IN THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE FIRST YEAR OF THE REIGN of Zedekiah, king of Judah, there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city of Jerusalem would be destroyed.
Wherefore my father, Lehi, prayed unto the Lord, even with all his heart. The Lord commanded my father, in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.
And he was obedient unto the word of the Lord.
And he left his house, and his gold and his silver, taking only his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness. And when he had traveled three days, he pitched his tent in a valley by the side of a river of water.
And the voice of the Lord spoke unto my father by night, and commanded him that on the morrow he should take his journey into the wilderness.
And as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he 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 we should go into the wilderness.
And we did follow the directions of the ball, called the Liahona, or compass, which led us in the more fertile parts of the wilderness.
And 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.
And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.
Abridged from the First Book of Nephi
In the words of the artist:
“It was quite some centuries later until the time of Lehi and the subject of the next picture, LEHI IN THE WILDERNESS DISCOVERS THE LIAHONA. As might be expected when confront with subjects never before pictured, there were opinionated, personal versions on almost every detail. Little things like the color of Nephi’s hair were open to debate and everyone had an opinion.
A baffling question involved the picturing of the Liahona. Of course reader of the Book of Mormon knows the very limited description of the instrument. To illustrate the problem between words and pictures, let us consider a speaker (perhaps a BYU professor) who is known as an expert on the Book of Mormon. Let’s call him Mr. Words. He delivers a speech on what a marvelous device was the Liahona. After the lecture come questions from the audience.
Question: “Just how large was the Liahona?
Speaker: “Oh, we’re not told that. But it was round and had these pointers inside”.
Question: “How did they see the pointers? Was there open work in the design for them to see through? Or was the top hinged to open up for viewing?”
Speaker “We are not told chat either. But it was a wonderful instrument, working according to their faith,
Question: “What did they do with it when not in use? Was there a bag or a stand to keep it Or, did they just let It roll around on the deck of the ship?”
Speaker “Oh, we’re just not told that. But it was of curious workmanship, etcetera.”
Now, Mr. Words hasn’t told us anything any reader of the book doesn’t already know. But he’s off the hook. He’s still an “expert” so to speak. Dealing only in such words as we read, he hasn’t had to really tangle with the answers. Now comes Mr. Pictures. He’s the artist, who doesn’t know the answers any more than Mr. Words or anyone else. But he can’t duck. No, he has to grit his teeth and paint something. There is no tube of oil paint Labeled ‘when you don’t know, use this’. So I painted something that seemed reasonable, of a size easily handled, and he designed a suitable tripod to rest it on. When asked ‘How do you know the Liahona was that size?” I answered, “I don’t know — then how can you paint it that size if you don’t know? It was G.K. Chesterton who once said:”Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.” At last I decided that an historical painting was not a wax-works museum reconstruction. If every detail had to be proved, there would be no creative work of any kind, and strict orthodoxy must yield to some degree.” Arnold Friberg
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