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BoM Geography: From Middle East to Africa (Part 1 of 6)

Where did the Book of Mormon take place?  There are probably more theories out there than you know.  I’m going to share a Zoom presentation I gave May 10, 2021 to a Community of Christ group.  In part 1, we’ll talk about internal maps, the Middle East, and an African Theory of the Book of Mormon.

GT:  I thought we could kind of start out a little bit with Middle Eastern geography. Most of this comes from a film put out by, mainly by BYU, called Journey of Faith.  I’ve got the DVD there. They seem to think that the Frankincense Trail seems to be the likely route that Lehi and his family proposed. I’ve got a link there, if you want to watch that.  It’s pretty good. It’s definitely a well-done video. There’s a link there. What proponents would call a bull’s eye, is where in First Nephi 16:34, “And it came to pass that Ishmael died and was buried in a place which was called Nahom.” So, basically, that’s one of the best spots that we have for Book of Mormon geography, and it talks about it. There are several quotes in there that this Nahom is on the Frankincense Trail. I might go out of order here, I wanted to show a little bit on the map here. On that left map, you can see, basically, they left Jerusalem headed mostly south, down to the wadi, well, actually, where it crosses–that word Timna there, they kind of crossed that river there, and they’re on the western side of the Red Sea. That’s where they probably joined up with the Frankincense Trail.

GT:  If you look at the middle map there, you can see that the Frankincense Trail goes into the Sinai Peninsula, but that’s really where Lehi and his family probably joined that, into Arabia and then took a left turn there on that third map, at the bottom there and headed [west.] There are a few different sites there for different potential harbors for Nephi’s harbor.  Of course, in the interest of giving all perspectives–of course not everybody believes Nahom is a bull’s eye. John Hamer left a comment and said, “It should come as no surprise or no shock to us that Nahum, which is spelled with a U instead of an O, a Hebrew prophet in the Bible has a Semitic name. It should, therefore, come as no shock that there are places in Semitic speaking countries that share that name, or at least the consonants N, H, M.” Of course, Hebrew, a lot of times, leaves out a lot of the vowels.

GT:  John says, “When I first wrote about Nahum on a board, I did a quick test. I said to myself, ‘they speak Arabic in Iraq. Let’s see if there’s a Nahum in Iraq, and a quick Google search picked up a place called Nahum in the Mason province, immediately south of Al Amarah.’ In other words, the Book of Mormon had said that Lehi and his party traveled past Babylon, there was another potential Nahum bull’s eye, waiting in Mesopotamia. Another Google search shows that historically there was a town called Nahem, in Lebanon, halfway between Tyre and Acre. If Joseph Smith had sent Lehi to America via Phoenicia, there would have been another bull’s eye!”

GT:  So, he basically goes on to say “[NHM] is not really a bull’s eye. He questions whether it’s even noteworthy, given that the entire volume of a large Semitic country in which to find a Semitic route. There’s a Nihm in Arabia, which is not precisely matched to the Nahom, but, the three letters match. Not everybody is convinced. In Journey of Faith, this is, of course, where Ishmael died and was buried in the place of Nahom on the Frankincense Trail. So, that’s the most likely route and probably the best archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon. There are a couple of possible ports in Yemen.

GT:  I would first start off with a very different theory, the African theory by Embaye Melekin. This is kind of an interesting theory.  Obviously, it’s not in the Americas. I will say this, we did see, if Nephi, left Yemen, it would be a lot easier to go to Eritrea or Ethiopia than any of the other places. It kind of has that advantage of being a relatively short trip. You can see Eritrea is on the border of the Red Sea. So, you’re kind of still staying within the Middle Eastern model. So, Melekin has written a couple of books, The African Bible. This one on top, I think, is the first edition. The one on the bottom is the second edition. I looked on Amazon, the top one was like $800. I don’t think anybody’s going to be buying that one. I think it’s basically the same book. They’ve just got two different covers. But, he basically thinks that the Book of Mormon took place in Africa. He says the Sabeans are the Nephites, and the Agazians are the Lamanites. He kind of also believes that the Bible took place in Africa. He definitely seems to have an African bias there. You can actually preview the book. I’ve got a Google link here you can read.

GT:  He’s got another book called 80 Reasons Why the Book of Mormon is an African Bible. From what I understand, he’s just kind of read the Book of Mormon on his own. He’s not a member of any Restorationist church, but he believes it is the word of God.

Have you heard of the African Theory?  What are your thoughts of Nahom and Nephi’s harbor?  Check out our conversation….

Rick B discusses Middle Eastern, internal, and African Book of Mormon geography theories!

Don’t miss my previous conversation with Steve Pynakker!

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559: Gutting Pioneer Temple History

558: Mormon Historians’ Community

557: Future of Mormon History

556: Are Faith & Intellect Compatible?

555: Why Start Gospel Tangents?

554: Difference between Evangelicals & Protestants

553:  Background on Rick

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