“Enter Ye in at the Strait Gate”

Brant Gardner

This saying is the beginning of the end of the Sermon. From this point to the end the sayings are all admonitions to accept the way of the gospel and follow it. Having begun with an indication of how the gospel differs from the Law of Moses, the people are now expected to accept this new understanding of the fulfilled law, and begin to live according to the Gospel, not simply the Law.

This saying returns to the form of antithetical parallels that has been a structural undercurrent through most of the sayings in the Sermon. It begins with a statement of the positive commandment; that we should enter at the “strait gate.” Then come the antithetical parallel phrases:

for wide is the gate,

and broad is the way,

which leadeth to destruction,

and many there be who go in thereat;

Because strait is the gate,

and narrow is the way,

which leadeth unto life,

and few there be that find it.

The imagery here is one of traveling. In this case, traveling along a road. Unlike the seeking one did to go to a kinsman’s house to knock on the door, this is a longer journey. It will take more time. There are two ways to go, one that is wide and one that is narrow. The contrast may be the one between public and private ways. The broad public way was sixteen cubits across, but a private way was only four cubits.

Broad or narrow, a way is still a way. A road is still a road. Once on the road, there is no implication that the road is any easier or harder. The difference is in the quantity of people that are one the road. In the narrow road there are naturally fewer people because it cannot hold as many, but rather than a limitation of capacity, the statement is that few find it. Thus it would appear that the contrast is between the private and public. For the saints who are able to find the private road, they will be in the minority in their communities. The majority of the world will not find the private way.

Book of Mormon context: This saying would have very little relevance to Mesoamericans. There were very few formal roads, called sacbe that linked different sites. The rest of the trails were precisely that, and since there were no pack animals, the roads were what practice has made them. Additionally, there were no gates or obstructions to roads. The entire imagery would have been foreign to a Mesoamerican audience. In addition, the conception of a limited number of saints in a larger community of unbelievers might have been the description of Nephite lands in the previous twenty to forty years, but it certainly was not the description prior to that, and clearly was not the description in Bountiful at this time. It also would not describe the future experience of the New World saints, who actually would be in the majority. Of all of the messages contained in the Sermon on the Mount, this one would have the least applicability and comprehensibility to the Mesoamerican Nephites.

Textual: There are no changes from the Matthean text.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon