Some of the most interesting evidences pointing to Book of Mormon authenticity comes from the Arabian Peninsula, where we see that numerous details in First Nephi correspond with the actual geography of that distant land. Contrary to common assumptions throughout this century, Arabia offers far more variety than just endless sand dunes. In fact, it offers places that appear to be outstanding candidates for the River Laman, the Valley Lemuel, the fertile zone of Shazer, the ancient burial place Nahom, and the delightful site Bountiful, all in plausible locations based on the text. And you can find these places by going to the Middle East and using the Book of Mormon as a guide, as George Potter and others have done. There is simply no way Joseph Smith or anyone in the United States in 1830 could have fabricated those details – such as the south-southeast direction toward Nahom, followed by nearly due east to Bountiful. Any attempt to fabricate details of such a journey would likely have led to numerous absurdities that become more ridiculous the more we learned, such as giving directions that would lead the family through the Empty Quarter while the text described one oasis after another.
And now you can use satellite maps to explore some of the rough details of the Arabian Peninsula to better appreciate Lehi’s journey. I have received email from K.C. Kern (the man behind KCKern.com – a very interesting site) showing the results of his explorations with Google Maps. Of course, this resource does not offer the resolution needed to see the same dramatic details found in the photography of In the Footsteps of Lehi by Warren P. Aston and Michael K. Aston (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Comp., 1994) or Lehi in the Wilderness by George Potter and Richard Wellington (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, Inc., 2003), but it’s a great way to get a feel for the lay of the land and the plausibility of Lehi’s route.
Here’s an excerpt from the email by K.C. Kern, used with permission:
I have something you might consider using on your site.
Based on my best research, through Google Maps, I’ve located some major points on the Arabian peninsula that map Lehi’s trail.
It could provide your visitors with some hands-on interactive experiences with Lehi’s journey, as well as a “see for yourself”-type thing.
Here they are:
Valley of Lemuel
[Update, Aug. 21, 2020: The location linked to is not the best candidate for Shazer. Rather, the site of Wadi esh Sharma further to the north and closer to the River Laman is a superior candidate and the probable location based on the latest fieldwork of Warren Aston. See my post, “Warren Aston’s Search for Shazer: Another Breakthrough for the Arabian Peninsula Evidence for the Book of Mormon.”]
Wadi Sayq (Bountiful 1)
Dhofar (Bountiful 2)
Let me know what you think. Any additional suggestions are also welcome.
I especially enjoyed looking at the patterns of the sand dunes in the large Empty Quarter section northeast of Nahom and the smaller section southeast of Nahom. Turning due east from much above or below Nahom (also known as Nehhem on a map at the University of Sana’a, and the area associate with the ancient tribe of Nihm) would have resulted in wading across vast stretches of sand, with little hope of survival. Thank goodness Lehi’s group had the Liahona and knew where to turn (or, for those who consider the Book of Mormon to be a fraud, thank goodness Joseph had access to an early beta version of Google Earth and could select a route that made topographical sense).
Today, Google Earth. Tomorrow, Google Kolob? Sign me up as a beta tester.