28 And it came to pass that 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.
29 And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.
(1 Nephi 16:28-29)
When Lehi discovered the “round ball of curious workmanship” outside of his tent, its purpose was pretty obvious, since the Lord had commanded him the day before to “take his journey into the wilderness” on that day. Nephi tells us that there were two “spindles” in the ball, and that one of them pointed the direction they should travel (1 Nephi 16:9-10). (He doesn’t tell us the purpose of the other spindle.) The family traveled many days, following the directions of the ball, which led them “in the more fertile parts of the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:16).
It was only after they encountered a significant trial that they discovered that this ball was also capable of providing written messages from God, which “changed from time to time.” That capability became clear when the family lost their principal means of acquiring food. After Nephi broke his bow, his father and his brothers, who were hungry and exhausted, began to “[complain] against the Lord their God” (1 Nephi 16:19-22). Nephi reproved his brothers, made a new bow, and asked his father where he should go to find food. When his father prayed for guidance, he was directed to look at the ball, where he saw words written which caused him to “fear and tremble exceedingly” (1 Nephi 16:27).
After relating these events, Nephi teaches us the principle he learned. In the passage above, he tells us that this miraculous tool given to them by God only worked “according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto [it].”
Alma later taught his son Helaman how we can apply this principle in our lives:
43 And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual.
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.
45 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 37:43-45)
Today, I will remember the importance of giving heed to the word of Christ. Just as Nephi discovered that the compass only worked if they diligently and faithfully followed it, so also the words of Christ which are available to me through the scriptures, through the words of modern prophets, and through the gift of the Holy Ghost will only be helpful to me if I am willing to pay attention to them and choose to follow them. As I participate in church services today, I will look for the messages that Heavenly Father is giving to me and will make specific plans to follow the counsel I receive.