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Devotionals

Light of Christ


Brothers and Sisters, Aloha.

It is such a pleasure for both of us to be gathered together with all of you on this beautiful campus. I want to thank Brigham Young University–Hawaii for the invitation to share our thoughts and testimonies.

Jenny, thank you for that beautiful introduction, for your pure testimony of the gospel, and for being such a great example of a true follower of Christ. After hearing from my wife, it is obvious that I married up in life. I am so grateful for the amazing support and example that my wife is to me, our children, and so many people with whom we associate. My wife didn’t realize that I strategically created that running group at BYU in Provo so that it would end up being just the two of us in the end.

On December 28th, my wife and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. I recently mentioned to my wife that I couldn’t believe how quickly time has flown by and that it feels like we just barely got married. My dear wife turned to me, looked me squarely in my eyes, and said, “It hasn’t gone by that fast for me.” I think I will return those rose-colored glasses that I purchased for her for our anniversary because the ones I bought before don’t seem to be working.

In preparation for this talk, I have fasted and prayed about the topic that I should address. I had the overwhelming feeling of the Spirit that I should speak about the “Light of Christ.” I pray in my heart and ask all of you to do the same, that the Spirit will be with us during our time together today to teach and edify us and that we will act upon those promptings.

In the Bible dictionary under the topic of the “Light of Christ,” it states, “The light of Christ is just what the words imply: enlightenment, knowledge, and an uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence that comes upon mankind because of Jesus Christ. It is also “the light that quickeneth” man’s understanding.” [Bible Dictionary, churchofjesuschrist.org] [i]

Reflecting back on the past 20 years of marriage, my wife and I have had many memorable experiences together. We have had many wonderful and amazing experiences and some very challenging experiences. All of these experiences combined have helped shape our lives together and helped guide us in the direction we wanted to go as a couple and as a family.

I will share a few of these experiences from my life that helped me understand the “Light of Christ” a little bit better. The first experience that I want to share happened right in the middle of our marriage, just a little over ten years ago. Before I share that experience, I want to ask you a question that I want you to think about as you listen to the story, “What are you personally going to do today to help increase the “Light of Christ” in your life?”

When my wife and I had been married for about six years, we were living in Makiki and my wife expressed the desire to attend graduate school on the mainland. Just a few months before this, we welcomed our oldest daughter into our family. Having a new child would make graduate school and a move even more challenging. My wife’s parents still lived in Boston, where my wife was born and raised, so we had a built-in support system there. We prayed and fasted about the decision and felt like it was the path that we should take.

A few months later, we sold everything that we had and left the island with only a couple of suitcases full of clothes and baby toys. We arrived in Boston and found a house to rent in an area called Cambridge Port. Our home was located a block from the Charles River, right by the BU bridge. It was a great location. Sister Yamamoto’s school was located right across the bridge. The historic Fenway Ball Park was less than a mile away. Right around the corner was an amazing mom-and-pop Italian pizza joint called “Stephanie's Pizzeria.” I can still remember the amazing smell of fresh calzones and pizza, which permeated the air.

The fall in the Northeast was terrific. We enjoyed apple picking, viewing the fall foliage, going to pumpkin patches, attending Redsox games at Fenway, and spending time with my wife’s family. It was an amazing place until the winter season came. I was cold to my very core for four months straight. We lived in one of those historical Cambridge homes that had big metal radiators used for a heating system. When you turned them on, they would start hissing and clanking and the temperature was very hard to control. The only thing that saved me during those winters was coming back here for a month in January during the winter break.

While we lived in Boston, we attended the Cambridge 1st Ward. The ward was mostly made up of married graduate students and their families attending the various universities in the area. Because the bulk of our ward was students, the Elders Quorum was constantly moving members in and out. One of my home teaching sisters needed to move from one home to another home that was only a couple of blocks away. Three or four of the Elders from our ward and the full-time missionaries showed up to help out.

I arrived at the house and much to my delight, it was a dream move. Sometimes you show up for a move, and the family is busily stuffing things into bags, boxes, trash bags or whatever they can find to transport their belongings. This sister had everything nicely packed, and she even had a moving truck. In less than 20 minutes, everything was completely loaded into the truck. The truck was packed so efficiently that only half of the inside of the truck was filled.

We were ready to get into our cars and drive over to the new house when the sister came out and warned us that parking was very limited around her new home and that it would be a good idea to ride over together. One of the Elders had a great idea or what seemed like a good idea. He proposed that we utilize the empty space in the back of the moving truck by jumping in and riding over to the house together. It was only a short couple of blocks. We all agreed to his proposal without thinking about it and piled into the back of the moving truck.

I was chatting with one of the missionaries when all of a sudden, the inside of the truck started to get dark. I looked toward the opening and the driver was pulling down on the rope connected to the rolling back door. Within seconds, the door was completely closed and the area was completely dark. Suddenly, you could hear a click of metal on the exterior of the door. I'm sure that you have all seen that round metal piece on the back of diesels and moving trucks that when turned locks into place, securing the door and locking the door from the outside. That click meant that we were locked inside.

Up to that point in my life, I had never experienced any kind of claustrophobia or anxieties from being in an enclosed space. While I was a student at BYU in Provo, I even went to a place called the Nutty Putty Caves a few times to explore with friends. The Nutty Putty Caves were located on the west side of Utah Lake. You would drive to this remote spot on dirt roads and then there was literally a hole in the earth that you would go down a network of caves. They had this one section in the Nutty Putty Caves called the birth canal. I am sure you can picture why it might be called the birth canal and I even went through that section and didn’t even think twice about it then.

Back to Boston and the moving truck. I heard that metal piece click and we were locked inside. It was so dark that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. All of a sudden, my chest began to constrict and I couldn’t breathe. My mind started to go crazy. I began searching frantically for a way to get out of the truck. I finally spotted a tiny pinprick of light coming from the bottom corner of the door. I rushed over, knelt down, put my face right by the hole, and tried to suck in air from the hole. It didn’t provide any relief. By this time my lungs were begging for air. I was desperate and my mind and body felt like they were going to explode. I am very lucky that it was pitch black because the people in the truck would have thought that I was literally crazy.

Drenched in sweat, I felt and thought that I was going to die. All of a sudden, one of the guys we were with flipped open his phone. Back in 2008, we had those cool phones that you flip open. The flip phone provided a small glow of light around his face as he looked at the screen. He must have thought that I was crazy when I scooted right next to him and hovered my face over his phone. The light on the phone immediately eased my mind and I could breathe again. My anxieties and panic immediately disappeared. It was amazing that the tiny bit of light would provide such a great relief. We arrived at our destination a couple of minutes later and I was liberated from the moving truck. We quickly moved the items into the house and then I let the guys know that I was going to walk back to my car and didn’t need a ride.

I repeat the question that I first asked, “What are you personally going to do today to help increase the “Light of Christ” in your life?”

Less than one month ago, we all had the opportunity to listen to a living prophet on the Earth today. I repeat that statement because I believe that we sometimes don’t understand the magnitude of that statement. Less than one month ago, we had the opportunity to listen to a living prophet on the Earth today. We have a living prophet on the earth today. Did you experience a spiritual high during General Conference weekend, was your heart touched, did you have a renewed determination to make changes to your lives and to focus on what is most important in your life? Have you done anything to implement those changes over the past month? What did you do with the revelation that you felt and the resolve to do better? Are those thoughts and good intentions stuck somewhere in your phone, forgotten and not remembered until the next general conference? Pull them up and choose one thing to work on. If you do those things, your light will get brighter.

Thinking back to my moving truck experience, I later realized that I had a cell phone in my pocket during the entire experience. I had the tool that would have alleviated any kind of pain and anguish that I experienced. When we are in the midst of a problem or hardship, don’t we sometimes forget about the things that would help us the most? Sometimes we forget or blame God, we forget what the prophet and our church leaders have taught us, we forget the principles and doctrines of the gospel. We stop praying, stop reading our scriptures, and stop attending church. These are the times that we need those things the most. We forget the things that bring light and hope into our lives.

The next question that I pose is,” Are you going to share the “Light of Christ?”

In Matthew 5:14-15, it states,

"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house." [ii]

In the April 2020 April General Conference Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, the Young Women General President recounted an experience that she had when she was ten years old. Her family had the amazing opportunity to host Elder L. Tom Perry. They finished dinner, and her mom reminded her that she needed to feed the chickens. She didn’t want to leave the feet of the Apostle, but Elder Perry volunteered to help her, and they headed out together to do the chore.

In Sister Cordon’s words, “Reaching the small irrigation ditch that crossed the path, I instinctively jumped over it as I had done many nights before. I was oblivious to Elder Perry’s efforts to keep up on a dark, unknown path. My dancing light did not help him see the ditch. Without a steady light to see, he stepped directly in the water and let out a loud groan. Panicked, I turned to see my new friend remove his soaking wet foot from the ditch and shaking the water from his heavy leather shoe.

With a soaked and sloshing shoe, Elder Perry helped me feed the chickens. When we were through, he lovingly instructed, “Bonnie, I need to see the path. I need the light to shine where I am walking.

I was shining my light but not in a way that would help Elder Perry. Now, knowing that he needed my light to safely navigate the path, I focused the flashlight just ahead of his steps, and we were able to return home with confidence.” [iii]

Right after we got married, I had just finished my undergraduate degree at BYU in Provo, and my wife had one semester left to complete her degree. My wife was studying biostatistics, and she was interested in attending graduate school. We had a long weekend coming up, so we decided to take a road trip to the University of Washington. There she could meet with some of the faculty and learn more about their program. It was only a short 13-hour drive to Seattle from Provo.

We finished work and school on Friday afternoon and headed to Seattle. We had been making a great time, and we were having a lot of fun talking and enjoying the beautiful drive. When the sun went down, my wife fell asleep, and night quickly set in. At about one or two in the morning, we were at one of those mountain passes where you are zigzagging back and forth up the mountain, and my eyelids started feeling heavy. I didn’t want to endanger my new bride, so I took the exit when I spotted a sign for a campground. We pulled into the campground, and luckily the gates were still open, even though it was very late. The campground was pitch black, and not a soul was awake. We found an open spot and parked our car. We reclined our chairs, covered up with blankets, and fell asleep instantly. It isn’t very comfortable sleeping in a car, and it was freezing cold, so we both woke up very early. We freshened up in the bathroom and were back on our way.

We left the campground, and as we were pulling onto the freeway, my wife nicely asked me if I had paid the fee for the campsite. I sheepishly let her know that I didn’t pay and then tried to justify my decision. I let her know that we didn’t use the site at all, we were only parked there for about four hours, we were poor newlyweds, not a soul had seen us and I didn’t want to wake up the caretakers to give them the fee. She didn’t accept any of my bad reasons and kindly helped me understand, as she has helped teach me many times since, that we used the site and that we needed to go back and pay. I knew that she was right, so I begrudgingly turned the car around, drove back to the campground, found the spot where you pay, pulled out my ever-thinning wallet, put the money in an envelope, and dropped it into one of those big thick metal pipes with a slot cut out. Nobody at the campground would have ever known that we were there, but the most important thing is that both of us knew. Dimming my light for ten dollars wasn’t worth it.

This experience may not sound like a very big deal, but isn’t it that kind of rationale and actions that slowly dims our light and ever so slightly moves us from our course? Elder Uchtdorf’s talk from the most recent general conference said “Why do we have such a hard time walking in a straight line? Some researchers hypothesize that small, seemingly insignificant deviations in terrain make the difference. Others have pointed to the fact that we all have one leg that is slightly stronger than the other. “More likely,” however, we struggle to walk straight ahead because of increasing uncertainty about where straight ahead is. “ [iv]

I am so grateful for the lesson that my wife taught me that morning and for her willingness to let her light guide us that morning and help navigate that path we needed to take. Where do you want to be in 20 years from now? What do you want your family focused on in 20 years? Do you desire that your posterity will be strong in the gospel? Is something as insignificant as ten dollars worth it to dim your light and get you off of your path? Take the time to figure out where you want to go.

In the Book of Alma chapter 26 verse 3 Ammon shared the following with his brethren:

"Behold, I answer for you; for our brethren, the Lamanites, were in darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work." [v]

Many years ago, there was a teenage girl living in Denver, Colorado, with her mom and younger brother. Her parents were divorced and the family was struggling to make ends meet. She was in high school and at a vulnerable age where you feel insecure and may not understand who you are or your potential. She had a good friend that invited her to attend church with her. She accepted the invitation and attended church. She continued to attend church and to participate in the activities. She later agreed to receive the missionary discussions and was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I want to take a little bit of time to focus on the friend who extended the invitation. She was dealing with an ailing family member and probably felt the same insecurities as her friend, but the one thing she did have was the gospel of Jesus Christ in her life. Do you remember how hard it was to be different in high school?

She probably had a lot of the same feelings that we all experience when we extend this type of invitation. I am sure she was a little nervous. She may have worried that it could negatively affect their friendship, but she took courage and extended the invitation. She possessed the light of Christ in her life and she was willing to share it. I am eternally grateful for her willingness to share the gospel with my mother. My siblings, my children, and our future posterity will be eternally grateful for both of these two young women. I am standing here today because of the courage of one young lady that was willing to share her light with my mom to help her navigate her path and for my mom, who recognized and accepted the light into her life. Are you willing to share your light and to make an eternal difference in the life of somebody else?

I want to share one last experience that happened just a little over a year ago. The State of Hawaii finally began allowing travelers to come back into the State with a negative test result exempting them from quarantine. By that point in the pandemic, I was starting to feel the negative effects of Covid and wanted to get off the island. Several races that I had been signed up for had been canceled, so I was itching to do something. One of my buddies is a super athlete and does Spartan races all over the world. He had also hiked the Grand Canyon in one day from rim to rim to rim totaling about 50 miles. I had never hiked the Grand Canyon, but always thinking of myself 20 years younger than I am and underestimating my continually declining physical abilities, I called him up and asked him if he was up to do the rim to rim to rim 50 miler. He is almost always up for any challenge, so we were on.

The details of our hike will have to wait for another time, but I will take you to the very end of our trek as we began the final ascent to the top of the South Rim. The sun was beginning to set as we started up and it was an amazing sight. The glow of the red dirt is a picture that I will never forget. The lack of sleep, eating goo all day long for nourishment, hiking through the hot sun, and the sheer exhaustion of our bodies was taking its toll. Our pace began to slow and our rests began to increase. The glory of the sunset quickly departed and we were left in darkness on the switchbacks traveling up our final leg. The hot sun that baked us all day long was now gone and the temperature was dropping rapidly.

A lot of hikers were ascending the South Rim that evening. I looked up toward the top of the rim and could see little specks of light all along the trail. The source of light was from the individual traveler’s personal light source as they navigated their way up the trail. We passed many travelers struggling to get up the trail and were also passed by many that were full of energy, snapping selfies at every turn. Occasionally you would hear somebody right behind you trying to use your light to guide them. They needed light since the edges were quite steep and you could be seriously injured if you took a wrong step.

These hikers weren’t prepared or hadn’t anticipated being in the dark. We just had a couple of miles left to go. I kept looking up toward the top of the rim and the light at the top continued to grow bigger and bigger. As we struggled to complete the last few hundred feet, you could hear cheers and laughter coming from the top as friends and family members were cheering, high-fiving, and hugging their loved ones as they finished their journey.

On our life’s adventures, we need to also look up to the light that comes from above and carry that light with us as we walk our path. John 8:12 states, "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." [vi]

I testify Christ knows where you are on your path and he is the source of truth and light that can help guide you safely home. You may at some time in your life feel like you are wandering in complete darkness, nowhere to turn and no way out. The person that may be in need may be you or it may be the person sitting next to you. It may be somebody in one of your classes. It may be somebody that you meet at the grocery store. The light given to us by Christ can help guide us through our struggles. He is there every step of the way with arms outstretched, willing to provide us with the light to guide us safely home.

Brothers and Sisters, I ask you one last time, what are you doing to increase the “Light of Christ” in your life? And, are you actively sharing the light of Christ with others?

I testify that we have a loving Heavenly Father who knows and loves every single one of you. I testify that Jesus Christ suffered and died for every single one of you individually. I testify that Russell M. Nelson is a living prophet on Earth today. I testify that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and as the Introduction of the Book of Mormon states that it, “tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.” [vii]

I testify of these things in the sacred name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, amen.

[`i] Bible Dictionary, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
[ii] Matthew 5:14-15
[iii] "That They May See", Bonnie H. Cordon, General Conference April 2020
[iv] "God Among Us", Dieter F. Uchtdorf, General Conference October 2021
[v] Alma 26:3
[vi] John 8:12
[vii] Introduction, The Book of Mormon