(This article was adapted from the Pillars of Zion series. Click to receive the free PDFs: www.pillarsofzion.com.)
The journey through the Lord’s Wilderness is like what Elder Maxwell called “the trek of treks.”[i] The scriptures are filled with accounts of spiritual journeys. If we were to outline them, we would see that they follow the sequence of the Beatitudes, which are the principles of blessedness.[ii]
Before we discuss this outline, however, let us first note that in this world, we encounter two wilderness experiences.
The Wilderness of Sin
The first wilderness is the wilderness of sin. We are thrust into this wilderness by our own poor choices. When we have suffered enough, we cry to the Lord for deliverance, and he responds. To get out of the wilderness of sin, we must be delivered. That deliverance hinges on our willingness to make or renew a covenant—the new and everlasting covenant—to cease sinning, and to allow Jesus to work with us and change our natures.
This transformation requires refining, molding and perfecting; therefore, we voluntarily yield to the Lord, ask him to remove us from the wilderness of sin, and allow him to drive us into another wilderness where we can be changed and perfected. This second wilderness is called the Lord’s Wilderness.
The Lord’s Wilderness
We are faced with at least two facts when we exit Babylon and enter the Lord’s wilderness: (1) In choosing Zion, we become enemies of Babylon. Now Babylon will no longer support us. We can expect an all-out war, and attacks might be waged against our finances, our health, and our relationships. (2) Babylon is destined to fall. If we have anchored our safety and security there, we will become part of the fallout. Hence, a curse is placed upon wilderness travelers who attempt to place their trust in the “arm of flesh” rather than trusting in the arm of the Lord.
The transition from Babylon to Zion is daunting and can be frightening. We might ask ourselves, “What will become of us if we attempt to step away from Babylon and fully embrace the laws and principles of Zion?” The answer is always the same: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”[iii] Moreover, the guarantees of safety and security are embedded in the new and everlasting covenant: the Lord promises to support us, sustain us, stand beside us, and keep us safe. Enoch said, “Surely Zion [the people] shall dwell in safety forever.”[iv]
Safe in the Covenant, we no longer need worry as we did in Babylon. What Jesus said to his apostles could apply to anyone in the Covenant: “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”[v] President Kimball said,
What are we to fear when the Lord is with us? Can we not take the Lord at his word and exercise a particle of faith in him? Our assignment is affirmative: to forsake the things of the world as ends in themselves; to leave off idolatry and press forward in faith; to carry the gospel to our enemies, that they might no longer be our enemies. We must leave off the worship of modern-day idols and a reliance on the ‘arm of flesh,’ for the Lord has said to the world in our day, ‘I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.’[vi]
The Beatitudes Outline the Journey through the Lord’s Wilderness
That said, let us compare the Beatitudes (principles of blessedness) with the spiritual journey to Zion that we now find ourselves pursuing.
In Bountiful, we ascend the mount (temple) to receive greater light and truth. Now our faith must increase exponentially if we are to make the hardest part of our journey. This infusion of light, truth and faith purifies us and changes our hearts. Now we are ready to be covered by grace, which is exemplified by the boat, barge or ark – a covering, which is a word associated with the Atonement. As we build our vessel, we encounter further tests of faith, hope and charity, which challenge and change our nature so that when we finally launch on the sea, which is a place of intense storms and chaos, we are pure in heart, covered by protection, and completely safe. The Lord’s mercy is the only way to traverse the ocean.
6.Pure in Heart. When we arrive in our promised land, we arrive completely changed. We now have a relationship with God that cannot be questioned.