I have listened to friends talk about riding the Hiawatha Trail, a converted rail line between North Idaho and Montana. The 15-mile bike trail includes trestles stretching over deep canyons and long tunnels through the mountains.
Having admired the railroad trestles while traveling central and northern Idaho, as well as appreciating the beautiful scenery, the idea of riding the trail intrigues me. Thus, when Elder Vern P. Stanfill, a general authority seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, described his experience on the trail, I listened closely.
In preparation for the trip, Elder Stanfill and his companions armed themselves with lights to travel through the dark tunnels. Before they entered the Taft Tunnel, a guide described some of the challenges, including deep ditches along the edges, rough walls and complete darkness.
As they moved into the tunnel, darkness surrounded them, and the lights Elder Stanfill had brought were no match. Feeling anxious, confused and disoriented, he struggled to stay upright on his bicycle, embarrassed to tell his friends the problems that he was having.
After admitting his struggle, he was able to draw closer to the more powerful light of another rider, and the other members of the group formed a tight circle around him, sharing their light as they moved through the tunnel.
Finally he saw a pinpoint of light ahead, which gradually grew larger and brighter, restoring his confidence and relieving his need to rely on the lights of his friends.
Darkness reduces our ability to see and increases the likelihood of stumbling or falling. In Elder Stanfill’s case, it caused disorientation and confusion. With the increasing light at the tunnel’s end, he could see things clearly — again.
So it is with spiritual light. Jesus Christ said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12
What does that mean? Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf explains that the power that emanates from the Savior that enlightens, uplifts and illuminates our lives is referred to in the scriptures as light, and also as spirit and truth.
In the Doctrine and Covenants we read, “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.” D&C 84:45
Elder Uchtdorf teaches, “This profound insight — that light is spirit, which is truth, and that this light shines upon every soul who comes into the world — is as important as it is hopeful. The Light of Christ enlightens and saturates the souls of all who hearken to the voice of the Spirit.” D&C 84:46
Just as we equate light with hope, happiness and joy, we associate darkness with despair, unhappiness and sorrow. When we are weighed down by the challenges and problems of life, we may not be able to see our way clearly. We may find ourselves disoriented and making poor choices. We may lose hope.
Like Elder Stanhill, we might find ourselves needing to rely on the light of others to help us navigate the challenges, until we can again see clearly.
And we can always rely on the Savior.
“God is no respecter of persons”, says Elder Uchtdorf. “If you open your mind and heart to receive the Light of Christ and humbly follow the Savior, you will receive more light. Line upon line, here a little and there a little, you will gather more light and truth into your souls until darkness has been banished from your life.”
Glenna M. Christensen is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.