1 Nephi 18:13-15 — LeGrand Baker — “they knew not whither they should steer the ship”

1 Nephi 18:13-15  

If all or part of First Nephi is patterned after the sequence of events of the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama, then this is the place where the king remains in the underworld for three days, confronted by the dual monsters of death and hell. He says it was on the fourth day that he was liberated by the powers of Jehovah. Here again, Nephi’s story fits the outline of that temple drama sequence.

13 Wherefore, they knew not whither they should steer the ship, insomuch that there arose a great storm, yea, a great and terrible tempest, and we were driven back upon the waters for the space of three days; and they began to be frightened exceedingly lest they should be drowned in the sea; nevertheless they did not loose me.
14 And on the fourth day, which we had been driven back, the tempest began to be exceedingly sore.
15 And it came to pass that we were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea. And after we had been driven back upon the waters for the space of four days, my brethren began to see that the judgments of God were upon them, and that they must perish save that they should repent of their iniquities; wherefore, they came unto me, and loosed the bands which were upon my wrists, and behold they had swollen exceedingly; and also mine ankles were much swollen, and great was the soreness thereof.

God always moves in natural ways to show his power. Sorenson shows that the horrific storm they encountered can easily be explained as a monsoon. Sorenson wrote:

When they left the Arabian Peninsula, the land of Bountiful, if they followed the course that later Arab sailors followed, they would have gone virtually straight east across the Indian Ocean. And that required that it was during the season of the monsoon, when winds are from the south but veering over toward the Indian Peninsula.{1}

That argues for the historicity of Nephi’s account, but it does not emphasize what was most meaningful to Nephi—that the compass did not work during the storm, so the brothers had no idea where they were or where they were going.


{1} John Sorenson in S. Kent Brown and Peter Johnson, Journey of Faith, from Jerusalem to the Promised Land (Provo, Utah, The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, BYU, 2006),

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