Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Strait and Narrow

As Jesus Christ concluded what came to be known as the Sermon on the Mount, He uttered a profound and often overlooked truth. Speaking of the way to eternal life, Jesus said:
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
What is so profound is the word "strait." Think about how often you use this word. Initially you may think that it is pretty common, but I would guess that you are thinking of one of its homophones, "straight." It sounds the same, but the meaning is significant.
Adjective Strait-
1. Narrow
2. Affording little space; confined in area
3. Strict, as in requirements or principles

Adjective Straight-
1. Without a bend, angle, or curve; not curved; direct
2. Honest, honorable, or upright, as conduct, dealings, methods, or persons
3. Continuous or unbroken
(These are just a few of the definitions of "Straight" among several)
It is no accident that Jesus used the word "strait." The gate and path that lead to eternal life are not straight or direct, but they are narrow and strict in requirement.

Another way to understand this is to think of a ship and its navigation. Frequently a ship needs to go between two pieces of land in order to arrive into a larger, more navigable body of water or to arrive in port and avoid coral or other bodies of water that may not be deep enough to accommodate the vessel. In order to accomplish the task, a vessel would need to navigate through a strait such as the one pictured below.

Strait of Gibraltar

This is a picture of the Strait of Gibraltar. On the left is Spain and on the right is Morocco. The narrow separation of water between the two land masses is the only natural passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. As you can see, the passage can hardly be called direct or straight, but it is by comparison very narrow.

So it is with the gospel of Jesus Christ. If the gospel required humans to be perfect then only one man would ever have received eternal life, Jesus Christ himself. So we can dispell that the way to eternal life is straight. However it is clear from the scriptures that there will be other people who will receive eternal life, including the prophets, yet many more who will think that they are on the path to eternal life and think that they know Jesus but will ultimately find out that they were led astray. For those who do not attain eternal life it can be said that they either never entered by the strait gate or stayed on the narrow path. Note this scripture from the book of Luke.
Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:

Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.

But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.

There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. Luke 13:24-29
If we trust in Jesus and really believe Him, then there must be a strait and narrow gate and way that leads to eternal life. As the previous scripture clearly shows that there will be more than One who shall inherit eternal life, we must also understand that we do not have to be perfect to receive this great blessing, but we certainly must abide according to what Jesus Christ outlines for us.
So what has He outlined for us? What is the gate and what is the way? In a merciful revelation to an ancient prophet named Nephi, we find the answers to these questions. The answers that have been lost for centuries and are still unknown to the majority of the world.
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.

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.

And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen. 2 Nephi 31:17-21
In these few verses we learn that in order to receive eternal life Jesus Christ has instructed us, as He was commanded by Heavenly Father, that we must have faith in Jesus Christ, repent of our sins, be baptized by water, receive of the Holy Ghost and then follow the Savior the rest of our lives. This is the strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life and it is a path that we have the privilege to travel during this mortal life.

It is not surprising that in this dispensation God revealed these same requirements to Joseph Smith. Instead of calling it the "strait gate" and the "narrow path", Joseph referred to it as the first principles and ordinances of the gospel.
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Articles of Faith 1:4
I echo the words of the prophet Jacob. Said he:
O then, my beloved brethren, repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life.

O be wise; what can I say more? Jacob 6:11-12

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