Source:Reexploring the Book of Mormon:Ch:12:1:Laman and Lemuel and origin of Liahona compass

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Did Laman and Lemuel believe Nephi made the Liahona?

Did Laman and Lemuel believe Nephi made the Liahona?

[S]hortly after the appearance of the Liahona at the door of Lehi's tent, Laman began complaining that Nephi "worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes, thinking, perhaps, that he may lead us away into some strange wilderness" (2 Nephi 16:3-8). After all, whenever fine workmanship and metallurgy had to be done, Nephi was the one who did it (1 Nephi 17:10-11, 16; 19:1; 2 Nephi 5:15-16). What does the study of ancient metallurgy tell us about the setting of Laman and Lemuel's point of view that Nephi made the Liahona?

According to the Book of Mormon, the word Liahona meant specifically "compass" (Alma 37:38), though it was also called a "ball" or "director"—based apparently upon its round form and its guiding function on both land and sea (1 Nephi 16:10, 16; 18:21; Mosiah 1:16; Alma 37:45). While the Book of Mormon does not tell us whether the Liahona functioned partly on geomagnetic principles, Nephi did say that it contained two spindles, one of which functioned as a directional pointer, and that the body was made of "fine brass" (1 Nephi 16:10, 28). Brass is an excellent noncorroding and nonmagnetic case for a compass. Those who are familiar with modern compasses might naturally ask whether the Liahona worked on a similar principle, with a magnetic function for one spindle, and a possible azimuth setting for the other. Perhaps part of Laman's skepticism was based on some familiarity with just such a technology.[1]


  1. Robert F. Smith, "Lodestone and the Liahona," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), Chapter 12, references silently removed—consult original for citations.