Alma 49, which accounts events occurring in 72 B.C., discusses the 2nd attempt of the Lamanites to destroy the city Ammonihah. Unsuccessful, they attempted another attack upon the city Noah. In this narration, Mormon says the Lamanites “retreated into the wilderness,” and “fled into the wilderness” to return to NEPHI. What wilderness is Mormon talking about? The west wilderness no longer exists, as in Alma 27 (about 76 B.C.) it was colonized by the people of Ammon and named Jershon.
According to the 1828 Webster Dictionary, the meaning of “wilderness” in Joseph Smith’s day was:
A desert; a tract of land or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings, whether a forest or a wide barren plain. In the United States, it is applied only to a forest. In Scripture, it is applied frequently to the deserts of Arabia. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness forty years.
Part of Jershon still being wilderness is consistent with this definition, especially since Mormon also describes a wilderness in Manti, near the Sidon (Alma 43:27), and west of the city Mulek (Alma 52:22). Obviously, even with the settlement of Jershon, some wilderness areas remained through which the Lamanites were able to advance towards Ammonihah undetected, and through which they were able to retreat back to NEPHI. Only about four years have passed since the Ammonites colonized Jershon, and so large tracts probably were still uninhabited and undeveloped.
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. Anne Bradstreet
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Ether 12:27
Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season therof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion. D&C 59:18-20