The Two Great Lights
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“The Two Great Lights,” New Era, Aug. 2006, 2–6

The Message:

The Two Great Lights

From a CES fireside address given at Brigham Young University on February 1, 2004.

The Savior has given us two beacons of light that shine in the darkness, guiding us through the storms of life.

I look at you, the youth of our Church, and see nearly limitless anticipation. You stand at the very threshold of life! Who is to say what your lives will hold? What discoveries will you make? What remarkable events will you witness?

I have been thinking of late of a man who lived long ago, a man who also stood on the threshold of his own great adventure. This man lived in an ancient time during the confounding of languages at Babel. We know him by the unusual name of “the brother of Jared.”

This righteous man obeyed the command of the Lord and built eight barges for the purpose of crossing a vast ocean. The boats were sealed to water. They were also sealed to air and light. The Lord instructed the brother of Jared how to provide air for them, but as for light, He merely asked, “What will ye that I should prepare for you?” (Ether 2:25).

The brother of Jared thought about the problem and then went to work. He prepared 16 stones—two for each of the vessels—white and clear and transparent as glass, and he carried them up to the top of the mountain and asked the Lord to touch the stones and make them shine.

The Lord touched the stones, and they produced light!

Throughout their voyage to the promised land the stones gave “light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness” (Ether 6:3).

Like the brother of Jared, you stand at the threshold of your own exciting journey through life; you stand at the shores of the ocean you are about to cross. And perhaps you are wondering, as did he, “How will I ever get across?”

It’s only natural that you feel a bit apprehensive about the voyage you are about to undertake. You probably know that there will be tempests along the way. Furious winds may crack and blow. Mountainous waves may crash against you. Monsters of the sea may try to destroy you. Sometimes it may seem as though you are surrounded in darkness without even a glimmer of light.

As the brother of Jared placed two stones into each barge to provide light for the journey, may I offer two words of counsel, two beacons of light that will provide direction to you during your journey?

The Two Great Commandments

During the time of the Savior’s ministry, the Pharisees asked questions, hoping that He would say something they could use against Him.

“Master,” they asked, “which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36).

In that hope the Pharisees were disappointed, for the Messiah turned and answered their question directly:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” he said. “This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40).

In a few short sentences the Savior provided mankind with two great guiding commandments—commandments that belong at the center of and provide the foundation for all we think, feel, and do: Love the Lord and love your fellow man. These two guiding lights I wish to impress upon your hearts. These lights will shine ever in the darkness and provide guidance during the storms of life.

Why does the Lord command us to love Him? He is all-powerful and all-knowing. Why, then, is the first commandment to love Him? Is He incomplete if we do not worship Him? Of course not.

Then why is the first and great commandment to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”?

The answer to this question has little to do with how our love benefits God and everything to do with how that love benefits us.

Heavenly Father in His love for us has revealed the path we must walk in order to reach the ultimate goal of eternal life. You and I understand this path as the commandments. We can look upon these commandments as oppressive rules that limit our enjoyment of life, or we can look upon them as “the way”—the path that leads to a glorious and incomprehensible future.

The First Light

When we love our Heavenly Father with all our heart, might, mind, and strength, we follow Him joyfully. When we love our Heavenly Father, we leave behind the grudging “have-to” and embrace the enthusiastic “can’t-wait-to” attitude. In thanksgiving we joyfully walk the path of the Lord—the path of discipleship that leads to Him.

Why must we love the Lord? Because as we do so, we become refined, pure, and holy. When we love the Lord, the benefits of the Atonement can wash away our earthly stain and, though our sins be as scarlet, we can become new creatures filled with new life, new thoughts, and a desire to do good continually.

When we love the Lord we hunger and thirst for knowledge of Him. We cherish the scriptures. We hold the truths therein precious, as gems of great worth. In our day we eagerly wait upon the words of our prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley. General conference becomes a time of feasting and rejoicing, a time of gratitude for the great blessing we have that in our day God once again speaks to man.

It is easy to say we love the Lord, but true devotion means more than mouthing syllables. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15), the Savior taught His disciples, and so He urges us today.

As members of the Church keep the commandments, they will feel the influence and guidance of the Spirit in their lives. Gradually, through a process of spiritual refinement, they will become sanctified and filled with the gift of the Holy Ghost. Their prayers will become effectual, their faith more certain.

The first light, then, that I would urge you to carry with you during your journey through life is love of the Lord.

The Second Light

The second light I urge you to take with you is love for your fellow man.

Loving our neighbor is not just a good idea—it is the core of what has distinguished the followers of Christ in every age since the beginning of time. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,” the Savior taught, “if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

Look at every Zion society from ancient times to the present, and you find at its center love for others.

The great Book of Mormon prophet King Benjamin counseled that caring for others is linked to the power of the Atonement. “For the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God,” he taught his people, “I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants” (Mosiah 4:26).

Disciples of the living Christ have always known that as we bear one another’s burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ (see Galatians 6:2).

As we open our hearts to those in need—whether they be poor or discouraged or grieving or in distress—and as we give of ourselves to lift their burdens, our problems seem a little smaller. We grow in spirit. We grow in peace. We grow in joy.

As we lift up the hands that hang down, the light within us grows a little brighter and illuminates the way before us.

We manifest our love for others by our kindness. Like the people in Alma’s day, we too are desirous to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; … mourn with those that mourn; … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8–9).

We manifest our love for others by standing “as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9). Because of love of our fellow man, we enter holy temples to perform vicarious ordinances for those who have departed from this mortality without the blessings of the everlasting gospel. This act of compassion is selfless. It is an act of love for those who wait upon us, praying continually for our assistance.

Imagine for a moment how our lives would be transformed if everyone in the world had as a central motivation love and compassion for all of God’s children. What do you suppose our families, wards, communities, and nations would be like if our central focus were less on ourselves and more on what we could do to serve others?

Standing at the Threshold

These two lights—loving the Lord and loving our neighbor—are not merely things we should include on our list of tasks we need to accomplish. They are the very essence of the list. For upon these two commandments “hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:40).

How much more meaningful would our lives be if our thoughts, hearts, and actions were guided by these two great lights?

My dear brothers and sisters, you stand at the threshold of an amazing and wonderful journey. As one who has gone before you, I offer these two words of counsel, two sources of light that will provide light for you throughout your life’s journey: Love the Lord with all your heart, might, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. This is the essence of who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ.

It is my testimony to you that as we make our lives living monuments that testify of our love for God and for our fellow man, we will be walking in the path that leads to eternal life.

Pool of Bethesda, by Carl Heinrich Bloch. Courtesy of BYU Museum of Art.

Christ in Gethsemane, by Heinrich Hofmann. Courtesy of C. Harrison Conroy Co., Inc.

Illustrated by Paul Mann