There are 6 thoughts on “Liahona: “Prepared of the Lord, a Compass””.

  1. Interesting article. A little puzzled why there was no reference to Brian Stubb’s work in your article involving the likely spoken language at the time of Alma, more than 500 years after departure, and no doubt highly modified. His peer reviewed book has been available in major LDS related university libraries for some time and is also available for free on-line at .
    There is an additional proposal for Liahona that was not mentioned in your article indicative of a non-Hebrew influenced possibility (people of Zarahemla/Jaredite) for the name Liahona in a peer reviewed book that I have published that is also available in major university libraries and is also available for free online. Perhaps you were not aware of it, or perhaps chose to ignore it? See pages 33-34 in

    • Brian Stubbs’ work is of a totally different nature. He is comparing Semitic and Egyptian words with words in Uto-Aztecan. He doesn’t connect Liahona with any Semitic, Egyptian or Uto-Aztecan word, so there is no reason the discuss his work as regards the etymology of Liahona.
      With regard to your own studies concerning Sumerian, how is it possible for Lehi to have been acquainted with such an ancient non-Semitic language that had ceased to be viable for over a thousand years? Akkadian, an East Semitic language, replaced Sumerian as a spoken language in the third or second millennium BC. Your methodology of picking Sumerian monosyllables and attaching a variety of meanings to them, and combining them in creative ways without addressing the constraints of Sumerian grammar is not sound linguistic practice. I argue against including non-Semitic languages in any discussion of the etymology of Liahona. I believe that I adequately demonstrated that the three grammatical elements in Liahona are features of Hebrew. Why is it necessary to go outside of the language spoken by Lehi and Nephi to account for a word that they used. Nephi spoke of the compass that the Lord prepared for them (1 Nephi 18:12, 21; 2 Nephi 5:12). The Book of Mormon gives us the meaning of Liahona “prepared the Lord a compass.” The word compass is an interpretation provided by Joseph Smith in the translation process. The Nephite word interpreted as a compass was most likely a form of -ona, the last part of the name. I argue that it signifies a vessel based on cognates from closely related Semitic languages. If the etymology can be explained through Hebrew and closely related languages, then there is no need to go outside of the Semitic languages to gain an understanding of its etymology.

      • I mentioned Brian’s work because it does show that Aramaic is found in Uto-Aztecan, so it does seem apparent that Aramaic was spoken. Perhaps from Mulek but more likely the Lehites. Which actually strengthens your argument of utilizing an Aramaic cognate.
        My work does not indicate that there isn’t a Hebrew etymology for Liahona, yours seems like a very reasonable construction. My work indicates that many names in the BOM may actually be phonetically or glyphically metonymic in up to three of the base languages of Biblical Hebrew, Egyptian, and what I call constructed Sumerian. The basic problem with BOM names is they do not follow historical linguistic principles in that there is no phonetic change over time, and there is no apparent incorporation of any Mesoamerican languages, even though some names have apparently thousands of years of separation with no sound change whatsoever. While names tend to more resistant to sound shifts than other words, they still do reliably as a group follow historical linguistic principles. The other thing that was apparent to me is that basically zero success was made in determining anything about Jaredite names. We know where they came from and roughly the time period so some unknown language would not be expected. We do have a few single syllable names that come from Sumerian (ie Kish) but Jaredite names are clearly not following rules of Sumerian construction. My approach was indeed novel in that I decided to see if I could construct all the Jaredite names, and other names in the BOM using principles of Mesoamerican compound name construction using Sumerian words. I think the result was very successful. With this information, and given the problem of historical linguistics of names in the BOM what can be concluded?
        Given that we know that BOM names are metonymic (as you have shown with Liahona), and that many are calques (no one thinks that the Lamanite king had the phonetic name of Aaron), the answer lies in the translation, or more correctly interpretation. My conclusion is that the translator used as the source language for the BOM names (which can be both existing names, or newly constructed names) the original Old World Biblical Hebrew, the original Old World Egyptian, and the original Old World Sumerian meanings and associated phonetics, but also using Mesoamerican name construction methods for the Sumerian. BOM names were often constructed and have metonymical meanings in more than one of these languages (not necessarily the same meaning). I do understand it is a novel approach and system, but it actually does explain all of the names and unknown words in the Book of Mormon. It does actually follow linguistic principles, it is just that the linguistic premise in approaching BOM names and unknown words is entirely new.

  2. This is an especially satisfying theory on the origin/meaning of the original word for Liahona, especially given the potential interplay of “vessel” as a type of the Savior, and the Liahona as an embodiment of the presence of the Lord as put forward by Neal Rappleye in his paper on “Serpents of Fire and Brass.”

    • This is a great observation. Alma was using the vessel, Liahona, as a prop to teach Helaman about the importance of following the direction of Christ. When Lehi and his group exercised faith and gave heed to the directors (spindles) they progressed in their journey. If they “forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey.” Alma reminds Helaman that “these things are not without a shadow … it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass [vessel], which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land. And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.” (Alma 37:40-45)

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