Today is a special day because it is the anniversary of the day when I became a grandmother more than twenty years ago. Today is also special because it is the Winter Solstice, or the shortest day of the year. The sun rose in my neighborhood at 10:12 A.M. this morning and set at 3:42 P.M. this afternoon, about five and a half hours of daylight. After living in Alaska for nearly fifty years, I have learned the importance of light – as have many other Alaskans.
Some years ago, the municipality of Anchorage asked its residents to put up Christmas lights in October and to leave them up until March. My daughter came to Alaska in February for a family funeral and remarked that she enjoyed seeing the Christmas lights as she ran around the neighborhood. I enjoy looking out my kitchen window, past my dark backyard, and see the lights on the trees of my neighbors.
I, along with many of my friends and neighbors, put up the Christmas tree around Thanksgiving. Some people put up their trees in October simply because they want more light in their home. I put up my tree a few days after Thanksgiving this year for the benefit of the lights even though I put no ornaments on it for another two weeks. In addition, I put a miniature Christmas tree in the bathroom just to see lights as I walk down the hall. I have another smaller tree in the dining room to light a dark corner.
Over the years, I learned interesting facts about how my body responds to the decreasing daylight in winter and the increasing light of summer. Around the beginning of March, I feel my body coming to life with more energy and desire to tackle many tasks. I compare the reactions in my body to how plants must feel when they start poking through the soil to grow again. This energetic feeling continues to grow as spring turns into summer.
As soon as we reach the longest day of the year and start losing daylight, I can feel the decreasing energy in my body. By fall, I start fighting the hibernation syndrome that seeks to take over my body. This syndrome makes me want to eat more food and to sleep longer hours. I fight against hibernation syndrome by staying busy and getting out of the house several days each week. When the sun starts coming back, I seek to exercise more and to be more social.
Elder Ted E. Brewerton of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke
about light and its effect on us. He said that there are two types of light – physical light and spiritual light.
Physical light, especially natural light, affects the moods of people. When summer’s light begins to fade, days grow shorter, and the winter season looms darkly ahead, natural light becomes a more precious commodity, especially to people who live in extreme northern climates. There, where darkness reigns for up to three months a year and then summer blooms into three months of constant daylight, moods swing with the seasons.
Light does have a profound effect on human mood and behavior. Mounting evidence indicates that people who are feeling a little down and need a lift can get it by going outside in daylight. Walking in the light is a natural mood booster. Many who simply walk for half an hour or more during the daylight hours receive a distinct benefit….
Scientists are not entirely certain which wavelengths cause light’s mood-boosting effects. Researchers believe that these effects are traceable to light taken in through the eyes and not through the skin.
A second medical use of light is light therapy for treating some cancers. Certain chemicals combined with light can destroy cancer cells. Certain chemicals combined with light can destroy cancer cells. Research is under way to identify the best source of light and to determine how to direct it to body areas….
Elder Brewer then switched from physical light to spiritual light. Spiritual light “comes form God and his gospel.” We can read in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 88, of this spiritual truth – “the light of truth.”
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….
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;
Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space –
The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:6-7, 11-13)
Elder Brewer explained that the “word light appears 535 times in the scriptures. He continued with his explanation about light.
Light has a relationship to the Son of God: “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:67) ….
Jesus Christ is the Light of the world…. [According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie] Our Lord is the Light of the world in at least three ways:
“1. Through the Light of Christ he governs and controls the universe and gives life to all that therein is.
“2. By this same immensity-filling light – and to certain faithful ones, by the power of the Holy Ghost! – he enlightens the mind and quickens the understanding.
“3. By his own upright, sinless, and perfect course, in [premortal life], in mortality, and in resurrected glory, he sets a perfect example and is able to say to all men: ‘Follow thou me.’” (2 Ne. 31:10.) (The Promised Messiah, p. 208).
Jesus Christ is the source of both physical light and spiritual light. The light in our lives comes from Jesus Christ, and His light helps us to be healthy both physically and spiritually. There is a reason why I feel like I am growing in the increasing light and hibernating in the decreasing light. The darkness of night is a time to rest our bodies and minds, while the darkness of winter gives plants a time of rest. However, all living things thrive with light.