Light and Apostasy

David O. McKay

When I was investigating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age 17, my family, particularly my father, stood in violent opposition to me uniting with the “Mormons,” laying at my feet the most vitriolic and absurd allegations I had ever heard. They gave me—or I otherwise collected—a stack of anti-Mormon literature that was nearly two feet high. I read most of it and I am honestly glad I did at that time because it helped me see clear and unforgettable distinctions between light and darkness.

I could use neither logic nor reason to explain my new faith to my family and friends. They would not accept logic, reason, testimony, or faith when I tried to explain to them what I was experiencing. To them, I was deceived and deluded in the worst way. There was no court of appeal open to me, not as far as they were concerned. For a short time, I was thrown out of my house and, for quite sometime, legally disinherited.

All I knew was that before me was the most brilliant light I had ever seen and in that light I beheld a glorious lightness of being. I let the darkness fall behind me as I walked toward that light. Nothing else made sense to me then or now.

I have never turned back to drink that dark ink. I drank it once and it tasted like sewage. That was enough; I don’t ever need to drink it again. (By the way, I know what sewage tastes like from personal, accidental experience. That’s all I’ll say.)

I don’t denigrate what others hold as true or dear. I respect others’ choices and beliefs, even if those beliefs differ from or even trash my own. I am sad when I hear stories of those who vilify what I hold dear and turn from what they once held dear.

I don’t worry about such things, though. Not much. These things will get worked out in time.

I am thrilled to have opportunities to stand up for what I believe. The feelings and good name of honest people everywhere sometimes need defense, but the truth will vindicate itself in due time. The enemies of truth will be ashes under the soles of its feet (see Malachi 4:3).

Doubts appear to be solid walls. They are not solid. Even so, they often turn doubters away as if they were. Fears and doubts are normal. They are part of the game we call life. But what they represent is often not real or solid. They are mirages and illusions.

Please read this story from Piriko Valkama Petersen of Finland about David O. McKay. It is a story of moving from fear and doubt into the light. (Thanks to Larry Perkins, our Sunday School teacher today, for sharing it in class.)

In the summer of 1952 the young people from our branch were enjoying Girl Scout camp near Helsinki, Finland, and anticipating a visit from President David O. McKay. A beautiful grove surrounded by tall birch trees was chosen as the setting for welcoming the president, and since the summer had been lovely, we believed that this special day would be beautiful too.

As the time approached, and we talked of his visit, one of the girls suddenly asked, ‘What will happen to our testimonies if he does not act and look like a prophet?’ Little by little, doubts began to creep into our minds. The darkness of these doubts seemed to be reflected even in nature, as dark, heavy clouds gathered above our heads on the day of his coming and the rain came down in torrents. I remember sitting under a large tree with a friend, watching the rain beat down on the lake, and again and again my thoughts returned to the gnawing fear that the president might not meet our expectations. I knew he would not appear in white robes like the prophets of old we saw in pictures, but that he would be dressed like an ordinary man. So strongly did I fear losing my testimony that if I could, I would have run away. But that was not to be, I had been chosen to give the welcoming speech.

As we walked toward the grove, the rain let up, but the sky was so gray and the clouds so heavy it was almost dark. Our Scout uniforms were wet, and we were drained of enthusiasm. In silence we … waited. My place was in the middle of the line. I was supposed to take three steps forward, greet President McKay and his company, wish Sister McKay a happy birthday and give a flower to her.

Into this dark, damp setting drove a black car. And then, as President McKay stepped from the car, the sun broke through and suddenly the grove was a sea of light. The leaves and grass sparkled as the rays of sun hit the raindrops. We were stunned and momentarily blinded by this intense light.

I looked at the president but could not see him clearly. All I could see was his majestic silhouette against the sun, with the light against his beautiful white hair forming, it seemed, a shining halo around his head. We all gasped and stood in awed silence.

The time had come for me to take my three steps forward and welcome the president, but I could not move. I knew that if I took those three steps, he would immediately see the doubts and fears in my heart that had been tormenting me. Everyone waited, and I stood there helpless.

Finally we heard the mission president … prompting, ‘Sister Valkama, didn’t you have something to say to us?’ I forced myself to take three very small steps. The tears streamed down my face. . . .

I tried to speak. Confused and embarrassed, I stood there and wept quietly. Then I heard President McKay’s voice.

“Come here, my child.”

I went to him and he took both my hands in his and held them while I gave my greeting. I was aware of his golden, tanned skin and the warm light in his eyes. I felt as though it was as important for him to help me as it was for me to give my message. A feeling of complete peace flowed from his hands into me. My fear of him judging me, which I had felt only a moment earlier, left me and an overwhelming feeling of love had taken its place. I knew he was the prophet of God who had come not to judge us but to love us. (“When the Sun Broke Through,” Ensign, Aug. 1976, 37).

I’ll close with this thought: you can have great confidence in the light. It makes everything distinct—unless you are determined to believe otherwise.

I know, for example, that my mother loved me. She died over 30 years ago, but I know she loved me then and that, wherever she is, she loves me now. I always knew that. I know it with a very distinct knowing. No matter what anyone says or will say can dissuade me from that certainty. Would anyone in their right mind try to convince me otherwise? I wouldn’t listen to them if they tried.

Do you understand what I am saying? Some things are real and true. They are indisputably knowable, in spite of earth and hell.

Being grumpy for “righteousness” sake just doesn’t work for me. That’s oil and water. They just don’t mix.

Light is love. It is also truth. And it never changes. That is where you and I belong.

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