The Liahona – Part 2 – 1 Nephi 16:25-33

You can read 1 Nephi 16:25-33 here.

Context and General Information

  • After Nephi fashioned a bow and arrow out of wood and sticks and then went to his father for direction, Lehi went to the Lord. The Lord chastised Lehi for murmuring and complaining against him. Lehi was extremely sorrowful.
  • The Lord told Lehi to look at the ball of curious workmanship (the Liahona) that he had provided them. When Lehi looked at it, he read a message that was written on it. He feared and trembled because of what it said – as did Nephi’s brothers and the sons of Ishmael and the wives.
  • Nephi beheld that the Liahona worked according to faith, diligence, and heeding the directions that it gave.
  • There was a new writing on the Liahona – it was plain to read and gave them understanding concerning God’s ways. The message written on the Liahona changed from time to time, and it likewise worked according to their faith, diligence, and heed.
  • By small and simple means the Lord can bring about great things.

The Liahona – How It Works

In the previous post, we learned that God communicated with Lehi and his family through the Liahona. But it didn’t happen magically. There was work that Lehi and his family needed to do in order to have the Liahona take any kind of effect in their lives.

In the previous post, we also learned that we have modern-day examples of Liahonas in our lives – the scriptures and Priesthood blessings. Like the Liahona, they aren’t magic, but they require work on our part in order for them to be effective.

Nephi explained:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.” – 1 Nephi 16:28

The Liahona worked only according to faith, diligence, and the heed that they gave to it.

Faith

First of all, the Liahona only worked according to the faith of Lehi and his family. Alma explains this really well:

“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.” – Alma 37:40

Notice how Alma explains that the Liahona worked according to their faith in God. They didn’t have faith in the Liahona. They didn’t start worshipping the Liahona. They trusted God. They trusted that God would give them the right direction to go through the Liahona.

What stands out to me is this – in our own lives, if we want to have direction, then we also need to have faith. Faith doesn’t mean simply that God will let us have whatever we think we want. Faith means that we trust His direction, even if we are being pointed in a way that doesn’t seem to be where we want to go.

I’ll give a more concrete example. Years ago, I applied for a dumb job at a health club. I was a young mom with two kids. This was during my first marriage. My (ex)husband worked during the days, and this job would be in the early evening. I was hoping to get this job so that I could have a free membership to the health club – and then hopefully get in shape, too.

I went and filled out an application, etc. I prayed, and I thought to myself, Yes, I have faith that I can get this job! For a moment, I thought that’s what was required. I knew that God was capable of helping me get this job. I knew that He was powerful. I had faith.

But, as this thought process continued, I was corrected. Faith isn’t merely thinking that God is able. Faith means that we will accept His will for us – that we trust Him even if it isn’t what we think we want. Faith meant that I would be grateful and happy for His guidance and help in my life, even if I didn’t get that job at the Health Club.

Well, you might be able to guess it. I did NOT get the job. But I felt comforted. I had faith. I knew that I did my best, that I prayed, and that I trusted God. In this case, I was able to see the blessing of my faith and God’s “no” answer to my prayers. A few weeks later, one of my friends told me about how she would work at another health club – once a week – for a few hours in the late evening after it closed. She was moving, and there would be an opening. I told her I was interested.

I didn’t have to do anything – no paperwork, no application. I was chosen! This “job” didn’t pay money – instead it was a barter – my family and I had a free membership to the health club, and I went in on Wednesday nights at 10:30 PM to help with some basic cleaning. Usually, we worked until about 1:30 AM. It was actually a lot of fun, too. This solution was better than my solution.

Trusting in the Lord worked. I couldn’t see the solution. I couldn’t see the blessing. But because of faith in the Lord -even when things didn’t originally work out – I was able to experience more of what I wanted with the blessing He had in store.

***

I figure that there were times when the spindles of the Liahona pointed Lehi and his family in a direction that may have had them scratching their collective head. They had to trust God. They had to have faith in God.  And the same for us – we must have faith in God, not the scriptures; not the priesthood; not our patriarchal blessing – we must have faith in the God who gave us these things.

Diligence

Okay. Dictionary time…

Diligence: Careful or persistent work or effort.

Now, the thought that keeps coming to me is a possible relationship between diligence and the concept of our progress coming line upon line, precept upon precept. I hope I can explain this in a way that makes sense.

We are taught, over and over again, that we learn line upon line, precept upon precept. In 2 Nephi, we read:

“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” – 2 Nephi 28:30

Heavenly Father directs us:

  • Line upon line
  • precept upon precept
  • here a little
  • there a little

His direction does not come all at once. This is why we need to pray always. It isn’t a mistake or problem on our part if we pray, pray, and pray again for something. I would guess that Lehi daily prayed that his family would make it to the promised land. This was not out of faithlessness.

He had a huge task ahead of him – a task that took 8 years to complete. It would have been insane for Heavenly Father to give Lehi every direction of this journey in one single moment at the beginning of their trip. Imagine that! If Heavenly Father gave all of His direction in one instance – all of the direction that would take 8 years to complete – it would have been overwhelming, and I believe that Lehi would have failed.

Instead, Lehi and his family get their guidance piecemeal. So, they must be diligent. They complete step one, and then they need to go back to the Lord, in humble prayer, in order to receive step two.

It is the same in our lives. We need to pray always, we need to be diligent in our obedience and in our seeking, in order to receive the direction we want and need in our lives. We need to read the scriptures every day. The Lord won’t give us the answers to the problems of our lives in one singular event, and thank goodness. If He did, I think that it would lead to a sure failure.

Instead, we receive direction a bit at a time.

Here’s another analogy. A few years ago, I was taking my brother to the trailhead of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain, Georgia. My brother lived in Pennsylvania, so I can’t say that I knew the way to go. My brother plugged in the address to Elijay, Georgia – where we would stay before he started the hike. And you know how it goes…after he put in the address, his phone quickly announced every single step that we would take in less than a minute. The directions disappeared, and we had every step, every turn, every merge, every intersection, every highway committed to memory.

hahahah! Of course that’s not how it happened. Instead, his phone said, “Turn right on Glenside Rd.” (which is the first road out of our neighborhood, so fairly obvious and familiar with us). A minute later we did turn right onto Glenside. We stayed on Glenside, and then the GPS on the phone warned, “In .4 miles, turn left onto PA State Route 322.” And then, wouldn’t you know, in .4 miles, we turned left. This continued for the next 12 hours until we “arrived at our final destination.”

We needed to diligently listen to the advice given on the GPS. If we had turned it off after the first or second step – complaining, Why didn’t our GPS get us to our destination?! It would have been silly! It was getting us there – step by step, line upon line. The Lord works in a similar way.

Heed

Finally, Nephi explains that they gave heed to what the Liahona directed them to do. This critical step keeps standing out to me.

So often in life, I’m guilty of not giving heed. I will read the scriptures, I’ll know what I need to do, I’ll even intend to do it, and then – for some reason (usually distraction), I don’t get around to doing it.

The Liahona could have given the most specific and beautiful instructions to the promised land and still have been completely pointless – if Lehi hadn’t followed the instructions.

To go with the analogy above – if I heeded some of the instructions on my route from PA to Ellijay, GA but not others, then I wouldn’t have made it to my destination. I had to follow the instructions. I had to complete each step.

Heed is a demonstration of our faith. Do we believe the pointers on the Liahona, then we will follow them. Do we believe what we learn in the scriptures? Then we follow them. Do we really believe what God has instructed us in Priesthood blessings? Then we will do what we have been instructed to do.

***

I say this, and I understand how hard it can be. I have a personality (annoying at times) that doesn’t particularly like being told what to do. It is kind of strange. I remember receiving a blessing and in it I was praised for keeping a journal. I was also advised to continue doing so. And I didn’t write in my journal again for months. I didn’t doubt the direction. In fact, I kept intending to do it. I kind of thought It was a jinx! If it hadn’t been mentioned in my blessing, I would have kept on doing it!

Of course, it wasn’t God’s fault that I stopped writing in my journal. It was my fault. I sought direction. Heavenly Father gave me direction. And yet, I didn’t give heed. Thankfully, Heavenly Father is a patient and loving God. He understands each of us. He helps us to “recalibrate” and “recalculate” our path when we diverge from the directions He has given us.

But it is so much easier to simply give heed from the beginning.

I suppose that this is standing out to me because it is what I find most difficult. Interestingly enough, when I discover something on my own – during scripture study, prayer, or through a spiritual prompting – I usually have an easier time doing it. Then, when I receive it through a directive, it feels a little bit stifling and I kind of clam up and have a much harder time doing what I must do. It feels like a Herculean task – even if it is something I was already doing.

The Lord is trying to teach me to keep heeding Him. I can trust Him. I also don’t need to feel that this is some kind of stifling suppression of my agency and identity. Instead, I can trust that above all He knows me, and if I trust Him, if I do what He prompts, then I will find fulfillment that goes above and beyond what I would have done for myself.

***

Time to wrap this up.

I’m grateful for the example of the Liahona in the Book of Mormon. Even though I don’t have some cool, newfangled ball of curious workmanship, I do have other “instruments” in my life that can act as a Liahona. We have the scriptures, we have Priesthood Blessings. I have the gift of the Holy Ghost and access to promptings and direction. And if we apply those ways that caused Lehi’s Liahona to work into our own lives, then our own personal “liahonas” will also give us direction and comfort.

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Mourning and Joy (Alma 62:1-2)

I’ve been thinking about opposition a lot lately. Sometimes, I think that in the “Mormon” world, we tend to think that opposition = evil. We think it is bad. I think that sometimes we forget that opposition is not always good or bad. For example, day and night – are opposites. Neither day nor night are inherently good or bad. We need them both.

I think that many of the emotions and experiences we have in life are similar. Often, it is just required of us to feel a range of emotions, and we can even feel them at the same time. Instead of wondering, “what is wrong?” when we feel a negative emotion, we might do well to simply accept it. Instead of worrying about how to always “fix” ourselves so that we feel joy.

I’ve been reading the Book of Mormon with an emphasis on joy. And I’ve learned that there is joy to be had in nearly every circumstance. This doesn’t mean that things are easy. This isn’t some kind of “happy-go-lucky” shallow joy. This is peace and comfort, even amidst trial and difficulty. It is the kind of joy that strengthens us and helps us rise to the challenge. It is the kind of joy that comes through discipline and strict tutelage.

In Alma 62, we read about Captain Moroni:

“”And now it came to pass that when Moroni had received this epistle his heart did take courage, and was filled with exceedingly great joy because of the faithfulness of Pahoran, that he was not also a traitor to the freedom and cause of his country.

But he did also mourn exceedingly because of the iniquity of those who had driven Pahoran from the judgment-seat, yea, in fine because of those who had rebelled against their country and also their God.” – Alma 62:1-2

Moroni feels both joy and mourning!

It sounds kind of oxymoronic, but this is the way that opposition works in our lives. Joy and mourning are often two sides of the same coin. When we have faith in the Lord, though, we feel an external force – comfort and hope of salvation. So, we don’t have to ever feel despair or hopelessness.

I guess I’m just trying to say that it is possible – to feel joy and to also mourn. Especially when we are considering those we love.

Well, not only that, but it is okay to mourn. Remember, it was Christ proclaimed that those who mourn will be comforted. As I think about this, I suppose a distinction should be made. Self-pity and mourning aren’t the same thing. Self-pity is an indulgence. It will not yield comfort and then hope.

I can see why Moroni mourns. There is so much war and sadness. All of this could have been avoided – every difficulty in the society could have been cured by righteousness! When we are righteous – individually, and as a society, then we will be happy!

Comfort will Come (Jacob 3:1-2)

The scriptures in Jacob 2 and 3 have always meant a lot to me. Unfortunately, actually. In Jacob 2, Jacob is preaching to the people. They had started committing whoredoms – plural marriage and concubines, though it had not been sanctioned by God.

The men and fathers were unfaithful to their wives. This was destroying families.

As I said, I can relate to this, I’ve experienced divorce in many ways. My parents were divorced. They both remarried (separate, new spouses), and then they both eventually went through divorces again. Divorce isn’t easy for children.

As an adult, I was married in the temple, but my ex-husband wasn’t faithful to his commitments. Being betrayed was difficult. My heart and my family was broken. I divorced him.

But there is hope.

Jacob teaches:”But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.

O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever.” – Jacob 3:1-2

After admonishing the unfaithful, Jacob then spoke to the pure in heart. He promised them that the Lord would console them, plead their cause, and send down justice.

I can testify that this is true. While I was going through these trials (of betrayal and divorce), life felt so hopelessly depressing. I didn’t know what would happen in my life, I only had these words (and other scriptures) that offered small rays of hope – of promise – for a brighter and happier future.

When we choose the Lord, the comfort will come. It isn’t easy. When I chose to be separated from my family, I was the primary chorister. I was teaching the children the music of the church. I was teaching them the song, “Families Can Be Together Forever” even though my supposed forever family was dying.

It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t comfortable. But I put my trust in the Lord.

And the comfort came. In fact, it wasn’t long before the comfort came. The Lord promised, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4). I mourned the death of my marriage, I looked to the Lord, and I was comforted.

In time, I started having experiences that were hard, but they were confidence building. I got a job. I ran a marathon. Neither of these things were easy, but they were a great source of confidence and joy during an otherwise difficult time.

And, then, best of all, this challenge eventually came to an end. I was healed from much of the pain, I started dating, and then I met and married the love of my life. In the moment of pain, I couldn’t imagine comfort, joy, or healing. But it came.

I can testify to what Jacob says. If we are pure in heart, and if we stay committed to Him in our lives and in our covenants, then we will receive consolation. We will have peace. We will be able to feast on His love. Our pain will be healed, and we will have joy despite the challenges that we have experienced.

Comfort (2 Nephi 8:3)

Today, I read a really hopeful and comforting scripture.

“For the Lord shall comfort Zion, he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.” – 2 Nephi 8:3

I’m reading the Book of Mormon with an emphasis on joy. And so often we are told that joy and happiness comes with keeping the commandments, covenanting with God, etc.

Yet, we still experience sadness, misery, and pain. No one, not even the righteous, are exempt from illness, injustices, betrayal, and other unfortunate experiences.

It can be tempting to get into “instant-gratification mode” and think that we should have comfortable easy lives if we are keeping the covenants we have made with God.

The truth is, Zion – those who are righteous covenant keepers – will go through difficulty and pain. However, the Lord will comfort her.

We will experience our own waste places, deserts, and rough patches in life.

And though the Lord may not transform these difficult experiences immediately, He will make them like Eden.

I like thinking about this very literally, too. I lived in Arizona. The Desert. Then I moved to Hawai’i. Paradise. What a stark difference!

If we remain faithful, the Lord promises to consecrate our afflictions. We will find joy. Thanksgiving. We will sing a song of praise.

And while we still must live through a vail of tears and difficulty, we can let this hope comfort us now. We can rejoice and give thanks now. We can live with a happy song in our hearts now – because we have the hope of Christ.