As we prepare for this Holiday Season, we hope to find you well and excited for all that lays ahead in way of pomp and celebration. Also, that you’re thankful for your countless blessings and eager to share your unique bestowed gifts from above with others. This season as you look for the gratitude, the brightness of hope, and the light, which accompany these Holidays, we hope that you will keep the light of Christ foremost in your mind and close to your heart. You will find that this light is “the Spirit [which] giveth light to every man that cometh into the world”(D&C 84:46; emphasis added); “the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed” (D&C 88:13; see also John 1:4–9; D&C 84:45–47; D&C 88:6; D&C 93:9)
Having been given that light now brings the responsibility and challenge of keeping and strengthening it. In warning us of the battles we will face in keeping that light in mortality, Elder Quentin L. Cook stresses how important and fragile it is, and what our role is in restoring and brightening that light in others:
“Freedom and light have never been easy to attain or maintain. Since the War in Heaven, the forces of evil have used every means possible to destroy agency and extinguish light. The assault on moral principles and religious freedom has never been stronger.
“As Latter-day Saints, we need to do our best to preserve light and protect our families and communities from this assault on morality and religious freedom.…
“The moral foundation of our doctrine can be a beacon light to the world and can be a unifying force for both morality and faith in Jesus Christ.…
“If we both live and proclaim these principles, we will be following Jesus Christ, who is the true Light of the World. We can be a force for righteousness in preparing for the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”1
Along these same lines, Elder Ted E. Brewerton echoes Elder Cook’s thinking by saying, “The light of the gospel illuminates the path of life to eternity that otherwise would be dark and nondirecting. We can be like a mirror and direct light even into dark places. We are not the sources of light; nevertheless, through us light can be reflected to others.” (Elder Ted E. Brewerton, “Light”, Ensign, November 1991.)
In the most recent General Conference Women’s Session, President Uchtdorf gives assurance when our light seems dimmed, he conveys that we are not overlooked in our efforts, abandoned in our struggles and He is always with and loves us even in our darkest moments:
“The infinite and eternal creator of light and life knows you. He is mindful of you. Yes, God loves you this very day and always. He’s not waiting to love you until you have over come your weaknesses and bad habits. He loves you today with a full understanding of your struggles.
“He is aware that you reach up to Him in heart-felt and hopeful prayer. He knows of the times you have held onto the fading light and believed. Even in the mist of growing darkness, He knows of your sufferings. He knows of your remorse for the times you have fallen short or failed and still He loves you. And God knows of your successes, though they may seem small to you, He acknowledges and cherishes each one of them.
“He loves you for extending yourself to others. He loves you for reaching out and helping others bear their heavy burdens even when you are struggling with your own. He knows everything about you. He sees you clearly. He knows you as you really are and He loves you today and always.
“…He loves you not only for who you are this very day, but also for the person of glory and light you have the potential and the desire to become.”2
Mother Teresa profoundly reminds us of Our Heavenly Fathers love for and awareness of each one of us. She wisely states, “There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways” (Mother Teresa).
A BYU student, Carlie Palmer, spent this past summer in Romania undertaking an internship, splitting her time during the day between an orphanage and a children’s hospital caring for and comforting children who in most cases had been abandoned or taken away from their families for one reason or another. Her shared experience touched and taught me in a stirring way. The following, with her permission, is her final blog entry and testimony entitled “Let There Be Light”:
Let There Be Light
There is so much darkness in this world. So much. There are millions of hungry, suffering children. There are murders and kidnappings. There are beggars dotting the streets in cities around the world. There is abuse and violence. This is not an easy world to live in.
Over the last three months I have witnessed much of this darkness. I work in an orphanage that is home to over eighty children, though it was built for fifty. These eighty children have been abandoned or taken from their families because of neglect or abuse. In the afternoon we go to the hospital and care for more abandoned children. I have spent hours in the ICU with sick, wheezing infants who have oxygen masks strapped to their faces. I have held children who seemed close to death, their bodies tiny and weak. I have seen children and adults alike who are missing limbs and begging in the streets for food. Yes, there is plenty of darkness in this world. Enough to even get lost in.
Then how is it that I am happier now than I have been in a very long time? How is it possible that my heart feels so full of love and praise? I know of no other explanation than this: Because of the Savior, the world is also full of light.
I have honestly been completely puzzled by my happiness here in Romania. That sounds odd, I realize, but it is true. I expected to feel completely weighed down by the hardship that would surround me each day. I thought that my heart would be completely broken by what I would see and experience. I was wrong. Well, at least partially.
Many days I do feel the weight of the suffering that encircles me. My heart does ache for these people. I have felt deep anguish as I have come to love people who have so little and have watched as they suffer. Every time I go into the ICU at the hospital I am overwhelmed with a profound sorrow for the children there. I do experience the darkness. While I know that this is just a taste of the darkness that the children must have experienced, to me it is real and intense.
But there is something more powerful. In Genesis we read of the creation of the world.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light(Genesis 1:1–3).
I feel this same process happening inside of me every day. I step out of my communist bloc apartment building and enter the dark world. I go to the orphanage. I see hard things. I sit next to my sweet, paralyzed girl Adi and dream about the life she will never have. My heart fills with sorrow. And then, somehow, Christ enters my heart and says, “Let there be light.” And there is.
This happened to me at the hospital the other day. Again, I was in the ICU (which looks nothing like the ICUs that we are used to I might add). There is a tiny baby there with severe hydrocephalus. Because of his condition his head is large and misshapen. His giant head must weigh more than the rest of his body combined and then some. This sweet little boy does not move much and when he makes noise it is a quiet sort of whimper, as if he is too sick to even cry. A few days ago I went to check on him. I checked his diaper and it was dry. I could not pick him up because of the severity of his condition. I felt helpless. The few diapers that I left in his crib seemed a completely insignificant offering. I didn’t know what else to do so I laid my hand gently on his tummy and began to hum. I don’t know if he was even aware that I was there. I had a moment of complete despair. I knew this child was close to death but that, with the proper medical care, could probably be fine. I knew that he had been abandoned there and was now suffering without a mother or father by his side. I felt darkness weighing on my heart. But even there, God reached me. He said, “Let there be light,” and again, there was.
God whispered to my heart that He loved that little boy and that while his earthly family was not by his side, He was. I felt so much peace in knowing that someone cared, that someone understood the pain of this small child. I felt strongly that this boy would be taken care of. Someday, when he is with God, he will run and jump and play with the other children. Even is his life, the light will chase away the darkness.
So yes, our world is full of darkness. There will be times in our lives when that darkness seems to completely overwhelm us. But somehow, if we turn to Him, God will again say, “Let there be light.” And there will be.
There is a Chinese proverb that says, “Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
Every time we do a good deed, help someone in need, smile, love someone, share what we have, etc. we are adding to the light in the world. Focusing on the darkness will not make it go away. Lighting a candle will.
In John 14:18 Christ promises, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”
I testify that this promise is real. I have experienced His comfort and care. He has filled my darkest moments with light.
Over and over again.3
Inspiring me further on this theme, Elder David A. Bednar in his Mormon Message, “Patterns of Light”, expresses the following sentiments:
“If I had to use one word to describe light, I would use the word radiance. There’s a brilliance and a sense of direction that comes from light. If you are in a totally pitch dark room, and there’s the smallest element of light, then that light chases the darkness but the darkness can not overrule the light. So associated with light is a warmth, associated with darkness is a coolness that I think is very significant.
“The Light of Christ is what many people would call a conscience. But it’s more than a psychological effect that takes place within people. Someone can be riding on a bus, see someone in distress and feel a compassion and a desire to assist and serve this person. Many people would say, ‘Nah that’s just natural behavior’, but it’s more. It is the influence of God that pulls us, that influences us to be good and to do good. Every person ever born in history now and in the future is influenced by the Light of Christ for goodness. As we yield to that influence to do good and become good then the Light of Christ increases within us. As we disobey, light is decreased and can ultimately be diminished.”
That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light… receiveth more light and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day(Doctrine and Covenants 50:24).4
The following missionary accounts will accentuate how light can be spread and shared with others. Sister Heather Gross who has just finished her service in Italy shared this first short experience while still there:
Well this week started off well. We were walking down the street and some lady picked me up from behind and was hugging and kissing me. I was like, “che e, che e?”, which translates to mean, “who are you”? She wouldn’t put me down and said, “You are the missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ right?” I was like, “Yes that is us!” She said that she just arrived here from Africa and was wondering how she was going to find the church. She said that she was walking down the street a couple blocks behind us and saw our blonde hair and a light around us and just knew it was us, ‘the missionaries’. So she sprinted up to us and attacked us with hugs from behind. She was so excited that she started singing, “The Spirit of God like a Fire is Burning”, on the street, nice and loud. haha. We brought her to church with us that Sunday.6
Any of you who know Elder Xander Mofatt knows of his extraordinary talent with the organ and how he loves the choir. Elder Moffatt definitely got called to the perfect mission for him. In September of 2013, President Orgill of the Irvine Mission, felt “strongly prompted”, to organize a choir of missionaries to utilize their musical talents. Besides all of the other missionary responsibilities, Elder Moffatt is also a major part of this choir, playing the organ and occasionally conducting them. The Missionary Choir has performed in many Sacrament meetings, some firesides and interfaith events, with the Nashville Tribute Band, and even in the worship service of another faith. The success has been immeasurable and has had a family choose to be baptized because of a performance, with lots of others changing their view about the Church because of the Spirit it brings. Elder Moffatt relates the following experience he has had while engaged in his other missionary labors:
The best part of the last few weeks, and super powerful spiritual experiences, came from “Z”—a potential from last Sunday night. We stopped by his house on Friday and had a super cool lesson with him. He came out and couldn’t believe that we cared about him that much. His long time fiancée had dumped him, and life was not going well at all. He said that he had been considering “taking himself out”, and then we showed up. We just sat and listened, and helped him the best we could. He had been reading the Book of Mormon since Sunday, and didn’t really understand it but definitely understood and felt the power it had brought him. We watched the Mormon message “The Hope of God’s Light” and he couldn’t even believe how similar it was to his life. He kept saying, “How did you know?” We prayed with him and he loved it. We walked away thinking “did this just happen?”
The next day after dinner we felt like there was somewhere we needed to be, some appointment we had, but we couldn’t for the life of us remember. We drove around and ended up by his house, so we stopped by again! We had another great lesson, and helped him understand more about the Book of Mormon. He said that his ex had emailed him, and noticed a difference already in how he felt. He said, “things are still crazy and horrible but at least it’s headed up now and not down.” So he has already seen what the gospel can do for him, and the way it changes people’s lives. We are pretty excited to keep teaching him!
Since our first meeting, we have helped him cut waaay down on his drinking, and taught him a lot more. He loves and understands just about everything.… He is really excited to get baptized, as soon as he quits drinking!! He also came to church, and loved it all! He almost got up and bore his testimony at church, but he didn’t. He has such a light in his life now, and wants to stay here and join the Church, instead of going to Japan like he planned. So cool!7
Sister Karina Osgood serving in Peru gives another inspirational account of receiving the light of Christ.
The talk title, “Grateful in Any Circumstance” comes to mind when describing some of the events of this week. When you have no control. What do you have within your power? You have the power to be grateful.
On Thursday I got my wallet stolen, which had my driver’s license, my bankcard from home, 40 soles, and my temple recommend. While we were buying some things a man came up behind me and grabbed my wallet that I had placed on the counter for just a split second. There is not a very high chance, in Peru, of getting something like that back, especially when we have a rule that we can’t post a notice with the police. I prayed to ask for help in getting it back, so there is no headache for everyone involved back in the states. But overall I just had to be grateful that all that I lost could be replaced and that the circumstance in which I lost everything did not put me in danger. At least I didn’t lose my 8,000 some odd pictures! Also, the home address on my license wasn’t current, so the thief did me a favor.
This same day it hailed on us, but I just contently put on my raincoat and my comp and I ate some Oreos while we got attacked by hail. Sometimes we just have to laugh at bad luck. So, hail was just something for me to be happy about because I am getting hailed on at 14,000 feet. What an honor! My counsel, as learned from a year here and most especially at 14,000 feet with health challenges, occasional depression, and the fight to get motivated to face the elements and the altitude is to laugh, let it roll off you, and if you can’t control anything external, seek to change yourself.
My last story to conclude my week sums up the lesson of gratitude. We were at the Hermanas’ room the day after my wallet got stolen and I was recounting what had happened when all of a sudden one of the Hermanas revealed what she had in her hand. MY WALLET. She said that a non-member had found it on the road, looked inside it and saw that there was a temple recommend in it. He recognized the church logo in English and decided to give it to his member friend. His member friend, a ward member in another ward, gave it to the Hermanas in his ward. Everything was there, expect for the 40 soles. It was a miracle, and even though it is sad that someone stole my money, I just wish him well and even told my companion that I hope he buys 40 packets of Fochis (which are chocolate covered raisins that I like). God lives, and He knows what happens.
A scripture that I can share is Psalms 27:14 “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”8
Sister Holland Sorensen shares a story of being that light to someone in need:
I remember a quote from President Monson that goes something like, “The sweetest experience is to follow a prompting and later find out that you were an answer to someone else’s prayer”.
This week, I had the chance to be that answer. We were back from our Zone Training and were quickly trying to plan out how to fit everything else into our day. As we thought about it, we almost decided to not go to the further end of our area to teach some of our recent converts. Eventually, we realized we needed to go see them, even if that was the only lesson we taught that day. So we went. As we sat in this member’s home, Brother “M” (the father) walked in, sat down, and proceeded to excitedly tell us that his friend wanted to meet with the missionaries. He said that he had been praying that we would come tonight because he had no other contact with us. He excitedly said we could and should go see his friend as soon as possible! We set up an appointment that made him so pleased. We were so happy that we had followed the Spirit to go there that night. I know that Heavenly Father is guiding His missionaries with His Spirit! We just need to be worthy in following His promptings!9
Sister Rachel Croft, serving in Thailand tells of an experience where they were touched with the Light of Christ:
We had a cool little (or big) miracle yesterday. We were contacting at a market, and we met a Christian lady. After telling her about the restoration she said, “Where can I get this book?” We were close to our house and decided to run home and grab one (we didn’t have one on us. shame shame) When we went back to the market and called her we couldn’t find her. We were sad, but texted her and hoped she would call us when she saw our text. We were going to eat at a member’s house (celebrating 24 years since this amazing sister has been baptized) and we were a little bit late. As soon as I finished praying over the food, she called us back. And so we had to run back over to the market still with very empty stomachs. :) We were waiting for her for a bit so we just started talking to some other people. As soon as we did a woman ran up to us and said, “I’ve been looking for your church for a week. I’m really interested and I want to go.” It was such perfect timing and really was a miracle.
I am so grateful to be a missionary. It has its challenges for sure. There were moments this week when I felt very inadequate—we have weaknesses. But sometimes I like to think of it as proof that this is God’s work. It’s like the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. The fire was so hot it killed the men putting them in the fire. :) It had to be the hand of the Lord. That’s the miracle of missionary work. It’s not anything that we do. We simply have the chance to obey, to invite, and to help, to see the miracle of conversion take place through repentance and living the principles of the gospel. There couldn’t be anything better.10
I want to end this message with some closing remarks by President Uchtdorf from last years General Conference.
“I testify that this is true. If you seek God’s truth, that which now may appear dim, out of focus, and distant will gradually be revealed and clarified and become close to your heart by the light of God’s grace. Glorious spiritual vistas, unimaginable to the human eye, will be revealed to you.
“It is my testimony that this spiritual light is within the reach of every child of God. It will enlighten your mind and bring healing to your heart and joy to your days. My dear friends, please do not delay the moment to seek and strengthen your own personal testimony of God’s divine work, even the work of light and truth.
Your personal testimony of light and truth will not only bless you and your posterity here in mortality, but it will also accompany you throughout all eternity, among worlds without end. Of this I testify and leave you my blessing in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.11
Have a great Holiday Season and live close to the Light that it brings. From My family to you, we love and appreciate you and are grateful for the acquaintance we have with you. You are special and truly a gift to missionary work and service.