A modern concept of direction held by the Chamula indians
of Chiapas. empahsizes two important points.
One, the mesoamerican culture was centered around
daytime events and directions were expressed in terms of
the individual and his relationship with the sun and its
movement rather than the north star and the night sky. This
does not mean that they were unaware of the  stars nor that
they did not use them as a point of reference to guide them
at night. It simply means that it was not a part of their
principal directional reference system.
Two, Their cardinal directions were not expressed as points
but rather as general expressions relative to the sun and
themselves eg. north is expressed as the side of heaven on
the right hand.

East: lok ‘eb k ‘ak ‘al, ‘emergent heat (or day)’
West: maleb k ‘ak ‘al, ‘waning heat (or day)’
North:sokon vinahel ta ba4’i k’ob, ‘The side of heaven on the
right hand’
South:3’okon vinahel ta bac’i k’ob, ‘The side of heaven on
the left hand’.

For further discussion see:
Viva Zapato! Hurray for the Shoe!
Review of Does the Shoe Fit? A Critique of the Limited
Tehuantepec Geography by Deanne G. Matheny
Reviewed By: John L. Sorenson
Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1994. Pp. 297—361

As far back as the Olmec (
figure 1)and the Aztecs (figure 2)
we find that the Pre-Columbians thought of their land as a
rectangle bounded by four corners which were determined
by drawing lines from the center to the corners which were in
line with the position of the rising and setting sun at the
summer and winter solstices. This practice continues even
today see Jerry L. Ainsworth's "The Lives and Travels of
Mormon & Moroni". see
Figure 3.
The big question is "Is there any evidence in the Book of
Mormon that would support the conclusion that this concept
was part of the Book of Mormon culture?
For some time, myself and others have been puzzled by the
unbalanced distribution of directional references in the Book
of Mormon, There being a greater excess of references to
north, northward, south and southward than there are
references to  east, eastward and west with no references to
westward. See
table 1.


































There are 378 total directional references in the Book of
Mormon including northward, southward, eastward and
westward. There are 243 references excluding the
'ward directions. When the number of references for
each cardinal direction with and without the 'ward
directions are summed and then expressed as a
percentage of each total, the data shown in Table 2 are
obtained. When all directions are included a rectangular
pattern is seen suggesting the possibility that the book
of Mormon culture used a coordinate system based on
a rectangle in a manner similar to other precolumbian
cultures. When only north, south, east and west are
included, as expected, a  square pattern is found. The
lack of references to eastward and westward is
consistent with the rectangular pattern since they
always considered east to be where the sun rises and
west to be where the sun sets. Even though they
varied  50 degrees over the course of the year. Joseph
Smith was well aware of the use of northward,
westward, southward and eastward to refer to
directional quarters as indicated by the 1828 edition of
Webster's Dictionary definition of occidental.

OCCIDENT'AL, a. [L. occidentalis.] Western; opposed to
oriental; pertaining to the western quarter of the hemisphere, or
to some part of the earth westward of the speaker or spectator;
as occidental climates; occidental pearl; occidental gold.






























Combining this concept with the mesoamerican model gives the
results shown in Figure
5. The quincunx is centered on the
Grijalva river at the point where the City of Zarahemla has been
proposed to be located. As shown, this places the Land of
Desolation in the northern quarter, in other words, northward,
as described in the Book of Mormon. Locations for a number of
other Book of Mormon locations are also shown in Figure 4.

Figure 6 Shows the data shown in figure 5 superimposed on a
satellite map of Mesoamerica.
Map courtesy of NASA Visible Earth
Large file 660 KB
Click images for high
resolution figures
Figure 1.
Olmec Celt
from Linda Schele,s
drawing on Famsi web site Showing
the Quincunx or rectangular pattern of
the land.
Figure 2.
Four Quarters of Mexico City
This
map shows the rectangular distribution
of the four quarters of Mexico City
shortly after the Spanish conquest.
Figure 3.
The quincunx
divided into four
quarters
Figure 5
Figure 6
North                                  37        
Land North                          4        
Land on the North               0        
In the North                         4        
In the land North                 3        
On the North                     11        
On the land North               0        

South                                36        
Land South                         4        
Land on the South              1        
In The South                       3        
In the land South                3        
On the South                    15       
On the land South              0        

East                                  47        
Land East                          0        
Land on the East               0        
In the East                         4        
In the land East                 0       
On the East                     17        
On the land East               0       

West                                41        
Land West                         0        
Land on the West              0        
In the west                         2        
In the land West                0       
On the West                    18        
On the land west               0       
Northward                          45
Land Northward                 30
Land on the Northward        1        
In the Northward                  0
In the land Northward          7
On the Northward                3
On the land Northward        1

Southward                         20
Land Southward                14
Land on the Southward       1
In the Southward                 0
In the land Southward         4
On the Southward               2
On the Land Southward      1

Eastward                             3
Land Eastward                    0
Land on the Eastward         0
In the Eastward                   0
In the land Eastward           0
In the land Eastward           0
On the eastward                 0
On the eastward                 0
On the land Eastward         0

Westward                            0
Land Westward                   0
Land on the Westward        0
In the Westward                  0
In the land Westward          0
On the Westward                0
On the land Westward        0
On the land Westward        0
On the land Westward        0
Table 1. This is a listing of the different possible directional forms
used in the Book of Mormon combined with the different directions
used in the Book of Mormon. As can be seen some of the forms are
used extensively while others are conspicuous by their absence. eg.all
forms combined with westward and most of those combined with
eastward.
 
Percent
Distribution
based on a

Quincunz
Figure 4
Percent
distribution
found
including
all
references
Percent
Distribution
based on a
Square

Figure 4
Percent
distribution
found
including
only north,
south, east
and west
Northern
Quarter
38
39
25
24
Eastern
Quarter
13
19
25
27
Western
Quarter
13
16
25
25
Southern
Quarter
37
27
25
24
Table 2. Distribution of Geographical directions in the
Book of Mormon.
 The 378 references to directions found in the
Book of Mormon text were combined into four groups, one for
each quarter and converted to a percentage of the total. When
these percentages are compared to the expected percentages
for distribution to either a rectangle or a square, there is a clear
relationship to the rectangle rather than the square, indicating
that the Book of Mormon culture's concept of geographic
directions was similar to that  of other precolumbian cultures.
Directions in the Book of Mormon
Figure 4
Directional quarters based on a
square and on the Mesoamerican
quincunz