“The Fifth Plague of Egypt” (detail) by Joseph Mallord William Turner
Blood, frogs, lice, flies, cattle dying, boils, hail, locusts, three days of darkness, death of the firstborn. As the plagues escalated, I wonder if I would have responded sooner, or if I would have continued to harden my heart like Pharaoh. (See Exodus 7:3, 13, Exodus 8:15, 19, 32, Exodus 9:7, 12, 34-35, Exodus 10:1, 27, including Joseph Smith’s revisions, which clarify that Pharaoh chose to harden his heart.)
In 1832 the Lord told a group of church leaders in Kirtland, Ohio that their preaching would be followed by natural disasters, including earthquakes and hurricanes (Doctrine and Covenants 88:89-91). Howard W. Hunter taught that the difficulties we experience are intended to bring us closer to God and to motivate us to repent (“An Anchor to the Souls of Men,” Church Educational System fireside at Brigham Young University, 7 February 1993).
God gives us all experiences to bring us closer to Him. Some are challenging, like the plagues, while others are blessings in our lives. Either way, we benefit from these experiences to the degree that we recognize their meaning and respond appropriately. Here is a blog post about understanding and remembering these messages from God:
“This day shall be unto you for a memorial,” said the Lord, “and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever” (Exodus 12:14). The remarkable thing about this pronouncement is that the miracle they were memorializing hadn’t happened yet. The Lord explained to the Israelites how to celebrate their deliverance from captivity before they were delivered from captivity.
God wants us to look to the future with hope, not with dread, and to trust His promises. Here is a blog post on the topic:
The male lamb “without blemish” whose blood spared the firstborn of each Israelite family is symbolic of the redeeming blood of the Savior (Exodus 12:3-7, see also 1 Peter 1:18-19). Jesus introduced the ordinance of the sacrament at a Passover feast as He prepared to give Himself as a sacrifice to save us. (See Luke 22:1-18, John 13:1.) Here is a blog post on that topic:
The Lord prepared the Israelites for a sudden deliverance by commanding them to eat quickly, with their shoes on and their staff in their hand, and to bake unleavened bread, because there was no time for it to rise (Exodus 12:11, 34). They were therefore prepared when, after the final plague, the Egyptians urged them to leave “in haste” (Exodus 12: 31-39). In contrast, Isaiah prophesied that the gathering of Israel in our day would be steady and unhurried. Here’s a blog post about that contrast: