Recently, while watching the address from our new prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, I jotted down the following thought:
Don’t confuse the difficulty of the path with the fiery darts of the adversary.
I’m not exactly sure what about that presentation brought on this thought. But I know exactly why I thought about it – in the context of my life.
Recently, our family lived in Midway, Utah. If you aren’t familiar with it, Midway is in the Heber Valley – east of Salt Lake City, on the other side of the Wasatch Mountain Range. Midway is about 20 minutes south of Park City. It’s just a beautiful place.
We moved to Midway in late fall, and there was a road that always intrigued me – Pine Canyon Road. It was closed during the winter and wouldn’t be open until at least May – when the snow melted and made the road passable.
I would often take walks through Midway and see this closed road, curious about where it led.
It was late May (around the 27th or 28th that year), when the road was open! I knew, thanks to google maps, that this road would lead me to the tops of the mountains where I could then go on to either Guardsman Pass and Salt Lake County/Sandy or I could go on to Empire Pass and Deer Valley/Park City.
The walk to Park City from my house would be about 14 miles – with an elevation climb of about 4,000 feet. On a Saturday morning in May, I decided I would take a long walk.
It was a hard walk. Now, it wasn’t a hike, so I had the advantage of having a path laid out before me. But it was hard. It was all uphill for hours and hours. I had a pack with water. I took plenty of breaks – to catch my breath while admiring the views, the flowers, and the cool air.
I walked, up a mountain, for a few hours when I finally reached a “checkpoint” of sorts. The end of Pine Canyon Road, and a choice to go to either Brighton or Park City. It took forever. I was getting so tired. I had been walking for about 4 hours.
At this point in my walk, I still had about 1 mile or so until I got to Empire pass. Then I had a few more hours until I made it to Main Street Park City. Though I was relieved to turn this corner, there was more walking to do. A little over 2 hours of more walking, in fact.
But I took a drink of my water, and I kept on going. I would take a longer break at Empire Pass…
And I made it.
Though I would still have to keep walking to get to Park City – Main Street, Empire Pass was the summit of my walk. Empire Pass was the real point of the walk. I wanted to get into the mountains.
After hours of walking, I made it to Empire Pass. I sat down on a bench and looked over to Bonanza Flats. I saw snow-capped mountain peaks and smiled. I could look in another direction and see the Heber Valley. I could look in yet another direction and see all of Park City. I was on top of the world. This little walk, though time consuming, was immensely rewarding.
The mountains are a special, peaceful place. Going up to the mountains kind of felt like going to church. It was renewing. It was quiet and contemplative. All of the effort to make it to the top of these mountains was nothing in comparison to the reward of sitting on a bench and looking out to the mountains.
I sat on a bench for about half an hour then made my way down through Deer Valley and on to Park City where I would have Homey pick me up and I would get a ride back home.
Sometimes I think that life is a lot like a walk up to a mountain pass.
One – It’s there…
Sounds kind of obvious. Yes – the mountain pass is there. And I think that it is there for us. Heavenly Father has created mountains for us to climb. Do we have to? No. But I believe He wants us to dream big. He wants us to see mountain vistas. He wants us to experience the peace of an Aspen forest in late spring, the blue skies that rival the blue wings of birds that flit through the forest. He wants us to admire wildflowers that pop up along roadsides. He wants us to see moose tracks and a line of trees that have been carefully chopped down by a beaver.
The mountains are there. But we have to make the choice to walk up it. He won’t make us. We don’t have to go. In fact, we can choose never to climb a mountain and have a great life.
But some people see the mountains and feel drawn to them. And they’re there. So, it’s good for us to go.
Two – The only views and experiences of the mountains are in the mountains
The thing with mountain top views is that they are in mountain tops. There is no easy way to get there. You have to go up. If the mountain view was in the valley, then it wouldn’t be a mountain top.
It’s important, I think, to make this discernment.
Sometimes, I think that we tend to say that God is testing us – as if He is the jealous God that we have imagined based on our interpretations of the Old Testament. As if he is Lucy, from Charlie Brown.
But I don’t think that’s the way it is. The climb up a mountain – yes it’s a test of our will and strength. But that’s not because God set out to make it hard. It’s because mountain tops are where the views are, and you can’t get around that! If you want to see the view from the top of the mountain, then you just have to climb.
And this is where the point that I mentioned at the beginning of this post comes in.
Don’t confuse the difficulty of the path with the fiery darts of the devil
As I mentioned in the point before, the mountain is there. And the views are there. And I think that Heavenly Father wants us to experience these things that will bring us joy.
So – is the road we must travel up a challenge? Yes! But we shouldn’t confuse ourselves. The upward climb isn’t a fiery dart of the devil. It isn’t a “test” from a jealous God. It is simply the path.
Three – All of that being said, the path is a test, and there ARE fiery darts
It is important to make the distinction between the path and the influences of both the Lord and the adversary. By learning to make this distinction we will be able to stay optimistic and we will have the strength to fight off the fiery darts of the adversary that will try to thwart us from our reward.
Think about Lehi’s dream in 1 Nephi 8. People are walking along a path that will lead to the tree of life.
The path itself is completely inanimate. It is simply the way to our goal.
On the path is the iron rod. It follows the path and provides something that we can hold onto – so that we make it safely to the tree of life – our goal.
This path – it is like the road up the mountain. It goes up and down, around corners. In Lehi’s dream, there are portions of the path that even go through “mists of darkness.” Those mists of darkness are the fiery darts of the adversary. They aren’t the path. These fiery darts are meant to force us into letting go of the iron rod and straying from the path that will lead to the tree of life.
Sometimes, we can be tempted to lose focus. We forget what purpose the path serves. We forget that it is a gift given to us by God to help us get where we want to go. We can be frustrated and wonder why our Heavenly Father is testing us. We might even confuse the path – this wonderful path that leads us to joy and accomplishment – with the fiery darts that are trying to sway us from the path.
When we understand that the road to the mountain pass is the road that the Lord prepared for us to enable our achievement of dreams and joys then we will more readily accept the trials and afflictions that we face – recognizing that they strengthen us and help us to get where the views are worth hundreds and thousands of words – where the air is clean – where we are filled with joy and confidence.