Before my wife and I joined the Church, I was an engineer in the United States Army. I had a good friend who was our Battalion Chaplain and one of only a few Chaplains in the US Army who belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I played racquetball with him, spent time talking with him, and even took him to Panama with me to go through Jungle School with my unit. Even though he was forbidden to proselyte as a Chaplain in the Army, his example was a light to me. His leadership and ethical example were a rudder in a time when a lack of ethical standards was rampant in the unit I was assigned to. He was a light and guide for me. His example later led me to invite the missionaries into our home as they approached me in my front yard and asked to share a word about Christ with me. This Chaplain and his example was a “lower light” for me and my family.
The phrase “lower light” comes from Hymn #335, “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy.” This hymn recounts the story of a ship in the mid-1800s trying to come to port in a stormy night near the Cleveland harbor in the United States. The sailors could see the lighthouse, but they needed to navigate through a straight and narrow passage between rocks that surrounded the harbor. There was normally a light on the shore which marked a passage to safety when aligned with the light from the lighthouse. This dark and stormy night the lower light was out. The captain had to proceed into the harbor with no lower light to guide him safely through the passage. In almost total darkness the captain steered the ship and missed the channel. The boat crashed upon the rocks and all the sailors died. A preacher by the name of Dwight Moody recounted this story and told each member of his congregation to be the lower lights. He related the Savior to the upper light who will always be shining. Philip Paul Bliss heard this sermon and wrote the lyrics to “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy.”1 This hymn is now the mission hymn for the India Bengaluru Mission and our motto has become “I am the lower light.”
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.
Dark the night of sin has settled;
Loud the angry billows roar.
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning; etc.
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; etc.
The Savior identified Himself as “the light and the life of the world.”2 He is the Lighthouse. “But to us He gives the keeping” of carrying His light to others. The Savior told us, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. 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. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”3 We share His example by holding up our light which is the light of the Savior.4 Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, has given us the responsibility to share His light with the world. Sharing this light is not just for full-time missionaries, but for each member of the Church, just as an army chaplain did for us over 40 years ago.
“Eager eyes are watching, longing” for the Light. There are people looking for answers and light in a world dark with sin. They are those mentioned in Doctrine & Covenants 123:12-13, “…who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it--Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness…” We as followers of the Light of the World have the answers and the further light people are yearning for. We have the truth; we have the priesthood power and authority; we have the keys; we are the lower lights to help people align their life with the Savior to return to Him. It is only through members and full-time missionaries that people can find the truth, partake of saving ordinances and return to Father’s presence. Members and missionaries work together hand in hand to bring this light to the world.
We each need to “trim our lamps.” We need to be more obedient, feast more frequently on the light in the scriptures, say daily fervent prayers, and listen better to the Savior’s voice--to Hear Him. As we trim our lamps, we are a stronger light to guide others to the safe harbor. Our life needs to reflect the example of our Savior. “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”5 Our righteousness and good works are what makes our light brighter so our lower light is sure and can help others find safe passage into the kingdom of heaven.
We send the “gleam across the wave” as we endure to the end and keep our lights burning for all to see. We continue to seek for those looking for truth and light; we rescue those who are sinking in despair; we invite others to come unto Christ and ask them to come and see, to come and help, and to come and stay. We do this in normal and natural ways, by practicing what we preach, by living lives that let others see the light of the gospel through us, just as a Chaplain in the Army did for me almost 40 years ago. We invite, encourage, and uplift. We become the lower light by helping others to align their actions, behaviors, and thoughts with those of the Savior.
As a young Lieutenant in the Army forty years ago, a fellow soldier became a lower light for me. I have seen many others be the lower light in bringing people into the Lord’s Church. I testify this is the Lord’s Church and we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, need to be involved in His work of bringing to pass the “eternal life of man” by being the lower light.6 Every day I remind myself by saying, “I am the lower light.”
1. Music and the Spoken Word, 16 March 2014, #4409, https://www.thetabernaclechoir.org/videos/march-16-2014-music-and-the-spoken-word.html, accessed 9 April 2020.
2. 3 Nephi 11:10.
3. Matthew 5:14–16.
4. 3 Nephi 18:16, 24.
5. 1 Timothy 4:12
6. Moses 1:39