What is the strait and narrow path and how do I know that I am on it?
What is interesting about the book of Nephi is that Nephi records aspects of the dream that both he and his father saw, and then he articulates the doctrine of that dream in the final three chapters of his scriptural record. Nephi and Lehi’s vision is both described as they saw it, and recorded in doctrinal form.
First, there are numberless concourses of people moving towards, and trying to obtain the path (1 Nephi 8: 21). Many people trying to get through the narrow gate. What is this gate and why is it so hard to obtain?
Because it is the baptism of water – which easy to obtain. And also it is the baptism of fire, which is difficult to obtain.
Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove. And again, 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: 8-9)
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 ( 2 Nephi 9:42)
Notice that only Christ can keep the gate, and only it is he that can let you in. You cannot simply be baptized, or receive a physical ordinance by someone and be through the gate. Christ cannot be deceived. It is only him that baptizes you with fire and the Holy Ghost. This is made clear in the following verse:
“And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 9:20).
Joseph Smith reminds us that “The Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, cannot be received through the medium of any other principle than the principle of righteousness”
In other words, you cannot fake a baptism. And receiving a physical ordinance is not sufficient to be baptized.
It is Christ that provides the baptism of fire. And this baptism of fire is the event of becoming born again.
Just as John described that we must be born of water and the spirit – that we must become born again to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. We know that the baptism of fire is the born again experience.
It is to become a new creature in Christ.
It is the experience of the mighty change of heart.
This is why we are instructed to marvel not that all people need to experience this miraculous spiritual transformation.
“And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; and thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 27: 25-26).
Why belabor this point?
Because we need to confront a hard doctrine. And the hard doctrine is that until you are fully born again you have not yet entered through the gate onto the strait and narrow path.
This is critical to digest. If, as some teach, the born again experience is a long process over a lifetime, then you don’t enter the gate until the end of that long drawn out process.
In other words, until you are fully born again, you haven’t even yet commenced on the path. You are still in that group of people who are trying to obtain the path.
So, what is the path?
The path is that state of being born again. It is the position of being a new creature in Christ. It is the state of having the mighty change of heart.
In other words, if you are not in a born again state, you are not on the strait and narrow path.
This is exactly why it is both strait and narrow. It is actually very difficult to stay on, and it requires precision of spirit to tread.
The requirement to stay on is to go into deep repentance everyday. It requires being born again over and over.
Because of this, the Alma 5 questions become a critical yard stick to know if we are still on the strait and narrow path (if we obtained it at some point in our past).
And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of
Have ye received his image in your countenances?
Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you?
Can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?
Can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands?
Can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?
If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the songof redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?
Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God?
Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?
Are ye stripped of pride?
Then Alma declares to them:
And now I say unto you that this is the order after which I am called, yea, to preach unto my beloved brethren, yea, and every one that dwelleth in the land; yea, to preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again.”
These are the questions to rehearse to determine if you are on the strait and narrow path.
Entering in to, and then staying on the strait and narrow path should be a primary focus everyday of our life.
It is not being an active Latter-day Saint. It is not being a nice person. It is not by virtue of having a physical ordinance.
Unless you are retaining the new nature wrought within your heart and have the nature of Christ you are not on the strait and narrow path.
If we’ve felt the transformation in the past but cannot feel so now, we are not on the path. We need to become born again, again.
This scriptural message should cause all of us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We need to come to God regularly and retain the witness that we are in the way. And to do this, we must follow the counsel of King Benjamin:
And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.
And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true (Mosiah 4: 11-12).
Hard doctrines and marvelous promises.