During our stay in Moab, Utah, we were camped only 1,500 feet from the start of the Slickrock Trail. This particular trail is unique, with nearly the entire trail travels across the sandstone rock that makes up the landscape. The trail itself is grueling and difficult, but also includes a practice loop of much more approachable difficulty. I had the pleasure of riding this loop several times during our stay, and on my second ride, I had a realization.
Riding most mountain bike trails is fairly easy. Trail activity produces a path through the dirt and rocks that is generally easy to follow. The sandstone of the Slickrock has nearly no dirt, and therefore no tracks. You can faintly see a worn section of path, but it is difficult to follow at riding speed. To help riders follow the route, a white dashed line has been painted onto the surface of the rock.
Between my first and second ride of this loop it had rained. Water pools in depressions in the sandstone and remains until dried by the sun. As I followed the white dashed line across the rock, I encountered such a water pool. Dry during my previous passing, the white line of the trail traveled right through the center of the water pool. To follow the line, I would have to travel directly through the pool of water.
Right there on my bike, my mind immediately flashed to the ancient prophet Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life. In his vision, The Tree of Life represented the Love of God, and the blessings of living the Gospel. Leading to the tree was a straight and narrow path. Along the path was a rod of iron, representing the Word of God.
The imagery is clear. To receive the benefits of the Gospel of Christ, we must travel on the straight and narrow path and cling to the Word of God. The path and the rod will guide us there.
In Lehi’s Vision, both the path and the iron rod traveled through a mist of darkness on the way to the tree of life. This mist of darkness represents all the difficulties we encounter in life. These difficulties are distracting, disorienting, and discouraging. Only by clinging tightly to the rod can we hope to remain on the path through the mist of darkness. It can be tempting during difficult times to think that we have a better path. If we let go of the rod, we can navigate around an obstacle and rejoin the path later on. Doing so carries the danger that we will not be able to rejoin the path, or will encounter incredible difficulties in making it back.
When following the Gospel of Christ, the best plan is clearly to never let go. If we never stray from the truth he taught, we will never have to find our way back. We cannot expect our journey to be easy. There will be portions that travel through the mist of darkness, and perhaps even pools of water.
Now, let’s not stretch this analogy too far. The white line on the Slickrock Trail is not intended to be followed to the inch. It is necessary along the trail to find your own route around and over obstacles, staying within a reasonable distance of the line itself. Wanting to avoid getting mud on my bike and wet myself, I just rode around the pool of water.
The Gospel of Christ IS intended to be followed as exactly as we can manage. Christ is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. Following Christ has added a richness to my life and led me to to true joy and help through my struggles. May we commit ourselves anew to studying the Word of God and never letting go.