A Burning Bush and a Pillar of Light: God Remembers His Children

by Ugo A. Perego

Many years ago, when I was a young student at Brigham Young University, I had the unique opportunity to register for and attend the Summer Semester at the BYU Jerusalem Center. To this day, it has been one of the best and most intriguing experiences in my life and I still dream about being able to go back there some future day. Besides the incredible instructors that were able to open my eyes and my heart to the world of the Old and New Testaments and an atmosphere of learning that has been hard to match elsewhere, one of the highlights of being in the Holy Land to study the Bible were the many trips we were able to make to the various places mentioned in the scriptures. It was as if time and space disappeared, and I was catapulted right in to the pages of the biblical accounts. One such trip was at Mount Sinai. When we arrived, we were told that we were going to sleep only a couple of hours and then we were to climb the mountain so that we would be on the top of it shortly before sunrise. It was a spectacular sight and truly a sacred moment as I pondered the meaning of that place in the history of humankind. However, that was just half of the Sinai experience. From there, we walked down the other side of the mountain to the Monastery of Saint Catherine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site sacred to Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. In the court of the monastery, a small plant had a sign with “The Burning Bush” written in reminiscence of Moses’ calling to prophethood somewhere not far from where I was standing.


The story of Moses, from Charlton Heston’s “The Ten Commandments” to DreamWorks’ “The Prince of Egypt” is a saga that is just as familiar as it is fascinating to both young and old. He was rescued as a baby by Pharaoh’s daughter to rise as one of Egypt’s most authoritative figures, then called as a prophet and lawgiver to eventually become the great deliverer and guide for his people through the wilderness.

Likewise, the child Jesus was miraculously rescued from Herod’s madness when he ordered the massacre of the innocents (Matthew 2:16-18), grew up “in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52) to teach with greater authority than the learned men of His days. He gave the new law and, when His time came, through His atoning sacrifice, He delivered humankind from death. To the Savior, the Father gave the power to crush the serpent’s head and to Moses the power to transform his rod into a snake he could subjugate.

Moses, through the Lord, was able to provide water, manna and, by raising the brass serpent, a cure from inevitable death for his people. The mortal Christ taught that He was the Living Water, the Bread of Life, and was lifted on the cross to stop the sting of mortal and spiritual demise. And the list goes on and on. Truly Moses, through a life of dedicated service to the cause of the great Jehovah, not only helped his contemporaries, but blessed the lives of generations to come with a life, character, and example that emulated the Savior centuries before His mortal ministry.


The Book of Genesis, which is also attributed to Moses, starts with God’s account of the creation. The story of Adam and Eve in the garden, where they knew no joy and no pain, marks the beginning of our Father in Heaven’s interaction with His earthly children, who were bound to clay tabernacles and prisoners to their own innocence. In other words, they lived day by day without progressing toward their divine destiny. They were left alone with some basic counsel and the promise that the Lord will not forget about them but return someday with further instructions. Temptations came, they entered into a fallen state, God remembered them, gave them commandments, covenanted with them, and sent them in the lone and dreary world. At the end of their mortal journey, if they would remain faithful in keeping God’s statutes and through the infinite grace of a loving and selfless Savior, they were assured entrance in His kingdom and to all that He has.

A book later, rightly called “Exodus” (=departure), we have God’s children enslaved in Egypt, a world where material and spiritual progress was not an option. They have been in that state for so long by the time readers learn about them that they are numbed about the reality they were living in. Through a holy man, the Lord provided a way out, a true spiritual earthquake that woke up their souls and reminded them of who they were, who they must become, and where they needed to go. Moses was the conduit between heaven and earth to renew and restore God’s sacred covenants with His people. Furthermore, he gave them commandments to follow in order to be worthy of all the heavenly blessings and be guided through the wilderness into a Promised Land, where they would have an abundance and enjoy freedom.

A couple millennia later, in the dispensation of the fullness of times, we found ourselves in a world compared to the telestial kingdom: our very own lone and dreary world, our own wilderness. We are born slaves of sin, corruption, appetites, and mortality into a spiritual Egypt. A world filled with temptations where Satan is no longer the provider of destruction but has become the master of distraction. Where our spirits are easily numbed by hours spent being busy doing anything and everything, but where productivity, especially spiritual productivity, becomes of secondary importance and it is often ignored.

Thankfully, the Lord has remembered His children again. He came back to earth through what could be compared to a second condescension event. In the likeness of a man, the Father and the Son appeared to young Joseph Smith in the sacred grove, this time not in the form of a burning bush, but as a pillar of light (Joseph Smith-History 1:16). Commandments and covenants were restored, priesthood keys were given and so instructions to build holy sanctuaries where we could be reminded of the purpose of our mortal journey and our divine destiny. In these temples, we start the eternal walk with Adam and Eve, we leave the garden together and, at every successive passage, we move closer to the Lord. We are prompted to make covenants that, through proxy ordinances, we can revisit over and over again. When we leave the temple, we go back into the lone and dreary world, charged and recharged, so that day after day we can obtain a more perfect understanding of who we are and where we are heading. And as in the temple the ceremonial process of the endowment culminates in the Celestial Room, so we are promised that at the end of mortality, we are given the opportunity to graduate into God’s eternal kingdom, to receive all that He has, and to become all that He is.


Exodus chapter 3 is where we learn about Moses’ experience with the burning bush and where the Lord introduces Himself as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The theophany that Moses is witnessing should not require any additional celestial evidence or titles to convince him of the nature of the Being with whom he is conversing. In fact, Moses himself “hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God” (v.6). This is the first encounter between the soon-to-be called Israelite prophet and his Maker. However, a few verses later, the Lord feels it is imperative for Moses to know another of His titles and the name He should be known among His people, “Say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (v.14).

During His mortal ministry, the Savior was challenged by a group of Jews who were trying to find something of which they may accuse Him. These events are recorded in the eighth chapter of John. Toward the end of these exchanges, when it seemed evident that there was no point to continue such conversation due to the contentious tone of His accusers, Jesus solemnly proclaimed that “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). This is an important link between the Jehovah of the Old Testament introducing Himself as the great I AM to Moses, and the Messiah of the New Testament who was foretold by all the ancient prophets would come to deliver His people from captivity. I am not a Bible scholar. I know just enough biblical Hebrew to create scriptural interpretative damage in Sunday School settings. However, this specific title the Lord chose for Himself has a special meaning to me. In the lone and dreary world I found myself in, notwithstanding family members and good friends that provide support on a day to day basis, at times I still find myself discouraged, disappointed, hurt, and … lonely. However, as a small but steady light in the dark, the sound of His name echoes in my thoughts: “I AM”, as in “I am here for you. You are not alone. Everything will be fine.” Just as the Lord was providing assurance to Moses that the task He was bestowing upon him was going to be bearable, we too should know that no matter what weaknesses, mistakes, faults, injustices, and physical and emotional pains, the Lord is there for us and we are never truly alone. We are all entitled to our own spiritual burning bush and pillar of light witness.

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Dr. Ugo A. Perego is a native of Italy. He received Bachelor and Master degrees in Health Sciences from Brigham Young University. In 1999, he was asked to join molecular biologist Scott Woodward in what later became the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF): a non-profit research organization based in Salt Lake City, Utah with the aim to build the largest and most comprehensive database of correlated genealogical and genetic data. At SMGF, Dr. Perego coordinated the worldwide effort to gather genetic specimens and corresponding family trees, which resulted in a database of more than 110,000 samples from more than 100 countries. The SMGF massive collection of genetic genealogy data and samples was acquired in 2012 by Ancestry.com and it became one of their reference databases. During his time at SMGF, Dr. Perego’s responsibilities also included establishing international collaboration with institutions sharing similar interests, promoting and educating about the new and emerging field of genetic genealogy through lectures at national and international conferences, as well as being a Senior Researcher with the role to use data gathered from SMGF in several scientific, peer-reviewed publications (see full list at National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=ugo+perego). In 2010, Dr. Perego received a doctoral degree in Human Genetics and Biomolecular Sciences from the University of Pavia, Italy, under the mentorship of Professor Antonio Torroni, one of the world leading experts in population genetics. At Professor Torroni’s lab, Dr. Perego began a fruitful collaboration with Professor Alessandro Achilli focusing on the application of uniparental markers (Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA) and autosomal DNA, both from modern and ancient origins, for population and forensic investigations. Dr. Perego is still a Visiting Scientist at the University of Pavia.

In 2012, Dr. Perego started his own consultation services with the label The Genetic Genealogy Consultant (http://www.geneticgenealogyconsultant.com/). With this new role, he offers his services in assisting individuals with genetic genealogy, paternity, historical, and forensic cases. Dr. Perego is currently a full time instructor at the Southeastern Community College in Iowa, as well as an adjunct faculty for the Salt Lake Community College in Utah and for the University of New Haven in Connecticut.

With his family, he lives in Nauvoo, Illinois.

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