A sense of direction can be quite handy. It can keep you out of trouble in the mountains; it can prevent you from becoming lost, and it can help you return home safely. Direction can be determined by reference to the sun, moon, or stars. A lodestone, sunstone, or compass, have been historically used for navigation; now we rely on GPS. A strong sense of direction is found running through the scriptures.
The bible starts out with the creation drama. The intelligences were organized before the world was, and God stood with them. (Abraham 3:22-23) The Lord God then formed man, planted a garden to the east in Eden, and there placed the man he had formed (Moses 3:7-8). This same man, Adam, was then sent with his wife, Eve, eastward from the Garden of Eden, and a cherubim was placed to guard the westward way back to the tree of life. (Moses 4:29, 31) Adam and Eve later heard the voice of the Lord originating from the direction of the Garden of Eden, but they could not see Him for they were shut out of His presence. (Moses 5:4)
The infamous Cain also heard the voice of the Lord, who said to him, “If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted. (Moses 5:22-23) Cain, of course, did not do well. He complained his resulting punishment was more than he could bear. He was driven forth from the face of God, shut out of his presence, and he lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (Moses 5:38-39, 41)
Fast forward several years and one flood later, Lot and Abraham find themselves in business together herding flocks. Lot leaves the Zion society Abraham was striving to create, and went east towards Sodom. (Gen 13:8-12) He later went even further east, embracing the world, entering the gates, and going all the way into the city itself. (Gen 19:1-2) There, in the city of Sodom, he found himself surrounded by the influence of the people there. (Gen 19:4) The great sin of Sodom was, “pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness… neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49)
Contrast all this eastward travel, away from the presence of God, to the travels of Abraham. Abraham started in Ur and went west to Bethel. Abraham lived in the east, in Ur of the Chaldees, when he decided he needed to find a new home. He wanted the blessings of the fathers, greater knowledge, and to be a great follower of righteousness. He sought for his appointment to the priesthood and left the land of Ur to go west to the land of Canaan. (Abraham 1:1-4, 2:4) As they journeyed west, Abraham said, “eternity was our covering.” (Abraham 2:16) As he journeyed west, Abraham prayed devoutly, and the Lord appeared to him. Abraham continued on his journey until he was just east of Bethel (meaning house or temple of god). Here he built an altar to the Lord and again prayed to the Lord. (Abraham 2:18-20) Melchezidek, the King of Peace, king of Salem, where Zion was and which was later known as Jerusalem, traveled north (neither east nor west) and visited Abraham. Abraham paid tithes of all that he had, and God blessed Abraham, giving him an everlasting possession. (Gen 14:18-20; JST Gen 14:33-40)
Later the fabled wise men had to leave the East, Babylon, the lone and dreary world, in order to come to the heavenly city and worship Christ. The star was a sign only the “wise men,” inspired by God, could interpret and see. Herod, and all Jerusalem missed the sign; they were not looking for it, and when told of it they were troubled but not enough to go looking for their Messiah a few short miles away. The wise men went first to the Holy City, and then to Bethlehem (meaning house or temple of bread) into the presence of Christ. The wise men were filled with exceedingly great joy; they presented gifts foreshadowing the Lord’s crucifixion, and worshiped the Christ child. (Mat 2:1-10)
Metaphorically, traveling east is not where we want to be headed. During the 1900’s there was a popular notion of “Manifest Destiny” in the United States, the conviction that that the country should stretch from sea to shining sea. “Go West, young man, go West,” was the anthem of a generation. Whatever one feels about the politics of a country’s self asserted “manifest destiny,” we all truly do have a manifest destiny. A divine destiny. Go west young and old, male and female, go west, all the way west, as far as you can go.
At Christ’s first coming, He suffered in Gethsemane, east of the Holy temple in Jerusalem. When He died on the cross the veil of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. (Mat 27:50-51) The temple of Herod, like many temples in our day, opened to the East. The result is we, who were far off, confined to the court of the gentiles, are now brought near to the Holy of Holies, westward, through the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13) When Christ comes for the second time, His light and glory will come from the east and go westward, until it covers the whole earth (JS-M 1:26)
There was, on the side of the road to Jericho, a blind beggar who heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. He called out, “Son of David have mercy on me.” Jesus heard, and commanded him to be brought near to Him. Jesus said to the blind beggar, “Receive thy sight, thy faith hath saved thee.” (Luke 18:35-42) In the temple we are also brought near to the presence of God, and likewise we are given the gift of sight.
Like Lehi we find ourselves traveling in a dark and dreary waste. We travel in darkness until we pray unto the Lord for mercy. It is mercy, the blood of Christ which will then reveal the tree, the tree of life whose way is guarded by cherubim, the authorized servants of God. (1 Nephi 8:7-10) It is then we are brought back into the presence of God. Go west, west of Eden.