Separating themselves from the Lamanites, the Nephites "did journey in the wilderness" and, after several days, they pitched their tents. (2 Ne. 5:7.)
In making such a journey, the Nephites exhibited characteristics of a migrating or nomadic society accustomed to living in the wilderness. In many cases in the Bible and Book of Mormon, the word "wilderness" is synonymous with "desert" or a place of isolation.The children of Lehi had become accustomed to existing in the desert or wilderness for at least eight years before they sailed to the Americas. Upon arrival in the New World, they "went forth upon the land, and did pitch [their] tents." (1 Ne. 18:23.) Soon afterward, they "journeyed into the wilderness." (1 Ne. 18:25.)
In An Approach to the Book of Mormon, LDS scholar Hugh Nibley observed the Nephites insisted on thinking of themselves throughout their history as wanderers in a strange land. Such thinking, he said, "can only mean that they were wanderers, and that they did feel themselves lost in a land which was far more sparsely populated than their original home."
"And even more conspicuously than in the old country, these people always had the wilderness right next door."