“Follow the Light,” Ensign, May 1999, 94
Have you ever stumbled around in the dark and stubbed your toe and said, “Ouch, that hurts!”? What if the lights went out in this building tonight? We would have mass confusion! Darkness can be hazardous to our health—our physical and our spiritual health! It is a great blessing to have light in our lives—a light that helps us see things as they really are, light that illuminates our understanding, light we can follow with confidence and perfect trust. Let me share with you a story to illustrate what I mean.
It was just a few days before Christmas, and we were newlyweds traveling home for the holidays. It was a 42-hour drive by car, but that didn’t discourage us at all because we were so excited to be home with our families again! We had been on the road all day and most of the night when we came upon a terrible snowstorm. We found ourselves in a blinding blizzard, and the snow was growing deeper on the highway with each passing moment. The night was pure black. We couldn’t see where we were going, and because of the deep snow we couldn’t see the lines on the road. This was a frightening situation!
Suddenly in front of us we began to see a huge semitruck going slowly and steadily ahead. We could barely make out his taillights, but seeing them gave us hope. My husband, who was driving, fixed his eyes on the lights from the truck, and we drove along in the tracks it made through the deepening snow. Our panic subsided somewhat with that guide up ahead, because he knew the route, he sat up higher than we and could have a better view, and surely he had communication equipment if it was needed.
With prayers on our lips and white-knuckled hands holding on, we followed that light through the storm. We passed many cars off both sides of the road before we sensed that the truck was slowing down and pulling off the highway. In an act of faith, we followed him and soon found ourselves, to our great relief, in a place of safety, a place of refuge. We were so very thankful! We could hardly wait to tell the driver of the truck how grateful we were for his help—for leading the way.
We are each one on a road going toward home, but we’re not trying to get there for Christmas. We’re trying to get there for eternity. We want to arrive home safely to our loving Father in Heaven. He wants us to make it safely there, so He has sent a guiding light for us to follow: a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect example. He knows the way. He lights our path in the dark of night, in storms, at crossroads, and in the daylight. He is always ready to show the way back home.
He tells us, “And I will also be your light; … I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; … ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led” (1 Ne. 17:13).
One young woman wrote to me about a road she was on. She said: “I was with a group of my friends watching a video. It was one I knew I shouldn’t be sitting through. The Spirit prompted me to leave. I was able to listen and get up and leave. I felt the Spirit so strong. I know it was because of the choice I made” (letter in possession of Young Women office). She followed the light to safety.
That same light showed two teenage sisters the way to go on a very frightening day in 1833. An angry mob stormed through the quiet streets of Independence, Missouri, where 15-year-old Mary Elizabeth Rollins and her 13-year-old sister Caroline lived. The terrifying mob was destroying property and burning and rioting. Some of the mobsters broke into the home of Brother William Phelps, where the printing press was located. He had been printing revelations received by the Prophet Joseph Smith. They tore apart the printing press and threw it into the street. They carried the priceless printed pages out of the building, throwing them in a pile in the yard to burn.
Mary Elizabeth and her sister Caroline were hiding behind a fence, trembling as they watched the destruction. Mary knew full well the danger of angry mobs, but in spite of that, she felt the urgency to save those precious pages. The two teenage sisters ran out to the street, grabbed armfuls of the scriptures, and fled. Some of the mob saw this and ordered them to stop as they chased after the courageous sisters. The girls ran into a large cornfield, where they fell breathless to the ground. Between the rows of corn they laid the copies of the revelations on the ground and then spread themselves over the pages. The men were relentless in their search for the girls among the tall cornstalks, coming very near at times, but they never were able to find the girls, and eventually they gave up and left to finish their destruction in the town.
The light of the Lord showed those young women what to do and where to go for safety. That same light shines for you. It can keep you safe as it did them. We have a sculpture of those sisters in the Young Women office to remind us of the courage of young women then and now.
Jane Allgood Bailey wasn’t about to give up the light of her new religion. She would not be defeated by the cold, starvation, and sickness on the plains of Wyoming. She grasped hands with other women to wade through icy streams. They came out on the other side with their clothes frozen to them, but they carried on. On the trek, her 18-year-old son, Langley, became ill and was so weak that he had to be pushed on the handcart much of the way. One morning he rose from his bed on the cart, which had frozen canvas for bedding, and he went ahead of the company and lay down under a sagebrush to die, feeling that he was too much of a burden. When his faithful mother found him, she scolded him and told him: “Get on the cart. I’ll help you, but you’re not giving up!” Then the family moved on with what was left of the Martin-Willey Handcart Company.
Upon arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, Langley was still alive! He was 18 years old and he weighed only 60 pounds. That 18-year-old boy was my great-grandfather. I’m grateful for the preservation of his young life and for the fortitude and stamina of his noble, courageous mother, who was a light to her family and kept her son going in spite of deathly odds.
You probably will not have to push a handcart in a blizzard over the plains, sisters, or run away from a mob, but you may have to walk away from friends and fashions and invitations which would compromise your standards of goodness. And that takes courage. Soon you will be Relief Society sisters and one day mothers who must lend strength and testimony to future generations. Now in your preparing years, you can’t afford to say: “I’m going to give up. The Church standards are too high. It’s too hard to live the standards of personal purity with exactness. I’m too weak.” You can do it! For the sake of your future, you must do it!
You can live in the world and not be of the world. The Lord invites us to come out of the cold danger of worldliness and into the warmth of His light. This requires integrity, strength of character, and faith—faith in the truths taught by the Lord Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
The Lord’s light helped Shelly Ann Scoffield face a frightening trial in her young life, but she faced it with great faith and love for Heavenly Father. One day Shelly began to feel sick. She saw a doctor, who determined that there was something seriously wrong. Shelly said: “I was scared. I had huge masses on my lungs, and the doctor began to say things like cancer and chemotherapy and radiation.” But Shelly didn’t give in to her fears. True to her training in Personal Progress, she got busy and set a long list of goals to accomplish while she couldn’t go to school because of her treatments. She busied herself with accomplishing good things. She was mindful of her blessings, including a father with the priesthood who had administered to her, a wonderful family, super friends, and great doctors. “Best of all,” Shelly said, “I have a testimony of my Heavenly Father, that He loves me and will help me through this struggle.”
Shelly recorded her thoughts for her young women friends, and I would like to share with you some of what she said:
“I want you girls to know that now is the time to grow close to your Heavenly Father. Work to show Him you can do all that you promised you would do. I am trying. I am learning more now than I have ever in my life known about the gospel. I know that Heavenly Father is with me. When I’m feeling pain and sorrow, He is too, and He just wants me and every one of you, when you’re feeling those things, to get down on your knees and pray for His help, because He is so willing. He loves you so much. I pray that throughout your life, throughout your struggles, that you’ll learn from them and stay close to Him and have faith. Gain a testimony and stay true to what is right.”
Shelly Scoffield passed away November 3, 1998, strong in the faith.
Dear, precious young sisters, we will not all have experiences like Shelly’s or the other ones I’ve shared with you tonight, but we will each one of us have a need to draw close to the Lord in our journey through life.
May we suggest three things that will help you see the light and follow it in your lives. First, and most important of all, pray. As you talk to Heavenly Father and pour out your heart to Him, you will draw closer to Him. Then pause, stop, and listen to the feelings of your heart. Seek to understand the promptings of the Spirit. As you pray sincerely, you will come to feel Heavenly Father’s great love for you.
Second, study the scriptures. The scriptures teach us the ways of the Lord. They answer questions about how to live today. They bring a light and a spirit into our lives that we can get in no other way.
Third, be anxiously engaged in a good cause. That means: Serve your family and friends. Be active in the Church and in seminary. Develop talents and skills. Set a good example. Stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places. As you do that, the light will grow brighter and brighter in your life, and it will be reflected in your countenance.
The Young Women office looks out at the holy Salt Lake Temple, and we can see brides as they come out to have pictures taken. These lovely temple-married brides all look so beautiful because there is a glow in their faces and a light in their eyes. That light comes from their understanding of the influence of the Savior in their lives. There is something very special about a young woman who has prepared herself and is worthy to make and keep sacred covenants and receive the ordinances of the temple.
Just as we followed the light of a truck one stormy winter night, so did Shelly and Mary Elizabeth and Jane follow the light of the Lord, and so can you. And when you come to those times that will require courage and strength and faith, remember the words of the hymn:
The Lord is my light; then why should I fear?
By day and by night his presence is near.
(“The Lord Is My Light,” Hymns, no. 89)
I testify that the Lord is always there to help you. The example of His life and His teachings is a steady, sure guide. We can follow Him with confidence and perfect trust, for He is our Savior. I love Him. I love you and bear testimony of His love for you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.