In chapter three of the book of Matthew, John the Baptist explains to the people that he is the forerunner who has been sent to prepare the way for the Lord. To make his point he quotes from a prophecy of Isaiah saying that he, John, is “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
As we read that we tend to think that the phrase “make his paths straight” means “free from curves, bends, angles, or irregularities.” There is some meaning in that but it is the Lord’s path. Isn’t His path already straight? How can we make His path straight?
When we understand this statement in a cultural context it takes on more meaning. The people listening to John knew that whenever royalty traveled anyplace a forerunner would be sent before the procession to do two things. (1) To loudly proclaim the coming of royalty. (2) To clear the path of any debris or obstacles so the party could travel safely and speedily. Thus as John spoke they would have envisioned such a messenger shouting and clearing the way.
Thus to make the Lord’s paths straight is to proclaim that he is coming, but it isn’t about making His path free of curves or bends, it is about clearing away obstacles that the adversary puts on the path. The dictionary confirms this when it tells us that another definition of the word straight is “free from extraneous matter.” Thus when Alma praised the people of Gideon saying, “Yea, I perceive that ye are making his paths straight” (Alma 7:19), and when Nephi prayed to the Lord saying, “Wilt thou make my path straight before me!” (2 Nephi 4:33), they are talking about clearing the path of obstacles that would hinder their journey. Obviously this means clearing the sin off the path, but it also is about ridding our path of anything that isn’t Truth. When we Live in Truth we are free to travel the Lord’s path with no obstacles to hinder our journey.