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We’ve all heard the light bulb jokes:
Q: How many mystery writers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Two: One to screw it almost all the way in and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.
Q: How many consultants does it take to change a light bulb?
A: I’ll have an estimate for you a week from Monday.
Q: How many cultural historians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: I am less interested in the lightbulb than in the discourses surrounding the changing.
There’s even a joke about how many Latter-day Saints it takes, with one actually changing the bulb, and five more bringing refreshments.
But have you ever turned this question inside out, and thought about how many “light bulb” experiences you have to have, to actually change, to see the light?
My husband and I have a non-Mormon friend who’s been searching for the right church. He told us that one night he prayed fervently for some kind of sign. At that very moment, his doorbell rang and there stood two LDS elders.
And still he missed it, and sent the missionaries away. It’s like the joke about the fellow stranded on his roof during a flood, who keeps turning down rescue efforts, saying “the Lord will save me.” Finally he asks God why he has forsaken him, and a huge voice booms, “I sent you two rowboats and a helicopter!”
A friend of mine felt prompted to request a work cubicle in a less convenient area than the one she was offered. It turned out her new co-worker had been researching religions and yet when he learned that my friend was LDS, he muttered, “A Mormon moves in next to me? Boy, what are the odds of that?” as if it were a negative thing.
I once visit taught a completely less-active sister, and felt prompted to check in with her at several critical times of her life– the very day her son died, the afternoon when she’d had an accident, the day her granddaughter was hospitalized, and at several other key moments. But she never saw this as the hand of the Lord, never came back to church, and always just found it “amazing” that I happened to reach out just when she needed me. That’s a lot of ignored light bulbs.
Missionaries can tell dozens of stories of people they teach, who clearly feel the Spirit, and even sometimes are overcome with joy, but then shrink back rather than face the disapproval of relatives, or obey the Word of Wisdom, or commit to weekly meetings. Some investigators pray, get their answer, and then still cave in to the adversary.
But we do the same thing, sometimes. The Spirit whispers to us and we don’t always listen. Or a miracle occurs in our life, and we chalk it up to happenstance or luck. We suddenly hit upon the solution to a problem we’ve been wrestling with. Just a coincidence. Our lives are swirling with examples of our loving Heavenly Father’s hand in our lives—but do we always see it?
As members, we are not immune to “light bulb blindness.” We are rescued from danger, blessed with our hearts’ desires, and inspired to serve at odd moments when the timing was perfect. We are placed in situations where we can share the gospel with someone sincerely seeking.
Sometimes the light bulb is there to guide us back onto the proper path, the way a lighthouse stands as a beacon to ships. We’ve strayed in some regard and need a wake-up call. It could be a lost job, a car wreck, or a heart attack that shakes us and makes us reorder our priorities. Sometimes we need heavenly intervention to make us change, repent, or tackle a negative trait that’s ruining our relationships.
But do we see these events as divinely orchestrated? Do we always pause to acknowledge God’s hand? Maybe we will see the light more clearly if we’re looking for it. Elder Henry B. Eyring has advised us to keep a journal of the times each day when we can see the hand of the Lord in our lives. By focusing on such moments, we will see others. Just as following promptings leads to further promptings, expressing gratitude leads to the discovery of even more blessings.
So how many light bulbs does it take to get your attention? Let’s hope the number for each of us is just one—that we’ll listen that first time, and that the light bulb moment won’t go unnoticed.
Watch the music video of Hilton’s song, What Makes a Woman, from her new musical, The Best Medicine (with music by Jerry Williams). Her books and YouTube Mom videos are available on her website, here. Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.