We now enter into a new phase of the journey of Lehi's family to the promised land. His sons are married to Ishmael's daughters and Lehi is comforted by the fact that the Lord is happy with his having kept the commandments given them thus far.
But the tests are just beginning for them.
One morning, as Lehi left his tent, he saw on the ground "a round ball of curious workmanship". Nephi states that it was made of brass and that within it were two spindles, one of which pointed which way they should go into the wilderness.
There has been much speculation on the construction, design, and inner workings of this artifact, but spiritually speaking, we are to find as we read on that only one thing was important about it.
As they struck camp and headed out into the wilderness to a place called Shazer, and then later through some more "fertile parts of the wilderness" in the borders near the Read Sea, they hunted game and were able to obtain food using a bow and arrows and stones and slings.
Nephi reports that, on one hunting excursion, his bow broke. His family was extremely upset with this misfortune because Laman and Lemuel's bows had both lost their spring. That, in turn, meant that their ability to feed a large number of people was greatly reduced. Because Nephi's bow was made of "fine steel" (see 2 Sam. 22: 35 for a biblical reference to steel that predates Nephi), it was not likely that they would come across a replacement anytime soon.
Everyone began to murmur against the Lord. Even Lehi.
Nephi began to try to teach them to trust in the Lord, but they wouldn't listen. Talking to them wasn't going to accomplish much, so Nephi led by example, making a new bow out of wood and an arrow out of a stick, and then gathered stones and made a sling. Then he went to his father and asked, "Whither shall I go to obtain food?"
This question must have been startling and somewhat humbling to Lehi, who had so recently been complaining and murmuring against the Lord. Here was his 3rd-born son now asking him to go to the Lord and ask for a revelation about where best to hunt for food. Only after Lehi had repented did the Lord speak to him, saying, "Look upon the ball, and behold the things which are written."
Indeed, there upon the ball were written words stating where they should go and the spindle pointed the direction. Nephi went hunting according to those directions and was able to bring back food for the family, who gave thanks to the Lord for what He had done for them.
Regardless of what the ball was or looked like, Nephi, Lehi, and the family learned one great truth that would help them in the future...the Lord blesses us when we have faith in Him. Whether it is through some physical phenomenon we can see, or through a more spiritual manifestation, God is eager to speak to us and guide us if only we will prepare ourselves to hear His voice.