In the 31st and 32nd chapter of Second Nephi, we are given a treatise by Nephi of the doctrine of Christ. Nephi describes the Savior fulfilling the requirements of righteousness by being baptized of John and receiving the Holy Ghost ‘in the form of a dove.’ We are urged to take this as an example of our own need to be baptized by water and receive the Holy Ghost.
Nephi tells us that ‘it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them’ ( 2 Nephi 31:9). The promise then follows:
And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?
And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.
And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel. (2 Nephi 31:10-13)
The narrow gate and the strait way is to repent, take upon ourselves the name of Christ through baptism, first by water, and then by fire and the Holy Ghost. We are again encouraged to apply this in our own lives:
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; 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. (2 Nephi 31:17-18)
The gate is repentance, baptism by water, and baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost. This latter baptism is the conduit through which we receive a remission of our sins. Once this is accomplished, we are then on the strait and narrow path to eternal life.
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. (2 Nephi 31:19-20)
Once we are on the path, we are to ‘feast upon the word of Christ’ and endure to the end. This description of the doctrine of Christ is not the only place where we are introduced to the ‘strait and narrow path.’
Over the last few days, my mind has dwelled on this doctrine of Christ as well as other places in the scriptures where the strait and narrow are represented.
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
The word ‘strait’ comes from the Greek meaning ‘narrow’ while ‘narrow’ in the translation from the Greek word, thlibo, which can also be translated as afflicted, troubled, narrow, or constrained. Wide was translated from the Greek word ‘platys’ and carries the meaning wide or broad. Broad, as used in this scripture comes the Greek word, eurychoros, and, at least according to Strong’s concordance, can be translated as broad or spacious.
The gate and the way, in this portion of the Beatitudes leads to life. The message I receive here is that to way to this life described by Christ requires a specific constrained entry point, the gate. The way is one that can also be considered narrow and may lead to affliction as one moves toward life.
Of course, this is not these are not the only scripture that alludes to a gate and a path. In Lehi’s dream, we also find the reference:
And I beheld a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood.
And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood; and it also led by the head of the fountain, unto a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world.
And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood.
And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree.
And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.
And it came to pass that 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.
But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.
And he also saw other multitudes feeling their way towards that great and spacious building.
And it came to pass that many were drowned in the depths of the fountain; and many were lost from his view, wandering in strange roads.
And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not. (1 Nephi 8:19-24, 30-33)
Again, we are presented with the image of the strait and narrow. This time both adjectives are applied to the path. I believe it is reasonable to assume that we can treat both circumstances, in the doctrine of Christ of Second Nephi, chapter 31 and Lehi’s vision of the tree of life as delivering a consistent message regarding the strait and narrow path.
When we are on the strait and narrow path and are encouraged to feast upon the words of Christ; the message is consistent with the strait and narrow path and the rod of iron in Lehi’s dream. While the, perhaps, standard interpretation of the rod of iron is that it refers to the scriptures, I would like to present an alternative viewpoint. Nephi was told as he received the same vision as his father that the rod of iron was the word of God.
If one looks at other references to the word of God, the first in the Book of Mormon comes in reference to the dream that Lehi received with the message to leave Jerusalem:
And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.
And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him. (1 Nephi 2:2-3)
In this case, the word of the Lord came as personal revelation to Lehi. Later in the same chapter, Nephi refers to scripture as the words of the prophets:
And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.
Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father.( 1 Nephi 2:12-13)
Here in the same chapter, Nephi draws a clear distinction between the word of God as personal revelation to Lehi and the words of the prophets as scripture recited to Laman and Lemuel. Likewise we should all have the faith that we are entitled to the same word of God as described here. Once we have made our way to the strait narrow path, we are told we can hold on to and feast upon the words of Christ. We are, each, entitled to receive the word of God for ourselves. We are each promised that by enduring to the end on the strait and narrow path, we will be able to receive eternal life or eternal lives as described here:
For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it, because ye receive me not in the world neither do ye know me.
But if ye receive me in the world, then shall ye know me, and shall receive your exaltation; that where I am ye shall be also.
This is eternal lives—to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. I am he. Receive ye, therefore, my law. (D&C 132:22-24)
No one, even the least of those who call themselves Saints, should doubt that the Lord will keep His word. If we repent and take upon ourselves the name of Christ and receive both the baptism of water and the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, we will be able to hold to the iron rod, personal revelation from Jesus Christ. As we endure to the end, we will be the recipients of eternal life. This is the strait and narrow path of which these scriptures speak.
Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.
Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—
And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out. (Helaman 3:28-30)
What think ye?