Light of Christ

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The light of Christ is, literally, the divine energy, power or influence that proceeds from God through His Son, Jesus Christ.[1] The light of Christ is sometimes manifest as that little voice inside each person that tells if something is wrong or right—sometimes called a conscience. It is the part of each person that recognizes truth when he or she hears it. The light of Christ is found in every person who has ever lived—or ever will live—on the earth. It is a gift from a loving Heavenly Father to His spirit children. The scriptures teach that this “Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.”[2]

The light of Christ is sometimes misidentified as the Holy Ghost—who is the third member of the Godhead and a personage of spirit, without flesh and bones. The light of Christ influences people for good and prepares them to receive the Holy Ghost. However, the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit, is a divine personage and the light of Christ is not a person at all—it is a power.

What is the Light of Christ?

Mormonism Light of Christ

So what is the light of Christ? Although the phrase “light of Christ” does not appear in the Bible, the principles that apply to it are frequently mentioned. Biblical phrases that are sometimes—but not always—synonymous with the term are “spirit of the Lord” and “light of life.”[3] For example, in John 8:12 Jesus says, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” The Bible Dictionary further explains:

The light of Christ is just what the words imply: enlightenment, knowledge, and an uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence that comes upon mankind because of Jesus Christ. For instance, Christ is “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (Doctrine & Covenants 93:2; see John 1:9). The light of Christ fills the “immensity of space” and is the means by which Christ is able to be “in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things.” It “giveth life to all things” and is “the law by which all things are governed.” It is also “the light that quickeneth” man’s understanding (see Doctrine & Covenants 88:6–13, 41). In this manner, the light of Christ is related to man’s conscience and tells him right from wrong (Moroni 7:12–19).

Every Person is Born with the Light of Christ

Every person is born into this world with the light of Christ. Everyone. This light of Christ helps people to recognize right from wrong. However, a person can also repel this light by his or her actions.[4] Elder Boyd K. Packer, the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—with the First Presidency, the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ— taught:

Every man, woman, and child of every nation, creed, or color—everyone, no matter where they live or what they believe or what they do—has within them the imperishable Light of Christ. In this respect, all men are created equally. The Light of Christ in everyone is a testimony that God is no respecter of persons (see Doctrine & Covenants 1:35). He treats everyone equally in that endowment with the Light of Christ. …
This inner Light can warn and guard and guide. But it can be repulsed by anything that is ugly or unworthy or wicked or immoral or selfish.[5]

‘The Entrance to Enlightenment’

The concept of the light of Christ may be best explained with a metaphor. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, the second counselor in the First Presidency, told about a painting in his office titled “Entrance to Enlightenment,” by Danish artist Johan Benthin. He said:

The painting shows a dark room with an open door from which light is shining. It is interesting to me that the light coming through the door does not illuminate the entire room—only the space immediately in front of the door.
To me, the darkness and light in this painting are a metaphor for life. It is part of our condition as mortal beings to sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by darkness. We might have lost a loved one; a child might have strayed; we might have received a troubling medical diagnosis; we might have employment challenges and be burdened by doubts or fears; or we might feel alone or unloved.
But even though we may feel lost in the midst of our current circumstances, God promises the hope of His light—He promises to illuminate the way before us and show us the way out of darkness.[6]

This light illuminates the path and shows mankind the way back to God. It is the light of Christ, because He is the one who set this example—showing the way back to Father in Heaven. It is the entrance to enlightenment. In the Book of Mormon—another testament of Jesus Christ, a companion scripture to the Bible and a record of God’s dealings with the inhabitants of the ancient Americas—the prophet Moroni writes:

The Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ. … But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil… for [the devil] persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one.[7]

Thus, the scriptures teach how to identify the light of Christ and the powers of darkness—or the devil. It is the entrance to enlightenment because it leads to further light and knowledge of God. It is not the end of the journey—only the beginning.

The Light of Christ vs. The Holy Ghost

The light of Christ illuminates the path, as President Uchtdorf’s painting illustrates. But true enlightenment can only occur through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit witnesses of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and the truthfulness of His gospel. The Holy Ghost can speak to a person’s mind and heart. President Henry B. Eyring, the first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ, taught the difference between the light of Christ and the Holy Ghost:

Every child of Heavenly Father born in the world is given at birth, as a free gift, the Light of Christ. You have felt that. It is the sense of what is right and what is wrong and what is true and what is false. That has been with you since your journey in life began. ....
When you were confirmed a member of the Church [after baptism], you were given the right to have the Holy Ghost as your companion. The Holy Ghost is a powerful source of light to recognize truth, to follow and love the Lord Jesus Christ, and to find your way back to God after this life.[8]

The Holy Ghost, or the Holy Spirit, is manifest in two ways: the power of the Holy Ghost and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Elder David A. Bednar, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, taught:

The Holy Ghost is manifested to men and women on the earth both as the power and as the gift of the Holy Ghost. The power can come upon a person before baptism; it is the convincing witness that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, sincere investigators can acquire a conviction of the truthfulness of the Savior’s gospel, of the Book of Mormon, of the reality of the Restoration, and of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith.
The gift of the Holy Ghost is bestowed only after proper and authorized baptism and by the laying on of hands by those holding the Melchizedek Priesthood.[9]

The light of Christ and the Holy Ghost work together. Elder Packer, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, taught:

All are born with the Light of Christ, a guiding influence which permits each person to recognize right from wrong. What we do with that light and how we respond to those promptings to live righteously is part of the test of mortality. …
Each of us must stay in condition to respond to inspiration and the promptings of the Holy Ghost. The Lord has a way of pouring pure intelligence into our minds to prompt us, to guide us, to teach us, and to warn us. Each son or daughter of God can know the things they need to know instantly. Learn to receive and act on inspiration and revelation.[10]

References:

  1. See "Light of Christ" in Gospel Topics at lds.org.
  2. Doctrine & Covenants 84:46
  3. See "Light of Christ" in the Bible Dictionary.
  4. See Boyd K. Packer, "These Things I Know," General Conference, April 2013.
  5. Boyd K. Packer, "The Light of Christ," Liahona, April 2005.
  6. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Hope of God's Light," General Conference, April 2013.
  7. Moroni 7:16-17.
  8. Henry B. Eyring, "Walk in the Light," General Conference, April 2008.
  9. David A. Bednar, "Receive the Holy Ghost," General Conference, October 2010.
  10. Boyd K. Packer, "These Things I Know," General Conference, April 2013.