The Story Behind the Discovery of “Nahom” in the Book of Mormon – With Kent Brown – powered by Happy Scribe
I want to talk about Nahom. It’s one of those names which occurs in other text and is sort of plopped into the story of Lehi and Sariah and their traveling party almost with a dare find this place. Well, it has been found and in fact, its discovery has been called the first archeological proof of the Book of Mormon. Let me talk a bit about how this came about. My wife and I were subscribers to a magazine called Remco World. And this magazine would arrive with wonderful stories about the Middle East of ancient and modern, and on one occasion in late 1997, I was reading an article on a on an exhibit that was showing in Paris at the time.
This exhibit included ancient Yemen artifacts. And in one of the photographs was featured in the article, I could see a votive altar. What drew my attention was the architecture in miniature. There are tiny steps there, inset windows, there are select tight formations decorating the bottom of the roof and so on. The reason that I was interested in that is because in Lehi, in Lehi’s dream, he calls the building that he saw the great and spacious building.
Strange, though, it’s not the only thing he calls strange in his dream. He also called certain paths and roads strange. And it occurred to me that that he thought the building’s strange, at least partly because of its architecture.
He came from a place, Jerusalem, which had architectural influences both from Babylon to the east and from Egypt to the south west. And there would have been circles like in building materials, like pillars and so on. But everything in Saudi Arabia is square, everything comes to right ankle. And so I thought perhaps Lihi, some strange architecture, so. I wrote to Paris to the exhibit and give her exhibit host and ordered a. Catalog and this book arrived in the mail on ancient Yemen, that was the exhibit, its first showing was in Paris.
Then it was to go to Madrid, eventually end up in London and even be shown in Washington, D.C.. When the catalog arrived, I, of course, was interested in the pieces that showed architectural features. So I found a series of altar’s there called Votive Altar’s because they were carved. By a donor had been carved and then he would give this alter to a temple. So I had my camera right down next to the page with macro lens on it, and I was taking photographs of different alters and I thought I should read what the excavator says.
The excavator was Burckhardt forked. The German archeologist. So I read his thing. This is a limestone altar from the 7th and 6th century B.C.. And around the top, there was an inscription, Brandt, where the donor wrote his name, his father’s name, grandfather’s name and tribal name and the occasion. On which he gave the altar to the temple. Well, the temple stands just outside the ancient capital and still modern city of Ma’rib, of the Sybian Kingdom, ancient Sybian Kingdom.
It was a capital that that kingdom. So I began to read BSR, it’s so hard to know on the might. On the occasion, gave the altar and a person to the temple. So obviously he’s. This donor has given a person to the temple be a permanent fixture, a permanent servant, a permanent helper, kind of like Samuel’s mother, Hannah, did for him when he was just young. Well, I’m a little slow. It took a while.
But about. 30 minutes later, it dawned on me that I had just read the word known as a tribal name in ancient Semitic languages, you deal with language not written with vowels, but only with consonants. So the name not home in first Nephi Chapter 16, the place of Ishmael’s Death and Beharry, who was written in the text and H. M. I know it’s spelled in English and H o m, but that’s the modern rendition of this, that Joseph Smith dictated that at base, it’s in a gym and I just read those same letters as the name of a tribe, which it turns out gave its name to a certain geographical area in South Arabia.
Well, I thought, um, so here’s an altar carved in sometime in the seventh hyphen, six centuries B.C..
Exactly when Lihi and here were on the road. And it preserves a name from South Arabia in the approximate place that we would expect it. Um, so. I started to write, I wrote an article, I sent it over to the editor of the Journal of Mormon studies this issue, which is number eight. Issue eight, No. One. So I send it over to John Sorenson, who was then the editor, I included words like maybe he perhaps possibly those kinds of words not being.
We need to pushy about reaching any conclusion. He sent it back almost immediately and said, get rid of all those words, let’s be more definite. So in this issue of the journal The Book of Mormon studies in the back. Sandwiched between an article on the so-called Lihi Cave in south Israel, southern Israel and an article on the 10th and transcript. SAT my little piece, the place which was called Naho. New light from Arabia. So that’s where it began, it was published and those who read the article and knew the issue sensed immediately that in the name of the tribe, we now had confirmation of the name that Nephi parks in his narrative.
That felt pretty good, I must say. But there is a second story associated with this. It took a while, but. People who don’t like The Book of Mormon, who think it’s a fraud and so on, finally got around to mounting another explanation. Well, it couldn’t possibly be that Joseph Smith knew this name through inspiration.
There had to be another way to explain his inserting this name into his narrative. A colleague, Dan Peterson, drew my attention to a blog post.
Where someone had theorized that Joseph Smith had gone to the Dartmouth College Library and found it in one of two publications, this person theorized that when the Smith family was living in Lebanon, New Hampshire, um, and Hiram Joseph’s older brother was a student at.
An academy there that young Joseph, now six or seven, wanders over to the Dartmouth College Library. And there’s also another assumption that he was interested in pre Islamic Arabian geography and another assumption he pulled a couple of books off the shelf when browsing through them, found on maps inside the books, the name Nephi Ham and e h. H m. For a certain spot in ancient here. Then 15 years later, when he’s dictating The Book of Mormon to all of her coutry, he remembers his name and sticks it into the narrative as a place name.
The assumption also is that Joseph Smith can actually go from where his family is living to Dartmouth College. Which is a good piece away several miles away, and that the injury or the weakness of his leg for which he suffered a surgical procedure with no anesthesia, that he somehow, either before or after the surgery, made it over to the college library. All these assumptions. And the reason was that the needed books are currently in Dartmouth’s collection, so they must have been available to Joseph Smith.
So I read this thing and I thought. Has anybody looked at the Excession Records in the library, Excession Records are records that. Are made for books that are received by a library that show the date of receipt. In the library and sort of is the tracker, what happened to them, so I contacted the woman who was the institute teacher at Dartmouth.
She had been in the past an employee of the university. So she knew her way around. I asked her, would you check on these two particular books, books I had in mind? Were written one by Kirsten Niebuhr, a German who had gone to Yemen. In the 18th century, under the sponsorship of the Danish king. It’s been a long time in Yemen. Wrote a couple of books, including maps, and they’re published in German, eventually translated into English before Joseph Smith was born.
And we’re available in the United States, certainly by the time Joseph Smith was a child. The second one was written by a Frenchman in the middle of the 18th century who who are also in a map of Arabia that he drew and inserted into his book, showed the same place name in Arabia, southern Arabia. And that book is also had also been translated into English well before Joseph Smith’s birth. It was available in the United States. Well, this woman did her due diligence, found out that the German.
Book now translated into English had been acquired by the library. Twenty five years after the Smiths had left New Hampshire, the book. Written by the Frenchman, a copy of it was in the Dartmouth Library when the Smiths were living in New Hampshire. But that copy did not possess the map. Instead, several decades later, Davenant library acquired. The translation of the French book with the map. But the Smiths are long gone. In fact, it was close to the time of Joseph Smith’s death.
There’s no way that Joseph could have consulted these four humans, found a name on a map, remembered it and inserted into his text a The Book of Mormon Chapter 16, the first Nephi, verse 34. 15 years later, as a test case, I. A couple of years later, I was at a conference in Providence, Rhode Island, at Brown University, which is one of my alma maters. So I went to the special collections building the John Hay Library on the Brown campus.
And I also consulted the session records, their. Both books Chervin book translated into English, French book translated into English. Both of those were in the collection. But like at Dartmouth, those books did not come into the possession of the Brown Library until decades after they were published and certainly decades after the Smith family had already gone to the West Kirtland. Missouri, VOO, even all the way to Utah, those who had survived, so. The sense that Joseph Smith picked up his name from someplace.
Where he could consult it is simply beyond belief. It’s already well over a century since Joseph Smith wrote those names in his text. Well, what does all this say, a student assistant one three received one threat, received notice from the institute instructor at Dartmouth. That she had consulted Excession Records and that these books were not received until decades after the Smiths were gone from that part of New England. My my student students said, well, we can believe in The Book of Mormon again.
Yes, but more than that, we already knew. The The Book of Mormon holds the word of God, and that’s my witness.