What is known about the route of travel taken by Lehi and his family as they made their way from Bountiful in the wilderness to the Promised Land in South America, and are we told where they came ashore at their new home?
Joy, from Utah
Little is mentioned in the Book of Mormon concerning the route of travel of Lehi and his family from Jerusalem to the shore of the ocean where Nephi built the ship to cross the ocean. We know from 1 Nephi 16:13-17 that they started out in a nearly south-southeast direction, and they traveled at first in the more fertile parts of the wilderness. We learn in 1 Nephi 17 that they were eight years in crossing the desert, and that as they traveled they were not permitted to make much fire and thus had to survive on raw meat. One would suppose that they traveled in secret to avoid being captured by hostile caravans also crossing the desert.
Beyond this all is conjecture. A number of interesting books have been written suggesting possible routes of travel from Jerusalem to the ocean, and research is presently being carried out in Oman to see if their departure site can be discovered. A very likely site has been discovered on the Gulf of Aden near the border between Yemen and Oman.
Concerning their arrival point in the New World, even less is known. Their arrival is treated in only one verse in the Book of Mormon:
And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days 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 (1 Nephi 18:23).
Consensus has it that they landed somewhere along the west coast of South America. President Joseph Fielding Smith has written the following:
When the Lord began to lead the family of Lehi to this land, he said to them: “And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.”
It is generally understood that they landed in South America, and that their nations, the Nephites and Lamanites, dwelt in South and Central America during the greater part of their sojourn here. ( Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.3, p.73 – p.74)