A Visit To The Most Probable Location For Nephi’s Bountiful

When I land at the Salalah, Oman international airport I am greeted with cloudless blue skies, coconut palms, fruit plantations, emerald seas, and a welcoming layer of humidity that sticks to my skin. My pace immediately relaxes and slows down, in step with the locals that coolly go about their day. I amble around dusty ruins and archeological sites that signpost ancient cities and trading ports, and I imagine them filled with noisy camel caravans and merchants restocking their supplies as they continue along the Frankincense Trail. At dusk, when the temperature subsides, women and children emerge from their homes and walk along the soft, sandy coastline. In the evening I visit gold and frankincense souks. I am helped by men wearing dishdashas – simple, ankle-length collarless gowns with long sleeves—and I wonder how, in the heat and dust, they remain so strikingly white. The next morning I set out early, before dawn, energized with the anticipation of my day, the reason I am here.

Traveling west from Salalah the already dry landscape gives way to vast rocky desert that is only punctuated with the occasional frankincense tree or camel. For much of the way, the road hugs the coastline, and the shimmering ocean on my left provides an interesting contrast to the barren desert that stretches endlessly on my right.  After several hours of wrapping my way up and down mountain ranges the barren, dry landscape unexpectedly gives way to shrubbery. Soon, as I approach the coast, this shrubbery gives way to small trees and greenery. I arrive at a small fishing village, and as I drive through the town my car is surrounded by school boys enjoying their lunch break. Their white dishdashas are bright against the earthy tones of the buildings, and they are excited to see my camera. Beyond the school, Dalkut is beguilingly quiet. An old rusted helicopter provides a unique landmark on the beach, and I watch as a man slits the throat of a goat in his backyard. I continue on to the small boat harbor where I find locals sitting in the shade, resting from the noon heat. The seas are flat and calm, and I negotiate for a fisherman to take me the rest of the way.

As we glide over the glassy water dark schools of sardines pass beneath us. The sea is full of life. The coastline is rocky and mountainous until we round the final bend. A khor, or “inlet” appears, bookended by mountains on both sides, leaving a shining ribbon of white sand before me. What I am seeing is the end of a larger wadi, or “valley” that clearly stretches inland through the mountains.  It is now clear to me why, even today, this area remains unpopulated, pristine, and so hard to reach. There is no road access and walking up the valley, which begins ~20 miles inland in the barren desert, is not a tempting option. I have arrived at a lush, green valley, full of trees and vegetation, surrounding a large freshwater lagoon that is fed by natural springs. Cardinally, I am now almost exactly east from altars discovered in Yemen that bear the ancient place name ‘NHM’ – Nahom, now thought to be the actual place where Ismael was buried.

The fishing boat slows down to approach the shore, and I jump out onto the sand. The cool water is refreshing on my feet. To my left, up on a plateau, at the base of a prominent mountain, I will find ancient stone ruins in the shape of buildings. These have never been excavated. In front of me I see groups of date palms, heavy with fruit. To my right, in the distance, I can see a large stone structure, overgrown with weeds. What was it? A lookout? A building? An altar? Behind it, lies a large, shaded cave wall that contains ancient drawings of camels, boats, and an undeciphered language.

Is this it? Is this where Nephi and his family lived? Where they built a ship and launched it into the ocean?

There is everything to recommend this site as Nephi’s bountiful, although no-one knows for sure.

Petra, the Rose-Red City

What is Petra?
Petra is an ancient city in Jordan that is famous for its rock architecture and water conduit system. It was established around the 6th century BC by the Nabataeans. It is Jordan’s most visited tourist attraction, with good reason.

When was Petra rediscovered?
Petra remained unknown to the Western world until 1812. Since then it has been chosen by the BBC as one of the “40 places you have to see before you die.” It has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1985.

Where have you seen Petra before?
Because of its beauty and mystery Petra is often used as a movie location. Perhaps most famously, Petra was featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. More recently, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen filmed scenes here.

How can you visit Petra?
Exploring the ancient city of Petra is an unforgettable experience. In our itinerary ( we allow a full day for you to absorb this site and explore the ruins, buildings, caves, tombs, staircases, and temples. For the energetic, you can climb up to the High Place of Sacrifice or visit the Al Dayr Monestary.

What should you bring?
Bring a hat, sunglasses, your best walking shoes, and of course, a fully-charged camera. Snacks and drinks are sold throughout Petra, and there is also one restaurant.

Since Nephi and his family did not come near Petra on their journey to Bountiful, why are we visiting it?  
Petra was a major trading center and distribution point for the incense trade route which Lehi DID follow from the Valley of Lemuel until they reached Nahom.

Nephi's Criteria for "Bountiful"

What have researches looked for when trying to identify a possible candidate for Nephi's "Bountiful"? Warren Aston suggests that there are 12 different requirements that a viable candidate for Bountiful must meet: 

1. “Nearly eastward” of Nahom.
There is a clear directional link between the locations of Bountiful and Nahom. Bountiful lay “nearly eastward” of Nahom (17:1). Given Nephi’s ability to determine directions in the Old World with considerable accuracy, we should expect that Bountiful must lie very close to the 16th degree north latitude, just as we now know Nahom does. Surprisingly, the clear-cut implications of this most basic and unequivocal scripture continue to be ignored or understated by many LDS writers even now after the location of Nahom bas been clearly established.
2. Accessible from the interior deserts.
Clearly, the terrain had to permit reasonable access from the interior deserts to the coast. Access to the Arabian coast is severely restricted in many places by terrain so rugged that overland travel directly from the interior is simply impossible.
3. The surrounding general area may have been also fertile.
Nephi’s usage of the term “Bountiful” suggests that a wider, general area (17:5, 7) may have enjoyed notable fertility in addition to the particular location where the Lehites initially camped (17:6), making any site without a comparable surrounding fertile area less likely.
4. Bountiful was a sheltered coastal location.
Bountiful, logically on the east coast of Arabia, was a coastal location (17:5), suitable for an initial seashore encampment in tents (17:6) but also with shelter available on higher ground in more substantial dwellings. It had to offer a suitable place for the construction and launching of a sizable ship (18:8). Ships cannot easily be constructed over several years on a beach exposed to monsoon storms and high winds; the ideal location is the shore of a sheltered lagoon or inlet that protects from tides and storms while still allowing ready access to the ocean.
5. “Bountiful” was a fertile area.
The place derives its name from the fact that it was very fertile, notable for its “much fruit” and honey (17:5,6; 18:6) and perhaps small game that could be hunted (18:6). As noted in item 11, the strong likelihood that Bountiful was uninhabited at that time would require that the fruit was not cultivated but growing wild. This immediate availability of “fruit" may explain why no mention is made of the growing of crops at Bountiful by the group – unlike the description of their arrival in the New World (18:24). However, some agricultural and fishing pursuits during the years of their stay at Bountiful are highly likely and would have provided additional food sources. The group’s camels of course could still provide milk, hair, hides and meat throughout their time at Bountiful.
6. Timber was available to build a ship.
Enough timbers of types and sizes to permit building a vessel able to carry several dozen persons and remain seaworthy for about a year were available (18:1,2). Although teak was imported from India for shipbuilding in northern Oman since about the third millennium BC, the clear implication is that this place ”prepared of the Lord” had all the materials needed for the ship without recourse to obtaining timber from elsewhere. The wording of 18:1 conveys the impression that the timber was at hand.
7. Year-round fresh water at the site.
Year-round fresh water at the site is required by the flora described and would also have been necessary for the extended stay required by the group to construct the ship without diverting significant energy and time to carrying it in from elsewhere.
8. A mountain nearby.
A mountain, one prominent enough to justify Nephi’s reference to it as “the mount” (17:7, 18:3) and near enough to the coastal encampment that he could go there to “pray oft” (18:3).
9. Substantial cliffs overlooking the ocean are suggested.
The incident where Nephi’s brothers attempted to take his life by throwing him into the depths of the sea (17:48) makes little sense unless there were substantial cliffs overlooking the ocean from which to throw him. Cliffs typically have rocks at their base from erosion and would constitute a real danger to anyone falling on them from any height, whereas a sand beach would not, especially to a young man described as ”large in stature” (2:16) and “having….much strength” (4:31), regardless of his swimming ability.
10. Ore, from which metal could be smelted to construct tools.
Ore was available in the vicinity (17:9-11, 16), together with some type of flint (verse 11), seemingly near the ore source. Nephi does not specify the metal he used, but a copper or iron alloy are the most likely to make the hatchets, adzes, chisels, twist drills, hammers and so on that would be needed. While it remains possible that he carried some type of flint with him to make fire, the wording suggests that it was available at the location of the ore source.
11. Little or no resident population at that time to contribute tools and manpower to the ship building process.
Despite the attractiveness of the place, the 17th chapter of First Nephi is full of items indicating that Bountiful had little or no resident population at that time that could contribute tools and manpower to the ship building process. A specific revelation from God was required to show Nephi where ore could be found; great effort was then expended by him to fashion his own bellows, locate the ore, smelt it and then manufacture the tools he would need. Such basic items would have been easily obtained by anyone living in, or even near to, a populated seaport where ship construction would have been commonplace. Nephi would also not have had to rely on his brothers to assist him had local labor been available.
Of course, Lehi could also easily have been directed to bring sufficient wealth from his estate in Jerusalem to purchase a ship or commission the building of one had they been headed for a shipbuilding area. Another likely reason that they had to construct their own ship is that no vessels being built in that part of the world were adequate for a journey of the magnitude required.
The continually dissenting Laman and Lemuel seem to have left Bountiful readily enough for a long and dangerous sea voyage, surely their first time on the open sea, when the time came. This tact suggests that there was little at Bountiful either to distract them from assisting Nephi in building the ship or to entice them to remain there. Opportunities for wealth would have surely appealed to them after years of desert privation if Bountiful was in or near a center for trade and would also have given them an easy opportunity to return to their beloved Jerusalem.
It also seems unlikely that Lehi’s group, at such a critical juncture in their journey, would be exposed to the pagan beliefs then prevalent in Arabia but rather that their place, “prepared” of the Lord, may have also been intended to keep them apart from other people. If so, this means that the “fruit” found by the Lehites upon their arrival at Bountiful was uncultivated. Since any water source in Arabia attracts people, this tact requires us to identify good reasons as to why such an attractive place would remain uninhabited.
12. Access to the open ocean for a ship.
Lastly, coastal conditions had to allow access to the open ocean and to suitable winds and currents (18:8, 9) which could carry the vessel seaward most probably in an easterly direction toward the Pacific coast of Central America, favored by most Book of Mormon scholars as Nephi’s landing place. At first glance however, travel in an eastward direction nom the Indian Ocean onwards appears problematic as the prevailing currents and winds generally restrict travel to a westerly direction.
Such a detailed and comprehensive description of a locale is without precedent anywhere in scripture and should encourage those who seek to bring Nephi’s account to life. It is true that, archaeologically, only an inscription could normally definitively establish or ”prove” that a small Israelite group lived briefly at a specific location so long ago. From a scriptural perspective, however, Nephi’s account of the place itself is so specific that human traces are not a necessary prerequisite and establishing plausibility is far from being impossible. The numerous circumstantial evidences embedded in the record kept by Nephi have become an invitation to match the place Bountiful to the real world.

BOOK: In The Footsteps of Lehi

Filled with numerous evidences supporting the journey of Lehi’s family, this book will strengthen your testimony of the Book of Mormon and increase your desire to read the true stories found within its pages. Indeed, the only logical conclusion to the overwhelming evidences conducive to Book of Mormon authenticity is that the author of the book of 1 Nephi was someone who made the journey through Arabia. This book is a will be an excellent addition in any LDS library.

Author Warren Aston is the world authority on Khor Kharfot, the proposed Bountiful location discussed in this book. Warren accompanies all Discover Nephi's Bountiful tours to lecture and share his experiences. 

Buy the kindle edition at

Who Are We?

Leah Aston – Leah has been traveling for most of her life, living on three continents and visiting over 40 countries to date. She has a BA and MA from Brigham Young University (BYU), and she currently resides in Provo, UT with her husband. Her first trip to Israel, Jordan, and Oman forever changed the way she reads the scriptures. It gave context, depth, and richness to the accounts of Christ’s life in the New Testament. It took the story of Lehi and his family and transformed it from words on a page into a real historical account. Leah has been involved in on-site research and expeditions at Khor Kharfot, the prime site for Nephi’s Bountiful, and she started Discover Nephi’s Bountiful to bring Nephi’s epic journey alive for Latter-day Saints around the world.

Warren Aston - Warren is the only Latter-day Saint who has explored the entire eastern coast of Arabia and many inland areas that Lehi and his family must have passed through, Warren discovered that only one location, Khor Kharfot, has all the features that Nephi described when he wrote about “Bountiful.” In 1993 he led two BYU-funded expeditions to the site which is now the subject of long-term research projects by BYU and the documentary “Journey of Faith” released by the Maxwell Institute at BYU in 2005. Warren’s award-winning book reporting the research, “In the Footsteps of Lehi,” was published by Deseret Book in 1994. Papers and articles by Warren have been published by FARMS at BYU since 1984 (see his material on the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship site under “Authors“) and he has lectured on his findings at BYU Provo and at Cambridge University in England.

More recently, Warren and two associates discovered two altars in Yemen dating to 600-700 BC that bear the Book of Mormon place-name “Nahom,” the place where Ishmael was buried (1 Nephi 16:34). Described by historian Terryl Givens as the “first actual archaeological evidence supporting the historicity of the Book of Mormon,” the altar find was featured in the February 2001 issue of the Ensign.

Warren continues to conduct Book of Mormon research in Arabia and in Central America and he accompanies all Discover Nephi's Bountiful tours to lecture at key locations and lend his considerable expertise.