In December 2014, I went hiking in the mountains of Colorado. It was a beautiful day to be out in nature (but then I think any day is a beautiful day to be out in nature). There were several inches of new fallen snow on the ground and it was still snowing. The temperature was a brisk -2º F with a slight breeze. As I started the hike, I was quite warm…so much that I was tempted to remove layers, but that changed after an hour or so when I left the shelter of the trees and was exposed to full force of the blowing wind.
The first part of the hike was along the road (which was closed for the season). The next part stretched across a large meadow covered with small willow trees. I had read about the willows—“stay on the trail or you will end up in snow up to your chest.” Herein laid the problem…I couldn’t see the trail. I had never been up this mountain before and I was completely unfamiliar with the trail. Fortunately for me, I met a man at the trailhead, Ryan, who had hiked this trail 7 times previous. He left before me and I was able to follow his trail.
I could clearly see Ryan’s footprints and therefore could tell when the snow was soft. There were places Ryan broke through the crust and sank into nearly 3 feet of snow. I still had to go through the same deep snow, but I was warned.
After an hour of following Ryan’s footsteps, I began to get very tired. The fresh snow up here was at least 6 inches thick…every step required lifting my feet 6-10 inches depending on how far I sunk. Many steps required lifting my feet 2-3 feet. I began to be very thankful to have a trail to follow. I was thankful to have footsteps to follow. By having a trail to follow, I was able to expend less energy. If I had been forced to blaze my own trail, it would have been a much more difficult hike.
Sometimes I would try stepping just to the left or right of where Ryan fell through to see if I could avoid the depth…it generally didn’t work. Most of the time, I sank deeper in–once or twice I ended up on snow up to my chest. It took great effort to crawl out of the deep snow and get back on the trail. One time I could see that Ryan made a wide turn. It was only about 20 feet across to the other side of the turn and I figured I would leave his trail and cut across. Again I ended up in snow up to my chest. I wasted valuable energy trying to get back to the trail.
That’s when it hit me.
The scriptures are replete with the phrase “Follow me.” I’ve read the story of Peter being called and always admired his faith to put down his nets and follow the Savior. I have read the poem “Footprints” and thought “how nice.” What I never realized is that the Savior really has blazed the trail for us. He has walked through the willows—broken through the drifts—identified the safest path through this adventure called life. He hasn’t always blazed a trail that was smooth and easy—sometimes the safest trail is through deep snow. He has, however, always been the Trailblazer.
If we have Exaltation as a goal, then we need to be on the trail to Exaltation. There is only one path leading to Eternal Life. Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
We must follow him.
What I like about this is that the Savior doesn’t require we follow him. We aren’t forced to take a certain path through this life. We are, however, presented images of two destinations: eternal life or eternal damnation.
“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi 2:27, emphasis added)
That’s it, there’s only these two choices. It is then up to us to decide which path we take. One of the challenges in this life is that there are many paths leading to eternal damnation. So many that it is hard sometimes to stay on the right path. Fortunately for us, our Father placed an Iron Rod beside the path leading to the Tree of Life. Lehi tells us that the Iron Rod passes through a mist of darkness. It is when we are passing through the mist of darkness that the real value of the Iron Rod is clear. Our eyes won’t work in this mist of darkness, but our hands can hold fast to the rod.
One time in particular on my hike, as I was cresting a small rise, I paused and looked at the trail ahead. I saw clearly a set of footprints in the snow and knew that was the safe path for me to take. It gave me hope. It nudged me further. It enabled me to continue my hike. If we are to return to our Father in Heaven, then we are “to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6). His path is clear. His way is sure. His trail is “the strait and narrow path” that leads to life eternal (1 Nephi 8:20, Matthew 7:14).