“Lehi Took His Family and Provisions and Tents and Departed into the Wilderness”

Alan C. Miner

George Potter and Richard Wellington note that some have suggested that Lehi was in the caravan business because Lehi had tents (1 Nephi 2:4) and camels. However, this would also be the case for most wealthy men in ancient Palestine (1 Nephi 3:25). Ownership of tents seems to have been very common amongst the descendants of Lehi also (for example, see Mosiah 2:5, 6) yet they were neither nomads nor long distance travelers. The wealthy families of Palestine maintained vineyards and pasture lands some distance from the city where their urban homes were located. An example of this form of commerce is the parable of the householder who planted a vineyard in a far off place (Matthew 21:33-34). Householders, such as the house of Lehi, would have required tents ad camels for these operations. Even if Lehi had no provincial vineyards or pastures, he could have simply gone to the camel and tent markets and acquired these items on demand. To this day every sizeable town in the Middle East still has a camel market and a “souk” (market) where traditional goat hair tents can be purchased.

The text of the Book of Mormon seems to bring up a few things which put into question the idea that Lehi and his sons were anything but professional desert haulers:

1. While according to Middle Eastern tradition sons are trained in the occupation of the father, Laman and Lemuel are constantly murmuring and become convinced that they will perish i the wilderness (1 Nephi 2:11)

2. Contrary to a seasoned caravan captain, Lehi began “to murmur against the Lord” (1 Nephi 16:20) in times of difficulty.

3. Caravans did not take eight years to travel the frankincense trail.

4. During certain parts of the journey they became lost.

[George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering Nephi’s Trail, Chapter 4, p. 7, Unpublished]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary