The following article is being posted here as an indication of the willingness of this website to hear all sides of a question. - RP, webmaster



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 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]"!

          We can even identify tentatively the general landing place of the Mulekites on the western coast of North America, where we find a name consisting of Hebrew 'or' ("city"), 'noam' ("beauty") and 'chalaph' ("renewal"): a beautiful new city-location where the refugees could find renewal: Calif-or-nia!


          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)

Please continue here for more information about the author and my rebuttal to this article.