Sunday, October 21, 2018

The strait and narrow path

This is an expansion of this post.

And it came to pass that when Jesus had ended these sayings he said unto his disciples: Enter ye in at the strait gate; for strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it; but wide is the gate, and broad the way which leads to death, and many there be that travel therein, until the night cometh, wherein no man can work. (3 Nephi 27:33).

What is the strait and narrow path?

Since the fall of Adam, our default position is one of separation from God:
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3)
To believe in a scriptural sense means to trust in, adhere to, and obey without reservation or exception.

To become and remain connected to him requires persistent effort. Trusting him requires realizing that we are very different than he is, more than we can comprehend. To adhere to him and obey means that we must assume we are wrong about a great many things, and we ought to expect him to correct us. We ought to seek correction.
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15)
To the extent that we seek and obey him, he will send the fruits of the light and truth we accept into our lives. However, the presence of fruit does not prove that there are no higher fruits available. To all who will submit to his purging, he offers higher blessings.

These stronger fruits will come the same way the first came, through obtaining and living his word--new words, higher words. Words that extend beyond or replace what we know. Staying on the path, or continual progress towards God, requires continuous change. We stay on the strait and narrow path by accepting new truth that is offered to us. The path is not a destination. It is process.

...the word of God...divide[s] asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead[s] the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked— (Helaman 3:29)
The process is always the same: be open minded enough to believe something could be true, then try it and follow the fruits. You will receive new lessons, new words.

18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.
19 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.
20 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. (2 Nephi 31)

We do not stay on the path to God by staying the same. We must feast upon the word (or in other words, get more of it!) and endure to the end (or in other words, live according to what you have received without exception). Staying the same is to accept our present distance from God, forever. Those who turn away from God's pruning step off of the strait and narrow way. Their detour may be temporary or permanent. They re-enter the path the same way they stayed on it--by obtaining and obeying new truth.

We are accountable for ALL truth, from ALL people. All putative truth must be tested. All new truth will be different, although all different ideas are not necessarily true. One can comprehend truths that lie below their understanding, but they cannot tell out of hand whether putative truths higher than they possess are true or not. That which is different should never be dismissed out of hand.

And how does God send us new truth? It might be through direct revelation. In many cases, it is through another person.

The description provided of the one mighty and strong indicates that those who will not accept the words God delivers through him will be cut off from among the people:

Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant. (3 Nephi 21:11)
It would seem that those living in the last days would be pressed to find a more worthy focus of their attention than finding out who this person is and isn't, so that they don't miss the boat.

Well, it turns out that the truth paints a slightly different and very important picture.

Rather than use this scripture as an argument in favor of outsourcing your relationship with God, this scripture is a wonderful statement of the importance of being open to putative truth.

It turns out that whenever God delivers his word, directly or through another person, those who reject that message will be cut off from the Lord. This is why Nephi was told "Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were cut off from his presence." (2 Nephi 5:27) Inasmuch as your words are his words, the same will be true of you or anyone else. This is why Samuel the Lamanite could say this: "Therefore repent ye, repent ye, lest by knowing these things and not doing them ye shall suffer yourselves to come under condemnation, and ye are brought down unto this second death." (Helaman 14:19)

Oh how important it is to obtain and heed God's word, whatever the source.