“Light and Growth,” Ensign, Sept. 2004, 7–9
A few years ago I was impressed by an advertisement for a fiber-optic glass products company with the caption “Light is the controlling force.” The illustration showed a corn seed with a small leaf extending above the surface of the ground and an extensive “fiber optic” root system below the ground, filled with the light of the sun.
I have a background in farming, so the ad naturally led me to ponder the role of light in a plant’s development. When the shoot of a plant breaks through the surface of the soil, it begins to conduct sunlight all the way down to the tips of the plant’s roots. This light tells a plant how high to grow, how many leaves to sprout, when to flower, when to set fruit, and when to age—a process called photomorphogenesis (not the same as the better-known photosynthesis). Without light, the plant dies. Fiber optics, which serve as the transmission lines of modern telephone communication and many other important technological applications, were patterned after this process.
As I thought about this process, I was impressed with the parallel between the role of light in a plant’s life and in our own lives. Plants always grow toward the light. A sunflower follows the sun across the sky every day until it becomes “stiff-necked”; then it withers and dies. When a potato seed sprouts and begins to grow, a clean white stem grows upward through the earth toward the light. A fungal disease called rhizoctonia may attack the tender stem. If allowed to progress, the fungus destroys the stem so that the light cannot reach the root system. Yet if the stem can reach the surface of the earth and form leaves, the light can reach the root system, and the potato plant becomes strong enough to overcome the fungal enemy.
In our spiritual lives, our growth is determined by how we follow the Son—the Son of God—and allow His light to be the controlling force. If we become stiff-necked and cease to look to His light, or if we allow sin to damage our receptors for light, we will die spiritually. But if we obey the commandments, we come closer to God and gain greater light. This increase in light stimulates the “photomorphogenesis” of our spiritual lives and governs our spiritual progress.
What are some of the things we must do to receive of this eternal, life-giving light?
We must have faith in the Lord. The prophet Alma compares the word of God to a seed and challenges us to begin with a desire to believe; then, when the seed begins to sprout in our hearts, our understanding will be enlightened and our faith will grow (see Alma 32:27–30). Faith opens the windows of our hearts to the light of Christ and chases darkness from us. As our faith increases, we grow toward the light, and our capacity to receive that light is magnified (see D&C 50:24).
We must pray. The Lord’s instructions are explicit: we must ask, seek, and knock to receive the promises He has made to us (see Matt. 7:7; Luke 11:9; 3 Ne. 14:7; D&C 88:63). Any great outpouring of light has always been given in answer to prayer. The Nephites experienced this when the Savior visited them: “And it came to pass that Jesus blessed them as they did pray unto him; and his countenance did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them, and behold they were as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus; and behold the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof” (3 Ne. 19:25). Daily prayer keeps our eye single to His glory and facing toward the light.
We must repent of our sins. Nephi and his brother Lehi were cast into prison by the enemies of the Church because of their great success in preaching to the Lamanites. After many days their captors came into the prison to slay them, but they were protected as they were encircled about by a pillar of fire and their captors were covered by a cloud of darkness. The earth trembled, but the captors could not flee because of the cloud and because of their fear.
The voice of the Lord came to the people through the cloud and commanded them three times to repent. The people asked, “What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us?” A man among them named Aminadab, who had once belonged to the Church, told them they must repent and cry unto God. As they did so, the darkness dispersed, the captors were encircled about with a pillar of fire, and the Holy Spirit entered their hearts; they were filled with light as they were baptized by fire (see Hel. 5:14–49; 3 Ne. 9:20).
Sin limits light. As we follow the counsel of the Lord and repent of our sins, we open the way for this same infusion of light and baptism by fire.
We must covenant to follow the Son by baptism. Nephi declared, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost” (2 Ne. 31:13). The covenant of baptism by water is a prerequisite to receiving the light that accompanies the gift of the Holy Ghost. Each week we may renew this sacred covenant as we partake of the sacrament, thereby increasing our access to the Savior’s light.
We must look to our patriarchal blessings. Our patriarchal blessings can be a significant source of light. I shall be forever grateful for a patriarchal blessing that promised me “flashes from the eternal storehouse of truth,” for indeed that promise has been repeatedly fulfilled. We must seek the light that the Lord has personally promised each of us and live up to the heritage to which we have been called. The Apostle Peter taught, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
We must follow the prophet. When we sustained President Gordon B. Hinckley in April 1995, he reiterated the teachings of those who had gone before with a challenge to pray; read the scriptures; partake of the sacrament every week; go to the temple; be more kind, patient, and loving; and be loyal to the Lord and to each other. He taught us to love one another and to share the blessings of the gospel. His clarion call was: “The time has come for us to stand a little taller. … This is a season to be strong. It is a time to move forward without hesitation. … [It is a time] to become more Christlike. …
“Unitedly, working hand in hand, we shall move forward as servants of the living God, doing the work of His Beloved Son, our Master, whom we serve and whose name we seek to glorify.”1
As we follow the prophet, we can enjoy blessings similar to that which the children of Israel were given: “And the Lord went before them … to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light” (Ex. 13:21). The prophet reflects the light of the Lord, which can guide us as we travel along our mortal journey.
May we all prepare that our eyes, hearts, and minds may serve as conduits for celestial light. I promise you that as we expose our lives to greater light, we will continue to grow spiritually, and the light within us will grow “brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24). I am grateful for the light of the Restoration, which has made possible the fulness of God’s blessings for His children. Jesus is the Christ, the Light and Life of the World. He lives; I know He lives, and if we follow Him, we will receive the blessings of eternal light and life that only He can give.