“… though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed,” wrote Paul the apostle to the Galatians. “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8–9.)
The Galatian saints were a small minority surrounded mostly by heathens and a few Jewish Christians who were called Judaizers because, although they professed to belief in Christ, they still insisted that the Judean law be observed. The pressures of these pseudo-Christians had induced the Galatians to conform to the requirements of “the law” notwithstanding the fact that Paul had taught them that Christ had fulfilled the law.
Upon hearing of their apostasy, Paul wrote his epistle. His purpose was to convince them, if he could, that the gospel of Jesus Christ was the one and only way to salvation. He sought to strengthen them against being seduced and corrupted by the false teachings to which they were exposed.
We are today surrounded by circumstances not unlike those that surrounded the Galatian saints. We now, as they then did, live in a society that minimizes the importance of complying with the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are, for example, subjected to the pressures of the satanic doctrine, believed by many, that all roads lead to heaven. We are told there is no God: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us.” Others say, “Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” (2 Ne. 28:7–8.)
We are also subjected to the pressures of those who “are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, … who preach false doctrines, … commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord.” (2 Ne. 28:15.)
These evil influences are real, and far too often they are effective.
Some time ago a fine young man, raised in a Latter-day Saint home, went away to study. Upon returning from one of our most prestigious universities, he reported that he had associated there with men of various backgrounds, religious and otherwise, and that he had found them to be his equal in every way. He could, therefore, see no reason why he should subscribe to our Church disciplines to which they did not conform.
More recently, certain young adult leaders informed us that members of their group were involved in university functions and working situations that brought them into constant association with people whose beliefs and conduct were at variance with Church standards; that although these young people were engaged in some Church activities, they still needed to be strengthened against compromises that constantly threatened them.
In the midst of these and countless other faith-destroying situations, we need to be frequently alerted to and always on guard against their pressures.
We need what Paul sought to give the Galatians, a conviction and assurance that there are not many ways to heaven, but only one way. Jesus sought again and again to impress this truth upon his hearers. In his great Sermon on the Mount, he said:
“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.” On the other hand, he continued, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, … few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:13–14.)
When Jesus, after his resurrection, came to the American continent, he taught the Nephites this same lesson in identical words. (3 Ne. 14:13–14.) Again in this last dispensation, he repeated the instructions in similar terms. (D&C 132:21–25.)
The lesson these scriptures teach is reminiscent of the prophetic teachings of Lehi’s dream concerning the tree of life. You will recall that in his vision he beheld that “a rod of iron … extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree” of life. (1 Ne. 8:19.) Those who grasped and held onto it were saved; those who would not hold onto and follow the rod, which represented the word of God, wandered away in the “mist of darkness” and were lost.
The key to the strait gate is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The “iron rod” to which we must hold is the word of God, the teachings of the gospel. The burden of all the scriptures, including the teachings of the Savior himself, is the divinity of Christ, the importance of faith in him and of strict obedience to his commandments.
The imperative message for us to understand and abide by is that to receive the Lord requires strict obedience to his commandments. Fortunately each of us is so constituted that we can, if we are so minded, meet this requirement.
In September 1832, the Lord, speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith and six elders, said:
“And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life.
“For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.
“For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
“And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.
“And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.” (D&C 84:43–47.)
Jesus said to Thomas: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6.) There is only one way. The senior apostle declared this to the Sanhedrin when he and John were called before that judicial body to explain the first miracle performed by the apostles in the early Christian church—the healing of the lame man “at the gate of the temple which [was] called Beautiful.” Responding to the question, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?
“… Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
“If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;
“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
“This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:7–12.)