In a prophetic dream by Lehi and Nephi in the Book of Mormon, there is a depiction of our journey through life returning to the presence of God. This includes a building full of jeering people, a river of sin, mists of darkness, and forbidden paths which try to take us out of the progression, the end represented by the Tree of Life.
To help everyone get from where they are to the Tree of Life, there is a “strait and narrow path”, bordered by an Iron Rod. In the dream, the Iron Rod was the means for anyone to reach the Tree of Life, but people had to choose to use it, ignore the words of the jeering people, and not let go and risk loss.
The tendency at this point is to see an absolutely straight path, with an absolutely straight rod, with no turns, making a bee line to the Tree of Life. We think that anyone who has deviated from the absolute course we think exists from point A to point B must be in apostacy, setting up the path we believe we are on as the best and absolute. This image of absolute rigidness and direction is what I believe is in error.
First, the word used is “strait”, not “straight”. It means “narrow” and “strict” – it is not an indication of direction. We are given nothing on how the path gets from one point to another, if it goes around hills or other landscape features (though none are given), only that it does lead to the Tree.
In the interpretation of the dream, the Iron Rod is interpreted as “. . . the word of God, which led . . . to the tree of life . . .”(1Ne.11:22) The “Word of God” is also another name given for Jesus The Christ (John 1:1). He was with God in the beginning, and by Him was all God commanded fulfilled.
So next time you sing the Hymn “The Iron Rod” or read about this in the Scriptures, or even feel like you’re not doing as well as you’d like, rather than thinking about an impersonal, solid rod, that couldn’t care if you used it or not, think of the Savior, hand outstretched, waiting for you to simply take His hand, so He can help you on your way to that distant, and seemingly impossibly hard to reach, Tree of Life at the end of our journey. It doesn’t matter where we are, seemingly far away from the main path, feeling like we’re only inches from the path, or even in the great and spacious building, He is there, mere inches away, hand outstretched, desperately hoping we will simply take His hand.