by Shawn Tucker:
I have been very moved by Elder Bednar's April 2014 General Conference talk Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease. The talk's central story is about a man who finds that an empty truck does not have enough weight and subsequent traction to get it out of the snow. When talking about what eventually got the truck out of the snow, Elder Bednar explains that "It was the load. It was the load of wood that provided the traction necessary for him to get out of the snow, to get back on the road, and to move forward. It was the load that enabled him to return to his family and his home."
Elder Bednar elaborates from this story on how each of us carries a load. That load is mortality's various "demands and opportunities, obligations and privileges, afflictions and blessings, and options and constraints." Elder Bednar poses questions that we can use to reflect on our load. He works with the assumption that we have some control over our load. Since we do have some control over the demands and opportunities in our lives, he warns that "we should be careful to not haul around in our lives so many nice but unnecessary things that we are distracted and diverted from the things that truly matter most." Elder Bednar then talks about how we can share our load with the Savior.
From here Elder Bednar speaks with typical power and clarity about finding or gaining strength as we carry our load with the Lord. Some of his points echo previous messages, including this this 2001 BYU devotional. I cannot recommend the remainder of the talk and that talk highly enough.
What struck me about the talk's central story and its message is how it applies to the Atonement. Elder Bednar repeats several times that "it was the load," pointing out how our unique burdens "help us to rely upon the merits, mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah." Like the wood in the truck, Jesus's burden was itself, symbolically, a heavy, wooden load. That load was terrible, awful to bear. But perhaps His load is also His unique burden that allows Him to extend merit, mercy, grace, and power to us. His load gave Him power to help us carry our load. As He carried His load, He is also our example in all things, and that example shows us that, while terrible and awful, such loads, which seem to weigh us down, actually generate within us the essential spiritual traction and strength to return, with our family, to our celestial home.
Elder Bednar makes it clear that loads are essential. He reminds me that I should not be surprised to feel weighed down and burdened from time to time. But I should also examine the nature of the load I carry. What is my load? Am I carrying the right things and in the way the Lord would have me carry them? And I should examine what that load is doing to me. Is that load bringing me closer to Him who showed all of us how to carry the load? And, if I am carrying the right load, am I finding that I am working with Him, yoked with Him, encountering and developing strength in and through Him? This may again tell me something important about that load and about my efforts in carrying it. Ideally, in carrying my load, I would be simultaneously doing the Lord's work, learning of the Lord, and becoming like Him, developing strength and love that will make me like Him when I see Him again (Moroni 7:48).
(PS: For strictly theological reasons and as a Modern Mormon Man with a Modern Mormon Family, I'd like to know how the man in the story convinced his wife that they should buy the new truck.)
Shawn Tucker grew up with amazing parents and five younger, wonderful siblings. He served as a missionary in Chile during the Plebiscite and the first post-dictatorship election. After his mission, he attended BYU, where he married ... you guessed it ... his wife. They both graduated, with Shawn earning a BA in Humanities. Fearing that his BA in Humanities, which is essentially a degree in Jeopardy, would not be sufficient, Shawn completed graduate work in the same ... stuff ... at Florida State University. He currently teaches at Elon University in North Carolina. He and ... you guessed it ... his wife have four great children. Twitter: @MoTabEnquirer. Website: motabenquirer.blogspot.com.
Image credit: Shelli Craig Photography.