Aaron Franklin: The Literal Light of the World
Could a greater understanding of the physical properties of light allow us to better radiate God's light—spiritual light—to those around us? How can our hope and trust in God increase when we more fully appreciate the ability of God's light to reach us? On this week’s episode, we speak with Aaron Franklin, an engineer, chemist, and a professor at Duke University about how an increased grasp of principles of light could open our eyes to the gospel truths associated with spiritual light.
How does God working by natural laws make Him any less divine? To me, it doesn’t. If anything, it makes what God has done and continues to do more majestic.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf's talk that Morgan referenced: "The Hope of God's Light " April 2013 General Conference
3:12- A Catalytic Study of Light
5:38- Scientific Light and Spiritual Light
12:02- A Joseph Smith Seed
14:17- What the Doctrine and Covenants Adds
17:35- Why Equations?
22:01- Four Principles of Physics of Light
23:58- Encoded Information
28:00- Influence and Radiating Light
32:34- Samuel the Lamanite
38:42- What God Can Do
43:23- Retention of “An Indelible Impression”
48:26- “Jesus Found Him”
53:34- What Does It Mean To Be All In the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones 0:00
All right people, I have waited a very long time to record this intro. Remember when we were all stuck in our houses? Well, during the months that I spent in my basement apartment, I decided there was never going to be a better time in my life to check a very important item off my bucket list. So I–with the help of excerpts from some of the wonderful guests we've had on our show–wrote a book. I poured my heart into this book and I am so excited to share it with you. It is available for pre-order now, on deseretbook.com and we want to give you a special code, as a thank you for coming on this ride with us that will give you 15% off. So go to DeseretBook.com, look up "All In," the code is "ALLIN" and then the number "6" again, that's: "ALLIN6," and can be used until July 26 when the book officially comes out.
If this podcast has meant anything to you over the past two and a half years, I hope you will give this book a chance. I wrote it in hopes that both you and I can remember the things we have learned and experienced together and I am so grateful to you for listening.
In one of my favorite talks ever, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf says, "There may be some among you who feel darkness encroaching upon you. You may feel burdened by worry, fear or doubt. To you and to all of us, I repeat a wonderful and certain truth: God's light is real. It is available to all. It gives life to all things. It has the power to soften the sting of the deepest wound. It can be a healing balm for the loneliness and sickness of our souls. In the furrows of despair, it can plant the seeds of a brighter hope. It can enlighten the deepest valleys of sorrow. It can illuminate the path before us and lead us through the darkest night into the promise of a new dawn," end quote. The goal of today's episode is that you will walk away with greater confidence in the wonderful and certain truth, Elder Uchtdorf taught–God's light is real.
Aaron D. Franklin is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and chemistry at Duke University. He earned a doctorate degree from Purdue University. Prior to becoming a professor, Franklin worked at IBM as a research scientist studying nanotechnology. His new book, The Spiritual Physics of Light poses the question, can we apply what we know scientifically about light to the doctrine of light in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so thrilled to have Aaron Franklin on the line with me today. Aaron, welcome.
Aaron Franklin 2:59
Thanks so much, Morgan. I cannot express the depth of my joy being here. Your show is fantastic, and it's just an honor to be able to talk with you.
Morgan Jones 3:09
Well, you are very sweet. I appreciate that. I am so excited about this. I told Aaron when I first reached out to him, there was a point on my mission where one of my mission companions and I became obsessed with light and how it related to the gospel. And I think that it kind of started because this companion was reading in the Book of Mormon, and she was reading the part where . . . when we read about Christ, following Christ's death, light is taken from the world. And there are those three days of darkness. And my companion wrote me and she said, something to the effect of–the light was taken from the world because he literally was the light of the world. And that may seem like a no brainer to those listening, but for me it was like a lightbulb moment–no pun intended–and so I just am so excited, Aaron, to have the chance to talk about this. And I think you have taken this study of light to a new level in your new book, and I'm just so excited about it.
Aaron Franklin 4:18
Awesome. Thanks for sharing that, Morgan. You know, it actually brings to mind one of the things that I think of is the greatest hope of my book, which is that it is, it's catalytic rather than comprehensive. So if I were to write–try to write a book that that takes all of the influences that light plays in our lives and all the ways that it's used in scripture, or the ways that it can impact someone in the manner that you expressed, there's no way–first of all, no one would pick it up. It would be too heavy, too long, or you know, just something that would be unapproachable. And the other thing is that it would be wholly impersonal and so that one of the goals of the book is truly to provide enough to catalyze the type of thoughts that you just shared.
That, "Oh, I remember when" and, “I had this impact, I thought that is what it means that we think about Jesus is the light of the world and, and His absence and the impact that would have.” I don't see anything about that in the book is a perfect example. How can I write a whole book about spiritual beings of light and say nothing about such a distinct instance of the absence of light, but it comes down to that, to seeing it catalyze that type of personal connection that you just shared.
Morgan Jones 5:34
I love it. Well, let's dive into this. So, in the synopsis of the book, it says, "Throughout history, scientists have studied light physically, and theologians have studied light spiritually. But what if these two realms of study were combined? What if the physical light we see is actually related to the spiritual light discussed in scripture? Can we apply what we know about light scientifically, to what we know about light doctrinally?" So, I just wonder to start us off, Aaron, can you tell me how you originally had the idea for this book? And then as you study these things, what were some of the biggest takeaways or surprises in terms of the connection between physical light and spiritual light?
Aaron Franklin 6:20
Yeah, excellent. I think if I remember back to the earliest instance of my fascination with light, and the spiritual interplay between physics and, and spirituality of light, is in early 2000's. I was just off my mission, I was teaching seminary class and doing undergraduate courses in physics and whatnot. And that juxtaposition of studying light from one of the deepest light centric books of Scripture we have, which is the Doctrine and Covenants, while also learning about it in a physics course, it naturally forced a connection between these two approaches to, what I had asked myself, whether it is the same topic. Are these two approaches to the same topic? Or are these two totally different things, right? Is, is it just metaphorical in the scriptures?
And without the Doctrine and Covenants, I think you could probably conclude that it is. But then you have the Doctrine and Covenants, and suddenly light is a power and light is intelligence and it's truth, and, and it is, it is everything that God brings us in some fashion, I mean, all this, this deep, all-encompassing power comes behind it. So that really piqued my fascination.
And one of the things I sort of came to be aware of was that, that you can use things without understanding them, but if you understand them, you use them a lot better. And I'll give you an example of what I mean by that from the side of the gospel. I'm a convert to the Church, joined the Church as a young teenager and grew up in a home with virtually zero religion. I never prayed in our family or anything like that growing up. And that transition for me as a teenager, it was certainly impactful. I mean, my teenage years, the gospel was definitely something I used and had an impact. But it wasn't something I feel like I understood until I was on my mission, serving my mission in Atlanta, Georgia. And so I've always loved the south, Morgan. Living in North Carolina now and having served in Georgia, then.
But what I realized was having come to understand the gospel as a missionary changed how I used it. And so that really gave me a contrast between what it was like as a youth, certainly being impacted by the gospel, but then suddenly understanding and how much that transformed the way that I live my life, the way that I used it. And, and I think about that, as it relates to light, and any scriptural or doctrinal principle that you can use these principles and even in great ways, but the more you understand them, the better you can use them.
And you can also relate this to technology. If you think about a–someone learning how to use a smartphone or things on a computer and they can get some things done. But then you have someone come and show you, "Oh, hey, did you know that that you can do it this way as well?" And the functionality that you have access to, it just expands. It's the same thing, it didn't change anything about the thing, it just changed how you used that thing. And I like to think that light is that way. That you're going to utilize it in so many ways in vision, you don't have to think about light to see physically but understanding more about it gives you a deeper connection to that.
And so the book, you know, when I, when I–relating back to when I was taking these physics courses and teaching the Doctrine and Covenants–that really was this genesis point for me of years of study, and it was not a genesis point that said, "Oh, great. You're going to write a book all about light and how physics and–" I would have thought you were crazy if someone said that to me 20 years ago, but as the years wore on and I talked more and more about these things that fascinated me, and saw–importantly–the reaction from others, people in my ward, friends of mine, we would have these topics come up, just like you mentioned, with your missionary companion, and I, when I saw that, that sort of spark in them on the same topic, I thought, there's something here. People want to know more about this. And when I brought it into perspective, with this idea of increasing our utilization through understanding, I thought, someone has to do this. Someone maybe as incapable as me needs to take some piece of what we do know and show people how it can tie together. And, and as I mentioned before, in an effort to not be comprehensive, but in an effort to be catalytic. To open the way for further thought. And so far, I mean, the book hasn't been around that long, but the best things that have happened from it are people who've come back and said, "Gee, did you think about–fill in the blank” and I love that “fill in the blank” is not in the book. And it just, it brings me so much, so much joy based upon that original desire to bring something that produces new connections, new interests around this doctrinal and eternal topic and power of light.
Morgan Jones 11:44
Absolutely. Well, I think anybody that reads the book, Aaron, is going to see very quickly that you are in no way incapable, but I do I have a couple of follow-up questions. One is more of a personal note. And then the other is based on something that you said. The first is, I'm curious now how you originally came in contact with the Church?
Aaron Franklin 12:07
Great question. So I had this sort of–my family sometimes calls it a "Joseph Smith seed" in me that I cannot extract the origin of–and the reason we call it a "Joseph Smith seed" isn't because I had a grand vision, it's because I wanted something more and not having prayer or religion of any type in my life. I was 10-11 years old, asking where I could go to Church and going with friends to different churches, and not really understanding the differences. I came home to my mom and said, "Why don't we just go to this church down the street, there's one right on the corner!" And, and "Oh," you know, "It doesn't work that way."
And, and so it was ultimately at the time, my stepdads mother, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who my mom was, was sort of complaining to, I mean, in all good love and desire for her child. But, you know, "He's driving me crazy. He wants to go to church, you can't just go to any church, this isn't how it works. You know, I'm not religious." And so she ended up saying, you know, "My Church has a temple in Mesa, and they have a visitor center." I mean, this is, you know, back in the dark ages–1990s, early 90s, late 80s, early 90s, and they–that was when we had a visitor center at the Mesa temple, they've recently done some reconstruction, and it's no longer there in the same way. But that was my first interaction with the Church is going in the visitor center, sneaking over to the side of the auditorium and filling out a card that asked for the missionaries to come visit. And a few months later, I was baptized with my brothers, and we were the only ones. And my mom came with us faithfully to church for a long time and eventually she was baptized. And I guess that's the origin of the story in the simple detail.
Morgan Jones 13:58
That's amazing. I always–I don't know what it is, but there's something about somebody's conversion story that always does my heart good. So I appreciate you sharing that, it's a little bit of a diversion. But I also wonder, you know, even as a convert, I think that it's fascinating what you said about what the Doctrine and Covenants adds to our understanding of light. I love how you said, "If you discount the Doctrine and Covenants, then physical light and spiritual light can be considered two very different things," but what is it about what the Doctrine and Covenants teaches that brings those two things together?
Aaron Franklin 14:39
Oh, great questions. So you know, I can give so many examples, for the sake of time I'll give one that, that I think is one of the more profound that I've found. You take a phrase that shows up in other scriptures, shows up in John's introduction of Jesus in John chapter one, which is this idea of not just Jesus being the light, but that "light that shines in darkness and darkness comprehends it not" is the phrase. That one phrase shows up in the Doctrine and Covenants several times section 6, section 10, section 30, section 88, and every time it shows up, it provides a little more context, a little more depth to this, this idea, because most people are going to read that verse in John 1 and like, "Okay, I mean, that sounds poetic, it sounds kind of beautiful. I've no idea what that means."
And I think that it's through that added understanding we gain from the Doctrine and Covenants that gives more depth and more physicality to what's being suggested, the analogy that I use, it's not because it captures it perfectly, but that that comes out, I think, from the added teachings in the Doctrine and Covenants is, imagine what happens when someone shines a flashlight at your face. Do you know that there's a light? Yeah, you definitely know it, right? There is a light there. But if you are in a dark room, and someone does that to you, you gain nothing. Your comprehension is zero, other than the fact that, hey, there is a light and it is shining. Whereas if someone handed you that flashlight, and you use it to illuminate your surroundings, you would gain all types of comprehension by embracing and utilizing the light. The light is the same, it's there in the same space, it's just a matter of using it.
And I think that that is how I imagine this connection between Jesus being the light and that most of the world is indeed in darkness, comprehending it not. So in spite of Him providing that light, there's no comprehension that's brought to those who don't embrace it. And that sort of connects again to that principle of the value of understanding what it can give you. Aside the, instead of just knowing there's a light there, using that light to actually know other things. And the Doctrine and Covenants– you know, that's one way that I sort of make this extrapolated connection because of what it teaches on that one phrase, but so many other things that are more direct even about discussions of the power that comes from light, the light of Christ and the role that's played there.
Morgan Jones 17:26
So interesting. So I want to give listeners a little–and thank you for indulging me on that question–but I want to give listeners a little taste of what the book is like in terms of structure. And so the way that it's set up, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, but it's–you originally introduce in each chapter a principle of physics as it relates to light and then you kind of transition to the spiritual properties of the light. Is that–did I do and okay job of explaining that?
Aaron Franklin 18:02
You did. Perfect, perfect.
Morgan Jones 18:04
Okay. So you spend a chapter early in the book explaining equations that are related to light. And you told me that this was like the Isaiah chapters, you warned me before I ever got into the book that I should, you know, just endure through that and I'm glad that you said that because I think I might have given up but I wondered if you can walk me through kind of a "for dummies" version of chapter two in your book.
Aaron Franklin 18:31
Okay. And first of all, this is not to suggest that there needs to be a “for dummies” version, you did a great job.
Morgan Jones 18:37
No, there does, there does, Aaron. Believe me.
Aaron Franklin 18:39
Well, I'll tell you, I'm so glad that you asked this because that chapter, chapter two of the book is something I continued to wrestle with a little bit in terms of the style of the book because the . . . when I first had a few friends read the manuscript, I got such a wild spectrum of responses.
Some people said, "You know that chapter two, it should just be an appendix. It should be, totally be optional. It should be buried in the back of the book for those who are just outrageously interested in the details of physics and light." And others came back to me who were not–neither of these extremes were people who were scientists–and they came to me and said, "I love chapter two. I felt like I connected to principles about light. I don't think I understood it perfectly, but I connected to things that I just never really understood."
And, and I tried to–I try my best to sort of take those two extremes and provide a–they wouldn't let me come right out and say, "If you don't like this chapter, skip it." So I don't say that, right? I don't say that. But, but I tried my best to say it not, you know, sort of in hidden message and I did that by putting Richard Feynman's quote at the beginning. He's a renowned theoretical physicist who was, his most famous–not most, but one of the things he's most famous for is being able to explain complex things in a way that other people could access.
And he himself, one of the absolute leaders of the field of quantum physics of light, said, "I'm going to teach you about light. And you're not going to understand it, because I don't understand it.” And so you have someone like that, so that hopefully everyone comes in and says, "Okay. So it's okay if I read this chapter and I don't understand." And that is absolutely true. Sounds crazy, cause you're like, well, then why would I read it? Because you understand a little, you know, and to some you'll understand a lot. But the net result isn't going to change what you have access to in the rest of the book.
And so it's not meant to be a gateway. It is meant to be a sort of a footnote that happens to be a chapter but it kind of . . . maybe it's a test for seriousness, right? I mean, I feel so badly for the the poor souls who pulled that book for its beautiful cover off the shelf and get home and land in chapter two and think, what have I done? And I want to like reach out to them and say just keep reading. You know, because it–as you pointed out, it absolutely changes and if someone said to me, "Hey, what's the most important chapter of your book? That's on this physics and connection?" I'd say it's the chapter that has zero scientific content. It's chapter nine, it is without question the most important chapter in that book because it's about how light brings us to Jesus, and how, about how its transformative and how He finds us and, and those are–people look at the title and they pull out "physics," the title is "spiritual physics."
The physics of light is how light works in our scientific measurements and interactions. "Spiritual physics" suggests, how does light work in ways that bring us back to God? And, I mean, if anything, maybe the only chapter that is only about spiritual physics is chapter nine. So I hope people will press on, Morgan, and the "for dummies" version that I would give, and so I don't belabor it here, and they chase people away from the remainder of the podcast, with the regurgitation of chapter two, I'll make four brief statements about like, just to kind of set the, set the groundwork for what else we might talk about.
Morgan Jones 22:16
Aaron Franklin 22:16
One is, light is a wave and a particle. Now, this is quantum mechanics, which you don't have to understand quantum mechanics to appreciate that what it means is–light is confusing. It's this really strange energy source that we don't really know how to pin down based upon one set of specific principles. And that's crazy and cool and mysterious and an important thing to recognize about light. The other thing is that, and it relates to it being a wave, is that it can't be stored. Light is always moving. There is no storing up light in some medium, there's just a matter of generating light. And it's huge. I mean, the whole book can be about that one principle about light when it, when it connects to spiritual light generation.
The third I would say is that all things radiate light. This is a scientific fact. So everything is radiating light at all times, and a huge gospel significance to that. And then finally, is that all things detect light. And there are a variety of ways that they can do that, but, but it happens. There is detection that occurs for all things when it comes to light. So if you take those four principles, just scientific maxim's that you can build on for how that may relate to spiritual physics.
Morgan Jones 23:40
I love it. I love it. Just hearing you explain those things makes me feel like it's encouraging, because I'm like, "Oh, yeah, I did, like I did understand that part." But I also think, you know, breaking it down in that way is really helpful for readers going into the book. So I love where you talk about how information is encoded in physical light. And then you talk about information being encoded in spiritual light. And specifically, you talk about being on the same wavelength. And it was interesting when I read this part in the book, because I had had this weird thing happen earlier in the day that you could look at and say like, "Oh, that was a total coincidence." But I am personally not a believer in coincidences. And so I love how you kind of talk about how–is it possible that spiritual light is actually to blame for some things that we may consider to be coincidences and what that has to do with both physical and spiritual life.
Aaron Franklin 24:46
This is a favorite concept for me. And it grew out of actually putting the book together. It's not something that I had thought about over years. I had an experience–first of all, I would say I love that you had that experience earlier in the day that you ran into the principle in the book because, who hasn't? Right? I mean, everyone has had an experience where someone calls them and, "I was just thinking about you," or that, “Were your ears burning,” right? Because, "Oh, I was just talking about this person," or sometimes it's more dramatic and intense than that.
I think everyone has had that happen, and to me–and this is where my scientist side sort of bleeds over–an accumulation of coincidences, to me, is a form of evidence of some underlying law at work. And in this case, I just arbitrarily forced that law to be about light–and because it works. It may be something different, but I share a story in the book about, to me in my life, one of the more distinct experience I had this, it was a few years ago, where–first of all, when I was in high school I was part of this choir. I am not a singer, my wife is an amazing singer and musician, I'm definitely not, but I did sing in a choir when I was in high school, and it was a youth choir that was deep, very spiritually impactful to me and to all involved, I think.
And my best friend was in the choir with me. And at the end of high school, we sort of went our own different ways, and he ended up going to the military. We're the kind of best friends where you can talk once every three years and it's like, you've been talking, you know, every day in the interim. And so, but we don't, we don't talk that often though, and, and about 20 years had gone by since we were in that choir together. And I hadn't talked to this friend in a year or more at that point. And I'm sitting in an airport, on my phone, and I had this thought come to my mind, totally random that "Hey, you know, that choir I sang in, what is–what are those songs we sang?" I started thinking about it, I look it up, download the songs off of iTunes, start listening to it, I thought "Wow, you know, what good memories, I haven't thought about that in years."
And I open up my social media, and this friend, this best friend of mine from high school, who is not very active on social media either, a post pops up from him. And he says–he has a link to one of the songs and he says, "I sang in a choir 20 years ago, and I remember the power of these songs." And if you just think about that one experience, and this is not a world changing experience, this may not even be a life changing experience. But it's an inflection point of coincidence, that, to me can't just be written off. I mean, there's too many little circumstances that would have to have lined up to make both of us find this at the same time just be a coincidence. So light is capable of that. Information can be crammed into it, information you may extract from it, and it can transmit all around the world in about a 10th of a second. So if you, if you want to understand physically what could enable this thing, light is a really good option for using that.
Morgan Jones 27:52
I love it. I love it. So another thing that I loved in the book is, I am a big believer–so I've been asked before, you know, "What do you think of the term 'influencer?'" And I think it's something that people have very strong opinions about. Some people are like anti-influencer, other people want to be influencers, and so I think it's kind of a loaded question like, "What do you think of influencers?" and the thing that I have always felt is that we are all influencers. Like, doesn't matter if you want to be one, or if you aspire to be one, you're always influencing people. And your circle may be big, it may be small, but like, like it or not, that's what we are. And in the book, you say this, "We all radiate light,"–which you mentioned already–"An unimaginable depth of information is capable of being encoded into that light. There is no escaping its radiation or its effects. Light will influence us and all those around us regardless of whether or not we acknowledge that reality. Distance is no bound for the influence of light, it takes a mere 134 milliseconds for it to travel the distance all the way around the world. Our thoughts, our prayers, even our very beings are constantly detectable, including a tremendous depth of information and insight accessible to those who are in tune." Can you talk to me, Aaron, about the light that we radiate to others and its ability to influence or affect others for good or for bad?
Aaron Franklin 29:25
Yeah, this is another tie in to that information in light that I just, I found, for me, to be one of the most impactful principles to what I attribute to spiritual light. And this is backed doctrinally pretty, pretty, significantly from the scriptures and also from quotes from modern day prophets that have talked about–David O. Mckay loved this topic he–President McKay spoke frequently about how our influence impacts others, that we're radiating this influence. And . . . what I would say is that the, the impact of what's possible with light in human made technologies should be a launching point for what we think about happening with spiritual light.
So, when you–for some people it's a surprise to learn that like radio waves are light waves. That's a surprise to some folks who read my book. And I love that, I love that that's a surprise that, "Yes!" you know, and it's, and it kind of opens their mind a little bit more to light being beyond just things that you see bouncing off things that you see. And that radio waves and Wi Fi waves and cell phones waves, all of the information, almost every bit of information that you collect, or send on an electronic device is being transmitted with light, and so you think just for a minute about what we're capable with human made technology, what we're capable of doing with like video, picture, voice, all of the deep data that we send around, if that's possible with human made technology, what is God capable of? What are our spirits capable of? You know, if a tiny box in your hand can do these things, can you really limit what's possible to be transmitted over light in a spiritual sense?
And so when you connect that to this core reality that we all radiate light, I don't think it's that large of a step to see that that light is going to have information. That there's going to be insight about a person, their feelings, their thoughts, their circumstances that can be carried by that light. Now, just because it's there, doesn't mean other people are going to detect it. I mean, we’re sitting here right now, and you're sitting being surrounded by light waves. You can pull a small device off a shelf and tune into just about every genre of music on radio. Every bit of that information is right now around you. You're just not accessing. So, that we are radiating these things and that there is information in that radiated light, it's not stopped in reality by you not understanding or using it, it's still there. It's just a matter of tuning into it.
Morgan Jones 32:23
That's so powerful. I love that you share some examples from scripture of the power of light. And so this is kind of transitioning to a different principle of light, but you tell the story of Samuel the Lamanite and how it relates to light and how perhaps the idea that it was light that protected Samuel when he was up on the wall, and I wondered if you could share that story. How you feel like it relates to light, and maybe some of the lessons that we can learn from Samuel that will give us greater confidence in ourselves.
Aaron Franklin 33:00
I love that you asked this question because that was the first chapter I wrote of this book. That was really–my mind was so caught on this idea of light having a physical aspect to it, that it, it has energy. And it can transfer momentum, meaning it can run into things and cause this energy to be transferred in a way that could move something. And that principle is where I started with all of this and looking at Samuel and his story is just something that's kind of near and dear to me because of that.
So to answer your question, the first part of the question in terms of the, the suggestion I make, it's an option, okay, about–God works by natural laws, and, and here's an option, you know. There's a lot of other ways that He may have brought about this miracle, but Samuel's on a wall, that can't be–it can't be easy to balance on this wall. He's up on the top, it was a distinct moment, so it's caught everyone's attention. And, and they start slinging arrows and stones at him. And unless you think that he must have been really high up, and they must have been really poor aim–remember, they were surprised that they couldn't hit him. It surprised them. And so, so something was happening that they were not aware of, and that's why I kind of rule out–it wasn't a gust of wind, it would have knocked him off the wall anyway, and besides, you can hear that, and so whatever it was, it was something they could not see. And it was something that was totally surprising.
And I just love that light is capable of that. And that that is suddenly an option that could have been at play amid Samuel being distinctly overcome by the Spirit of the Lord and having all of that protection, divine power that comes with it, that there's a chance that part of the way that his protection was granted was through light in its physical behavior, that it can run into arrows and stones and knock them from their path and be invisible while it does that.
Now the other side of the story and your question about confidence in ourselves and what we can learn from Samuel, that it relates to light also, but in a much deeper spiritual sense, is that Samuel, I don't know that we think much about this, but Samuel experienced things that we don't explicitly have pointed out in the record. Samuel likely experienced some degree of racial prejudice in his, in his interaction with the Nephites, he's a Lamanite, it's a time of division amongst the people at the time, here he comes to a Nephite stronghold, and he was an outsider at the very least and experienced all kinds of persecution for it–was cast out. He was never unique for coming and preaching the gospel to the Nephites.
In fact, I think it gets overlooked that Nephi, like one of the most amazing prophets in the whole Book of Mormon–the son of Helaman, Nephi–he was in Zarahemla. He was, he was preaching and prophesying and baptizing in the region. I also like to think that, you know, we attribute to Samuel all the prophecies about the signs that would correspond with the birth of the Savior, but there's nothing that says he's the only one that said that. I mean, Nephi could have been preaching that for a long time, and Samuel just reiterated the message, I mean, my main point is that there's nothing, there's nothing that's really striking, or stand out about Samuel other than that he was persecuted and had a hard time delivering his message.
What's striking about Samuel is that he saw the call he got from God as being an imperative. It didn't matter to him that Nephi was already there and preaching, I mean, come on, the guy went on a mission and had zero converts. Every one of them went to Nephi and got baptized. And so there's no metric that we might use today of success, it was a metric of just nothing more than Samuel. What Samuel brought with Samuel.
And, and when it comes to us, you know, we get callings in the Church, we get opportunities in our lives, and we can often get lost thinking, "This isn't distinct," you know, "So and so does this better," or, "So and so also does this," or, you know, we have this comparison game. And I think we need to recognize that, that every one of us is radiating light that is distinctly ours. That is a composite of who we are, of what we've experienced, of what we know, not just what we say. And that just like Samuel, if we bring it all and maybe learned how to climb walls, maybe have great balance, maybe something he did in his past brought that capability to bear, but what's absolutely true is that he brought it all and with it came his light. And it had an impact that Nephi didn't have. Because Nephi had been preaching and preaching, and those people were drawn to Nephi because of Samuel bringing them the message the way he did.
Morgan Jones 37:53
I'm over here getting pumped up. So that was, that was inspirational. I wondered, Aaron, based on that, you talk about the importance of recognizing what God is capable of doing with His light. And I wondered, as you were writing this book, what you personally learned about God's abilities to help us with His light, and how it built your trust and faith in Him. And maybe–I think it's cool, because you said, "Somebody needed to write this book," and you did it. And I think sometimes like we feel inadequate to the task that we feel like needs to be done, but somebody recently made the point to me that you'll never feel adequate. And the important thing is to make the effort. So anyway, all that to say I'm curious about your thoughts about what God is capable of doing with His light in our lives.
Aaron Franklin 38:50
Yeah. Yeah, I love how you worded that question, Morgan, and I would say to your add on point, that those who don't feel inadequate to the task that they're taking on, are without even realizing it inadequate, by the very fact that they don't recognize the dependency on God, and the need for that guidance. So, what I, what I loved how you asked us about, about how this taught me things about God and understanding about His abilities is, to me, one of the greatest gifts of the restored gospel is the teaching which existed from day one, by the way of Restoration, that, that God works by natural laws.
Folks who are, are exclusively embedded in the restored gospel probably don't know–don't really understand how powerful that reality is, that principle is, that has been consistent across the history of the Church in the teachings, in the scriptures, and quotes from prophets and anything you dig up, is that God works by natural law. That you don't have scientific truth and gospel truth as these two separate entities, but that you have a complete picture of truth that is circumscribed into one great whole, right? It all goes in there. There's, there's no separation between those principles. That's huge.
And that came to my awareness very distinctly as I went through the process of writing this book. And it increased my faith manyfold. And, and I like to think about it like this, so I would hope that everyone listening, everyone out there is amazed in some way by what we can do with modern technology. That–and if not, I mean, that's just so surprising to me. Okay, so you look at what we're capable of, it's amazing, right? It's so incredible that the things that we're capable of doing, and so that puts you at a decision point.
So you've got to the point where you recognize you're amazed by it, now you're at a crossroads, you can choose one of two extremes. One extreme is that–there are no miracles. That our capability is so great, that we don't need a dependence on a higher power, that we are the power, we are capable of all this, so nothing is miraculous–all of a sudden. And it's like learning the details behind the magic trick. It's no longer magic, right? Something that–a moment before was magical is suddenly not, just because you knew how it happened. And so that's one road.
The other road is to say, you know, if we, as humans are capable of this, imagine what God must be capable of. And, and, you know, how does God working by natural laws make Him any less divine? To me, it doesn't. If anything, it makes, it makes what God has done and continues to do more majestic.
And I think about this with–I love traveling to India. And years ago, I went to India for the first time, and I'm like a souvenir hunt, right? I got to bring home something for my wife from India, and it's gotta be super cool. And I kept seeing these, these elephants that were, looked like they were carved from wood, and they look beautiful, but my instinct was like, mmm, those look like they came from a machine. Which is–look, it's cool, and it's very India, and I'll grab it if I don't find anything else. But, but I'm going to keep looking. And it wasn't until I found a man who was sitting there carving one of these elephants by hand–same elephant–and the final product even looked the same, but the majesty of this creation, just was amplified. And, and, and I bought that, and I felt this connection to it.
I think about that with what we can do as humans versus God. God could do the same thing that we may see someone else do, but because it was from God, it was–there's a why and how and when that brought into that whole thing that makes it majestic. And, and the more we're willing to recognize that, I think the more access we have to the power that He brings.
Morgan Jones 43:13
That was amazing. I think that's so powerful. Thank you for sharing that. So another thing that I thought was fascinating was you give another example based in scripture about Alma the younger, and you talk about how, despite having seen an angel, and hearing the voice of thunder–which we read that Alma did experience, he testifies that the manifestations of the Holy Ghost were the reason that he knows of truth. And you write this in your book, "This is because the discernment of spiritual light, always fueled by a witness from the Holy Ghost more powerfully affects the entire soul than any physical sensation. Even if that sensation comes in the form of a visitor from heaven. When your soul has been illuminated and purified by the light of truth, a spiritual manifestation can remain forever with you." And I think that this is–we see other examples of this in scripture, you know, Laman and Lemuel, they experience these manifestations from heaven, but how quickly they forget. And yet, when somebody's life has been changed by the influence of the Holy Ghost, it seems to stick more, and so I wondered if you could talk to me about the influence of the Holy Ghost and the role that light plays in helping us become illuminated.
Aaron Franklin 44:35
What a great example, Morgan, to pull out of that. And this really opens the way for a deep discussion that I have in the book about the interplay between the Holy Ghost and the light of Christ. I would argue there's hardly a more confusing aspect of our doctrine, right? Is–while we're wrestling with the, with the Holy Ghost as a member of the Godhead, and, and what role is played there, we have with that this intertwinement with the light of Christ that is such an extensive intertwinement that they share titles. That there are, there are shared ways that they're referred to. And yet they are completely distinct in that the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit and member of the Godhead, and the light of Christ is not a personage, it is a power and this separate force.
But what, what I think is most clear is that there is absolutely an interconnection between how these powers function between the power of the Holy Ghost and the power of the light of Christ. And one of the ways that I like to think about them functioning is connected to this indelible impression that's left. Joseph Fielding Smith called it an "indelible impression from the Holy Ghost," that is more powerful than seeing an angel, it's more–it takes longer to erase, you know, it stays around longer. And I think about it as the Holy Ghost fueling the radiation we can have from the light of Christ, radiation from us. So yes, we're all radiating right? Hey, we all have the light of Christ, it works really well, right? But what we are radiating, the intensity of that radiation, I think does have a gate valve on it. And that valve is how connected we are to the influence of the Holy Ghost. The more connected, the more that light is going to end up shining. So bringing it down to practical terms, as you're taught truth, you are at a decision point. And that truth could be a fundamental ordinance of the gospel, "You should be baptized," "Will you be baptized?"–oh, there's a truth. You know, and you're at a decision point, that's an obvious decision point.
But you're at decision points hundreds of times every day, where you have to make a decision. You have truth before you, you know what the truth tells you, and you choose which way you want to go with that knowledge. Every one of those decision points in my mind, is a way of affecting that connection to the Holy Ghost. And thereby, the radiation of light. And when those are big inflection decision points where it's deciding to embrace and believe in the reality of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and put everything you have in that direction, that rate–that initial radiation of light, I think of it like a, like photography. I mean, you know, think about what happens when you expose light to the right substrate. It makes an impression that is both perfect in capture, and unerasable, right? I mean it's there. And that is the type of impression that I think we have access to when we genuinely, earnestly seek for that confirmation, the discernment that can come by yielding ourselves to God and gaining access through the Holy Ghost to truth–which is light, and exposes and it retains.
Morgan Jones 48:05
That's so interesting. And it makes so much sense. Aaron, we are running out of time, and I actually could listen to you talk about these things, which is so surprising to me, because I have told Aaron in multiple emails leading up to this, that I am not a science person. But I love the principles that you've pulled out in this conversation.
I have one question for you before we get to our last question, and that is something that was one of my favorite parts of the whole book. At the very end, and I believe it's chapter nine, the one you mentioned earlier, you say, "Jesus will always find us. Should you take nothing away from this book, please remember that. Accept the reality that there are no barriers too thick, no caves too deep, no sorrow too profound for His light to penetrate. It fills the immensity of space, so why not the confines of your soul?" And that, that is so beautiful that it's making me tear up, but what do the physical laws of light, Aaron, teach us about the Savior's ability to reach us and to light our world?
Aaron Franklin 49:13
You'll get me emotionally on that one too, Morgan, because that–you pull it from chapter nine, which is sort of an exposure to my heart when it comes to all these concepts. And the story of the blind man from John chapter 9 that I talk about there is, is to me, it is the most important gospel story for me, because it teaches us something about Jesus that we don't get from almost any other story in the scriptures. And it is not just that he healed someone, He does that a lot. He did that a lot. And it's not just that He taught something, like that He's the light of the world, which He says in the early part of John chapter 9. It's that after this person who was healed, went through the ongoing persecution that followed with uncertainty, not really knowing who was it that healed me?
You know, all the questions we ask ourselves, even now, a member of the Church for years, and you can get into a situation where you start thinking, hmm, you know, I hadn't thought about that before, why is that? And you know, these questions which are fine to have, but we start having them settle in us and we get uncertain, this last piece of that story is the most important piece of how light works, which is–Jesus found Him, that he healed Him. But He did not leave Him. That the further–when the man was cast out of the synagogue being dismissed for what he could only explain as, "I was blind, now I see," I mean he had one truth. One, that's all he had. He didn't have any deep teachings, he didn't have any understanding that we are aware of, of the importance of the role of Christ and what he was about to do for all of humankind, he just knew he was blind, and then he could see. And he, and he clung to that.
And what happened? Jesus found him. And, and came and taught him by asking if he knew who the Lord was, he said, "I don't know. But tell me and I will believe." And then with, it's just beautiful symmetry, He says, "You see him, standing in front of you, talking to you." And so the perfection of that, that whole experience to me, is the role of light and the atonement, it's about reach. It's about having something that can fill the immensity of space. Because yeah, you know, Jesus physically may not be sitting right next to me or you right now, but yet He is here. How can He be here? And that is where light comes in. So we've been gifted with something that is accessible scientifically that we can understand some things about, and that is a reality beyond any other that we could imagine in terms of its reach.
And so my last comment on that, and I know we need to wrap up is that I think about this with the, with President Nelson's invitation to hear Him, to hear Jesus in our lives. And I had a really impactful insight on this for me, which is I, when I first got that invitation, my approach, my vision of it was, "Okay. I need to be more purposeful in my prayer, more diligent in my scripture study so that God will speak to me. I need God to speak to me because I need to hear Him. I've been given this instruction," and had this sort of about face moment when I realized, I'm thinking about this all wrong. He's already spoken. He's speaking. It is not about me doing something that will get Him to speak. It's about me doing what I need to hear. And, and it–that seems so fundamental and simple, but it was deeply profound for me personally, to say that, yeah, His light, His information is all around us. The revelations of eternity are here, like the radio waves from a local station. But I–we–need to tune ourselves to receive.
Morgan Jones 53:05
Thank you so much for sharing that I . . . you know, I think that that invitation–President Nelson has given so many invitations during his time as prophet that I think have been impactful, and they're active. And that's one thing that I like about them, I think that for all of us, they've taught us things that we wouldn't have experienced or wouldn't have had the realizations that we've had, had he not extended an active invitation. And so thank you so much for sharing that. My last question for you, Aaron, is what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Aaron Franklin 53:41
I have always loved this question, Morgan, and I think every answer that you've been given–I'm sure you would say the same thing–that every one of them is correct. And that's like the best final exam question ever. I should adapt to that in my teaching, you know, every, whatever you say–“Good.” You know, “You're right.” But really, for me, being all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not surprisingly, connects to light. And it makes me think about the verse that we have appearing in three of the four standard works, which says, in different fashions, that having an eye single to the glory of God will fill us with light and so that we can comprehend all things.
And that, you know, we can break apart all the meaning behind "eye single to the glory of God," and how does that work, and "bodies filled with light." But, but to me, it means that we bring everything that we have available into His work. It's the story of Samuel and, and climbing that wall, he clearly could climb and he used it, amidst all of the challenges. Nephi, he didn't know how to build a ship, but he knew how to build tools. And so it's a nonchalant mention, "Hey, I went and built tools." He brought everything he had into the Lord's work.
And I was asked by people when I was first writing this book, some folks that looked at it and they asked me if I was worried about from an optics of my career perspective, about putting out this publication that's a religious sort of text, sort of a softer scientific work when my career is built on publishing scientific articles. And, and I really thought about that, "Oh, am I worried about that?" And, and I kind of got to a place where I thought, you know, should it matter to me if it does have an impact there? I mean, what is it I am actually bringing?
And so, so being all in to me, means breaking down the barriers that compartmentalize who we are, and what we do, so that we can bring everything that we have available to the Lord. And for some people that's artistic talent, for others it's business savvy, to some it's journalism and being an amazing podcast interviewer. And for me, it's science and engineering. And so, I don't need to bring all things on my own. I just need to bring everything I have. And this is at least one way that I have tried to do that.
Morgan Jones 56:08
Aaron, thank you so much. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the things that you've shared today. And I think, for me, personally, I needed to hear some of them. So thank you so much for your work. Thank you for not letting any fear stop you. And I just appreciate your time so much.
Aaron Franklin 56:28
Thank you, Morgan. It's been wonderful.
Morgan Jones 56:31
We are so grateful to Aaron Franklin for joining us on today's episode, you can find The Spiritual Physics of Light at Deseret Book stores now. And just a reminder that you can also find the new All In book on deseretbook.com and you can preorder it today with the code "ALLIN6." A huge thank you to Derek Campbell of Mix at Six studios for his help with this episode. And thank you, as always, for listening