Years ago, as a new member of a scout troop, I had my first opportunity to hike to the top of Skoatl Point, a volcanic plug near Kamloops.
The scouters at the time decided to use the hike as a fun orienteering activity. Although the trail to Skoatl Point has always been quite linear, it was a long hike that provided many opportunities for the adults to stop, teach a few things about compasses and orienteering, then let us get a feel for how a compass works and how it might keep us oriented in the forest.
When our group arrived at the volcanic plug, we put away our compasses and completed the challenging climb to the top. After spending some time enjoying the scenery from above the forest, the scouters asked us to pull out our compasses and point out which way was north.
It didn’t take long to realize something was wrong when we were all pointing in different directions.
The Scouters then explained how the geological makeup of Skoatl Point included magnetic materials strong enough to pull a compass away from pointing north.
I learned a useful lesson from the fact that forces exist that might make a trusty compass become useless. Sometimes in the wilderness, a scout might need to know how to navigate using additional tools that are less prone to influence from magnetic forces — even celestial tools like the sun or stars.
That unusual experience with my compass years ago has helped me consider how easily a person can become disoriented from the path that God would have them walk if they become too reliant on useful, God-given, but earthly tools.
It reminds me of a compass spoken about in The Book of Mormon — a special compass that wasn’t designed to point north.
Around 600 BC, Lehi and his family were camped near the shores of the southern end of the Red Sea, not yet sure of the next step on their journey from Jerusalem to the Americas.
One night, God directed Lehi in a dream to make a dangerous, multi-year trek east, across the desert. The next morning, Lehi walked out of his tent to find, on the ground, a ball made of intricately and curiously worked brass. At that point in history, compasses had not been invented yet, so the object was unlike anything he had ever seen.
While Lehi and his family examined this curious metal ball, they learned from God that it was a pointer, or director, designed to point the way on their dangerous journey.
Inside, they could see two spindles. Instead of responding to the earth’s magnetic field and pointing north, though, the spindles responded to the family’s faith in God and pointed in the direction they needed to travel.
Lehi’s family called their compass the Liahona.
When they unitedly put their faith in God, trusting, following, remembering and worshipping him, the Liahona steadily pointed to their destination or to resources they needed for survival and progression.
Whenever the family would collectively stop acting in faith, the Liahona would stop working, indicating the need to stop travelling and focus on spiritual nourishment and reconnection with God.
With the aid of this compass — the Liahona — Lehi and his family were able to cross the desert with adequate food and water, find metals so they could craft tools and build a ship, cross the ocean and safely land in the Americas — all while keeping their faith in and dependence on God intact.
The Liahona was never needed again as a compass, but for the next 1,000 years, it was passed from leader to leader as a reminder of where their people came from, the role faith played in getting them to where they were and the need for faith in God as they navigated forward.
It was a reminder that, although God gave many unique gifts to guide them through many unique challenges and journeys, the gifts wouldn’t work properly without at least a seed of faith in God.
Today, The Book of Mormon invites us to consider this same lesson from the Liahona.
Whether we find ourselves receiving the words of a holy book, a religion, inspired advice from a leader or minister, an act of kindness or even a special compass dropped in the mailbox, we’re invited to remember that these tools for progression are fuelled by our faith in the God who gave them.
With that faith, we will be led on the path God wants us to walk through our most difficult challenges (and through life itself) to the “promised land” he has prepared for each of us.
Andrew Lamb is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kamloops. KTW welcomes submissions to its Faith page. Columns should be between 600 and 800 words in length and can be emailed to email@example.com. Please include a very short bio and a photo.