A few years ago, I took my 12-year-old daughter with me on a work trip to France. We took a day to travel outside of Paris and visit the famously gaudy palace of Versailles. Included in the tour package was a guided tour with a live guide who provided insightful stories and details as we walked through the palace and grounds. Owing to the cacophony of the clamoring crowds at nearly every step of the tour, the docent had provided a radio headset for each tourist in our small group and would provide commentary by speaking into a microphone device that broadcast his voice to each of our headsets. It worked remarkably well!
At one point of the tour, I slipped my headset off and glanced around at the noisy crowd. It occurred to me that most of the other tourists were walking through the same space as our small group, but they were having a very different experience. While we would stop at certain points and turn our attention to a painting or display, enjoying an enthralling story from our guide, most people would only glance and walk by comparatively indifferent. The crowd was surrounded by the same scenery, yet the understanding they gained about it was limited as they suffered from the din of the multitude compared to the engaging stories from the guide.
In like manner, our experience in mortality can be vastly different from that of others. There is a “light which shineth, which giveth [us] light … which is the same light that quickeneth [our] understandings” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:11) and this “light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space” (88:12); yet, despite this universal presence of literal enlightenment, for many “the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not” (88:49).
Communication with Light
When we speak of light scientifically it is referred to as electromagnetic radiation, which comes in a broad range of different energies or wavelengths (think, different colors of visible light). Of the countless uses of light harnessed by humans, from enabling sight to generating images of the body with medical scans, perhaps the most incredible is its use in communication. Attributes of light are modified to encode data into the photons (‘pieces’ of light), which are transmitted across the earth at speeds faster than any other known energy source. With the appropriate receiver device, the data that is packed into the light can then be decoded and utilized.
Think about the last time you retrieved information from an electronic device. Was it a video call answered on your smartphone? Perhaps a radio station you tuned into in your car? Maybe a social media page that you reloaded? In each of these instances you used a receiver to decode information that was transmitted using light. And what would have happened to that information if you had not picked it up with your receiver and focused your attention on it – would it still have existed? Absolutely. Just as the tour guide’s voice was still transmitted via radio waves during my visit to Versailles, regardless of whether or not I or the rest of the tourists had our headsets activated to listen.
Light and Truth
The scriptures present a synonymous connection between light and truth:
“… he might be in all and through all things; the light of truth; Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:6-7)
“Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:29)
To improve our understanding of this light and truth connection, let’s consider what we know. Scientifically, we know that light moves faster than anything else and is able to be used for carrying vast amounts of information—all data that is transmitted in our modern age is done so using light. Doctrinally, we know that light fills the immensity of space and has an integral connection to truth, wherein receiving one brings with it the other. A simple merge of these two sources of understanding related to light suggests that truth is encoded into spiritual light and is accessible to those who are sufficiently tuned in to receive it:
“He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:28)
By embracing and living truth, we gain access to more and more truth, carried on energetic waves of heavenly 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.” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24)
To think about the truths of eternity being carried on waves of spiritual light that fill the immensity of space available to anyone, may be a new way of thinking about this truth and light connection. Yet, being surrounded by information-packed light that you are completely unaware of is part of each moment of our lives. Right now, wherever you are reading this article, you are swarmed by light waves carrying local and satellite radio stations, television channels, and cellular and WiFi data. Just because you do not access the information from this multitude of light waves does not mean it isn’t there and available.
So it is with spiritual light. Truth-carrying waves of light are always available but access to the truth is gated by certain principles. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught this concept as he reflected on a time when he visited a television station broadcasting center and connected what he learned there to spiritual light and revealed truth:
“Now I think this illustrates perfectly what is involved in the receipt of revelation and the seeing of visions. We can read about visions and revelations in the records of the past, … but we cannot comprehend what is involved until we see and hear and experience for ourselves. …
“And so it is with the revelations and visions of eternity. They are around us all the time. … But millions of people everywhere live and die without tasting the good word of God, because they do not obey the laws which implant the revelations of the Lord in their souls.” (from https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1971/04/the-lords-people-receive-revelation?lang=eng)
Eye Single to God
It might be helpful to dissect what principles govern the extraction of truth from light. One of the verses cited above names keeping the commandments as a catalyst, and the scriptures expound much further on this point. An oft-repeated phrase related to receiving truth is to have an eye single to the glory of God, found in perhaps the most powerful way here:
“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.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:67)
With the exception of the Lord’s atoning grace, there is not likely a more powerful promise in all of scripture than to comprehend all things. Consider the questions you have regarding doctrine, history, practices, or life’s challenges. Add to it the mysteries you have been anxious to uncover. Also included are the countless “why’s,” “when’s,” and “how’s” you may be fettered with. How freeing would it be to comprehend all of these things? You can surely “know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Importantly, this process is firmly connected to the Holy Ghost, by whose power we “may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5).
Now, what does it mean to have an eye single to the glory of God? I pose this question to encourage introspection, not because I have knowledge of a single, definitive answer. To me, in at least one sense, it means aligning both what we do and why we do it with God’s will. This requires intentional effort and course correction as “vain ambition” (see Doctrine and Covenants 121:37) is one of Satan’s most effective ploys. I think the verse immediately following the promise of comprehending all things by having an eye single to God’s glory is helpful:
“Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God…” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:68)
So, our eye, which is referred to as the “light of the body” (Luke 11:34), must be single to the glory of God while our mind is single to God. Perhaps considering the eye to be our efforts to serve God (for His glory), thus receiving His light, leaves the mind to represent our focus on God. Let’s try and explore this connection a bit further.
Blindness of Mind
It can be helpful to analyze a situation where truth was available in, but not accessed from, spiritual light. There may be no better example of this than the contrast between the faithful Nephi and his brothers Laman and Lemuel. While Nephi put forth the effort to achieve a singleness of eye and mind and thus received great truths, Laman and Lemuel complained, “the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us” (1 Nephi 15:9). To which Nephi replied:
“Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” (1 Nephi 15:11)
Hardness of heart is frequently at the root of our lack of receiving truth from spiritual light. Another phrase that is often connected to having a hardness of heart is “blindness of mind” (see 3 Nephi 7:16 or 1 Nephi 7:8) – they almost always appear together. After all, the Lord has been clear in His requirement of both “the heart and a willing mind” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:34), which are also part of the list of requirements for faithfully serving the Lord: heart, might, mind, and strength (see Doctrine and Covenants 4:2; 59:5; 98:47).
Can you think of a time when you had a blindness of mind? For me, these are the instances when my own evaluation of circumstances and probabilities got in the way of my willingness to trust in God. These are when the “learned think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God … supposing they know of themselves” (2 Nephi 9:28). Such blindness of mind invariably leads to a hardness of heart, bringing our soul out of tune with the reception of truth from spiritual light, keeping us in darkness.
Understanding in Our Hearts
With our minds single to God, we become receptive to divine truths, many of which cannot actually be understood or explained with the finite mind. It’s almost as if we push the limitations of our minds aside and allow truth to be purely interpreted by the very heart of our soul. This is pure revelation, which is often received and then difficult to properly describe in words. How does one actually explain the meaning or feeling of divine truth?
One of the most touching instances of this receipt of pure, indescribable truth in the scriptures comes from the Nephites description of being present while Jesus prayed:
“And it came to pass that [Jesus] went again a little way off and prayed unto the Father;
“And tongue cannot speak the words which he prayed, neither can be written by man the words which he prayed.
“And the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed.
“Nevertheless, so great and marvelous were the words which he prayed that they cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man. (3 Nephi 19:31-34, emphasis added)
The receipt of such pure truth is as a “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:46) that should be cherished. This is truth that transcends description and is only fully comprehended by the combined force of mind and heart, a complete singleness of our eye on the glory of God.
Let the Holy Spirit Guide
Reflecting back on my tour at Versailles provides a metaphorical connection to our own seeking of greater comprehension in this life. We are all here on our “tour” of mortality and the Lord has provided us with “the Spirit of truth [who will] guide [us] into all truth” (John 16:13). Will we take the Holy Ghost to be our guide? Will we yield ourselves to God’s will, with an eye single to His glory and a mind single to Him, to become true receivers of His eternal truths? Blindness of mind will invariably harden our hearts and compromise access to our Heavenly Guide. We should truly:
“Let the Holy Spirit guide;
“Let him teach us what is true.
“He will testify of Christ,
“Light our minds with heaven’s view.” (from Hymn 143: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/music/library/hymns/let-the-holy-spirit-guide?lang=eng) Spiritual light fills the immensity of space and carries with it truth, which is “knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:24). May our eyes be single to God’s glory that our whole bodies can be filled with this light of truth, the greatest of which is the atoning sacrifice and infinite grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ—the very “light of the world” (John 8:12).