Glad we’re not going in that direction

We were heading out of town on the northbound 101 Wednesday afternoon to escape the current warm spell, when I looked across the median and saw a sea of cars, crawling at a snail’s pace. Looking ahead and in my rearview, I noticed there wasn’t much traffic on our side, and we were making good time. I told Chrissie, “I’m glad we’re not going in that direction.”

She chuckled because that sentence is part of our marriage lexicon. The first memorable usage was when we were traveling in England, years ago. We were heading northbound on the M1, when I noticed an extraordinary traffic jam and pointed out, “I’m glad we’re not going in that direction.” Five minutes later, the traffic on the other side was at a standstill, so I said it again. Five minutes later, the same thing. Twenty, thirty minutes later, the other side of the highway was still jammed. I have never witnessed a traffic jam like that in my life. After almost an hour, we left the motorway, having passed thousands of poor souls who probably spent the night in their cars.

Since then, I’ve always noticed when we are the beneficiaries of being on the right side of traffic. More often than not, we are clipping along at a decent speed while the other direction is packed. Lucky for us, because I’ve been told that I get “antsy,” when we get stuck in traffic.

There is something to be said for not being on the same road as the masses, both in transportation, religion, and life.

Jesus used the traffic metaphor as well. (I guess the cart and foot traffic could get pretty jammed up during feast season?)

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

(For a further discussion of strait vs. straight, check out this post: Getting it Strait.“)

The words “many and “few” help us understand the importance of not following the crowd, which can be tough to do in today’s interconnected and over-represented world.

When I was young, and trying to convince my mother to let me do something, I would pull out the tried-and-true, “everyone is doing it.” Her response was usually the same, “Do you really want to be like everyone else?”

In my head, I was shouting, “Yes! I DO want to be like everyone else.” However, I knew that would only complicate things so the discussion would end with me saying, “No, I guess not,” and sulking away.

Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “Even if “everyone is doing it,” wrong is never right. Evil, error, and darkness will never be truth, even if popular. A scriptural warning so declares: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness.” (link)(Isaiah 5:20)

There is little doubt that Isaiah saw our times.

One of the curses of the day is the obsession with being popular. There are so many ways now that people can grab their “15 minutes of fame” – or at least 15 seconds. Nehor the anti-christ pushed his quest for popularity in his pitch to the faithful in the time of Alma. Nehor’s head would explode to see what can make someone popular these days! Being rich and famous is a social media feed away, and the worth of what makes one popular is often questionable.

Elder David A. Bednar said, “In the busyness of our daily lives and in the commotion of the contemporary world in which we live, we may be distracted from the eternal things that matter the most by making pleasure, prosperity, popularity, and prominence our primary priorities.” (link)

I imagine that a lot of the people stuck in their vehicles, heading in the wrong direction, are live-streaming it as they go.

Here’s one of many examples that show how the direction of traffic has changed: Earlier this year, Gallup released a poll that showed that only about 30% of the people in the US attend weekly church services, compared to 42% two decades ago. The highway going the right direction is emptying out, with a large majority heading down the wide way. (link) (Good news: LDS Church attendance only dropped from 68% to 67% in those same 20 years.)

It takes a real sense of self-awareness to realize when we are in the lane with the masses, heading in the wrong direction. If what I am doing, wearing, or watching is popular, I should probably take a hard look at why, and if I’m heading in the right direction. I’m sure the Spirit will gladly help us answer those questions if we dare to ask.

Associated self-confessional: I spend too much time watching the “Popular” shows on streaming services, even though I should be searching for more worthwhile fare. The word “Popular” increases interest, and diminishes judgment.

One nice thing about being in the lanes heading opposite the traffic jam is that it is much easier to maintain a sense of momentum. I hate standing still. In 2022, President Nelson gave an entire talk about momentum.

“Positive spiritual momentum will keep us moving forward amid the fear and uncertainty created by pandemics, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and armed hostilities. Spiritual momentum can help us withstand the relentless, wicked attacks of the adversary and thwart his efforts to erode our personal spiritual foundation.” (link)

It’s tough to build any kind of positive spiritual momentum when we are limping along with the masses in the wrong lane.

This quote might sting a little: President Nelson in 2022: “Rarely in the future will it be easy or popular to be a faithful Latter-day Saint.” (link)

Brings new meaning to the expression, “Stay in your lane.”

Or better, “Stay on the straight and narrow.”

Or even better, “Stay on the covenant path.”

When it comes to spiritual progress vs the world, finding ourselves on the road less travelled reinforces that we are on the right one.


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  1. Excellent piece as always, thank you.
    It caused me to reflect on the 80th commemorations of the World War 2 D-Day Landings last week. The biggest invasion ever mounted with huge casualties, especially for the U.S. the success of which allows us in Europe to worship as we choose. The last anniversary that a dwindling few veterans will attend. Yet coverage in the U.S. has been almost non-existent, and the British Prime Minister left the events early! Choosing the right route is sometimes difficult for some people.

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