Question: What did the Savior mean when He said in John 8:12 that He was the “light of the world”?
Answer: Jesus Christ, born in humble surroundings, crucified and resurrected, is our source of light to guide us in the paths we should follow. As we look to Him, following His light and doing what He would want us to do, we will find peace and happiness.
12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness (spiritual darkness), but shall have the light of life (eternal life).
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.
3 Nephi 15:9
9 Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.
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Elder Dallin H. Oaks:
My dear brothers and sisters, I rejoice with you in the privilege of coming together on this beautiful Sabbath day to worship our Father in Heaven and his Son Jesus Christ and to be instructed by their servants.
The Book of Mormon tells of the resurrected Lord visiting some of the people of the Americas. Clothed in a white robe, he descended out of heaven. Standing in the midst of a multitude, he stretched forth his hand and said:
“Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
“And behold, I am the light and the life of the world” (3 Ne. 11:10–11).
He has repeated this declaration in many modern revelations (see D&C 12:9, D&C 39:2, D&C 45:7). In harmony with his words, we solemnly affirm that Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God the Eternal Father, is the light and life of the world.
Jesus Christ is the light and life of the world because all things were made by him. Under the direction and according to the plan of God the Father, Jesus Christ is the Creator, the source of the light and life of all things. Through modern revelation we have the testimony of John, who bore record that Jesus Christ is “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.
“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 93:9–10).
The Light of the World
Jesus Christ is the light of the world because he is the source of the light which “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space” (D&C 88:12). His light is “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (D&C 93:2; see also D&C 84:46). The scriptures call this universal light “the light of truth” (D&C 88:6), “the light of Christ” (D&C 88:7; Moro. 7:18), and the “Spirit of Christ” (Moro. 7:16). This is the light that quickens our understanding (see D&C 88:11). It is “the light by which [we] may judge” (Moro. 7:18). It “is given to every man, that he may know good from evil” (Moro. 7:16).
Jesus Christ is also the light of the world because his example and his teachings illuminate the path we should walk to return to the presence of our Father in Heaven. Before Jesus was born, Zacharias prophesied that the Lord God of Israel would visit his people “to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide [their] feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).
During his ministry Jesus taught, “Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you” (3 Ne. 18:16). Later, he told his Apostles, “Hold up your light that it may shine unto the world,” adding, “Behold, I am the light which ye shall hold up, that which ye have seen me do” (3 Ne. 18:24). He taught the Nephite multitude, “Ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do” (3 Ne. 27:21).
The Savior emphasized the close relationship between his light and his commandments when he taught the Nephites, “Behold I am the law, and the light” (3 Ne. 15:9). The Psalmist expressed that relationship: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105).
As the Lord led Lehi and his people out of Jerusalem, he said, “I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments” (1 Ne. 17:13). As we keep the Lord’s commandments, we see his light ever brighter on our path and we realize the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise, “And the Lord shall guide thee continually” (Isa. 58:11).
Jesus Christ is also the light of the world because his power persuades us to do good. The prophet Mormon taught: “All things which are good cometh of God; … “Wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God” (Moro. 7:12–13). Mormon’s words anticipate what the Lord later told Moroni while he was compiling the Book of Mormon: “He that believeth these things which I have spoken, … shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good.
“And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. … I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world” (Ether 4:11–12; see also D&C 11:12).
And so we see that Jesus Christ is the light of the world because he is the source of the light that quickens our understanding, because his teachings and his example illuminate our path, and because his power persuades us to do good.
Life of the World
Jesus Christ is the life of the world because of his unique position in what the scriptures call “the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death” (2 Ne. 11:5).
Jesus taught: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved. …“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:9–10).
Later, Jesus explained to his Apostles, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). We come to the Father through the life-giving mission of the Son in two ways. In each of these ways, Jesus Christ is the life of the world, our Savior and our Redeemer.
Through the power and example of the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind will be resurrected (see 2 Ne. 9:7, 12). Our mortal life came into being because of his creative act. Our immortal life has now been assured because the Resurrected Lord has redeemed us from death. According to the plan of the Father, the Son was “the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18). “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).
Jesus Christ is also the life of the world because he has atoned for the sins of the world. By yielding to temptation, Adam and Eve were “cut off from the presence of the Lord” (Hel. 14:16). In the scriptures this separation is called spiritual death (see Hel. 14:16; D&C 29:41).
The atonement of our Savior overcame this spiritual death. The scriptures say, “The Son of God hath atoned for original guilt” (Moses 6:54). As Paul taught the Saints in Rome: “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Rom. 5:18). As a result of this atonement, “men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (A of F 1:2).
Our Savior has redeemed us from the sin of Adam, but what about the effects of our own sins? Since “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23), we are all spiritually dead. Again, our only hope for life is our Savior, who, the prophet Lehi taught, “offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law” (2 Ne. 2:7).
In order to lay claim upon our Savior’s life-giving triumph over the spiritual death we suffer because of our own sins, we must follow the conditions he has prescribed. As he has told us in modern revelation, “I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; “But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I” (D&C 19:16–17).
Our third article of faith describes the Savior’s conditions in these words: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”
In the words of our Savior, recorded in the Book of Mormon as he taught the people on this continent, “And whosoever will hearken unto my words and repenteth and is baptized, the same shall be saved” (3 Ne. 23:5).
In summary, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Redeemer, is the life of the world because his resurrection and his atonement save us from both physical and spiritual death. Jacob rejoiced in this gift of life: “O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit” (2 Ne. 9:10).
I wish that everyone could understand our belief and hear our testimony that Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Redeemer, is the light and life of the world.
Our Savior and Our Redeemer
Some who profess to be followers of Christ insist that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not Christians. Indeed, there are those who make their living attacking our church and its doctrines. I wish all of them could have the experience I shared recently.
A friend who was making his first visit to Salt Lake City, called on me in my office. He is a well-educated man and a devout and sincere Christian. Although we have not discussed this with each other, we both know that some leaders of his denomination have taught that members of our church are not Christians.
After a short discussion on a matter of common interest, I told my friend I had something I would like him to see. We walked over to Temple Square and into the North Visitors’ Center. We viewed the pictures of Bible and Book of Mormon Apostles and prophets. Then we turned our steps up the inclined walkway to the second level. Here Thorvaldsen’s great statue of the risen Christ dominates a setting suggestive of the immensity of space and the grandeur of the creations of God.
As we emerged and beheld this majestic likeness of the Christus, arms outstretched and hands showing the wounds of his crucifixion, my friend drew a sharp breath. We stood quietly for a few minutes, enjoying a reverent communion of worshipful thoughts about our Savior. Then, without further conversation, we made our way down to the street level. On the way we walked past the small diorama showing the Prophet Joseph Smith kneeling in the Sacred Grove.
As we left Temple Square and took our leave of one another, my friend took me by the hand. “Thank you for showing me that,” he said. “Now I understand something about your faith that I have never understood before.” I hope that every person who has ever had doubts about whether we are Christians can achieve that same understanding.
We love the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Messiah, our Savior and our Redeemer. His is the only name by which we can be saved (see Mosiah 3:17, Mosiah 5:8; D&C 18:23). We seek to serve him. We belong to his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our missionaries and members testify of Jesus Christ in many nations of the world. As the prophet Nephi wrote in the Book of Mormon, “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Ne. 25:26).
As we state in our first article of faith, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” [A of F 1:1] God the Father, the great Elohim, the Almighty God, is the Father of our spirits, the framer of heaven and earth, and the author of the plan of our salvation (see Moses 1:31–33; Moses 2:1–2; D&C 20:17–21). Jesus Christ is his Only Begotten Son, Jehovah, the Holy One and God of Israel, the Messiah, “the God of the whole earth” (3 Ne. 11:14). As the Book of Mormon declares, “Salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:18; see also Moses 6:52, 59). The scriptures proclaim and we reverently affirm that Jesus Christ is the light and life of the world.
What does this knowledge mean to Latter-day Saints? (We call ourselves “Saints” because this is the scriptural term for those who have sought to make their lives holy by entering into covenants to follow Christ.)
Our Savior is the light of the world. We should live so that we can be enlightened by his Spirit, and so that we may hear and heed the ratifying seal of the Holy Ghost, which testifies of the Father and the Son (see D&C 20:26). We should study the principles of his gospel and receive its ordinances. We should keep his commandments, including his two great commandments to love God and to love and serve our neighbors (see Matt. 22:36–40). We should be faithful to the covenants we have made in the name of Jesus Christ.
Our Savior is also the life of the world. We should give thanks for his absolute gift of immortality. We should receive the ordinances and keep the covenants necessary to receive his conditional gift of life eternal, the greatest of all the gifts of God (see D&C 14:7).
In short, Latter-day Saints invite each other and all men and women everywhere to “come unto Christ.” As a prophet has told us in the Book of Mormon: “I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved” (Omni 1:26).
May God bless all of us to come unto Christ. I testify that he is our Savior and our Redeemer, the light and the life of the world, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Source: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 66; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 1, Volume 2, by David J. Ridges, 286; General Conference, October 1987, “The Light and Life of the World,” by Elder Dallin H. Oaks.