Monday, March 11, 2013

The Atonement

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Atonement, by Boyd K. Packer
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

My family lives in south Florida. While we love the beauties of our little bit of paradise, there are times when we feel like strangers in a strange land. Just today we were reminded of how our family is different from many others around us.

My son's third-grade class put on a play this morning. He has been working on it for some time, and was quite excited for my wife to attend. When she showed up at the school with a smile and our two not-yet-in-school-aged children, she was turned away. Apparently the school doesn't allow younger siblings to attend events—my first-grade daughter has a similar event upcoming and the invitation reads, "Families are welcome, but no younger siblings are allowed."

I'm sure the school has reasons for these bizarre rules, but I don't know what they are. This example highlights what we perceive to be an environment here where families with more than one or two children are viewed as so strange that they are excluded.

We take regular trips to the beach as a family—it's a perk of south Florida living. While we've seen our share of stormy seas, we've only witnessed them from the [relative] safety of the beach. In his address, President Packer shared an experience he had of traveling between Pacific islands in a storm. Upon hearing that they could not travel by plane, a nighttime boat trip was arranged. After a journey on rough waters, they arrived at their destination island only to find that they could not safely make it to harbor because the lower of a two-light safety system was extinguished. These two lights, when aligned, guided ships through a dangerous passage of reef to the safety of the harbor. Here's what happened:

But that night there was only one light. Two elders were waiting on the landing to meet us, but the crossing took much longer than usual. After watching for hours for signs of our boat, the elders tired and fell asleep, neglecting to turn on the second light, the lower light. As a result, the passage through the reef was not clear.

Here's a picture of a crashing wave my wife painted

I took from President Packer's talk that we need to be the lower light, shining in darkness to guide others to the true light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is evidenced in the first verse of a hymn we sometimes sing (link to song):

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.

When I first heard President Packer tell the story of his terrifying trip on the sea, I felt outrage and disappointment when hearing that the missionaries who were supposed to man the lower light became weary and fell asleep. As I read the account today, things changed: instead of condemning these tired young men, I felt in league with them because of how my wife was turned away from our son's school this morning.

What is the connection?

I feel tired today.

When we spend too much time looking around at where we live and see only worldliness and extravagance, we end up feeling like tired outsiders, fatigued from standing against the waves of popular opinion and onslaught of alternative ideas. Much like those tired missionaries on the shore, we sometimes want to take a rest, hoping everything is calmer when we awake.

But then I remember that we're not really alone. In addition to the comfort we find with our few cherished friends (who, like us, try to live the gospel and dare to have more than one child in south Florida), we find strength in our convictions and testimonies.

As a covenant-keeping member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I testify that the atonement of Jesus Christ can cleanse the filth of sin, restoring hope for the future. And it's not just for those in south Florida:

That is what Latter-day Saints do around the world. That is the Light we offer to those who are in darkness and have lost their way. Wherever our members and missionaries may go, our message is one of faith and hope in the Savior Jesus Christ.

It's sometimes hard to feel so different from so many around you, but I'm grateful that I stand with my family and many others around the world as we symbolically keep our lamps trimmed while manning the lower lights that guide all of us safely home.

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