Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel 1886 – Lehi’s Landing Part I

It might be of interest to know that one of the granite cornerstones that the Salt Lake Temple stands on is hollow, and inside there’s something of a time capsule that includes a handful of key Church books, including one: A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel by apostle Franklin D. Richards and co-author James A. Little, published in 1882, which is one of those books. It was sufficiently authoritative that James E. Talmage, listed it among the capstone’s contents, and referred to it as just Compendium. It’s also one of only seven works from the 19th century that makes the Encyclopedia of Mormonism’s list of doctrinally significant books.
In the late 1800s, Franklin D. Richards (above), who was a carpenter, businessman and newspaper editor, served as an Apostle in the Church for 50 years, and later as President of the Quorum until his death in 1899. He was one of the two men who survived the mob attack at Carthage Jail when Joseph and Hyrum were killed, and served in the Utah Territorial Legislature, was President of the British Mission then later president of the European Mission, editor of the Millennial Star and finally as Church Historian while an Apostle. Both his son (George F. Richards) and grandson (LeGrand Richards) also served as Apostles, and another grandson, Franklin D. Richards served as Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve and later as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy. His book Compendium had 19 editions published between 1882 and 2010 and held by 82 libraries around the world.
    What is so important about Compendium? It is the first reasonably comprehensive, topically organized doctrinal exposition the Church ever produced. It took 74 key gospel topics and provided a succinct statement regarding each, along with key scriptural and other references establishing the stated doctrine. It would be like the Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, Index, and True to the Faith all rolled into one, released for the first time ever.
    Today, of course, anyone who wants to know the Church’s doctrine on baptism or spiritual gifts or the second coming can Google it, look it up in any number of books, check the various study helps in the scriptures, etc. But lest we forget, the Topical Guide and Bible Dictionary date back only to 1979. The Book of Mormon itself first received an index in Talmage’s 1920 edition, and Reynolds’ Complete Concordance of the Book of Mormon was only published in 1900. In the earliest days of the Church, you had the text of the scriptures (if you were lucky enough to have access to the Pearl of Great Price or its constituent works) and some periodicals or pamphlets.

So if, in 1881, you asked “what is the Church’s doctrine on” any particular gospel subject, and “what are the key scripture reference, talks, etc. establishing that doctrine?” you were courting a substantial research project. But with the 1882 publication of Compendium, Deseret News for the first time in Church history, that information was at any reader’s fingertips. As a default source of such information for decades, with reprints as late as 1925, the importance of Compendium as a doctrinal standard can hardly be overstated—although it may seem this is attempting to do so. Yet, it is obviously one of those books no one seems to have heard about. Certainly no one has ever published a brilliant paper on its doctrinal impact that we have ever heard about (the original leather-bound volume, now very rare, was 336 pages and is now owned by the corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church and is part of the Church History Library.
    Before going into one of its contents, we might include here a comment from Leon C. Dalton, who wrote in his work “Routes to the Promised land” which appeared in the Liahona, The Elders Journal, August 8,1944, page 102. "Regarding pilot charts, which depict averages in prevailing winds and currents, air and sea temperatures, wave heights, ice limits, visibility, barometric pressure, and weather conditions at different times of the year, with the information used to compile these averages obtained from oceanographic and meteorologic observations over many decades during the late 18th and 19th centuries, and based on the fact that in temperate zones speed of ocean currents is 8 to 10 knots per hour, but in tropical regions, it is 10 to 15 knots, due to a more forceful convergence and lighter density of water."
A United States Coast Pilot chart book, one of several available today that charts in great detail the course of ocean currents and wind velocities throughout the entire coastal waters of the U.S.; also Ocean Atlas, one of numerous such offerings for offshore waters in the deep ocean showing currents and wind velocities for mariners
It is also a fact that current velocity is fastest near the surface. And in the Indian Ocean there is a seasonal change in the northern part due in part that there is an absence of a cold current there, but no such seasonal change of currents in southern part of the Indian Ocean. As an example, Columbus’ ships covered an average of 150 miles a day crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 1492.
    This led Dalton to write in 1944: “An examination of the pilot charts of the world reveals that if the Nephites embarked in late summer, after the harvest, they would have two or three months of northerly winds (winds out of the north blowing toward the south) for about 100 days, and if they floated at the normal rate of from three to five miles per hour, they would reach a south latitude of about 40 degrees in that length of time, or slightly south of the line connecting Cape Town, South Africa and Melbourne, Australia.

Lehi’s Course (Yellow Arrow) following the northerly winds (blowing south) in the Northern Indian Ocean down through the Southern Indian Ocean to the Prevailing Westerlies of the Southern Ocean

“Here they would encounter the ‘Prevailing Westerlies’ (winds blowing west to east) as they would here enter the ocean currents that trail eastward around the globe the year around. These currents continue their eastward course until they encounter 56 degrees continue on around the earth, while those striking the Chilean coast are deflected northward along the shoreline, turning seaward again at about 35º south latitude during the warm months, but continuing northward to about 20º during the winter…”
    Regarding the book Compendium under the subject matter of “Where Lehi Landed,” in the 1912 edition, (p 289), under the heading “Lehi’s Travels—Revelation to Joseph the Seer,” and in reference to 1 Nephi 18:23, it states: “The course Lehi and his company traveled from Jerusalem to the place of their destination: They traveled nearly a south-southeast direction until they came to the nineteenth degree of north latitude; then nearly east to the Sea of Arabia, then sailed in a southeast direction and landed on the continent of South America, in Chile, thirty degrees south latitude.”
    Now some have questioned whether or not this was a revelation. As an example, the text continues: “Reynolds and Sjodahl have a note on this in their Book of Mormon Geography, p 54: ‘In the library connected with the office of the Church Historian, Salt Lake City, there is a sheet of paper on which the statement is written that the landing was in 30 degrees south. That would be in Chile, about where the citiy of Coquimbo now is situated. The statement is handwritten by Frederick G. Williams, at one time counselor to the Prophet, and it is found on a sheet on which the revelation of D&C 7 also has been copied. That revelation was given in the year 1829. The presumption, therefore is that the lines relating to the landing of Lehi were also penned at an early date, and certainly before the year 1837, when Frederick G. Williams was removed from his position as counselor. If this is correct, the statement of Williams would undoubtedly reflect the views of the Prophet Joseph on that question.”
(See the next post, “A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel 1886 – Lehi’s Landing – Part II,” for more information on early Church Leaders views and the type of information that was available in the Church publications before Mesoamerica and Limited Geography concept was introduced through BYU archaeology)


  1. It is amazing to me that the members refuse to accept this very simple statement as factual. Particularly now with all the evidence in favor of the landing in Chile.

  2. I'm afraid Mesoamerica and Heartland/Great Lakes are too much in the Public Conscience of the members for them to look elsewhere. Like being a missionary in a Catholic or Lutheran (etc) country where no one wanted to learn beyond what they knew.