” …let us put on the armour of light.” (Romans 13:11-12)
It’s safe to say that the prophet Moses had some extraordinary experiences in his lifetime. In order to preserve his life, he was hidden away for months as a baby. When it was no longer feasible to hide him, he was sent on a little journey down the Nile River in a basket, was raised in the household of an Egyptian Pharaoh, had a life-changing encounter with a burning bush, led a million Hebrew slaves out of bondage and out of Egypt, and then received The Ten Commandments. Oh yeah, there was also that little incident we call the parting of the Red Sea. These adventures made for some compelling journal entries.
There was another experience, also journal worthy, that we don’t refer to as often, but I find it the most powerful of all. This account is found in the first chapter of Moses. Now, now-stay with me. I know it’s tempting to flip to another chapter when someone starts spouting scripture, but do not miss this awesome story. Here goes: “…Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain, and he saw God face to face.” It doesn’t get more awesome than that. In order for Moses to endure the intensity of God’s powerful presence, some of God’s glory had to be upon him. Moses was told and shown incredible things-worthy of much discussion-but I’ll leave most of it for another day. Let’s skip to the part where “the presence of God withdrew from Moses…and as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth.” (Moses 1:9) We then read this significant statement: “…it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength…” (Moses 1:10) Did you catch that? It took hours to recover from the presence of such a glorious, light-filled Being.
Not wanting to be outdone, Satan puts in an appearance, tempting Moses to worship him.
I love the way Moses responds, basically saying, Where’s your glory? I couldn’t even look at God without some of His glory being upon me, but I can look on you with my natural eyes.’ Moses then declares: “[God’s] spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me… and I can judge between thee and God…” (Moses 1:13-15, emphasis added) Oh, mark those words with a red pencil. Because of Moses’ recent experience with God’s light, the Spirit was with him, making it easy for him to see the contrast when faced with darkness.
Now, few humans will ever experience the two extremes of face to face encounters with God and the adversary, but the principle is the same even in our less dramatic dealings with good and evil: the more frequent our experiences with light and truth, the greater our ability to discern clever counterfeits. It becomes easier to recognize that, alluring as evil can be made to appear, it is still just that-evil.
As spirit children of God, we are beings of light. We came from a light-filled environment–light is our natural habitat. Perhaps that explains the almost instinctive fear of darkness that is evident in most small children. “Ye are the children of light and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.”(1 Thess. 5:5-6) Yet, as we are born into mortality, some of that light seems to be “muffled by the coarser elements of the physical body.” (Glimpses Beyond Death’s Door, p. 54/ Brent and Wendy Top)
Elder Robert D. Hales shares an important concept: “As children, we learned how to keep darkness away by turning on a light. Sometimes, when our parents went away for the evening, we would turn on every light in the house! We understood the physical law that is also a spiritual law: Light and darkness cannot occupy the same space at the same time.” (Elder Robert D. Hales…General Conference April 2002, Darkness and Light…emphasis added)
A portion of God’s light (the light of Christ) has been planted within us, and whenever we are exposed to light and truth it responds. This is a precious blessing and a protection, but in order to keep that response strong we must have frequent experience with light. Consistent, intentional exposure to light is our most effective weapon against dark influences, as it strengthens our ability to discern between good and evil.
When was your last experience with light? This morning? Last week? Last year? It’s possible to take in just enough spiritual light at church each week to keep us alive, but we’ll never truly thrive until we take responsibility for our light levels, actively seeking out that which fills us with light and truth. We don’t have to look far: if you have a copy of the scriptures, you have access to light; if you know how to pray, you have access to light; and if you can fast or serve or go to the temple, you have access.
The central light fixture in our master bedroom has five light bulbs, each facing outward to shine around the room. One day, as I flipped on the light switch, I saw that the room looked a bit dimmer than usual. Sure enough, when I looked up I could see that one bulb had burned out. Now, I could have changed it right then, but that would have involved walking out to the hall closet where replacement bulbs are kept and, wow, that’s like three whole steps. Then, of course, it’s three more steps back into the bedroom, not to mention the fact that I’d have to climb up on the bed to reach the fixture. Who has time for all that? With two reading lamps and four recessed lights in the room I figured I could see well enough. Changing the bulb could wait.
A week later I noticed that the room was significantly dimmer and discovered that another bulb had burned out. This was getting irritating. Not, however, irritating enough to compel me to make the trip down the hall for new bulbs. I lived with this new dimness for several days. Finally, knowing that we had guests coming over in the evening and it was possible someone might wander into the master bedroom, I got up the gumption to search out some new bulbs and make the change. As it turns out, it wasn’t all that hard, and the difference in the light level of the room was-forgive me for stating the obvious-like night and day.
In this dispensation of restored truth, we are blessed to have nearly unlimited access to light. Lamps and light bulbs are not the source of physical light-they’re powered by electricity. In the same way, the scriptures and the temple are not the light itself but they are channels through which light and truth are transmitted-their power originating with the Divine Source of light. We’re told “…if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you.” (D&C 88:67) As we draw closer to this ideal we become bearers of light, and other people can literally access light through us when we bear our testimonies or teach truth.
So, how is your light level today? Are your bulbs fully lit or are you, like my light fixture, two bulbs short of bright? If our light level is gradually decreasing, at what point do we say, “Hey, it’s too dim in here”? In order for us to have a regular time to check our light levels, the Lord has kindly given us a commandment to keep the Sabbath Day holy.
Wait a second-how does a discussion about light lead into the Sabbath Day? Think for a minute. A day of rest from our weekly labors, a day of worshipping the Lord by attending church, partaking of the Sacrament, and studying the gospel-what better time to assess our spiritual health, which is directly linked to our light intake.
My cat, Felix, has mesmerizing golden eyes. I’m fascinated by the change in his pupils according to the play of light in a room. When he turns his head toward a sunny window, his pupils almost disappear, forming mere vertical slits on the golden irises. The reverse is also true. Turning from brightness toward a much dimmer area causes an immediate dilation of the pupils, until Felix’s eyes appear mostly black, with just a thin gold rim about the edges.
Our spirits have the same ability to adapt to changing light levels. Because of the light of Christ in each of us, when we first turn from light to darkness it is very obvious to us, like entering a dim building after hours spent in full sunlight. This should trigger a flashing red DANGER sign, and is meant to be a warning for us to turn back to a lighted area. Unfortunately, if we continue in the darkness our spirits will adjust to the lower level of light. As Elder Hales describes it: “…we may become accustomed to the dimness of our surroundings and forget how glorious it is to walk in the light.” (Elder Hales…April 2002)
The opposite effect is felt when turning from darkness to light. Just as our eyes hurt when we step from a darkened movie theater out into a sunny afternoon, spirits that have been “hanging out” in the shadows may experience some discomfort when exposed to brightness. Perhaps it’s the sting of guilt. But a willingness to come out from the darkness and seek the influence of light will eventually turn to an actual craving for its presence. It is worth noting that we will eventually live in a kingdom whose light levels we can comfortably handle. (See D&C 76…)
Just as plants use light as an energy source in order to perform the process of photosynthesis, God’s children require frequent exposure to light for spiritual growth. Some things can grow without light. You know, stuff like mildew, mushrooms and mold. But that’s hardly a ringing endorsement for living in darkness. Who wants to be filled with the equivalent of spiritual fungus?
I love the mental image created by the following example from Elder Robert D. Hales: “When I was a boy, I used to ride my bicycle home from basketball practice at night. I would connect a small pear-shaped generator to my bicycle tire. Then as I pedaled, the tire would turn a tiny rotor, which produced electricity and emitted a single, welcome beam of light. It was a simple but effective mechanism. But I had to pedal to make it work! I learned quickly that if I stopped pedaling my bicycle, the light would go out. I also learned that when I was “anxiously engaged” 17 in pedaling, the light would become brighter and the darkness in front of me would be dispelled.
“The generation of spiritual light comes from daily spiritual pedaling. [It comes from praying, studying the scriptures, fasting, and serving-from living the gospel and obeying the commandments…] Sometimes people ask, “Why do I have to go to sacrament meeting?” or “Why do I have to live the Word of Wisdom [or] pay tithing? Why can’t I have one foot in Babylon?” May I tell you why? Because spiritual pedaling takes both feet! Unless you are fully engaged in living the gospel-living it with all of your “heart, might, mind and strength” 20 -you cannot generate enough spiritual light to push back the darkness.” (Elder Robert D. Hales, General Conference April 2002, Darkness and Light)
How about another light bulb story? Not only do I love to see the temple, I love to
it. Early one June day, I arrived at the Mount Timpanogos Temple to fulfill a cleaning assignment. The small army of men and women assembled there was divided up and dispatched to various areas of the building to work. I was pleased to be in the group directed to the Celestial Room.
Our task that morning was to clean the elegant and unique chandelier which had already been dismantled. Eight tiers’ worth of slim glass rods and tiny crystals lay on the sheet-draped furniture around the spacious room. Each volunteer was handed a pair of white cotton gloves and shown the proper way to polish the rods of glass. With hundreds of pieces to clean, this was a time-consuming job-yet there was an element of fascination in it. To handle pieces of the glittering chandelier that I had admired for so long felt like a privilege. Once the rods were gleaming, the cleaning brigade moved to the next stage. Rubbing individual crystals between our gloved fingers, we removed every trace of dust. After replacing countless light bulbs from the interior of the fixture, it was time to reassemble the chandelier. I felt a surge of excitement to be a part of putting it back together and was so engrossed in the process that it wasn’t until I stepped away from the chandelier that it occurred to me that the lights weren’t on. Though it was still interesting to see the fixture unlit, there was no comparison to the lighted version. I felt like I was looking at a glass sculpture: pretty, but nothing to write home about.
During the two weeks that followed, I waited impatiently while the temple maintenance schedule was completed, feeling unusually eager to be back in the Celestial Room to see the chandelier fully lit. I was not disappointed-whoever cleaned it had outdone themselves! The brilliance of the beautiful fixture when lit from within was stunning-such a dramatic contrast to the “glass sculpture” version I had seen. The glass rods shone with a golden light, and tiny flashes of color sparkled across the crystals. I could discern every hue of the rainbow.
That’s what God’s light does for us. It breathes life and color into our ordinary mortal selves. It wakes up our divine nature and beautifies us in a way that no earthly substance ever could. And our earthly experience with His light is just a taste of what will follow for those who crave that light and relentlessly pursue it. Just how bright is God’s light? John the Revelator saw a vision that gives us some idea. He recorded this description of the Holy City, or Celestial Kingdom: “And the city had no need of the sun…to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” (Rev. 21:22-23)
Wow. The city had no need of the sun. The glory of God the Father and His son, Jesus Christ, was that powerful. If there is that much light and power and glory available to us, why do we ever stoop to dabbling in darkness-no matter how attractively it may be packaged? As women who are meant to be bearers of God’s light we must ask ourselves: Am I burning brightly as an example of the believers, or am I flickering?
There is no limit to the amount of light our Heavenly Father will send into our lives once we remove the barriers that hinder its flow.
But that is up to us. His light “fill(s) the immensity of space” (D&C 88:12)-it is available to anyone who desires to have it. When Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world,” His meaning was much more literal than we probably realize. Because He lived a perfect life, there were no barriers, thus the light of His Father was able to fill Him perfectly. He literally is the light. “He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (D&C 50:24)
As we ponder the beauty and power of God’s glory and listen to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, we will become aware of the habits, thoughts, and actions which are preventing us from experiencing a fullness of that marvelous light. Then we can begin breaking down the barriers, until there is in us “no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)