Hold Up Your Light

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Dear Will:

On Saturday night, my wife and I served as chaperones at a monthly dance for the youth of our church. Kids came from a surprisingly wide radius, so there was a pretty good crowd. Although dances these days are very different than when I was a teenager, they all seemed to be having a really good time. It seemed to be good clean fun.

At one point the kids formed a tight circle in the middle of the gym, preventing us chaperones from observing what was going on within. To make matters worse, the DJ pretty much killed the lights, leaving it to the kids to illuminate the dance floor with their cell phones. Trying my best to be vigilant without being Captain Buzzkill, I wandered closer to see what kind of mischief they might be making.

The kids were pumped. As I approached this scrum, virtually every phone in the place was held aloft, creating a spotlight effect at the center of the bouncing circle of teens. And at the center of the circle? A boy with Down syndrome, doing his best John Travolta while the rest of the kids cheered him on.

He was loving it. And so was I.

In a different place with a different set of kids, you might imagine something far less virtuous when you see a group of rowdy youths gathered around a kid who is “different.” So it was heartening to see these young followers of Christ doing their best to emulate their Role Model. He showed the way and then challenged each of us to go and do likewise (Luke 10:37).  And they did.

Their timing could not have been better. As December is now upon us, the Church has embarked on an initiative to encourage all people everywhere to make an effort to “Light the World” through simple acts of service. Here’s a video that introduces the idea.

Dana and I have determined to accept the invitation, and I hope you will too. You should download this advent calendar that the Church put together with a different world-lighting idea for every day of the month leading up to Christmas. What a great way to embrace the spirit of the holidays.

Jesus said: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). I hope that this Christmas season we will all hold our lights high and bring happiness to whoever comes within our circle.

PW

#LightTheWorld

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That His Light Might Shine More Brightly

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Dear Will:

Look around the world today and you’ll see much to be concerned about: war raging, millions displaced from their homes, tensions in our streets, and rancor dominating much of the public discourse. It’s easy when one projects the present circumstances into an uncertain future to envision that things could grow steadily worse.

But then think of the promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and your heart will fill with hope for a brighter tomorrow. We know that the word of God has a powerful effect on the minds and hearts of people everywhere (Alma 31:5) and that there is a transforming power that comes upon everyone who is touched by the light of Christ.

So at this time of year, let’s do the small things that cause that light to shine most brightly. In doing so, may we remember the words of President Howard W. Hunter, shared during the holiday season in 1994. It’s been over 20 years, and never have we needed the message more:

This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand.  Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more.  Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again.”

My family and I have accepted his invitation. And we hope you’ll join us.

PW

Mark His Footsteps

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Dear Will:

Close your eyes for a moment and picture the central figure of Christmas: a newborn baby, bundled in a peasant’s rags, naked and hungry and vulnerable, totally incapable of taking care of himself. He is the fitting symbol of all that Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, stood for then and stands for to this day.

Jesus was and is the ultimate champion of the helpless and vulnerable. Implicit in His teachings was the promise that as we come to know and understand the needs and heartaches of others, we will come to know Him as well. So it was that He admonished us to take care of our brothers and sisters who suffer—to feed the hungry, to offer refreshment to the thirsty, to take in strangers, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick and the imprisoned. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,” He said, “ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).

Those teachings bring to mind a familiar carol of Christmas inspired by the legend of Václav I, Duke of Bohemia (known more commonly to us as “King Wenceslas”), who lived in the 10th century A.D. The song recounts the duke’s reaction to seeing a peasant gathering wood on a blustery, snow-filled night, the day after Christmas. Although the peasant lives several miles from the duke’s home, the monarch instructs his page to gather food and fuel for the man and his family. Wenceslas and the servant then set out through the bitter cold, laden with provisions to bring warmth, sustenance, and love to fellowcitizens facing hardship and deprivation.

Although the song itself makes no explicit mention of Christmas, it is very much a Christmas song—a fitting reminder of Jesus and the Gospel that He taught. May we follow the example of the good king even as we follow in the footsteps of the King of Kings, reaching out in love and kindness to all.

God bless you and your loved ones throughout this Christmas season and beyond.

PW