This short message describes nearly perfectly what I am feeling tonight. It’s actually something that I have been thinking about for a little while, as I’ve had some little glimpses of revelation and realizations over the past week that conflict with revelation previously received. It’s a very challenging thing, and one I’m still trying to sort through, but a couple similar experiences came to my mind as I read 1 Nephi and pondered this occurrence.
The first thing that came to mind is a short passage from 1 Nephi 8, in which Nephi’s father Lehi has a dream. In a portion of this dream, he is lost in a wilderness. He describes, “after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies.” Following this prayer, he was delivered. What has struck me about this, though, is the simplicity and power of the first line of verse 8: “I had traveled for the space of many hours.”
Sometimes that happens. Sometimes we flounder, unsure of where exactly we are or where we are going. Sometimes it goes on much longer than we hope. It’s not always due to lack of action on our part, either. When his journey started, Lehi spotted a man in a white robe, and attempted to follow him, as instructed. Lehi had a goal, a purpose, vision, direction, but still his path became dark and clouded and uncertain.
In earlier events, Lehi had taken his family and left the city of Jerusalem, only to discover partway into the trip that they needed to return to retrieve the brass plates (the genealogical/scriptural record). Now, for an omnipotent and omniscient god, doesn’t it seem like this little check mark on the “To-Do List” of preparation could have been mentioned prior to their departure? Sure! But it wasn’t. The task of returning to Jerusalem was part of the plan. (There’s probably something in here about the fact that Nephi and his brothers had to figure out and accomplish this mission without the help of their parents, but I’m not even going to go there). The point is, things that look like mistakes to us, or wrong roads we later have to backtrack, aren’t that at all to the Lord. He has a plan.
That said, it is still awful when the Spirit has been talking to you rather clearly and consistently (maybe even for YEARS), and against your better judgement, you put your trust in the only clear vision of your future that these promptings were heading toward, only to discover one day that the future you saw was actually inaccurate. It’s hard to deal with that realization, and to try to generate a new dream out of nowhere. It’s hard when you feel like you are left alone to answer all the questions. It takes a lot of faith to get back up again, look at the other possibilities laid out before you, and choose a new path to venture down.
Possibly the most important thing to remember, though, is that every “wrong road” is designed to teach us something, and help us become who we need to be, so that we can eventually travel the “right road” successfully.