Source:Nibley:CW06:Ch19:1:Restrictions on building fires in the desert

Not Much Fire

Parent page: Book of Mormon/Anthropology/Culture/Old World

Restrictions on building fires in the desert

The key to the first of these is an enlightening comment on cooking and firemaking:
For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness; for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not; and I will also be your light in the wilderness (1 Nephi 17:12—13).
It was only "as we journeyed" that the Lord restricted firemaking; there was no restraint once they reached the seashore, nor was fire ever forbidden absolutely, but only "much fire." Since there was nothing wrong with fire as such, why the limitation? "I remember," writes Bertram Thomas, "taking part in a discussion upon the unhealthiness of campfires by night; we discontinued them forthwith in spite of the bitter cold."1 Major Cheesman's guide would not even let him light a tiny lamp to jot down star readings, and they never dared build a fire on the open plain, where it "would attract the attention of a prowling raiding party over long distances and invite a night attack."2 Once in a while in a favorably sheltered depression "we dared to build a fire that could not be seen from a higher spot," writes Raswan.3 That is, fires are not absolutely out of the question, but rare and risky—not much fire, was Lehi's rule. And fires in the daytime are almost as risky as at night. Palgrave tells how his party were forced "lest the smoke of our fire should give notice to some distant rover, to content ourselves with dry dates," instead of cooked food.[1]


  1. Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), Chapter 19, references silently removed—consult original for citations.