by Rex Jensen
The Burden Is Light
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;" was the Savior's counsel, "for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light." Is this the feeling you experience when you serve in the Lord's kingdom? Do you experience joy in serving the master? is it easy? Or does your burden seem heavy, filled with stress, negatives and aggravation?
Brigham Young made a perceptive observation about the way we attempt to serve God: "They who try to serve God and still cling to the spirit of the world, have got on two yokes--the yoke of Jesus and the yoke of the devil...and the labor will be very galling. Cast off the yoke of the enemy, and put on the yoke of Christ and you will say that his yoke is easy and his burden is light." What is "the yoke of the devil"? How does it yoke us down? How do we cast it off?
Shortly after my wife and I were married a family moved into our ward. This couple brought much experience to our little ward. This good sister was talented and capable; was blessed with musical talent and leadership ability. However, she was driven by the need to excel, to do everything better than everyone else. Her personality reflected this drive, she was sometimes cutting and humiliating to those under her direction as she strove to make her programs, her organization, better than any other. Sometimes she even succeeded, but her relationships with most members of the ward and stake began to suffer, as they perceived that she was more concerned about her programs than about them as individuals. She became stressed and driven to "produce" grand events and elaborate programs. At times she became disenchanted with the ward or stake because she couldn't achieve the level of performance she desired. Eventually, her faith, her energy, her interest in the gospel plan waned. Her view did not include the full view of the gospel of Christ.
Such self deceits, ironically, sometimes come from our desire to do a good job in our callings. The world teaches us to be the best, to be number one, to excel and be better than all others.
To. W. W. Phelps, the Lord said, "For I am not well pleased with him, for he seeketh to excel and he is not sufficiently humble before me." What was the Lord displeased with? brother Phelps' performance or the desires and motives of his heart?
The Old Testament is filled with vivid examples and an abundance of instruction on the problem of idolatry. The issue was, who was Israel going to follow? Jehovah (Christ), or Satan (and his hundreds, even thousands, of false gods, false values and false systems). This problem is no less significant in our own day. Indeed, it is the major consideration for every generation. Each of us must decide, who (or what) will be my god?
One of the causes of stress and frustration among Latter-day Saints is our vain attempts to mix the doctrines of Christ and the doctrines of Satan. These attempts reveal a deception that somehow there is much of what Satan has to offer that is superior to what Christ has to offer. Some things of the world are presented to us through the media in such impressive and persuasive ways that we believe the sales pitch. The yoke of the adversary then becomes heavy and neither they (anciently) nor we (today) are able to bear it (see Acts 15:10). It will wear us down and cause us to stumble. As Jacob teaches, were it not for Christ and the atonement, we would all ultimately, sooner or later, in the end, be subject to Satan. (See 2 Nephi 9:9) We could not prevail on our own--Satan would always win. It is the intent of Satan to wear us down, little by little, discourage us, degrade us, get us to participate in his program, lure us into his system--then when he has us sufficiently believing in his program, to dump us, and bring us to despair. "Thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day,".
If the Savior's promise is real, if it is true, if the yoke can be easy; why does the burden seem so great for some? Why is this promise not in effect for all who labor in the kingdom? Why do some receive the promise of the Savior, and some apparently do not? Finally, how can I obtain this blessing? How can I have the burden lightened today, every day? Here are six steps that will allow all to receive this needed promise of the Savior, a burden lightened every day.
FOCUS ON THE ANOINTING
The prophet Isaiah makes an interesting observation when he says, "And it shall come to pass in that day, [that] his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing." Isaiah has hinted at one of the mysteries of godliness, specifically that by exercising the power the Lord makes available to us through the endowment; our difficulties, trials, tribulations and daily frustrations can be lifted, or lightened--if true principles are applied.
Latter-day Saints can learn to focus on the anointing, or the spiritual dimension of our lives, which is taught most effectively in the temple. This focus or perspective must precede all other actions. Understand that Satan does not support his own (See Alma 30:60). Know that Christ does, and has promised the same, clearly, emphatically, surely. It is a promise that permeates the scriptural record. God does support the faithful, he does lift burdens, he does provide an escape. The prophet Alma, following his masterful discourse on faith, invokes this principle "And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will."
This key is articulated in the temple. The temple teaches us to focus our lives on the spiritual dimension and the real purposes for which God has created us. When we depart from the spiritual focus, we necessarily focus on the temporal. The temporal world is necessary for opposition, but it does not contain the solutions to our problems, those lie within the spiritual dimension. "In the spiritual dimension the power to do comes from God."
ALLOW GOD TO CARRY YOUR BURDEN
"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee" says the psalmist. The Lord never requires that we carry the entire burden of church service by ourselves. God is there to help us, to carry the burden and make it light. The inference from Psalms is that if we do not allow the Lord to help us, then perhaps he cannot help us.
How, then, do we cast our burden upon the Lord and allow him to lift and make it light? We do so first, by trusting in God, believe in his way and believe that he will lighten your burden, and then follow the Holy Ghost in fulfilling all of your duties. The Savior taught a true principle when he declared, "I can of mine own self do nothing...I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." If the Savior cannot allow his own will to preempt that of the father, can we do any differently and prosper?
To receive this great blessing of a lightened burden, we must act and serve in ways that are consistent with the mission of Christ. The way of Christ is described in these words; "These persons [who rely on the Holy Ghost] do not necessarily plan out how they will perform the works of righteousness; they do not plot and design which deeds and what actions are to be done in every situation." In other words, they follow the Holy Ghost, not their own agenda.
As Christ began his ordeal through Gethsemane to Golgotha, mortal logic would have questioned how allowing the Savior of the world to be killed could further God's design. Man would have hatched some scheme to hide the Christ or smuggle him out of the city under cover of darkness. Many theological scholars have wondered why Christ did not use his great power at this moment in time to preserve himself. All such reasoning fails to comprehend the design of God in all our lives; such a narrow view overlooks entirely the reason Christ was born in Bethlehem--to suffer in Gethsemane for you and me, and to overcome the sting of death via Calvary. Our poorly thought out "plans", and "designs" deny the all knowing, all powerful god of Abraham and that he can do what he says he will. Mortal man's plans are aimed at avoiding discomfort, acquiring wealth, gaining fame and power. Christ's plan is to save us from Satan's grasp, to glorify us through exaltation. Would we not rather defer to the Creator?
If we insist on carrying the full burden, the Lord will not take it away from us. Like marriage, to be right, to work well, it must become a willing partnership.
LEARN TO SERVE, NOT COMPETE
Because of man's time and experience in the world, it is easy to be deceived by the ways of man. Sister Elaine Jack has said it well; "We must seek first the kingdom of God. Today's frantic schedules and desires to have it all have produced some whose attention to the path has become cluttered by too many demands and too many signals...We need each other. We must connect in ways that comfort and sustain rather than compete."
Years ago I coached high school basketball. I had been a basketball player myself and loved the game. I looked forward to coaching. But later that first season, I would come home after the games and tell my wife, "I don't like the way coaching makes me feel". I was either angry, frustrated, disappointed or prideful. There was never a time I felt calm, peaceful, relaxed or spiritual.
Competition is destructive to the spirit, it interferes with the Lord's purposes, it is anathema to spiritual realities. "The Lord's yoke, his strengthening tie and lifeline to us, is customized. Discipleship is personal, not competitive." Indeed, are the Latter-Day Saints not covenanted to "Consecrate"? Consecration is in opposition to competition. The competitive spirit destroys the spirit of cooperation and consecration. It is consecration that brings peace while competition brings contention.
"It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone." These attitudes are in opposition to the purposes of God. The kingdom of God is not a competitive environment. This is the "enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen." spoken of by President Benson. (see Ensign, May, 1989, p 4).
GIVE UP THE WAYS OF THE WORLD
Elder James E. Faust said recently; "Our hurry to meet the relentless demands of the clock tears away at our inner peace. The pressures to compete and survive are great. Our appetite for personal possessions seems enormous. The increasing forces that destroy the individual and family bring great sadness and heartbreak.
"One reason for the spiritual sickness of our society is that...so many things are justified on the basis of... money and goods." If one is to find the peace Christ has promised, one must give up those things that destroy that peace. The drive for money, possessions, power and the honors of men deny us the help of Christ in lightening our burden--replaced instead with a double or heavy burden, stress, fatigue and despair.
FOCUS YOUR SERVICE ON CHRIST
There is a marvelous transformation that occurs when service is given with the Savior in mind, when we serve thinking of Him above, even though we are serving mortal men and women here below. Service given with the Savior in mind, will take on a new and higher meaning that transcends all the earthly cares, roadblocks, judgements and pain.
There may be times in all our lives when we know we should do something for our spouse, our children, our neighbor; but because of strains in the relationship, we may feel we cannot to do that thing. At these times, if at no other, if we will simply say "I am doing this for Christ", we will be able to transcend our own weaknesses and serve a higher purpose. In doing so, we will experience the lighter burden, a lifted weight, an improved relationship, and a heightened sense of what life is really about.
My wife has reminded me, since almost the beginning of our marriage, of what at first I thought was asking too much; "The times that I am least deserving of your love, are the times I need it most." Is it not at these times that the burden may seem great? But doing this act (whatever it may be) for Christ, as he did for us at Gethsemane, allows us to bridge the gulf of worldliness that interferes with the Spirit of Christ.
LEARN TRUE DOCTRINE
We would do well to remember that all of the problems are in the temporal world, and all of the solutions are in the spiritual world. The key is to recognize the problems as being temporal and the solutions as being spiritual.
Unfortunately, because of a temporal focus, one may tend to think that spiritual service is the problem (too many church jobs, too many demands, not enough time, etc) and that the solution is to be found in the temporal world (an easier calling, more time, more praise, more money).
It is imperative that each of us learns true doctrine. The Lord's plan calls for each of us to learn truth, only then can we avoid being deceived either by others or by ourself. President Joseph F. Smith explains this principle, "pure and undefiled religion will lighten every burden you have to bear."
Undefiled religion is religion that is not polluted by the philosophies of men and the doctrines of Satan. Elder Boyd K. Packer has testified: "True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior..."
Only by giving vigilance to the study of truth can we avoid the deceit that engulfs the whole world. One cannot hope to wade daily through the world's doctrines of destructive behavior and not have some of these false ideas stick to our clothing. They can be removed, the garment cleansed, by giving diligent study to the doctrines of truth contained in the scriptures and the words of the living prophets. It is never learned through socialization alone.
RECEIVE NOW THE JOY OF THE LORD
Though it may be true that some church service is difficult, sometimes time consuming, sometimes painful; the Lord's purposes must be fulfilled, Zion must be established and mankind redeemed. It is only through faithful, willing and happy servants that His mission can be accomplished.
Diligent scripture study, regular temple attendance, willing service and a refusal to indulge in the vanities of the world; is the true hope of the faithful.
Brigham Young again provides an insightful observation, "...with regard to redeeming and building up Zion. If they [the saints] tell you the sentiments of their minds, they will tell you that the yoke of Jesus would have been easy and his burden would have been light; but through the selfishness of some, which is idolatry, through their covetousness, which is the same...they were cast out and driven from their home."
The joy and release that is offered through the great plan of Christ is unequaled in this world. Satan has nothing that can compare to the "great plan of happiness". The rewards of the world cannot begin to equal the blessings Christ has available to those who will learn his ways and do them. He is the only relief, the only workable alternative, the only escape.