John 12:35-36 — Walk in the Savior’s Light — LeGrand Baker

One can read walking in the light of Christ as a beautiful metaphor or as the encoded definition of a unique reality.

35 Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.
36 While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them (John 12:35-36).

The children’s hymn catches the beauty of the Savior’s teachings:

Teach me to walk in the light of his love; Teach me to pray to the Father above.
Teach me to know all the things that are right; Teach me, teach me, to walk in the light.

When I began my discussion of John, I observed, that in its first verses the “light of Christ” is the shechinah, that light which fills the immensity of space and is the source of our physical life. Of himself the Savior said,

2 And that I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
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.(D&C 93:2, 9).

The light defines his person: he is “light and truth,” as he said,

36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.(D&C 93:36).

Similarly, but in contrast, the “light of truth” defines each of us as intelligent entities who assimilate truth and exude our own light. Again, the Savior explained,

29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.(D&C 93:29).

The quality of the light with which we shine still defines who and what we are. Just as President David O. McKay wrote,

Every man and every person who lives in this world wields an influence, whether for good or for evil. It is not what he says alone; it is not alone what he does. It is what he is. Every man, every person radiates what he or she really is. Every person is a recipient of radiation. {1}

As we have matured throughout our existence (premortal and now mortal lives), the light within us has grown. The promise made by the Savior is virtually self-fulfilling:

28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things (D&C 93:28).

We are not only the product of our own experiences, but we also absorb and reflect the light of the people we love and with whom we associate. But most of all we also absorb and exude the light of Christ. As we assimilate and radiate his light, we mutually seal to ourselves other persons who are like ourselves and like God. As I observed elsewhere, truth/light/love are equivalents. It is that power we radiate. It is “charity” that is the sealing power that binds us to each other and to God. In his beautiful testimony of the Savior, John the Beloved called that sealing power “fellowship.”

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:1-7).

Unfortunately, as John cautioned, one can also “walk in darkness.” Some people exude darkness rather than light. In our physical world we define darkness as the absence of light, that definition seems to make darkness a nothing. However, that definition does not hold for the darkness radiated from some individuals. That darkness is real and opposite to light which is also real. That darkness is not a nothing but a force of evil that ranges in its intensity from anger to hatred; from the desire to hurt to the desire to destroy. That darkness can also grow, but as a degeneration until “there is no light in them (2 Nephi 18:20).” Paul warned the Saints of his day to beware of being ensnared by such darkness.

8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light (Ephesians 5:5-14).

The admonition to walk in the Savior’s light means to be surrounded, inundated by the pure light that radiates from him; that fills and sanctifies our souls. Being “baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost” suggests that same meaning.

“Walk” is a scriptural code word that connotes making and keeping covenants. In the ancient scriptures it was often a references to the covenants and ordinances made during the presentation of the Israelite temple drama. There are several code words that invite the initiated reader to participate in that ancient drama. This is one example:

2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:1-3).

“Mountain,” Hugh Nibley taught us, was code for temple. The object of the ancient worshiper was to symbolically reach the top of the mountain by passing a series of stations that were represented by code words. Walk, run, on the path or way are code words that describe one’s ascent to the summit of the holy mountain. When we “walk in the ways of the Lord,” we are ascending the holy mountain. When we come out of the mountain, to “walk in the ways of the Lord” means we are keeping the covenants we made there. A modern example of that code is the last three verses of Doctrine and Covenants 89. It is interesting that this revelation was given several years before temple rites were introduced to the Saints in Nauvoo. The following verses can correctly be read as a promise to young LDS athletes who keep the word of wisdom that they will be healthy and strong. However, the verses can also be read differently from that.

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; {2}
19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen (Do&C 89:18-21).

We each made some serious covenants in the councils before we came to this world. Now we must keep those covenants even though we do not remember what they were. A primary function of the Holy Ghost is to teach us when and how to fulfill those covenants. We do not walk alone, as is promised in my favorite psalm.

1 Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.
3 Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause
4 Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths.
5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
6 Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses [hesed]; for they have been ever of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.
8 Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
9 The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are mercy [hesed] and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.
12 What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
13 His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth.
14 The secret [sode] of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant (Psalms 25:1-14). {3}

The journey we experience as we walk in the light toward an even greater light is symbolized by the way Moses ascended to the heights of Mt. Sinai, and for the ancients, was symbolically the same as walking through Solomon’s Temple until one reached the Holy of Holies. Moses patterned his Tabernacle to represent the Holy Mountain. In Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, there is a diagram showing Mt. Sinai as a temple and how Moses’s Tabernacle was patterned after that mountain. {4}

1. The diagrams shows that the camp of Israel was at the foot of the mountain. There was a wall built that separated profane space from the sacred space of the mountain’s heights.

1. This mapped to the vestibule just inside in the temple entrance that separate the profane world from the temple interior.

2. Midway up the mountain Moses and the Seventy met God. There Moses was crowned by God in the presence of those witnesses. After the coronation they shared the same temple feast as we find in 3 Nephi when the Savior also taught about prayer. (Exodus 24:9-11, 3 Nephi 18:1-25).

2. The Holy Place in the Tabernacle and Temple. The central room of the Temple was where the king was anointed. The room contained the Shewbread Table (an invitation to share a meal with God), the Menorah (the candlestick representing the tree of Life and a prayer to enter God’s presence), and a incense altar.

3. Moses was overshadowed by a cloud (the shechinah, veil of light). Another example is when the brother of Jared went to the top of a mountain three times to talk to the Lord through a cloud, then, the forth time, the Lord put his finger through the cloud. (Deuteronomy 9:10; Exodus 24:12-17; Ether 3:4-14, 12:21; Mark 9:7).

3. Veil of Solomon’s Temple through which the king entered after his coronation ceremony in the Holy Place (See Hebrews 6:13-20, 3 Nephi 12:3, Moroni7:19-21, Moroni 10:30.).

4. Top of the Mountain where one saw God (Exodus 24:17, Moses 1:1-2, Matthew 4:8, Mark 9:2, Revelation 21:10, 1 Nephi 11:1, Moses 1:1-2).

4. Holy of Holies where God’s throne sits beneath the wings of the cherubim.

Psalm 89 celebrates that experience.

13 Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.
14 Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.
15 Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.
16 In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted (Psalms 89:13-16).

For John the Beloved, that experience was epitomized by his description of the celestial city.

10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.
26 And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:10-27).


{1} David O. McKay, “Radiation of the Individual,” The Instructor, October, 1964, p. 373-374.

{2} this phrase, along with several other code words, is also used in Proverbs.

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.
8 It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
9 Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:
10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine (Proverbs 3:5-10).

{3} For a discussion of the entire psalm see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, first edition, 525-43; second (paperback) edition 378-97.

{4} For the diagram see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, first edition, 365; second (paperback) edition 263.


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