A literary analysis of the word Liahona
The Book of Mormon breaks several rules that are critical to works of fiction.
Whenever an ancient document is found which has questionable historical authenticity, there is a standard testing process that is done to determine whether the document is a work of fiction or non-fiction. This analysis has to start by assuming that the book is historically accurate, and then begin to look for discrepancies that cannot be justified.
There are two problems with this process when it comes to the Book of Mormon. First, those who are analyzing the Book of Mormon are doing so because they already have a predetermined bias. They are either looking to prove it wrong or prove it is true. Those who want to prove it wrong will not start by assuming that the book is true, and once a discrepancy is found, they will not look for ways that it can be justified. The second is that the Book of Mormon does not contain any discrepancies that cannot be justified by those who wish to prove it true. This is a fairly uncommon situation for a book, and means that its authenticity remains in the hands of each individual reader's belief.
In this case, I am going to reverse this process, and assume the book to be a work of fiction for this analysis.
What's in a name?
In a traditional work of fiction, if you are going to give a person or object a name, you must either do so close to when the person or object is introduced, or the missing name must be a driving force for the characters plot. You cannot introduce a key character that makes several appearances, and not name them unless the reason you do not name them plays an important role to the plot.
Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings
(Minor spoiler alert)
For example, in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, we are quickly introduced to the One Ring to rule them all. The location and dangers of the ring are quickly identified within the story and it becomes a major focal point of the plot. It would not make sense for Frodo to carry the ring into Mordor, just to identify the ring once he was there.
In Harry Potter series Harry is given a cloak, but does not find out the identity of the cloak until the story begins to lead into the final events of the series. The cloak then plays a critical role in the final book as one of the Deathly Hallows.
The Liahona however is not in such a critical role, so let's examine something that also does not serve in a critical role throughout the Lord of the Rings. When the Fellowship of the Ring departs from Lothlórien, the group is given bread that is made by the elves. This bread is immediately identified as lembas bread, and a description of what it does is given. Lembas then makes several appearances throughout the journey.
This happens over and over again in fiction and plotted non-fiction.
The case of the compass
The Book of Mormon introduces the Liahona within its first book, called 1 Nephi. It's used by the family in 1 Nephi 16 and 18 fairly heavily; however it is never given its formal name here. It is then only briefly mentioned in 2 Nephi 5:12 and Mosiah 1:16 where they mentioned who it was given to.
The last time that the ball is mentioned in the Book of Mormon is where it is finally given its name. This is in Alma 37, estimated to be about 500 years after it was originally introduced. It then drops out of the Book of Mormon, never to be written about again within its pages.
This is not consistent with how books of fiction are written.
So my question to ponder here is this: If the Book of Mormon was just a work of fiction, and not translated from a record, why would Joseph Smith not just give the ball its name in 1 Nephi? What purpose would it serve to finally name the item halfway through the book, but then never bring it back up again?
And if Joseph Smith had been the one to name it, why would he define it differently when he claims to have received direct revelation just prior to the publication of the book?
|References according to the 1st edition Book of Mormon||Show|