In very few places in literature is there a more interesting story than that of Lehi the prophet, who led a caravan of people down the Arabian Peninsula on their way to America.  Their initial goal, after leaving the city of Jerusalem, was a distant coastline where they built a ship and sailed to the American Continent, to a promised land that had been prepared for them.
It was an eight-year journey through Arabia, however, that turned out to be an interesting itinerary.  Having been a merchant during his lifetime, Lehi was familiar with desert travel, and even though he followed what was known as the Frankincense Trail, there were times when his quest for the promised land sometimes required that he go in alternate directions.  The Lord knew the way He wanted the people to follow, and to assist them he gave them the Liahona.
Coming out of his tent one morning, Lehi ''beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass.  And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither (he) should go into the wilderness." (1 Nephi 16: 10)
Certainly it was a surprise to the prophet, as well as to those in his company, but in the years to follow, it proved to be an invaluable instrument of travel.  Not only did the spindles indicate correct directions, but miraculously on one of them divine messages would appear.  Yet reminiscent of some of the miracles recorded in the Bible, the Liahona worked only according to the faith and obedience of the people.
In the words of another prophet during a later time period, "it was prepared to show 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." (Alma 37:39-40) When people were slothful and unfaithful, however, the Liahona would always stop working.
It was not uncommon for prophets to emphasize the symbolism of this "round ball of curious workmanship," saying that just as the spindles point the right way, so also can the word of God point the way to a "promised land" in the kingdom of heaven.  Indeed, this was exemplified in the epic journey of the prophet Lehi during his journey through a desert wilderness and across an ocean to the land of America.  It is one of many accounts recorded in the ancient record known as the Book of Mormon.
Written by Clay McConkie.
Click here "1 Nephi 16:9-31" to read the actual account of this story from the Book of Mormon.