By James D. Stice, ’84
It is our duty to lighten others’ loads when life becomes too heavy.
We all at one time have felt—or will feel—the weight of the world on our shoulders. My purpose is to remind us that we are not involved in a weight- lifting competition to determine whose world weighs the most. Instead, we are involved in the competition of helping others to lift the weight of their world when it becomes unbearable. When the weight of my world becomes heavier, I am grateful for the help heaven sends that allows me to carry on. And I am grateful for people who are sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit and who help me with my load in my times of need.
I would like to share several experiences from the scriptures and from my life that illustrate how we can, with heaven’s help, assist others by lightening their loads.
I have a six-year-old daughter named Cierra. Her favorite thing to do is play dress-up with her friends. She, with her friends Madison and Bethany, may be Snow White, Ariel, Jasmine, or Sleeping Beauty; and I may instantly be called on to be Prince Eric, King Triton, Gaston, or the wicked Jafar.
I went into Cierra’s room at the end of a recent hard day of playing dress-up. It looked like a Disney Store had exploded. I went in search of the princess because someone was going to clean up this mess, and it wasn’t going to be me. I explained to Cierra the situation, and she headed for her room to take care of the problem. After five minutes I went to her still-messy room to find her playing with her Barbies. I asked what she was doing, and she said, as though I were a bit slow, “I’m playing Barbies.”
“I thought you were going to clean up this room.”
“But, Daddy,” she said, “there is too much stuff out.”
I told her she should have thought of that before.
I went back every five minutes or so to make sure she was staying on task, and, bless her heart, she kept trying. But the mess was too big for her. After all, three little girls together make a much bigger mess than three little girls individually. There is some synergy there.
After a half-hour of periodically checking on her, I went into her room only to find her lying on her bed with her back to the door. I marched over to the bed thinking she had gone to sleep. Just as I reached down to turn her over, she rolled over and, with big, tear-filled brown eyes, said, “Daddy, it’s too hard.”
The weight of a six-year-old’s world can get very heavy—to a six-year-old. She did not want to hear me say, “I could clean this room up in five minutes” or “When I was your age . . .” At that moment the weight was too much, and she needed relief. So Prince Eric picked her up, and he, together with Princess Ariel, cleaned up the castle. It didn’t take much effort on my part to lighten a load that had become too heavy.
Alma taught that true followers of Jesus Christ should demonstrate a willingness “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light” (Mosiah 18:8). Sometimes it is as easy as helping to pick up a messy room. If we are earnestly striving to do God’s will, He will often direct us to those who might need our help, and He will inspire us as to what we might do—if we are paying attention.
Let me share the moment in my life when my world was its heaviest. One of our children was born with serious medical problems. The doctors knew the instant she arrived that all was not well. If they didn’t act quickly, she would not survive. Even if they did act quickly, things didn’t look hopeful. We were told prior to surgery that many babies with her condition just didn’t make it. She was just over six pounds, less than one hour old, and she was going under the knife.
In less than one hour, I had gone from the highest high to the lowest low. The weight of our world became crushing—and earthly angels instantly rushed to our aid to help us lift the burden. Family members, ward members, friends, and strangers literally did all they could to help us face this struggle. She made it through the first surgery. That was followed by ups and downs and then another surgery, and then another.
Either my wife or I was always at the hospital in hopes that our baby would somehow know she was loved and she was not alone. All the while our other children were cared for. Food appeared from out of nowhere, and dirty dishes would simply vanish. The clothes hampers were always empty, and the clothes closets were always full. Children would disappear for sleepovers and reappear, well kept, days later. People fasted for our baby. Prayers were offered for our baby and for our family, and the blessings of heaven rained down on our home. In this case we were strengthened by the willingness of countless Saints to help bear our burdens, mourn with us, and comfort us. After three surgeries and 35 days in the newborn intensive care unit, she came home, and she was perfect. Now, six years later, I am her prince and she is my princess. It was only through heaven’s help and through the help of others that I was able to carry the weight of my world.
So what can we do to help others? Let me suggest three things. First, lend a listening ear. Listening provides a shady spot on the trail of life. I don’t need someone to take my burdens. After all, how I handle my burdens is going to help develop celestial qualities within me. What I need is someone to hold them for me for just a moment while I rest and gather my strength.
Second, look for small things. Too often we look for huge ways to help. Then, not finding big things to do, we often do nothing, thinking that the little things won’t make a difference. But it is often the multitude of little things that gets me down. If someone would help me with those little things, I could then harness my energies for the big challenges.
My final suggestion is to err on the side of action. Have you ever found yourself face-to-face with an opportunity to help someone and said something like, “Surely someone will help” or “I don’t have time right now” or “I have my own problems to worry about”? When it comes to helping others, when in doubt, get in the game. Don’t wait for an engraved invitation. Don’t worry about what others might think. If the Spirit whispers to you that something needs to be done, do it.
Recall the prophet’s pleas in Liberty Jail when his burden seemed at its heaviest. To these the Lord responded, “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high” (D&C 121:7–8).
In one of Joseph’s darkest moments, the Lord reached down and blessed him with the strength to go on. May we be an instrument in God’s hands to make the burdens of others last for “but a small moment.” Let us lift up the hands of those whose hands hang down (see D&C 81:5), that they may “endure it well.” There are people in our midst whose backs are bent from the weight of their world. It is our duty to seek them out and do what we can to lighten their load.
James D. Stice is the associate director of the Marriott School MBA program at BYU. This article is adapted from a devotional address given Oct. 2, 2001.
web: The full text of this address can be found online at speeches.byu.edu/devo/2001-02/SticeF01.html.