10 November 2008

Strangers in a Strange Land, Part 3

The Lord told Abraham, "I have purposed to take thee away out of Haran, and to make of thee a minister to bear my name in a strange land which I will give unto thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession, when they hearken to my voice" (Abr. 2:6). Abraham spent his days as a stranger and a wanderer: "By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:9-10). Moses too was a stranger in a strange land: "He called [his son's] name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land" (Ex. 2:22). Those who wander are usually looking for a promised land, just as the tribes of Israel wandered for 40 years in the desert before they entered their promised land. The Psalmist called himself a "stranger in the earth" (Psalm 119:19); indicating that all of us are strangers here on earth; it is not our original home. Those who are faithful, like the prophets, will receive the blessings of eternal life in the celestial realms - the ultimate Promised Land: "These [the first Patriarchs - Adam through Jacob] all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly [one]" (Heb. 11:13-14,16). The prophets all had faith that they would receive a better country, a heavenly home.

Alma also taught on this theme: "And they [glad tidings of great joy] are made known unto us in plain terms, that we may understand, that we cannot err; and this because of our being wanderers in a strange land; therefore, we are thus highly favored, for we have these glad tidings declared unto us in all parts of our vineyard" (Alma 13:23). Ammon likewise talked about wandering in strange lands: "Yea, blessed is the name of my God, who has been mindful of this people, who are a branch of the tree of Israel, and has been lost from its body in a strange land; yea, I say blessed be the name of my God, who has been mindful of us, wanderers in a strange land" (Alma 26:36). Even in the Promised Land, a land of bounty and blessing, the Nephites were strangers because they were broken off from the rest of the house of Israel.

Isaiah stated: "For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land; and the strangers [foreigners] shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob" (2 Ne. 24:1). The Lord said that those who wander in strange lands, who spend time in wild parts of the vineyard, will return to their own land with the added strength of the wild branches (see Jacob 5). Even the people of Enoch first went through a period of wandering before they established Zion: "they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth; But obtained a promise that they should find it [Zion] and see it in their flesh" (D&C 45:13). That is what all the righteous have been promised - a city of refuge, a city of holiness, a place for the pure in heart, even Zion. Faith requires trial; promised blessings only come after our faith is tried. How hard our trials may be!

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