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Book of Mormon/Geography/Old World/The Frankincense Trail
The Frankincense Trail and the Book of Mormon
Question: Does Lehi's journey in the Old World as described in the Book of Mormon coincide with any known routes?
Lehi's journey paralleled the ancient "Frankincense trail," a trade route used in ancient Arabia
Hilton and Hilton noted that Lehi's journey paralleled the ancient "Frankincense trail," a trade route used in ancient Arabia:
The much traveled [Frankincense] trail begins at the coast of modern Oman. From there it goes from ancient waterhole to waterhole throughout the Middle East. We should note that the word trail does not refer to a well-defined, narrow path or roadway, but to a more general route that followed a valley or canyon. The width of the route varied with the geography, ranging from a half mile to up to fifty miles at one point.
Hugh Nibley had already sketched the essentials of the route in the 1950s, pointing out Joseph Smith's uncanny accuracy in identifying the only plausible route for Nephi, decades before the truth became generally known in the west:
It is obvious that the party went down the eastern and not the western shore of the Red Sea (as some have suggested) from the fact that they changed their course and turned east at the nineteenth parallel of latitude, and "did travel nearly eastward from that time forth," passing through the worst desert of all, where they "did travel and wade through much affliction," and "did live upon raw meat in the wilderness" (1 Nephi 17:1-2). Had the party journeyed on the west coast of the Red Sea, they would have had only water to the east of them at the nineteenth parallel and for hundreds of miles to come. But why the nineteenth parallel? Because Joseph Smith may have made an inspired statement to that effect. He did not know, of course, and nobody knew until the 1930s, that only by taking a "nearly eastward" direction from that point could Lehi have reached the one place where he could find the rest and the materials necessary to prepare for his long sea voyage...
The best western authority on Arabia was thus completely wrong about the whole nature of the great southeast quarter a generation after the Book of Mormon appeared, and it was not until 1930 that the world knew that the country in which Lehi's people were said to have suffered the most is actually the worst and most repelling desert on eart
In Nephi's picture of the desert everything checks perfectly. There is not one single slip amid a wealth of detail, the more significant because it is so casually conveyed.
- Lynn M. Hilton and Hope Hilton, In Search of Lehi's Trail (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 21, (italics in original). ISBN 0877476306. Also published in Ensign 6 (September 1976): off-site and (October 1976): off-site.
- Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988),234–235.