Light of Christ
I’d like to express gratitude to Dezmond for his remarks. I’d like to expand on your remarks just a little bit, and I hope that I can do them justice as well. I’d also like to thank the mixed quartet. Music—sacred music—thins the veil and allows us to commune with the Spirit more effectively.
It is a humbling experience to be here and to have this assignment to speak to you, especially since we’ve had so many marvelous speakers in the last little while—Sister Warnas a couple of weeks ago and Elder Grow last week. Candidly, I tried to convince the president that it would be a very wise idea to have someone else speak today. You can see how well that one worked. Truthfully, it is an honor and an opportunity that I am grateful for.
As I looked into your faces as you were filing in, in particular, I saw the collective light of your countenance. As a body, you illuminate the Assembly Hall. Light is the very subject that I would like to address today.
During most of April 1980 and the first few weeks of May, one of the great landmarks of the Pacific Northwest—a mountain near the community where my family lived at the time—was showing some troublesome activity. Mount St. Helens appeared to be waking up from a long sleep.
On the afternoon of Friday, May 16th, my business partner and I were driving home from a meeting in Seattle. As we neared Longview, Washington, our attention and our conversation turned to the snow-covered mountain and the large bulge that had been slowly growing out of the north side. From the freeway, we could see the steam rising above the peak.
He made the suggestion that the following morning, May 17th, that we climb to the top and see what was inside the small crater that had formed from the melting snow at its crest. If I remember the conversation accurately, I think I told him he was crazy, although I think I was probably more descriptive. I had, of course, to mow my lawn and take care of other responsibilities that my wife had for me, but if he wanted to climb the mountain and have the mountain blow up in his face, well, that was fine with me.
Two days later, on Sunday, May 18th, we had just completed our bishopric meeting when one of the deacons pounded on my door. He was so excited that he babbled incoherently. I couldn’t understand anything he was saying, and yet he kept pointing to the window in my office.
I drew back the curtains and looked at a terrifying sight. Mount St. Helens had erupted. A black, boiling mushroom cloud rose thousands of feet into the air. Lightning bolts flashed through the clouds of electrically-charged ash. Although the mountain was 40 miles away from us, it looked like it was about to destroy us.
Soon the light from the sun was blotted out. Grey flakes of ash began to fall like snow, bringing darkness in midday. For many, the experience was horrifying. As bad as it was for us, it was far worse in eastern Washington. The prevailing winds blew to the east, where some of the communities were rapidly being buried by a fine volcanic pumice.
In one community, a strange phenomenon occurred. The falling ash had blotted out the light of the sun so completely that people had to turn on their headlights to drive. And still, they could only see a few feet in front of them as they desperately tried to reach their home. Many drivers reported birds striking their headlights. Others reported birds flying into the windows of their homes, which were illuminated by the interior lighting. The birds were frightened and confused by the sudden darkness and the falling ash, and so they sought out the light.
By our nature, we are attracted to the light. We are even fascinated by it. Have you ever sat around a campfire and stared into the light? Physical light provides safety. It extends our capacities. It is vital to our health and comfort and well-being. Light from the sun warms the earth, provides plant growth and necessary vitamins for many forms of animal life, and influences the weather. Without the light from the sun, all forms of life on earth would cease. Sunlight is the light that generates and sustains physical life.
Physicists have long been intrigued by physical characteristics of light. Photons of light may behave like strings of particles; light projected into fiber optics can curve and bend, which is a great example of that characteristic. Yet, light also behaves as a wave. A beam of white light shone through a prism refracts into a color spectrum like a rainbow.
When I was in high school, I was invited to attend a guest lecture at the University of Utah conducted by Dr. Arthur Schawlow from Stanford University. He introduced to us a new concept of light that had recently been discovered by himself and his brother-in-law Dr. Charles Townes: light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation—LASER for short.
Dr. Schawlow described the story of their discovery and how he had wrestled with a very technical challenge in the project. One day as he sat on a park bench on Stanford’s campus pondering the problem, the answer came to him in completed sentences. He explained that as he received the impressions, he was able to complete one thought, write it down, and when he was ready another one came to him no faster than he could write it.
Dr. Schawlow was not of our faith, but he knew the answer came through him, not from him. I didn’t know that day that Dr. Schawlow’s invention, by his own admission given to him by the Father of lights, would one day save my eyesight. Precisely controlled lasers can perform delicate surgical procedures inside of a patient’s eye, sealing blood vessels, reattaching retinas, correcting vision, and performing a host of many other medical procedures.
Lased light can perform precise industrial cutting tasks, transmit incredible volumes of data instantly, and read back and store vast amounts of information—and also provide entertainment. We’re all familiar with DVDs and Blu-ray.
But science can only provide us with a very limited understanding of what light is and what power of capacity it has. Only by turning to the source of light—the Lord, Himself—can we really understand, and in only a very small way, what light really is.
Note how prominent a role light plays in scripture. The city on the hill, the wise virgins’ lamps, the Star that announced the Savior’s birth, the finger of the Lord illuminating the brother of Jared’s sixteen stones. Consider the record of the Creation:
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
Light is at the very core of our doctrine. The Apostle Paul pointed to the Second Coming and said, “Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day.”
You, my brothers and sisters, were foreordained to be the children of light. It is good, even wise, for us to study light—its characteristics, its properties. Science can offer some luminary benefits, but it is far, far more important to understand the spiritual and the physical nature of light together, even the doctrine of light.
Abinadi said, “[Jesus Christ] is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened.” To the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord said, “I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” The Savior, as reported by John the Beloved, said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
Note the phrase, “shall have the light of life.” The word have in this context means to possess, own, or hold. Every soul born into mortality has within them a portion of that light, the Light of Christ. Mormon declared, “[It] is given to every man, that he may know good from evil.”
Elder Bruce R. McConkie clarified this doctrine when he wrote: “‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.’ (1 John 1:5) That is, he is the embodiment, author, and source of light, or in other words, the Father of Lights.”
The Light of Christ given to every soul is only one of the manifestations of the divine characteristics of light. You are here at this wonderful institution of learning to add to your own light and glory.
Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.
Doctrinally, the words intelligence, glory, truth, light, and spirit are interlinked and are often used interchangeably. “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.”
The Lord invites us to come unto Him, repent of our sins, keep His commandments by covenant, and with Him partake of His glory. So, part of our journey in life should be to take very seriously our formal and lifelong educational pursuits because it will add to our eternal glory. If we do it in righteousness, day by day, as we acquire truth of every kind—doctrinal and so-called secular—we grow more and more in faith and obedience to the covenants and we will receive more and more of the glory of God in our own being. The glory shines in one’s countenance even now in mortality, as I mentioned in the beginning.
You’ve probably experienced something like this. My wife and I had an interesting experience last fall. We enjoyed a few days in Mexico, touring some of the ancient ruins. One of the amazing sites we visited was an ancient Mayan city and temple complex called Tulum, situated on the northeast coast. We reached the entry to the ruins, and Valerie and I were accidentally separated from our tour group. So, we walked through the tunnel under the city’s outer walls into the ground, hoping to find our tour guide. He was nowhere around.
As we stood there wondering what to do, we heard someone call to us: “Hello, there. Are you LDS?”
I turned and looked at him, and he was standing there with a BYU baseball cap on his head, and a tour guide license around his neck. One of us—I think it was my wife—answered him and said something to this effect: “We are. How did you know?”
His response was interesting. “It was the brightness in your faces.” I think I had my back toward him; he was probably looking at my wife.
The acquisition of light, the brightness of one’s countenance, discernible through spiritual eyes by those attuned to see spiritual things is the very essence of the Father’s hope for us, His children of light. “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” That light is both spiritual and physical.
The physicists can direct light through the strands of glass—as in a fiber optic cable, increase light’s intensity through lasing, generate light by causing electrons to flow through special light-emitting diodes, and manipulate light in many amazing ways. But light has properties unknown to the scientist. Through faith in the Lord, obedience to His laws and ordinances, and through the quest for truth from the Spirit of truth—the Holy Ghost—one can receive His glory and grow from grace to grace until the perfect day.
The Prophet Joseph Smith described Moroni’s visit, and that whole description exemplifies a portion of this doctrine of light. He said,
I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.
He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant. . . .
Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person.
Moroni had walked the earth throughout his mortal life just as we do today. He had grown in intelligence, truth, and in righteousness. He had kept the commandments and the covenants of the Lord, and then stepped through the veil and continued along the path to perfection until he became a glorified being, becoming a veritable vessel of light, as he appeared to Joseph. It is our Father’s intention that every one of us will attain such brightness of countenance, exceedingly brilliant, a whiteness beyond any earthly thing—the glory of the celestial.
Sadly, there is an enemy of light. One of his names is the prince of darkness. He knows that light and truth are his greatest threat, and so he seeks to draw us away from the light and truth because he knows it will destroy us. Like a black hole, he does not even reflect light except to project a phony glitter to confuse and mislead. He seeks to take away the light which we already possess.
But the children of light—that’s you and me, I hope—can detect the false façade. Remember the experience of Moses. After he had basked in the glory of the Lord and beheld His face, Satan tried to pull a fast one on him.
And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?
For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me, and I were transfigured before him. But I can look upon thee in the natural man. Is it not so, surely?
Blessed be the name of my God, for his Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me, or else where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God; for God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve.
You too can detect the lack of light in Satan’s trickery. There is no true light in his temptations. It is only surface glitter. There is no radiance and beauty. Children of light recognize the falsehood of pornography, all forms of immorality. They sense the darkness in cheating on a test or on their homework. They see no glory in criticism of the leaders of the Church or its doctrine. They find no light or glory in immodesty, or in bizarre or rebellious clothing, hairstyles, or behavior. They turn away from such, and they walk toward the true light.
You know the difference. It is given unto you to know. Moroni, quoting his father Mormon, said,
For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
The ability to discern between light and darkness, truth and error, evil and good, grows as we exercise this ability in righteousness and seek greater and greater truth and light. However, the opposite is true. It is likely that every one of us knows someone who once partook of the fruit of the tree of life and then stepped away, walking step by step into the darkness. Perhaps they dabbled a little bit in pornography or questioned the law of tithing. Then they might have been drawn into a blog criticizing the leaders of the Church or the doctrine. They may think they are now enlightened. Note the false light.
Gradually, they begin to criticize or mock other members, “You were duped.” Slowly, carefully, the enemy of light has led them far from that light, leaving them to wander through strange paths and lose the light and intelligence they once had.
Like the falling ash from the erupting volcano that turned midday into darkness, the world is growing darker every day. But we can make and keep covenants with the Lord, and as we do so we draw more light to our beings, and the contrast of the light and truth against the darkness of evil becomes greater and greater. The children of light—you—can light the way in the darkness. And just like Dr. Schawlow’s invention healed my eyes, the Father of lights—through his children of light—can bring hope and brightness in a darkening world.
Let me make a few suggestions. First, follow the counsel in one of the great Primary hymns:
Teach me to walk in the light of his love;
Teach me to pray to my Father above;
Teach me to know of the things that are right;
Teach me . . . to walk in the light.
Pray to the Father in the name of the Son. Study the doctrine in the scriptures and the words of the prophets. Give the Lord equal or even greater time than the world. Memorize hymn 304 if you haven’t already. Perhaps let it be a personal anthem. Learn to see the light of truth, knowledge, and purity.
Second, make and keep all the covenants of salvation and exaltation. Go to the temple and return often. Make temple service an important part of your life. There is so much light to be received in the temple ordinances and covenants. “[For] in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.”
Third, reject the darkness of the world. Through the gift of the Holy Ghost, you can tell the difference between the true light and the glitter of Satan’s enticing snares. Gird yourself with, as Paul described, “the armour of light.”
Fourth, seek knowledge all your life. Be a lifelong learner. Study things “both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.” The Lord pretty well covered everything in that.
Remember, “He that receiveth light,” or in other words, intelligence and truth, “and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”
Light is a divine gift from our Father in Heaven, the Father of lights. Light is sacred and marvelous. Is there any wonder why the Lord chose the rainbow—the beautiful color spectrum caused when white light refracts through droplets of rain—as the sign of his covenant with Noah? “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant . . . which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.”
He is our Father, the Father of lights. We are His children, the children of light. It is my prayer that we will grow and walk in His light—wisely rejecting the darkness—and that your light will grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day. I know that the Savior lives and He is close to us. He and His Father are glorious beings filled with light. I testify of them, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 See Matthew 5:14; 3 Nephi 12:14.
 See Matthew 25:1–13; D&C 33:17.
 See Matthew 2:2, 9–10; Helaman 14:53; Nephi 1:21.
 See Ether 3:4, 6.
 Genesis 1:2–4.
 1 Thessalonians 5:4–5.
 Mosiah 16:9.
 Doctrine and Covenants 93:2.
 John 8:12.
 Moroni 7:16.
 Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, (1966), Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, p. 278, quoted in “Section 67 I Give You a Testimony of the Truth of These Commandments,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, (2002).
 D&C 130:18–19.
 D&C 93:36.
 D&C 50:24.
 See D&C 93:13.
 Joseph Smith—History 1:30–32.
 Moses 1:13–15.
 See 2 Timothy 3:5.
 Moroni 7:15.
 “Teach Me to Walk in the Light, Hymns, no. 304 and Children’s Songbook, p. 177.
 D&C 84:20.
 Romans 13:12.
 D&C 88: 78–19.
 Doctrine and Covenants 50:24.
 Genesis 9:13, 15.