Light and truth are synonyms for the enlightenment and knowledge we can receive from the Holy Ghost. Do we understand some of the characteristics of light and truth, the properties that govern their behavior? This article talks about six aspects or properties of light and truth as found in the scriptures.
Light, truth, and intelligence are interchangeable
Doctrine and Covenants 93:36 states, “The glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth.” This is the only place in the scriptures I know of where light, truth, and intelligence are used interchangeably. For me, light and truth are far easier to swap, because of their more obvious shared properties, than intelligence. If I were to include intelligence in my comparisons I would be grasping at straws, so I am only discussing light and truth here.
One of the reasons I am uncomfortable including intelligence in my comparisons is because I am not sure what the true nature of the relationship is between intelligence as a measure of capacity, and intelligence as an identifier of what we were before we were given spirit bodies. Our current scriptural record is silent on how to define intelligence, so anything I could say on the matter would be complete conjecture on my part.
Each of the following five facts about light and truth basically back up and describe Doctrine and Covenants 93:36. I will provide scriptural evidence of my claims as much as possible. Some things in the gospel are explicitly stated and defined, while others are only supported by the scriptural record. I will be as clear as I can about which is which in my writing.
Light/truth fills the void around it
It seems to be the nature of light to spread. It can be focused into a beam, but even when focused it is perceptible to anyone outside of that beam. So even when focused it spreads. Turn on any light and everything around it is illuminated. The intensity of the light doesn’t seem to be a factor. A bright light fills a room just as a dim light does. One is easier to perceive, but both fill the room. As an example, I once worked for a magazine and was part of a photo shoot. We went to a train station to the main terminal. The inside space was huge. The photographer wanted to take our picture with a light shade of a certain color, but didn’t want us saturated in that color. His method was to put a small colored light in that vast space. We couldn’t see how that was going to do anything, because to us everything looked normal. But the photographer extended the exposure when he took the shot, and the result was a light coloration on everyone in that chosen color. It was soft and subtle, but it was definitely there.
Truth, like light, has influence. Once expressed or sent out from its source, truth affects everything with which it comes in contact. As light illuminates objects and dispels darkness, so truth enlightens perception and dispels ignorance. Truth changes things. Once a person learns and comprehends a truth that person’s life changes, which then affects the lives of others with whom they come in contact. It is like the nature of goodness, when good is done it effects more than just the person or people who first experienced it. Goodness spreads. That is its nature. So too does truth. Unless suppressed, truth spreads.
Just because something spreads, it doesn’t mean it is always obvious that is what is happening. Remember when I stated earlier that even when you focus a beam of light you can still see that beam? If 100% of the light was within the beam we wouldn’t be able to see it. It would have to be directed right into our face for that to happen. Yet if a laser is shot across a room to a target, we can still see the beam of light, which means that light is still emitting from that beam to fill the space around it, making it visible to all in the room. When we think of a beam of light we don’t think about the part that is outside the beam that makes it perceptible to us. The same thing is true for truth. We may speak a truth to one person, but we don’t always see or comprehend how that truth is effecting or changing the life of the person who has received that truth. Nor do we see the after effects in the lives of those who were affected generations after the truth was spoken.
Truth/light continues for eternity
The light from a single source goes on to fill the immensity of space. It is true that the further away it travels, the fainter and more difficult it is to detect its source, but it is still there, and still traveling. Light never dissipates. It never stops being what it is, light. Light also has the ability to exist and overlap with other lights. We are surrounded by stars and suns, yet the light from one source doesn’t block or prevent detection of other lights. They form a combined illumination in the darkness of space.
Truth is the same way. God’s truths govern all things. They don’t get in each other’s way. They don’t counter or block each other. They all exist together in harmony. They continue; they exist; they never stop being what they were the day they were expressed. Doctrine and Covenants 93:30 states it this way.
30 All truth is independent in that in which God has placed it, to for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
It is the nature of truth, just like the nature of light, to be self sustaining. Once sent forth it remains forever.
Light/truth have physical properties
This is one of those areas where all things point to a fact or a truth, though the scriptures may not directly spell it out. Truth has physical properties, because it can be comprehended and recognized by a mortal mind. The scriptures tell us over and over again that all things spiritual must be revealed to us by the Spirit, yet some types of truth can be discovered, recognized, and grasped by the mortal mind. We generally refer to this as the wisdom of man. I wonder sometimes how much of man’s wisdom is still given to us from God.
God is able to perceive things we cannot currently comprehend in the same way. Take, for example, faith. How many times in the New Testament does Jesus tell someone that he knows how much faith a person has? How often does he tell someone they have little faith, or sufficient faith, or that it was their faith that made them whole? He even told one man that he had not seen that much faith among all the children of Israel. It is as though he was able to measure their faith and what it was capable of accomplishing.
Jesus was able to perceive faith as a quantifiable thing. He could tell when someone’s faith was too little or was sufficient to produce the desired effect. He appears to have been able to perceive faith like we perceive ambient temperature or lighting. This is a knowledge that is beyond anything we can comprehend.
This same kind of ability to perceive things by the Spirit seems to be a gift of the prophets. How often do prophets state in the scriptures someone’s motives for what they do? They perceive truth often times like they perceive the light around them. If someone is trying to deceive them they are able to see through the deceit and know the true motive behind the action. In Acts 5:1–3 Peter sees through the deceit of Annanias and his wife.
1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, a possession,
2 And back of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain , and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to to the Holy Ghost, and to back part of the price of the land?
This is just one example from the scriptures of truths that are perceptible to mortals. Most of the truths we discuss in the Church are those truths which must be revealed to us to comprehend. All testimonies of spiritual things come from revealed truths. But spiritual truths and light can be obscured or removed from us as well. This brings us to our next property.
Truth/light must be continually replenished
Truth and light are active. They cease to exist if their activity is stopped. Light travels, it enlightens, it shines, it brings comprehension. Truth enlightens, endows one with wisdom, and is meant to improve the soul. Unlike a length of string, that once cut to a certain length remains in that condition forever, truth and light must extend beyond its origin into eternity or it ceases to be.
We use truth when we create things. We use light when we perceive things. The light and truth we do not perceive or use continues to travel onward until used. Jesus taught us this principle when he said in Matthew 25:29,
29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
In Doctrine and Covenants 25:3 the Lord says,
3 For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.
I have heard the knowledge we hold in the form of testimonies described as holding water in our cupped hands. If we do not continue to add to it our testimonies, like water, will gradually slip away, leaving us with nothing. The Lord has always maintained that that which we are given, if not used, will be taken away and given to someone else. Light and truth are two forms of knowledge. Knowledge is the currency of heaven. Righteousness, the proper use of revealed knowledge, earns us more knowledge, more light and truth. The rejection of light and truth, or revealed knowledge, results in darkness and ignorance, the absence of light and knowledge. This is why the Lord uses examples for the Saints of being a candle in a house, a light that shines that others might see, a city set on a hill for all to see.
Light/truth is only effective when we choose to believe
It is not enough that we are exposed to light and truth, that we comprehend then choose to believe, and so receive a witness to our soul that what we have chosen to believe is true. We must also continue to choose to believe, for belief is a choice, and hence can be withdraw or withheld at any time. How many dozens of times do we read in the Book of Mormon that the people were converted, lived righteously then sinned against their knowledge and rejected the truths they were given. That is all part of the famous Pride cycle.
Truth does not cease to be truth just because someone rejects it. Light does not cease to be able to enlighten just because someone refuses to be enlightened. Light and truth exist outside of our personal choices. They are part of God’s laws and will be a large part of our final judgment at the last day.
The rejection of light and truth comes from pride which pits us against the wisdom of God. I have been reading the Book of Mormon and have marveled at the real world example of this in Alma. During the regulation of the Church to clear up dissentions and confusion among the members, the prophet and leaders run into this pride wall time and time again. They tell the people that their condition is the way it is because of their disobedience to the commandments of God. The reaction they get from those who are being disobedient is that what they call commandments are just foolish traditions of their fathers. They are all a pack of lies used to keep the people in ignorance. This is the same sort of worldly response we get today when we try to call people to repentance. They have no interest in the truths offered. They refuse to accept the light of God and be enlightened by His Spirit.
At no time in our spiritual progression is the ability to change our beliefs taken away or hampered. We must choose every day of our lives to continue to believe in God’s prophets, to accept the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. We can reject God’s light and truth at any time. It is always up to us which we choose. This is why the Nephites were destroyed; they deliberately chose evil over good, rejecting the light and knowledge they had been given for that which was carnal and devilish. They went from being the most blessed people on earth to being slaughtered by the millions because they came out in open rebellion against their God.
These are some of the principles or characteristics of light and truth we find in the scriptures and in life. Both light and truth are eternal, active, and unchanging. Yet one of their defining characteristics is that as unchanging as they are, they cause change to whatever they touch. If they don’t directly cause change, they at least have the potential to be accepted in and produce change.
Light and truth fill the universe and come from God. When we seek them, the Spirit of God will help us find the truths we need to improve and grow in understanding of God and His ways. The Spirit will enlighten our minds with the light that comes from Christ and fills the immensity of space. It is not without good reason that those who are infused with tremendous knowledge also are surrounded by light, for these two are traveling companions. Think of Moses who spent so long in the presence of the Lord that his face was so radiant the people dared not look at him, so he had to cover his face to hide his own glory.
Light and truth, the currency of heaven is what we need to seek here in mortality. These eternal elements open the doors of understanding and let us see beyond ourselves and into the eternities. The Spirit is the purveyor of truth and light. He is the teacher and revealer of all things godly, and will open our eyes that we may truly see and understand the things of God.