I’ve been thinking a lot on light and truth. I have been feeling very materialistic lately – seeming to desire more and more things – you should see my list! It wasn’t enough to get our big van, now I want to install four wheel drive and a cool rack on top (both of which are SO expensive). It isn’t enough that I have this cool new computer, now I want one that has more storage…and maybe a bigger screen. It isn’t enough that we are going on this amazing trip in the summer, every day I get some e-mail about a great deal for trips to exotic places… The funny thing is, I know that when I seek a greater portion of light and truth in my life, my gratitude increases and my insatiable desire for stuff decreases. I read a beautiful quote today about this:
“No; nor has this earth power to give the joy, to bestow the peace, or comprehend the wisdom which was contained in each sentence as they were delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit! Man may deceive his fellow-men, deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked one may have power to seduce the foolish and untaught, till naught but fiction feeds the many, and the fruit of falsehood carries in its current the giddy to the grave; but one touch with the finger of his love, yes, one ray of glory from the upper world, or one word from the mouth of the Savior, from the bosom of eternity, strikes it all into insignificance, and blots it forever from the mind.”
I get from this that the world cannot offer what the spirit can. Seek the spirit and the influences of the world will fade away. I better do a little more seeking and a little less dreaming about all the things I could buy. It would not only fill my soul, but our bank account too!
In the Mormon church we believe that when Christ was on the earth he established his church with the fullness of truth and light. Isaiah foretold of a period of darkness and apostasy that would occur after Christ’s death and the death of his apostles. He said, “For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness of the people.” (Isaiah 60:2) We believe that for centuries, during the middle ages, the truth and authority of God was lost from the earth. There were good men and women who had a part of the truth and who sought truth, but nowhere was found the organization of a church that had it all plus men who could act and speak for God, to baptize and perform ordinances and covenants with authority from God.
Some of those who prepared the earth for the coming of the restoration of authority and truth where the reformers, who spoke out against the established and corrupt church and religious practices of the day. These were people like Tyndall, Wycliff, Luther, John Calvin, Joan of Arc, John Lathrop, Huss, and Zwingli. And let us not forget the scientists who challenged orthodoxy, like Galileo and Newton or communities like the Waldensians or the Cathars in France who strove to purify themselves and their religious practices. Many of these people lost their lives, or at the very least their homes, through exile or their good reputations as they were labeled as heretics. These men and women prepared the way for what we believe to be a restoration of the church of Jesus Christ and a fullness of his gospel.
This restoration began when a 14 year old boy, unlearned and untrained in the ways of the world, became confused by the many faiths and doctrines of the religious revival taking place in upstate New York during the early part of the 19th century. He truly wanted to know what church was the right one. He searched the Bible, looking for direction and found it in James 1:5 which admonished him:
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
This young boy, Joseph Smith decided to do just that. This is how he described it:
“At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.
So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.”
What happened there would change the world forever. It would be the greatest thing that happened since atonement and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. What happened there must be told in Joseph’s own words:
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God…I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” – Joseph Smith History
Joseph Smith actually saw the Resurrected Savior and God the Father! The fullness of light and truth that had existed on the earth with Jesus Christ could be brought forth through Joseph Smith, a man called of God and given the priesthood and authority to restore. Prophets were and are on the earth again! Of this singular event Gordon Hinckley, said, “Our (the church’s) whole strength rests on the validity of that vision. It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud. If it did, then it is the most important and wonderful work under the heavens.”
The thing is, the fruits of this event are too good (Matthew 7:20) for it to be a fraud. The gospel is filled with joy and clarity. It is a gospel that teaches that families can be together forever, even after death. Through this restoration of prophets and revelation, I know that I can repent. I can take hold of the atonement and use it as a power in my life to work with my weakness and my strength. This is not a church for perfect people. It is a church that requires its people to serve and sacrifice, obey and seek and question. It is a church that comes with a promise that we can all know if it is true:
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” Scripture here
I have asked. I have had the truth manifested to me and through the Holy Ghost I have found it to be true.
And now for my thoughts on truth and light…
As I studied the words of the prophets, both ancient and modern I noticed a quality of light that corresponds with the quality of truth. For example. As I wrote before, Isaiah described the middle ages as a time of darkness. I can’t imagine, or even grasp what that would have been like. Living now, with the gospel on the earth it is like we are born awash with light. No matter how hard, or bleak the world may seem, we know that there is truth and that answers can come to us. I remember after the attacks of September 11th all I wanted to hear was the words of our prophet to show me that everything would be ok. I needed someone who could see around corners that I could not, something that a prophet called of God can do. This is what our prophet said on that dreadful day, “Dark as is this hour, there is shining through the heavy overcast of fear and anger the solemn and wonderful image of the Son of God, the Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace, the exemplar of universal love, and it is to him that we look in these circumstances. It was he who gave his life that all might enjoy eternal life. …May the peace of Christ rest upon us and give us comfort and reassurance and, particularly, we plead that he will comfort the hearts of all who mourn.”
Isn’t that beautiful? Again, there was the reference to light and darkness. Another prophet of our day described the Renaissance as a light coming on in the midst of the darkness of the middle ages, but compared the light as a flickering candle. How could anyone see anything in that kind of light? How could anyone create beauty and find bits of truth in such low light? Yet they did! Artists, architects and thinkers of that Renaissance had enlightenment that carried the world to the next part of our history, the reformation, which I have heard compared to “the light of the dawn of a new day”. I love dawn. I love the half light and the promise of more. It thrills me. But more than that I love the rising sun. And this is what the restoration is. Joseph Smith said the Father and Son brought with them a brightness beyond the noonday sun. From their visit to that young boy until our day now, we can enjoy the full strength of the sun on a summer’s day! Oliver Cowdrey, an associate of Joseph Smith, and one of the scribes in the translation of the Book of Mormon describes the light of the restoration of the priesthood this way: (notice his description of light) “While the world was racked and distracted—while millions were groping as the blind for the wall, and while all men were resting upon uncertainty, as a general mass, our eyes beheld, our ears heard, as in the ‘blaze of day’; yes, more—above the glitter of the May sunbeam, which then shed its brilliancy over the face of nature!”
And so, those are my thoughts for today. I go to my bed with gratitude for such light and truth. I go to bed with hope that tomorrow will be a bright day, no matter what (or because of what) the future holds for me and for my family. Praise be to my loving God!