Saturday, February 17, 2024

Ensign magazine: Possible Routes Suggested for Mulek’s Voyage

In 1973, it was still cool to discuss evidence of the Book of Mormon in Church magazines. Maybe that's why those of us who were living back then think it's still cool.


No need for contention about any of this, of course. People can believe whatever we want. So long as we pursue clarity, charity and understanding, we'll see "no more contention" (Mosiah 1:1). Instead, we'll all be better education and make informed decisions.

Possible Routes Suggested for Mulek’s Voyage

Two possible routes of the voyage of Mulek and his followers to the New World “promised land” of the Book of Mormon have been proposed by Dr. and Sister Ross T. Christensen of Brigham Young University. Dr. Christensen is a professor of archaeology and anthropology; his wife is a graduate student in archaeology.

The Book of Mormon does not specify whether the Mulekites made their voyage to the Americas in the sixth century B.C. westward across the Atlantic Ocean or eastward across the Pacific. But since that history clearly indicates that they landed on the east coast of the “land northward,” the Christensens suggest that the Mulekites may have followed the Atlantic route.

A study of Atlantic Ocean currents together with other substantive information supports the feasibility of two possible routes that these early voyagers might have taken, according to the Christensens. One is a Mediterranean and North Atlantic route; the other is around Africa, then across the South Atlantic.

The sixth century before Christ was a time of extraordinary activity in exploration, trade, and colonization in the Mediterranean world and beyond. And the destruction of Jerusalem and the flight of Mulek and his people and others who were oppressed only accelerated a disposition to emigrate. Israelite colonies are believed to have existed at Cyprus, Crete, Libya, Jerba, and Carthage at the time of Jerusalem’s fall, some of them having been established, according to tradition, during the reigns of David and Solomon. Also dating from the period of David and Solomon was a tradition of Israelite commerce with the Phoenicians.

One hypothesis suggests that at least part of the colony that settled in America with Mulek was Phoenician, because the river Sidon, mentioned in the Book of Mormon, bears the name of the principal city of ancient Phoenicia, Sidon. Aided by Phoenician mariners and Hebrew colonists across the Mediterranean, Mulek’s group could have reached the Atlantic Ocean by traveling the length of the Mediterranean Sea. Once out on the Atlantic, Mulek would have entered into a powerful ocean current that sweeps southwestward from Spain and Portugal along the west coast of Africa, then veers westward across the Atlantic, continuing in an arc through the West Indies.

While the Christensens believe Mulek traveled this more direct route across the Atlantic, they have also considered the route around Africa and across the South Atlantic as another possibility.

Mulek’s Various Routes

A powerful ocean stream originates in the Indian Ocean in the vicinity of Madagascar, sweeps southward around the Cape of Good Hope, veers westward across the South Atlantic to a point on the north of the eastern tip of Brazil, and continues northward off the coast of South America until it merges with the current flowing across the North Atlantic. Thus, if a vessel were to embark on the Red Sea and hold course close to the eastern shore of Africa until it reached the vicinity of Madagascar, it could follow the currents to the West Indies and the Gulf of Mexico.

Although twice as far as the Mediterranean route, this second possibility warrants consideration. It has been discovered that under orders of the Egyptian monarch Neccho II, Phoenician sailors in about 600 B.C. voyaged around the entire continent of Africa, and this was 2100 years before the same feat was accomplished by Vasco de Gama in 1498.

Another accomplishment about the time of the Mulekite voyage was an actual crossing of the Atlantic to America by Phoenician mariners who set sail in the Red Sea, taking the route around the Cape of Good Hope and across the South Atlantic to what is now Brazil. An ancient Phoenician inscription found at Paraiba, Brazil, sets the crossing between 534 and 531 B.C.

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