“Out of Obscurity and Out of Darkness”

Isaiah prophesied that God would do a marvelous work among His children in response to widespread hypocrisy and cynicism. An important element of that work would be a book which would enable people to overcome confusion and see clearly:

In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness.

2 Nephi 27:29, Isaiah 29:18

Nephi used similar language to describe the gathering of Israel:

[The Lord] will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.

1 Nephi 22:12, italics added

The Hebrew words ophel (אֹפֶל) and choshek (חשֶׁךְ) both mean “darkness.” Since both words appear in close proximity in the Isaiah passage quoted above, the King James translators chose to render the first word as “obscurity” and the second as “darkness.” Many other translations render these terms as “gloom” and “darkness.” For example, the New International Version says, “out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see” (Isaiah 29:18 on biblehub.com).

Darkness can symbolize ignorance: a lack of knowledge. It can also symbolize discouragement: a lack of hope.

When Lehi and his family arrived in the promised land, he pleaded with his two oldest sons to be more diligent in keeping the commandments of God. “Awake, my sons,” he said; “put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust” (2 Nephi 1:23, italics added).

Lehi wanted his sons to experience more light, to perceive things more accurately, and to act accordingly.

In the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord declares that He gave power to Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon. He then says that He gave Joseph and others power “to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30). I’ve always thought of that statement from an external perspective: the church would become more visible, more prominent, and perhaps even more accepted. It would become less “obscure” as more people learned about it. This interpretation, I think, is valid, as evidenced by the dramatic growth of the Church since the time this revelation was received in 1831.

However, in light of these other passages of scripture, today I’ve been thinking about this promise in a more personal way. God has given to the leaders of His church the power to enlighten and encourage us—to bring us out of obscurity and out of darkness. Consider the following recent statements by President Russell M. Nelson:

  • “We commend you and thank you for choosing to hear the word of the Lord during this time of turmoil by joining with us for general conference. The increasing darkness that accompanies tribulation makes the light of Jesus Christ shine ever brighter. Just think of the good each of us can do during this time of global upheaval” (“Hear Him,” General Conference, April 2020).
  • “I bless you to be filled with the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ. His peace is beyond all mortal understanding. I bless you with an increased desire and ability to obey the laws of God. I promise that as you do, you will be showered with blessings, including greater courage, increased personal revelation, sweeter harmony in your homes, and joy even amid uncertainty” (“A New Normal,” General Conference, October 2020).

Today, I will be grateful for the assurance that God will bring His people out of obscurity and out of darkness. I will be grateful that His church is more visible today than it has been in the past. I will also be grateful that church leaders have the power to enlighten me and to inspire me so that I can overcome the “gloom and darkness” in our world.

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