Let Your Light so Shine Before Men
Was that choir not phenomenal? Thank you so much for blessing us, and just feel the whole air with the Spirit of the Lord. I'm grateful to have my counselors here today, it is always glad to have the sustaining and love of your counselors, and also I'm equally blessed because I get to have my Administrator Manager, Kristen Olson who is also here with us today which I'm so grateful. My dear friends, what a joy it is to be with you in this historic building, this is such a beautiful Spring day! And you are a wonderful sight! It is a delight to be with President and Sister Kusch. You are so blessed to have them. He is a remarkable president. Also on the stand, I’d like to recognize Brother Craig Bell, he’s also a stake president, so you can could him president Bell, but in this case he is Brother Bell. He is a dear friend from college, and he and his wife Sue are treasured friends, so we really do appreciate his friendship.
I realize that by now the first day of class is a distant memory and mid-terms are closer than you would like. I’m impressed that you would put down your books and take time to refuel your spiritual light. Thank you for choosing to be here.
I recently toured your campus. I was in awe at the peace and spirit of light that was in your building. It was pointed out to me by our tour guide that the front of all of the classrooms face east towards the Salt Lake Temple. I too enjoy the view of the temple from my office. So I took a picture for you today.
President Boyd K. Packer taught, “At the temple the dust of distraction seems to settle out, the fog and the haze seem to lift, and we can ‘see’ things that we were not able to see before and find a way through our troubles that we had not previously known” (“The Holy Temple,” Ensign, Feb. 1995).
Have you recognized this principle outlined by President Packer in your life?
I have loved to SEE my life through the light lens of the temple. May we seek to see. Go to the temple.
There is a familiar scripture that many of you have probably memorized. It’s in Matthew 5:16 and it says: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” I would like you to keep this scripture in mind as I tell you a story from my youth.
When I was 10 years old, my father, who was serving as stake president, was responsible for the Idaho Falls Pioneer Day Celebration. Now this was a major event for our little town, it included a parade, and rodeo, and musical production. Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had accepted the invitation to be the master of ceremonies for this exciting weekend.
Elder Perry and his family traveled to Idaho Falls and he stayed in our home. As you can imagine, I was thrilled! In my small, 10-year-old eyes, this 6’4” man of God seemed larger than life. Not only was he tall in stature, but he emanated spirit and light.
At the close of a full day of events, our family and the Perry’s sat down in our living room to enjoy my mother’s delicious apple pie while we listened to Elder Perry’s captivating stories about saints he had visited all over the world¾from Brazil to Boston and from India to Indianapolis, each story was spell binding for this 10-year-old girl.
However, as the evening wore on and it was getting late, my mother called me to the kitchen. She asked a simple question: “Bonnie, did you feed the chickens?”
My heart fell. It was a dark, a moonless night and I was afraid of the dark. Inside was an actual Apostle of the Lord telling stories. It was easy to decide where I would rather be! But I had not fed the chickens.
I suggested that the chickens could fast until morning. My mother said no.
I invited my older brother to join me. He said no.
Just then Elder Perry entered the kitchen with his booming, enthusiastic voice and asked, “Did I hear someone needs to feed the chickens? Can my son and I join you in feeding the chickens?”
Now did I say that feeding the chickens was a chore? Suddenly it was a huge blessing. I immediately disinvited my older brother (who had a miraculous change of heart about coming along) and ran to get our large yellow flashlight.
I was thrilled to have such an honored helper accompany me to feed the chickens. I led out, skipping over the well-worn path to the chicken coop, flashlight in hand. We crossed the corn patch and passed through the wheat field. I was in heaven.
When we reached the small irrigation ditch that crossed the path, I instinctively jumped over it as I did every night. Elder Perry, however, had been struggling to keep up on a dark and unknown path all while trying to keep his eye on my dancing light. It was nearly impossible for him to see where he was stepping. Elder Perry did not notice the difference between a young girl skipping down the path and that same girl jumping over a ditch. Unknowing, he stepped right into the water, and as he did, he let out a loud groan. I turned in horror to see my new friend remove his foot from the ditch and begin to shake the water off his large leather shoe.
After completing our task of feeding the chickens and before heading back on the dark path, Elder Perry requested; “I need to see the path. I need the light to shine where I am walking.” I had light and I was letting it shine brother and sisters, but I had not shined it on the path so that Elder Perry could see.
Now let’s read again in Matthew: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” What lessons do we learn from my late-night journey to feed the chickens?
- We need a light to make our way through the darkness – Do we recognize the true source of light?
- Our light is needed to illuminate the way for others – Do we see the needs of those around us and act to help?
- And if they join us on our journey (which is always more joyful) – Do we point the path that leads to Christ?
Let’s talk about each one of these –
A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
I was afraid of the dark and according to Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, my fear is not completely unfounded. “Darkness reduces our ability to see. It dims our vision of that which was at one time plain and clear. When we are in darkness, we are more likely to make poor choices because we cannot see dangers in our path. When we are in darkness, we are more likely to lose hope because we cannot see the peace and joy that await us if we just keep pressing forward” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Bearers of Heavenly Light” October 2017).
If this devotional was held after sunset and we suddenly lost power, and all of these windows went dark, where would you turn for light? If you have a light source with you – hold it up. [Hold up cell phone] Okay, thank you for your visual aids, now look around. The truth is, these little devices in our hands are where most people turn to gain their light.
In fact as you well know, new testament prophets have warned of our time:
- In Ephesians 2:2 we read the caution from the apostle Paul: the people “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air.” Now this phrase may have meant little to them – but today it is easy to imagine what may be meant by the “prince of the power of the air.”
- In Acts 17:21 we read that – “the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” Who ever could have imagined hours spent in “nothing” but watching and sharing silly YouTube videos?
- I don’t mean to imply that all that comes from our phones and computers is darkness. On my device, I have many wonderful things, I’ve got my scriptures, I got music that is inspirational. But technology can definitely be a distraction. The social noise can absorb your attention and engross the energies of your time and soul. I think this short video shared on the LDS Youth Instagram account captures the concern that we may have.
When the Shepperd calls, do we not hold hope that we are listening and that we can see. The question is, do we recognize the true source of light? The Savior was clear when He declared, “I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world” (Ether 4:12).
There is research, and of course gospel principles, which indicate that the happiest individuals are those who engage socially and spiritually in ways which positively build others while also building themselves.
This technological world tends to decrease face to face social interaction and fosters isolation. And it is one of the leading causes of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
In this recent general conference, our beloved Prophet called on us to increase our ability, our spiritual ability to receive revelation. “My brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation [to receive light]. . . . Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Spirit and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.” “Oh there is so much more that our Father in Heaven wants you to know. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, ‘To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe!’” (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives, April 2018).
So what is the “spiritual work” that brings light and revelation? In Psalms 119 we read, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and, a light unto my path” (Psalms 119:105). President Uchtdorf taught: “Every time you turn your hearts to God in humble prayer, you experience His light. Every time you seek His word and will in the scriptures, the light grows in brightness. Every time you notice someone in need and sacrifice your own comfort to reach out in love, the light expands and swells. Every time you reject temptation and choose purity, every time you seek or extend forgiveness, every time you courageously testify of truth, the light chases away darkness and attracts others who are also seeking light and truth” (“Bearers of Heavenly Light” Dieter F. Uchtdorf, October 2017).
Don’t be distracted from the true Source of Light and if you feel you are in shadow or even in darkness, don’t remain there. I invite you to increase your light – or more accurately, your ability to shine and share the Savior’s light!
Now let’s talk about the next principle: where to shine our light so we don’t leave those around us in a proverbial (or sometimes literal) irrigation ditch.
SHINE YOUR LIGHT THAT THEY MAY SEE
In 3 Nephi 18:16, the Savior said, “Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you.” What example did He set? What did He teach us about shining a light into the lives of others?
Now, as we know the Savior was a perfect teacher, and He gave us many examples. But as we go over just a few of his examples, I want you to choose maybe one or two that you can act on today.
- Feed the hungry
- Lift those who suffer
- Cherish His little ones
- Invite growth
- Honor parents
- Seek to understand
- Counsel together
- Ask for help
- Serve with priesthood power
- See potential
- Acknowledge pain
- Go to those in need
- Give comfort
- Gather together
- Give new life
- Involve and prepare others
- Walk with
- Instill confidence
- Recognize the contributions of others
- Defend truth
- Mourn with
- Seek those who are lost
- Give new sight
- Calm the storms
- Sustain those who hold priesthood keys
- Show patience
- Make and keep covenants
- Encourage love
- Tend to needs
- Offer hope
Our Savior “went about doing good” (Act 10:38), we can do this. For some of us, this capacity to notice others may be challenging or new. For those who may feel this apprehension or frustration, remember this is a learned skill-an acquired attribute. The Savior set a perfect example for us to follow, but we must practice if we wish to become better at seeing the needs of those around us. It may not come easily, but it is something we can learn.
In the Bible, we recognize that even the Savior’s disciples needed to improve their skills of recognizing the needs of others. Let’s look at an example of Christ’s compassion and the tutoring of His disciples. In Matthew 14, Jesus received the news that his dear cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded.
In verse 12 we read, “And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.”
What a heartbreaking situation! This is the cousin that had baptized him. Jesus loved him. Can you even imagine the heartache, the devastation, and anguish? What would you do if you received such news? Personally, I probably would cry and want to spend time alone.
Well Verses 13 and 14 tell us “When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: [He went to be alone] and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. And Jesus went forth and saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.”
What remarkable love! These people probably had no idea that the Savior was aching and grieving over the death of a beloved cousin, but he did not hesitate to minister to their needs. He let His light shine outwardly, even through a heart-wrenching trial.
Let’s now transition to the disciples. What was their reaction to the people’s needs?
In verse 15: “And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves [food].”
The disciples here display the unfortunate common reaction of many of us when we see a need. They fell into the common traps that we all use to justify our inaction; they call out three reasons they could not shine a light on the path of the multitude.
Okay, now let’s read the verse again:
- “And when it was evening” It has been a long day, can you imagine for these disciples? And they too were very tired.
- “His disciples came to him saying,
- “This is a desert place” – in other words, this is not the right place to minister.
- “The time is now past” – in other words, it is not a good time to minister.
- “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages” – in other words, it is someone else’s problem.
It is not the right place. It is not a good time. It is someone else’s problem. Fortunately, the Savior did not allow these common traps to pull his focus from the people that needed His help.
In verse 16 begins the rest of the story: “But Jesus said unto them, they need not depart; give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me. He…took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and brake and gave the loaves to the disciples and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat and were filled” (Matthew 14:16-20).
President Spencer W. Kimball taught: The Savior put Himself and His own needs second and ministered to others beyond the call of duty, tirelessly, lovingly, effectively” (“Jesus: The Perfect Leader,” Ensign, Aug. 1979).
It is our responsibility to strive to follow the Savior’s example by setting aside our own needs and helping others through service and love. With the help of the Spirit, the personal revelation President Nelson invited us to cultivate, and with practice, we will see needs everywhere. Just the invitation to minister in any way we see seems to have given us all “new eyes.”
I love this simple verse in Jude 1:22. “And of some have compassion making a difference.” You can and will make a difference as you follow our Savior’s example and “shine your light before men that they may see.” But what will they see? They may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.
THEY MAY SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS, AND GLORIFY YOUR FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN
My good work so eagerly displayed to Elder Perry was to feed the chickens. And I’m not certain if there was any glory to be found in my example. As we increase our ability to shine the Light and open our eyes to the needs of those around us, what path are we illuminating?
Let me share a few examples:
It was just another day heading to work for Guilherme, a 17-year-old young brazilian from Curitiba Brazil. Now, how many of you are from Brazil or have served in Brazil? Well as you know, he was fortunate enough to get a seat on the bus – which is rare. As usual the bus filled up fast and there was standing room only. A woman in her 40’s entered the bus and Guilherme felt impressed to give her his seat. As he offered his seat, he set off a chain of events. She asked, “Why you would give me your seat?” He responded, “I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints and thought you might want a seat.” The conversation continued, “What kind of church teaches youth to be so kind? I would like to visit your church.” Guilherme gave her the address of his meetinghouse and did not think any more about the exchange. Sunday rolled around and the woman from the bus walked through the door of the Church - much to the surprise of Guilherme. He introduced her to the missionaries and a few months later she was baptized.
Sometimes we wear a missionary badge or a bright yellow “Helping Hands” t-shirt when we do a good deed – but in our daily interactions do we have the courage of Guilherme to not only “take our Savior’s name upon us,” as we promise in the sacrament, but to share it out loud?
Another example: my daughter, Heather, first semester of college was an eye-opening experience. Grades in high school seemed to come easy as she graduated with a 4.0. She was used to getting A’s. She found a much more competitive academic environment in college. After her first chemistry test she got a solid C. Yes, a C. She called me on the phone with tears flowing, “It is over. I will never get into the nursing program!” She was certain all was lost.
I was in Brazil and she was in Utah – and as a mother I felt helpless. Nolan, her brother, got a similar call. What did he do? He bought a pizza, went over to her home, and gave her a priesthood blessing. Now the pizza was tasty, but the blessing gave her peace and clarity on the path she could not see.
A 40-year-old man who we’ll call John, related the story of how he was introduced to the Church. He was very involved with internet gaming where players compete often with unknown players worldwide. Once as a prelude to the game, he shared that he was feeling depressed and going through a very hard time. One of the players wrote back to the effect, “You ought to go to a Mormon church. It will make you feel happy.” He responded vaguely, “OK”, and got on with the game.
Afterward he was aware and frustrated that, in a sense, he accidentally agreed to go to a church, the Mormon church no less, and he wondered how “I could keep faith with the other players.” He knew of a nearby LDS chapel, so he found out the meeting times, and purposely went late so he could quickly just walk in and walk out without being noticed. Thankfully John was instantly welcomed by someone in the foyer, he felt the Spirit, began seeking the Savior, he read the Book of Mormon and he was baptized and so was his daughter.
Who was the person over the internet that shined his light on John’s path so that he could see? It was a 12-year-old boy, a deacon. This young man and his family who lived in Utah later hosted John and his daughter from Boston where they came to perform baptisms for the dead in the Salt Lake City Temple. John’s daughter is serving a mission in Gilbert Arizona.
Let your light so shine before men that they may SEE! They may see peace, comfort, answers to prayers that come when we heed the call to follow the Savior.
We can -in fact we need to become an ever-brighter conduit of our Savior’s Light. And we need to shine that light so those around us may clearly see the path that leads to Christ – the path that will lead them home to our Heavenly Father! “The most effective way to share the gospel is to live it. When we live like disciples of Christ should live, when we aren’t just good but happy to be good, others will be drawn to us” (“Stand Tall and Stand Together, Sheri L. Dew, October 2000) – they will be drawn to the true and everlasting light of our Savior.
So I just want you to know that we can and in fact, we need to become even a brighter conduit to the Savior’s light. Can you do this? Can you be part of this great opportunity that the prophet gave us to minister, to shine our light? And we need to shine the light that those around us may clearly see the path that leads to Christ, the path that will lead them home to our Heavenly Father. The most effective way to share the Gospel is to live it, when we live like a disciple of Christ should live. When we aren’t just good, but happy to be good, others will be drawn to us, the will be drawn to the true and everlasting light of the Savior.
Brothers and sisters, I testify that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the light. He is the light that we must hold up. “He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come” (“The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” Liahona and Ensign, Apr. 2000, 2–3). I know as we seek to increase our spiritual receptivity, reach out to others, and link our arms together and walk the path of discipleship, we personally are entitled to the very light to guide, and strengthen and empower us through this mortal journey day by day. I live you with my love an my testimony that Jesus is the Christ. And I pray that we all have the courage to not only hold up our light, but shine it on the path that men may see. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.