A few years ago a close friend was over at my house visiting with my wife (we will call her Ashley). As I entered the room Ashley said she wanted to tell us about a conversation she had with one of her longtime friends. Ashley’s friend called the day before to let her know she experiences same-sex attraction. They had a good talk about the gospel and what this means for her spiritual journey going forward. Ashley was touched that this person felt comfortable enough to share this information with her. Ashley said it was remarkable how much compassion she felt towards her friend because she cared about her so much.
Ashley then said, “It’s just been on my mind all day, I had to share this experience with someone.” A subtle bishop smile came to my face as I said, “Imagine if people told you this sort of stuff every week and there is nobody you can share it with.”
Bearing Other’s Burdens–A Form of Christ
As I pondered on this conversation I had with Ashley, it made me reflect on some of the experiences one has as a bishop that many don’t experience as often. This process of someone coming to you with a huge burden they carry, looking for someone else to assist in the carry. Suddenly the stakes of the baptismal covenant become reality, and you aren’t sure you are “willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they be light.” (Mosiah 18:8)
Throughout the scriptures there are many forms of Jesus Christ mixed into each story. His atonement is the central message of the gospel and is represented in all things therein. When one is asked to stand and bear the burden of others, it is simply a form of Christ.
Psalms 55:22 Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
Matthew 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Alma 24:21 Yea, and in the valley of Alma they poured out their thanks to God because he had been merciful unto them, and eased their burdens, and had delivered them out of bondage; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it were the Lord their God.
The Burden of Leadership (Available to All)
In Numbers chapter 11 Moses pleads with the Lord because of the burdens of his people that he is called to carry (another form of Christ). These verses sound like they are coming from the lips of every bishop of the church.
10 Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased.
11 And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me?
12 Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers?
13 Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat.
14 I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.
Bishops find themselves bearing others’ burdens more often than they may want to (like Moses), but this “burden-carrying-blessing” is available to all, regardless of leadership title. From time to time, one will experience (as did my friend Ashley) the feeling of representing Christ and bearing other’s burdens when they need it most. The atonement of Jesus Christ does not fall from the sky in the form of magic pixie dust; it generally comes through people–other servants called at that time to give a hug or an open ear.
As Moses pleads later in Numbers chapter 11:29, “would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”
We all have opportunity to feel like prophets, even bishops, as we bear the burdens of others. Most importantly we are a representation of our Savior Jesus Christ–He who will make one’s burdens light.