This past week I’ve been reading in Mosiah from the Book of Mormon. I read about the people of Alma, who had been in bondage to the king of the Lamanites. They plead with the Lord to deliver them from bondage. Initially, the Lord strengthens them and makes their burdens light. After a period of time they are delivered and leave the bondage of the Lamanites.
They do not arrive in Zarahemla, their final destination, immediately, however. Instead, they spend time in the wilderness. As I read this passage, I wondered why the Lord brought them to the wilderness. It’s a pattern that we see time and again: the children of Israel coming out of Egypt, Nephi and his family escaping Jerusalem, the brother of Jared and his people.
Heavenly Father doesn’t cause us to go through experiences that are not for our good. He brings us to experiences that will further our progression and growth (if we allow them to). So why does he so often bring his people to the wilderness? I think there must be something sacred about wilderness experiences, a refining process of sorts.
In a devotional given at BYU, Jeffrey R. Holland talks about prison-temples in the context of Liberty Jail. Some of the most beautiful sections of the Doctrine and Covenants were given while Joseph Smith was imprisoned at Liberty Jail. Elder Holland says, “He can turn the unfair and inhumane and debilitating prisons of our lives into temples—or at least into a circumstance that can bring comfort and revelation, divine companionship and peace.”
Maybe this is what happens in the missing texts of the wilderness experiences. Maybe there is unseen growth and change. So when the Lord brings us to our own wilderness, perhaps it’s not to leave us “out to dry” or to chasten us but to teach us, instruct us, and draw us closer to him. Wilderness experiences are more quiet and, by necessity, cause us to be more dependent on Heavenly Father.