Part 3 What the Scriptures actually tell us about the Light of Christ

October 31, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 9:10 am   Category: Scriptures

So far, the most we can say Alma 28 explicitly has told us is that the Light of Christ is “unto life”(vs 14). Moroni 7, says the Light of Christ is the “Spirit of Christ” which is “given to every man, that he may know good from evil” (vs 16) and so that he may “lay hold of every good thing”.(vs 19) Moroni 7 still says man has to judge rightly, even though he has this light with which to judge. (vs 18) This is just a brief recap of what ground we have already covered. Now, let’s move on.

D&C 88 also tells us what the Light of Christ is, and it gets a bit more complicated. It says, in a single sentence: this is the light of Christ. , but the question which first must be answered is “What is this?”

Just before “This is the light of Christ.” is the following run-on sentence.

This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom; Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son— 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.

Preceding that sentence was the announcement of this other Comforter, which is, perhaps thanks to the efforts of Bruce R. McConkie, commonly considered having one’s calling and election made sure, where Christ, the other Comforter, gives a promise of eternal life, or of guaranteed entry into the celestial kingdom. (At this point, I can only imagine how this idea connects with temple ordinances along the same lines, but that is a subject for another time) So this sentence begins as describing what the comforter is (the promise of eternal life) but then decided to stop to describe what eternal life is (the glory of the celestial kingdom) but then stops to describe said glory (that of the Church of the firstborn, the holiest of all (another imbedded descriptor), through Jesus Christ his son) We then have to describe who Jesus Christ is (He that ascended and descended, that he could comprehend all things so that he could be the light of truth in and through all things) and of course we have to describe the light (it shines).

And he has to tell you it’s the light of Christ. And then he has to describe that, of course.

So lets restate.

Jesus ascended above all things and descended below all things, or in other words, he comprehended all things. He comprehended all things so he could be the light of truth in and through all things. This is the light of Christ.

This is followed by two more descriptors, as previously mentioned. One is comprehensible, the other is not (to me)

Descriptor 1:

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.

Huh? Buh? Wha? I think it’s just rhetoric for him being in and through all things, and is trying to expand the analogy to explain how he is in and through all things, but it still isn’t really clear to me.

Descriptor 2:

And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

The light of Christ is the light which shineth, so we know we are talking about that, and not moonlight or sun light, or star light (or the earth).

Here’s what we get here:

What the Light is:

1. It is through him who enlightens your eyes.
2. It comes from the presence of God
3. It fills the immensity of space
4. it is in all things
5. it is the law by which all things are governed
6. it is the power of God

What the Light Does:

1. It quickens your understanding
2. It gives life to all things

Here #1 perhaps ties back to Moroni 7’s conception of the light of Christ, where a “quickened (made alive?) understanding” is one which can judge between good and evil.

The question is how does #2 mean the light which shines gives life to all things? There are 2 alternatives.

1. Celestial bodies, we are told do not have blood but have light. The light is a tangible real thing, the sustenance of celestial beings.

2. Alma 28 notes that the Light of Christ leads unto life, meaning eternal life, thus it gives life to all things.

I prefer the second definition.

Before I conclude, I do want to mention that while D&C 88 diverts away from the light of Christ, it does bring it back a few more times in key scriptures, which are worthy of mentioning. I will briefly bring up each here with a brief synopsis.

Vs 40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.

Not that light is listed among a list of personal attributes each individual can have. The Light of Matt can cleave unto the Light of Christ, and so on…

It Continues:

(Vs 41-42) 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. 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;

This obviously is a throw back to the Christ’s ascending and descending again. It is interesting that here it is definitely God (the Godhead or Christ?) who definitely has given us the law by which the universe (as we understand it) works. The Light of Christ is the law (see above)

The next mention of light is in 49

(vs 49-50) 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

Due to context, here we know that the light here is God (the Godhead or Christ?) himself (the preceding verse notes that those that have seen God have not comprehended him)

And then he throws out the parable, mentioning the light of the countenance of the Lord. And the Light is the Lord.

There is one more pertinent mention in D&C 88

(vs 66-67) Behold, that which you hear is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness—in the wilderness, because you cannot see him—my voice, because my voice is Spirit; my Spirit is truth; truth abideth and hath no end; and if it be in you it shall abound. 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.

The Spirit of Christ, the light of Truth, the Light of Christ. God’s (the Godhead or Christ?) Voice, coming to us without us seeing God. With it we abound (unto life?) and comprehend all things (have a quickened understanding? Knowledge of good and evil?)

Conclusion:
God is the light of Christ himself, and he communicates himself unto us by various means. The more we take of him unto ourselves, the greater our understanding and the closer we are to achieving eternal life.

Questions: Is God here Christ or the whole Godhead? What does he mean by all that “as he is in the sun” stuff? Does filling the immensity of space just mean he is infinite (assuming Space is infinite?)

31 Comments »

  1. Yes, I am blowing of the ideas of the light of Christ as either Ether or Zero Point Energy. I also dismiss any proposals which link the Force with “midi-chlorians.”

    Comment by Matt W. — October 31, 2007 @ 9:30 am

  2. “Is God here Christ or the whole Godhead?”
    Could this be the point that the Father, Son and Spirit become one?

    We learn in D&C 84 that the word = truth = light = Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

    Comment by Howard — October 31, 2007 @ 2:15 pm

  3. I’ve been looking for accounts in the scriptures that I can write in the margin-”light of Christ”. Do you have a list of scriptures that you have identify as the light of Christ based on your study?

    Great job, I enjoyed the read.

    Jared

    Comment by Jared — October 31, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

  4. This revelation seems pretty challenging, I hope you won’t mind a few short quotes to help stimulate thought and perhaps answer some of your questions.

    Robert L. Millet comments on D&C 88:6-13:

    This is a most remarkable revelation. Through it we become privy to the fact that the light of Christ is the governing principle in nature, the power by which the cosmos is held in check and by which order and organization exist.

    Elder Parley P. Pratt wrote that the light of Christ, “in its less refined existence,” is “the physical light which reflects from the sun, moon, and stars.” In its higher degrees, it serves as the means “by which we reason, discern, judge, compare, comprehend and remember the subjects within our reach. Its inspiration constitutes instinct in animal life, reason in man, vision in the Prophets, and is continually flowing from the Godhead throughout all his creations.”

    According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, the light of Christ “defies description and is beyond mortal comprehension. . . . It has neither shape nor form nor personality. It is not an entity nor a person nor a personage. It has no agency, does not act independently, and exists not to act but to be acted upon. It is variously described as light and life and law and truth and power. . . . It is the power of God who sitteth upon his throne. It may be that it is also priesthood and faith and omnipotence, for these too are the power of God.”

    Orson Pratt:

    …we find that this great principle of light which should enlighten the mind of man, and by which he should be led continually, is something that is not confined to one little part of space; it not only lights the sun, moon and stars and all the heavenly bodies, but it is in and surrounds all things, and gives life to all things.

    Here is something that we do not perfectly understand. The principle of life by which we are able to move, think and reason; the principle of motion and of power is a principle of light. And there seems to be a connection or relation between these principles that govern the motion of living beings and the light that proceeds forth from the sun. But we do not understand that relation…We do not know how this is carried on, but the Lord has told us that it is done by the principle of light.

    Comment by Howard — October 31, 2007 @ 6:21 pm

  5. Jared: I’d say the three that I’ve covered are the only spots where the term “the light of christ” is explicitly used in all scripture. There are several spots in the NT, the D&C and in the BOM where Christ talks about his light though. I suggest using LDS.org for a search on the word light.

    Howard: I personally think the Pratts held to the literalist idea that the “light of Christ” was really some form on light like substance in the universe, like the ZPE (pushed by John Pratt) or Ether (Pushed by John Widtsoe) I rejected in comment #1.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 1, 2007 @ 11:28 am

  6. I agree that the Pratts hold to a “literalist idea,” but I don’t agree that necessarily equates to ZPE or Ether. Nor was it clear that comment 1 excluded literalist ideas.

    This excludes the comments of John Taylor and Charles W. Penrose as well.

    Why do you reject literalist ideas?

    Comment by Howard — November 1, 2007 @ 1:26 pm

  7. Oh, I don’t reject all literalist ideas. Perhaps that came across incorrectly. I just think that examining the text to say the light is literally light is not what was initially intended. I think the light of Christ is more or less a paradigm for us to follow, a mental construct for our usage.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 1, 2007 @ 1:40 pm

  8. “Thick darkness gathered around me…just at this moment of great alarm, 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.”

    Sorry Matt, I’m with the literalists.

    Comment by Howard — November 1, 2007 @ 2:25 pm

  9. Here’s an excellent link to talk given by Stephen Covey at BYU on this very subject over 30 years ago. I have found it rather enlightening regarding the difference between the Holy Ghost and the Spirit of Christ.

    Comment by AH — November 1, 2007 @ 2:39 pm

  10. We know that light can carry data – fiber optics.
    We know light can carry energy – lasers.

    The Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Novosibirsk, USSR, found that light conducting ability of the human body exists only along the acupuncture meridians, and can enter and exit only along the acupuncture points.

    It seems that we are “light beings” wired with our own “fiber optic” network.

    D&C 84 says that the word = truth = light = Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

    Why can’t “literal” light be the medium that carries the message?

    Comment by Howard — November 1, 2007 @ 2:57 pm

  11. Howard, I think the accusation of literalism stems from your usage. Light is just one small section of electromagnetic radiation. It is always energy and always data. Moreover energy and matter can be considered manifestations of the same phenomena. So taken a metaphor from pre-industrial times and then anachronistically superimposing modern technological constructs is an exercise in futility.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 2, 2007 @ 9:52 am

  12. Finally got time to read through this, sorry for my absence. One aspect which you seem to have missed is the expansion later in D&C 88 of the idea of the light of Christ as the law by which all things are governed. I had an exchange about this with Mark on the Part 1 of this series. The idea of the light of Christ as the law is a very important concept in D&C 88:

    21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.

    34 And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.
    35 That which breaketh a law, 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.
    36 All kingdoms have a law given;

    The theme throughout is that we are sanctified by the law if we abide by it. If we refuse to abide by the law/light within us, we remain filthy still. The process of sanctification is one in which we become progressively more holy by learning to live according to the moral law. The angel told King Benjamin that we will remain enemies to God “unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love…” This seems to me to be restating what is said in D&C 88. The central theme in all of it is the way in which the light of Christ and the Holy Spirit work in us to govern our behavior (giving rewards of joy and punishments of remorse (see Alma 42:18 where Alma talks about this law that was given in the larger context of why it is central to the atonement being able to save us)).

    Comment by Jacob J — November 2, 2007 @ 2:04 pm

  13. J. Stapley,
    What makes you think it is a metaphor?

    Comment by Howard — November 2, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

  14. Howard, the burden would be on those who claim it is not a metaphor to show its existence and source. Folks have tried that (e.g., the ether), and have failed miserably.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 2, 2007 @ 3:33 pm

  15. J. Stapley,
    Why? Is revelation assumed to be metaphor unless proven otherwise?

    What about Joseph’s first vision (comment 8), was that a metaphor too?

    Comment by Howard — November 2, 2007 @ 5:33 pm

  16. Stapley,

    JS-H 25:

    “…I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages…”

    JS, April 6th, 1843:

    “Then will appear one grand sign of the coming of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man, which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east.”

    Metaphor?

    Comment by Howard — November 4, 2007 @ 11:36 am

  17. which will be as the …
    If something is as something else, it is possibly a metaphor.

    I do not see anything which would denote that the light in Jospeh’s vision was the “light of Christ”

    Comment by Matt W. — November 5, 2007 @ 5:54 am

  18. Matt,
    “If something is as something else, it is possibly a metaphor.”
    Sure, but:

    “…one grand sign…the world…will say it is a planet, a comet, etc.”

    Why will they say that?
    Probably not because the Son of Man is large and round like a planet or has a tale like a comet.

    More likely it is because planets and comets give off light…which fits with the next part.

    “…as the light of the morning cometh out of the east.”

    What light comes out of the east in the morning? The sun. The light source of our solar system.

    Metaphor? Metaphor for what?

    The light in Jospeh’s vision was the light coming from “two Personages”, one of whom was Jesus Christ.

    Is the light coming from Christ the same thing as the “light of Christ”? Well, that is what we are discussing.

    But, the quotes; “I saw a pillar of light” and “I had actually seen a light” makes the “literal” light possibility difficult to rule out.

    Comment by Howard — November 5, 2007 @ 2:52 pm

  19. c’mon Howard.

    He says the second coming will have a sign in the sky, pwehaps like the sign of the birth of christ. This has nothing to do with light of Christ being light that comes from Christ’s body. He says Chrst will comes just as surely as the sign will come.

    Christ and HF appeared to JS in a Pillar of Light. But was it a vision or was it there actual presence? Is there a difference?

    Did JS mention a pillar of light in every other experience? When he saw moroni appear before him, a light appeared in his room. Was this the “Light of Moroni” then?

    I don’t agree with the connection you are making.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 7, 2007 @ 11:20 am

  20. Matt,
    He will come “as the sign…which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east.”

    The sign is the what the world will call a planet or comet, not the light of the morning.

    He will “be” as the light of the morning.

    “But was it a vision or was it there actual presence? Is there a difference?”
    I don’t know but JS statement “I had actually seen a light” is not ambiguous. Why would you chose to second guess it?

    Comment by Howard — November 7, 2007 @ 12:59 pm

  21. Matt,
    “Was this the “Light of Moroni” then?”

    JS-H 1:43

    …I saw the light in the room begin to gather immediately around the person of him who had been speaking to me, and it continued to do so until the room was again left dark, except just around him; when, instantly I saw, as it were, a conduit open right up into heaven, and he ascended till he entirely disappeared, and the room was left as it had been before this heavenly light had made its appearance.

    It does show that heavenly visitors bring the light with them and radiate it while they are here.

    Comment by Howard — November 7, 2007 @ 2:17 pm

  22. John A. Widtsoe:

    The angels of God, or their influence, always come in light. It may be light to the eyes if it be a personal appearance, or the light that leads to righteous works if it be a spiritual message.

    Comment by Howard — November 7, 2007 @ 3:06 pm

  23. The world will say it is a planet, a comet.

    Comment by Howard — November 7, 2007 @ 6:05 pm

  24. Jacob J (12) I don’t know how I missed this comment. It may seem completely weird to you, but I just had this odd ineffable feeling I needed to come back to this post, as It was nagging me you had not commented, and there it was. One of my greatest furstrations in blogging is when a conversation I am very interested in fails to be followed up on, so I want to apologize for not following up on your very interesting comment.

    I first admit I did Gloss over the “it is the law by which all things are governed” aspect in my post, and you articulated many points around this very well.

    So from your perspecitve, the Law of Christ is the Light of Christ? How far do you take the “all things are governed” point? (I should probably go back and look at my post #1, If I recall correctly) Are all the Written Laws of Christendom simply verbal attempts to articulate the one true law, being the rule of the Light of Christ?

    And I have to ask, Do you agree then with my conclusion that the light of Christ is any and all ways that God communicates himself unto us by various means.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 4, 2007 @ 8:52 am

  25. Matt,

    How far do you take the “all things are governed” point?

    I don’t take it to mean that all written laws are attempts to articulate the “one true law.” Here’s how I see it. We are currently in touch with the moral law by virtue of the light of Christ. In that sense, we are governed by that law. Our response to the light we are given is the basis of our progress or condemnation. “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.”

    As I said in my post on ethics, people are judged on their intents. People are good inasmuch as they try to do what they understand to be right. If you think of everyone at varying degrees of glory, each held to the standard of the light they know, each judged based according to their understanding and capacity–free to gain more light by obedience or lose light by disobedience– it makes sense to say that the light of Christ is the law by which all things are governed. At least, that is the most important sense in which things are governed by the light of Christ in my estimation.

    Do you agree then with my conclusion that the light of Christ is any and all ways that God communicates himself unto us by various means.

    Well, I probably wouldn’t put it that way, no. I understand the “light of Christ” to be a name given to a specific manifestation of God’s light, namely, the light that is given without condition to every person. Additional light we are given on condition of obedience is through the spirit. I am not here making a metaphysical distinction, but a linguistic one. We refer to the unconditional light given to everyone differently than other dispensations of God’s light. So, I wouldn’t refer to the gift of the Holy Ghost, or angelic visitations, or open visions as the light of Christ, and I don’t know of anywhere the scriptures do.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 10, 2007 @ 11:07 pm

  26. the light that is given without condition to every person

    and

    he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light

    seem contradictory to me…

    Comment by Matt W. — December 11, 2007 @ 1:22 am

  27. But I like what you are saying. there’s the rub…

    Comment by Matt W. — December 11, 2007 @ 1:23 am

  28. Regarding comment #26, one possible way of reconciling those 2 phrases is that maybe there are varying intensities, or degrees, of light.

    In April 1977 General Conference, Pres. Marion G. Romney said there are “three phases of the light of Christ”.

    Perhaps we have spiritual dimmer switches instead of on/off switches. Some stars shine brighter than others.

    Comment by Elejian — December 15, 2007 @ 8:47 pm

  29. I think actually Jacob’s model works, but the hang up is that the “light” seems to not always be “the light of Christ” when the term is being used, which becomes confusing.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 15, 2007 @ 9:53 pm

  30. Matt,

    It doesn’t seem contradictory to me because there is nothing fundamentally different about the light given by the “light of Christ” and that given by “the Spirit.” That’s what D&C 50 seems to be suggesting when it says that “that which is of God is light.” Notice that D&C 50 doesn’t refer to it as the “light of Christ” when it talks about receiving light on condition (“receiveth light, and continueth in God”).

    However, if my taxonomy isn’t working for you, it is not a fundamental point. There are not that many mentions of the “light of Christ” in the scriptures (as this series illustrates), and it’s entirely possible that I am making it out to be a bit more clear-cut than it is when I suggest that the term “the light of Christ” is reserved for the portion of light given to everyone without condition.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 15, 2007 @ 11:12 pm

  31. Jacob: Fair enough, then I’d suggest my position, based on the scriptures, in my post holds true. At the same time, I agree with what you’ve added to it, with the caveat you’ve ascribed.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 16, 2007 @ 8:44 am

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