After describing Ishmael’s death in 1 Nephi 17, Nephi tells us that Ishmael was buried in “the place which was called Nahom” (I Nephi 17:34, ital. added). Then, after describing the impact of Ishmael’s death, Nephi specifies a major change of direction in their travels from that point forward. While previously Nephi and his group had travelled in a south-southeasterly direction since leaving Jerusalem, Nephi clearly notes that after departing Nahom his group “did travel nearly eastward from that time forth" (1 Nephi 17:1) until reaching Bountiful.
We learn two important facts from these details.
1. Nahom was the name of a real place that existed in 600BC. It was not named by Nephi’s party. Nephi is quite specific in his account when it comes to place names, distinguishing between names that were coined by the family and names that were preexisting. In 1 Nephi 16:13 Nephi makes it clear that Shazer was a place name devised by the family: “we did call the name of the place Shazer.” In 1 Nephi 16:6 we learn that Lehi named the Valley of Lemuel: “Now, all these things were said and done as my father dwelt in a tent by the valley which he called Lemuel.” We see similar language again in 1 Nephi 17:5 when Nephi describes the family’s arrival at Bountiful: “And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful.” By contrast, when Nephi describes Ismael’s burial, he is careful to note that the burial occurred in the place which “was called” Nahom. This seems to signify quite clearly that Nahom was an established place that existed well before Nephi and his family passed through.
2. The location for Bountiful must be found nearly exactly east of Nahom. Nephi’s commitment to providing detailed cardinal directions in his narrative (click here for more information) leaves little doubt that Bountiful must be found east of Nahom.
Where is Nahom?
In September 2000 Warren Aston, Lynn Hilton, and Gregory Witt identified and examined an altar in present-day Yemen that bears the place-name Nahom. Professional archaeologists have dated the altar to at least 700 B.C.—well before Nephi and his party crossed across the desert wilderness. This significant discovery was reported in the Ensign and has been called “the most impressive find to date corroborating Book of Mormon historicity.” Additional research has found ancient maps and temple inscriptions that all point to an ancient tribal area that includes the largest burial area known anywhere in Arabia. Scholars have also pointed out that the Semitic roots of the name Nahom closely relate to sorrow and mourning—an appropriate name for a region containing a large burial ground.
A picture of an ancient altar bearing the place-name Nahom.
LDS Ensign article describing the ancient altar discovery.
So, what does this mean for the location of Nephi’s Bountiful?
For Nephi’s account to be accurate, a place must exist somewhere nearly exactly eastward of Nahom that meets all of Nephi’s criteria for the area (link). These include a fresh water source, a green, verdant area with wild fruit, honey, and trees, iron ore, flint, cliffs, a prominent mount, and a safe harbor to construct a ship.
Strikingly, the only region that matches Nephi’s detailed description of Bountiful lies within one degree of being exactly due east of the Nahom region (see map below). This area, the Dhofar region in Southern Oman, must include the exact location of Nephi’s Bountiful and Discover Nephi’s Bountiful is the only LDS tour company that takes you to explore the region and the three proposed sites firsthand.