Monday, July 9, 2012

Strait is the gate and narrow the way

I have a simple drawing in my scriptures that looks something like this.

Sure, this is a drawing of an hourglass, but the shape is the same. I remember sketching this into my scriptures during a seminary lesson. Surprisingly, there are several particular lessons from seminary and institute that I still remember all these years later, and this is one of them. This lesson worked its way to the surface this week when a scripture came to my mind. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes it will be a song or a picture or a quote or a piece of a poem. Well, this time it happened to be Matthew 7:14 and the simple drawing I made to go with it.

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Matthew 7:14

I was working on a scene in The West Sea where Lib takes Miriam to the top of a hill to view the narrow passage that leads to the land northward. Here is the excerpt that brought the scripture to mind.

We fell quiet again, and I knew Lib was reassessing what he knew, applying it not just to the physical world, but to the spiritual things as well. After a moment, he reached up and put a large hand on my head.

“You’re still warm, but your pallor looks better.”

“I feel a little better. Race you to the top?”

He laughed and helped me to my feet, and he did not race me to the top.

The morning light had burned away into the clear light of day, and the view from the top of the hill was beyond description, just beyond description. Lib pointed out the narrow neck of land to the north, but he needn’t have. A thin path of land cut through the dark blue waters.

“Narrow is the gate, and few there are who find it,” I quoted softly. Then, when Lib stared down at me, I felt renewed heat in my cheeks.

“Don’t be embarrassed,” he said. “Those words came to my mind the first time I saw it too.” Then, in a movement that felt as natural as the waves of the sea that crashed to shore far below us, in a pull that felt almost magnetic, with a coming together that was as old as time, Lib took my hand.

For a long time we basked in the view, and then Lib said, “I’ll take you back now,” and I said, “Okay.”

So I was thinking about that word "narrow." A quick search on my Kindle scriptures showed 16 uses of the word "narrow" in the Book of Mormon. 14 of them refer to either a) the narrow neck of land, or b) the strait and narrow path or gate.
One particularly interesting reference is in Helaman 3:29.
Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall...lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked--
This is a clear reference to the first use of "narrow" in the Book of Mormon, which is in Lehi's dream: "And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron..." The iron rod is the word of God, and many of those who didn't take hold of it were "drowned in the depths of the fountain." The reference is interesting because you can start to detect the imagery correlation between water and the straitness of the gate. 
Think the waters of baptism.
For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water
2 Nephi 31:17
Think of this term: gulf of misery.
Gulf: a deep inlet of the sea almost surrounded by land, with a narrow mouth.
Let's use a gulf the Israelites would have been familiar with. Here is a picture of the Persian Gulf. You enter it (or exit it) by the Strait of Hormuz.
Think of the term strait. It means narrow. But a strait (noun) is a narrow channel between two larger bodies of water. Here is a picture of the Strait of Gibralter.
Turn it on its side in your head and you will see the hourglass picture from my scriptures.
So I've thought about the words narrow, strait, and gulf, and now I am thinking about that word "neck" and the significance of it being made of "land." This is interesting because the Book of Mormon lands were nearly surrounded by water. In 2 Nephi 10:20 Jacob says, "...for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon and isle of the sea." Alma 22 has a good description of the land.
I couldn't find a really awesome picture of this, but you'll get the point.
I always kind of thought that the narrow path was a one-way road and that the strait gate only opened one way. But check out the picture of the gulf. Though the way is narrow in either direction, you can enter or exit the gulf of misery. So what we're seeing is the same image in both land and water, and I guess it's up to us which one we travel on and in what direction.

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