It took a few moments for my brain and emotions to catch up to one another. When they did I had to pull off the road quickly because the flood of tears that followed blinded everything but my gratitude and love for my Heavenly Father, of which I tearfully expressed without fear of who saw me.

A car is headed west on Interstate 40 at 65 miles per hour on cruise control. It begins to lean toward the pavement edge, only to be shaken when the tire first hits the rumble strip near the edge of the paved roadway. The driver is me. In the blink of an eye, a message was relayed to my mind … "You have fallen asleep at the wheel, headed off the road toward a concrete overpass, turn the wheel SLIGHTLY to the left."

It had been a rough few days at work, coupled with late night preparation for my calling in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I packed up my car and headed south toward Las Cruces, N.M., where I was to conduct several business meetings throughout the day which ended around 11 p.m. at night. I had not realized just how tired I was, but obviously my common sense defenses were down when the last meeting ended and I headed for my car.

Instead of following strong impressions to do otherwise, the fact that I had paid for a room in Albuquerque, N.M., and would lose my deposit, combined with a sleep-deprived brain, made sense of somehow driving the three hours to Albuquerque.

Trying to find a short cut to the freeway, I took a wrong turn and ended up on top of a mountain, where the stars were as close and sharp as I had ever seen them. The song "Amarillo by Morning" came to mind, as I tried to make sense of where I had strayed. I was alone, on top of a mountain. It was cold, and no signs pointing which way to go. So I prayed to Heavenly Father, asking for directions. This time, I listened for an impression. It was faint, probably because I had overridden the last one, but I followed what seemed like an impression, along with the trace remains of common sense, and turned around and headed back to find the turnoff I had missed.

Two hours later, I was back on the freeway to Albuquerque. Only three hours to go and to find my bed.

The sign said Albuquerque was 13 miles ahead. The sun was just peeking over the horizon in front of me, causing my eyes to get very heavy. Then I heard a sound much like one would make running the back of your hand across a ribbed metal washboard except this deafening sound with vibrating accompaniment was coming from my tires running across the ribbed cuts in the asphalt highway to alert drivers that they are off the road — and I was!

Light is said to travel at 186,000 miles per second, or 700 million miles per hour. The thought that came into my brain that very moment was faster. It contained a very calm, precise, visual explanation of what had happened: "You have fallen asleep; you are headed toward a concrete overpass; turn the wheel just slightly to the left." I did just that. The car returned to the road and never wavered from the 65 miles per hour cruise control setting.

It took a few moments for my brain and emotions to catch up to one another. When they did I had to pull off the road quickly because the flood of tears that followed blinded everything but my gratitude and love for my Heavenly Father, of which I tearfully expressed without fear of who saw me.

Who was my companion that night along the New Mexico freeway? Was it the Holy Ghost (see 1 Nephi 10:11, 17, 19, 22), the Spirit of God (see 1 Corinthians 3:16), the Light of Christ (see Doctrine and Covenants 88: 7, 11-12), my guardian angel (Doctrine and Covenants 132:16), or just my conscious being, that saved my life?

I was raised in another Christian faith. It was a Norman Rockwell picture of Christian goodness and intent. We dressed in our Sunday best. I often wore a white shirt, bow tie, shorts, socks and sandals. Mom and Dad drove my sister and I to church each Sunday. We attended as a family for a time, but ultimately it was just sis and I who attended regularly.

I passed the offerings plate, rang the welcome bell that sat atop the steeple of the church. I even lit the candles and put them out again at the end of the service. I knew right from wrong — mostly because my mother saw to it that if laws were broken, punishment would be sure and true. I didn't get much input from my parents about God's laws; only theirs.

But there was something deep inside my mind, which was often conflicted when given a choice of doing right or breaking a law. I would come to know of the Light of Christ (Doctrine and Covenants 88:7) which is given to all God's children at birth. This is "another" spirit. The "universal" spirit that we share in common with all of God's other children. This spirit represents "truth," inspiration to be good (Moroni 7:19), and a light that shines within all men and women from birth. It is God's gift to his children that even though a veil exists across our memory of a pre-existence, we were born with a goodness that reflects the intent of our Heavenly Father's greatest creation. Unfortunately, this light diminishes when we allow the natural man to possess our bodies and minds.

President Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, taught, "There is a universally diffused essence which is the light and the life of the world, 'which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,' which proceedeth forth from the presence of God throughout the immensity of space, the light and power of which God bestows in different degrees to 'them that ask him,' according to their faith and obedience

"To describe the light of Christ, one might compare it to the light of the sun. Sunlight is familiar to everyone; it is everywhere present and can be seen and can be felt. Life itself depends upon sunlight. The Light of Christ is like sunlight. It, too, is everywhere present and given to everyone equally.

"Regardless of whether this inner light, this knowledge of right and wrong, is called the Light of Christ, moral sense, or conscience, it can direct us to moderate our actions—unless, that is, we subdue it or silence it (President Boyd K. Packer, "The Light of Christ," Ensign, April 2005, 8–14).

A reference to the "Spirit of Christ" is often used when describing the enlightenment that guided the Founding Fathers to write the Constitution of the United States of America, the painter's work or sculptor's creation, the composer's hymn that inspires, even the general leading his troops against oppressive forces. "All things which are good cometh of God ..." (Moroni 7:12). This enlightenment, or Spirit of truth, existed before we were even born … and it will remain with us even after we lay our mortal bodies down (Doctrine and Covenants 93: 23, 29-30).

Nearing the end of his mission on earth, Jesus Christ spoke to his disciples about the need for his departure. But Christ's followers knew not what he meant with these dreaded words from one they had learned to love and rely upon. If they needed a question answered, they would approach the Master and ask. Jesus would often reply with a parable, not directly answering their questions, but proving again that earthly life is a "journey" of learning … not a "destination" of achievement.

Christ would send the "Comforter," to be their companion, to teach them the things they should know … to answer questions "in their heart and mind."

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you" (John 16:7).

The Holy Ghost spoken of anciently differs from the Light of Christ in that he is the third member of the Godhead, a personage of spirit, without a body of flesh and bones. He works through the Light of Christ to accomplish his works, It might be appropriate to refer to the "Light of the Holy Ghost" when referring to the good works being accomplished by the Holy Ghost, in conjunction with the Light of Christ.

The "gift" of the Holy Ghost is unique to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are baptized with the proper priesthood authority. This gift provides 24/7 protection, inspiration, guidance, revelation and companionship of the Holy Ghost. However, if the "light of Christ" ceases to shine in our life, by becoming more like the "natural man" described in the scriptures … then the effectiveness of the Holy Ghost is dimmed as well. He cannot or will not "override" the condition of the Light in your life, unless a "change" is made resulting in a course correction toward the Light.

I love the words of hymn No. 2, "The Spirit of God":

The spirit of God, like a fire is burning!

Visions and Blessings of old are returning.

The Lord is extending the Saints understanding.

The knowledge and power of God are expanding.

The veil or' the earth is beginning to burst.

That we through our faith … may begin to inherit the visions and blessings and glories of God.

What does this hymn teach us about the nature of the Spirit of God?

It can cause a physical reaction … we can "feel" its results.

1 Corinthians 2:9-10; (Visions and blessings are returning as God reveals them to us through the operations of the Spirit.)

The Lord uses the Spirit to extend our understanding into the "deep things of God"

1 Corinthians 2: 12-13 (The Lord expands our knowledge through the spirit)

1 Corinthians 2: 14 (The natural man does not have the Spirit of God)

The veil over the earth is about to burst? What does that signify? That with faith and the pure spirit of God, the veil is very thin … even penetrable at times. Through visions and blessings we can see the glories of God that the Natural Man will never see.

The light of Christ is also described in the scriptures as "the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Doctrine and Covenants 84:45), "the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18; see also Mosiah 25:24), "the Spirit of truth" (Doctrine and Covenants 93:26), "the light of truth" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:6), "the Spirit of God" (Doctrine and Covenants 46:17), and "the Holy Spirit" (Doctrine and Covenants 45:57). Some of these terms are also used to refer to the Holy Ghost.

Perhaps we can gain some insight to the workings of the spirit from the words of a favorite Mormon hymn:

Thy Spirit, Lord, has stirred our souls,

And by its inward shining glow

We see anew our sacred goals

And feel thy nearness here below.

No burning bush near Sinai

Could show thy presence, Lord, more nigh.

"Did not our hearts within us burn?"

We know the Spirit's fire is here.

It makes our souls for service yearn;

It makes the path of duty clear.

Lord, may it prompt us, day by day,

In all we do, in all we say.

Comment on this story

(Hymns, no. 204.)

When I think of the possible outcome of falling asleep on a New Mexico freeway, and of the very real spiritual experience that saved my life ... I don't dwell much on "who," or "how," or even "why." But I shall ever be grateful for the promptings of the Holy Spirit of Truth, the Light of Christ, the Spirit of God and the Holy Ghost.

Charles P. Malone lives in the Durango Ward, Gilbert Arizona Highland Stake.