"And he did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished."
Up until a baptism I attended a few weeks ago, I had always thought that "straiten" meant that the Lord got them back on a straight path, figuring that the missing "gh" was some strange biblical spelling. But at this baptism, someone pointed out that "straiten" means to put in a difficult situation, to narrow or confine. The iniquity of the Israelites caused the Lord to straiten them; He sent serpents that made their lives difficult. Such is the nature of sin. When we stray from the path that the Lord has set for us, we actually limit our freedom and "straiten" ourselves by creating more difficult circumstances for ourselves than we would have faced without the sin. But just as the Lord provided a way to free the Israelites from the serpents' bites, He provided a way for us to be freed from our sins--the atonement of Jesus Christ.
To be cured, the Israelites had to do no more than look upon the brass serpent that the Lord had commanded Moses to make. They didn't have to profess belief, change their ways, dye their hair, build a monument...they just had to look upon it.
Bishop H. Burke Peterson said, "May I suggest that the steps we can take to dispel fear and bring peace and power are really very simple. The teachings of the gospel are not complicated. They are not hard to understand. They need not be confusing" (Ensign May 1975)
We tend to make the gospel more complicated than it really is; we get caught up in activities, meetings, scouts, choirs, etc. and forget the simple cure that comes from reading our scriptures, praying, and striving to know Jesus.
Elder Rex D. Pinegar counseled, "Just as a few simple elements combined in a proper way form a sturdy foundation for a house, so do the simple teachings of the gospel bond together to make a strong foundation for our lives" (Ensign Nov. 1994)