Lost on the Tundra


Alone on the unforgiving Alaskan tundra, I gained strength during the night from the scriptures written in my memory and in my heart.

This was to be an adventure of a lifetime. Exploring the Alaskan tundra had been something my friends and I had talked about for years. Finally, our dream had become a reality. We were on our way to the ruggedly beautiful land of Alaska.

We began our journey in mid-April, a time when the Alaskan wilderness was still blanketed with snow. We arrived in the late evening in Talkeetna, a town near the Denali National Forest. We met with our guide, who had arranged for snowmobiles and a place for us to stay. Our plan was to wake up at dawn and begin exploring.

Lost and Alone

The weather was unseasonably warm for Alaska, so the snow was soft and slushy. Cutting through the heavy, wet snow was difficult on a snowmobile, and each of us had trouble and kept getting stuck.

At one point in our adventure, I became separated from the rest of the group. My snowmobile kept sinking into the slushy snow, and I kept lifting it out, only to travel a few feet and then become stuck again. Eventually, my snowmobile got stuck and sank four feet into the snow. I tried to pull it out of the slush, but that was like trying to drag the machine out of wet cement. I spent the afternoon and all my strength trying to pry my snowmobile loose from the strong hold of that slushy bog. I kept praying that my guide and friends would return to help me. Hour after hour went by, but there was no sign of anyone.

When it began to get dark, I really started to worry. Although I had dressed warmly, my clothing was completely drenched with perspiration underneath my parka from my efforts to pull the snowmobile free. As the sun began to set, I felt the intensity of the harsh Alaskan climate. I shivered uncontrollably as the temperature dropped below freezing.

“They’ve got to come back to me soon,” I thought. “Certainly, they’ll find me in a matter of minutes.” Minutes soon turned to hours. I was alone in the wilderness—hungry, cold, and afraid. I had to accept the reality that I was going to spend the night by myself in the middle of the unforgiving Alaskan tundra.

Strength in the Scriptures

I tried lighting a fire to stay warm, but there was little firewood to be had in the tundra. What wood I found was so wet that I couldn’t keep a fire going. I had a little bit of food and water, but I knew it would last only a short while.

From my years of Scout training, I knew I shouldn’t fall asleep. With my wet clothes and the unbearably cold temperature, I was afraid that if I fell asleep, I might never wake up.

Sitting in the dark, I could hear the sound of wolves howling. This didn’t frighten me nearly as much as the sound of avalanches crashing down in the bitter night. My fear was that my friends might have been caught in an avalanche. I prayed for their safety also.

Time seemed to stand still. I spent the night thinking of my wife and four children, all of them tucked warmly in their beds and unaware of the danger I was in. I tried to pass the time singing hymns and reciting scriptures to myself. I tried not to look at my watch too often. When I thought an hour had passed, I’d look down at my watch and see that only 20 minutes had passed. I asked myself if this night was ever going to end. “Am I going to get out of here safely?”

Strength in Prayer

When it began to snow, a feeling of dread sank in my stomach. “I’ve got to get out of here right now,” I thought. “The snow will cover my tracks. No one will ever be able to find me, and I will never be able to find my own way out. I’ve got to leave now or die in the wilderness.”

Once again my thoughts turned to the scriptures. I thought of some of the strong and brave men in the Book of Mormon—Nephi, Helaman, Mormon, and Moroni.

“Father in Heaven,” I prayed, “please give me the strength of these great men. I haven’t the strength to pull my snowmobile out of the sludge on my own. Please, Father, if it be Thy will, give me the strength of 10 men.”

After finishing my prayer, I walked over to the snowmobile in a very weakened state. I was cold and hungry, but even though my body was weak, my faith was strong. I knew by the comforting Spirit I felt when I prayed that my Father in Heaven was watching over me. He would help me in this desperate time of need.

I gripped the handles of the embedded snowmobile. Amazingly, I pulled the machine out on the first try. I had indeed been blessed with the needed strength. I started the snowmobile. Since the cold had hardened the snow, I could drive without sinking, so I began to follow the tracks back to camp.

I looked eastward and noticed the sun was just beginning to peer over the horizon. I also noticed the silhouette of men on snowmobiles. As the men drew near, I realized that they were my friends. I discovered that they had also been lost and had not known where to look for me.

Strength in the Savior

Many of us can relate to the feeling of being alone in the wilderness. Each of us will have times in our lives when we will struggle with adversity, personal problems, or trials of our faith. Like a bog of wet, heavy slush, life’s circumstances may leave us feeling trapped and alone, unable to muster the strength to make it on our own. At these times of difficulty, there is One who will never forsake us. There is One who will bless us with the strength to pull ourselves out of our problems and press forward. We have a loving Savior, ready and willing to bless us in our individual needs.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, we read: “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you” (D&C 88:63–64).

I bear testimony that this scripture is true. As I called out to the Lord in prayer, He inspired me to know what I needed to do; He blessed me with what was “expedient” for me. I am grateful to Him and for the scriptures in which I found comfort that night.

Answers in the Scriptures

President Spencer W. Kimball

“Scripture study deepens understanding. The years have taught me that if we will energetically pursue this worthy personal goal in a determined and conscientious manner, we shall indeed find answers to our problems and peace in our hearts.” President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985), The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 135.

[illustrations] Illustrations by Richard Russell