Liahona Compass

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For the magazine named Liahona see Liahona Magazine

Liahona in Book of Mormon
The Liahona was an object which God gave to Lehi, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, and his family as a guide. It is first mentioned in 1 Nephi 16:10. The Liahona is described as a round ball, made of brass, with two pointers that gave directions, similar to a compass. In Lehi's language, "Liahona" meant "a compass" (see Alma 37:38). However the Liahona differed from a compass, because it only worked if Lehi and his family were being righteous (see 1 Nephi 16: 28-29, and Alma 37:40) and exerted the proper faith. They also received instruction through the Liahona. In 1 Nephi 16:29 it says that there was an area on the outside of the Liahona where writing would appear and change from time to time. It is also mentioned that there was sometimes writing on the pointers.

The Liahona passed from Lehi to his son Nephi (2 Nephi 5:12), and then from generation to generation down to Mosiah, who gave it to his son Benjamin. The Liahona continued to be passed down through the prophets until it reached Moroni, the last Nephite prophet. In the early fifth century A.D., Moroni hid the Liahona in a hill along with the Book of Mormon record. In 1823, the prophet Joseph Smith was told by revelation where to find these items.

The three men chosen to be special latter-day witnesses of the Gold Plates (David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris) also saw the Liahona (see Doctrine and Covenants 17:1).

The word Liahona has taken on great symbolic meaning for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is often used to stand for the idea of being obedient, being worthy of Heavenly Father's guidance, and in turn, being blessed with guidance the world cannot give. It is also the name given to the Church's international magazine. This symbolism stems from counsel given by a Book of Mormon prophet named Alma to his son Helaman. Alma says:

I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it. And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness. And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day....
And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual. For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land. And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.... The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever (Alma 37:38-46).

For a more in-depth article about the Liahona read "The Design of the Liahona and the Purpose of the Second Spindle" by Robert L. Bunker