Sunday, April 1, 2012

Let the Lower Lights be Burning

Another General Conference in the books.  What an amazing opportunity to hear the Lord’s counsel through his servants!  The theme of priesthood duty and rescuing hit home particularly hard for me.  One of our hymns is titled Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy.  It describes the lower lights in the harbor that with the lighthouse guide sailors safely home.  The lighthouse represents our Savior.  The lower lights represent the Lord’s disciples, living their lives in such a way that helps others find their way to safety.    

Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From his lighthouse evermore,
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.

Let the lower lights be burning;
Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

This weekend three great men were released from the Presiding Bishopric:  Bishop David H. Burton, Richard C. Edgley, and Keith B. McMullin.  For years these three have presided over the Aaronic Priesthood and directed the temporal affairs of the Church.  There work included the management of the welfare and humanitarian efforts of the Church, providing assistance and relief to members and non-members alike around the world.   Three wonderful sisters were released from the General Relief Society Presidency: Sister Julie B. Beck, Silvia H. Allred, and Barbara Thompson.  For the past five or so years these sisters have directed the efforts to bring instruction to the largest women’s organization in the world while bringing relief and comfort to those in need.

Wonderful people like these provide strong examples of disciples serving as the lower lights.  They devote their time and talents to the Lord’s surface and welfare of His children.  They keep God’s commandments.  They work actively to keep their covenants.  They love others as they love themselves.

Many of us know such people.  Growing up I was blessed with parents, church and community leaders, and friends who were able to light the way for me.  Today I’m happy to find similar people in my sphere of friends and associates.  These people work hard each day to do the works of the Master.  As a result, they have His image “engraven upon [their] countenances.”

It’s important that we serve one another as the lower lights, that we help show one another the way.  Often the perfection of the Master can seem too distant, even unattainable.  As lower lights, while not as bright as the powerful beam emanating from the lighthouse, we can help each other make that gradual progress toward obedience and perfection.  Seeing one of our peers living as a disciple carries with it a strong motivational power, the sense that if they can do it, then perhaps we can as well.

Another of these lower lights, one I had the privilege of knowing as a young missionary in Russia, was called to serve as an Area Seventy during this past General Conference.  Yuriy Gushchin was one of the earliest members of the Church in Novosibirsk when I arrived there as a missionary in 1994.  I spent my first six months in Central Branch with him.  He and his wife were extraordinarily kind to all the missionaries and me.  Yuriy and his wife Natasha were a source of hope for the missionaries and other new members.  They worked every day to live the Gospel.  Brother Yuriy became the first Russian branch president in Novosibirsk after I had been in the branch for just four months.  The people of Russia will be blessed by his service as an Area Seventy.  He is one the Lord’s lower lights.

My mission president, Jerald Sherwood, is another lower light in the Lord's service.  He spent time as a mission president in Bilbao, Spain and then made the exciting transfer to open the Russia Novosibirsk Mission.  Not content to allow others to serve, he and his wonderful wife recently went to Kiev, Ukraine to serve in the temple, serving many of the same people he worked with as a mission president.  President Sherwood, Brother Yuriy and so many others remind me of the statement made by Joseph Smith:

“A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”

Throughout this General Conference I heard the clarion call from the Lord’s servants to each of us to do our duty, to live up to our covenants.  Each of us can be among the lower lights showing the way.

Dark the night of sin has settled;
Loud the angry billows roar.
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.

Trim your feeble lamp my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.

Let the lower lights be burning;
Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

- Jarad Van Wagoner

Hymn #335, Brightly Beams our Father's Mercy, Words and Music by Philip Paul Bliss

No comments: