The Gospel Doctrine lesson #15 objective as stated in the manual is “to strengthen class members’ testimonies that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that by following him we can gain true freedom.”
To discuss the internalization of the light of Christ and how to be bearers of it.
Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold, I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do. (3 Nephi 19:24)
One of U.S. history’s little-known legacies is that of the women who kept and tended lighthouses from the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. The first female lighthouse keeper (known) in the country was Hannah Thomas, who watched over the Gurnet Point Light Station in Massachusetts from 1776 to 1786.
In 1792, lighthouses became federally owned, including the light at Gurnet Point. On ledgers dating from 1828 to 1905, around 122 women were listed in their own name as government-appointed lighthouse keepers. Twice as many assistant keepers were appointed to help their husbands or fathers. Many women unofficially served as interim keepers after their husband died and before someone new arrived.1
Abbie Burgess Grant helped tend two Maine lighthouses for 37 years. During one particularly ferocious storm—she was keeping the lights with the help of her mother and sisters but without the usual help of her father—she rushed outside to save all but one chicken in the family coop before a fierce tide completely destroyed an old dwelling nearby.
In her last letter, Abbie reflected on the task to which she had dedicated more than half of her life: “Sometimes I think the time is not far distant when I shall climb these lighthouse stairs no more. It has always seemed to me that the light was part of myself. . . . Many nights I have watched the lights my part of the night, and then could not sleep the rest of the night, thinking nervously what might happen should the light fail. . . . I wonder if the care of the lighthouse will follow my soul after it has left this worn out body!”2
I love Abbie’s metaphysical question prompted by her decades-long dedication to watching the lamps—would her earthly duty continue after she dies? Abbie’s words offer such a perfect, ready metaphor for the life of the disciple of Christ and her relation to light.
By walking in the light of Christ, by tending it within ourselves, it truly becomes part of who we are. We are literally lit from within. Our discipleship is eternal. Our quest for Christ’s light is ongoing and will continue after we die. We learn to always remember Christ’s sacrifice and to call on him for our every need. Our earthly task is to practice the daily transformation into eternal creatures, into bearers of the light that will grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day.3
Surely President Uchtdorf’s poetic declaration will resonate in Mormon thought and culture for years to come—“In the end, we are all pilgrims seeking God’s light as we journey on the path of discipleship. We do not condemn others for the amount of light they may or may not have; rather, we nourish and encourage all light until it grows clear, bright, and true.”
1See Clifford, Mary Louise, and J. Candace Clifford, Women Who Kept the Lights: An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers, 2nd ed. (Alexandria, VA: Cypress Communications, 2000), 2.
2Abbie Burgess Grant, qtd. in, Clifford and Clifford, Women Who Kept the Lights: An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers, 53-54.
3The transformation into spiritual creatures begins with a new birth and ongoing conversion to spiritual ways of seeing. M. Catherine Thomas says, “There is a perceptible world of Light beyond this one, but something must happen to our way of seeing our perception must be born again, in order that the spiritual blindness we’re subject to can give way to a comforting dimension of reality” (M. Catherine Thomas, Light in the Wilderness: Explorations in the Spiritual Life (Salt Lake City: Digital Legend Press, 2010), 7.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
We Are Made for Love and Light, Rachel von Niederhausern
People are made for love and light. God is so mindful. He loves all his children, no matter where you are, and if you tap into that love then you can’t help but start seeing others who need love. But it has to start with yourself, and then with your family, and it’s all one circle of love. Let it be messy, and let it be real, and just don’t worry. Don’t even try to be perfect! It’s no fun! Rely on the Atonement and on Heavenly Father’s perfect plan and then love and joy will flow so much better.
The Shining Light of Oakland, Betty Stevenson
Coming into the Church was like walking into a bright light that hurts your eyes. In the community I was coming out of, everyone wanted to know, “What is it? You’ve got this glow. Why are you so happy?” But I really wasn’t happy yet. It’s a horrible feeling to be trying to make that change. I had to wait for years to feel the joy because all I was doing was losing, that’s how I felt. That was a scarier journey than being out there in the world.
The Power of a Snowflake, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill
I wasn’t just interested in helping people overcome weaknesses or problems; rather, I was interested in the development of their minds. I was fascinated by the concept of repentance, which comes from the Greek word metanoia. The “meta” part means transformation, like metamorphosis of a butterfly. And the “noia” part means the mind, suggesting that the mind can be transformed from an inferior state to a superior state. I wondered a lot about how this transformation takes place, how human beings have the eternal capacity to grown and ascend. So much of the gospel is about growing and progression.
Other Related Women’s Voices
We Are Instruments in the Hands of God, Mary Ellen Smoot
Our own conversion must come first. The most important conversion for any of us is our own. If we are to bring the light of the gospel into others’ lives, it must shine brightly in our own. Once converted, the sons of Mosiah labored without ceasing to share the gospel with others, “for they could not bear that any human soul should perish” ( Mosiah 28:3 ). Only when we are converted to the Lord Jesus Christ are we in a position to strengthen others. And only then do we begin to understand that our lives truly do have meaning, purpose, and direction, and that as sisters united in our devotion to Jesus Christ our calling is to be a light to the world.
Your Light in the Wilderness, Sharon G. Larsen
You know, don’t you, that prayer turns on the light? When you make prayer a regular part of your life, you begin walking in the light, in the straight and narrow way.
Covenant of Love, Aileen H. Clyde
We are, then, because of his great love and because of our desire to be guided by his light, part of the family of Christ. Because of our covenants, we have protection from loneliness and alienation. Because of our relationship with him, we can reflect light and tenderness to one another and we can possess our own souls eternally.
Sadly, not all men and women enjoy the light that was intended for them. Not all who have the gospel know how to bring its radiance into their lives.
For each of us, whatever our knowledge of the gospel, can continue to learn. But learning is just the beginning. The fullness of blessings comes as we adopt the principles and live our lives by them. When we make them our way, when we live the principles, we are promised that they will be a light unto us. As we come to know that light, it will lead us through the midst of darkness, and as we begin to bring that light into our homes, it can become a beacon to our children, and to their children, and to theirs.