“Hey! I know a shortcut!” We’ve all seen it in books and movies and the “shortcut” always ends in hilarity or catastrophe. In the Lord of the Rings, Pippen wisely declares, “Shortcuts make for long delays.”
If you are at all like me, you have read 1st Nephi eighty-zillion times. Imagine my surprise when re-reading the story of Lehi’s dream when I noticed Lehi managed to pull off a pretty sweet deal. He found a shortcut to the Tree of Life. He managed to avoid the path and iron rod altogether. You’ve never noticed? Allow me to explain.
In his dream, Levi was in a “dark and dreary wilderness,” when an angel appeared to him. Let’s go right to the source in 1 Nephi 8.
You know the rest of the story: He then looked around for his family, and that is when he saw the river, the mist of darkness, the great and spacious building, and yes, the Iron Rod leading to the Tree of Life, etc.
But it appears that Lehi got there by walking through some darkness and crossing a field. Sounds like a legit shortcut to me.
Everyone else had a tougher go of it. Following the path that led to the tree was rough going, many didn’t make it and many left after they did. But some held tightly to the iron rod, and pushed their way through the mists of darkness and made it to the tree, and were happy.
That is what we are all about, isn’t it? And that is the great message of Lehi’s dream. Unfortunately, too much time is spent on the search for Lehi’s shortcut – looking for an easy way through.
People have always looked for shortcuts in their quest for salvation. Here are two (of many) examples:
Shortcut: Have a good time and God will save us anyway.
Nephi’s response? “Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted.” (v.11) (“The way?” Perhaps the strait and narrow way?)
Another shortcut that seems to be gaining a lot of traction in today’s world is the idea, “I don’t need a religion, I love Jesus and He loves me, and that’s enough.” Another version of this is, “I can be spiritual without attending church, and Jesus is OK with that.”
Shortcut: “I just need to love Jesus and be a good person and I can skip the organized religion stuff.”
Jesus’ response? He made it very clear that there are some certain things He requires of us – and those things happen at church. For starters, the ordinances of baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and partaking of the sacrament. (John 3:5, Matthew 26:26) He also laid out the consequences of skipping these things when he said, “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)
Shortcuts end in hilarity, catastrophe or long delays. Not a lot of hilarity ensues when taking these shortcuts.
Years ago, Elder Robert L. Simpson taught this simple truth, “There are no shortcuts to eternity.” (link)
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said it with his typical flourish, “I have not seen any perspiration-free shortcuts to the celestial kingdom; there is no easy escalator to take us there.” (link)
Jesus taught, “Because straight is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life; and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:14)
(Note: if you are hung up on the use of strait vs. straight, you can use Alma’s description that “His paths are straight…”)
Ultimately, there is one path, “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.” (2 Nephi 9:41) Mercifully, there is an iron rod to grasp as we make our way along that straight path, because the going can get tough.
But, if you insist on looking, the only place you might find Lehi’s shortcut is the same place Lehi found one: In your dreams.