Cover image: “And His Face Shone With Exceeding Luster” by Jeremy Winborg.
Among the last words of Abinadi during his mortal life were these: “[Christ] is the light and life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened.” Not only did Abinadi speak of this light, but Mosiah 11:5 states, “…for the Spirit of the Lord was upon [Abinadi]; and his face shown with exceeding luster, even as Moses’ did while in the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord.”
Why did Abinadi’s face shine with luster as he spoke? Do we, at times, have this light in us? As we draw closer to the source of light, do we also gain greater light?
In October 2000, I was in Taipei, Taiwan leading a business meeting. Among the attendees were friends–a husband and wife from Koushiung city located on the opposite side of the island.
We ended the meetings a day early because a typhoon was forecasted to hit the island the next day. Our friends waited overnight to depart Taipei when they were scheduled to fly to the United States. While nervous to be departing during the typhoon, they were happy to know they were flying Singapore Airlines, one of the safest airlines in the Far East, and flying aboard a Boeing 747.
While a 747 usually holds about 400 passengers, on this day because of the typhoon, there were only 179 people on board. My friends were seated in the back of the plane.
The captain of the flight was Foong Chee Kong. An experienced pilot with more than 11,200 hours with 2,000 hours in the 747. His first officer had 2,400 hours and the relief pilot had 5,400 hours.
Even though there were high winds and heavy rain at 11:15 pm, traffic control cleared the airplane to take off via runway 05L. But unknowingly, the crew turned and started their take-off on runway 05R. They had correctly repeated the tower’s instructions and confirmed take-off on runway 05L; but they turned too early onto runway 5R, thinking it was 05L. Runway 05R was under repair.
The airport was not equipped with ground radar which allows the controllers to monitor the movement of aircraft on the ground. And due to the poor visibility, the crew did not see the construction equipment including excavators, rollers, a bulldozer and crane which were parked on runway 05R.
After clearance and a six second pause, the pilot engaged the full force of the engines to gain the necessary 180 miles per hour to take off in a heavy rain storm. For 41 seconds the aircraft sped down the runway reaching 180 mph, and just as the plane was lifting off the ground collided with the machinery and was ripped into pieces. The nose of the plane struck a scoop loader. The left wing was torn away by a crane which forced the jet sideways slamming it into the ground. The rear section of the fuselage broke away and rolled and slid down the runway.
When the plane struck the construction equipment, the fuel stored in the wings exploded sending balls of fire through the middle section of the plane. Immediately, 64 of the 76 passengers in that section burned to death. Most of the passengers in business class on the lower deck died from the impact, and on the upper deck 12 of the 19 passengers and one flight attendant died from smoke inhalation from the fire below them and could not escape from the plane. Later their bodies would be found in and above the stairwell trying to find an exit.
All passengers seated in the rear section of the aircraft survived including our friends because the rear section of the plane broke off from the rest of the aircraft.
Aboard the plane that day were 47 Americans. Among the most notable passengers were William Wang who later founded Vizio and John Diaz the Vice President of MP3.com who later appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show.
During that interview, John said, “There was all this spray of jet fuel, which was like napalm, and whatever it hit…ignited like a torch. It looked like a Dante’s Inferno with people strapped in to their seats and just burning. It seemed to look like an aura was leaving their bodies and some [were] brighter than others.” [i]
After witnessing this horrific scene, John says he walked away with a new sense of spirituality. “I believe life continues on,” he said. “I thought, you know, the brightness and dimness of the auras were how one lives one’s life, so to speak. I want to live my life so my aura, when it leaves, is very bright.”
Is it possible that we all have a light within us? Do we gain more light by how we live?
D&C 50 says, “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.”
D&C 84 says, “And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.”
D&C 88 says, “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.”
From these verses we learn a few important truths:
- That which is of God is light
- He that continues in God receives more light
- If a person hearkens to the voice of the spirit, he/she becomes more enlightened
- If your eye is single to God’s glory, your body will be filled with light
In the fictional Harry Potter series, Sirius Black said, “We’ve all got both light and dark in us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”[ii]
As we choose to act on the light within us, we become more and more like him. And, yes, like Sirius Black, says, “more like who we really are.”
How does light work? We all learned in science class that every atom has a positively charged nucleus and around each nucleus rotate negatively charged electrons.
When these electrons get excited or get a boost of energy, they move or jump to an orbit or rotation further away from the nucleus. When electrons drop back to their original orbit, they release energy as light. That happens in the form of a particle of light (a photon) and light wave. So, when you send electricity through a light bulb, the gases in the light bulb release light or when the energy at the sun’s core travels outward through the gases that surround the sun hitting millions of atoms and giving them energy, they release light.
Light is a metaphor for our spiritual lives. As we move closer to Christ we gain His energy and power. This, in turn, fills us with light—a cleansing and enabling power. Just as light allows us to see more clearly, Christ allows us to see spiritually.
The opposite is also true. In Mosiah 11:29, we read “Now the eyes of the people were blinded; therefore, they hardened their hearts against the words Abinadi.” Blindness, or the lack of light, is the result of “he that persists in his own carnal ways of sin and rebellion against God…and the devil hath all power over him.”
But the words of Abinadi did spark a light inside the young priest Alma. In fact, so much so that the light of Alma would later bring many people to Jesus Christ. As you read the words of Abinadi, what sparks a light inside of you?
Let’s consider a few verses:
- Mosiah 12:19-30
“If ye teach the law of Moses, why do you not keep it?”
“Have ye applied your hearts to understanding?”
It was not enough for the priests of Noah to have read scripture. They had to apply their hearts (their feeling and doing) to understanding. Meaning, they needed to “try on” or try doing the words they read. But because they didn’t apply their life and action to the word of God, they couldn’t understand the scriptures they read (see Mosiah 12:20-24).
When Jesus was fulfilling his earthly ministry, one day he healed a blind man by scooping some dust in his hand and spitting into the dust to make a sort of clay. Jesus then applied the mud to the man’s eyes, blessed him and commanded him to go and wash his eyes. The man did so and went away with his sight. When asked about the experience, the man said, “He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.”[iii]
This miracle teaches us a powerful lesson. The first is that what comes out of the mouth of the Lord (his word or commandments) must be mixed with or learned through this earthly experience (the dirt). And that by using this mixture of word of God and earthly experience, we make a clay. That when we apply this clay to our spiritual eyes and wash (be baptized or repent) we come away seeing.
The Lord taught how important doing is to knowing when he said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).
Too often we may think that the path to spiritual understanding is to read and know scripture. But in and of itself, scripture is insufficient to change us. It is when we both read and do, that we change our nature to become more like Christ.
D&C 84:57 says that the children of Zion will remain under condemnation until they remember the commandments “not only to say [or read] but to do according to that which I have written.” To both read and do the word is the plan of becoming like our Heavenly Father. Our Father knew we would not be perfect in our doing, that is why we must “wash” regularly and try to do again. And we will gain power to do when we mix our doing with the word of God.
The difficult part of “read and do” is that in the doing, we often fail. But it is in the failing and trying again that we gain ability and understanding. This is how the atonement gives us greater understanding and the ability to do what the Lord asks us to do.
Elder David A. Bednar said, “It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.”
We only learn obedience by being obedient. The atonement both helps us to repeat our attempts at obedience without condemnation and gives us power to become more obedient.
This pattern is taught in other scripture. In Moses 5, we read that God spoke to Adam and gave unto him commandments that he should worship the Lord his God and should offer the firstlings of his flock for an offering unto the Lord. Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.
And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying “This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the only begotten of the Father who is full of grace and truth.”
The pattern is this: Adam listened to the word of God and then did his best to obey. He and Eve offered a sacrifice as the Lord commanded and demonstrated faithfulness. After many days, and because of their faith and obedience, an angel came and added to their light and understanding. It says “in that day Adam blessed God and was filled.” (Moses 5:10). In other words, the way Adam came to know, was to both listen (read) and do.
2. Mosiah 13:11
“And now I read unto you the remainder of the commandments of God, for I perceive that they are not written in your hearts….”
What does it mean to have the commandments written in your heart?
In a first presidency message in August 2009, President Henry B. Eyring shared a stirring message entitled, “That He May Write Upon Our Hearts.” In this message, President Eyring teaches one key to writing the Lord’s law on your heart: Prayer.
President Eyring says, “The child who sees a mother or a father pass through the trials of life with fervent prayer and then hears a sincere testimony that God answered in kindness will remember. When trials come, that individual will be prepared. In time, when the children are away from home and family, prayer can provide the shield of protection the parent will want so much for them to have.”
Could it be that our daily prayers are recorded, written so to speak, in both heaven and in our heart? By talking to the Lord daily; do our words, thoughts and feelings become more like his? By doing so, we record our life “not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:3)?
Neal A. Maxwell taught that coming to Christ is a matter of the heart. When you consecrate your heart to the Lord, you do things with an eye single to His glory. “As we come to know to Whom we belong, the other forms of belonging cease to mean very much. Likewise, as Jesus begins to have a real place in our lives, we are much less concerned with losing our places in the world. When our minds really catch hold of the significance of Jesus’ atonement, the world’s hold on us loosens.”[iv]
The heart sets the direction for how we think and live. This is why the scriptures speak so often of the heart. Jesus counseled His disciples, “Wherefore, settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach, and command you.” (JST, Luke 14:28.). Once something is settled in the heart, it can guide our life.
3. Mosiah 11:19
“…they were lifted up in the pride of their hearts; they did boast in their own strength…”
In 2009, Kim B. Clark, shared the following story:
“One summer many, many years ago, my mother decided it would be a great project for her children to refinish the dining room chairs. The chairs were painted a dark cherry color, and my mother had discovered that underneath that paint was good, hard maple wood.
I will never forget that experience. We began by applying a nasty solvent called toluene to all the painted surfaces, and then we scraped the paint off. Once the paint was removed, we had to sand the wood with several grades of sandpaper in order to remove the very last bits of paint and to prepare the wood for a new finish. When the sanding was finally done, we applied a finish to highlight the grain and enhance the wood’s natural color. In the final step we sealed the new hardwood finish with two coats of varnish. Those chairs were transformed!”[v]
He then shared the following scripture:
“Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life.” (Alma 5:28)
Like the stripping of paint to get to the real wood, we must also strip away the color of the world so the Lord can transform us into the person we are meant to be.
The priests of Noah had become so confident in their ability to defeat the Lamanites, so caught up in the way of the world and so hard of heart that they could not see Abinadi for who he really was. They did not recognize the truth. This is the result of pride.
Elder Clark continues, “Beware of pride! This is the warning voice of the Lord to us now, in our day. We have obtained so much control over the resources of the earth, so much understanding of the biology of life, so much capacity to travel and to communicate instantly that we have become ‘puffed up’ in our learning and our apparent control and power. Pride and its children—materialism, envy, arrogance, greed, thirst for recognition, and lust for control and dominion—have become rampant in our culture and society.”
This type of pride not only describes Abinadi’s day but also ours. How do you strip yourself of pride? Repentance will strip off the coloring the world has placed on our life and the keeping of covenants will seal our true selves to the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. Mosiah 14
“Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…”
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:
To anyone struggling under the burden of sin, we say again with the Prophet Joseph that God has “a forgiving disposition” (Lectures on Faith 3:20). You can change. You can be helped. You can be made whole—whatever the problem. All he asks is that you walk away from the darkness and come into the light, his light, with meekness and lowliness of heart. That is at the heart of the gospel. That is the very center of our message. That is the beauty of redemption. Christ has “borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows,” Isaiah declared, “and with his stripes we are healed”—if we want to be (Isaiah 53:4–5; Mosiah 14:4–5).[vi]
The Lord is acquainted with our griefs and sorrows because he has borne and carried them. They have been his burdens. He has taken them upon himself so he can help us know how to overcome them.
You know something better when it has been yours to carry. If you have been burdened by illness, you know better how others feel with the same illness. Years ago, I went through a very difficult back surgery. Today, when people tell me they are going to have this surgery and I think of it, I can literally feel the pain again. I can feel the ache and struggle of my recovery. It causes me to have great empathy for them and I can relate to them in ways that others cannot. I suppose this the same with Jesus Christ. That when we come to him he can literally feel our sorrow and grief.
When Isaiah says, “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” I think he is saying, “There is no other way this miracle of forgiveness could happen in such a personal way unless Christ had carried and come to know our sorrows.” Because he knows us and our sorrows personally he can heal us completely.
The light that sparked Alma’s transformation had to be borne in the realization that Jesus Christ died and suffered for us. It is the same for you and me–it is this realization that causes us to change. The words from “How Great Thou Art” say it best:
And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin.
It is this realization and testimony that cause us to shine forth and overcome darkness and evil in our life. I do believe that as we come to Christ, we lighten—we lighten our burden, we lighten our sight and we come to understand him and those around us better.
“Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made…. And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed.” (D&C 88:6-7, 11-13)
We can follow the example of Alma and let the spark, the light we feel when we hear the words of Christ, inspire us to change. We can give up the pride of the world, we can realize with “real eyes” that Jesus is our savior and has carried our sorrows. He wants to heal us so we can be filled with His love. I do believe that we can have more light as we draw closer to Christ. I also believe that when we depart this earth, the light within us will remain. I hope to live my life so that I can have more of this light.
[ii] J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
[iii] John 9:6
[iv] Settle This in Your Hearts, Neal A. Maxwell, October 1992, General Conference.
[v] Are Ye Stripped of Pride?, Kim B. Clark, BYU Devotional, September 29, 2009.
[vi] Come unto me, Jeffrey R. Holland, BYU Devotional, March 2, 1997.