Steampunk can be loosely defined as a setting where technology is as it was during Victorian era Britain, wild-west United States, or even some imaginary post-apocalyptic retro-future. However, the technology is advanced beyond what was available at that time. It often uses steam power rather than electricity, is made of shiny metals such as brass, copper, or gold or other gemstones. It contains knobs and dials and plush leather coverings, and often relates to/gives access to/is powered by supernatural powers. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steampunk)
While I was at church today listening to a lesson, the Liahona was mentioned as being a spiritual compass. My mind began to spin as I realized that the Liahona is an ideal example steampunk.
Could the Liahona’s obvious steampunk-ness be a coincidence (or my crazy imagination)? I don’t think so. The Liahona is just one of many scriptural examples of steampunk. We’ve got the Liahona, rods of iron, books made of brass and gold, Urim and Thummim’s, gold plated gem-encrused breastplates, and the Ark of the Covenant (just to name a few).
Let’s examine each of these in turn.
And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.
And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord said unto him: Look upon the ball, and behold the things which are written.
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the afaith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.
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.
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. And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship.
In short, it’s a ball made of brass and spindles, ahead of its time (‘there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship’), and is powered by a spirtual force: ‘the pointers … they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them … new writing … changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it’.
And I beheld a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood.
And they said unto me: What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree?
And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.
During Lehi’s dream of the ‘tree of life’, there is a rod of iron that leads the way to the tree. Why choose an iron rod? It’s strong (as steampunk tech goes) and gives spiritual protection and guidance.
Plates of brass and gold
Sheets of brass and gold are the perfect medium for a steampunk instruction manual. Scrolls don’t tend to last very long, stone flakes away, but soft(er) metals such as brass and gold can keep for a LONG time (certainly longer than any tech we use today) and are fairly easy to write on. And they look oh so cool.
Urim and Thummim
There are several references to these stones in the old testament (Leviticus 8:8, Nehemiah 7:65, Ezra 2:63, Deuteronomy 33:8, Exodus 28:30). Also a reference in Revelation 2:17 about a white stone that is presumably a personal Urim and Thummim everyone will receive (in white no less – like a white smartphone). The D&C further clarifies (D&C 130:10):
Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known.
But what do they look like? We get a description in Joseph Smith History 1:35:
There were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times.
Precious gemstones that give knowlege and power. This is the latest in steampunk accessories. You can slip it in your pocket, drop it into a tophat, or (as the Jewish high priests used to do in the Old Testament), stick it in your gem encrusted breastplate (more on this next). Never be without the answers to life, the universe, and everything ever again.
The High Priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28)
A species of pouch, adorned with precious stones, worn by the high priest on his breast. The directions specify that it was to be made “of gold, of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen”. On the front face of this square were set, in four rows, twelve precious stones, on each of which was engraved the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. It hung over the breast of the wearer, and was secured to the shoulders of the ephod by gold cords (or chains).
It doesn’t get much more steampunk than that. Except, of course, the ultimate in religious steampunk …
Ark of the Covenant
Nowhere is God’s love of steampunk more evident than in the Ark of the Covenant. It is a box plated in gold (inside and out), topped by golden cherubim (angels). It houses the ten commandments, written by the finger of God Himself. Some of the powers of the Ark (some type of awesome steampunk machine?) include parting the Jordan River, helping topple the walls of Jericho, winning battles by destroying the enemies of the Ark, and running off poisonous animals. But don’t try to open it, or else your face will melt.