In 1 Nephi 17:1 Lehi and his family change direction in their journey:
And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth. And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our women did bear children in the wilderness.
Warren P. Aston comments:
Only recently has satellite-assisted mapping enabled us to appreciate that after traveling southward into Arabia, as the Lehites did, people are prevented from easterly travel by the shifting, waterless dunes of the vast Empty Quarter, as much today as in the past. However, a narrow band of flat plateaus beginning in the Nihm area, marking the southern end of the Empty Quarter, presents the first opportunity for travel in an easterly direction.
While the terrain of this plateau makes easterly travel possible, the pla teau is nonetheless waterless and forbidding. It is still avoided today. The difficulty of travel along this route seems to be reflected in Nephi’s account, which mentions that the group ate their meat raw (1 Ne. 17:2), they did not use “much fire” (v. 12), and the afflictions and difficulties of the journey could not all be written (v. 6). The Book of Mormon later clarifies these afflictions as “hunger and thirst” (Alma 37:42).– Warren P. Aston – A History of NaHoM
What are the odds Joseph Smith would say Lehi and his family turned eastward at the only place possible?