Learning to Love The Gospel

The Concept of Light By Michael J. Preece

The Concept of Light

There are few topics of gospel study that have so captivated and fascinated me as has the concept of light. An understanding of light has enabled me to better appreciate and comprehend other gospel concepts and the interrelationships among them.

Numerous scriptural passages refer directly or indirectly to light. We are thus provided with much information on the topic. I am not aware, however, of any authoritative pronouncement or comprehensive discourse on light. Apparently, no one of prophetic authority has tied all these scriptures up into a neat package and explained them in simple terms. We have not been told how to best understand all these many scriptures. We are thus left on our own to study and organize them and develop our own understanding.

The purpose of this chapter is to help you begin to establish a basic understanding of this fascinating topic.

The Concept of Light in the Scriptures—One Thing or Several?

As you first begin a survey of the scriptural passages on light, it is easy to become confused. Your initial perusal of these scriptures will leave you asking: Will it ever be possible to come up with a simple single definition for the concept of light? We read that light “quickeneth your understandings” (D&C 88:11) and “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space” (D&C 88:12). We also read that light is “in all things, [and] giveth life to all things” (D&C 88:13) and that it is “the law by which all things are governed” (Ibid.). It is also “the power of God” (Ibid.). The Savior refers to himself as “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (D&C 93:2). There is the “light of truth” (D&C 88:6), “the light of Christ” (D&C 88:7; Moroni 7:18), and the light by which we may be shown “the way to judge” (Moroni 7:16).

Faced with these several, seemingly unrelated passages, it is natural to wonder whether they are addressing one or several different subjects. Is light, in the scriptures, one thing or multiple things? May we expect to learn of one unifying concept of light that, once mastered, enables us to understand all these several scriptural references? Or, are there multiple distinct concepts, any one of which might be referred to in the scriptures as light?

I am persuaded to believe there is a single unifying concept. It is a single relatively simple concept that is consistent with all of the scriptural references to light.

Is Light a “Mystery” or a Basic Gospel Principle?

If we are able to formulate a clear, concise, and unifying definition of light, does that mean we are guilty of speculating about gospel mysteries? After all, there exists no well-established, consensus doctrine on the subject. Are we justified in attempting to clearly understand light? I believe the Lord will not fault us for trying to seek for a logical understanding of this subject. He has counseled us to search and study the scriptures, to “feast upon the words of Christ” (2 Nephi 32:3). As we do so, the “mysteries” will be unfolded to us (1 Nephi 10:19).

My studies suggest light is not at all a “mystery” in the sense of being an esoteric, marginally applicable, or “fringe” doctrine. Rather, it is a simple and fundamental doctrine which overlaps with and enriches our understanding of several other basic doctrinal concepts.

My approach to this topic will be to provide you, right up front, with a simple working definition of light which seems to me to be accurate. I take full responsibility for this definition. It is the result of my own studying, pondering, and praying. Armed with this definition, we will then test it by considering several of the scriptural passages about light. We will see if and how they apply. We will thus attempt to establish a simple, comprehensive, and well-corroborated understanding of this worthwhile topic.

Definition of Light

A careful analysis of the scriptural references to light suggests that each intelligence in God’s universe constantly broadcasts, radiates, or “shineth” (D&C 88:7) a signal to all other intelligences, indeed to the entire universe. This radiated signal is what is spoken of in scripture as light, or spiritual light. Other intelligences may or may not be able to interpret, benefit from, or otherwise make use of this signal. Both the Father and Son radiate this spiritual light. We know it as the light of God or the light of Christ.

The Characteristics of Light

Given this definition, a flood of questions immediately arises: What exactly is the light of God or the light of Christ? Is light a unique and specific entity? What specific role does it play in our lives? What role does the Lord yearn for it to play? What are the characteristics and functions of this signal? Why are some intelligences more, and others less, able to benefit from receiving light than others? Are some intelligences oblivious to the light of others? What qualifies a particular intelligence to be able to receive and interpret light? What effects might light have on those who are able to perceive and interpret it? Does the light radiated by one intelligence differ from that of another intelligence? Do some intelligences radiate more light than others? Is greater light a good thing? Should we all be striving to obtain greater light? How do we develop or increase our own light?

Please hold the following image in your mind’s eye. Picture two individuals standing facing one another. The one on your left is God, and the other is you. From God there radiates a signal, indeed his light. We are told in the scriptures that his light “proceedeth forth [shineth] from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space” (D&C 88:11-12). You are in the pathway of that signal. In addition, there is also a signal that radiates outward from you. Presumably, it also fills the immensity of space. This is your light. God is in the pathway of your signal.

What Does Light Do?

Perhaps the most fundamental questions are these: What is contained in this signal radiating outward from God, from you, and from every intelligence? What does light do? What is its purpose?

Medium for Communicating Truth

I have become aware of the context in which light is referred to by prophets in the scriptures. Light is sometimes associated closely with other words. These may give us a clue as to the nature and purpose of light. For example, in several verses in the Doctrine and Covenants the word light is associated with the word truth. We read the phrase “light of truth” (D&C 88:6; 93:29; 124:9). Consider also: “O send out thy light and thy truth . . .” (Psalm 43:3). And, “Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ” (D&C 88:7). These phrases suggest that light is related to truth. The relationship between light and truth is so close that light is often referred to by using the phrase “light and truth.”

I believe light is a medium for communicating truth between two intelligences. In the simple image you have established in your mind’s eye, God is radiating and you are receiving. You are radiating and he is receiving. What are you both radiating and receiving? Truth. You are both radiating a signal that contains truth. But what truth, or truth about what? God is shining forth the truth about him. His light contains what he truly is, his attributes, his characteristics—these are contained in his light. His light contains the truth about him, and it fills the immensity of space. By this light, he may be said to be everywhere present (omnipresent). His physical body is confined to one discrete place, but his light is everywhere.

Similarly, you are shining forth the truth about you. Your light contains the complete truth about you. The truth about everything you are is contained in this signal that shines forth from you. In a way, your light is you. In this way, you also are omnipresent.

If you are able to perceive, interpret, and be impacted by the light that “proceedeth from the presence of God,” you well might suppose it would be spiritually beneficial to you. Among other things, you would be able to perceive truths about God. Do you suppose God is able to receive and interpret your light? Of course he is. Does that mean he knows the complete truth about you without a word’s being spoken? Indeed, it does (D&C 6:16).

Everything in God’s universe consists of embodied intelligence, and each intelligence radiates its own light. By this light, God knows the truth about each intelligence. In this way God is aware of all that is happening in his universe.


What is truth? It is things as they actually exist, have existed, or will exist. It is things as they really are, really were, or really will be (see D&C 93:24; Jacob 4:13).

So, when God turns his attention to the light you radiate, he will understand the truth about you, what you are, what you were, and what you are likely to become. Can you hide the truth about yourself from God? You are continually broadcasting the truth about yourself—what you really are, what you have been and what you will become. It is impossible to hide these truths from God.

God also constantly broadcasts his own condition, what he is, what he has been, and what he will be. If you are able to receive and interpret his light, you will begin to know the truth about God. We mortals, of course, do not have the capacity as yet to understand all that is contained in the light of Christ.

Light as a Medium for Spiritual Growth

We have spoken of light as a medium for communicating truth. The truths about God—his attributes, what he really is—may be communicated in two major ways:

  1. First, the individual who is receptive to light may be able to mentally perceive the truths about God.
  2. Second, and more importantly, the attributes of God are acquired by an individual in response to his obedience to the commandments. These are received by personal revelation, and we know that the Holy Ghost is the agent in this transaction.1

This process is better understood if we include the concept of light. When you are granted the attributes of Christ through your own obedience to the commandments, your light increases. But where does your new light come from? It comes from the light of Christ. Contained within the light of Christ are all his divine perfect attributes, his wisdom, knowledge, truth, love, charity, justice, and mercy, in all their perfection. His light is available to all mankind. We must, however, strive to make ourselves able to receive it through our obedience. You are allowed to take upon yourself some of his light. The Savior’s light is the physical mechanism of spiritual growth. We become, as Peter wrote, “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). There is a great irony here. As we partake of his light, we do not take away any of his light; in fact, we add to it. We will have more to say about this idea later.

In this way an actual attribute of Jesus Christ himself, communicated through the light of Christ, becomes a possession of an obedient individual. The light that individual then radiates is increased. He will begin to radiate that portion of light received from the Lord’s light. Without the light of Christ we are lost. We cannot progress spiritually. With his light, we have glorious, limitless, spiritual opportunities.

Through his light we make all spiritual progress. Through his light we receive all spiritual gifts. As we take upon ourselves more and more light, we in turn radiate light more powerfully to others.

The essence, then, of our receptivity to divine light, or to the light of others, is obedience to the commandments. “And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments. He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (D&C 93:27-28). Also: “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 50:24).

The converse is also true. Our receptivity to the ubiquitous light of Christ is blunted by disobedience and worldliness. Satan is the prototype of an intelligence completely non-receptive to light: “Light and truth forsake that evil one” (D&C 93:37).

What Does It Mean to Know a Spiritual Truth?

From a clearer vantage point, we again come to a question addressed previously. What does it mean to know a spiritual truth? What does it mean to know God? To know spiritual truths is a far richer possession, ability, or experience than merely being able to mentally process the facts about those truths. To know God is far more meaningful than simply being able to remember facts about him: that he is a man; that he is a being of flesh and bone; that the Father and Son are separate beings. To know something in a spiritual sense is to have acquired for oneself the light pertaining to that spiritual fact.

“He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (D&C 93:28, italics added). This verse uses the verb knoweth. “To know all things” means to possess all of the attributes of God. Furthermore, it means to personally possess the same light as God possesses. Then, and only then, do you truly come to “know God.” As with all gifts of the Spirit, of course, we come to know God incrementally over time.

In Jesus’s great intercessory prayer, he said: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Do you inherit eternal life by having the intellectual understanding that God has a body of flesh and bone, or that he is separate from Jesus Christ who also has a body of flesh and bone? What is it that really qualifies you for eternal life? It is coming to “know God.” It is becoming like him, possessing his attributes, acquiring part of his light.

The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not; nevertheless, the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in him and by him. Then shall ye know that ye have seen me, that I am, and that I am the true light that is in you, and that you are in me; otherwise ye could not abound (D&C 88:49-50).

To comprehend God is the same as to know God. The phrase “the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not” refers to the Lord’s mercy in allowing his light to shine even to those who cannot receive or comprehend it. With persistent spiritual growth, however, which derives from persistently striving to obey the Lord’s commands, the light of Christ will eventually become comprehensible. The individual will then be “quickened” by God and be enabled to truly know him by taking on a part of his light. To “abound” is to flourish spiritually.

The Father and Son Perceive Light Perfectly

We have already referred to the ability of the Father and the Son to perceive light from any and all intelligences. Without a word’s being spoken, the Father and the Son know the absolute truth about any and every intelligence. It is impossible to hide the truth from them. We all constantly and involuntarily radiate our own light, and this light contains the truth about us.

You will eventually stand before the Lord to be judged. At that moment will he have to ask you any questions about your performance on earth? Or, will he be able to truly understand your heart—your deepest motivations and desires—without asking and without your having to utter a word? Will he know who you really are without your having to tell him? “He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him” (D&C 88:41). No questions asked! He knows you perfectly!

Synonyms for “Light” in the Scriptures

In the scriptures we encounter words used as synonyms for light. As we encounter them, we must learn to think of the concept of light. Then we can properly interpret the verses that contain these words.

“glory” and “glorious.” One such word is glory. In a worldly sense, the word glory is used to refer to how one man is regarded by other men. In this sense, if a man has glory, then he is renowned, famous, honored, revered, and admired.

In a scriptural context, glory usually refers to that light possessed by and radiated by God or any other intelligence. We may read of the “glory of the Lord,” “the glory of God,” and “God has shewed us his glory” (Deuteronomy 5:24, italics added). James and John pled with the Savior, “Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory” (Mark 10:37, italics added).

If an intelligence possesses much light, we may say he is glorious. He is characterized by much glory. Joseph Smith described the man Moroni on the occasion of his vision on September 22, 1823: “Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning” (JS-H 1:32). Paul described the Lord’s second coming, yet in the future: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Moroni appeared, and Christ will appear with their light shining.

What do you suppose it means to have an “eye single to the glory of God”? (D&C 4:5; 55:1). Likely it means to have the ability to perceive his light, respond to it, interpret it, and be impacted by it.

“spirit.” There is considerable difficulty interpreting scriptural phrases containing the word spirit (with or without a capital “s”) such as Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, Spirit of the Lord, Spirit of truth, or Spirit of Jesus Christ. Most of the time these phrases are best interpreted as referring to the Holy Ghost. Consider, however, D&C 84:45: “For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Arguably here, the phrase “Spirit of Jesus Christ” refers to the light of Christ.

Consider also the following phrases wherein one may see the light of Christ as the probable meaning: “All these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally” (Moroni 10:17); “It came to pass after Abinadi had spoken these words that the people of king Noah durst not lay their hands on him, for the Spirit of the Lord was upon him; and his face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses did while in the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord” (Mosiah 13:5); and “Thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth” (D&C 6:15).

There obviously is some overlap between the terms used to refer to the light of Christ and those referring to the Holy Ghost, especially “the Spirit of truth,” and “the Spirit of the Lord.” There is a good reason for this. We will discuss this further, later on in this chapter.

“word of God.” Consider for a moment the phrase “word of God.” We usually reserve the phrase “word of God” for those eternal truths spoken verbally or written down. But whether they are spoken by a prophet or any other inspired individual, they are originally communicated as “the light of Christ.” I believe you can safely regard word in these phrases as a synonym for light.

It is interesting also that Jesus Christ is referred to as “the Word” (John 1:1). Again, an intelligence is virtually the same as its light. That is, all that the intelligence is, is contained in its light.

“influence.” We speak of the “influence of God” or the “influence” of his Spirit. The word influence is not scriptural (except in the Doctrine and Covenants where it is used in its secular sense). We may well be referring to God’s light when we speak of his influence. We will learn that God manifests his influences in the world through his spiritual light.

“intelligence.” Some verses use the word “intelligence” in referring to Christ’s glory or light. For example, “intelligence” refers to Christ’s glory or light in the well-known scripture: “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (D&C 93:36). This is a verse that is often misinterpreted. We mistakenly see deep meaning in it. However, it is probably simply a verse that sets forth a simple definition. Read the verse first substituting light or his light for the word intelligence. Then read it again as it is written. This verse seems to be teaching simply that the concepts of glory of God, light, light and truth, and intelligence are all the same thing. They are synonyms (see also 88:40; 130:18-19). Each refers to the spiritual light that radiates outward from God to “fill the immensity of space” (D&C 88:11-12).

We will learn that spiritual light correlates directly with the amount of spiritual growth an individual has experienced (the sum total of all the gifts of the Spirit). Thus, intelligence may also refer to the amount of spiritual growth an individual has received through obedience to gospel law. Intelligence also refers to a man’s revealed faith since that type of faith is the same as the sum total of all a man’s gifts of the Spirit.

It is important not to confuse the spiritual attribute of intelligence with what we call “I.Q.” Some persons with the highest I.Q.s have the least intelligence in the spiritual sense, and vice versa. Satan, as a “son of the morning” (D&C 76:26), is no doubt very intelligent or bright in a secular sense. In psychological terms, he surely has a high I.Q. He has deceived the smartest, most sophisticated of human beings. Yet, he absolutely lacks that intelligence that comes to us from God as we “receive grace for grace” (D&C 93:20). As we quoted previously, “Light and truth [spiritual intelligence] forsake that evil one” (D&C 93:37). Satan and those who embrace his cause may have quick wits, but they lack true spiritual intelligence.

The Light of God or the Light of Christ?

God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, as the ultimate intelligences of our universe, each radiate their own light. This light communicates, to anyone who can perceive it, the truth about them—their character, their knowledge, and their attributes.

Which phrase should we use? Should we refer to divine light as the light of God or the light of Christ? We understand perfectly well that the Father and the Son are two different, separate, divine beings. We understand that each radiates his own unique light to the universe. From our mortal perspective the light that radiates from the Son is identical with that which emanates from the Father. The Lord Jehovah explained to the brother of Jared: “Behold I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son” (Ether 3:14). From the perspective of man, the Father and the Son are, in profound ways, one. Hence God the Father’s light may be referred to appropriately as the “light of Christ” (D&C 88:7).

Each Intelligence Radiates His Own Light

Again, the scriptures suggest that all intelligences radiate light. Contained within the light shining out from each intelligence is truths — the truth about that intelligence. Each intelligence broadcasts continually the truth about himself. Another intelligence, capable of receiving and interpreting this light, may then know the truth about the broadcasting or “shining” intelligence without a word’s being spoken.

Do you suppose there is potential for two intelligences, neither of which is God, to communicate nonverbally by interpreting each others’ light? Do you think this ever happens to you? Have you ever had experiences in which you feel you have communicated nonverbally with someone you know, usually someone you know well? We don’t have the knowledge to consider this question in any great depth.

An Intelligence Equals Its Light

One fact that causes confusion in the scriptures is that the relationship between an intelligence and its light is an intimate one. In fact, an intelligence and its light are often regarded as one and the same.

Just what are intelligences? You are one. Intelligences are eternal and uncreated essences. They are that part of each of us that has co-existed with God forever (D&C 93:29; Abraham 3:18). They have always existed, and this fact defies human understanding. Joseph Smith wrote: “The mind of man—the intelligent part, is as immortal as, and is coequal [in duration] with God himself” (The Words of Joseph Smith, 341). Now, don’t start thinking you truly understand the concept that intelligences have always existed. We humans simply cannot fully mentally grasp this concept. Our finite mortal minds are simply not capable of processing the idea that something never had a beginning. We also know nothing of the physical characteristics of intelligences. Each intelligence is autonomous and has an individual identity and agency. Each thinks and acts independently (D&C 93:30).

In scriptural references to light, the Lord and his prophets apparently regard the relationship between an intelligence and the light radiating from that intelligence as nearly synonymous. Intelligences are referred to by various expressions that describe light. It is by the light he emits that an intelligence is perceived. Light contains the truth about an intelligence. Intelligences are as their light indicates they are. The relationship is so close that an intelligence may be considered to be the same as its light. Without understanding this vital fact, the scriptures can cause confusion. It should not be surprising that an intelligence and its light are regarded as one and the same thing. When we look at another person, we may say, “I see you.” What you actually perceive is a visual image of that person. You are able to visualize this image because physical light reflects from the individual and projects onto the retina of your eye. This image is then conducted through the optic nerve to your brain and interpreted. We tend to regard the person’s visual image in our own brain as the person himself.

Just as a person is distinct from the image created by the physical light reflecting from him, an intelligence is distinct from the light it emits. But the scriptures may refer to a person using a phrase meaning light. For example, Jesus Christ is referred to in the scriptures as “the light of truth” (D&C 88:6), reminding us that his light contains all truth. The phrase “light of truth” means light. This verse intends to refer to the Savior but calls him by the name affixed to his light, “the light of truth.”

This idea is also clear in D&C 93:29: “Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.” Let us take a moment and analyze this verse. First, read it again but leave out the phrase “or the light of truth.” It is evident that the word “intelligence” refers to that individual, uncreated, entity we call an intelligence. Intelligences each have specific individual identity and agency. Each has “always” existed. Each is coeternal with God. Now put the phrase back in the quote. Note that “the light of truth” is used as a synonym for an intelligence. An intelligence is referred to by its light.

How Are the Father and the Son Able to Inspire Their Prophets to Prophesy?

Let us consider yet another question. How is it possible that the Lord can inspire his prophets to prophesy things that will happen in the future? He has done this frequently. He instructs his prophets what to say, and the prophets prophesy. The prophecies are recorded, and they become scripture. How is this possible?

The Lord does not, and indeed cannot, make things happen. He will not deprive any intelligence of its agency. He cannot force any intelligence to do anything. He can, however, give commandments and then interpret the light emanating from all intelligences, individually and collectively. He can perceive the truth, past, present, and future, about all intelligences. He can perceive how the intelligences will respond to the divine commandments. Hence the Lord can see events in the future as though they were presently before him. It would seem that the divine ability to see the future truth is based upon an intimate understanding of the present truth. He can perfectly perceive the inclinations of an intelligence based upon what that intelligence really is. He then knows, by divine perception, what that individual intelligence will do in the future.

The Lord’s ability to prophesy does not cause the thing to happen, nor does his ability render it absolutely mandatory that the thing will happen. What he really does is predict what is “likely” to happen. However, since his interpretation of light and his discernment are perfect, the Lord’s “likely” is much more certain that our “likely.” The thing will always happen.

Is it not truly amazing that God can synthesize and correlate all individual lights and then perceive the truth about how these will all be combined together to form the future of individuals, groups, and all humankind?!

Joseph Smith was once asked about God’s reckoning of time. He answered that God lives “on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things . . . are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord” (D&C 130:7). God lives in a state that has been called “one eternal now” (TPJS, 220). Thus, God is able to warn his prophets of impending calamities so they can preach repentance. By doing so, the prophets may then hope to change the future course of events.

The Lord’s fore-knowledge is not predestination. The Lord has taught when an intelligence broadcasts information regarding its future, it is not necessarily something that cannot be changed. The Lord said, “All truth [the light of truth] is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as [each] intelligence also” (D&C 93:30, emphasis added). Thus, each intelligence can alter its status or action, either purely of its own volition or in response to a request from God. When God prophesies of an event, he foretells what in all likelihood will occur. His prophecy does not mean it must occur.

Might Historical Christianity’s Misconception of the Nature of God Have Its Origins in the Concept of Light?

Have you noticed elements of truth in most apostate doctrine? These truths are usually fragmented, incomplete, or taken out of context, but they often are easily identifiable. For example, we know that God the Father and God the Son are gloriously embodied persons. We know they cannot be physically omnipresent. However, the light of the Father and the Son is “in all and through all things” (D&C 88:6; see also 88:11-12). It “fill[s] the immensity of space” (D&C 88:12). Therefore by their light they are omnipresent.

Elder John A. Widtsoe provided insight into the omnipresence of God:

God is a personal being of body—a body limited in extent. He cannot, therefore, at a given moment be personally everywhere . . . [But] by his power, will, and word, [and we would include his light, he] is everywhere present (A Rational Theology, 68-69).

Also, by virtue of light emanating from all intelligences, they are also omnipresent.

The historical secular Christian doctrine of the Godhead is that God is a Great Spirit who is everywhere present. It is possible this is simply an apostate misinterpretation and failure to understand the doctrine of the light of Christ.

Might There Be More to Light Than a Medium for Communication of Truth?

Worthy, obedient souls can know the truth about God and Christ and acquire their attributes, their light. But are there other functions of light? Let us continue.

The Giver of Life, the Source of All Energy

One scriptural verse teaches that the light emanating from God “is in all things [and] giveth life to all things” (D&C 88:13). Also, we read in the New Testament, “Jesus Christ is the light and life of the world” (John 8:12, italics added; cf. 3 Nephi 15:9).

Do we owe our existence, our life, our being to God? We know we do not actually depend upon God for our fundamental existence since intelligences are eternal uncreated entities which have co-existed with God forever (D&C 93:29; Abraham 3:18). Elements or matter also have always existed (D&C 93:33) and cannot be created or destroyed.

In what way, then, can the light of Christ, this marvelous signal radiating continually from the Father and the Son, be “in” all things and “give life” to all things? Elder Rulon S. Wells, in October Conference in 1936 taught: “Modern revelation informs us that all the energy of the universe emanates from the Light of Christ.”

Certainly, there could be no life as we know it without energy. At the most basic level, there may be sufficient matter and intelligence to form the atoms and molecules of all of the substances of the earth. Yet were there no energy provided to start the electrons spinning about atomic nuclei and maintain the proper relationships between the protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, and other sub-atomic particles, there could be no earth and no life on earth.

On another level, there could exist a massive globe made up of the proper materials for combustion, e.g. the dead shell of a sun. Yet, if it were not charged with the energy sufficient to start a fusion reaction, there could be no burning, turbulent sun to provide the vital heat and light for us to exist.

Perhaps it is in these ways the light of Christ is “in all things [and] giveth life to all things.” Our universe was idle and energy-less until it was jump started by Christ’s intervention, by his light. While our intelligences and raw matter do not depend upon God for their existence, perhaps everything else does. This would include all his “creations,” such as our spirit bodies, all spirit matter, all mortal matter, our resurrected bodies, and the future structures of the realms of glory. These all depend upon the light of Christ for their animation, activity, and life.

The processes of creation included divine procreation, as when divine parents gave birth to our spirit bodies. It could also be that God’s giving birth to his spirit children included imbuing them with energy through the life-giving force of his light.

Consider also:

As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made; As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand (D&C 88:7-10).

Other verses of scripture teach the same concept. “The elements are the tabernacle of God” (D&C 93:35). His influence, his light, his energy is in all of the elements of the earth, even in the elements of our bodies. He “quickeneth all things” (D&C 88:17). Adam was told: “All things are created and made to bear record [witness] of me” (Moses 6:63). All things bespeak the majesty and power of the Lord. We are immersed in a veritable endless sea of testimony that he lives! Also Moses 1:5: “No man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory” (italics added).

This concept enhances our understanding of the power of God. Previously, we explored the nature of God’s power. We learned that God does not usually make things happen. This is the type of power I called “power in his honor.” Here we see another aspect of God’s power. It is his energizing power working throughout the universe. This power fits into another category, “power in his proffered blessings.” 2

Is There Any Relationship between Spiritual Light and Physical Light?

From the perspective of classical physics, we must distinguish between spiritual light and physical light or other electromagnetic radiation. For one thing, physical light travels relatively “slowly,” only 186,000 miles per second! And at what speed does the light of Christ spread throughout the universe? It must move at a velocity quite incomprehensible to man and certainly magnitudes faster than the speed of physical light. It seems to travel instantaneously from “here” to “there.”

Consider the following example. Our own Milky Way Galaxy is shaped like a disc. It is about 100,000 light years in diameter. It is thicker (30,000 light years) in the center and thinner away from the center (1,000 to 10,000 light years). It is only an average galaxy. Others are larger, and still others are smaller. It is one of billions of galaxies visible with a powerful telescope such as NASA’s Hubble telescope. If one were to travel across the diameter of our galaxy at the speed of light, it would take over 100,000 years! We do not know the physical location of the celestial planet whereupon God resides. If we did, it would not be surprising to find that it was located many light years away from earth. Thus, if our communications with God, and his with us, were dependent on electromagnetic radiation, communicating with him would be a slow, inefficient process indeed. A word or prompting from him would take years to reach us. It is clear we are able to communicate with him, and he with us, instantly and freely, in “real time.” 3

Physical light, while it is not spiritual light, is a powerful and instructive symbol of spiritual light. The light of the sun should remind us of the light of the Savior. Elder Charles W. Penrose wrote: “The Holy Spirit is divine light. As the light of the sun reveals the physical objects of creation, so the Holy Ghost reveals spiritual things—the things of God. They are thus made plain to the soul of man” (Collected Discourses, Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, 3).

Consider also the following scriptural passage: “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23). The “eye” here is merely symbolic for that figurative portal through which we receive spiritual light. Our physical eye, of course, has nothing whatever to do with our reception of spiritual light.

As we gaze upon our own beautiful earth on a sunny warm day, it is easy to see how sunlight gives life to all things on the earth. Hence, we can more easily understand how the spiritual light of Christ “giveth life to all things” (D&C 88:13).

The Light of Christ as Physical Energy—Heat

Apparently, a celestial being can withhold his light when he interacts with mortals upon the earth. Such withholding is necessary to protect the mortal person from being reduced to a cinder by the glory or light emanating from a divine being. Alternatively, a mortal may be protected (“transfigured”) from the “glory” or light of God. To be transfigured is to be temporarily lifted or altered to a higher plane, a celestial plane. This enables an individual to exist while being exposed to the glory of God without being incinerated.

Christ will one day return to the earth in fiery majesty. We shall see the “Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30, italics mine). At his second coming, he will come with his light “on,” so to speak. He will not withhold his light.

We are given to understand that his light may be the mechanism for the final destruction and cleansing of the earth of wicked telestial elements. “The presence of the Lord shall be as the melting fire that burneth, and as the fire which causeth the waters to boil” (D&C 133:41) and “every corruptible thing, both of man, or of the beasts of the field, or of the fowls of the heavens, or of the fish of the sea, that dwells upon all the face of the earth, shall be consumed; And also that of element shall melt with fervent heat; and all things shall become new, that my knowledge and glory may dwell upon all the earth” (101:24-25). The light of Christ, being pure divine energy, may apparently be manifest as heat as well as light.

Is There a Difference between Your Light and the Light of Christ?

Let us review for a moment what is contained in spiritual light. It contains the truth about the individual who is radiating the light. The truth includes everything the individual was, is, and will become. The Savior’s light obviously contains a “fulness of light,” a “fulness of truth.” Remember, truth is a synonym for light. He possesses all attributes.

What about you and your light? Does the Savior possess more attributes, and hence more light, than you? Does the truth about him represent greater spiritual progress? Obviously the answer is yes to these questions.

In What Way Is Jesus Christ the “Light of the World”?

We speak of Jesus Christ figuratively as the “light of the world” (John 8:12). His example and teachings illuminate the path we should walk in order to return to the presence of the Father. He is our lighthouse and our beacon. We perceive, with our worldly senses, his example as we read or are taught the scriptural stories about him and through his teachings.

But might there be something even more significant and more literal here? Might he be the “light of the world” in a deeper, more real, and more profound sense? We know that mortals may partake of his light, or become “enlightened” based on their righteousness.

The only way we can truly experience him and progress to become more like him is by partaking of the influence of his light, the “light of Christ.” As we qualify ourselves to partake of his light, we acquire his characteristics, his knowledge, and his attributes. That part of his light becomes a part of us, and we then may radiate that light to others. He and his light are the only source of spiritual growth. He and his light are, thus, the only way we can progress spiritually. Hence he is the only source of eternal life—the “light of the world.”

Sensitivity to All Light

We discussed previously that spiritual growth is exponential rather than linear. That is, as one grows spiritually, one tends to grow at an ever-increasing rate. We would presume that the acquisition of divine light follows the same pattern. The acquisition of light enhances one’s ability to acquire more light.

Light radiates from each and every intelligence in our universe. It is logical to suppose that as we grow spiritually, our responsiveness to all this other, non-divine, light also increases.

While we have little information about this exciting state of aliveness and responsiveness, it is easy to imagine the enrichment of our lives that might result from such a universal responsiveness to light. We might suppose that such an individual might refine his powers of perception and eventually eliminate all darkness from himself. He will be able to receive every radiation of light from everything that exists. Consider D&C 88:40: “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light.”

Let us review one more time D&C 50:24: “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.” Once an individual has reached the “perfect day,” he is in position to know and comprehend all things just as God does. This is referred to in scripture as obtaining a “fulness of truth” (see D&C 93:26; 88:107).

Joseph Smith wrote:

We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life, and lost every desire to sin (HC, 2:8).

What Affect Did the Process of his Atoning for Our Sins Have on the Light of Christ?

Did Jesus’s agony in Gethsemane and on the cross materially and practically impact his own light? Let’s read D&C 88:6-7: “He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ.” The light emanating from Christ himself was made more complete and effective as the Savior endured the awful experience of the atonement—as he “descended below all things.”

Relationship of the Universal Spiritual Entitlement (the “light of Christ”) to the Savior’s Light

Two scriptural phrases considered previously in this chapter are “Spirit of Christ” and “light of Christ.” Both expressions may refer to the light that radiates from Christ to fill the immensity of space. But we usually regard both phrases to have a more specific meaning.

Each person born upon the earth receives an unearned entitlement. It is a small susceptibility or responsiveness to spiritual things. “For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil” (Moroni 7:16). It is apparent that this spiritual entitlement involves the light emanating from the Savior to fill the immensity of space. In another verse generally held to refer to this universal entitlement, the Savior refers to himself as “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (D&C 93:2).

I defined the “Spirit of Christ” previously as responsiveness to the influence of the Holy Ghost. But once you understand the concept of light, it is clear that it is a modicum of responsiveness to the light of Christ given to each individual at his birth. Undoubtedly the intermediary of this responsiveness to light is the Holy Ghost.

The Law by Which All Things are Governed

Let us consider an additional aspect of a scriptural passage already mentioned: “The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things . . . is the law by which all things are governed” (D&C 88:13). In what way is the light of Christ the “law by which all things are governed”?

As we progress in our responsiveness to and acquisition of the light of Christ, it serves each of us as a conscience, a law, a standard, which we delight in living up to. Contained in his light is the truth about him. He is the embodiment of truth, our standard, our exemplar. We strive to follow his example. Therefore, his light is our law. It is the law by which we are governed. As we perceive the truth about the Savior through receiving the light of Christ, we begin to sense what he would do in various circumstances. Hence, we come to learn what he might expect of us. We become spiritually perceptive. We acquire the power of spiritual discernment. “And the light which shineth [the light of Christ], which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth [your] understandings” (D&C 88:11).

We learn to know what is spiritually appropriate or inappropriate in any particular circumstance. The light of Christ actually has a positive, compelling influence on us if we choose to respond to it. His light compels us to want to follow his example. We want to align our lives with the truth about him. We feel his light, are warmed by it, and want to follow its nudgings.

Every intelligence, including those imbedded in plants, animals, and “inanimate” bodies, are all subjected to the laws of God. Each is potentially able to receive and interpret the light of Christ. Thus, each is subjected to his law through the medium of his light. Each has the opportunity to grow spiritually through obedience to the law.

No intelligence is, however, forced to obey the law. Each has agency. If the intelligences do obey, they will be added upon with more light, more gifts of the Spirit.

Now let me share with you a wonderful scripture, one you have read many times before. In your previous encounters with it, I think you understood it, but now perhaps you will read it and rejoice over it as you understand it just a little more completely.

And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law [the intelligence who obeys the law or responds to the Savior’s light] is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same [grows to become more like God]. That [intelligence] which breaketh a law [fails to respond to the nudgings of the light], and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still. All kingdoms [all classes of intelligences] have a law given; And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom. And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions. All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified. . . . And again, verily I say unto you, he hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons (D&C 88:34-39, 42).

The “law” referred to in these verses is the same as the light of Christ. It is communicated to all intelligences. It is an interesting experience to read these verses again and insert the word “light” each time “law” is written. We know that we are “perfected and sanctified” by the light of Christ, as discussed above. Light is the mechanism by which we receive all gifts of the Spirit.

Another verse of scripture suggests that the light of Christ enables a man “to judge.” When we are responsive to the light of others, we may also come to perceive in others what is spiritually appropriate. Hence, the light of Christ may show us “the way to judge” (Moroni 7:16). From it we receive spiritual discernment.

What Becomes of the Individual Unable to Receive the Light of Christ?

I have stated previously the “plateau rule” of spiritual growth. It is that there are no plateaus in spiritual growth. If one is not growing, then one is inevitably deteriorating. This deterioration includes not only a failure to take upon oneself more light but a loss of that already acquired.

A proactive striving to obey the Lord’s commands leads to exciting progressive spiritual enlightenment and responsiveness to the light of Christ and to the light of all intelligences. A failure to grow leads to the opposite—progressive spiritual darkness.

The ultimate result of complete darkness is complete alienation and isolation from God’s entire communication system. Such unfortunate intelligences eventually slip away into a state of enforced detention called “outer darkness.” There, they are completely cut off from receiving any light and truth. The Father and the Son will not share their truths with the adversary or his wicked followers. The devil and his angels lack the ability to perceive light from any other intelligence.

The Role of the Holy Ghost

It seems important to distinguish clearly between the light of Christ and the being we call the Holy Ghost. Some of the names used to refer to the Holy Ghost may lead to confusion. He is referred to, for example, as “the Spirit,” “the Spirit of God,” “the Spirit of the Lord,” “the Holy Spirit,” “the Comforter,” and even “the Spirit of truth.” Most of these titles may also be used to refer to the light of Christ.

President Joseph Fielding Smith, in commenting upon the differences between the Holy Ghost and the light of Christ, suggested that spiritual light is an inanimate thing: “This light of Christ is not a personage. It has no body. I do not know what it is as far as substance is concerned; but it fills the immensity of space and emanates from God” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:52).

The Holy Ghost, on the other hand, is a personage of spirit and a member of the Godhead. The light of Christ is inanimate. It is an “it,” not a “he.” The Holy Ghost is very much a “he.” He possesses size, dimension, personality, and individuality.

What is the role of the Holy Ghost in relationship to the light of Christ? He is not the origin of light, nor is he the origin of gifts of the Spirit (Moroni 10:18). His desire and purpose is to see to it that men receive, respond to, and benefit from the light of Christ based on their worthiness. He is the facilitator, the judge, the enabler, the conveyer, the transporter, the lighthouse keeper, the director of the light of Christ. His ultimate goal is for a man to acquire, under appropriate conditions, increments of the light, or attributes, of Christ.

The Holy Ghost imparts spiritual gifts to man through the medium of the light of Christ. We therefore receive all spiritual gifts from Christ (Moroni 10:18-19) or from the Father (James 1:17), but the Holy Ghost is the transmitter, the intermediary, the facilitator, the middle-man, the go-between, the communications officer, the transfer agent.

What Is the Gift of the Holy Ghost?

The gift of the Holy Ghost is an especial authorization and empowerment. It permits greater perceptivity, and greater responsiveness to the light of Christ. When a man has access to greater light, he is more apt to be influenced in his thinking and behavior by the light of Christ. He is thus more apt to receive gifts of the Spirit. However, light is not given freely to any man on earth, whether or not the man has the gift of the Holy Ghost. All who would earn gifts of the Spirit must do so by their obedience and submission to the will of the Lord. But those with the gift of the Holy Ghost simply have more spiritual empowerment and more opportunity for rapid spiritual growth.

Individuals who have received the gift of the Holy Ghost are also authorized to participate in the process called “the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.” This is the essential process by which we progress toward godhood. By this process, the Holy Ghost purges out of us “as if by fire” our sins while granting us increments of spiritual growth through allowing us to partake of the light of Christ. 4

Light as a Principle of Power

The reader should, by now, perceive that the spiritual light each individual possesses correlates directly with the sum total of his spiritual gifts. His spiritual gifts are another name for his “revealed faith.” 5

As an individual acquires a considerable amount of revealed faith, he inevitably comes to possess personal power. I have termed this “faith as power.” 6

Acquired light becomes, for each intelligence, an eternal source of power. It has great potential for influencing, though not coercing, other intelligences.

Elder B. H. Roberts taught that the light of Christ is a creative power, a governing power, a life-giving power, and an “intelligence-inspiring power” (Seventy’s Course in Theology, 2:7-8). With their divine light, the Father and the Son can breathe life into previously inanimate creations, enlighten the mind of man, encourage and enable him to progress toward godhood, and communicate a profound constant example of righteousness to all mankind. They thereby provide a righteous governing standard for the universe.

As we partake of the light of Christ, we radiate that light in turn to all other intelligences. Hence we may come to serve as a source of light for others. We may become a powerful influence for good in their lives.

God possesses a fulness of this light or power. Man has but a small portion. God intends that each individual acquire more and more of this light. Continued progression will eventually lead to a fulness of the light or glorification in the celestial kingdom. There, we will eventually possess this light in its fulness. We will radiate it to others for their eternal betterment.

As We Progress Spiritually, Do We Add to the Light of Others—Even to the Light of the Father and Son?

There is scriptural evidence to suggest we can “glorify” one another or add to each others’ light, intelligence, truth, or glory. Our light is increased when we are obedient and repentant. Might it be that our individual light can be received by another mortal and serve as a source of inspiration or testimony, a source for “learning” of eternal truth?

There is another concept in scripture we are not yet prepared to fully understand. The scriptures suggest we can actually “glorify” or add to the light of the Father and the Son as we, ourselves, progress toward eternal life. Consider carefully the Lord’s speaking to his Father: “Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified” (D&C 45:3- 4). Consider also the prayer of the resurrected Savior as he appeared in the Western Hemisphere. The Savior is praying to the Father for his twelve disciples who have just been transfigured and purified. He prays that he (the Savior) may be “in them” (the disciples) as the Father is “in me.” He prays that he (the Son) “may be one” with his disciples as he and his Father are one. By becoming one with his righteous disciples, the Son himself is glorified. His light, or glory, is added upon. “Father, I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me out of the world, because of their faith, that they may be purified in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one, that I may be glorified in them” (3 Nephi 19:29, italics added).

How is the Savior “glorified in,” or by, his faithful servants? The Lord Jesus was certainly speaking for both himself and his Father when he said to Moses: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39, italics added). His “work” is to enable and encourage us to progress toward our exaltation. It is also his “glory.” As we progress we add to his glory or light. The Savior glorified himself and added to the glory or light of his Father by atoning for the sins of mankind (see 3 Nephi 11:11) and enabling men to glorify themselves (see 3 Nephi 19:29; see also Isaiah 53:12; Luke 22:29; and D&C 132:31).

Somehow, as we progress spiritually and take upon ourselves more light, we add to the light of the Father and of the Son. They are “glorified in,” or through, us. Eternal progression is a characteristic of the Gods. It may be accomplished in part through the glorification of their children.

Try to imagine a life without the light of Christ. We would live in a universe of darkness. There would be no righteous purpose, no motivation, no law, no learning, no direction, no yearning for our eternal home. Without light there would be no life worth living. But with this light, the Lord “sitteth upon his throne . . . in the bosom of eternity . . . in the midst of all things” (D&C 88:13) and brings to the universe a brightness of life, hope, and purpose for all of his creations.

Before proceeding on to the next chapter, let me ask you a question in review. Thus far, in our study of the doctrine, we have considered a few scriptural terms used to describe the sum total of a man’s spiritual growth. These terms all refer to the accumulation of increments of divine attributes revealed to a man as a consequence of his obeying the Lord’s commands. They result in his becoming a little more like God. Can you think of what these terms might be? They are his revealed faith, testimony, light, intelligence, and glory.

1 See our previous discussion of spiritual growth in chapters 7 and 8, Spiritual Growth— Gifts of the Spirit, and The Blessings of Spiritual Gifts.

2 See chapter 14, The Power of God.

3 A word of caution is appropriate here regarding the velocity of the transmission of spiritual light from one point to another and the time required for that transmission to occur. The concepts of classical physics may not apply. Classical physics is based on the concept that space (distances) and time are absolute in all frames of reference. In 1905 Albert Einstein, a clerk in a Swiss patent office, introduced to the world a concept that has been called the “special theory of relativity.” His theory, now well substantiated by experimental physicists, suggests that distances and time are not, in fact absolute. Though a true physicist may scoff at my logic, I would surmise, according to Einstein’s theory, if God (or his spiritual light) were to travel from God’s heaven to earth at or near the speed of light, he might be able to accomplish the trip almost instantaneously regardless of where he began. At that velocity, time would dilate and the distance contract so the trip would be short and require little time from the frame of reference of the earth.

4 See chapter 18, Baptism, the Ordinance that Brings Spiritual Growth.

5 See chapter 9, Revealed Faith.

6 See the discussion of this type of power in chapter 11, Other Notes on Faith.

- Michael J. Preece