Recognizing the Light

Anytime light and beauty are on display, there is a message somewhere to be found. If you have been in a coma the past ten days, you might have missed a zillion pictures about the remarkable showing of the Aurora Borealis. The Northern Lights put on a show that was so widespread that a lot of people could check seeing them off their Bucket Lists without even having to fly to Alaska or Norway.

Back in September of ’22, Chrissie and I had the good fortune of seeing a mild display in Alaska. I wrote about it here. That experience helped me to have a more interesting experience last weekend, and as I have reflected on it, it was about more than just the lights.

On May 10, we had the good fortune to be on a cruise ship heading towards Vancouver. I’d seen articles in the news that the chances of seeing the Aurora were very high due to all that sciencey stuff. At approximately 10:00pm, I headed to the top deck to check it out. It had been raining, but the clouds had cleared off just in time for a shot at the lights.

When I got on deck, there was only a handful of people standing by the rail, looking at the sky. I had expected more, but it was early. I walked towards a darker spot and looked around. There were two couples standing close enough to me that I could overhear their disappointment. “I thought we were supposed to be able to see them.” Another said, “Maybe it’s too early.” Another, “I’m going back inside. This is a waste of time.”

I felt bad for them, so I engaged them in conversation, by asking them if they were having trouble finding the lights. They expressed their frustration and one asked, “Have you seen them before?”

“I have.” I said, “In Alaska.”

“What did they look like?”

I pointed to a whisp of white clouds floating near the moon. “They looked like that.”

“Like what?”

“See those thin clouds? Those are Northern Lights.” I said.

“But they’re white!”

“Take a look through your camera.”

After a minute to get up to speed, lots of pictures and oohs and aahs, they thanked me for helping them figure it out. It was a very mild display, appearing as white to the naked eye. Because of sciencey stuff, cameras (my iPhone) are able to pick up the beautiful colors. As the night wore on, the colors got brighter, more vivid and the lights began displaying themselves in spectacular ways, with an intensity that let you see the colors with the naked eye.(Pictures after the post)

I called Chrissie and said, “You need to get up here…” It was amazing, awe-inspiring, and romantic. It made our first encounter with the lights seem paltry.

I’m glad I said something to those people because they were so close to missing something wonderful – simply because they did not know what they were looking for.

Earlier this week I was spoke with a friend who told me his wife was disappointed because they went outside to look for the Aurora, all they saw were “thin clouds.” They didn’t know what they were looking for, either.

Ever since then, a scripture has been rolling through my head that has such a direct application I can’t possibly let it pass without pointing it out. The Prophet Joseph wrote of the last days while imprisoned in Liberty Jail:

Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven. (D&C 123:12-13)

It is obvious that those times are now. You don’t have to look far to see that the adversary has enlisted the help of many crafty, talented, entertaining and convincing accomplices. As a result, many cannot find the truth, and many are deceived. President Nelson stated that, “One of the plagues of our day is that too few people know where to turn for truth.” (link)

Three quick reflections, each of which really should have their own post:

1) As we seek after truth and light, we need to be careful of our sources. Go to THE source: God communicates through the Holy Ghost, through scriptures, through living prophets and through inspired leaders. (Remember Living Prophets > Dead Prophets.)

Just last month we had a vivid display of truth and light as the Lord’s servants taught us at General Conference. It was an opportunity that rolls around twice a year and shouldn’t be missed.

In the hierarchy of who to use as a source of truth, never put your full trust in celebrities, speakers, podcasters or bloggers (like me). Make sure they are properly vetted by holding their teachings up to the words of the prophets to make sure they align. Special suspicion should be directed at “truths” taught by those who have publicly left the Covenant Path and, as a result, are no longer entitled to the Gift of the Holy Ghost. An easier filter is this: If someone claims to teach truth, but doesn’t sustain the living prophet, or teaches contrary ideas, do not heed them. As Paul wrote, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. (1 Timothy 4:1)

2) We need to be willing to step up and help our loved ones understand what inspiration feels like – to them. It varies from person to person. There are many ways to feel the Holy Ghost. What is imperative is that we learn, and then help our children learn what it feels like for them. I can’t think of a greater gift parents could give their children. Elder Gary Stevenson gave a great talk about this last year: “Promptings of the Holy Spirit.” Personally, I believe that one of our responsibilities as parents is to arrange as many opportunities as we can in which our children and the Spirit can collide.

3) Finally, missionary work. Those of us who are blessed with an understanding of what truth and light looks like are under an obligation to share it with those who don’t know where to find it. Elder Anderson said, “As we share the light we have received from Him, His light and His transcendent saving power will shine on those willing to open their hearts.” (link)

It is a great blessing to have enough familiarity with the light of truth and inspiration to be able to help others recognize it when they can’t perceive it, or don;t know where to find it.

I’ll close with a quote from then-President Uchtdorf:

“Every time you turn your hearts to God in humble prayer, you experience His light. Every time you seek His word and will in the scriptures, the light grows in brightness. Every time you notice someone in need and sacrifice your own comfort to reach out in love, the light expands and swells. Every time you reject temptation and choose purity, every time you seek or extend forgiveness, every time you courageously testify of truth, the light chases away darkness and attracts others who are also seeking light and truth.” (link)

Here are some pics, but when you see the Northern Lights, try to equate them with something “higher” than merely a sciencey phenomenon.

This was very cool. As the lights got better, they turned off the ship lights for a better view.


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  1. I have never seen the Northern Lights, but your message and photos really did whet my curiosity. I am always enamored by your posts. I appreciate the time you spend to enlighten us. Thank you for sharing. Karma Hedge

  2. Thank you for this post. Between the recent eclipse, meteor showers, and the Northern Lights, i feel we have had signs and wonders in the heavens lately For each of these, we have had to find ourself in the proper place, with the proper tools, and the proper circumstances to see it. In my mind, i liken this to being in the temple. I appreciate your thoughts on these awesome events.

  3. This was beautiful! The message and the photos. I grew up in Canada and seeing the Northern Lights was a really frequent experience, but it never got old. We were always in awe! Maybe there’s a message in that…

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