Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The last time I went home teaching, I read the First Presidency message out of the December Ensign. I have to say that while I thought that post-Joseph Smith prophets weren't really very mystical, I had to change my mind when I read the message. Here's a link to it:

It's called Home for Christmas, written by Henry B. Eyring. It's about how, as many people go home to their families for Christmas, we will eventually go to our original home and our great family, in our Father's house. There's a good deal of mystical truth in that idea, but I'm not going to go into that right now. What really got me, though, was the section Blessed with his Light. It talked about how a big part of what heaven is is light, and how light is present in our heavenly home.

Now, the way Eyring uses the word "light" in the article is not typical. For one, he uses it to refer to actual instances where there was bright light, like the star of Christmas or Joseph Smith's first vision. He also uses it in a more symbolic sense, referencing abstract concepts and ideas. I can tell by the way that he uses both of these senses in the same article that he is referring to something entirely more than either of them.

So, why is light so important? Well, references to light can be found littered throughout the scriptures. These references are ubiquitous. The very first thing that God says in the entire standard works is "Let there be light!". 1 John says that God is light. When Christ was born, a bright star appeared in the eastern sky. At that same time, there were three days of light in the Americas. The three kingdoms of glory are ranked in order of how bright they are. Whenever God or his angels appears, it is with great brightness. All of these things hint at some grand principle of the universe being expressed here.

What are some aspects of light? Light is how we see things. If there were no light, we couldn't know where anything is, except by blindly stumbling around. As we do not use echolocation, light is how we can sense our environment that isn't right in front of us. And so, light is what enables us to be sure that the universe exists out of our arm's reach. And if you take it as symbolic for the other senses as well, light is what connects us from the rest of the universe. It's what enables us to be anything other than solipsistic islands.

Think of it this way: in physics, observing something is defined by measuring the trajectories of particles (or waves, they're really the same thing) that are bounced back from hitting the object being observed. That's what happens when you look at something. Light particles/waves bounce off of the object that you're looking at and go back to your eyes, and you see it. The same is true for sound as well. It also holds true for smell, as your nose detects chemical particles that come off of the object that you're smelling. Taste and touch do the same thing as well, only in extremely close quarters. And so light in this sense are those particles/waves, whatever they may be. They're what enables you to know that anything else exists, and allows you to function and participate in existence.

It is, in that sense, much the same thing as faith, as explained by Joseph Smith in his Lectures on Faith: "If men were duly to consider themselves, and turn their thoughts and reflections to the operations of their own minds, they would readily discover that it is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action in them; that without it, both mind and body would be in a state of inactivity, and all their exertions would cease, both physical and mental." And aren't they much the same thing? They're what enables you to know that anything you can't immediately experience exists.

But imagine an existence full of light. Everything was able be observed and could be seen, and all things were connected in a giant web of knowledge and glory. An entity who experiences that would be like God is described in D&C 88: "He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever" It is like how Joseph Smith described the Celestial Kingdom: a giant lens through which all existence throughout time can be observed.

But when you look at that kind of existence, I am struck by how similar it is to a universe that is just one thing (where there is no complexity or duality, only existence) Everything is connected with everything else and nothing could be described without referencing everything else. The universe would indeed be one, for it lacks divisions between different things. It is sort of like how a sphere (which has one side) is practically the same thing as a 1,000,000-sided solid. They both describe the same object.

So, I suppose the universe could be likened to beam of light. In the beginning, that's all it was: light. But then, the light was broken up into a spectrum of colors. They all represent the diversity and opposition in the universe. But as we step back, we'll begin to see that the rainbow really IS the white light, but in a different form. It is like how your computer screen, while it appears white, is really thousands of pixels of red, green and blue all shining at once.

And so, we are never really divorced from the light of heaven. It just takes a different form: a spectrum of colors. Perhaps that's why God sent us the rainbow after the flood: to give us a constant reminder that we never really leave it. It is like the primary song says: "some say that heaven is far away, but I feel it close around me as I pray". To me, the grand truth of the metaphor of light is that the Kingdom of God is here, but we just can't see it yet.

I hope you have enjoyed my blog so far. Have a merry and enlightened Christmas!

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