In the spring of 1912, a dark cloud of despondency hung over BYU. University officials were considering the sale of Temple Hill to raise money to complete the Karl G. Maeser building. 18 students made up BYU’s first graduating class that year. Among them was young man by the name of Alfred Kelly. He had been asked to be the commencement speaker. On graduation day he stood before students, parents and faculty members. And after a brief pause, he began:
“While walking north from my apartment to the unfinished Maeser building, I sought inspiration for myself and the university. I closed my eyes and when I opened them, I saw sunlight reflecting from Utah Lake onto Temple Hill. The hill shone forth at the foot of these majestic mountains. I closed my eyes and when I opened them again I saw literally hundreds of other young people, my age, making their way up Temple Hill. Upon the hill I saw many buildings, temples of learning, not a sub division. I saw these young people enter the buildings and coming out with their countenances shining. These “children of light” moved forward finally merging with a sun that would never set. I saw their influence spreading around the globe.”
Kelly sat down and there was complete silence. Finally Jessie Knight, a BYU Benefactor, jumped to his feet and said:
“We are not going to sell Temple Hill. No not one lot.” He then pledged several thousand dollars toward the completion the Maeser Building. Since that day literally thousands of young people have gone forth to share their talents and bring light to the world.
This story is dear to my heart for I graduated from Brigham Young University and like to think of myself as one of the “Children of light.” I value my education. Many times in my life it has saved me.
I once told this story to LeAnn Meads who said: “But I graduated from the University of Utah,” “That would make you one of the children of darkness,” I responded. Not true! Judy Smith and LeAnn Meads teach our Bible Study class and personify Matthew 5:16,
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
We know that everyone is born with a divine spark. For in D&C 93:2 we read: “[God is] the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
Gregg Braden, was a computer systems designer who worked in the aerospace industry. While mapping pattern recognition he made an amazing discovery: By analyzing ancient languages and combining letters with the best science of our time, he was able to mathematically link the chemical elements in our DNA by using ancient root alphabets such as Arabic, Hebrew and Sanskrit.
Through a very methodical process of substituting letters for elements in the genetic codes found in DNA, he was surprised to discover words begin to emerge. The words began to spell sentences and the sentences made sense. Braden discovered that the pattern found in all carbon-based DNA is always the same. It spells: “God/Eternal within the body.”
This would not have surprised the ancient prophets. For in Jeremiah 31:33 reads, “After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Tom and I are excited to have been called to the Cape Town South Africa mission. Thanks you for being here today. We appreciate your love and support. I would like to share a few of the experiences that have prepared us to serve in the Church Education System in the city of Port Elizabeth.
My father was a dairy farmer with three daughters and no sons. Corinne, Laraine and I got up every morning at 5:00 a.m. to milk cows. We milked every morning and every evening. We hauled hay in the summer. We put up corn silage in the fall and threw cow pies out of the shed during the winter to keep the cows clean. Mother worked on the farm as well. Early on, I decided that I would never marry a farmer. It was just too much work.
Little did I realize that half way around the world, there was this skinny kid growing up on a banana plantation in Western Samoa. Tom’s family had moved there from New Zealand when he was 11. His little brother Leo had asthma and had barely survived several bouts with pneumonia. So doctors told his parents they would need to move to a warmer climate if they hoped to raise him.
It was a challenge to leave their comfortable home and life in New Zealand to live in a house with a thatched roof in the jungle. Tom remembers it as “fun.” However clearing land in the bush was hard work for his English father and Samoan mother. The 3 kids lived with friends or relatives in the nearby town of Apia, while attending school during the week and returned to the plantation on weekends. There were only five students in Tom’s 1959 graduating class and few opportunities for a better life. One Sunday, Sister Shimoda, a lady missionary from Hawaii, asked Tom if he would like to attend the Church College of Hawaii. He had never heard of such a place. Sister Shimoda talked to Principal Barker of the LDS high school. It was decided that he would transfer from Samoa College and attend the LDS high school in order to qualify for entrance to C.C.H.
There was no money for Tom’s plane fare to Hawaii. His mother hosted a farewell party. Bella was known for her generosity and kindness. She had given food and assistance to many. People came with gifts of money and when it was counted, they discovered that there was just enough to pay for Tom’s plane ticket and a suit case.
In Hawaii Tom lived with his uncle and aunt in Laie and worked on the grounds’ crew while attending the Church College. In a blessing from Bishop Uale, [Wallie] he was told that he would be “a light unto the Youth.”
David O McKay writes: “Every man and every person who lives in this world wields an influence, whether for good or for evil. It is not what he says alone, nor is it what he does. It is what he is. Every man, every person radiates who he or she really is. . . It is what we are and what we radiate that affects the people around us.
But back to Samoa; An American film crew had arrived to shot a movie called, “South of Pago Pago.” Unknowingly, they had imported some diseased banana plants. Soon a fungus spread throughout the island which adversely affected the banana export industry. As the number of banana cases for export began to shrink, the Stokoe family income was shrinking as well. It seemed that their years of hard work had come to nothing. Tom’s mother worried about what would happen to her 2 younger children. She prayed to the Lord for his help.
One evening while riding her horse home after doing her visiting teaching, she heard a voice in her mind ask, “Bella, Do you want to go to Hawaii?” Three times she heard the question. Then she answered, “Yes, I would like to go to Hawaii.” A few weeks later, Dr. Wootton, the President of the Church College of Hawaii, visited Samoa and sent for her to come down to Pesega. He told Bella how impressed he was with her son and invited her to become a dorm mother at the Church College of Hawaii.
Many assisted with money. Others helped her get visas for herself and the children. Tom had left Hawaii to attend BYU when his mother, brother Leo and sister Lillian arrived in Laie on Christmas Day in 1961. Tom Sr. eventually followed them. Bella served as a dorm mother 18 years blessing the lives of hundreds of students from all over the Pacific. To this day many of them still lovingly refer to her as “Mom Stokoe.” At age 96 she now lives in assisted care in Kaneohe, near Tom’s brother and sister and their families.
The light of Christ is just what the words imply: enlightenment, knowledge and truth. From John 1:5, “it is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” Children of Light are sorely needed in today’s world of moral compromise, corruption and confusion.
You may wonder how Tom and I met. Luckily I had an education and when I divorced, was able to support my three little boys, ages 1, 2 & 4 by teaching history at Skyline high School. We met at the Terrace at a dance for LDS singles and were surprised to discover that we taught at the same school. This was the fall of 1969 when there were 3,200 students and 150 on the faculty. I taught history in A building. Tom taught speech and drama in B Building and we had different lunch periods so our paths seldom crossed. We were married in 1974.
By 1985 Tom and I had added 3 more sons -- Stephen, David and Neil -- to the family. I was selling Real Estate then and it was hard. Interest rates were above 12%. So I decided to return to teaching. This required more classes to update my teaching certificate. So I registered for a Master’s program in family and local history through BYU. Consequently, Brian, Dean, Matt and I were all attending college on student loans at the same time. My thesis, the Mormon Waldensians, told the story of my ancient ancestors who had taken John 1:5 “The Light Shining in the Darkness” as their moto and the symbol of their faith.
These early Christians survived centuries of persecution while
keeping the light of truth burning through the dark ages.
Their story of faith, steadfastness and commitment to truth in the face of hardship is inspiring. Once again my education saved us when I was hired to teach at Kennedy Jr. High a few days after taking my oral exams. Tom was able to quit his weekend job.
Fast Forward to the present: I retired as the librarian at Olympus High after 25 years in Granite District. Tom left Skyline in 2000 after teaching for 32 years there. He taught speech and drama at Mountain Ridge Jr. High in Alpine for the next nine years. He retired in 2010. Tom was the Voice of Skyline for 13 years. He finally gave up announcing football games there at the end of the last season. Tom has been “a light unto the youth” for more than four decades.
When I was 16, I was told in my patriarchal blessing that someday I would serve a mission. Now that day has come. We serve for those have gone before, those who are here now and those who are yet to come. I promised my children and grandchildren that blessings would come to them through our missionary service.
Thank you for being such a positive influence in our lives. Today we bask in your reflected light. 1 Thessalonians 5:5 “Ye are all children of light, and the children of the day. . . Let us, who are of the day, put on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.
Thank you Utah Polynesian Choir for sharing your light and love thru music. Our director Quincy Matagi was called by an apostle to organize the choir in 1987 to sing in general conference in
1988. They did with 400 members including a few who are still with us today. Our choir has presented music and the spoken word at
Fire sides and sacrament meetings all along the Wasatch Front for over a quarter of a century. Thank you Irwin Purcell, for your beautiful scripts and Norma Mitchell for your brilliant accompaniment. You have enriched our lives and strengthened my testimony.
I know my Redeemer lives. I know that he died for us and that He is our Advocate with the Father. I know the gospel is true. That when we overcome the obstacles and challenges of this life’s experience, we move to a higher vibration where we are able to bring ever increasing light and love to the world through service.