Wrong Way Sailing by the Jaredites, Mulek, and Lehi?



By L. Dwayne Samuelson


          The journey of Lehi's tiny band to the promised land in the ship which they had built under divine direction is covered only very briefly in the sacred record: they set forth upon the sea at 1 Nephi 18:8 and arrive 15 short verses later at 18:23. The only detailed information about the voyage is the struggle for authority between Nephi and his two older brothers, and the problems with the Liahona (the divine compass) caused by their rebelliousness. One would like to know what path these divinely-led pilgrims followed, but the sacred record is silent. We can only assume that their route was eastward from Arabia to the western shore of the Americas.

          Now, however, as a result of linguistic, sociological and archaeological research, we are able to offer preliminary indications to answer that question, a ground-breaking work to follow upon the classic study Lehi In The Desert by Dr. Hugh Nibley. We now believe that we can follow Lehi's exact route across the Pacific, using similar techniques which have turned up those places in Arabia which bear unmistakable traces of Lehi's journey on the land leg of his long trek to America.

          Even though the text of the Book of Mormon does not mention land encounters with Arabian inhabitants, scholars at BYU and FARMS have found evidence confirming Lehi's presence there, in the burial place "NHM" (mentioned in the Book of Mormon at 1 Nephi 16:34), and in the people who adopted the name "Lihy-ites", obviously converted to Judaism by the Prophet Lehi as he traveled among them.

          So, too, similar traces of Lehi's journeyings can be found all across the Pacific, allowing us to plot his journey with great precision.

          It will be helpful in following this discussion if the reader would have at hand a detailed map of southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean.

Lehi's Route Across the Pacific

          The Lehi party undoubtedly had sufficient supplies on board, including drinking water, to avoid the necessity of a landfall in India. But after crossing the Bay of Bengal they did come ashore on an island in the group which still bears the name they must have given it, the Andaman Islands, practically identical with the name given to Father Adam's home, Adam Ondi-Ahman. (See D&C 78:15, 107:53-57, 116:1) No non-Mormon scholar has been able to explain how that ancient American name came to be the name of islands in the Bay of Bengal. Lehi obviously knew the name, and bestowed it on these islands in gratitude for God's leading them there for provisions. It must truly have seemed to them like the Garden of Eden where Father Adam dwelt!

          We can follow Lehi's party as they sail somewhat south, passing the opening to the Strait of Malacca (more about that later!) to follow the southern coast of Sumatra. The name of this large island was probably chosen to reflect the loyalty of Sam to his brother Nephi and Sam's defense of Nephi against the rebellious Laman and Lemuel, since the name appears to be compounded from the name "Sam" and the Hebrew word 'athar' meaning "to entreat, urge". It is probable that somewhere on or near this island Sam entreated the older brothers to obey Nephi. Thus the name means "Sam entreated [here]".

          The next island they would have encountered, just east from Sumatra, is Java, obviously named by the Lehite party after their God Jehovah. It is likely that Lehi worshiped here, and legends on this island speak of ancient visitors who built altars and worshiped different gods, and then left. The name of the largest city on the island, Jakarta or Djakarta, still reflects this, being made up of 'Jehu' ("Jehovah") and the Hebrew word 'karath' meaning "to covenant." It is likely, then, that this city is built at the spot where Lehi and his party renewed their covenants with Jehovah.

          Following the coast eastward to the next island, we again find Lehi's steps, since the name of the island is Timor, which is obviously the Hebrew word 'timmorah', meaning "palm tree," for the numerous palm trees Lehi found there.

          From Timor the party followed the southern coast of Papua (New Guinea), the name of which is probably from the Hebrew words 'po' meaning "there, on the other side" and 'puach' meaning to "blow, bring into a snare." It is likely that crossing the Arafura Sea they had trouble with stormy winds and may have been stranded "there". At the eastern tip of Papua is a place called "Samarai," again probably indicating the exact spot where the Lehites made landfall, the name being a combination of Sam (Lehi's son) and Hebrew 'ar' ("city").

          We next find traces of the Lehites in the Solomon Islands. Historians have traditionally assumed that the name was given by a Spanish explorer who later discovered the islands. But it is just as likely that the Spaniard learned the name from the natives, who remembered it from Lehi's visit, when he named the islands after the great king of Israel.

          The next stop for the Lehites was clearly Fiji. They were probably forced to land there because of storms at sea, since the name of Fiji's largest city and present capital is "Suva" which is clearly the Hebrew word 'suphah' meaning "storm, whirlwind."

          The tiny island of Niuafo'ou, between Fiji and Samoa, was probably named after Nephi. The similarity is obvious.

          Moving eastward to Samoa, the Lehi group left a lasting influence here. First, in the name of the island group - again honoring Lehi's son Sam - with the rest of the name probably from Hebrew 'ohel' meaning "tent, tabernacle." Thus it is likely that here was a temporary resting place called "Sam's tents." More significant is the strong favorable reception which the Gospel has received here, ever since LDS missionaries first visited the islands, obviously because of the Samoans' dim recollections of the teachings of the great prophet from Jerusalem while among their ancestors. The name of the Samoan town of Apia is probably from Hebrew 'aph' ("also") and 'jehu' ("Jehovah"), thus having the meaning "also [here] is Jehovah!".

          Leaving Samoa the Lehites stopped at Bora Bora in the Society Islands, the first large island of the group (the largest is Tahiti). This was obviously a stop primarily for replenishing their supply of drinking water (we can surmise that God had revealed to them the vast distance of ocean remaining in which no islands would be easily found), since the name consists of two Hebrew words which sound almost identical in Hebrew, 'bor' (beth, resh) meaning "clean, pure" and 'bor' (beth, vav, resh) meaning "well, cistern". Thus this island, too, has a Hebrew name, meaning "pure well [of water]"!

          From the Tahiti to America is largely empty ocean, and Lehi's group obviously could not leave such obvious traces there as in the more western islands. It would be mere speculation to assume that the island Morane several hundred miles SSE of Tahiti was a stopping place, the name being adopted by the Lehites, to appear at the end of their history as "Moroni." One could also speculate that Peru's name is from the root of the Hebrew word 'perudoth' ("seeds") and reflects the joy of the group when landing there to find abundant usable plants. The name of Lima may be an echo of the name of Lemuel, a Hebrew name meaning "belonging to God."

The Route of the Mulekites

          We now turn our attention to another group of Jewish refugees who also made their way to America at about the same time as Lehi, the Mulekites. They were discovered by Mosiah (Omni 1:14) several centuries after their arrival. Even less is known about their history or their journey to America. But now, using the same methodology that showed us Lehi's path across the Pacific, we can also trace Mulek's route!

          From Arabia the Mulekites probably followed approximately the same route as Lehi, to the western point of Sumatra. At that point the Mulekites obviously took the more northerly route along the northern coast, since that passage is known as the Strait of Malacca, with the town of Malacca on its northern shore (probably a landing place of the Mulekites).

          We can also assume that the Mulekites made a landing on Celebes Island, since its name is the Hebrew word 'keleb' meaning "dog" - perhaps because of the dogs found there. Or could it be that the Mulekites named the island after the star Kolob, near where God lives?

          We can assume that the Mulekites turned north from Celebes into the Molucca Sea - the name similarities are astonishing! - and headed across the ocean, probably landing on the island of Mokil and naming it (later corrupted from the original "Mulek" by a very common and well-known phonetic transformation process). It is possible that they made a landing on Tarawa, since that is the Hebrew word 'teruah' meaning "joyful noise" or "trumpet sound." They then continued on to present-day Hawaii, where they again left their mark in place names. "Hawaii" is clearly a shortening of "Je-howah". "Oahu" is another version of the same name of God. And - the crowning piece of evidence: the island Molokai is obviously named after Zedekiah's son Mulek!

          The two highest mountains in the Hawaiian Islands are Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, believed by the natives to be the dwelling place of the gods. Clearly, the names are from Hebrew 'maon' meaning "dwelling place, habitation." "Loa" is obviously a corruption and shortening of the Hebrew word for "god, gods", 'eloi, elohim' so that Mauna Loa literally means in Hebrew "dwelling place of the gods"! Since Mauna Kea is an active volcano, its name is from the Hebrew word 'kehah' meaning "darkness, smoking." Mauna Kea thus is Hebrew for "smoking dwelling place [of the gods]"!


          The Hebrew origin of so many names in southeast Asia and across the Pacific can have only one explanation: that Hebrew-speaking peoples were at one time there and gave names to the places they visited. History knows no such visits except the peoples described in the Book of Mormon!

          Especially striking, in comparing these two routes, is how clear each one is, in its own way. No "Lehi" names are found on Mulek's route, and no "Mulek" names are found on Lehi's route. Thus, each one confirms the other. And each route places its travelers precisely where the record says they landed: Lehi in the "land southward" and Mulek in the "land northward" (Helaman 6:10).

          No skeptic, of course, will be convinced. The real power of the Book of Mormon to convince is through the spirit, not through maps and placenames. (See Moroni 10:4)

Who is L. Dwayne Samuelson?

The article "Lehi In the Pacific" is pure bunk.

I happen to know this, because I wrote it. I made it up.

There is no such person as "L. Dwayne Samuelson." If there is, I apologize to him for using his name.

I wrote the article in about four hours, using nothing but maps of southeast Asia and the Pacific and a good dictionary of biblical Hebrew.

"WHY?" you may ask....

My purpose was to show how easy it is to construct "evidence" for the Book of Mormon from superficial similarities in words and names, such as Mormon apologists continue to do. I submit that my phoney correspondences between various names in my article are just as convincing and just as valid as those proposed by the scholars at FARMS and BYU. Knowing that my article is a spoof, I am sure they would find many valid objections to my methodology and my evidence. But their (valid) objections to my "evidences" are the same objections any scholar would justifiably raise against their claims about "Nehem" and the "people of Lihy."

Do the "amazing similarities" I present in my article prove that the Book of Mormon is true? Of course not! The Book of Mormon is still a fictional work of the 19th century. It is not history.

I have no doubt, however, that some Mormons reading this article will accept it as genuine proof that the Book of Mormon is historical.

Comments? (Please, no preaching, testimonies, or hate mail!) Write:  packham@teleport.com

©  2005 Richard Packham    Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included


Mormons, Mayans and Mystery

The Book of Mormon's version of history continues to be challenged - and championed - by skeptics and faithful

By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune

LDS biologist Trent Stephens thinks he may have triggered the change in the Book of Mormon's introduction that became public last week.

Stephens' efforts came after a lifetime of hearing Mormon leaders and members talk in glowing terms about the link between American Indians and the Book of Mormon's small band of Israelites who sailed from Jerusalem to establish a civilization in the Americas. After centuries of warring among themselves, the book says, the last ones standing were known as "Lamanites."

To the LDS faithful, Lamanites were real people with a real history.

Every Mormon prophet since the church's founding in 1830 has taught that Indians descended from Lamanites. The perceived link explains the church's initial outreach to Indians in the northeast and later in Utah. It is why the church created an Indian Placement Program, urging members in the 1950s to care for those they saw as part of their religious family. Mormon missionaries working in Central and South America have always told potential converts the Book of Mormon is their ancestors' story.

Sometime in the past decade, Stephens learned about DNA evidence suggesting American Indian origins were in Siberia, not the Middle East. It was no crisis of faith for Stephens, a former Mormon bishop and Idaho State University professor. He found lots of ways to explain the discrepancy.

Besides, Book of Mormon text makes no claims about lineage. The book's 1981 introduction was the only text that said "Lamanites were the principal ancestors of American Indians," and that could be changed.

On March 23, 2004, Stephens told his LDS stake president in Pocatello that critics were using DNA evidence against the book, pointing to the introduction's wording. The leader recognized the problem and took it to the LDS Area Authorities, who took it to the LDS Missionary Committee in Salt Lake City.

Sometime last year, LDS authorities instructed Doubleday, which published the only unofficial version of the Book of Mormon, to change its introduction to read: "Lamanites were among the ancestors of the American Indians."

The move didn't satisfy critics, such as Simon Southerton, a former Mormon excommunicated for the arguments in his book, Losing a Lost Tribe: DNA, Native Americans and the Mormon Church.

"The change raises more pressing questions for those seeking the truth. If science was right all along about the dominant Siberian ancestry of American Indians, are they also right about the timing of their entry?" Southerton wrote in an e-mail from his home in Australia. "There is abundant evidence, some now coming from the DNA research, that their Siberian ancestors arrived over 12,000 years ago. How does such a date fit with other LDS beliefs?"

DNA is not the only challenge to the Book of Mormon's version of history.

Mormon founder Joseph Smith said the book was written in "Reformed Egyptian," which he claimed to translate from the writings on gold pates he unearthed in Upstate New York. Non-Mormon scholars have never heard of such a language and wonder why Jews would use the language of their oppressors rather than Hebrew to record their sacred history.

The book mentions metals, elephants, horse-drawn chariots, wheat, and barley - all of which had yet to be discovered in Meso or South America during the scripture's time period, 2200 B.C. to 400 A.D. Critics see no sign of Book of Mormon kings, no palaces or tombs, no mention of important names from the scripture, no site of the book's final battle that included thousands, if not millions of soldiers.

Non-Mormon archaeologists take the whole thing "as a complete fantasy, that this is a big waste of time," said Michael Coe, an emeritus professor of Mesoamerican studies at Yale, in last spring's PBS documentary "The Mormons."

"Nothing can ever come out of it because it's just impossible that this could have happened, because we know what happened to these people. We can read their writings: They're not in reformed Egyptian; they're in Maya."

Mormon scholars at Brigham Young University's Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and at FAIR (The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research), though, think they have an answer for every critique. They've spent decades collecting relevant pieces of archaeological, geographical and linguistic evidence to prove it.
Finding correspondence: For the past 55 years, John Sorenson has inhaled every detail of Book of Mormon life and history. It was Sorenson who first proposed that the scripture's action likely took place in Guatemala and southern Mexico, rather than encompassing both North and South America. This idea, known as the limited geography thesis, better explained the book's description of a "narrow neck of land" and the Land Northward and Southward, and helped solve some of the earlier archaeological challenges and is now the consensus view.

Sorenson, 83, retired from BYU's anthropology department about 21 years ago but still comes every day to the school's Museum of Peoples and Cultures. He is completing what he says will be his final work, tentatively titled, The Mormon Codex.

"The intent will be to show that only a Mesoamerican native from about fourth century A.D. would have known enough to write what's in the Book of Mormon," Sorenson said. "I have hundreds of correspondences between the [Mormon] text and archaeology. I will put down the most persuasive, cogent ones of those with the aim to demonstrate that it was written by an eyewitness in Mesoamerica."

Metals were used much earlier than most archaeologists believe, for example, and 50 purported horse bones have been found, some of which may be old enough to fit the scripture's time frame, he said.

Then there's the question of naming.

"We are dealing with the names, horse, cattle, goat, and sheep, but that's in English," Sorenson said. "There are a variety of animals native to the Americas that could qualify as bearing those names."

To find clues, Sorenson has poured over Mesoamerican scholarship and matched it with Old World findings, suggesting a connection between the two.

Sorenson belongs to a renegade group of anthropologists known as "diffusionists," who believe numerous voyages carried people and animals to the New World. Last year, he collaborated with Carl L. Johannessen, a non- Mormon geographer at the University of Oregon on a paper, "Biological Evidence for Pre-Columbian Transoceanic Voyages." In it, they cited 99 plant species that appeared in both the old and new worlds before the Spaniards' arrival.

Such views are scorned by most conventional archaeologists, Sorenson said, but it doesn't deter him.

"I don't have time to wait for it all to become clearer to everyone else," he said. "I need to publish everything I've learned."
On the ground: While Sorenson and the Maxwell Institute are careful about declaring a certain site to correspond directly to a Book of Mormon city or story, Joseph L. Allen is more confident.

Allen, a retired teacher in the LDS Church Educational System with a doctorate in Mayan studies, has been leading Book of Mormon tours for 40 years. He has taken more than 200 trips to Guatemala and southern Mexico with groups eager to walk where scriptures say important episodes happened.

More than 80 percent of the book's action takes place between the Land of Nephi and Zarahemla, which are described as being about 30 days of travel apart, or some 250 miles, he said. "It is a small area."

Allen believes the book's final battle took place in Veracruz, Mexico, not in New York where Smith said he found the plates. He sees many connections between the Mayan civilization and Nephites and Lamanites. He see the myth of Quetzequatl, the white god who appeared in the Americas, as a possible link to the Book of Mormon tale of Jesus Christ appearing in the New World after his resurrection.

"We've learned more in last 30 years about the history and geography of the Book of Mormon than in previous 170 years," Allen said. "The best days of this research are still ahead of us."

Despite such enthusiasm, Allen knows it is not archaeology that persuades readers to believe in the scripture's authenticity - it is faith.

"When all is said and done," he said, "it's a spiritual book."

That's why Stephens, the Idaho biologist, works so hard to explain the lack of DNA evidence for Lamanites.

He sees a parallel between the Mormon text and the Bible.

Biblical writers viewed themselves as the stars on God's center stage, a favored people. To everyone else at the time, the Hebrew prophets and people were little more than a footnote in the epic histories playing out around them.

Though some biblical names, places and episodes have been identified by archaeologists, scientists have not found any hard evidence that the Exodus of Israelites from Egypt even took place.

The same could be true of the Book of Mormon, said Stephens, co-author with Jeff Meldrum of Who are the Children of Lehi: Lamanite Identity, DNA and Native American Origins, is due out later this year.

"It tells the story of a small group of people among a lot of other groups who were largely unaware of this tiny colony," he said. "How small would a subpopulation have to be before it would be completely missed?"

On top of that, Stephens doesn't believe every group arrived via the Bering Strait.

"To think that over a 30,000 year history, every hominid came in one single migration over a few year period is ridiculous," he said. "There's an arrogant naiveté about how accessible the Americas were before Columbus."

Mormons, too, have their own arrogance, he said.

The revised wording in the Book of Mormon's introduction "should cause members to rethink their perspective on Native American traditions," Stephens said." I do think it will change people's minds, but it will take it a long time."