You can read 1 Nephi 17:5-8 here.
Context and General Information
- After traveling in the desert wilderness, Nephi and his family arrived at a land that they called Bountiful. It had fruit and honey. It was also next to a see that they called “Irreantum,” meaning “many waters.”
- They pitched their tents near the seashore. Despite their many afflictions, when they arrived at the seashore, they rejoiced. They named the place Bountiful because of its many fruits. They were happy to reach this point.
- After being in the land of Bountiful for many days, the Lord told Nephi to go up to the mountain. Nephi obeyed and prayed to the Lord in the mountain.
- The Lord commanded Nephi to construct a ship (the Lord would show him how to do it), so that they could cross the sea.
- Nephi’s immediate response was one of humility – he asked the Lord where to find ore so that he could make the tools he would need to make the ship.
First of all, I don’t want to take much time writing about it, but there is a really interesting article written by Warren P. Aston and published by the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies here. This article talks about the probable location of Bountiful (in modern-day Yemen). There are also many pictures of the landscape there. This spot – Bountiful – is an anomaly on the Arabian Peninsula. It is no question that the Lord was directing Lehi and his family.
If you choose to read the article, you will find that this part of Yemen has a lot of rain from monsoons. This fresh water supports many trees. There is an abundance of sycamore fig, tamarind, and date palm trees in the area. There is also a mountain nearby. And there are cliffs (the ones that Laman and Lemuel probably wanted to push Nephi off of!)
There were also big trees there – capable of being used to build a ship.
Anyway – I just found this article interesting, and it helps to visualize the landscape where Nephi and his family found themselves.
There is also a great blog here with a lot of pictures of the area. I wish I had pictures, but I don’t really want to violate someone else’s copyright on their own private pictures, so you can get a nice sense of the area if you look at their blog post.
For several years I lived in Phoenix, Arizona. Though it isn’t the Arabian Peninsula, Arizona is most definitely the desert. When I think of Nephi and his family traveling through the “wilderness,” I try to visualize them journeying through a landscape similar to that of Arizona and southeastern California (the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, respectively).
I lived in Arizona – with irrigation, a pool and air conditioning! And yet, I get it – it’s HOT! Haha! Sometimes hot doesn’t even begin to describe Arizona in the summer. (and late spring and early fall!). In fact, I moved away from Arizona three years ago, and I haven’t felt hot since!
But the heat is consuming. I remember one of my first experiences in the Arizona sun and heat. I had just moved there from Pennsylvania. It was June, actually. And I left my sneakers in the car. No big deal.
I went to get my sneakers out of the car, and something wasn’t right. They were funny. The glue in the sneakers had melted! My sneakers were falling apart! I hadn’t even imagined such a problem. I learned then never to leave anything in the car. It will melt! The heat and sun would warp CDs, melt shoes, and one of my friends even baked a batch of cookies in her car. (She did it on purpose. She put a cookie sheet with 12 blobs of cookie dough on her dashboard during church. Afterwards – fresh, warm, baked cookies! A perk of being in AZ in the summer, I guess!
But I imagine this heat, and then I try to imagine being in Nephi’s group – traveling in the desert heat of the Arabian Peninsula.
You’ve heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder? It’s something that happens in the winter – where you feel a bit depressed because you haven’t seen the sun in so long. Well, there is another variation of that in AZ. We got 330+ days of sun in AZ. You never long for the sun.
But in September, when it is still over 100º and you are just sick of the heat, you get a little angry. I’m talking a bit of low-level rage. It’s just there.
Or, in July, when you turn on the news and see the forecast, (This actually happened to me one day) and it says that the high is 117º you get angry. Not low level-rage, but legit crazy! This is when I realized why the Middle East is such a hornet’s nest – it’s TOO HOT!!! The heat has gotten to their heads and made them angry. Let’s stop warring and just send over A.C.s for everyone!!!!! (I’m not trying to make light…I’m just saying – that it gets sooooo hot.)
And THIS is what Nephi and his family were journeying through.
Thankfully, AZ winters are great. Maybe it took Lehi and his family so long to venture through the wilderness because of the intense heat of summer. Maybe they spent more of their time traveling during the winter? Who knows. All I know is, based on my time in AZ (which I actually truly loved it there), I can’t imagine the affliction that Nephi and his family faced. I can’t imagine having children there. I can’t imagine being in that intense sun, day in day out – only tents as shelter.
I can’t imagine the thirst.
And after all of this traveling, they make it to a land – filled with fresh water!, fruit, honeybees, trees (shade!!!!! Quick side note – in AZ, when you are looking for a parking spot, you don’t pay much attention to the first few rows of parking spots. Instead, everyone is vying for the spot that is under a tree. I never loved shade more than I did when I was in AZ).
I imagine that if I was in Nephi’s family, and I had been traveling through the wilderness, then made it to Bountiful, I imagine that I’d figure that Bountiful was the promised land!
I don’t know their situation. Maybe the Liahona made it clear that Bountiful was not their promised land. Maybe they understood that Bountiful was a respite before one last push – another “desert” experience of another type (the ocean is a desert with its life underground and the perfect disguise above…). I’m not sure if they knew this or not.
But one day, Nephi receives the command to get up the mountain, and there the Lord tells him this.
” And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters.” – 1 Nephi 17:8
“And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?” – 1 Nephi 17:9
This response garners a lot of admiration for Nephi. Often, I hear people say (and I’ve said it myself) – Wow! Nephi didn’t know how to build a boat, but he doesn’t even say that! He just asks, “Where can I get the ore to make the tools.” He is so obedient!
And yes, he is so obedient. He doesn’t murmur that he doesn’t have the experience building ships.
However, there is another reason why I admire Nephi by this response. I think that I might have said, “Build a ship?! But look at where we are! Isn’t this the promised land?!?!?! It’s Bountiful! We’re still going?!?!?! We’ve been at this eight years! Bountiful is good enough for me!”
Of course Nephi is wiser and more faithful than I am. And I’m so grateful for his example. Because of this experience that he has shared with us through the Book of Mormon, I’ve been blessed when I’ve reached “Bountiful” points in my life – points that were a blessing and respite, but they weren’t the end of the journey.
Bountiful was bountiful, but it was not the promised land.
I think that we all have these “Bountiful” experiences in our lives.
We travel and wade through “much affliction” during the wilderness of our lives. We may not be perfect. (We AREN’T perfect), but we are trying our best. We endure.
And then, we make it! We make it to the land of Bountiful…except it looks an awful lot like “the Promised land.” We have rest. We have ample blessings that we were missing out on for so long. We have “fruit, honey, and shade.”
And while we revel in these blessings, we get a message from the Lord, “time to prepare to move on….” We find that Bountiful isn’t our promised land, but we have to build a ship and then do the impossible – cross the sea!
The impossible after what already seemed impossible (going through that desert)!
The trial isn’t over.
We can learn from Nephi because his story is done, and hindsight is 20/20. Though we don’t have hindsight on our own trials, we do have it on his. We know that yes, Nephi will construct a ship. And yes, it will sail across the ocean. Yes, he will make it to the promised land. And that promised land will be exponentially more bountiful than Bountiful.
We can then apply the hindsight of Nephi’s experience to our own lives. When we reach the “bountiful” of our lives, we can rejoice in the blessings of Bountiful while we gear up for the next phase of trial.
Instead of focusing on that “deep sea” we face, we can focus on what comes after the sea – the promised land.
With this, when we hear the command of the Lord, to build a ship so we can cross the deep waters, we won’t get upset. We won’t plead with the Lord to stay in Bountiful. We, instead, will be like Nephi and ask where we can go to find the ore to make the tools.
We will trust God, implicitly. Understanding that His promises are sure, and if Bountiful is good, then imagine how good the promised land will be!!!!!!