The call to arise from the dust is a call to repentance. We should stand up when we fall. “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me” (Micah 7:8). This is one of my favorite scriptures. I love the determination and the faith. I can picture a person sitting, huddled and afraid – lost in the darkness but praying for the Lord to illuminate the way. Then a bright light shines in the darkness, dispelling the encroaching blackness. As the light shines, the person comprehends it and is comforted by its presence. She stands up, ready to continue on her journey, strengthened by the light of the Lord.
“Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations” (D&C; 115:5). Again the call to arise comes from the Lord. This time we are commanded to let our lights shine forth, like a lighthouse providing light to ships in stormy seas. Our lights can become standards for the nations. A standard has multiple meanings. One meaning is that of a guide, specifically a flag. In a military group the standard is the unit’s flag. The standard bearer is an important member of the unit (although, this was true more in the past than than currently). In a battle, troops rallied to the standard bearer who had the flag. He guided them to their destination. A standard can also be something against which other things are measured. For example, a particular set of expectations for performance or behavior can be a standard, or guide for other people. When we are commanded to arise and shine forth, we are called to be guides unto others; we receive a call to service and sacrifice and selflessness.
Elsewhere in the scriptures, arising from the dust is used to describe the resurrection: “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isaiah 26:19). We can arise from the dust of death – spiritual and physical – and awaken into a new life.
This theme of arising from the dust is important enough that the Book of Mormon opens and closes with it. To be precise, most of the references pleading with people to arise from the dust are found in the book of 2nd Nephi, which is not the first book in the Book of Mormon but it is very near the beginning. At the very end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni brings back the theme as he wraps up his writing. “Awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O Daughter of Zion” (Moroni 10:31). It’s interesting how often arising from the dust and putting on beautiful garments go together. We shouldn’t just clean off the dust – we need to put on beautiful and clean clothing. The beautiful clothes we should put on are temple clothes, which among other things represent purity and holiness.