The Light Within

“Abide with me; tis eventide,
And lone will be the night
If I cannot comumune with thee
Nor find in thee my light.”
(See Hymns No. 165)

I express deep gratitude for the message of this sacred hymn. In the Gospel of Luke, it is recorded that two men were walking on lonely road, conversing about the death of their Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. As they were walking, a man joined them and lifted their hearts. It wasn’t until after He had broken, blessed, and eaten bread with them that their eyes were open to see that indeed He was that same Christ of whom they had mourned the loss (see Luke 24:13–32). In this hymn, the speaker recognizes something so crucial to earthly existence: Without Christ there is no light. The speaker does not find light within himself, rather he finds light in Christ. And as he receives light, he receives power to keep going on his earthly journey.

Just two years ago, I stood at this same pulpit and shared my feelings on the power we receive from our Savior, known as the power of grace. Since that time, I have become a living witness of such a power as I served the humble, blessed people of Bolivia. I have walked thousands of miles, talked to thousands of people, been rejected by many and accepted by some. I have experienced the heartache that comes from seeing a loved one fall into the Adversary’s trap, seeing no escape. Greater than all of the struggles I have faced are the golden moments of light: moments where someone troubled by their own bad choices, by their loved one’s poor choices, or by the struggles of life itself, feels Christ’s light enter into their souls. These experiences of receiving light, or feeling God’s love, are experiences of grace. As we come to accept our Savior in our lives, we come to know that we are nothing but imperfect people. It’s not a reason to give up, but a reason to give our all to Him. As we recognize our imperfections, we recognize that we can’t become anything or anyone without divine help. With Christ we overcome death, we overcome sin, and we overcome eternal despair. We find the divine strength, or grace, to receive forgiveness of our sins and to forgive others. Through this power, we prepare ourselves for an eternity of happiness in God’s presence. I testify that each of us can become participants of this power as we come to know our Savior a little bit each and every day. This power will give us the strength to face our daily struggles, which leads to the assurance that God loves us and is pleased by our imperfect efforts. As this godly love enters our souls, the natural consequence will be to share the same love with others, and we will emulate Christ’s example more fully.

Each of us fights our own daily battles. Each of us simply cannot live in darkness. The Savior Himself promised, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (John 14:18).” Such a promise comes with a condition. Through the prophet Joseph Smith, Christ taught, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me (Doctrine and Covenants 88:63).” Through our faith in Jesus Christ, through our actions which show Him how greatly we need Him, He promises to come to us. One such way is through purposeful scripture study. Note that it is not through a thorough study of the scriptures, nor through a certain lapse of time immersed in them that He comes to us. Rather, it is when we plead for His help, with sincere heart, that He immediately comes. While in Bolivia, I taught this key principle to a young family. Michael and his wife, Kathy, were struggling and in need of God’s love. On one such visit my companion and I promised Michael that God would bring him light as quickly as his heart desired. They had young children and little time, but they showed faith. A fervent prayer was said, pleading for peace, and we shared a talk with Michael. Instead of reading the talk from beginning to end, we chose a specific paragraph, focusing on his need to receive light and truth. Brother Gutierrez read the first paragraph, tears filled his eyes, and he received revelation. He received the strength to keep going. Again, Michael simply had the desire to receive light, and it was given Him. Michael followed the counsel of the prophet Alma who taught, “If ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you” (Alma 32:27). As we act upon our desire to feel God’s love, we will come to have a more personal relationship with Him. A form of God’s love is strength to overcome our daily challenges, and such love comes through purposeful scripture study.

As we study and meditate upon the teachings of the Savior and His chosen servants, we come to understand the love God has for us individually. It was our great Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who taught “A new commandment I give unto you that ye love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). While serving in leadership positions for over half of my mission, I experienced Christ’s love in a way that has changed the direction of my life. At first I didn’t feel comfortable directing weekly trainings, or providing counsel to other missionaries because I didn’t feel qualified. I didn’t see myself as anything special. And as time went on, I went from training a group of six missionaries to training a group of 20! I was sure that my mission president had received incorrect revelation. A few weeks into my new leadership position we had a leadership training that sent me to a breaking point. I saw all of the missionary leaders around me and I felt like the odd man out. I didn’t belong with such powerful people. As my mission president was outside the room, I took him aside and directly said, “I shouldn’t be here. I’m just the Elder Risueno who wants to love everyone and make sure they are okay. I am not an elder that can direct groups or organize events. I am not even organized!” My President got a good laugh and took out a Book of Mormon and, pointing to it, said: “The missionaries in this book are all different. Each has different Christ-like attributes, each has different talents, but each is called of God to declare His word. You are the same. You may be a little like Nephi, or more like Ammon. But more importantly, you are you. And the same Savior who created the Earth, created you. This book is the best leadership guide you can read because it will teach you that each of us follows the Savior’s example in different ways. As you come to see how each missionary is very different, but equally important, you will come to see how much God needs the talents of each of his missionaries, including you as a leader.” From that moment my life has never been the same. The light I have received from the pages of this book has helped me feel that God loves me in my imperfections. He has called me to bless other people’s lives. We must first feel that we are loved, and only then can we love our neighbors. I promise that as we receive light and recognize that God loves us unconditionally, no matter how many times we make the same mistakes over and over, only then will we have the strength and capacity to love others.

Divine strength is given to all of us when we are in the service of others. “The true key to happiness is to labor for the happiness of others” (True to the Faith, “Service”). In the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Lehi has a dream where he partakes of a most delicious fruit, which represents the love of God. He tells, “And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also” (1 Nephi 8:12). So it is with us as well: As we partake of God’s love, we will be spiritually nourished to the point that we are given the desires and power to labor for the welfare of others. Petrona Benites, an 85 year old sister, is a shining example of sharing Christ-like love with others. She had stopped going to church for a number of years because of trials in her life, but when we found her, she immediately came back. Within the past year of being back at church, she has read the Book of Mormon four times cover to cover. One afternoon we stopped by to visit and found Petrona’s daughter in bed with ankle pain from a recent fall. Her daughter, Gloria, had not been interested in our message before and had hidden from us many times. But this time, Petrona had come to us and asked for us to give her daughter a Priesthood blessing. She had been a recipient of many priesthood blessings and knew that God would heal her daughter because she herself had been healed many times. With Gloria’s permission, we gave her a blessing and she was healed. A few months later, Gloria entered the waters of baptism and is now a faithful member of the Church. I know that thanks to the mountain-moving faith of Petrona, Gloria felt God’s love that day. Power is given to each of us as we follow the Lord’s example of loving and serving our fellowmen.

I bear my testimony of the divine power that is within our reach if we but simply turn toward the light of God. “Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness, that we may know that by his grace — divine strength — …that we have power to do these things. (Jacob 4:7).” We are all weak. We all need our Savior to guide us and to direct us safely to our Heavenly Home. I promise that as we resolve to seek Christ each day, his light shall not depart from us. No matter how hard our trials, no matter how difficult the obstacle ahead, we are blessed beyond belief with divine aid. I know He lives and I am so grateful for the time I had to be His special witness.

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