Let Your Light Be Burning

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Wunder, Arnold

Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii

March 4, 2008
Arnold K. Wunder
Kahului Stake President

My dear brothers and sisters, aloha. It is truly a blessing and privilege to be here. I want you to know that I'm scared to death. That doesn't happen very often for me, but am grateful. I'd like to thank President and Sister Wheelwright for inviting us and for being so kind to us. [I'd] like to recognize President and Sister Workman from the Laie Temple. When I was a stake mission president, President Workman was our Hawaii Honolulu Mission president. We had many opportunities to work with them. [I'd] like to recognize President Meha, President Orgill, stake presidents here, as well as members of the President's Council. We're very grateful for all the kindness that has been extended to us as Sister Wunder and I have come here, the comfortable accommodations we had last night, we'd like to thank Brother and Sister Neal for the wonderful dinner that they offered and inviting us to their home and extending their hospitality. We appreciate their friendship. We're grateful to get to know President and Sister Wheelwright as well and grateful that we have some time to counsel with President Wheelwright.

I'm grateful for my wife and that was a very kind introduction that she gave. Later this month we will celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary, and often I ponder when I think about what I was like 33 years ago. I'm grateful for the foolishness of youth because that's the only reason she would have chosen to stay with me, and that we are now eternal companions. But I am grateful for her. She's a convert to the Church. In June she'll celebrate her 25th anniversary as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The gospel has been a great blessing in our lives, and I'm grateful as I have been able to watch her develop as a wife and as a mother, she should be on a Relief Society poster because she's a wonderful homemaker and housekeeper. She makes our house a home, and she has had a major role in the raising of our children. We are very fortunate in that as our children were growing up, Sister Wunder had a job which enabled her to be at home, and as the children would come home in the afternoon they could always come home and talk with "Mommy" when there were things that they had concerns about, that they had problems with. Until this day, our grown children, not a day goes by that one of our children does not call "Mommy" to check in with her and report on how things are going in her life. And there truly is a great commentary on the role she has played in the lives of our children.

One of the songs that was played during our prelude today was hymn number 335, "Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy." It's one of my favorite hymns. I've prepared my funeral service, in case any of you are interested in that, and that's one of the hymns that I've chosen to be a part of that funeral service! I thought about having my sons sing it as a trio with one other person, but I thought otherwise. We don't want people to be uncomfortable at that service, so we'll have other people sing it rather than our sons. But it's a wonderful song, and I'd like to talk about that a little bit today and look at the allegory that's been presented and the lessons we can learn from that beautiful hymn.

This song was written by Philip Bliss, who was a well-known Christian songwriter in the 1860s and the 1870s, and the story goes that he was once traveling with Pastor D.L. Moody. And Pastor Moody gave a talk one day, preached a sermon about the harboring Cleveland. Now I had no idea there was a harboring Cleveland, it seems to me with it in the middle of the United States, but there was a large harbor there that had a lighthouse. And beneath the main light of the lighthouse were two lower lights, and so the harbor pilots would use those three lights to guide their way and to guide their ships into the harbor.

So Pastor Moody gave a sermon one day and said, "On a dark, stormy night, when the waves rolled like mountains and not a star was to be seen, a boat rocking and plunging near the Cleveland harbor The harbor pilot came aboard the ship to guide it into port. 'Are you sure this is Cleveland?' asked the captain, seeing only one light from the lighthouse. 'Quite sure, sir,' replied the pilot.
'Where are the lower lights?'
'They've gone out, sir.'
'Can you make the harbor?'
'We must, or we will perish, sir.'
And with a strong hand and a brave heart, the old pilot took control of the wheel of the ship. But alas, in the darkness he missed the channel and, with a crash upon the rocks, the boat was shivered and many a life lost in a watery grave."

Pastor Moody brought the story home with these words: "Brethren, the Master will take care of the great lighthouse. Let us keep the lower lights burning."

That evening, Philip Bliss went home and wrote the words to the song that he titled, "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning," and at the next sermon that Pastor Moody spoke at, he sang that song for the first time. It was published in 1874. I don't recall it being in our old hymnbooks, but when the hymnbooks were updated 20 years ago, that song was included and I'm very grateful for it.

When we look at the words and the pictures that are drawn in that, we can find some great importance and guidance for us in our personal lives. The first verse goes:

Brightly beams our Father's mercy
From his lighthouse evermore,
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.

The idea of lights along the shore would've been something that would've been very commonly well-known to people who lived along the eastern seaboard of the United States who had come from countries such as England, or France, where livelihoods and livings were made upon the ocean. Men would leave on their ships each morning and come back each afternoon. But at times when storms would arise, or ships would not return on time, entire villages would line the shores with torches and bonfires because they realized that for a sailor who was on a small raft or clinging to some type of debris in the ocean, amidst the waves, it'd be those lights along the shore that they could see. What a great thought it is, that our Father in Heaven's light and His mercy shines for all. But we have a responsibility of those lower lights to bring people into the safety of the harbor.

I think the second verse is a beautiful verse and a great allegory as it goes:

Dark the night of sin has settled;
Loud the angry billows roar.
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.

President Wilford Woodruff said on July 30, 1884, 'The world is full of darkness. Sin and wickedness is overwhelming the world as the waters that cover the great deep. The devil rules over the world in a great measure" (Joseph Smith quoted by Wilford Woodruff, Deseret News, July 30, 1884, p. 434). I think of what the world must have been like in 1884 and look at what we face today, every day in our lives. I think the darkness has increased to a great degree.

I remember when I was a young man, there was show on TV called "The Dick Van Dyke Show". I don't know how many of you might remember that show, but it was a very popular family-hour program. Dick Van Dyke starred on it along with Mary Tyler Moore. But one of the things that led to the end of that show was an episode that they had one evening where they showed Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, both fully clothed, getting into single beds in their room. So they're in separate beds and they're lying fully clothed, and they were talking. That episode generated such a furor, an uproar, that that was the final season that that show ever was seen on TV. It's amazing now as I turn on what's called 'family-hour' today, and see the types of things that we see on television. It's totally different.

When I was in high school, there was a movie that came out that was called The Graduate. It starred Dustin Hoffman, and it was a movie about a young man, college student, who was seduced by his best friend's mother. There was one partial nudity scene in that movie, and, again, when that showed in the theaters, that created such a great furor: 'This was not appropriate. It could not be seen by families, it's not a great thing.' And today that's very mild compared to what we see on television on a regular basis.

Last year there was a great, upbeat and talked-about TV show that was to be coming on. I watched the hype and thought, 'This'd be a great show. It's a show about a hospital and a group of doctors going through medical school, trying to complete their residency.' I thought, 'This sounds great, it sounds like an "ER" kinda on steroids. It might be a fun show to watch.' So I watched the first episode, and I thought the plot was very engaging, I enjoyed the medical part of the show a lot. But I counted 13 incidents in a one-hour... introductory show, 13 incidents of either sexual misadventure, adultery, or premarital sex. And I thought that night as that show ended, although the plot may be good and engaging, is it worth it to have to sit through those things to watch this TV show? And I've never seen another incident [episode] of that.

A lot of times when I get home from my stake meetings, around 9 o'clock or a little after, I unwind, put the TV on, and there's a TV show on that plays at 9 o'clock on one of our local channels. It's a show about a man, a single man, who writes lyrics for commercials. His divorced chiropractor brother and that man's son come to live with him. The movie's filled every week with partially-clad or sometimes not-even-clad young women, and the adventures these people go through. I never really paid attention to that, and one day it kind of caught my eye that this is playing in my home, although I'm not watching it, it's totally inappropriate for me. This should be rated-R and I'm not a mature enough audience to watch an R-rated show or an R-rated movie. Realize the importance of doing that. And I understood a little better now how important it is that we carefully choose the things that we see.

The truths and values we embrace are mocked [at] every hand (Hymns, no. 256). The Lord has established a law of chastity, a law of morality, but yet society mocks that on a daily and recurring [or ongoing] basis.

When I was in high school (I never played any sports before going to high school, unlike many of you young athletes who play sports from a young age), somehow or other I managed to make our varsity baseball team. As Sister Wunder mentioned, I lived out in the country... she was very kind, the word to describe my home was in the "boonies," or in the "sticks." Let me give you a better understanding of where I came from. My home was 45 minutes away from my high school, so there's no way I could go home after school and then come back for baseball practice. High school boys tend to get into a lot of trouble, I'm sure as you're aware, and as I'd catch rides to baseball practice which was held at Baldwin Park (for those of you who may be from Maui and are familiar with upcountry area), one of the big things of our entire team, all of these guys, was who's going to the naughty magazine this week, who's going to pick up the Playboy magazine or the explicit newspaper?

There were two stores in Paia... that had magazine racks. It was so funny to watch as my teammates--at that time I was not an active member of the Church--we'll talk about that a little later, but I wasn't an active member of the Church. I was not the one that bought these magazines, but I'd be in the car waiting as they thought about whose turn it was, and they had to make sure their "look-out" is out, to make sure someone's mom, grandma, auntie, uncle, second cousin, or neighbor might not be around and see them buying this. Then we'd go to Baldwin Park where we had practice and they'd run in the dugout or behind the backstop to look at their magazines.

The interesting thing about that, as I look back at it now, is it really detract a lot of people from buying them because they were embarrassed. But today we live in a time when those very images are brought into our homes in the form of TV shows that we watch, the DVDs that we rent or borrow. We can download them off of the Internet to our PC in our home or our laptop computer at some "hot spot" somewhere, even down to our iPod, put it upon our iPods. It's important that we're aware of these things. This is part of the darkness.

We live in a time when we have instant messaging, high-speed Internet, and information's coming at us so quickly. We hear about man's injustice to man. We read daily in the newspapers of people killing others, of shootings at college campuses, high school campuses, grade school, elementary school campuses. We read of people in the military, a big story recently was a man in the military who killed his pregnant girlfriend and buried her body and the body of the unborn fetus in his backyard and fled. I don't think they've ever found him yet. Recently we read a story about a man who was found deathly ill in a hotel room in Las Vegas, and he had been creating a thing called ricin, which is a very deadly toxin. They don't understand why he was doing it, they have no idea what happened. He hasn't become conscious yet, as of yesterday, to find out why he was doing that. But we're bombarded with all this information so quickly: "loud the angry billows roar.'

Two weeks ago I was visiting some of the single adults in our stake with our single adult branch president and I told him, "If I was 21 years old today, I don't know if I could stand up to the temptations of our day." I want to commend those young adults who live your lives in such a way to keep to the covenants you've made to the Lord, who live the Honor Code of your university. It takes a lot of strength to do that. We're very proud of you.

The last verse says:
Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.

I love the imagery of trimming our feeble lamps. Are our lamps feeble, brothers and sisters? As I said, growing up in "the sticks", where I grew up as a young man, we didn't have electricity in our home 'til I was seven years old. We had an old icebox. My dad would go to the store and buy a block of ice and put it in the chiller of the icebox. This is where the word "icebox" comes from. You have refrigerators, they're not iceboxes. I had an icebox. We didn't have lights, and so our lights came from kerosene lanterns. Every now and then the lantern would begin to grow dim. It wouldn't be as bright as it was, and what we'd have to do when that happened is turn the lantern off and take the wick and trim off the hard and carbonized end of that wick. Once we trimmed that off, the wick again and the lantern again would glow brightly. What a wonderful image, of trimming our feeble lamp.

Elder James E. Faust said at a CES fireside on September 8, 2002: "We receive... light when we study the scriptures. Daily scripture study turns on the light of our spiritual perception and opens our understanding to further knowledge. We receive... light when we attend sacrament meeting. Partaking of the sacrament and the inspiration of the worship service weekly charges our spiritual batteries. We receive... light when we respond to calls. Serving in a calling in the Church blesses us more than it blesses others. We receive spiritual light when we pay our tithing, as the windows of heaven can then open up (see Malachi 3:10). "We receive spiritual light when we sing the hymns [of the Church.] ("Come Out of the Darkness into the Light").

President Spencer W. Kimball, in talking about the Parable of the Ten Virgins and... the importance of storing oil in our spiritual lamps drop by drop, added a few other things that we can think about, which help us to keep our lamp trim: fasting, home teaching, sharing the gospel with others, deeds of kindness, chaste thoughts and actions, regular temple attendance, all of these things help us to keep our lamps trim.

And the chorus of the song goes:
Let the lower lights be burning;
Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

I want to encourage each of us, brothers and sisters, to keep our lamps trimmed so that our lower lights can be burning and we can keep our lamps burning. I want to share with you why that's so important to me.

As I mentioned, when my wife and I met in high school, like she said, we were high school sweethearts. I was a less-active member of the Church. I was the nightmare that a lot of bishops and branch presidents have in Hawaii. My mother went to church [but] I think I can count two times in my life that my mother came to church. My stepfather was not a member of the Church. My grandmother was very active, so my grandmother brought me to church. My grandmother had me baptized when I was eight years old, and I went to church with my grandmother every week.

When I was 15, for some reason I decided I didn't need to go to church anymore. I think I might have had... something called a girlfriend might have had an impact on that, but I decided that I wasn't going to go to church anymore. I just stopped going to church. My grandmother went faithfully, she encouraged me, asked me, scold[ed] me, whatever she could do to get me to go, and I just decided not to go. As I look back at that today, there wasn't a home teacher that came to my home and asked if anything was wrong and why I wasn't there. There wasn't a young men's leader who came and wondered why one of the most active members of his teachers' quorum suddenly stopped coming to church. I don't blame them for that. This was my decision, no one offended me, I was not hurt, I was not left out of anything. I just stopped coming to church.

Colleen and I were married, we started a family and in March of 1982, I was out playing basketball on a Tuesday night and our home teacher came by unannounced. Our home teacher was Brother Vance Akinaka. The Akinaka name may be familiar to you. I think four Akinaka's came to school here--Elias, Lea, Michael, and Sam were all students at BYU-Hawaii. But Brother Akinaka came to our home, and he was on a split with the missionaries. (We can't do splits anymore. That was a very popular thing back in those days. So the two home teachers would meet with the elders and one home teacher would go with one elder, and the other home teacher with the other elder, and they'd do splits.) Brother Akinaka came to our home that night with an elder, Elder Paul Larson from California.

My wife had always been afraid of missionaries, something about the white shirt, tie, and nametag that was kind of intimidating to her. She was born and raised as a Buddhist, didn't know much about the Church. Had some seeds planted in her life of the gospel, but not many. They came that night and she was impressed as this young missionary talked about home, family, sports, surfing, high school, and then talked about his love for his Savior, Jesus Christ, talked about a Heavenly Father who loved him and loved her and our family, talked about a plan of happiness and said something that our family could be together forever. That struck a chord with her. So when Elder Larson said, "Well, Sister Wunder, is it okay if we come by sometime?" she said, "Oh, sure, that would be fine." The next night they were back.

Elder Larson [and] his companion Elder Parsons began teaching our family the missionary discussions. We went to church. The first Sunday... was April 14, 1982, and I remember that because it was a fast Sunday. The missionaries said, "Why don't you come to church on Sunday, Sister Wunder? It's a fast Sunday and we'd like to invite you." And I said, "Oh! You don't want to go to church on fast Sunday! The old ladies go up, and they sing these songs, and they cry--you don't want to that." And she said, "No, I'd like to try this and see what it's about."

We went to church on fast Sunday. I remember as they sang the opening hymn, the opening hymn was... "Beautiful Zion, Built Above" (Hymns, number 44). As they sang that song, I felt the Spirit, and for the first time in my life recognized the promptings of the Spirit. I leaned over to Colleen and I said, "You know what, I don't know where your lessons with the missionaries are going to go, but this is where I need to be."

My wife was a golden investigator. The missionaries joked with her and said, "You can't get baptized 'til you read the entire Book of Mormon." She went to them one day and said, "I've read the Book of Mormon. I'd like to get baptized." On June the 6th, 1982, Colleen was baptized. On July 27, 1983, our family came to the Laie Temple and we were sealed for time and all eternity.

The gospel has been a major part of our life ever since. She mentioned that our older son Ray served his mission in the Japan Tokyo South Mission. He returned here, to BYU-Hawaii, met his wife Jenny here. They got married and sealed in the Laie Temple, graduated from BYU-Hawaii. He went on to get his master's degree at the "other" BYU up in Utah. They currently live in Stockton, California. They have a four-year-old daughter, twin five-month-old sons. He served as the elders' quorum president in his ward for nearly three years. When the twins were born his bishop said, "You know, Ray, we're concerned about you. We think you're working too hard. We'll give you an easier calling." So they called him to be a counselor in the young men's presidency. So he's out of the frying pan and into the fire, but continuing to serve well.

Our second son, Kelii, went to BYU [in] Provo, served his mission in Kobe, Japan, returned to BYU [in] Provo, met his wife, Evelyn. They were sealed in the Mount Timpanogos Temple. They have one and one-half children--a little two-year-old and a baby on the way. We're excited for them. He's the elders' quorum president in his ward. We visited them back in December, and I was impressed with his commitment to his calling. One night we couldn't find him. It was 9 o'clock at night. We couldn't find him, and I went outside. There was six feet of snow, it was about 12 degrees, and he was shoveling his neighbor's walk. His neighbor didn't have a husband in the home, and if he didn't do it, the nine-year-old daughter would have had to do it the next morning. So he was out there, the elders' quorum president, a non-member home, shoveling their walk.
Our fourth child is our daughter, Becky. She is a chemical engineering major at BYU [in] Provo. She did not serve a mission. She received a call and met up with her eternal companion. They're on their "team-up" right now. They were married in the Mount Timanogos Temple on December 27, last year. Becky's husband is a returned missionary. He served his mission in Manchester, England. They were just called as team-teachers for a primary class.

Each of our children in their lives have been great examples of the gospel. On their missions, Kelii and Ray baptized people, strengthened less-active, and have been great examples.

Our third son, Kevin, was a student at BYU [in] Provo, and he was called to the California Oakland Mission. He was so thrilled to not to go to Japan like his brothers. I don't know why he felt that way, but he wanted to go somewhere different. He went to Oakland and had a great experience there. In his "greeny" area, he met and taught a young man named Ryan Mourelatos. Kevin was soon transferred to the Pleasanton 3rd Ward, and the bishop of the Pleasanton 3rd Ward was Bishop Paul Larson, the very man who served a mission in Hawaii 20 years before, had knocked on our door.
Imagine the great joy it was for Bishop Larson to meet this young elder. We'd kept in touch with him over the years, but to have this young elder, whose mother he had taught the gospel before that elder was even born, to have that elder come and serve in his ward. Kevin later became an assistant to the president, and on one of his zone conferences he found out that Ryan Mourelatos had received a mission call to the Salt Lake City Utah Mission. [He] got permission from his mission president to accompany Ryan as he went to the Oakland Temple to receive his endowment in preparation for serving on his mission.

In May of 2006, Kevin and his wife, Salina, were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. We kept in touch with Elder Mourelatos [at] that time. He got permission from his mission president to come to Elder Wunder's sealing. Kevin didn't know he was going to be there. When Ryan walked in, it was a great time of joy.

I have a picture I would like to share and, once it gets up on the screen, if I can see the screen... there it is. This picture is very special to our family:

On the far left is Elder Paul Larson, who later became Bishop Paul Larson of the Pleasanton 3rd Ward and currently is President Paul Larson, second counselor in the Pleasanton California Stake. Next to him is Sister Wunder, our daughter-in-law Salina and our son, Kevin. Next to Kevin is Elder Ryan Mourelatos. This picture strikes a great chord in our hearts because we see how the light of the gospel, brought to our home by Elder Paul Larson, brought our family to the safe harbor of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because he lived his life a certain way, and served with his heart, might, mind, and strength, he was that "lower light" that brought us into the harbor of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On the far end of that, Elder Mourelatos, who, through Elder Larson's missionary effort, that caused Sister Wunder to want to be baptized, that caused Kevin to be born, sealed to our family and serve a full-time mission, he brought the light of the gospel, was the "lower light" that invited Elder Ryan Mourelatos to the safe keeping of the harbor of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My dear brothers and sisters, it is my prayer that each of us might live our lives in such a way that our spiritual lamps may be trim, that our lights might shine brightly, that we might keep the lower light burning, and welcome people to the Church, that we reach out to our friends and relatives who are not members of the Church, that we reach out to those who may be less-active and struggling through these billows and waves of life, that we might help them find their way home to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I bear you testimony that God lives, that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. As we live our lives in accordance to the covenants we have made to the Lord, as we keep our lamps trim, we can bring these great blessings of the gospel to the lives of those that we know and love. And I leave you that message in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.