Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Role of the Compass (1 Nephi 18, Part II)

Listen now!
"And it came to pass that after they had bound me insomuch that I could not move, the compass, which had been prepared of the Lord, did cease to work."
These are the words of Nephi as we return to the events that occurred after he calls Laman and Lemuel and those that heeded them to repentance. The ship they had built was well on its way to the promised land, they had been preserved numerous times in miraculous ways by God's power, yet they had returned to their riotous and rebellious ways of living.

The compass, yet another miracle showing God's power, ceased to point the direction in which they should steer the ship to arrive safely in the promised land. They were now adrift in a storm (see vs. 13) and for four days were not only driven backwards, but were dangerously close to being capsized.

After much lamentation and suffering on the part of the righteous members of the group, Laman and Lemuel finally saw that their actions had contributed to their dire situation and agreed to untie Nephi.

Immediately, the compass began to function again. Nephi prayed for deliverance and the storm abated. The sea calmed and Nephi again directed the ship toward the promised land using the direction given by the compass.

We should pause to note here how the compass was a physical reminder to them, much like manna was to the children of Israel, of the absolute necessity of relying on the guidance of the Spirit at all times and in all places. In order for us to hear the promptings of the Spirit in our hearts, we have to be living in such a way that we can recognize those promptings. The Lord provided the compass as a way to create a more recognizable dependency to show how lost they would be without Him.

Note that Nephi and Lehi seem to have gotten along just fine without the compass directing their every move. Numerous times we read of both Lehi and Nephi listening to the Spirit and responding to it and the compass is not mentioned as part of those experiences. They both had visions and angelic visits that seem to be separate from the experience of using the compass for guidance.

The compass, then, seems to have been prepared for the members of the family who were less inclined to listen to the Spirit. More importantly, it shows that the Lord did not forsake them for this, but made every effort to include them in the migration to the promised land so they could participate in the blessings found there for themselves and their posterity. He could have left them behind in Jerusalem to perish, yet did everything possible to give them the benefit of their own doubts so they could share in the same blessings as those who were inclined to listen to the Spirit.

God's plan was greater than Laman and Lemuel's disobedience.

Likewise, God's plan for us is greater than our individual disobedience. The Book of Mormon and other holy scriptures are modern-day compasses to guide us in these latter days. If we heed them, we will be blessed and guided. If we reject them, we will reap certain consequences, but God will still endeavor to bring us back to Him through adversity.

As soon as they arrive in the promised land, they begin to plant seeds that they had brought with them. Whether they were commanded to bring seeds or whether it seemed like a good idea when confronted with the unknowns of a new land is not noted in the Book of Mormon. But we do see that the Jaredites (see the Book of Ether), who came to the Americas at the time of the Tower of Babel many centuries before Lehi's group, also brought seeds with them. Therefore, it stands to reason that they were commanded of the Lord to do so for some purpose not stated.

Nephi's record shows that many animals were found in the promised land. The latest research into what animals existed in the Americas near 600 B.C. will be the subject of another post.