Emily’s Talk: The Joyful Burden of Discipleship

Emily was assigned to talk about Elder Rasband’s April 2014 General Conference Address, “The Joyful Burden of Discipleship”

When the people began to repent after hearing King Benjamin’s speech, he admonished them, saying that that if their repentance was real, and if they had truly humbled themselves, then (Mosiah 4:13-16):

ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably…
ye will not fight and quarrel one with another

But he gives us more than just what not to do. He also tells us what TO DO:

ye will walk in the ways of truth and soberness;
ye will teach them to love one another, and serve one another.
ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor;
ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need;

This, he said (verse 20), is what would cause that your hearts should be filled with joy, even such joy that there are no words to describe it.

King Benjamin even went so far as to say (verses 26-27) that in order to retain a remission of our sins, we must:

– impart of your substance to the poor,
– feeding the hungry
– clothe the naked
– visit the sick, and
– administering relief, both spiritually and temporally

Adding to this, in his April 2014 General Conference address, Elder Rasband – who had just traveled here to us in Oklahoma following the Moore tornado – spoke about the “personal responsibility to share” the burden of our church leaders, and that only by doing so are we able to “be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

President Monson has also said: “We are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness— be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us. …”

“‘… Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these …, ye have done it unto me’ [Matthew 25:40].”

We cannot truly follow the Savior without “using our time, talents, and agency in service to God” – which is consecration, or the process of becoming righteous, even holy.

President Uchtdorf said in April 2016 Conference that “There is nothing good unless you do it.” He said, “if our faith does not change the way we live—if our beliefs do not influence our daily decisions— our religion is vain, and our faith, if not dead, is certainly not well and is in danger of eventually flatlining.”

We cannot say we are people of faith without acting like it.

Elder Rasband continues, “Jesus Christ continues to extend the call “Come and follow me.” He walked His homeland with His followers in a selfless manner. He continues to walk with us, stand by us, and lead us. To follow His perfect example is to recognize and honor the Savior, who has borne all of our burdens through His sacred and saving Atonement, the ultimate act of service. What He asks of each one of us is to be able and willing to take up the joyful “burden” of discipleship.”

In Hebrew, the word for “burden” is מַשָּׂא (massa), and it does not at all mean “this is hard to do” or “I resent this because I feel really uncomfortable” or “this better count because I am way outside my comfort zone”.

Rather, מַשָּׂא massa is the word for the peg nailed into the wall for the purpose of holding your coat up off the ground, specifically so that it can stay clean and dry even while you are wet and worn out (Isaiah 22:25).

It is the word for the load placed on a mule or a camel, not because it is heavy in and of itself, but because it relieves the person leading the animal – and offers them company – so that they are not carrying the load all by themselves or having to journey alone (2 Kings 5:17 and 2 Kings 8:9; Compare Isaiah 46:1,2).

It is also the word for service in the temple (Numbers 4:47).

מַשָּׂא massa is the same word that would be used for Moroni’s “title of liberty” because that was more than just a flag, and even more than a political statement. It was a message. The word for that message is not just a word for hard work, and it is more than a word for sacrifice. It is a message, specifically, that gives purpose to the work and meaning to the sacrifice.

When Isaiah talks about his “burden”, he means the message he is responsible to deliver. But it also implies more than just the message itself. It references the purpose behind the work of delivering the message: he is delivering a message that will save them.

Just like the peg in the wall “saves” the coat from being ruined on the floor, and so ensuring the person has the shield and protection they need.

Just like the mule or camel carries a load for the one who needs company on a long journey alone.

Just like our service in temples offers to for others what they were unable to do for themselves.

מַשָּׂא massa is the same word for when the Savior was hung up on the cross, becoming the coat, or “covering”, hung on the peg to protect us and provide for us even while we are overcome with being so weary from our own journeys.

In fact, the “iah” ending of “Messiah” means just that: the one who is מַשָּׂא massa.

He is the one who saves. He is the one who offers a shield and protection. He is the one took upon Himself the heaviness of what we could not carry alone, ensuring our way home to our Father. He is the one who saves us.  He is our Savior.

It is true that the Father offered His Son in part to save us from our sins, and even to give us the power to increase our capacity to do better than we could do on our own. But it also means that the Savior has already taken, is now taking, and will continue to be taking on for us the things in our lives that seem too hard, even the absolutely impossible.

Hugh Nibley said, “The main purpose of the Doctrine and Covenants, you will find, is to implement the law of consecration.” He further taught, “This law, the consummation of the laws of obedience and sacrifice, is the threshold of the celestial kingdom, the last and hardest requirement made of men [and women] in this life.”

That’s why trying to truly live a consecrated life – which means giving to others all of what makes you who you are, and trusting in the Lord for the provision and protection He promised – sometimes – feels like the story Elder Rasband shared about the girl who witnessed being in the tornado:

“I heard something hit the roof. I thought it was just hailing. The sound got louder and louder. I said a prayer that Heavenly Father would protect us all and keep us safe. All of a sudden we heard a loud vacuum sound, and the roof disappeared right above our heads. There was lots of wind and debris flying around and hitting every part of my body. It was darker outside and it looked like the sky was black, but it wasn’t—it was the inside of the tornado. I just closed my eyes, hoping and praying that it would be over soon.”

That’s what a consecrated life feels like, when we are only focused on how much there is to do or how hard it is to accomplish or what a difficult journey has been laid before us.

Maybe it feels like never-ending piles of dishes and laundry. Maybe it feels like the trauma-drama of raising other people’s children. Maybe it feels like enduring long hours at a job that you don’t always like, or isn’t always safe, or sometimes keeps you away from home too long, just because there are needs to meet even while you put on hold the wants and dreams that used to seem important. Maybe it feels like going visiting teaching or home teaching, and knocking on those doors because you know it is right and good, even when no one will open their door. Maybe it feels like holding the child you want to scream at, or putting aside your phone long enough to look into their eyes while they tell you a story you can’t actually follow. Maybe it feels like letting go of justified resentment, old grudges, and the negative energy that comes from other people being so very wrong for hurting you so badly or so often. Maybe it feels like keeping your mouth shut instead of complaining, or giving authentic compliments without pointing out the one mistake, or doing something for someone else without expecting praise or points for being so awesome yourself.

Sometimes living a consecrated life feels like your world is turned upside down, with huge changes you never could have expected, or surmounting huge difficulties you never knew you could endure.

But we are promised help to sustain us as we tackle the impossible (D&C 84:88):

And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.

We have been the recipients of such miraculous blessings as so many have supported and sustained our family, but some of the greatest miracles were tiny things:

There was the time my visiting teacher sat in ICU with my mother so that I could attend the funeral of my father.

There was the morning when a primary teacher took two of our children to breakfast because she was prompted to do so, even though she did not yet know those were the two who had biological family not show up at a planned post-adoption visit, and that the extra attention from extended family was exactly the kind of love they needed that day.

There was the day we were at the bottom of our five-gallon bucket of oatmeal, and the children initiated a prayer to beg the Lord for another day of breakfast, and before they could say “Amen,” someone we had never even met yet showed up at our door with fresh eggs.

Or the time someone slipped us an envelope of a bit of money, saying it wasn’t very much considering, but it was what they had to give, a kind of widow’s mite, and yet as we traveled to Cincinnati Children’s hospital with a toddler suddenly too ill to tolerate her gtube feeding formula, it was that money we used to stop at a random pharmacy in a random town, and found an infant formula that in small amounts settled her stomach enough to keep her hydrated and alive until the hospital could get IV’s in her. That “widow’s mite” was a tiny offering to us, but it saved our daughter’s life.

Or how every week crazy science teacher, who found out our children had to be pulled out of public school and back to homeschool since their little sister was on medical precautions, shows up at our house to take the whole lot of them on hikes and nature walks, making sure they get out of the house, outside in the fresh air – and a fresh face to teach them through such adventures that they now call her jeep “the magic schoolbus”.

Or how when the palliative care team talks to us about not expecting Kyrie to live much longer, and about quality of life and what that means to our family, you are the angels that are מַשָּׂא massa to us, who have offered us provision and protection, who have given days of life to our daughter, and who have accompanied all of us on this journey so that we are not alone –

Or so that our children are not alone, when we have to be with her in the hospital.

Some of you have gone before us, and given us strength and hope as you have shared what your own journey was like through deceased parents, or miscarriages, or foster care and adoption, or even palliative care.

Some of you have been on our right and on our life, holding us up, supporting us, giving us the things our bodies and spirits needed to endure the level of opposition our family has faced.

Some of you have been spirits in our hearts, praying for us, encouraging us, giving us a smile from far away or a hug in passing or a handshake that may have seemed simply to you, but for us was enough breath to keep going another day.

You have been our angels, and through you He has kept His promise to bear us up.

These things, quiet promptings to ordinary but faithful people, among so many other miracles and tender mercies for our family, were small things that meant the world to us and to our children.

None of these were grand gestures, so much as small and simple things offered from what people had to give, tiny acts of obedience to quiet promptings – but for us, these acts of faiths changed our world.

King Benjamin said, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”

And it is such service that gives evidence, offers the token, that we are keeping our baptismal covenants as President Monson said: “Often we are given the opportunity to help others in their time of need. As members of the Church, we each have the sacred responsibility “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light,” “to mourn with those that mourn,” and to “lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”

And Elder Rasband promised: “Focusing on serving our brothers and sisters can guide us to make divine decisions in our daily lives and prepares us to value and love what the Lord loves. In so doing, we witness by our very lives that we are His disciples. When we are engaged in His work, we feel His Spirit with us. We grow in testimony, faith, trust, and love.”

I testify that we are children of Heavenly Parents, who love us deeply and know us intimately.

I testify that our Savior lives. He advocated for us with the Father, died innocent in our place, was resurrected, and now lives.

I testify that the Spirit will correct, instruct, guide, and comfort me to the degree that I respond.

I testify that He has set prophets as the flaming sword that guards the path to the Tree of Life, and that Joseph Smith was a humble and mortal man but also a prophet of God – as is President Thomas S. Monson our prophet today.

I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and that it is a story of a family, even for my family, and that it changes everything.

I testify that temple ordinances have been restored along with the restoration of the priesthood, and that “Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally” (Family Proclamation).

I know that because of the temple, I am not married until death do us part, but for time and all eternity. I know that I have also been sealed to my own parents, who have already passed through the veil, and that this same sealing power has blessed my very own marriage that was exactly right for me, and has continued to bless us as we adopted our six children – so much that not even hospice gets the final say.

I know that this is the plan of happiness, no matter how hard life is sometimes, and that even when life is hard, we are not alone or forgotten. We are known and remembered and loved.

And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ,

Amen.

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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