“The way a book is read — which is to say, the qualities a reader brings to a book — can have as much to do with its worth as anything the author puts into it…. Anyone who can read can learn how to read deeply and thus live more fully.”
~Norman Cousins

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I read from my scriptures (book), but you can find scripture reference here.

Friday, September 7, 2012

2 Nephi 2: 1-10 "In the Wilderness"

Colorado foothills outside of GreenRiver.
Wilderness: a tract of region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings.an empty or pathless area or region wilderness; a part of a garden devoted to wild growth; a wild or uncultivated state of being; a confusing multitude or mass: a bewildering situation... wildernesses o civilized life - (Miriam Webster)

What a beautiful sunset in western Colorado! photo by LShaw

Almost there Day 4
Recently while on a cross country trip to return my daughter to university, we drove through the deserts of Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.  For two days we traversed mostly desolate state highways. I felt both elation and concern. While my soul stretched wide with the expansive skyscape, danced with the sun's streaming rays, and rolled with the solitary sagebrush that tumbled across the western skyline, I was very much aware that I was in a western wilderness.  Protected only by the sanctuary and reliability of our  Honda Accord, we paid attention to our surroundings.   It was around dusk when  at one rest area, I stepped to close the car door  and several birds swooped through and around the parking area, seemingly attacking our car? What was that? I didn't see that coming!  As if the startling experience wasn't enough, I then read a sign that warned, "Beware of Snakes". Ugh.. Needless to say as I utilized the restroom, I scanned the walls for spiders and scorpions and other unwanted poisonous guests. As we continued through this stretch of barren land we were careful to monitor our gas gauge, our bodily needs, and the functionality of our car. We did not want to find ourselves stranded in the wilderness. 

Sunset in south Colorado
Throughout history man's dialogue with nature has involved the wilderness.  The earth's natural history is interwoven within man's history of growth, independence and progress. Within the standard works of the scriptures the word is used 523 times. If you include the additional 447 times it occurs within "other" doctrinal materials, a pattern of its prevalence within our religious culture begins to emerge. From the time Adam left the garden the theme of parental protection against the wiles of wilderness has thread its way into our lives. Lehi's addresses his son as his "first-born in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness."(v.1) Why? 

A close up of the magnificent sunset in CO
Are the circumstances within which a child is raised significant to their character development? Was it within Lamen and Lemuel's innate character traits that their rebelliousness was born or was their resistance to God's love a result of their undemanding Jerusalem lifestyle?  Nephi's and Lehi's sermons did little to encourage their faith. Even their eye witness of an angel's warning did little to change their perspective. In contrast Jacob and Joseph never knew the Jerusalem lifestyle. Focused on a lifestyle of wilderness survival and the constant struggle for basic need, Lehi taught them how to use faith as a tool of survival.
It was not in their Jerusalem home, with gold, silver, and precious things, that Lehi and Sariah, acting in faith, bore their sons Jacob and Joseph. It was in the wilderness. Lehi spoke of his son Jacob as "my first-born in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness." ( 2 Nephi 2:1.) Lehi said of Joseph, "Thou wast born in the wilderness of [our] afflictions; yea, in the days of [our] greatest sorrow did thy mother bear thee." ( 2 Nephi 3:1.)2011 October General Conference, Children 
A rainstorm in New Mexico on a deserted state road

While Lehi and Sarah's wilderness encounter brought them great tribulation and anxiety as they searched for direction, food and unity, I don't believe their "days of greatest sorrow" came from their struggle with nature.  Man's encounter with "wilderness" does not have to happen in remote areas of the earth's vast expanse. It can come to us when we have a "bewildering situation," or when great sorrow lays heavy upon us. 

My own children have encountered our own brush with "bewildering situations." We first left Atlanta, when our second was not two years old. Although we made frequent pilgrimages home, our subsequent and frequent moves took us farther and farther away, until we ended up in Wisconsin.  With each "adventure" we found ourselves away from the familiar arms of parental council and embrace.  We faced new cities, new cultures, new friendships, new medical challenges and unique trials of our faith. We learned to rely on faith as a tool for survival. 

I have considered how each child might have reacted to our unique circumstances. I see how Lamen and Lemuel rued their new life challenges. Everything new became a tribulation meant to destroy them and their desires. But Nephi.. obviously much younger when the family left Jerusalem and much less entrenched in the cities society, chose to heed his father's faith in "God's greatness." Is it significant that Jacob and Joseph's faith grew stronger than that of their elder brothers? Did their environmental circumstances affect the development of their faith? At what point in their young lives did Jacob and Joseph choose to follow their younger brother's example and life of faith? 

The wilderness, while known for its ability to present a plethora of afflictions, can when appropriately "consecrated" bring us "gain." (v.2) In the wilderness, alone, apart from societal pull and pressure the Lord's influence can help us. In fact, when we find ourselves within the confines of any sort of wilderness, real or mental, actual or imagined, the Lord Jesus Christ and his power of eternal love can deliver us. 

Respect Nature___________________________
The special effects make the telephone poles resemble crosses

In reading the scriptures and thinking about the many themes of "wilderness," I believe that we sometimes forget just how stressful and riddled with danger the lives of these ancient travelers were.  Daily they faced untold dangers that we seldom think about. With the advent of computers, modern housing, electricity, etc. our lives have become so removed from the present dangers that we sometimes forget to respect nature.

Such was the case when Richard White, 49 of California decided to take a solo journey through the Denali National Park in Alaska. While hiking and photo-journaling, he forgot himself. Lost for over 8 minutes in a once in a lifetime photo shoot of an Alaskan Grizzly, he moved within 50 yards of the berry-foraging beast. Sadly it took only seconds for the Grizzly to attack and devour him for a tasty meal. With little left of his body, his camera told his story. 

I relate this story because I believe that sometimes we hide behind our modern conveniences and forget just how close the earth's wilderness is. It sits at our doorstep. Only this morning my husband forwarded an email by our neighbor who encountered a copperhead while walking our streets. 

There are a myriad of ways that we can meet our demise while tracking in the wilderness. I found it interesting to note that the majority of us meet our end while hiking in the wilderness. The wilderness separates us from the strength and protection of community. Within the wilderness we might encounter: predators, drowning, lightening, snake-bite, spider-bite, flash floods, heatstroke, falls, insects, disease, thirst, lack of medical care, hypothermia, heat exhaustion, heat stress, hyponatremia, avalanche, mud-slide, bear-attacks, allergies, stroke, etc. 
Sunset in New Mexico
I adore nature. I love it and love learning about it, experiencing it first hand and allowing it to help me face the challenges of everyday stress. I love to paddle board, bicycle, hike, swim, boat, canoe, jet-ski, walk, etc. I don't need an excuse to be found outside. But, nature demands respect. And for this reason man's lessons with nature bring us to reality. 

While nature's dangers are real and encroaching, the lessons that Lehi wanted to extend to his son Jacob was that safety comes in "the service of God" and under the care of his older brother Nephi. 

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