Isn’t it interesting the difference in how we move, how we see, when the lights are out? Think of your bedroom. When the light is on, you move about with hardly a thought for where everything is. It’s second nature to you—that room. But turn off the lights, and suddenly you’re not sure just how many steps it is to the dresser, or to the end of the bed. You find yourself groping for the light switch when you’re sure it should be right where you’re reaching. How could that shoe be right in the middle of the floor? Or, you knock a book off your nightstand because you shot your arm and hand out too far, too fast. Amazingly, you misjudged its location in the dark. How could you bump your knee so hard into the coffee table in the living room?
Now, imagine you are staring at a chalkboard in a classroom. On it you have written every spiritual experience you’ve had. You’ve written down, with a white piece of chalk on a nice dark green or black board, what you know about God. You’ve written down what He’s done for you. The light was on when you wrote those lines, so they are neat and easy to read. Even at a distance from the board you can read every single word, and comprehend every detail and deeper meaning in the sentences and phrases you’ve written.
As you cast your eyes over it all and skim each line, you nod with certainty. Yep, I know that’s true. Yep, that one too. I remember when I learned that… It’s all so clear. I’ll never forget that moment, that’s for sure. Oh! I remember when that inspiration came. It was such a light bulb moment…
As you stand there, pleasantly basking in the beauty of the things God has shown you, the lights go out.
Now, what do you remember from what was on that board? Most likely, you remember the last thing you read. But you are already fuzzy on the exact wording. You think hard, and you can remember on a general level quite a few things. However, because it’s dark, the details and the nuances, the deep truths…well, you just can’t remember them. You know you’ve had profound thoughts. But now you can’t quite access them or explain them the way you once did. It’s frustrating. You can’t believe it. Without the light, all you knew has been reduced to generalities. The deep things seem to be nearly all gone.
Turn on the Lights
Over the years, teaching an early morning scripture class to 14–18-year-old teens, I used to use the above example to teach what happens when we lose the Holy Spirit as our constant friend and companion. It’s not accurate to say that God leaves us completely or won’t talk to us at all when we aren’t living right. He is always with us as much as we are willing to accept and receive based upon the conditions He sets. But it is accurate to say that our spiritual lights dim when we refuse to heed His call. When we limit His influence in our lives we also limit what types of messages and truths we can hear and see.
When we are living right, when we “keep the lights on” by daily repentance, reading and studying our scriptures, praying, paying tithes and offerings, treating others kindly, and keeping God’s Word of Wisdom, we are “paying our spiritual dues” (meeting the conditions) to keep the presence of the Holy Ghost and His light in our lives. When we stop doing those things, spiritual things go dim and become vague. We can even totally forget things that we once knew with incredible certainty.
The less spiritual dues we pay the dimmer our light gets and the less we can remember of what God has taught us (Alma 12:10-11). Our certainty will also diminish. Some spiritual things we used to believe may even seem foolish to us (1 Corinthians 2:14 (10-14); 1:25-27) because our spiritual lights are dim. Sure, we believe in the generalities. But that is because that’s all we can remember of what we used to be able to see. Just like exercise, spiritual muscles and spiritual light aren’t a one-and-done thing. They require constant maintenance. If we slack, our muscles (and light) atrophy. And the light and spiritual strength we have can’t become brighter unless we up our exercise and daily maintenance (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24; Alma 12:10-11).
Haven’t you noticed that when you put forth extra effort to teach someone else, a spiritual lesson, give a spiritual address or talk, or serve someone in need, that truths during those efforts seem to come easier to your mind? Haven’t you noticed that when you do the small and simple things for even a few days it’s easier to be patient, loving, long-suffering, and kind? Haven’t you noticed that when you give yourself quiet time and intake only positive, truthful information that inspiration seems to come to you with ease? Those lights go on and you can see things you’ve forgotten. Often, you see new things that fill you with awe, leaving you hungry for more. This happens when you start turning on spiritual lights! The truth was never gone, you simply turned down your light so you couldn’t see it as clearly.
Why Did You Turn the Lights Off?
Often, we turn off the spiritual lights because we think we won’t forget our spiritual experiences or knowledge. Or, we turn them off because trials and troubles come our way and we get lax in the midst of our discouragement. Sometimes, we are simply spiritually tired. But just like we can’t quit going to work so that we can afford to pay our day-to-day living expenses and feed ourselves physically; just like we can’t quit working out after we’ve achieved our ideal body composition and weight, we have to maintain—at least—by minimum exercise; we also can’t quit the minimal spiritual work required to pay our spiritual light bill. Otherwise, the lights will go out.
We are mortal, so we are extremely forgetful. We are mortal so we are going to have lots of trials and discouragements. We are mortal, so we are going to get tired, even exhausted. But just like sometimes our mortal efforts are more “going through the motions” until we have a better day, so also can spiritual efforts be. Sometimes it’s going through those motions until we have a better day that makes ALL the spiritual difference.
If you have doubts and fears, I invite you to turn on your spiritual lights. Pay that spiritual bill and turn on your spiritual electricity. If you don’t pay the bill, you won’t be able to see what’s right in front of you. Doubts and fears fly away in the warm, bright glow of the Holy Spirit.
If you feel like past promptings or testimonies you have received, witnesses from the Spirit about truth, may not have been what you thought. If you feel like you are flipping your spiritual light switch on and off and both settings look the same. Then, I invite you to pay that spiritual bill and turn on your spiritual electricity. Deep spiritual insight that you’ve long forgotten will come to you easily. Certainty about your experiences will return, because you’ve given power to the “on” setting of your light switch. When you do the spiritual work, flipping that switch to the “on” position will begin to produce results.
Light and truth come from God. If we would keep our vision clear and invite truth and progression into our lives, then we must pay our spiritual light bill. Then, what we see and feel will “grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24).