John 1:1-4 & D&C 93 — (part 1) ‘In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son’ — LeGrand Baker

There are words which the prophets equate with the Savior. The Savior uses those same words to describe himself. They are truth, light, and love. Their products are joy and life. The words carry enormous meanings — so big that we tend to read over them rather than ask what they are really telling us. I would like to analyze those descriptions of the Savior within their scriptural context, with the understanding that the results of that analysis will only be my opinions.

The first is “truth.,” which John calls “ the Word” and the Prophet Joseph calls “the gospel.”

John personifies the Savior as “the Word” which can be understood as both knowing and teaching truth. {1}

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men (John 1:1-4).

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible says it differently.

1 In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made which was made.
4 In him was the gospel, and the gospel was the life, and the life was the light of men (JST John 1:1-4.).

There is no discord between John’s “In him was life; and the life was the light of men ” and the Prophet’s “In him was the gospel, and the gospel was the life, and the life was the light of men.” The reason is that the gospel is truth. Truth, light, and love are cosmic equivalents and their product is joy which equates to a fulness of life.

I would like to discuss the relationships of truth, light, and love. I hope to show that they are simply different ways the scriptures have of describing the Savior’s power and glory. The high point of that triumvirate is love. That is also the greatest commandment. It is also the key to our eternal exaltation. Since that triumvirate of truth/light/love also represents what we must become, it behooves us to try to understand its meaning. The Prophet Joseph said,

It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God,
If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves. {2}

The testimony in the Doctrine and Covenants ties those ideas together. However, rather than saying the Savior is the personification of the gospel, it gives us his name-title; he is “the Spirit of Truth.”

6 And John saw and bore record of the fulness of my glory, and the fulness of John’s record is hereafter to be revealed.
7 And he bore record, saying: I saw his glory, that he was in the beginning, before the world was;
8 Therefore, in the beginning the Word was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation—
9 The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.
10 The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him (D&C 93:6-10).

Much of the 93rd section of the Doctrine and Covenants is a discussion of the relationship between truth, light, and joy, with its focus on truth. In addition to the verses just quoted it says,

21 And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn;
22 And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn.
23 Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;
24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
25 And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.
26 The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
27 And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.
29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
30 All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
31 Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.
32 And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.
33 For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
34 And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.
35 The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.
36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
37 Light and truth forsake that evil one (D&C 93:21-37).

Let us begin our analysis with the definitions, first of truth, then of the Savior’s name-title.

24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;

26 The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;

Truth is knowledge of reality in sacred time. The Savior knows all truth and therefore is the personification of ALL truth.

There are two other definitions to consider. An intelligence is “the light of truth,” but the glory of God is “light and truth.” The phrase “light of truth” says light is a product of the truth, while “light and truth” emphasizes the fulness of each. John says very much the same thing:

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Now, with that I have come to the very edge of my understand and am about to tumble over that cliff. This is the way I see it.

Just as scientists say visible light has properties of both waves and particles, something like seems to be true of “truth.” We just read that truth is information. Information does not shine, however, when truth is assimilated by an intelligent entity, that entity emits light. So truth seems also to have the properties of energy that produces light. We have also learned that an intelligence is “the light of truth,” suggesting that truth is the source of the light with which an intelligence shines.

Section 88 explains that in terms that are not too big to contemplate, but much too big to understand. It says that the Savior “ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. … The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.” The full statement reads as follows:

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you who have assembled yourselves together to receive his will concerning you:
2 Behold, this is pleasing unto your Lord, and the angels rejoice over you; the alms of your prayers have come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded in the book of the names of the sanctified, even them of the celestial world.
3 Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
5 Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son—
6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;
7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space
13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things (D&C 88:1-13).

That explanation may have arisen from questions generated from a previous revelation where the word of God is equated with truth, which is equated with light, which is equated with Spirit, which is equated with our having the necessary knowledge and power to fulfill our eternal covenants.

44 For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.
45 For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
46 And the 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.
47 And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.
48 And the Father teacheth him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you, which is confirmed upon you for your sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the whole world (D&C 84:44-48).

I understand that an intelligence is an entity that assimilates truth and shines. If that is correct then it follows that the more truth it assimilates, the more it shines. The Savior “received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth.” His truth shines to produce the aura of light that surrounds his person and fills the immensity of space. It is the power by which all things are made and gives life to all things. This aura is “light and truth” which is the glory of God. Therefore, the Savior’s truth and his light are different expressions of the same power.

So it is with us. As intelligences we were the personification of the truth we assimilated and we expressed that truth by the light we radiated. We still are that way. President David O. McKay taught that the light we radiate is an integral part of our very beings. We cannot hide it from discerning persons. It (or the darkness that is the lack of it) is the very essence of who and what we are. {3}

That is the nature of truth as I understand it. Next we must examine the nature of light and ask how it can be the power by which all things are made and by which we have life.

Exploring the depths of such gospel principles is great fun for me, and I recognize that one of its most important values is that the opinions it generates are only a work in progress. At best it asks questions but does not presume to answer all of them. That’s OK because the asking is the most stimulating part.

We have only begun to explore the meanings of the triumvirate of truth/ light/ love and its relationship with joy and life, so that has to continue next week.
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FOOTNOTES

{1} See my discussion of logos, in last week’s post: “John 1:1-2 — ‘In the beginning was the Word’ — LeGrand Baker”

{2} The quotes are from different parts of the King Follett discourse. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976), 345 and 343.

{3} President Mckay’s essay, “Radiation of the Individual” can be found under “favorite quotes” in this website.

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