PROVO — LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson admonished BYU students Tuesday to rely on Jesus Christ and not themselves so they can be examples to the world.
"Ours is the responsibility to keep our lights aflame and burning brightly, that they might shine for others to see and follow," Monson said during a campus devotional at the Marriott Center.
The lights of some may have dimmed due to "outside influences" and "sometimes harsh realities," but faithful Christians can always make their lights brighter through consistent prayer and scripture study.
President Monson told the story of BYU graduate and Harvard business professor Clayton M. Christensen, a Rhodes Scholar who realized when he arrived at Oxford University in England that he didn't know if the Book of Mormon was true. He had read it seven times before, but set aside one hour each night, from 11 to midnight, to read the book, this time not because his bishop or instructor told him to but because he truly wanted to know. When he reached the end of 2nd Nephi, he gained the testimony he'd sought.
"He began to cry," President Monson said, "and he didn't want to stop crying because as he looked through his tears at the words in the Book of Mormon, he could see truth in those words that he never imagined he could comprehend before. He could see the glories of eternity and what God had in store for him as one of His sons."
When Christensen, now a member of the Deseret News Editorial Advisory Board, set aside the challenging study of econometrics at Oxford to study the Book of Mormon for one hour each night, he said his life changed.
"I used applied econometrics maybe once a year, but I use my knowledge that the Book of Mormon is the word of God many times every day of my life," Christensen reported. "In all of the education that I have pursued, that is the single most useful piece of knowledge I have ever gained."
Armed with such a testimony, students will be prepared spiritually.
"Such knowledge, such a personal testimony, is essential if we are to safely navigate the sometimes treacherous paths through life, with the adversary attempting to deceive us at every turn," President Monson said. "As you keep the flame of testimony burning brightly, you will become a beacon of righteousness — even a light — for all to see."
He also told a story of a Catholic woman who sent him a letter to thank him for the service of two members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The two men served the family of the woman's sister after the sister's husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. Their tender care changed her opinion of Latter-day Saints.
"From one who used to indulge in Mormon bashing, I am writing this letter to tell you that through the example of these two men, not only will I never again criticize the LDS faith, but I will not allow it to be criticized in front of me," she wrote.
President Monson shared the example of one of the young elders he supervised as the mission president in Toronto. The missionary was hospitalized, but he allowed his light to continue to shine. While in the hospital, he befriended other patients and taught them the principles of the gospel. When he underwent surgery, his new friends fasted for him. President Monson gave an animated imitation of the nurse's confusion when the patients turned down their food.
"I really like seeing (President Monson) be more human, like when he put his hands on his hips," said Kyla Threlfall, from Provo studying dance education. "He has such a presence and spirit about him."
President Monson revealed his own habit of collecting "gems of wisdom" from movies and musicals. He said he always has a pen and paper with him when he watches them. He related the spiritual lesson he found in "The Lion King" as he watched it with grandchildren and noted that Mufasa's spirit encouraged his son Simba to "remember who you are."
"That's the part I have found spiritual too," said Melanie Dean, a freshman studying psychology. "I just made a decision that required me to have a lot of faith in my life, and that's a big testimony builder that God does speak to us through His prophets."
President Monson closed inviting the students to remember who they are and that they have to come to this earth at this time for a reason before leaving the Marriott in style by air high-fiving the crowd.
"He is our Savior and our Redeemer, our Advocate with the Father," Pres. Monson said. "He is our Exemplar and our strength. He is the light that shineth in darkness. That each of us here today may pledge to follow Him and to be His lights among men is my prayer."
Lloyd Sutton, an environmental science major from Littleton, Colo., found President Monson's talk inspirational.
"Being at BYU, you think your example doesn't mean much, but you can still have an influence," Sutton said. "People at BYU still need it. Even though most of us are members, we can still be an example to others to help them gain their own testimony."
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