Driving home after dark this week, I pulled over to look at the planet Venus towering over a crescent moon. Jupiter shone brightly even higher in the sky. I set up my spotting scope and gazed at the moons of Jupiter. My mind expanded as my eyes soared through the heavens. As they did, the words of scripture whispered to my soul:
The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God…Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power (D&C 88:45,47).
We know that all “things which are in the heavens above…bear record of me” (Moses 6:63) and “all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44). But what do we do with that testimony? Perhaps it is something we haven’t appreciated, and as such, it may slip away. There are at least two ways this may be happening:
1) We are disconnected from the night sky. Do you know which planets are visible right now, or where they are located in the sky? Do you know the phase of the moon, or when it will rise or set? With our mostly indoor lifestyles, and our artificial lighting, we pay little attention to the nighttime sky, and the testimony it bears.
2) We are obscuring the sky. In what is surely a richly ironic phenomenon, the artificial lights of our cities are making the skies too light to show forth their splendor. In most cities you are lucky to see the brightest stars of the major constellations, and nothing more. Where most of us live it is impossible to see the grandeur of the Milky Way, known by our ancestors and traditional societies as a pathway across the heavens, or even a tree of life rising from the earth into the sky.
Perhaps, as part of a restoration of all things, we should be more actively seeking this testimony of the sky. We can overcome these two barriers to appreciating this testimony:
A) Get outside at night. Learn the constellations. Get out some binoculars or a telescope and explore the heavens with your family. You can use tools like Google Sky to learn more about the heavens. If you have an Android phone, you can install Google Sky Map, which allows you to point your phone at the sky and identify exactly what stars and planets you are looking at. Websites including Sky & Telescope can tell you what is happening in the sky each week, so you can better keep up with witness of the planets moving in their regular form. As with all testimonies, this one doesn’t come without some work on your part. But it is worth it to be able to testify that you regularly see God moving in his majesty and power!
B) Help protect our view of the sky. There are a growing number of organizations dedicated to protecting and preserving the night time sky. Check out the International Dark-Sky Association to find out more about how we are obscuring the night sky with our artificial lighting, and what we can do to reverse that trend.
As with many aspects of our testimony, our lifestyle and technologies can both help us draw nearer to the Lord, or stand as an obstacle in our way. While many of us are losing the testimony of the night, it is also easier than ever to learn about the enormity of creation. As we take the time to explore the skies, and work with others to preserve our view of the night sky, we open ourselves up to a deeper testimony and appreciation for our place in creation and our relationship to the Creator.