Sunday, September 27, 2015

What Did Nephi Mean “Nearly a South-Southeast Direction”?

Continuing with this seventh part of the meaning of words and statements as found in the scriptural record, and how simple statements are often overlooked for specific meaning and content that would enable the reader to better understand what the writer was conveying. As an example, let’s take a look at the above statement.
    After resting for sometime along the river Lehi called Laman, in the valley he called Lemuel, and after going back for the brass plates and for Ishmael’s family, and after the subsequent marriages of the five daughters to Lehi’s four sons and Zoram, the Lord spoke to Lehi by night and commanded him that on then morrow he should take his journey into the wilderness (1 Nephi 16:9).
    “And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:10).
    After this miraculous event, the party set about gathering all their things they should “carry into the wilderness, and all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given unto us; and we did take seed of every kind that we might carry into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:11). Lastly, they secured and packed their tents and started out across the river Laman.
Red Arrow: Almost east direction; Yellow Arrow: South-southeast direction; the first is a cardinal direction (east), the latter is an ordinal direction, or one of the eight winds (south-southeast) 
    “And it came to pass that we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction, and we did pitch our tents again; and we did call the name of the place Shazer” (1 Nephi 16:13).
    Whatever words or symbols in Reformed Egyptian Nephi engraved on the plates many years later when he recorded these earlier events (1 Nephi 19:1-5), Joseph Smith with the Spirit's agreement, interpreted them as “south-southeast,” and a little later, the term “nearly east” was used (1 Nephi 17:1).
Green arrows and words represent the 4 cardinal points of a compass; the yellow arrows and words the 8 principal points (adding the intercardinal or ordinal points); and the red arrows and words the 16 points of a wind compass, including the principle or main winds, sometimes referred to as the 16-point Compass Rose 
    Thus, in these two instances, Nephi used two distinct compass points while traveling in an area no doubt be had never before been—along the east coast of the Red Sea. The point is, he correctly used two compass points and they were interpreted correctly through the translation process of Joseph Smith and the Spirit. In this way, we can know that Nephi not only used compass points (south-southeast, and east), but used them correctly, and they were translated correctly.
    This should, without question, show John L. Sorenson’s convoluted and lengthy explanation why the Nephites used a different compass orientation is totally without merit. This is even further shown, that Nephi, writing these compass points, did so after reaching the Land of Promise and living in it for a about 20 years. Thus, there would be no reason for Sorenson or anyone else to try to suggest or show a different directional meaning for north, south, east and west as used by Mormon in his clearly stated description of the lands within the Land of Promise as found in Alma 22—unless, of course trying to prove that Mesoamerica, being skewed nearly 90º off those cardinal points in opposition the scriptural record is being forced upon us as the Land of Promise location.
    Given no other rationale, this alone should prove even to the most hardened Mesoamericanist that the Book of Mormon lands were not in Mesoamerica!
    It can be argued, of course, that it was the Liahona that gave Nephi the directions they traveled along the Red Sea, for no directions were used or listed prior to the discovery of that instrument; however, that is simply a moot point since from that time forward, and throughout all the time in the Land of Promise, the Liahona was in the hands of the prophets along with the sacred records.
    As we look at the functionality of the Liahona, it is clear that the instrument the Lord provided did two things:
1. One of the arrows pointed the direction that the family would travel. In the beginning of the journey, this was south. Later the journey turned east. It was again used once they were on the ocean.
2. There was writing on one of the arrows or on the ball itself that would change periodically.
    Both of these would work according to their obedience and faith (whatever else might have been involved we are not told). There were two arrows on the device. One arrow pointed in the direction to travel. The function of the second arrow, however, is never mentioned.
Compasses used in the military use two arrows. First, you sight-in north, then line up the distant object through the vertical wires with the fore and aft sighting, set the second dial, needle, or outside ring to that point, and then keep the first or compass needle on north and follow the sighting point. And almost always two sightings are taken for verification
    It seems critically important to most theorists that the Liahona be discredited as a magnetic compass and, whether it was or not, is really immaterial. The true point to the introduction of the ball, director or compass was that it showed Lehi how to reach the Land of Promise, and that it operated by faith. A secondary, but also important point is that it provided a knowledge of the cardinal directions to those who used it, and especially to Nephi who first landed upon the Land of Promise.
    Thus, nowhere in the scriptural record can be shown that the Nephites did not know the cardinal directions of the Land of Promise, from Nephi down to Mormon. And that Mormon’s use of the cardinal and ordinal points of the land did not warrant any further explanation by Sorenson, or make any attempt to cloud the issue of the simple directions Nephi understood and Mormon would have also.
    Of course, nowhere in the scriptural record does it suggest that the Liahona pointed to north, as theorists are quick to point out; however, it can also be said that nowhere in the scriptural record does it suggest that the instrument did not point north, or east, or to some fixed position.
    What is important here is for us to understand—clearly understand—how a sophisticated compass works, like the one I used in the military some years ago, that was meant to show how to get out of areas, or reach destinations, that were unobservable during the course of travel. As an example, let’s say you are traveling in an area where vision is impaired from time to time or continually, like a heavy jungle, or blocked by crossing hills or mountains. You climb to a high point, find a distant object toward which you want to travel or reach (mountain peak, lake, light, etc.). With a sophisticated compass, having two spindles, one is then set to north, a direction that will not change in the Northern Hemisphere, and the other is set to point to the distant object. This means that when you can no longer see the distant object after climbing down, walking in dense undergrowth, beneath tree canopies, etc., you can keep moving toward the pointer on the one needle you set as long as the other needle points to north.
    In the case of the Liahona, Nephi describes it as having two spindles:
1. One pointed in the direction they were to go, and
2. We don’t know the purpose of the other.
    However, if the second needle was kept pointing toward a set mark, “magnetic north,” the Lord, or whatever was what caused it to point in a continual direction, all Nephi would have to do was follow the other needle since it would be pointing toward their destination.
Upper Left: There are a myriad of compasses around, some do little than point to north; on the other hand (Upper Right) a modern, sophisticated hand-held compass can do a lot more than point to north, such as (Bottom) line up on a distant object, set one pointer to that direction as you line up north so that a path to the distant object can be followed, even if you can no longer see it becasue of the terrain
    The problem is, too many theorists, wanting to disprove the idea of magnetic north involved in the Liahona’s function, in order to qualify Mesoamerica's different directional alignment, get hung up on the idea of modern compasses without seeming to understand how a “two spindle” modern compass is designed to work.
    Once again, when Nephi writes “a south-southeast direction,” he is telling us not only his direction of travel, but that he knew that compass direction, that he used it accurately, and that he obviously knew and understood the various levels of a compass heading, and would have known what direction the land was oriented in the Land of Promise.
    Thus, Mormon’s directions as he used them in Alma Chapter 22 and elsewhere are accurate to our understanding of compass directions today and not based on something Mesoamerianists call “Nephite North,” but to what we all understand as “north.” There is no mystery to this, it is not rocket science, it is merely accepting what was written and the meaning implied.

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