According to the Book of Mormon, “An account of Lehi and his wife Sariah and his four sons, being called, (beginning at the eldest) Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi.”
“The Lord warns Lehi to depart out of the land of Jerusalem, because he prophesieth unto the people concerning their iniquity and they seek to destroy his life.”
“He taketh three days’ journey into the wilderness with his family. Nephi taketh his brethren and returneth to the land of Jerusalem after the record of the Jews. The account of their sufferings.”
“They take the daughters of Ishmael to wife. They take their families and depart into the wilderness. Their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness. The course of their travels. They come to the large waters. Nephi’s brethren rebel against him. He confoundeth them, and buildeth a ship.”
“They call the name of the place Bountiful. They cross the large waters into the promised land, and so forth. This is according to the account of Nephi”. (Book of Mormon)
DeVere Baker, a Mormon, sought to establish the authenticity of his church’s views on the first peoples to visit American shores by making a series of daring raft trips over a 30-year period.
From 1952 to 1979, he sailed – sometimes successfully, sometimes not – in an attempt to show that the Book of Mormon is correct and that members of some of the Lost Tribes of Israel had crossed the sea to North America.
Unlike primitive rafts, Baker’s were equipped with electronic navigation gear and could be propelled by outboard motors.
On Lehi IV in 1958, he managed to successfully drift to Hawaii from California to prove that crossing oceans by raft was an ancient probability.
(The Lehi reference generally refers to one of six or seven craft launched from California to try to help prove the story from the Book of Mormon about Lehi sailing from the Middle East to Central America.)
The Lehi IV didn’t have a favorable start, “The raft Lehi IV, in the tradition of its predecessors, met with bad luck yesterday as it headed out to sea for a tentative start to Hawaii.”
“Four miles out of Redondo Beach a tow line broke and the raft poked a hole in the yacht Quest, which was to tow it to Santa Catalina Island. The Quest then towed the Lehi IV to Los Angeles Harbor instead.”
“Lehi skipper Devere Baker, undismayed, said he would try to get started again tomorrow. Baker had planned to go only to Catalina, approximately 22 miles off the coast, on the first stage of his ocean voyage.”
“Three previous tries by Baker to accomplish a transoceanic drift ended in failure. Baker said he would stay at Catalina several days, taking on additional provisions and trying to arrange for someone to tow the raft 200 miles westward.” They left July 5, 1958.
“He hoped there to pick up currents favorable for drifting to Hawaii. Baker, 42, who sold his shipyard 12 years ago to devote himself to early inhabitants of this hemisphere drifted on currents across the Pacific from Asia.”
“The 18 by 28-foot raft has a sail, a cabin, two-way radio and an outboard motor for harbor maneuvering. Baker’s crew this time includes Milt Farney, 29, photographer; Larry Foglino, 31, psychologist; Don McFarland, 27, student at the University of New Mexico, and Ed Kekaula, 27, a native of Samoa.” (San Bernadino Sun, July 6, 1958)
Of this voyage, a newspaper reported, “An adventurous Mormon elder and his three young crewmen — who drifted to Hawaii from California aboard the raft Lehi IV …”
“The raft arrived off Maui Saturday afternoon (September 20, 1958) after a 69-day voyage from Long Beach, 2,100 miles to the east. When Baker and his bearded crew and their dog Torgoroa were sighted, they were down to their last four cans of spinach and tomatoes.”
“The raft was towed into port at Kahului by a tuna boat. All the mariners were in good condition.”
“Asked what his trip proved, Baker told newsmen: ‘The Coast Guard put it very nicely when they congratulated us on proving Hawaiians thousands of years ago came from the Americas, the same way we did.’”
“With Baker were Larry Foglino, 31, a UCLA psychologist; Don McFarland, 27, University of New Mexico student, and Ed Kekuala, 27, a Brigham Young University dental student.” (Nome Nugget, Sep 24, 1958)
Baker wrote a series of books on his faith and his adventures, many of which ended in Coast Guard rescues. In 1980, he made a brief bid for the nation’s presidency as a world peace candidate, but withdrew after a loss in the Democratic primary in New Hampshire. (Los Angeles Times)