Jesus went to the temple during the feast of the Tabernacles. The temple was lit by four very large candelabra and their light could be seen for a great distance. Here, he rescued the woman about to be stoned for adultery and then proclaimed to those who watched the event, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
Darkness, in a spiritual sense, frequently refers to sin or to confusion about truth. Just as in life, the darkness can hide evil or distort what is real, in the spiritual world, it can distort truth and make it difficult to see or understand truth. However, God created both day and night, and He does not expect us to live our lives in darkness. He wants us to live out our lives in the light, and that light comes from the Savior.
Jesus Christ came to earth to fulfill prophecy and to fulfill a promise He made to us before we were born; He promised to come and redeem us from our sins. Prior to this, He taught the gospel, helping those who listened see beyond the Law of Moses to the new higher laws of love.
He taught His followers to follow His example and to live a law that would bring them closer to God. Those who did no more than to watch Him would be enlightened as to the kind of Being God Himself was and the kind of person each of us should strive to be. In the aforementioned incident involving the woman who was to be stoned, He responded to questions designed to trap Him concerning the woman’s fate under the law. Rather than telling the men the law was not right, as they hoped, He simply said that the first stone should be thrown by the person in the group who had no sin. Of course, only Jesus Himself met that criteria, but when the men faded away, He too refused to judge her. He only instructed her to abandon her sin.
In His brief ministry, He healed the sick, treated with respect those who were treated by the world as nothing, refused to turn away children when He was tired, and gave up everything to devote His life to teaching the gospel. When His mission came to a close, He took on Himself the sins of the world and then voluntarily allowed Himself to be killed. He overcame that death and rose again.
Today, even though He isn’t with us on earth, we can still be guided by His light. His light is one of love, and staying in its path will keep us safe. In the Book of Mormon, there is a vision given to a prophet who saw a path that led to a beautiful tree. The tree was filled with magnificent, sweet fruit. A mist of darkness overcame the path, making it difficult for those on the path to know how to reach the tree. However, alongside the path was an iron rod. The tree and its fruit, representing God’s love, could be safely obtained only by holding onto the iron rod, which represented God’s word. Those who let go, who wandered off to explore side paths, lost the opportunity to receive the rewards.
One way we can stay on the path and protect our grasp on the iron rod is by learning to recognize and obey the Light of Christ, and when we receive it, the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Through the Light of Christ, which is available to all of us, we can learn to recognize the truth when it is presented to us. Often, as a great truth is imparted, something deep inside of us stirs, leaving us with a warm safe feeling. This is the Light of Christ, testifying to us of this truth. Through this truth some of the great questions of the ages can be answered: Who Am I? Why am I here on Earth? Where am I going when I die? When every religion teaches something different, how can I know which one is teaching what the Savior Himself taught?
There are some who try to convince people they must not ask God these great questions, must not turn to Him in prayer for advice. However, Jesus Himself prayed, and James, believed to be the Savior’s own half-brother, taught, “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. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” (James 1:5-6, King James translation of the Bible.)
The reason some give for advising people against praying to know the truth is often that the person praying will not know who is answering the prayer. However, Mormons believe that God never makes a promise He can’t keep, and that He promised, as we read in the James 1:5, that God has promised to give us the wisdom we ask for. Is it possible God could answer our prayers in a way that leaves no doubt as to who is communicating with us? “For with God nothing shall be impossible. (Luke 1:37.) Mormons believe in a God who can do anything He says He will do. They know that as they continue to pray and to develop their relationship with God, that He will help them learn to recognize how He communicates with them, and improve their ability to recognize answers to prayer.
As Mormons—and all who have faith in God and in Jesus Christ—improve the quality of their prayers and their ability to receive answers, the light within them grows, so that no matter how dark the day or the situation of life, they are surrounded by peace, joy, and truth. This is why Jesus is called the light of the world: His light is the only source of the joy God has promised can be ours.