1 Nephi 8:20 — LeGrand Baker — The Path with Two Ways

1 Nephi 8:20 

20 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.

This is a perfect description of the uncompromising necessity to hang on to the rod of iron with all our might. The path which leads to the tree of life forks along the way, and the only way one can know which fork to take, is by holding on to the rod. The rod will direct us along the path leading to the tree. The alternative leads by the filthy river—to the world and all the advantages the world can contrive. The following are three quotes from Hugh Nibley. He was not discussing Lehi’s vision of tree of life,{1} but his analysis of the doctrine of the Two Ways is a perfect description of fork in the path that Lehi saw.

You come to the crossroads of the way of light and the way of darkness. It’s universal, the doctrine of the two ways. But the reason he [the gatekeeper] is weeping is that some people get by and go halfway to heaven. Why is he weeping? Because a lot of them must go to hell.{2}

About the two ways, Nibley wrote:

One may well ask if it is necessary to choose between such absolute extremes, and wonder if there is not some more moderate approach to the problems. By the very nature of things, there is no third way—as the early Jewish and Christian writers remind us repeatedly in their doctrine of the Two Ways. According to this oldest and best-established of teachings (though quite unpopular with the conventional Christianity and Judaism of our time), there are Two Ways lying before every person in this life, the Way of Light and the Way of Darkness, the Way of Life and the Way of Death; and every mortal every day of his life is required to make a choice between them. Unfortunately for our peace of mind, any compromise between the Two Ways is out of the question, since they lead in opposite directions.{3}

Satan’s masterpiece of counterfeiting is the doctrine that there are only two choices, and he will show us what they are. It is true that there are only two ways, but by pointing us the way he wants us to take and then showing us a fork in that road, he convinces us that we are making the vital choice, when actually we are choosing between branches in his road. Which one we take makes little difference to him, for both lead to destruction.{4}

In Lehi’s vision he saw that there are only two ways, and that when we come to the fork that separates them, the only way we can identify the right one is to hold on to the rod of iron, and go the direction it leads us. Even in doing that there always remain only two ways—we may continue to hold to the rod, or we may try to find our way without it. Lehi tells us that those who tried to find the correct path without holding on to the rod of iron were lost. Nephi tells us that the mist of darkness is the same as the second path Nibley described (1 Nephi 12:16-17).


{1} See: 1 Nephi 8:10-12, Lehi’s description of the tree, the water, and the fruit.

{2} Hugh Nibley, Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price, edited by Robert Smith and Robert Smythe (n.p., n.d.), 3 .

{3} Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion, edited by Don E. Norton (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book and FARMS, 1989), 30.

{4} Nibley, Approaching Zion, , 112 – 113.


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