Let the Lower Lights Keep Burning

lower lights

Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.

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

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

Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

Last night I was singing this hymn in a family devotional when I was impressed to ponder the powerful message that it could teach me. Curious about it’s backstory, my husband and I searched online until I found what my soul needed to hear:

At one of D.L. Moody’s meetings in America he related the story of a shipwreck on a dark and tempestuous night, when not even a star was visible. A ship was approaching the harbor of Cleveland, with a pilot on board. The captain, noticing only one light as they drew near — that from the lighthouse —asked the pilot if he was quite sure that it was Cleveland harbor, as other lights should have been burning at the harbor mouth. The pilot replied that he was quite sure, whereupon the captain inquired:

“Where are the lower lights?” “Gone out, sir,” replied the pilot.

“Can you make the harbor, then?” asked the captain, to which the pilot answered:

“We must, sir, or perish.”

Bravely the old man steered the vessel upon her course toward safety. But alas! In the darkness of the harbor mouth he missed the channel, the ship struck upon many rocks, and in the stormy waters many lives were lost.

Then Moody made his appeal to his audience: “Brothers, the Master will take care of the great lighthouse! Let us keep the lower lights burning!”

Among Moody’s hearers that evening was Mr. Philip P. Bliss, the well-known hymn writer, and the striking story at once suggested to him one of his most popular hymns.

With this story in mind, consider the words spoken to the prophet Joseph Smith recorded in D&C 18:10-16,

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance. And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth! Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

Think of someone you love more than anything (a sibling, a spouse, a parent, a pet…). When I think about my love for my daughter, Autumn, I cannot describe it in words, nor begin to quantify it. How then, can I even begin to fathom the love God has for every single soul on earth? The lyrics of this hymn, coupled with these scriptures, share a lesson of love and the individual worth that each and every one of us possess. I often get caught up in the busyness of my day to day life, forgetting to look outside of myself. But who has God put in my circle of influence that He is counting on me to reach out to? Who can I share my light with and help to restore their sense of worth?

“The mariners on board could see the lighthouse, but they needed to find their way through the narrow passage in the treacherous rocks that surrounded the harbor. Normally a light on the shore, aligned with the lighthouse, marked the passage to safety. But on this night, the lower lights had gone out.”

God’s atonement is real. His mercy is available to all, for are we all not sinners? The metaphor found in this beautiful hymn and story is that no matter how bright the lighthouse (Christ) shines, no matter how encompassing his love and mercy may be, those precious souls lost as sea cannot come safely to the harbor without the lower lights shining and illuminating the path. WE – you and me – are those lower lights. God is counting on us to shine, to share, to reach out, to speak up.

Eager eyes are watching, longing, For the lights along the shore.

Do we not all, at times, look for lights to lead us? Do we not all struggle in life and search and pray for a friend, a smile, an angel to manifest the love of God and empathize with our situation? Someone to pull us up over the rocky paths of the rushing river of life? Who has God put in my path who is searching for a light along the shore?


Some poor fainting, struggling seaman. You may rescue, you may save.

We all know people in our lives who could be identified as the struggling seaman. Who in your life is trying to sail the storms of life but struggling? Who can your light help to lead closer towards the lighthouse?

“We are the lower lights, we are the ones who have to go out and rescue.” – Michael L. Moody

I am grateful for the people in my life who when times were dark, shone brightly and helped point me towards Christ. I shudder at the thought that at times in my life, I could have shone brighter or been better at identifying the struggling seaman standing in front of me. May we all be a lower light to some one struggling. Struggling to see the lighthouse. Struggling to find the shore. Struggling to find safe landing in a harbor. Struggling to have the motivation to even sail towards the harbor. May we all be an instrument of the lighthouse keeper by shining brightly to light the dark and stormy path for others.


Keep Smiling,


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