When the early church began to grow in power and influence and worldliness, the ancient doctrine of the two ways was quickly replaced by that of the two parties. I have observed that this slight switch has created a major gap that must be corrected in us. Let me explain.
The gospel of the two ways is that there are only two forces in the world that entice all who are here in one of two ways- light or darkness. Your choice is shown by your actions. Depending on your choice you move closer to the one and further from the other- no man can serve two masters.
The gospel of the two parties comes from the idea that the righteous belong to one party and the wicked belong to the other party. Since there are only two sides, one totally evil and the other absolutely good, and I am not totally evil, so I must belong to the good party.
The gospel of the two ways hold each individual accountable for their personal choices. Nobility, authority, public status, or membership could not justify individual actions. The high priests tried to justify themselves by telling Christ that they have done wonderful works, even miracles in His name, but Christ responds, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). No man is justified except through repentance in Christ.
The gospel of the two parties justify their sins because they belong to the true party or the “right” party. The Pharisees and Sadducees were both party people. The Pharisees justified themselves because of their public status as priests, their education, their knowledge of the detailed laws of Moses. The Sadducees justified themselves because of their nobility, their being related to Abraham, their membership in the right church, or their relationship to the old pioneers. Both were condemned by Christ. I am reminded of the parable of the ten virgins. All ten virgins were members of the church of Christ and temple-endowed as well, yet belonging to the correct party did not provide entrance for the five who had no oil in their lamp.
We must repent and return to the gospel of the two ways. Doing so we will recognize that everyone struggles with choosing between light and darkness. Rather than convincing others to belong to the same party, we ought to study the scriptures to understand the mind and will of the source of all light- God. As we come to know His mind and will, then we can choose to align with it. Then we will not be inviting non-members, less-active members, etc. to join our party. We will be bringing all to Christ.
“16. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.”
I am convinced that the solutions for homer teaching, visiting teaching, or the seemingly complex problems of this world can all be solved when we understand the words of Christ. We will be more patient, more kind, easier to talk to, less defensive, and more willing to submit to all things that God chooses to inflict upon us, because we trust God. It is only through the words of Christ and its application that we can be unified. Satan abhors our unification through the words of Christ because he looses his grip on us. Alma the older recognized this, so he gave up his position in politics as high chief, he left the power of man to “bear down in pure testimony” (Alma 4:19) to express his trust in God. We are told to first seek to obtain my word, then seek to declare it. Then we are promised that angels will be round about you to bear you up. This is literal, not figurative.