I’m always on a quest to understand how things in nature are symbols of Jesus Christ. The Lord Himself told Adam, “All things are created and made to bear record of me” (Moses 6:63). I often try to ask myself, what does this part of creation teach me about the Savior? How is Christ like this aspect of the universe? I’ve been able to recognize some amazing spiritual lessons about Jesus through pondering how things found in nature are like Him. Obviously lambs are like Christ, and rocks, and trees, and even the fallen snow. But the most powerful symbol of Christ that I’ve come across in the universe, and by far my most favorite, is a star.
Stars are symbols of and “bear record” of the Savior—from how they’re born, to how they live, to how they die, and by the impact they leave on the universe. It’s no understatement to say that as we are who we are because of Christ, we are who we are because of the stars.
“And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you…”1 Nephi 17:13
After the beginning of the universe, the Big Bang, the only elements that existed were hydrogen and helium. And there was no light–it was dark. But that all changed around 100-300 million years after the Big Bang, when gravity began pulling hydrogen atoms together into large clouds, and then into very large balls, and then… stars were born. The first visible light in our universe came from the very first star. As a star, the Sun’s light heats our planet, feeds our plants, and sustains life. (1)
Just as the first object created in the universe was a star, Jesus was the Firstborn Son of God. Just as stars are the original source of natural, visible light, Christ is the Light of the world. He is the bright and morning star; the Sun of Righteousness. His sustaining love and grace keeps us alive and warms our souls.
“An artist’s impression of the environment in the early Universe after the first few trillion stars have formed, lived and died.” (2)
“My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”Ether 12:27
Now, what is it that makes stars so bright? It’s what’s going on inside of them. Stars make elements. They take common, light-weight, ordinary elements (like hydrogen) and turn them into heavier, bigger elements.
The cores of stars, where these bigger elements are forged, is constantly under immense pressure–imagine the weight of hundreds of Suns pressing down on a single point! It’s this intense gravity pressure that causes light elements to fuse into heavier ones.
To quote one of my all-time favorite apostles, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and women for the eternities.” Just as stars turn ordinary hydrogen into gold, the Savior turns ordinary people into gods. (3)
Just as stars undergo untold amounts of pressure to make the universe beautiful, Jesus endured immense pressure in the Garden of Gethsemane to pay the price for our sins. In fact, Gethsemane means “place of the olive press”, a place where olives were literally squashed by large, heavy stones to produce olive oil. Like stars, He had to experience great pressure to make us Kings and Queens, Priests and Priestesses (Revelation 1:6 JST). Like the core of a star undergoes incredible pressure for its entire life, He was weighed under the immense pressure of our sins, sickness, and sorrows (Alma 7:11-12). (4)
Diagram of the layers that are made in a star as it fuses lighter elements into heavier elements 
“The nitrogen in our DNA. The calcium in our teeth. The iron in our blood. The carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff.”Carl Sagan (6)
In turning hydrogen into bigger elements, they do something very essential–they make all the elements required for life. Stars make carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, chlorine, manganese, and iron–all of which are essential to sustain human life. You are made out of those elements, and therefore you could say that stars created you. Stars are creators. (7)
Just like stars created all the elements in your body, Jesus Christ created you. He is the Creator (Mosiah 3:8).
Periodic table showing the elements that are essential for human life. (8)
“I am the light and the life of the world.”3 Nephi 9:18
In addition to providing the building blocks of life, stars provide the sustaining power to keep life thriving. Most stars are likely surrounded by planets. These stars keep these planets in orbit, and keep any life on their surfaces alive and well as the ultimate energy sources. The Sun, as a star, provides food for plants, and ultimately food for us; as well as keeps us warm and cozy. Sunlight is healing and essential for our well-being. Starlight brings awe and wonder to our souls. I believe stargazing is healing too. (9)
Like stars are the center of systems full of planets, moons, asteroids, and comets, Jesus should be the center of our lives, our thoughts, our motives, and our actions. He warms us, feeds us, heals us. Like the Sun, He rises with healing in His wings (2 Nephi 25:13). Without Him, we wouldn’t be able to survive, nor would we even be here in the first place.
“Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?”Moses 1:3
Stars live for a very long time. The most massive stars live for a few million years. The Sun will live for around 10 billion years. The least massive stars can live for trillions of years. Compared to a human life, even the shortest-lived stars practically live an eternity.
Like the stars that live for what seems like forever, Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (2 Nephi 27:23). He is the Beginning and the End. He is from everlasting to everlasting. Endless is His name. And those who believe in Him shall never die, but have eternal life with Him (John 11:26). (see A Timeless God)
“Thou art angry, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies which thou hast bestowed upon them because of thy Son.”Alma 33:16
Although they are the benefactors of life in the universe, stars are also vicious, vengeful objects. With no protection, their radiation can kill you. They are so bright that, if close enough (like the Sun), they will damage your eyes. Stellar flares can easily eradicate a planet’s life forms with fire. Stars can even swallow entire planets, melting them into complete destruction. Supernovae can wipe out their own star systems and send harmful radiation to neighboring systems. If crossed, a star can be very deadly.
Just as there is a dangerous side to stars, there is one to Christ. No man can see his face and live (Exodus 33:20 JST). His judgments are just (Alma 12:15). His wrath for those who don’t understand his mercies can be deadly—not only physically, but spiritually too. At his coming, the living wicked will burn (1 Nephi 22:15) and the wicked dead will be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone (2 Nephi 9:16).
“An artist’s conception of SN2016aps, the most powerful supernova we have ever found.” Credit: M. Weiss (10)
“To him who bled on Calvary’s hill, And died that we might live.”“We’ll Sing All Hail to Jesus’ Name”, Hymn 182
If a star gets all the way to making iron, something big happens. It dies. Stars can’t fuse iron into anything heavier, and so once iron builds up in their cores, they collapse, die, and explode into incredibly bright supernovae, being shredded to pieces. But even at their deaths, stars aren’t done creating. The very act of supernova causes all the elements heavier than iron to form in the chaos. Some of these, such as cobalt, copper, zinc, selenium, molybdenum, and iodine are also essential for humans, and they only form at the death of a star. And it’s from the remains of these dead stars that new stars are born and planets are made. Not only are you made out of stardust, but a star had to die so that you could live.
Jesus also gave His life for you. This life is only possible because He died. Eternal life is only possible because He died. When He died, we are told there was great violence: earthquakes, storms, fire from heaven, volcanoes, etc (3 Nephi 8). Remember that stars die amidst extreme violence too. Christ, in His final hours of life was nailed to the cross. Those nails were probably made of iron. The very iron that caused a star to die was the same iron in the nails that pierced His hands and feet. Iron plays a role in the deaths of stars, and it played a role in the death of the Son of God. For Him, the iron nails marked the end of his life, like the iron built up in the core of a star marks the end of its life. (11)
And just like a star is torn to shreds to give life, the Savior was bruised, broken and torn for us, so that we may live (“Jesus of Nacareth, Sacior and King”, Hymn 181). I think of the sacramental bread, broken into pieces for us. Not only is that bread representative of the Savior (John 6:35), but that bread also contains pieces of broken, ancient stars.
Periodic table of elements adapted to show from where each element mainly comes. Most of them come from stars .
“Upon the cross our Savior died, but, dying brought new birth.”“Upon the Cross of Calvary,” Hymn 184
After a star has died, its remains enrich the universe with new and diverse elements. This material is later incorporated into new stars and into new planets. The dead star lives on in a new generation. The dead stars live on in us.
Just like new stars and planetary life comes from the demise of a star, Jesus rose from the dead. He overcame the grave and lived again and continues to live. In a way, He lives in us.
The Savior is called the Bright and Morning Star (Revelation 22:16), the Star out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17), and the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2). He is the Light of the World (John 8:12). A new star appeared at His birth (3 Nephi 1:21). Among the Nephites, there was a night with no darkness, which may have been caused by the supernova of a nearby dying star (Helaman 14:2-4; 3 Nephi 1:15-20). Like the stars that live for billions (or trillions) of years, He is unchanging (Mormon 9:9). At His Second Coming, He will come from the east, like the Sun does every morning (Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:26). He created the Sun and the earth (D&C 88:7-10). He had to die to give us life (1 John 5:11). That’s the only way it could be done. The Savior Himself told Moses, “All things were created to bear record of me” (Moses 6:63). Christ is a star, and the stars remind us of Him. (13)
The atheist Laurence Krauss once said, “Forget Jesus, the stars died so you could be born.” Of course, Mr. Krauss was right that stars died to make our births possible, but he was terribly wrong about Jesus. Because, like the stars that died violently to give us life, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, also died to give us life, and that more abundantly (John 10:10). As it is with stars, without the Savior, we would not be here. I don’t think a more beautiful and fitting symbol for Christ exists in the entire universe. (14)
So next time you’re outside at night and look up at the stars above, remember with reverence the Stars that gave their lives for you: The burning, giant-gas-ball ones, and the loving, Anointed, Redeemer One.
The coolest, most beautiful truth in science (in my opinion):
Sources and Notes
- Image found on Penn State University website: https://www.e-education.psu.edu/astro801/sites/www.e-education.psu.edu.astro801/files/image/massivestar_core_KL.jpg.
- “Staying Safe in the Sun | Health Benefits of Sun Exposure and How To Avoid Sun Damage”, The Gutsy Health Podcast, https://www.mygutsyhealth.com/podcast
- https://jamestabor.com/crucifixion-nails-our-latest-evidence/; https://www.allaboutjesuschrist.org/jesus-nails-faq.htm; https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1014&context=studiaantiqua; https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1985/04/the-purifying-power-of-gethsemane
- Johnson, Jennifer. “Where Your Elements Came From.” Science.NASA.gov. 24 October 2017. https://science.nasa.gov/where-your-elements-came.
- https://www.space.com/14036-christmas-star-bethlehem-comet-planet-theories.html; https://utahvalley360.com/2015/12/24/how-science-explains-the-star-of-bethlehem/; https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.org/knowhy/how-was-there-a-night-without-darkness; http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/58438-3-nephi-1-lights-in-the-sky/; https://www.reddit.com/r/exmormon/comments/1cdfrj/is_there_any_possible_way_that_3rd_nephi_115/
- Lawrence M. Krauss, A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing; https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1410.Lawrence_M_Krauss; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo