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Arts & culture from the fringe. Back to blog home.

  • Writer's pictureTerrie Petree

Liahona, Girl of Curious Workmanship

A line of camels came out of the sand. On the first camel rode a famed artisan. Behind him rode the oldest son, the second son, the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth and the seventh sons. Behind the seventh son was a mule. Beside the mule walked a girl.

She was called Liahona. Lia, for the wonder of having a daughter after so many sons. Hona, for a faraway hill.

The artisan and his family were traveling from their solitary enclave of tents in the desert to the great walled city of Jerusalem.

Liahona was not allowed to work in the work tent. Her brothers told her she was too small to handle the heavy tools, too weak to tame fire and bend metal, too simple to decipher the designs.

When Liahona served the meals, she watched her brothers pump the bellows. When she fed the camels, she listened to her father explain the movements of the stars. When she cleaned the tools, she weighed their heft in her hands. When she sat down to sew, she studied the Egyptian characters her father taught her brothers. She practiced them in the sand.

Walking alone beside the mule, Liahona saw serpents and ostriches. She saw the wind make the leaves of the palm grove wave like the woven fans the servants used to cool their masters in the wealthy houses of the city. Then Liahona saw something she had never seen on the journey through their empty stretch of desert. She saw people.

Liahona slipped into the grove and followed the strangers. They were four young men, similar in size to her brothers. Two of the men talked about getting back to the city and sleeping in their own beds. When one of the younger ones said that first they must do what had been commanded, the talkative two got angry. They said that they would not be led by their younger brother. A person did not have to be a girl to be last in line. She felt sympathy for this youngest brother, Nephi. Liahona ran to catch up with her family.

After days of travel, she was astonished to see the same brothers outside a villa in the city. A surly man called the oldest brother a robber and threw him into the street. The next day, Liahona mistook them for vendors heading to market. The brothers carried baskets overflowing with curious wares. Among the goods, she recognized some of her family’s clever designs. Liahona took a place on the wall and watched. The brothers were made to wait outside the villa while other visitors came and went. When they were let in, it was so late that Liahona had to hurry to feed the camels. Still curious, she led a camel to where she could keep an eye on the door. The brothers came out empty-handed and running, pursued by royal guards. Liahona let go of the camel’s lead and it walked into the road between the brothers and the guards. Slowing slightly, Nephi turned and nodded at Liahona. Then the four of them ran straight out the city gates.

After weeks of traveling through the city and from village to village, Liahona’s father led his long line of sons and camels toward home. Liahona found Nephi and his brothers in the same place among the palms. They, too, were heading away from Jerusalem. The brothers walked with a larger group. The bigger brothers wanted to return to Jerusalem. Nephi warned that they would die if they did. They forced him to the ground and tied his arms and legs together like a lamb for sacrifice. The young man rolled into a ball and pushed himself onto his knees. He muttered words she could not hear. The rope fell from his arms and legs. He stood. He was strong and calm. Liahona ran.

At their enclave of tents, Liahona said nothing about the miracle she saw. When her father and brothers went beyond the horizon to study the stars, Liahona slipped into the work tent not knowing beforehand the things which she should do.

She worked feverishly. While her father and brothers were away, Liahona pumped the bellows. Liahona tamed the fire. Liahona made and bent the brass. Liahona wielded the heavy tools.

When she finished her creation and held in her hands an idea from her own head, her father returned. He took the ball and studied the craftsmanship.

“This will bring a high price in the city,” he said.

“Not so, father. It has a purpose. It will lead.”

“A girl cannot travel alone,” said her father.

“I will go and do the thing I have been commanded,” said Liahona.

So it was that a line of camels came out of the sand. On the first camel rode a famed artisan. Behind her rode her father. Behind the father rode the oldest son, the second son, the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth and seventh sons. The mule followed the camels. The camels followed the artisan. She followed the ball of curious workmanship.

Liahona found Nephi, the brothers, and many others camped in a valley. When the sun was low, Liahona the artisan took the ball. After the families retired to their tents, she took her creation from its cover and looked at it in the light of the low burning fires. It stood on its feet like the ostrich. She checked the stars. The spindle pointed true north. She twisted the serpents. The Egyptian characters engraved on their scales made meanings when they were turned and aligned. The brass was fine and smooth. It shone in the last of the flames.

Liahona placed the ball at the door of the tent where the youngest brother slept. She hid herself and fell asleep.

In the morning, the young man’s father was astonished to find an object at his feet. He opened the covering and exclaimed, “What is this ball of curious workmanship?”

The youngest son came out and looked at the ball. He saw the girl as she retreated into the rocks. His eyes widened in recognition. Again, Nephi nodded.

“Liahona,” she said.


About the Author

Terrie Petree & Hollands lives in Pacific Beach, California, with her husband and three children. Ms. Petree is currently working with agent Susan Golomb at Writers House to bring out her first novel, "Gods of This World." The book tells the story of five generations of an LDS ranching family and examines what lies in the space between believing and belonging. On Sundays, she can be found teaching Gospel Doctrine in the San Diego 7th Ward. See what she had to say to the editors of Deseret Book after they decided not to pick up "Liahona, Girl of Curious Workmanship" for publication.


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