After being obedient to the command of the Lord to flee Jerusalem and journey in the wilderness, the prophet Lehi was given a special gift — a compass called the Liahona.
The scriptures describe the Liahona as a “round ball of curious workmanship” made of brass with two spindles (1 Nephi 16:10). Through their afflictions and experiences on their journey, Lehi and his company discovered their special compass not only would lead them where to go and to “the more fertile parts of wilderness” but it would also reveal “understanding ... the ways of the Lord” (1 Nephi 16:16, 29).
They also discovered, however, that this miraculous gift worked only “according to the faith and diligence and heed” which they gave to it. If they were slothful, murmuring or disobedient, the compass ceased to work and they did not progress in their journey. Through repentance, prayer and obedience, however, they were guided to the promised land. (See 1 Nephi 18.)
A later Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, in counseling his son Helaman, compared the “miracle” of the Liahona to the “word of Christ” (Alma 37:44).
“For behold, 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, 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 37:44-45).
Just as the Liahona was a compass for Lehi and his family if they would give heed to its directions, so too can the word of God reveal understanding of the Lord’s ways and guide us, as Alma says, to “a straight course to eternal bliss.”
President Howard W. Hunter declared that the scriptures contain the record of the self-revelation of God and through them God speaks to man (“Teachings of the President of the Church: Howard W. Hunter,” p. 144). As such, individuals can rely on the scriptures in seeking the will of the Lord for their lives.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained in his April 2010 general conference address that the scriptures expound the doctrine of Christ. Because they expound the doctrine of Christ, they are accompanied by the Holy Spirit, whose role it is to bear witness of the Father and the Son. “Therefore, being in the scriptures is one way we receive the Holy Ghost,” Elder Christofferson said. “Of course scripture is given through the Holy Ghost in the first place and that same Spirit can attest its truth to you and me. Study the scriptures carefully, deliberately. Ponder and pray over them. Scriptures are revelation, and they will bring added revelation.”
A perfect example of how the words of Christ can guide us in seeking personal revelation would most certainly include the young boy Joseph Smith who received direction as he read and pondered the words of James 1:5-6, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”
“Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine,” the Prophet later recorded. “It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again” (Joseph Smith — History 1:12).
Spurred to act upon what he had read, Joseph prayed to know which church to join and was answered by God and Jesus Christ in person.
As noted by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the most recent youth Face to Face broadcast on March 4, “The last and the greatest of all dispensations would swing on the hinge of one verse of scripture from the book of James. Talk about the power of the scriptures and the power of revelation. No wonder the Lord has cared so much about preserving them, providing them, having us in them.”
Today, the Holy Bible, Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants — in addition to the words of modern prophets — all flow freely through television, radio, the internet, satellite, CD, DVD and in print, Elder Christofferson said. “I suppose that never in history has a people been blessed with such a quantity of holy writ. And not only that, but every man, woman and a child may possess and study his or her own personal copy of these sacred texts, most in his or her own language.
“Surely with this blessing the Lord is telling us that our need for constant recourse to the scriptures is greater than in any previous time.”
The scriptures truly “tell us all things that we should do” (2 Nephi 32:3). Let us feast upon them, as Nephi declared. And, just as Lehi and his company relied on the direction set by the Liahona, let us follow the course set by the word of God with faith and diligence. If we do so, they will carry us “beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.”