean at both sites, these natural blockades were formed fairly recently and therefore wouldn’t have posed a problem in ancient times.42

Fresh water lagoon at Khor Kharfot. Photo by Warren Aston.

Timber 

Nephi stated, “we did work timbers of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship” (1 Nephi 18:1). Nephi then emphasized that he “did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men” (v. 2). Because his ship was built under divine direction and in a unique manner, it is uncertain what materials and timber were used in its construction. It has even been proposed that Nephi could have built a type of raft.43

Although it was likely more verdant in ancient times,44 Khor Kharfot still has plenty of large trees. “Timber from several species identified at Kharfot—particularly the sycamore fig (Ficus sycamorus) and the tamarind (Tamarindus indica)—would have been suitable for building a seagoing craft.”45 Some evidence suggests that coconut trees, which can also be used in shipbuilding, may also have been in the area when Lehi’s party arrived.46

Tall trees at Wadi Sayq near Khor Kharfot. Photo by Warren Aston.

As for Khor Rori, “shipbuilding timbers could possibly have come from mango and coconut trees that [may have been] cultivated on the Salalah plain.”47 Another possibility is that in Lehi’s day hardwood timbers suitable for an ocean-fairing vessel were available at Wadi Dharbat, approximately 6–7 miles to the north. Additionally, “Khor Rori was the premier port of the Dhofar region of Oman and was involved in seafaring as early as the fifth-fourth millennia BC.”49 Although it remains unconfirmed,50 timber imported from India or some other location may have been available at Khor Rori in Lehi’s day.51

Inhabited vs. Uninhabited

Several details in Nephi’s account suggest that Bountiful wasn’t a populated area at the time of Lehi’s arrival.52 Despite featuring fresh water and a sheltered inlet, Khor Kharfot has been only sparsely inhabited over the centuries, and was probably uninhabited during the sixth century BC. This is likely due to the difficulty of accessing the site from the interior trade routes.53 Thus, Khor Kharfot nicely agrees with the details of the text on this point.

In contrast, “Both Khor Rori and the adjacent town of Taqah were settled long before Lehi’s arrival in southern Arabia.”54 While seemingly less consistent with Nephi’s description, this factor could potentially add to the site’s favorability under the assumption that Nephi and his party would have needed to rely upon a local population for imported timber, as well as manual labor and skills related to building and navigating a ship.55

Ancient settlment of Sumhuram, near Khor Rori. Photo by Warren Aston. 

Khor Kharfot vs. Khor Rori

As proposed locations for Bountiful, both Khor Kharfot and Khor Rori clearly have much to offer. The following chart gives a side-by-side comparison of how well they comply with the criteria (either directly stated or implied) in Nephi’s account:

Feature

Khor Kharfot

Khor Rori

East of Nahom/Nihm

Yes

Yes

Coastal Area

Yes

Yes

Accessible from Interior

Yes

Yes

Fresh Water

Yes

Yes

Much Fruit

Yes (immediate vicinity)

Possibly (5–7 miles to the north)

Possibly (in ancient times near Khor Rori)

Flowers

Yes (immediate vicinity)

Yes (5–7 miles to the north)

Possibly (in ancient times near Khor Rori)

Honey

Yes (immediate vicinity)

Yes (2–3 miles north)

Wildlife

Yes

Yes

Flint

Yes

Yes

Ore

Yes

Yes

Nearby Mountain

Yes (immediate vicinity)

Yes (2–3 miles north)

Seaside Cliffs

Yes

Yes

Sheltered Inlet

Yes

Yes

Timber

Yes (immediate vicinity)

Yes (5–7 miles north)

Possibly (imported at Khor Rori)

Uninhabited

Yes

No

 

The differences of opinion among researchers about which location is more appealing rests primarily on whether Bountiful was inhabited when Nephi’s group arrived. If it was, and if its inhabitants were growing much fruit, and if Nephi had to rely on the local population for labor, skills, imported timber, and other shipbuilding materials—then Khor Rori provides a better fit.

In contrast, if Nephi’s Bountiful was uninhabited, then it indicates that the “much fruit” described by Nephi would have needed to grow there spontaneously. It also means that timber and other materials needed to build a ship must have been available in the immediate environment, and that the Lord took a very active role in helping Nephi know how to build the ship. The best candidate under this scenario is clearly Khor Kharfot.

Conclusion

Rather than attempting to settle the issue of which site better fits Nephi’s Bountiful, this summary merely offers an overview of each proposal’s strengths and limitations. As stated by Warren Aston, “One can even see that several locations (all within a few miles of each other) being proposed as Bountiful actually strengthens the Book of Mormon’s claims.”56

It is significant that some of the features present at both sites are rather unexpected. Satellite imagery shows just how uniquely lush the Dhofar region is. This thin band of greenery is entirely out of place along the more than 1000 miles of Arabia’s otherwise desolate south-eastern coastline. And yet Dhofar happens to be almost due east of the most likely spot for Nahom, just as the Book of Mormon predicts.

Dhofar vegitation visible from distant satellite imagery. Image via Google Earth. 

In addition to the unusual concentration of fruit, honey, fresh water, abundant wildlife, and timber, the discovery of iron ore in Dhofar was quite unexpected. According to geologist Revell Phillips, “there is actually very little iron ore anywhere along the southern coast of Oman.”57 Oman’s Ministry of Mines didn’t even know iron deposits existed in this region until Latter-day Saint geologists informed them of their discoveries in the year 2000.58

This, of course, means that Joseph Smith had virtually no chance of knowing that ore suitable for making tools was in this area in 1829. In fact, maps and other sources available in the early 19th century suggest there is little chance he would have known anything specific about these locations,59 especially concerning the uninhabited Khor Kharfot.60 Such unexpected confirmation of particular environmental details thousands of miles from Joseph Smith’s location in the eastern United States provides strong evidence of the Book of Mormon’s authenticity.

Warren P. Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia: The Old World Setting of the Book of Mormon (Bloomington, IN: Xlibris Publishing, 2015), 94–213.

George Potter, Frank Linehan, Conrad Dickson, Voyages of the Book of Mormon (Springville, UT: CFI, 2011), 17–92.

Warren P. Aston, “Identifying Our Best Candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Restoration Scripture 17, no. 1–2 (2008): 58–64.

Richard Wellington and George Potter, “Lehi’s Trail: From the Valley of Lemuel to Nephi’s Harbor,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15, no. 2 (2006): 35–43.

George Potter and Richard Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness: 81 New, Documented Evidences that the Book of Mormon is a True History (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 2003), 121–162.

Warren P. Aston, “The Arabian Bountiful Discovered? Evidence for Nephi’s Bountiful,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7, no. 1 (1998): 4–11, 70.

1 Nephi 17:1–221 Nephi 17:48–511 Nephi 18:1–91 Nephi 18:131 Nephi 18:22–23

1 Nephi 17:1–22

1 Nephi 17:48–51

1 Nephi 18:1–9

1 Nephi 18:13

1 Nephi 18:22–23

Book of Mormon Central, “Watch: Compelling Book of Mormon Evidence for Lehi’s Journey through Arabia,” BMC Blog, June 12, 2019, online at bookofmormoncentral.org.

Warren P. Aston, “The Long and Winding Road to Bountiful,” BMAF-BMC Book of Mormon Conference, 2017, online at archive.bookofmormoncentral.org.

Book of Mormon Central, “Has the Location of Nephi’s Bountiful Been Discovered? (1 Nephi 17:5),” KnoWhy 259 (January 9, 2017).

Jeff Lindsay, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Map: Part 1 of 2,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 19 (2016): 153–239.

Jeff Lindsay, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Map: Part 2 of 2,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship  19 (2016): 247–326.

Warren P. Aston, “Khor Kharfot, Dhofar Archaeological Survey,” The BFSA Bulletin 21 (2016): 18–19.

F. Richard Hauck, “The 2015 Archaeological Report for Khor Kharfot,” Khor Kharfot Foundation (Farmington, UT: Archeological Research Institute, 2016).

Iftikhar A. Abbasi, “Geological Assessment of the Khor Kharfot Sediments, Western Dhofar Region, Sultanate of Oman,” SQU Journal of Science 21, no. 1 (2016): 16–25.

Warren P. Aston, “Did Anyone Else in History ever Mention Nephi’s Bountiful?” Meridian Magazine, February 24, 2016, online at latterdaysaintmag.com.

Book of Mormon Central, “Interview with Warren Aston,” (Springville, UT: Book of Mormon Central, 2015), online at archive.bookofmormoncentral.org.

Warren P. Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia: The Old World Setting of the Book of Mormon (Bloomington, IN: Xlibris Publishing, 2015), 94–213.

Warren P. Aston, “Timber for Nephi’s Ship,” Meridian Magazine, May 6, 2014, online at latterdaysaintmag.com.

Warren P. Aston, “Was Nephi’s Bountiful Populated? Does it Matter?” Meridian Magazine, April 24, 2014, online at latterdaysaintmag.com.

Warren P. Aston, “The Discovery of Nephi’s Bountiful, Part 2,” Meridian Magazine, April 17, 2014, online at latterdaysaintmag.com.

Warren P. Aston, “Beginnings: The Discovery of Nephi’s Bountiful,” Meridian Magazine, April 11, 2014, online at latterdaysaintmag.com.

Michael R. Ash, “Joseph’s Environment and the Book of Mormon,” in Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony In the Face of Criticism and Doubt, 2nd ed.  (Redding, CA: FairMormon, 2013), 140–142.

Warren P. Aston, “Why Arabia’s Hidden Valley is the Best Candidate for Bountiful,” Meridian Magazine, May 28, 2013, online at latterdaysaintmag.com.

Warren P. Aston, “Arabia’s Hidden Valley: A Unique Habitat in Dhofar Captures Arabia’s Past,” Wildlife Middle East 6, no. 4 (2013): 2–4.

George Potter, Frank Linehan, Conrad Dickson, Voyages of the Book of Mormon (Springville, UT: CFI, 2011), 17–92.

William D. Glanzman, “South Arabian Pottery in Khor Mughsayl, Oman: An Early Settlement Connection,” in Bountiful Harvest: Essays in Honor of S. Kent Brown, ed. Andrew C. Skinner, D. Morgan Davis, and Carl Griffin (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2011).

Terry Ball, “Letter to the Editor,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 18, no. 1 (2009): 56–57.

Warren P. Aston, “Identifying Our Best Candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Restoration Scripture 17, no. 1–2 (2008): 58–64.

Wm. Revell Phillips, “Mughsayl: Another Candidate for Land Bountiful,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 16, no. 2 (2007): 48–59, 97.

Warren P. Aston, “Across Arabia with Lehi and Sariah: ‘Truth Shall Spring out of the Earth,’” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15, no. 2 (2006): 15–21. 

S. Kent Brown and Peter Johnson, Journey of Faith: From Jerusalem to the Promised Land (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2006). Also see the associated DVD documentary.

David A. LeFevre, “We Did Again Take Our Journey,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15, no. 2 (2006): 58–122.

Jeffrey R. Chadwick, “An Archeologist’s View,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15, no. 2 (2006): 75–77.

Richard Wellington and George Potter, “Lehi’s Trail: From the Valley of Lemuel to Nephi’s Harbor,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15, no. 2 (2006): 35–43.

Lynn M. Hilton, “In Search of Lehi’s Trail—30 Years Later,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15, no. 2 (2006).

S. Kent Brown, Voices from the Dust: Book of Mormon Insights (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, 2004).

S. Kent Brown, “New Light: Nahom and the ‘Eastward’ Turn,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12, no. 1 (2003): 111–112, 120.

George Potter and Richard Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness: 81 New, Documented Evidences that the Book of Mormon is a True History (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 2003), 121–162.

S. Kent Brown, “New Light from Arabia on Lehi’s Trail,” in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2002), 89–97.

Wm. Revell Phillips, “Metals of the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9, no. 2 (2000): 36–43, 82.

Terry B. Ball, S. Kent Brown, Arnold H. Green, David J. Johnson, and W. Revell Phillips, “Planning Research on Oman: The End of Lehi’s Trail,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7, no. 1 (1998): 12–21, 70.

Warren P. Aston, “The Arabian Bountiful Discovered? Evidence for Nephi’s Bountiful,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7, no. 1 (1998): 4–11, 70.

Noel B. Reynolds, “Lehi’s Arabian Journey Updated,” in Book of Mormon Authorship RevisitedThe Evidence for Ancient Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1997).

Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 1996).

L. Ara Norwood, “Bountiful Found,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 7, no. 1 (1995): 85–90.

Warren P. Aston and Michaela K. Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1994), 27–59.

Warren P. Aston, “Lynn M. and Hope A. Hilton. Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia,” FARMS Review of Books 9, no. 1 (1997): 15–24.

Eugene England, “Through the Arabian Desert to a Bountiful Land: Could Joseph Smith Have Known the Way?” in Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1982), 143–146.

Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi’s Trail (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1976).

Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, “In Search of Lehi’s Trail—Part 2: The Journey,” Ensign, October 1976, online at churchofjesuschrist.org.

Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, “In Search of Lehi’s Trail—Part 1: The Preparation,” Ensign, September 1976, online at churchofjesuschrist.org.

Hugh Nibley, “Lehi in the Desert,” Improvement Era 53, no. 9 (1950): 707–708; reprinted in Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites/There Were Jaredites, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Volume 5 (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1988), 109–111.

  • 1 See, for example, Gimel, “Book of Mormon,” The Christian Watchman 12, no. 40 (1831): “To believe the book of Mormon, we must suppose that these emigrants traversed almost the whole length of the Arabian Gulf … and that they discovered a country almost equal to paradise, where no body else can find any thing but a sandy, barren desert.” Warren P. Aston has found that critics have been making similar claims as late as 1985, and that despite being “based on usually-authoritative sources such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Encyclopaedia of Islam,” they have been, “completely wrong.” Warren P. Aston, “Beginnings: The Discovery of Nephi’s Bountiful,” Meridian Magazine, April 11, 2014, online at latterdaysaintmag.com.
  • 2 See Hugh Nibley, “Lehi in the Desert,” Improvement Era 53, no. 9 (1950): 707–708; reprinted in Lehi in the Desert/The World of the Jaredites/There Were Jaredites, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Volume 5 (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1988), 109–111.
  • 3 Bertram Thomas, Arabia Felix: Across the ‘Empty Quarter’ of Arabia (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932), 48; cited in Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, 110.
  • 4 See Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, “In Search of Lehi’s Trail—Part 1: The Preparation,” Ensign, September 1976, online at churchofjesuschrist.org; Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, “In Search of Lehi’s Trail—Part 2: The Journey,” Ensign, October 1976, online at churchofjesuschrist.org; Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, In Search of Lehi‘s Trail (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1976). For the Hiltons’ more recent research in Arabia, see Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi: New Evidence of Lehi and Nephi in Arabia (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 1996); Lynn M. Hilton, “In Search of Lehi’s Trail—30 Years Later,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15, no. 2 (2006): 4–7, 110.
  • 5 See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Nahom,” March 3, 2021, online at evidencecentral.org. For the significance of turning eastward in this region, see Warren P. Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia: The Old World Setting of the Book of Mormon (Bloomington, IN: Xlibris Publishing, 2015); 94–97; Richard Wellington and George Potter, “Lehi’s Trail: From the Valley of Lemuel to Nephi’s Harbor,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15, no. 2 (2006): 34–35; David A. LeFevre, “We Did Again Take Our Journey,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15, no. 2 (2006): 58–122; S. Kent Brown, “New Light—Nahom and the ‘Eastward’ Turn,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12, no. 1 (2003): 111–112; 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: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2002), 88–92.
  • 6 “At 16 degrees and 44 minutes north latitude (and 53 degrees 20 min east longitude), Khor Kharfot, lies within one degree of being eastward from Nahom which is centered at about 15.6 degrees north latitude. ‘Nearly eastward’ is thus an accurate description of the directional link between the two places. Additionally, the entire roughly 600 miles/970 km route over which a traveler would access Kharfot from Nahom lies in a substantially easterly direction, with no significant detours required by the terrain.” Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 130. Situated at just over 17 degrees north latitude, Khor Rori meets the same essential directional requirements, being just slightly north and east of Khor Kharfot.
  • 7 For linguistic evidence supporting Irreantum as being an authentic ancient Near Eastern name, see Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Irreantum,” September 19, 2020, online at evidencecentral.org.
  • 8 See Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 127–130; Warren P. Aston and Michaela K. Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1994), 49; Warren P. Aston, “Identifying Our Best Candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Restoration Scripture 17, no. 1–2 (2008): 62.
  • 9 See George Potter and Richard Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness: 81 New, Documented Evidences that the Book of Mormon is a True History (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 2003), 124–125, 127.
  • 10 Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 127.
  • 11 Aston and Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi, 49.
  • 12 See Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 130–131.
  • 13 See Richard Wellington and George Potter, “Lehi’s Trail: From the Valley of Lemuel to Nephi’s Harbor,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15, no. 2 (2006): 40, 43; Potter and Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness, 132–133.
  • 14 Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 135.
  • 15 Aston and Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi, 43.
  • 16 See Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 135.
  • 17 Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 135.
  • 18 See Warren P. Aston, “Did Anyone Else in History ever Mention Nephi’s Bountiful?Meridian Magazine, February 24, 2016, online at latterdaysaintmag.com.
  • 19 “We need to be wary though in assuming that the plantations extended this far in Lehi’s time because many of these modern plantations are fed by water pumped in from afar.” Potter and Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness, 126.
  • 20 Potter and Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness, 125.
  • 21 There is also disagreement as to the natural fertility of the soil. According to Potter and Wellington, “Much of the soil of the coastal plain is remarkably rich and productive. Numerous springs, fed by the summer monsoons, irrigate the plain, and the area is said to be capable of producing three crops a year.” Potter and Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness, 125. In contrast, Aston remarks, “Some limited crop growing is probable; however it must be emphasized that even today, the poor soil of the Salalah plains results in little natural vegetation and crops grow only where irrigated.” Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 123. Whether or not the soil is naturally favorable or not, everyone seems to agree that without irrigation, the soil would not spontaneously produce fruit and other crops in its current condition. 
  • 22 Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 138. See also Warren P. Aston, “Arabia’s Hidden Valley: A Unique Habitat in Dhofar Captures Arabia’s Past,” Wildlife Middle East 6, no. 4 (2013): 3; Warren P. Aston, “Why Arabia’s Hidden Valley is the Best Candidate for Bountiful,” Meridian Magazine, May 28, 2013, 3, online at latterdaysaint.com.
  • 23 See Aston and Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi, 54; Warren P. Aston, “Finding Nephi’s Bountiful in the Real World,” Meridian Magazine, January 18, 2006, online at latterdaysaintmag.com; Brent Heaton, “What Life is Like Today at Nephi’s Bountiful,” Meridian Magazine, July 12, 2018, online at latterdaysaintmag.com.
  • 24 See Potter and Wellington, “Lehi’s Trail,” 36–37; Potter and Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness, 129.
  • 25 See Aston, “Why Arabia’s Hidden Valley is the Best Candidate for Bountiful,” online at latterdaysaintmag.com; Aston, “Arabia’s Hidden Valley,” 2–4.
  • 26 See Potter and Wellington, “Lehi’s Trail,” 115n.70.
  • 27 See Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 138; Warren P. Aston, “Across Arabia with Lehi and Sariah: ‘Truth Shall Spring out of the Earth,’” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15, no. 2 (2006): 20; Aston, The Arabian Bountiful Discovered?” 10; Aston and Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi, 48.
  • 28 See Potter and Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness, 130; W. Revell Phillips, “Metals of the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9, no. 2 (2000): 38.
  • 29 See Phillips, “Metals of the Book of Mormon,” 36–41, 82, esp. 36; Iftikhar A. Abbasi, “Geological Assessment of the Khor Kharfot Sediments, Western Dhofar Region, Sultanate of Oman,” SQU Journal of Science 21, no. 1 (2016): 16–25. See also, Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 141, which notes that ore deposits have been “found in the bay of Kharfot.” On page 153n.42, Aston mentions that additional discoveries of iron at Kharfot occurred in the years 2009, 2010, and 2014. These updates are significant because in their first explorations of Khor Kharfot, the Astons weren’t able to locate a source of iron. See Aston and Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi, 55. 
  • 30 See Phillips, “Metals of the Book of Mormon,” 38.
  • 31 See S. Kent Brown and Peter Johnson, eds., “Metallurgy,” in Journey of Faith: From Jerusalem to the Promised Land (Provo, Utah: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2006), 63–64.
  • 32 Warren P. Aston, “The Arabian Bountiful Discovered? Evidence for Nephi's Bountiful,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7, no. 1 (1998): 10.
  • 33 Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 140.
  • 34 See Potter and Wellington, “Lehi’s Trail,” 37; Potter and Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness, 130.
  • 35 The bluffs get progressively taller and more mountainous to the east, but it is hard to imagine Nephi frequently visiting any location more than a few miles away.
  • 36 If Nephi’s brothers had tossed him into the waves along a flat, sandy beach, Nephi presumably could have swum back to the shore unharmed. In contrast, a long fall from steep cliffs into deep water could be lethal, either from the fall itself or from drowning after being injured, especially if large waves were breaking against rocks near the base of the cliff.
  • 37 Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 140.
  • 38 Potter and Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness, 135.
  • 39 Potter and Wellington, “Lehi’s Trail,” 35.
  • 40 Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 104.
  • 41 See Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 132; George Potter, Frank Linehan, Conrad Dickson, Voyages of the Book of Mormon (Springville, UT: CFI, 2011), 24–25. For conflicting opinions about the suitableness of Khor Kharfot’s bay, see Wellington and Potter, “Lehi’s Trail,” 42; Aston, “Identifying Our Best Candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful,” 60–61.
  • 42 See Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 132; Potter, et al., Voyages of the Book of Mormon, 24.
  • 43 See Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 204–207; Aston, “Across Arabia with Lehi and Sariah,” 22–23, esp. 23: “While it may require an adjustment to the cultural assumptions of most Latter-day Saints, a raft design not only meets the scriptural requirements of Nephi’s ‘ship,’ but seems to be the optimal and most feasible structure that could have been constructed at the unique site of Bountiful.” For a conflicting opinion, see Potter, et al., Voyages of the Book of Mormon, 68–70. 
  • 44 See Aston, “The Arabian Bountiful Discovered?,” 9: “Drought in recent centuries has reduced the natural forests that formerly covered the sides of the valley and the surrounding mountains.”
  • 45 Aston, The Arabian Bountiful Discovered?,” 9. See also Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 138–140. It should be noted that the suitability of these trees for timber has been debated. See Aston, “Identifying Our Best Candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful,” 60.
  • 46 See Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 135–136; Warren P. Aston, “Timber for Nephi’s Ship,” Meridian Magazine, May 6, 2014, online at latterdaysaintmag.com.
  • 47 Potter and Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness, 133.
  • 48 See Potter and Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness, 133.
  • 49 Potter, et al., Voyages of the Book of Mormon, 25. Supporting this claim, the authors on page 62n.17 cite Juris Zarins, The Land of Incense, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Series, vol. 1, Archaeological Work in the Governorate of Dhorfar, Sultanate of Oman 1990–1995. The Project of the National Committee for the supervision of Archaeological Survey in the Sultanate, Ministry of Information (Sultanate of Oman: Sultan Qaboos University Publication Al Nahada Printing Press, 2001), 64.
  • 50 For caution regarding the possibility that Khor Rori was an active seaport in Lehi’s day, see Aston, “Identifying Our Best Candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful,” 61: “Wellington and Potter summarize their candidate’s strength as being ‘the only established large port in Dhofar in Nephi’s time.’ (p. 43). They do not, however, discuss the fact that Khor Rori is believed not to have been a port in Nephi’s day, which would invalidate their claims.” Supporting his concern, Aston cites Alessandra Avanzini, ed., A Port in Arabia between Rome and the Indian Ocean (3rd C. bc – 5th C. ad): Khor Rori Report 2 (Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider, 2008), noting that “This title reflects the archaeological team’s firm dating—and the team has worked at Khor Rori since 1997” (p. 64n.10). Potter, et al., Voyages of the Book of Mormon, 43 provides sources which hint at early shipbuilding in the Dhofar region generally, but which do not give firm dating estimates.
  • 51 See Potter, et al., Voyages of the Book of Mormon, 39–44; Potter and Wellington, “Lehi’s Trail,” 38–39; Potter and Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness, 147.
  • 52 At least four textual details indicate that Bountiful was uninhabited when Nephi’s group arrived: (1) In contrast to Nahom (1 Nephi 16:34), Nephi specifically mentioned that his family gave the name of “Bountiful” to the coastal area where they camped (1 Nephi 17:5). If Bountiful had been an inhabited region at the time, it would most likely have already been given a name by any locals living there. (2) Nephi had to find ore to make his own tools (1 Nephi 17:9–10), and he also had to make his own bellows to heat the fire (1 Nephi 17:11). If there were a resident population nearby, he might have reasonably traded goods for such items, instead of making them himself. This is especially so under the working assumption of those who favor Khor Rori, which requires Nephi’s family to have purchased or traded for large amounts lumber and other materials needed to build a ship. If he had the means to acquire so much lumber, why did he not simply purchase tools and a bellows? (3) Nephi had to persuade Laman and Lemuel to help him build the ship (1 Nephi 17:18, 49; 18:1). Their help would seem less crucial if laborers could have been hired out from among the locals. (4) The Lord gave Nephi repeated instructions about how to build the ship, which is specifically described as not being “after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men” (1 Nephi 18:2). Such specific instructions may not have been as necessary if Nephi could have learned all or most of what he needed from shipwrights at a nearby seaport. See also, Warren P. Aston, “Was Nephi’s Bountiful Populated? Does it Matter?” Meridian Magazine, April 24, 2014, online at latterdaysaintmag.com.
  • 53 Aston, Lehi and Sariah in Arabia, 131; Aston and Aston, In the Footsteps of Lehi, 44.
  • 54 Potter and Wellington, Lehi in the Wilderness, 123–124; Potter and Wellington, “Lehi’s Trail,” 35–37.
  • 55 See Potter, et al., Voyages of the Book of Mormon, 39–92. Potter and Wellington, “Lehi’s Trail,” 37–42.
  • 56 Aston, “Identifying Our Best Candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful,” 63.
  • 57 Revell Phillips, “Metallurgy,” in Journey of Faith, 63.
  • 58 Ron Harris, “Metallurgy,” in Journey of Faith, 63–64.
  • 59 See Jeff Lindsay, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Map: Part 1 of 2,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 19 (2016): 156, 159, 162–163, 186–187; Jeff Lindsay, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Map: Part 2 of 2,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 19 (2016): 257, 261, 306; Eugene England, “Through the Arabian Desert to a Bountiful Land: Could Joseph Smith Have Known the Way?” in Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1982), 143–146; Warren P. Aston, “Across Arabia with Lehi and Sariah,” 17; Brown, “New Light from Arabia on Lehi’s Trail,” 72–75.
  • 60 See Lindsay, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Map: Part 1 of 2,” 186–187.
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