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Leadership of desert groups

Leadership of desert groups

It is the domestic history that presents the real challenge to whoever would write a history of Bedouin life. To handle it convincingly would tax the knowledge of the best psychologist, and woe to him if he does not know the peculiar ways of the eastern desert, which surprise and trap the unwary westerner at every turn.
The ancient Hebrew family was a peculiar organization, self-sufficient and impatient of any authority beyond its own. "These are obviously the very conditions," writes Nowack, "which we can still observe today among the Bedouins."48 Thus, whether we turn to Hebrew or to Arabic sources for our information, the Book of Mormon must conform. Lehi feels no pangs of conscience at deserting Jerusalem, and when his sons think of home, it is specifically the land of their inheritance, their own family estate, for which they yearn. Not even Nephi evinces any loyalty to the "Jews who were at Jerusalem," split up as they were into squabbling interest-groups.
While Lehi lived, he was the sheikh, of course, and the relationship between him and his family as described by Nephi is accurate in the smallest detail. With the usual deft sureness and precision, the book shows Lehi leading—not ruling—his people by his persuasive eloquence and spiritual ascendancy while his murmuring sons follow along exactly in the manner of Philby's Bedouins—"an undercurrent of tension in our ranks all day"; great difficulty to "appease their evil, envious souls."49 "We left Suwaykah," says Burton, "all of us in the crossest of humours. . . . So 'out of temper' were my companions, that at sunset, of the whole party, Omar Effendi was the only one who would eat supper. The rest sat upon the ground, pouting, grumbling. . . . Such a game as naughty children, I have seldom seen played even by Oriental men."50[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.