Strangers in a Strange Land, Part 2

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Entering the wilderness is not usually easy, even for the righteous who know of and believe in the promised blessings. Even Sariah complained for a time to Lehi: “Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness” (1 Ne. 5:2). Such grumblings and murmurings are common among those who do not recognize the Lord’s hand in their lives. It is difficult to keep an eternal perspective when you are suffering. Sariah had forgotten (or never really yet believed) that it was not Lehi who told them to leave Jerusalem, it was the Lord. Lehi merely acted as spokesperson. She quickly repented of her murmurings though. When Nephi’s bow broke, his family started to murmur against the Lord because of their afflictions and because of the sufferings they had experienced in the wilderness (see 1 Ne. 16:20). However, Nephi went before the Lord, prayed, and made a new bow. He had faith through his afflictions and trusted in the Lord.

Some in Lehi’s and Ishmael’s families murmured when Ishmael died: “Our father is dead; yea, and we have wandered much in the wilderness, and we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue; and after all these sufferings we must perish in the wilderness with hunger” (1 Ne. 16:35). They forgot all the times the Lord had blessed them with food, just like the Israelites were blessed with manna, quail, and fresh water by the Lord in their need. We too are often quick to forget the blessings of the Lord when we wander in strange lands, in deserts of despair or forests of darkness.

What is a strange land? A strange land at the most basic level is somewhere that is not your home. A strange land can also mean somewhere new, not the land in which you or your ancestors grew up. Even though you may be in a promised land, rich in resources, you can still be in a strange land. A strange land could also mean a land of wickedness or a land of non-covenant people.

Strangers in a Strange Land, Part 1

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“Time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days” (Jacob 7:26).

Many times throughout history the covenant people of the Lord have suffered as they wandered. They have wandered physically, emotionally, or spiritually in strange lands. Their sojourns in these wildernesses have been hard, harsh, and heavy. Oftentimes these people had to leave their homes behind to enter unfamiliar places. Some, like Jacob, felt that all their days were spent in mourning. Why are the righteous so often asked to do hard things and suffer?

We made the choice in the pre-earth life to come to earth. We knew that we would face suffering, sickness, limitations, and sorrow. We also knew that we could experience great joy and progression. We agreed to enter this ofttimes dark and dreary world because we knew of the blessings that would result if we were faithful. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland talked about some of the thorns and darkness of life during the October 2008 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “When Adam and Eve willingly stepped into mortality, they knew this telestial world would contain thorns and thistles and troubles of every kind. Perhaps their most challenging realization, however, was not the hardship and danger they would endure but the fact that they would now be distanced from God, separated from Him with whom they had walked and talked, who had given them face-to-face counsel. After this conscious choice, as the record of creation says, ‘they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence’ (Moses 5:4). Amidst all else that must have troubled them, surely this must have troubled them the most.”