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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.