The Liahona

Several questions have been posited recently concerning the necessity of the Liahona. Obviously, Lehi was fully capable of receiving revelation. Here he was, because of revelatory inspiration, in the wilderness with his family. The question is – why did Lehi also receive the Liahona?

Let us observe that God does everything with purpose. My experience is that God is a minimalist. If He can bless us with a penny to overcome a difficulty over many years – He will not give us a million dollars to fix it instantly. In my opinion, the Liahona was indispensible, and it was the minimum and most elegant possible solution. There actually was an inescapable need for the Liahona, or God would not have provided it. The question that remains is what was that overwhelming need?

Laman and Lemuel constantly wanted to turn back. They argued against everything Lehi asked, and were murderous in their dissent. They were, lazy, rebellious, abusive, cruel, murderous, devoid of conscience, inspiration proof, and seekers of pleasure and wealth.

It appears that very shortly before Lehi discovered the Liahona that Laman and Lemuel had again rebelled and Nephi had spoken to them with sufficient inspiration and passion to humble them. (1 Nephi 15-16). A short time later Lehi found the Liahona and was commanded to reconvene their journey – at a rare moment while Laman and Lemuel were humbled and somewhat compliant.

So, here we have Lehi, a prophet of God who doesn’t need revelatory aids, standing before his wayward sons rejoicing, holding a revelation aid. Why? Because he knew that Laman and Lemuel could not doubt that the Liahona was from God. It was of curious workmanship, meaning they couldn’t understand how it worked, which may also explain why we are never told what the second pointer was for. It was finely crafted of “fine brass” which they knew neither Nephi nor Lehi could duplicate. (1 Nephi 16:10; Alma 37:39) And, they knew it had not come with them from Jerusalem. It was a miracle they could not deny which would remain with them as a constant reminder – and hence the source of Lehi’s joy. He considered that his sons were finally convinced, and would no longer hinder their journey. He may even have hoped they would repent and share in salvation.

As we discussed earlier, the mere fact that God provided it, means that the Liahona was essential to their completing the Lord’s journey. We can safely assume the miracle of the Liahona was what convinced Laman and Lemuel to endure the remainder of the journey, and without it, they would have finally rebelled, killed Nephi and probably Lehi, and returned to Jerusalem.

I have often wondered why God didn’t just leave Laman and Lemuel in Jerusalem, or even better, in the wilderness. The whole Nephite history would have unfolded differently, and probably not ended in so many wars, bloodshed and utter devastation of the Nephite nation. I wonder why Nephi didn’t just leave his awful brothers in Jerusalem on the several occasions they went back, especially after seeing in vision that their seed would destroy his people! (1 Nephi 12:19-23) I wonder at times why Lehi didn’t just give them permission to return. I’ll bet he wanted to at times, parental love notwithstanding. God could have provided someone to take their places as easily as He provided the daughters of Ishmael to wed his sons.

The truth is that for reasons we can only guess, God needed those two rebellious brothers to make it to the Promised Land, and worked many miracles to accomplish that end– including creating the Liahona with His own hands. (Alma 37:38-39)

Next on the Un-Blog:  Liahona, a Type and Shadow

Brother John

© February 2012, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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12 Responses to The Liahona

  1. Denise says:

    In 1 Nephi 7:15 Nephi gives his rebellious brothers the opportunity to go back to Jerusalem. They chose to continue with the family.


    • cheyenne brashear says:

      I have always thought of the Liahona as our own personal inner compass, and that the two spindles represent our mind and heart.

      In D&C 8:2-3 it says “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the red sea on dry ground.” Brother C.


  2. Forest says:

    I am considering the two needles and had a couple of speculations on the purpose of these. Navigation instruments always need a reference point (datum) to orient From or To. Just like you have to align your compass site with Magnetic North before you can read a specific bearing. So I purpose that one needle would have been a reference needle, either aligning with a known reference such as “North” or perhaps the two needles aligning together when the correct bearing was established. This creates a type doesn’t it? Christ is our reference datum and we must orient our hearts to him, we align ourselves through the Atonement. The intercessory prayer has started to have significant meaning to me the more I consider it. However for so many years (decades), I would gloss over it and not give it a second thought…because it’s meaning seemed too simple and unimportant (the simpleness of the way). And therefore, I have wandered down many roads in the wilderness because I would would not pay attention to the inner compass given to me by my Father in Heaven.


    • Interesting thoughts. The two spindles were obviously for some purpose. One of them pointed the way they should go – only when they had faith. Like you, I have wondered if the other simply pointed where they were heading. It would be useless because it always pointed forward – unless it aligned with the pointer showing the “right way”. Of course we don’t know, but it is interesting that you came up with the same thought I have pondered for years.



  3. Ken Richens says:


    Thanks for your insights and questions on the Liahona.

    For some time now I have believed that the reason Laman and Lemuel didn’t return to Jerusalem was because Nephi killed Laban. If L&L had returned to Jerusalem the “local sheriff” would have been all over them. I don’t think Laman could have gotten away with saying that he knew who had killed Laban and it was their little brother. It was Laman who had first gone in to Laban (I don’t think the casting of lots (1 Ne 3:11) was just a random thing.) Laman was the oldest and the leader of the family. He would have been a scape goat for the law looking for someone to persecute.

    I think the Liahona had something to do with teaching them how to follow the Lord. I don’t think following the Liahona was as simple as just looking at it and doing what it said. It was more like the Urim and Thummim that took Joseph quite a while to figure out how it worked and have sufficient faith.

    Also, thanks for your recent posts on bad things happening to good people and justice. I’ve appreciated seeing how you approach the scriptures and those topics.

    May the Lord continue to bless you,


    • Thanks Ken,

      My goal in all of this is to keep myself and those who read the UnBlog surrounded by the Spirit. I don’t pretend to know the end from the beginning. I just know that my place in the universe is to write and speak uplifting words about Christ, His plan and His church. It is a delightful place to hold in the scheme of things, and one that I can see the hand of the Lord pulling on this side of the eye-of-the-needle to get me here. Tight fit!

      I agree with your assessment of Laban’s demise. I hadn’t considered that, but God certainly did, and it appears to have been a setup to make L&L’s return to Jerusalem impossible. Which just makes it more obvious that God needed L&L in the Promised Land, even though their legacy of revellion destroyed an entire civilization. The apparent reason was to keep the Nephites humble and righteous. But, I’ll wager as God’s ways are higher than ours, that there are vast and eternal reasons for their place in sacred history that we are not equipped to judge.

      Good comment,



  4. FJC says:

    Thank you for that wonderful insight. Your thoughts make perfect sense to me. I think of all the posterity of the Lamanites who were converted to the Lord over the centuries and I am again convinced at the amazing mercy of our God in making every effort to save souls. His divine mercy has no bounds.


  5. Pearl says:

    I believe the second spindle pointed to letters/symbols, located on the instrument, in a certain order as to spell out instructions. “Look upon the ball, and behold the things which are written.” (The Satanic knock-off would be the ouija board.)

    I also believe Ether himself, as a translated being, delivered it to the door of Lehi’s tent. 🙂


  6. Jennifer Greenlese says:

    Brother John,

    I have often questioned the need for the Urim and Thummim. Or the need for the Women with an issue of blood to actually touch the Savior’s garment to be healed. It is interesting to contemplate our (human nature the natural man [and woman])’s need for something physical in order to accept the spiritual. For in reality, Joesph Smith did not need the seer stones; he could have been given direct revelation –but then, like I often do, would he question himself and ask was that my thought or Father’s? When the knowledge came directly from the Urim and Thummim there was no question. Is it because we so readily doubt ourselves? In regard to the women, her faith was strong enough to call upon the healing powers, which could have been done without actually touching His garment. Like the (I am not recalling details but basics) commander who sends his centurion (?) to ask Jesus to heal his child/soldier/family member the messenger returns and informs his commander of Christ’s answer. Which was, I think, something like this “let it be according to thy will” or “it will be done” maybe it was, “even in this self same hour they are healed.” I do not recall the details (likely someone who has more time than I, right now, will look it up and share). The point is the healing is done because of the faith of the one asking and/or the one receiving. So, why is it? What causes us to rely upon the physical?

    Please do not get the wrong idea, for, I could be set as the standard and exemplar of one who needs reassurance and confirmation. I question myself constantly all you have to do is go back a post or two to witness my own turmoil in regard to whether it was my will or Father’s that I followed in regard to my son.

    It is intriguing to me how completely we, as spiritual beings, are moored to time/mortality/the physical aspects of ourselves. How comfortable and acceptable of our surroundings we are; moreover, how content we are to be governed by this foreign country’s laws: time, death, decay, loss . . . The veil’s power to cloche our eternal home, thus causing us to feel that this foreign land is our home . . . it is both boggling and awe inspiring to me.

    Sorry, Brother John I have a tendency to contemplate, ponder and wonder . . . I love the thought process and often end up somewhere completely different then where I began.

    Thank you for providing a catalyst to my thoughts, wonders and curiosities of my soul.



  7. kenh says:

    Perhaps because of Laman and Lemuel and their descendants is why the Nephites survived long enough to behold the Savior before they were destroyed by the Lamanites. The Nephites became evil on their own because of pride and worldliness. The Lamanites were always nearby ready to humble those who were capable of becoming humbled and again and again the Nephite nation survived. Without this humbling effect upon the Nephites they would have had no-one to keep them humble and would have probably self-destructed, like the Jaredites before them, long before the Savior would have been resurrected. There would not have been anyone here for Him to visit and teach. We would not have had the Book of Mormon today, the most correct book we have to come unto to Christ. Truly there must be opposition in all things. The Liahona was a physical witness that the Lord was leading Lehi in the wilderness. I am sure John will explain the need for each of us to have a physical witness of our faith.


  8. Donald says:

    it makes me wonder what the Lord has currently prepared for His people to “stir them up in the ways of remembrance”….. if they rebel against Him.


  9. Donald says:

    Seems like Laman and Lemuel had a needed purpose too:

    1 Nephi 2

    23 For behold, in that day that they shall rebel against me, I will curse them even with a sore curse, and they shall have no power over thy seed except they shall rebel against me also.

    24 And if it so be that they rebel against me, they shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance.


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