Maybe All Roads Lead to Rome After AllBy: Guest
This is a guest post from commenter Paul. He runs his own blog A Latter-day Voice.
I had a missionary companion who presented a paper at a forum at a local university. The title of his paper was “All Roads Do Not Lead to Rome.” His position, as one would expect from an LDS missionary, was that there is one way to heaven, namely through the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, performed by duly authorized holders of God’s priesthood – that is, through us.
And I agree with him that the path back to our Father in Heaven does include the ordinances of the gospel performed by proper priesthood authority.
There’s plenty of “path” imagery in the scriptures. Mostly we think of strait gates and narrow paths that lead to eternal life (see Matt 7:14; 3 Nephi 14:14). Lehi told of the strait and narrow path leading to the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8:20). (It’s interesting that he didn’t mention the path until after his family members had already come to the tree. I don’t want to draw too much significance from the order of his telling, since he also failed to mention the filthiness of the water that Nephi later observed.)
And I don’t dispute the “one path” idea. Certainly I will not take exception with the Lord when He says, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6).
There is no doubt that for Christians who have cleared that gate, Christ is The Way.
I suppose the question for me is whether there is only one path to the gate. And as much as I’d like to say there is (just because I prefer a neat and well-ordered world), there isn’t.
I came to this realization a number of years ago while attending a twelve-step recovery meeting in Arizona. This was not an LDS group, and so there was reference to a Higher Power, “God as we understand him,” rather than the God I understood. This generalization of God was uncomfortable for me at first. After all, my testimony is built around my understanding of a loving and corporeal God in whose image I am created.
But I came to realize that each person in that room was on a path – maybe not my path, but a path, nonetheless – to redemption and recovery. And as each person sought a power outside himself (and outside of his addiction), he opened himself up to the possibility of God, or at least a god. I reasoned finally that if God is all powerful (and I believe He is), then He has power to make Himself known to people when they are ready to have Him made known.
The Savior exemplified this concept when he taught in parables so that he who had ears to hear could hear (and he who didn’t wouldn’t).
This realization that we each come to God in our own way was a bit of a relief, and also somewhat disconcerting at the same time. It was a relief because it meant that what my stake president had told me about some of my own children was true: Eternity is a long time, and the Lord will sort things out in His own time. It was disconcerting at the same time because I’d spent a long time in my life with an image of The Way (as I understood it), and The Way was the only way.
I still have no doubt that the path from gate to heaven is strait and narrow. But the path to the gate maybe not so much.
Elder Neil A. Anderson, in his remarks in the most recent conference, said:
“Wherever you now find yourself on the road of discipleship, you are on the right road, the road toward eternal life. Together we can lift and strengthen one another in the great and important days ahead” (“What Thinks Christ of Me?”)
I’m heartened by Elder Anderson’s words. They relieve me of any pressure I may have imposed on myself to judge another’s progress on the path, and instead allow me to lift up the hands that hang down, to comfort those who stand in need of comfort and to bear another’s burdens along the way. They allow me to observe the Lord’s grace in my life and in the lives of others as He nudges us all along the path toward him. Yes, there are those who reject Him; there are those who seek Lehi’s great and spacious building or fall into the filthy river or get lost in the fog. But even those are redeemable through the Lord’s mercy. Even those might still find a path home.
And that comforts me.