“I Took the Compass and It Did Work Whither I Desired It”

Alan C. Miner

Nephi makes mention of a sacred instrument ("a compass" -- 1 Nephi 18:21) given to them by the Lord (1 Nephi 16:10) to help them on their journey through the wilderness and across the ocean to the promised land. David Palmer writes:

The Quiche-Maya people [of Guatemala] left two histories, written in their own language but with the European alphabet, shortly after the conquest of Guatemala in 1524 A.D. The English translations of the titles are Title of the Lords of Totonicapan and Popol Vuh, the Sacred Book of the Quiche Maya. The two histories are complementary. The Totonicapan version tells of four great leaders bringing their people from the other side of the sea, from Pa-Tulan, Pa-Civan. The leader chosen was Balam-Quitze. Before leaving he was given a present by the god Nacxit. It was called the Giron-Gagal. Taking it with him, by miraculous means Balam-Quitze was able to lead his people across the sea. The Giron-Gagal, or sacred bundle, was a symbol of the power and majesty of the Quiches. [David A. Palmer, In Search of Cumorah, p. 157]

According to Clate Mask in another Maya-Cakchiquel document Annals of the Xahils which relates their origins, their original ancestors had a special instrument to help them in their travels: the Chay Abah, or Obsidian Stone, speaks and tells them to go across the sea where they will find their hills and plains, their riches and their government. The translator says that the real meaning of Obsidian Stone is "Stone that Speaks" or "Oracle Stone." The translator calls the Chay Abah Obsidian Stone because the Maya-Quiche mistakenly called it that. To avoid further confusion, he also calls it Obsidian Stone (but it really means "Stone that Speaks"). [Clate Mask, "And They Called the Place Tulan," p. 4]

1 Nephi 18:21 After I had prayed the winds did cease, and the storm did cease, and there was a great calm ([Illustration]): Nephi Calms the Storm [Gary E. Smith, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 3]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary