Timothy Sedor's Newsletter

"Photographs of the Month"

Timothy Sedor - 1998 - Arabian Outback

Book of Mormon Explorer

December 2010

Salalah Coastal Plain

Who and what greeted Lehi's family as they reached Bountiful?

 

In contrast to the burning, desolate silence of the Empty Quarter desert they had managed to conquer, the sweet songs of birds would have filled the cool mountain air. As I walked the slopes of these mountains, my companions and I observed cinnamon-breasted buntings calling to each other from the tree tops and African paradise flycatchers sitting lazily on the overhanging branches before darting after insects. In the distant past, it is not difficult to imagine the same kind of birds being startled into flight by the dusty and weary party of travelers as they made their way along the well worn trail. After eight years in the desert, Nephi tells us they "exceedingly rejoiced" (1 Nephi 17:6).

 

By the time the party reached the shore, the rich bounty of this land had become obvious. Nephi repeats that they called the place Bountiful because of its abundant fruit. The bounty of fertile land continued right down to the shore. We can easily imagine that the Salalah coastal plain was then as it is now, where groves of coconut palms bend down over the sands of the beach; banana plantations abound, their leaves a rich deep green; and where mangoes and fields of sugar cane line the edges of the fields. Whatever the fruit species of this tropical paradise, most would have been totally new to the travelers from Jerusalem. As they stood on the beach, they may well have seen fisherman bringing in their catch: snapper, kingfish, sardines, lobster, crayfish, and giant turtles. Surely this was Bountiful.

 

By following the Frankincense Trail to its end, Lehi's family would have come to the shoreline at the heart of the 'Adite lands. The 'Adites controlled the transport of the frankincense by land and sea and used a number inlets as ports. Since the frankincense trade appears to have been continuous from the Bronze Age times to its collapse in the third century A.D., we can safely assume that Dhofar was continually populated during that time.

 

It is clearly evident that the family was not alone in Bountiful but took their place there as part of a larger community of seafarers, farmers, business people, traders, and craftsman.

 

The question begs to be asked: Would the family, after traveling eight years through the most desolate of the Arabian deserts, now seek to be "isolationists" and make their new home completely devoid of what they missed most after leaving Jerusalem? That would have been unthinkable. Bountiful was populated.

 

My "Photograph of the Month" for December comes from Part 5, Discovering the Land Bountiful, of the six-part series of the DVD, Discovering Lehi's Trail, showing the vista from the mountains above the Salalah Coastal Plain to the shores of the Indian Ocean.

November 2010

My "Photograph of the Month" for November comes from Part 6, Discovering the Nephi's Harbor, of the six-part series of the DVD, Discovering Lehi's Trail, showing Khor Rori, our candidate for Nephi's Harbor.

 

It is probably a fact that when Nephi arrived at Bountiful, his knowledge of shipbuilding was next to nil. While the Lord gave Nephi the instructions on how to build the ship, he did not give him the lifetime of experience that shipwrights need to master their craft. Nephi built a ship that was large and of fine workmanship (1 Nephi 18:4)


One could argue that it was no problem at all; for the Lord could have simply supplied Nephi with all the materials, knowledge, and skills he needed on request. This is called the "storybook" version of Nephi's ship. It is a scenario that grossly misrepresents how the Lord deals with his faithful servants and significantly undervalues what Nephi actually accomplished through applied faith and works, and it also leads to a mythological rather than factual understanding of the Book of Mormon. Besides, the storybook version makes no sense. If the Lord simply wanted to supply everything for Nephi, one miracle after another, why build a ship in the first place? Why not have them walk across the ocean?
 

Like his desert journey, building a ship was part of Nephi's development under the guiding hands of the Lord. Nephi, too, would have had to learn, line upon line, precept upon precept, as all who had gone before him or would go after.

 

To determine if Khor Rori would qualify as Nephi's harbor, we visited ten inlets besides Khor Rori to determine if they were large enough to accommodate large ships and if they had the resources that Nephi would have needed to build a ship. Our findings are clear and definitive in showing that the strongest candidate for Nephi's harbor was Khor Rori. On the one hand, it is doubtful that a large ship could have been built or launched at any other sites. On the other hand, Khor Rori appears to have had every resource and feature needed by Nephi.

October 2010

My "Photograph of the Month" for October is from Part 5, Discovering the Land of Bountiful, of the six-part DVD series Discovering Lehi's Trail of one of the many fruit plantations in and around Salalah, Oman, our candidate for Lehi's Bountiful.

The text of the Book of Mormon appears to support the idea that Bountiful was populated when Lehi's family arrived and that they interacted with its inhabitants. In 1 Nephi 18:2, Nephi states that his ship was not "built after the manner of men." He also informs us that he "did not work timbers after the manner which was learned by men." The clear implication is that Nephi was working in a community that had carpenters and shipbuilders.

Prior to reaching Bountiful, Nephi continually refers to his family being "in the wilderness," but he never refers to Bountiful as a wilderness. A common definition of the word wilderness is an area devoid of human life.

Yet another indication from the Book of Mormon that Bountiful was populated is Nephi's use of the word "land." Every time Nephi uses the word "land" it is in context of a people. Finally Bountiful's "much fruit" implies cultivated fields and orchards. Another definition for "land" is "a rural area characterized by farming or ranching." Farmers will tell you that wild fruit trees do not produce "much fruit"; cultivated fruit trees do.

While we need to be careful not to assume that such large modern plantations would have been present in Lehi's time, at the same time we need to avoid assuming that no plantations existed anciently.

Carbon-dated pollen samples have indicated that the Salalah plain has been cultivated since the first millennium B.C.
 

Of particular interest to students of the Book of Mormon is that the pollen samples came from Khor Rori, the natural harbor where we believe Nephi built his ship.

September 2010

The Nephi Project, in their research discovered that the modern road from the desert to the Salalah Coastal Plain was built along the route of the ancient Frankincense Trail. The road today is a modern-day paved highway.

In Part 5, Discovering the Land of Bountiful, of the six-part series of the DVD, Discovering Lehi's Trail, we show what we believe would have been the route that Nephi describedhis family traveled to reach to Bountiful. Indeed, only a handful of trails in southern Arabia are known to have led from the interior desert trade routes through the nearly impassable mountains to the Indian Ocean shoreline. Of these, only one ended in a valley of much fruit. This is important, for the steep limestone mountains that separate the interior trails from the shoreline are impassable by camel without a good trail.

An ancient camel trail through these mountains to the Salalah Coastal Plain, where we believe Nephi's Bountiful is found, is not matter of speculation, rather it is a well documented historical fact.

My "Photo of the Month" for September is of camels being led along a mountain trail just a few miles from our candidate for Nephi's Bountiful.

August 2010

In Part 4, Discovering Nephi's Trail & His Bow Wood, of the six-part series of the DVD, Discovering Lehi's Trail, we attempt to answer the question of where the family camped at the time Nephi constructed his wooden bow.

As the family traveled from camel halt to camel halt along the Frankincense Trail, the distances between the halts became greater than the family had been used to. From Madina south to Turabah, the span between the halts was more than 250 miles of flat desolated desert.

At the caravan halts, Lehi's family could restock provisions for their onward journey in the barren wilderness. From Turabah the trail continued southward to the important trade center of Bishah. Today Bishah is a sizable town with beautiful date groves and small farms.

The ancient trails through central and southern Arabia passed on along the edge of the famous desert called the Rub Al Kali, "The Empty Quarter." Temperatures in the summer reach over 130 degrees. During that season the sand can reach temperatures in excess of 170 degrees! Thus, during the summer heat it was impossible to travel in the open desert.

When the hot months arrived, travelers who had reached Bishah would suspend their travels and wait out the summer in the high mountains 60 miles west of the town. We found this noteworthy because Nephi wrote, that he "did go forth up into the top of the mountain" (1 Nephi 16:30).

According to the Book of Mormon, the family was short of food. We also know that Nephi had to fabricate a wooden bow. Wood suitable for making bows is rare in arid Arabia. Through our research we discovered that the wood that the Arabs used to construct bows in southern Arabia was the Atim, a native olive variety that grows within a small range in the mountains above Bishah.

Did Lehi's family camp in the mountains west of Bishah? All of the elements of Nephi's account appear to have existed in the Bishah area at the time of the prophet.

The "Photograph of the Month" for August 2010 is a map indicating the location of Bishad and the range of the Atim trees.

July 2010

The July "Photograph of the Month" is taken from Part Five, Discovering the Land of Bountiful, of the six-part series DVD, Discovering Lehi's Trail.

In our film, Part Five, Discovering the Land of Bountiful, we first make an attempt to give the viewer an idea of how the landscape may have appeared to Lehi and his family as they emerged from the desert wasteland of the Rub' Al-Khali or "Empty Quarter" and entered the land Nephi called Bountiful.

After ca. 2,100 miles of barren desert from Jerusalem and just 21 miles from the Indian Ocean, we entered the highway that was constructed on what was once the route of the famous Frankincense Trail.

At "15 miles from the Indian Ocean" you become aware that there are green shrubs, sparse, but never the less, greenery. At "8 miles from the Indian Ocean" we see hillsides that display an emerald green much like that of an Irish countryside.

This is not trick photography or any use of filters to enhance the color, but merely the natural result of the rainfall from recent monsoon rains. We wondered how Lehi's family must have felt upon seeing such a site after their eight-year bleak encounter with some of the worst deserts on earth.

When I was filming this scene, I came across a worn path created by camel herds that still traverse this land. Please note how the camels places his hooves in nearly a single file instead of placing his hooves side by side.

At "six miles from the Indian Ocean" we begin to approach the Salalah Coastal Plain.

At this point, the family now finds themselves with a vista view, as before them, the Indian Ocean in the distance creates a boundary enclosure of the lands end of their eight-year saga in the wilderness.

When they reached the ocean, they were certainly grateful to pitch their tents and call the place "Bountiful."

June 2010

The June "Photograph of the Month" is taken from Part Six, Discovering Nephi's Harbor, of the six-part series DVD, Discovering Lehi's Trail,

Continuing our research on our theory that Khor Rori in Oman is the harbor where Nephi constructed his ship, we studied the descriptions on what type of ship Nephi would have needed to reach the New World. They were all large wooden sailing ships.

In our film, Part Six, Discovering Nephi's Harbor, we listed the resources Nephi would have needed to construct his ship. One of the essential things he needed was good moorings. Why moorings? Because of its tremendous weight, a wooden ship is not completed before launching. When the hull is finished, the hull is lowered into the water using gravity on what are called slipways. Once moored in the harbor, the masts, spars, rigging, ballast, anchors, and sails are added.

Tim Severin, the Irish explorer noted for his work in building replica ships and retracing their legendary journeys, built a replica of an ancient Omani ship. The hull of Tim Severin's ship, "Sohar," was constructed in the tradition of the ancient Omani shipwrights and weighed over 100 tons before its hull was lowered into the water. Once in the water, 15 tons of ballast had to be added to the hull to keep the "Sohar" upright in the water.

To finish a ship, shipwrights would moor the ship to an embankment or pier.

Frank Linehan, our maritime ship consultant, shares his thoughts of what it would have been like to simply load an ancient anchor aboard a ship without moorings.

"Just think of an anchor needed for a 80 to 100 foot vessel. You would like it to be at least 500 pounds to hold the ship in any kind of weather to make it secure. It would require an awful lot of effort to load that aboard the vessel. It would have been impossible to load the anchor aboard the ship in open water or from a beach with surf breaking on it. How would you load something like that after rowing out to the vessel? You would need quiet waters not to mention the manpower that would be needed as they did not have the sophistication of winches to lift it aboard. Practically all hands or crew would have to turn to, to pull it up out of the water and secure it aboard ship prior to going to sea."

If a stone anchor would be difficult to bring aboard, think of the difficulty of installing a mast that weighs several tons. For this reason, we are not surprised that Nephi gives us clues that his ship was moored before they embarked into the sea. Nephi wrote four times that they went DOWN into the ship before they set out to sea (1 Nephi 18:5-8). The most logical explanation is that the ship was already in the water and moored at a harbor where they could go down to the ship before setting sail.

As this month's photograph shows, the natural harbor at Khor Rori has several places where ships could be moored. In ancient times the Arabs called Khor Rori "Merbat" the Arabic word meaning "The Moorings."

May 2010

The May "Photograph of the Month" is taken from Part Six, Discovering Nephi's Harbor, of the six-part series DVD, Discovering Lehi's Trail,

To support our theory that Nephi built his ship at Khor Rori in Oman, we contacted several maritime archaeologists who described to us the kinds of ocean-going ships that were built in antiquity at Oman.

From our research we discovered that the ancient ships of Oman were large and amazing for their day.

In our film, Part Six, Discovering Nephi's Harbor, Frank Linehand, our maritime ship consultant, describes what would have been needed for Nephi to accomplish this difficult assignment from the Lord.

Brother Linehan, a hull expert for the US Navy and officer in the US Merchant Marines, calculates that Nephi's ship would have been 80 to 100 feet in length.

With a beam or width of the vessel of at least 35 feet and taking the width out a little wider than normal due to launching in a shallow bay, she would have drawn 8 to 10 feet to maybe as deep as 12 feet.

Frank writes, "She would have had to been constructed on slipways so she could be launched prior to outfitting. That would have been stepping the mast, rigging, ground tackle, etc. Nephi would have had access to deep water, still water, preferably pier side, in order to fit out the vessel he was constructing. This rules out a launch from a beach. The vessel would have been too large and to wide to launch in a surf, a definite disaster. The rigging would have been a split rig as high as 50 to 60 feet-this means a couple of tremendous sails made of a fabric of that age, probably canvas or a cotton of some type. When the rig would get wet, with its lines and canvas, that sail would weigh more than 1,500 pounds in fabrics of this day and age. That would require quite a bit of manpower to even raise that sail with a lot of physical dexterity, and of course, Nephi would not have had winches such as we have today. The vessel would have had a deck over it to where the bulwarks or sides would have to have been quite high. And the higher it could be would mean the ship would be dryer and handle better at sea in bad weather. The decking would require a sophisticated knowledge from the area or importing the talent. The deck would have to fit very tight requiring caulking, mortising the deck to provide protection for stores and sleeping quarters below. That would mean tools, lines, extra canvas for sails, the food, water, ballast to keep the ship upright which would have been rock laid on the bottom.

Brother Linehand describes the quiet waters of Commencement Bay in Tacoma, Washington where his ship the Cape Intrepid is moored, to what Nephi would have needed for his ship."

This is where Khor Rori in Oman fits the description to satisfy those needs.

April 2010

The April "Photograph of the Month" is taken from Part Six, Discovering Nephi's Harbor, of the six-part series DVD, Discovering Lehi's Trail,

We take you to the frankincense harbor of Khor Rori in Oman.

We believe Khor Rori is the most compelling candidate for the Book of Mormon's Bountiful and the harbor where Nephi built his ship.

Khor Rori is quiet today, but in Nephi's time it was such an important harbor that he and his father Lehi would have known about it.

To understand how old the harbor is at Khor Rori, we traveled to Luxor in Egypt some 2000 miles from Oman.

We visited the temple of Queen Hutshepsut who reigned over Egypt almost a millennium before Nephi built his ship.

Murals in her mortuary temple tell of how she sent large ships into the Arabia Sea to trade for the frankincense.

Archeologists are uncertain to where her ships actually traded for the incense.

However, according to the Ministry of information, Sultanate of Oman, there is an inscription in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt that shows an Egyptian ship harbored at Khor Rori.

The Ministry further claims that it was from Khor Rori that Queen Sheba sent a ship of frankincense to King Solomon.

March 2010

YES! These are the films and book that have made the Book of Mormon critics speechless. For over 10 years our research has yet to be challenged by ANY critic of the Book of Mormon. They dare not mention, The Nephi Project, in their blogs for they know our evidence is compelling and open to anyone willing in spending time in a scholarly library or travel down Arabia.

So let us take you down Lehi's journey in our set of six films on two discs. Drive through Arabia and see the amazing evidences that witness that the Book of Mormon is a true history. Tell your friends!

"Firm, and Steadfast and Immovable"! The photograph on the cover of our Discovering Lehi's Trail DVD is of the opening of the Valley of Lemuel where this breathtaking canyon opens onto the Gulf of Aqaba.

The photograph on the cover of the DVD was taken in January 1998, as we see the last rays of the sun as it was setting over the Gulf of Aqaba and the Sinai Peninsula. The sunset rays reflected upon the cliff faces of the valley wall, while our friend, John, raises his arm to salute this wonderful scene. To give you an idea of how tall these canyon walls are (over 2,500 feet), locate the yellow circle and try to find John standing on the valley floor.

February 2010

In Part 1, Discovering the Valley of Lemuel, of the six-part series of the DVD, Discovering Lehi's Trail, you are introduced to the realities of the country side that confronted Lehi and his family as they set out into the wilderness. My "Photograph of the Month" for February 2010, is a picture of the hellish desert where Lehi and his family traveled.

"And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness."        1 Nephi 2:4

Book of Mormon scholars have long believed that the Valley of Lemuel was located in the northwest corner of what is today Saudi Arabia.

Among these scholars was Hugh Nibley who stated of this barren region, "The desert that Lehi retreated to and where he made his first long camp has been known since Old Testament times as the 'wilderness par excellence.' The particular waste in which Lehi made his first camp is among the most uninviting deserts on earth. Detestable certainly describes the place in the eyes of Lehi's people who murmured bitterly at being led into such a hell."

However, Nephi described a fertile valley with many fruits, grains, and a river of flowing water. After completing an exhaustive 44-year study of Saudi Arabia's water resources, the United States Geological Survey and the Saudi Arabian Department of Water Resources concluded, "Saudi Arabia may be the world's largest country without any perennial rivers or streams." Water Atlas of Saudi Arabia, p.xv

Where is the fertile Valley of Lemuel in a land described as "Hell," and where is its river of flowing water in riverless Arabia? In this film we not only show you the land Nephi described, we reveal to you our candidates for the Valley of Lemuel and the continually flowing River of Laman.

January 2010

In Part 6, Discovering Nephi’s Harbor, of the six-part series of the DVD, Discovering Lehi’s Trail, Frank Linehan, a ship captain and an authority on shipbuilding, explains how he believes Nephi built and launched the ship that the Lord commanded Nephi to build. Prior to our work with Frank Linehan and Stephen Done, it was generally assumed by students of the Book of Mormon that the construction of Nephi’s ship was performed on a sandy shoreline beach and that when finished the ship was pulled into breaking surf. 

Those who believe in fairy tales can believe anything they want. However, Frank and Stephen point out that a beach launch of a large sailing ship is impossible in the first place, and even if the ship reached the water, it would have been destroyed in the breaking surf. That’s called a “shipwreck.”

"Ships are still built and launched in the same way they were in Nephi’s time. We believe Lehi came to Bountiful where he could find experienced shipbuilders who had the knowledge necessary to help him construct a ship capable of reaching the New World.” Bountiful was a place where Nephi could not only build his ship, but where he could learn seamanship expertise from experienced open-ocean sailors and where he could train the family to crew the ship. Most important, Nephi needed a calm harbor where he could launch his ship. For this reason we believe he built the vessel at the famous Frankincense harbor of Khor Rori.

During our documentary film, Brother Linehan shared with us his knowledge of sailing and shipbuilding from the bridge of the USS Cape Intrepid while she was docked at Commencement Bay in Tacoma, Washington.

At the time of the filming, I was unable to get a good photo of the Cape Intrepid while she was docked.

Fortunately, I just received a great shot of the Cape Intrepid and her sister ship the Cape Island as they were recently cruising the waters of Puget Sound. It appears as my “Photograph of the Month” for January 2010.

When Brother Linehan goes sailing, he pilots one of these magnificent military ships.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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