Several years ago, my brother and I entered a cave with the help of a guide. We followed him down the path of a natural tunnel deep into the earth. The air grew cool, then cold, as we descended. We could hear no sound but our breathing and the echo of our footsteps on the cold stone floor of the cave. The tunnel led us down to a large cavern with a ceiling that arched high above us. After we marveled for a few minutes at this huge cavern deep in the earth, the guide warned us to stand still because he was going to turn out the lights. And then he turned out the lights.
The darkness was thick and complete. It was unlike anything I had experienced before. There was absolutely no light. As we stood in complete darkness, I heard the voice of the guide echo off the stone: “Can you even see your hands?” I held my hand up to my face and even touched my nose, and I could see nothing. I told him so. He commented that complete darkness is the absence of any light—and that is not pleasant. He explained as we stood in that thick darkness that if we were to remain in the cavern without light we would become disoriented and lose all sense of direction. He added that as a result of such complete darkness, we would lose our sense of balance and find it hard to stand upright or even walk without stumbling and falling down. After waiting another moment, he turned on the light. I was more grateful for light at that moment that I had ever been before!
I find it sad that through human history, civilization after civilization has moved from light to dark. Some moved into such complete darkness that they called good evil, and evil good, and ultimately disintegrated as a society. Today, we see many people of the world who are disoriented by the growing, thick darkness of immorality, dishonesty, and selfishness. They are struggling, stumbling, falling because they do not know who they are, why they are here, and where they are going after this life. They need light!
The Savior is “The light and life of the world; a light which shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” (D&C 39:2) Our great Light commands each of us : “Therefore hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up---that which ye have seen me do. Behold, ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed. And ye see that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me, that ye might feel and see; even so shall ye do unto the world; and whosoever breaketh this commandment suffereth himself to be led into temptation.” (3 Nephi 18:24-25)
Being a light is simple—not always easy—but it is simple: we are to do what He did, what He would do in our circumstance. Remember that we are invited to live the principle of “one take one.” Help one other person. Take someone with you to Church. Take someone with you to read the Book of Mormon. Take someone with you to have a Family Home Evening. Take a name with you to the Temple. Take a friend with you to the temple. Look for someone in need and serve that person. Help someone get a job. Help someone keep a commandment of God. Lift the burdens of someone in need.
If we see someone who is without the gospel, invite him to come and to see and feel for himself or herself. Or, give her a copy of the Book of Mormon and ask him or her to read it—or even read it with them. We can serve someone in spiritual or temporal need, bringing food or a welcoming hand and a smile. In this way, we will be a light.
This is how President Monson lived his life. Many years ago, I had an assignment with him. As part of the assignment, we were to be in a four-hour training meeting on a Saturday afternoon. However, he felt the prompting of the Holy Ghost to visit some people with great needs in order to lift their spirits and help them to be of good cheer. So, for the first two hours, while I and other brethren were in the meeting, he was out doing good to others, ministering as the Lord did in his mortal life. President Monson joined us for the final two hours of the training meeting and did a marvelous job of teaching and training.
After the meeting, I commented on how well he taught in the meeting and then thanked him for the most powerful teaching: his example of going out and ministering to individuals, one by one. He smiled and said: “One thing about me, I am never confused about my priorities.” I thought about what he had said, and after taking him to the airport and bidding him goodbye, I headed for home. Then, I changed direction and went to visit a sister who was ill and needed some cheering up. Since that time, I have tried to live in my very imperfect way to be a light to others as the Savior commanded us to be and to do so in word, action, and deed.
The Savior not only commands us to be a light, but he also instructs us that if we fail to keep this commandment to be a light, we will be led into temptation. (See 3 Nephi 18:25) So, if we find something that belongs to someone else, we should be a light and return the item to the one who lost it.
If we owe someone money, we should pay it back to them. If fast offering assistance is given, we should work for it and work hard to become self-reliant. If someone offers or seeks money for special favors, we should not do it.
If someone (even if it is a family member or friend) wants you to participate in a tradition that is contrary to any of the commandments of God, be a light and do what Christ would do, trusting in Him, not in your family or friend who wants you to do something contrary to the commandments of God.
If we fail to be light in any of these or all other ways, then we move into darkness, which inhibits our ability to be the light the Lord commands us to be.
The blessing of being a light is that we will come to know God and receive the greatest of the gifts of God: eternal life. As the Lord taught: “That which is of God is light; he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (D&C 50:24)
My dear brothers and sisters of West Africa, the Lord has gathered each of you to His Church and kingdom because He knew you would keep the commandment to be a light to the world. He knew that your decision to be a light would bless you and your family forever, and bless all of those around you for eternity.
My invitation is for each of us is to be a light: do what the Savior would do. We cannot be a clear and bright light if we do not keep the commandments of God. Each of us must be honest, full of integrity. We must live the law of chastity. We must live the law of the tithe. We must reach out and take one other person with us to the Savior in the ways that I have mentioned in the article and that the Area Presidency mentions in the Area Plan broadcast. This is how we make it possible to be a clear and bright light to all around us.
I have great confidence in the future of the Church in West Africa, that the members here will become a great light to all members of the Church. Our Saints here will be a light to non-members of the Church. Many people will be constrained to exclaim over the miracle wrought by God in the lives of the people of West Africa, and it will be because the Latter-day Saints kept the commandment to be a light to the world in following the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.