I just found this incredible painting which expresses better than any that I’ve seen a theological understandings that came to me over my mission. I’d often heard growing up the notion that all paths lead to heaven. I grew up loving this notion that no matter what we did, we would eventually be rewarded by a loving father. The only problem with this thought is that it is plain wrong. The Book of Mormon and Bible both empathically state that there really is one way
“ 2 Nephi 9: 41 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.”
It is clear that there is only one path that can lead us all the way back to our heavenly father, yet is there some way to reconcile these two modes of thinking and understanding? On my mission I thought a lot about this idea and even wrote a poem about it which I will try to upload at some point soon, but I came to the understanding that these notions are in fact reconcilable.
We are all on our journey on the path ways on life. Our goal is a city in a shinning hill that appears far far in the distance. Leading most directly towards the city, there is a super highway that is smooth and straight. It is a toll road, and so the cards coming on the road must sooner or later pay a certain fine for passage. Intersecting with this road are dozens or hundreds of smaller roads and diverse pathways. Some appear to be shortcuts at first as they go directly towards the city for a time. Others, are obvious detours that take one far far away. However, there are a couple of curious things. First of all, given time these roads eventually lead back to the highway. That is, a driver that continues to desire to reach the city can continue down the path they are on and they eventually will come back to the road somewhere down the road. On the other hand, many drivers get diverted on these side roads. They see the sights and begin to think that are better off elsewhere. They have found their bountiful and stop seeking and moving forward. All those that continue eventually find the highway but have to decide if they are ready to pay the toll. However, here’s the key to the whole metaphor, of all of those roads absolutely none lead into the city itself; any other attempts lead to an impassible moat or an intimidating wall None except for the highway that is which leads one directly and safely into the city. No one can make it into the city without driving on the highway and no one can drive on the highway without paying the toll.
I like this metaphor for several reasons. It preserves the notion that there is only one path that eventually leads back to the presence of god, but it also allows credit for the many valuable truths and values taught in our faith traditions. These roads do in fact lead one much much closer to God and his presence. They do help people become better, more spiritual and more christlike people. They do so many good things and we should praise them for that. What they CAN NOT do however is take one all the way. The cost for that, the fare that we are asked to pay is the Gospel of Jesus Christ namely: faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the holy ghost and enduring to the end. Without this fare, we can get close to God, but we CAN NOT return to his presence. That’s really what we mean when we tell people to “‘Bring all the good that you have and let us see if we can add to it.’” We are not asking sincere people of faith to drive in reverse or to change course, but merely to continue and to not lose sight of our common destination.