Article of the Week | BYU Studies

Article of the Week

October 30, 2017
Article of the Week
The Ancient Doctrine of the Two Ways and the Book of Mormon
Noel B. Reynolds

This daily feature is the introduction to a full article by Noel B. Reynolds that was published in our newest issue, 56:3. To read the full text of this article, follow the link below.

From its opening pages to the end, the Bible describes a bifurcated world in which God bids, commands, and teaches the people he has created to follow him in the way of righteousness, and in which the devil leads people into wickedness. This way of seeing things surfaces explicitly in various texts and is known among scholars as the Doctrine of the Two Ways. This motif of an ongoing competition between good and evil for the souls of men is not unique to the Bible but also occurs in the literature of many ancient cultures.

While the same teaching has been noticed in the Book of Mormon, there is as yet no study that examines the Book of Mormon presentations systematically to identify the ways in which they might follow any of the ancient versions of the Two Ways doctrine, or the ways in which these might feature original formulations. In this paper, I will show that the Book of Mormon writers did retain most elements of the earliest biblical teaching, but with enriched understandings and unique formulations featured in the even more frequent recurrence of the Doctrine of the Two Ways in their prophetic teachings than found elsewhere. In the process, we will discover that their employment of the Two Ways doctrine clearly served Book of Mormon writers as a device to facilitate the understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ generally as the one true way by which men and women can find salvation—and specifically as an explanation of the fundamental necessity of repentance and obedience to the laws or covenants they had received from God. The Book of Mormon text refers to the gospel of Jesus Christ as "the way" or "the path" 108 times—even more frequently than the 67 times it uses the terms "doctrine" or "gospel."

In what follows, I will survey and document about a dozen exemplary passages in the Book of Mormon that explicitly refer to two paths or ways to assess the extent to which these follow or vary from each other or from the Jewish and Christian models listed above. I will then illustrate how the prevalence of this teaching throughout the Book of Mormon goes hand in hand with the idea that there is only one true way by which men and women can be saved in the kingdom of God, and that that way is provided by the gospel of Jesus Christ, which in turn is made possible through his Atonement.