More than two thousand years before Columbus discovered America, another ship landed on the shores of the New World.  This marked the arrival of the prophet Lehi and his party, who earlier had left their homes in Jerusalem.  Lehi's life was endangered because of his preaching, and the Lord notified him it was time to leave the city.
The eventual voyage across the sea was a stormy one at times, on one occasion there being a tempest so strong it drove the ship backward for four days.  Those guiding the vessel were using an instrument called the Liahona as a compass, and when it suddenly stopped working, the ship sailed aimlessly upon the turbulent water.  Yet what happened was caused by more than just a storm.
The Liahona had been given to Lehi by divine means, and the principle upon which it worked was the spirituality and obedience of the people.  When some in the party became rude and boisterous in their merrymaking, therefore, the spindles in the instrument no longer gave the right directions.  The people on board were soon reminded what it would take to have a safe voyage.
But eventually they did reach their destination, and although a specific time of travel is not mentioned, it could have been close to a year.  The ancient record known as the Book of Mormon states that another group of people, hundreds of years before Lehi' s time, left the vicinity of the Tower of Babel in barges and crossed the ocean in 344 days. (Ether 6: 11) In this same record it tells how Lehi and his company later traveled to the American Continent, allegedly to a place somewhere along the western shore of Central America.
One can visualize the prophet and his people viewing from the deck of their ship the coastline of a new country, one they had never seen before.  Certainly it was a time of uncertainty, yet one also of challenge and expectation.  It was a time when they could start a new life, and in reality a new society and civilization!
"And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days," the record says, "we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land.  And it came to pass that we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem.  And it came to pass that we did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance." (1 Nephi 18:23)
Indeed, it was a new beginning in America, one instigated by the prophet Lehi in approximately 600 B. C. It is another instance of people arriving in a new land to face a new environment and unknown future, much like those who later would come with Columbus, and also pilgrims who came on the Mayflower. Surely it was a time when many generations ahead would cross the seas and arrive in America and also be blessed in abundance!
Written by Clay McConkie.
Click here "1 Nephi 18:1-25" to read the actual account of this story from the Book of Mormon.