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What are the odds that the name “Liahona” would be a good fit for the Book of Mormon?

The word “Liahona” is only mentioned once in the Book of Mormon, in Alma 37:38:

And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.

Why would Joseph Smith give an interpretation of the word? Wouldn’t this be an unnecessary risk? However it seems this interpretation was spot on.

Calvin D. Tolman notes:

The structural sequence of the segments in the name Liahona follow typical Hebrew word order (VSO), where the prefixed lamed represents the verb, l– “prepared” + the subject, Yāh “the Lord” + the object –ona [Ɂōnâ] “a vessel,” i.e., “prepared the Lord a vessel.” Normal English word order would be “the Lord prepared a vessel (SVO).” Alma’s explanation places the object first that is a Hebrew technique to give more emphasis to the object, “Liahona, which is being interpreted a compass — and the Lord prepared it” (Alma 37:38). It is proposed that *Ɂōnâ “vessel” is an appropriate Semitic word for the physical object; it is portable; it is a container with spindles; it indicates directions; it is made of fine brass; and it is interpreted “a compass.”

Calvin D. Tolman – Liahona: “Prepared of the Lord, a Compass”

How would Joseph Smith know how to form Hebrew words like this, and include the correct meaning? 


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