Source:Reexploring the Book of Mormon:Ch:14:1:Lehi's voyage: Arabia to Indonesia

Lehi's ocean voyage: From Arabia to Indonesia

Lehi's ocean voyage: From Arabia to Indonesia

John L. Sorenson:

Navigation on the Indian Ocean remained in many ways the same from very early times until the development of steamships.1 Sailing there has always depended upon the monsoons. The word monsoon is from the Arabic mawsim, which literally means "the date for sailing from one port in order to reach another." According to Tibbetts, the end of March or beginning of April was the best time to head east from the south Arabian coast; if delayed too long after that, a ship would encounter huge, dangerous swells as it neared the west coast of India.2

The route would have gone essentially straight east at about fifteen degrees north latitude to the Indian coast, then south around Ceylon in time for the southwest monsoon, first felt in May in the Bay of Bengal. Sumatra would have been reached no later than September. The great storm noted in 1 Nephi 18:13-14 could have been either a cyclonic storm or a typhoon, which are violent in the Bay of Bengal. The "great calm" in 1 Nephi 18:21 may have been a doldrum. If Nephi's vessel continued through the Java and Flores Seas of modern Indonesia, the westerly winds from December to March could have taken it past those areas within the first year of the trip. This route is most likely, although there are other possibilities.

Since boats routinely had to be beached for repairs after storms, or to have their bottoms scraped, or to await favorable winds, it is reasonable to assume that Lehi's party would have stopped from time to time on their journey through these islands. The closeness of major islands and historical records of other voyaging in the area suggest further that travelling from Java to the Admiralty Islands off the north coast of New Guinea would not have been especially difficult.[1]


  1. John L. Sorenson, "Winds and Currents: A Look at Nephi's Ocean Crossing," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), Chapter 14, references silently removed—consult original for citations.