I gave the lesson in Family Home Evening tonight. I decided to use the opportunity to show our children how they had been looking at the strait and narrow path from the wrong perspective.
It’s not their fault. After all, they view it the same way as most everyone does and how it is portrayed in popular LDS art. A careful reading of the scriptures, however, shows us that the most popular conception of the strait and narrow path is an assumption we have made, which has no scriptural support.
To see the strait and narrow path from a new perspective, we must use a scripture chain.
Let’s start in 2 Ne 31:17–18:
Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life . . .
Notice that, according to Nephi, to enter the strait and narrow path, we have to enter through a gate, which is repentance and baptism.
Now look at 2 Ne 9:41:
O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.
Jesus is the gatekeeper. If the gate is repentance and baptism, then this makes sense. Jesus is the one who redeems us when we repent, and it is through baptism that we become his children (see Mosiah 5).
So, now we know that in addition to the strait and narrow path that Lehi described in 1 Nephi 8, there is a gate at the beginning of the path and Jesus is at the gate to let us through.
Now, let’s move on to Moses 7:53:
. . . I am Messiah, the King of Zion, the Rock of Heaven, which is broad as eternity; whoso cometh in at the gate and climbeth up by me shall never fall; wherefore, blessed are they of whom I have spoken, for they shall come forth with songs of everlasting joy.
So, this is interesting. Two words that stick out to me are “climbeth” and “fall”. They are odd words when you view the strait and narrow path as depicted in the image that accompanies this article. But consider the 1828 definition of “strait”:
- Narrow; close; not broad.
- Close; intimate; as a strait degree of favour.
- Strict; rigorous.
- Difficult; distressful.
- Straight; not crooked.
Of interest to me are definitions 3 and 4. If we simply walk along a level path, using the iron rod as a guide, then these don’t make much sense. On the other hand, if we must climb the strait and narrow path, which brings with it a risk of falling, then those definitions do make sense.
The first definition seems to indicate that “strait” is sometimes synonymous with “narrow”. But why call it the narrow and narrow path? That seems redundant. Perhaps the reason it’s called the strait and narrow path is not to emphasize its narrowness, but to highlight another aspect of the path: its difficulty.
Now that it seems we must climb up the path, consider 1 Ne 8:20, 24:
And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron . . . I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.
Is it any wonder that the people in Lehi’s dream were clinging to the iron rod? It wasn’t just because they were afraid of being lost in the mists of darkness; they were afraid of falling (literally) off the path while they climbed it.
So what is the rod of iron? 1 Ne 11:25 says it’s the word of God. Our children tonight interpreted that to mean the gospel, and based on my anecdotal experience, it seems to be a common interpretation.
But there is one more interpretation. The first 17 verses of John 1 tells us that Jesus is also known as the Word of God. This is consistent with Moses 7:53 above, which tells us that we must climb up by Jesus.
So, what have we learned about the strait and narrow path?
- The path starts at a gate.
- That gate is repentance and baptism.
- Jesus is the gatekeeper.
- The strait and narrow path is more like a climb up a mountain than it is a stroll through a park.
- Jesus is also the means by which we climb up the strait and narrow path.
I find comfort, actually, knowing that Jesus is there not only when we start on our journey towards eternal life, but he is there beside us to help us the entire way, never leaving our side, always waiting for us to reach out to him.
Knowing all this provides a different perspective on why Nephi said the following in 2 Ne 31:29–20:
And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
When Nephi told us we must press forward and endure to the end, he wasn’t joking.