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Through the Arabian Desert to a Bountiful Land: Could Joseph Smith Have Known the Way?

TitleThrough the Arabian Desert to a Bountiful Land: Could Joseph Smith Have Known the Way?
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1982
AuthorsEngland, Eugene
EditorReynolds, Noel B.
Book TitleBook of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins
PublisherReligious Studies Center
CityProvo, UT
KeywordsArabia; Book of Mormon Authorship; Bountiful (Old World); Lehi (Prophet)

There is an obvious test for the claim that the Book of Mormon is an ancient document: (1) determine if the details of geography, culture, language, literature, etc., are actually true to the ancient places and peoples it claims to be describing, and then (2) find out if those details could reasonably have been known in 1830 when it was published. In other words, it may have been possible for an early nineteenth-century American who was uncommonly imaginative and coherent in his thinking to produce a reasonable, even captivating, fiction about an emigration of sixth-century B.C. Hebrews across essentially unknown Arabia and the Pacific Ocean and about their development as a culture in America. But if the story claims to be literally true, it must hold up against all the subsequent 150 years of detailed scientific explorations and linguistic study of these areas and cultures. In this essay I will look only at the route taken by the Book of Mormon emigrants from Jerusalem across Arabia to the sea, testing the hypothesis that Joseph Smith, or one of his contemporaries, made up the account of that journey on the basis of information available in the 1820s.