“The Allegory of the Lights,” Ensign, Feb. 1995, 66
As a child I was fascinated by the story of the brother of Jared and the sixteen stones that were touched by the finger of the Lord to give light to the Jaredites as they traveled to the new world across the sea. The faith of the brother of Jared is still a great example to me. He solved the challenge of traveling in the darkness of barges that could not have windows or fire (see Ether 2:23) through his faith in the power of the Lord. He knew that if the Lord merely touched the stones, they would provide the necessary light. The brother of Jared’s faith was so strong that Christ revealed himself to him. In the process, the brother of Jared learned that Christ has an actual body and that we are created in his image.
However, the most important lesson I learned from Ether’s account of the brother of Jared is my need for the atonement of Jesus Christ. For me, the story is in many ways an allegory that illustrates the power and necessity of the Atonement.
The brother of Jared extracted ore from the earth and “did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones” (Ether 3:1), but after being touched by the finger of the Lord, they were transformed into lights. In a way, that is the process we follow on earth in order to become like Heavenly Father. When we were put on earth, we were given a physical body and our agency. One might view them as our basic raw materials.
Our life on earth works on us like the smelting process the brother of Jared used to create the sixteen smaller stones. In order to turn the rock into smooth stones, he had to subject it to great heat and pressure. Our experience on earth is our refining process. As we overcome temptations and adversity, as we strive to live God’s commandments and serve our brothers and sisters, we begin to shape ourselves into smooth stones much like the stones the brother of Jared presented to the Lord, polished and shaped by mortality.
When the stones were “white and clear, even as transparent glass,” (Ether 3:1), the brother of Jared had done all he could do. But he needed the power of the Lord to make them glow.
So it is with us. All our best efforts, obedience, and endurance can do no more than shape us into smooth stones. We are only mortals, fallen man, and have no power to save or exalt ourselves. We need the quickening, light- and life-giving, refining power of Christ’s atonement to transform us.
When we acknowledge that we are nothing without the Savior, and when we are ready to yield to his touch, to his power, then we can become more than stones. We too can become vessels of light.