A NEW MODEL FOR
BOOK OF MORMON GEOGRAPHY
By James Lee Warr
The Liahona and the Stone Balls.
A Possible Explanation for the Curious Stone Balls of Costa Rica.
In the Diquis region of southwestern Costa Rica there is a unique occurrence of ancient stone spheres which has intrigued and puzzled archaeologists ever since their discovery in 1940. These stone balls are monolithic sculptures created by the early inhabitants of the Diquis region and range in size from several inches to over 6 feet in diameter. They have been smoothed and rounded, and the largest one would weight approximately 16 tons. It is estimated that there are 150 to 200 of these spheres in existence. They are quite sophisticated in their technical design and construction, appearing to the eye to be perfectly round. The method of construction is unknown, however was probably similar to other stone artwork of the Central American area. The granodiorite igneous rock from which they were made, was transported from the nearby Talamancan Mountains to the coastal area, where most of them were found, a distance of about 40 miles. Dating of the spheres has been difficult as normal dating methods are not applicable, so dating depends on the stratigraphic relationship to other datable archaeological materials. The spheres were often originally located on elevated mounds which might suggest that they were objects of worship or adoration.
I would like to suggest that these balls may be related to the ancient sacred object known as the Liahona, which is described in the Book of Mormon (1 Ne. 16:10, 2 Ne. 5:12, Mos. 1:16, Alma 37:38-40), a religious history of some of the ancient inhabitants of Central America . The Liahona was an instrument which was miraculously provided to the family of Lehi in order to guide them in their travels across the Arabian peninsula, and later to the new world. It also provided them with words and slogans of encouragement and counsel. It was described variously as a ball, compass, or director. Physically, it was a ball or sphere made of brass of "curious workmanship" and was probably about 6 inches in diameter. It would only operate properly if faith were exercised in the process, at which time it would miraculously indicate the proper direction in which the party should travel. However, the process was so simple that often the party would take it for granted, or regard it as something commonplace.
When the party completed their journeying, the Liahona ceased to function, and was thereafter kept and regarded as a sacred and symbolic object, and one of the national treasures of the people. (The other sacred treasures were the Sword of Laban and the Brass Plates of Laban.) The Liahona (along with the other sacred objects) was subsequently taken by Nephi, when he and his followers separated from his hostile brothers, Laman and Lemuel, and the main body of the people. This group, led by Nephi, later became known as the Nephites, and the original body was known as the Lamanites. These sacred objects where subsequently passed down through the Nephite leaders for a period of a thousand years.
Laman and Lemuel were outraged that Nephi had taken these objects, which they regarded as their property by rights of inheritance, for these treasures had great symbolic value far beyond being just family heirlooms. They symbolized the identity, origin and authority of the group and endowed the possessor with the mantle of leadership. Thereafter the Lamanites taught their children that they had been "robbed" of their rightful property and inheritance, and because of this great wrong which had been committed against them, that they should thereafter hate the Nephites, and view them as enemies, (Mos. 10:12-17, Alma 20:13). As a result, the Lamanites always regarded all Nephites as robbers, thieves and enemies, and these feelings resulted in continual warfare for almost a thousand years, with the eventual destruction of the Nephite group.
Now back to the stone spheres and the Liahona. I would like to propose that the Lamanites, now bereft of their sacred treasures, created substitutes, and the substitute for the Liahona was the stone ball or sphere. These would have been made and used as a talisman or totem for families or clans. They would have been a religious emblem for them, and may have been worshiped and venerated. They might have even covered them with a plating of gold, copper or tumbaga (an alloy of copper and gold) to give them a more realistic appearance, as the Diquis area is very mineral rich, and the materials readily available. The different size balls may have designated ranking or standing in the community.
Of course all this is merely speculation, but it is just as valid as many of the other theories which have been proposed for the stone balls, some of which are very far fetched. But if this proposal is in fact correct, the balls are located in the right area. According to my proposal for Book of Mormon geography, this area of Costa Rica would have been the original landing site and the land of their First Inheritance (Alma 22:28).