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