Amid the various migrations between Zarahemla and Nephi, in the book of Mosiah, we catch the story of one of the priests of King Noah who believed in the words of the Nephite prophet, Abinadi. Because of his believing in what Abinadi taught, Alma was chased out of his hometown under the threat of death. As he went about teaching the important lessons he learned from Abinadi, Alma had many followers who chose to remain with him, and they soon became numerous enough and settled the city of Helam in the wilderness outside the borders of Nephi and Shilom. Years later, Alma’s community was brought into captivity by the aggressive Lamanites, and there were physical burdens placed upon their shoulders. Forbidden to slay them, this group of Lamanites delighted in making life difficult for Alma’s people by placing these burdens upon their shoulders. Just exactly what these burdens were, we don’t really know. I envision them as being similar to the burdens placed upon the early Israelites by the Pharoah when they lived within the borders of Egypt. Their burden was to have to make the bricks for the great buildings in ancient Egypt. As their burdens were increased, they had to make the bricks without the use of straw, making it nearly impossible to meet the quotas placed upon them by the Egyptian task-masters. Whatever they may have been, the burdens were difficult enough to cause the people of Alma to raise their voices to the Lord, asking Him to ease such burdens from their shoulders.
Our daily life is full of burdens. The dictionary gives us two definitions for burden: 1) That which is carried (a load); and 2) That which is borne with difficulty (an obligation). Some of our burdens are indeed loads upon our shoulders. We have physical tasks that bear weight upon our physical shoulders; but we also have spiritual tasks that need to be borne by our spiritual shoulders. Our physical burdens might include having to go to school to obtain a valuable education; having to work to support ourselves and our families; or various responsibilities in our church or community. We have got to put forth a physical effort in order to bear these burdens, along with others. At the same time, we tend to overlook the other type of burden weighing us down – spiritual burdens. I am certainly not downplaying the difficulty of bearing the physical burdens in our life, but I truly believe that when we can succeed at bearing our spiritual burdens we are better equipped to bear the physical burdens.
In Mosiah 24:13-15, we read about how the burdens placed upon Alma’s people were lightened, how the people were strengthened by the Lord, and how they cheerfully endured the burdens: “And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.”
Before strengthening our physical shoulders to carry the weight of survival in today’s sometimes-difficult world, I would suggest that we first focus on strengthening our spiritual shoulders. We can do this by drawing closer to the Lord through heartfelt prayer, reading and pondering the scriptures, and attending Seminary and church to familiarize ourselves with our Savior and His Spirit. There is one other way of lightening our spiritual burdens, and that would be to help lighten the physical and spiritual burdens of others. During this special season of gratitude and sharing, there are many ways to help others bear their burdens, and all that we have to do is open our eyes and ears to recognize these opportunities. As we strengthen our spiritual shoulders, we will be delighted to see that our physical shoulders become strengthened as well. Our shoulders will become strong enough to bear our own burdens, as well as those of family and friends around us, if we but put forth a small effort which will tend to increase as we grow spiritually. Through us, the Lord can indeed visit His people in their afflictions. The Lord did it for Alma and his people…why not for us?