“Overwhelmed? Keep Your Focus on Christ,” Liahona, Oct. 2022.
If I had to sum up these past few years in a single word, it would be burnout. Everything felt like so much—including, at times, my responsibilities as a member of the Church—making it hard to tell what I should really care about or how I should invest my little energy.
We have been wisely counseled by President Russell M. Nelson to “turn [our] heart[s], mind[s], and soul[s] increasingly to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ”1 during these challenging times.
As I tried to apply this counsel in my life, I initially felt only more overwhelmed, thinking that I needed to follow every guideline perfectly for my efforts to make a difference. But the Spirit gently reminded me that “it is not requisite that [we] should run faster than [we have] strength” (Mosiah 4:27). I realized that I needed to focus on first things first—Christ.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”2
Strengthening my understanding of Christ has helped me build my testimony of His central gospel teachings, which has helped me understand the why behind everything we’re commanded and counseled to do: everything points to Christ.
In the parable of the talents (see Matthew 25:14–30), a lord gave three servants a share of goods before leaving on a long journey. When he returned, two of the servants had invested their talents and were blessed, while the third had hidden his talent and was cast out.
We might wonder how the servants knew what to do with the talents they were given. All three had “ability” (Matthew 25:15) and knew how to invest, but the third chose not to use his knowledge. He understood his task, but perhaps he didn’t understand his lord.
With a strong understanding of Christ, we will not need to be “command[ed] in all things” but will know Christ and His teachings well enough to “do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:26–27). Often, the more we know Him, the more our actions will reflect His will for us.
The Lord hopes that we will use our abilities to learn of Him and emulate Christlike behavior in our own lives—essentially, He expects that we will become like Him.3
Learning of Christ is an eternal endeavor, and He supports us with each step. In the field of education, there is a concept known as scaffolding. Teachers utilize this concept to help students gain stronger understanding and greater independence as they learn.4 Likewise, we could say that Christ, as the Master Teacher, uses scaffolding to help us grow in His gospel and “learn of [Him]” (Matthew 11:29; see also verse 28; Doctrine and Covenants 19:23).
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we continually strengthen our understanding of what we know and add to that knowledge “line upon line, precept upon precept” (2 Nephi 28:30). As we strengthen our understanding of Christ, He can trust us with further knowledge, “for unto him that receiveth I will give more” (2 Nephi 28:30).
Consider how we are taught as children. Small children require constant reminders to help strengthen their understanding of what their parents have already taught; on the playground, a toddler may need to be reminded over a dozen times not to put dirt in their mouth. However, as they grow and mature, so does their understanding of those principles, and their parents can help them learn something new.
There will be times when we backtrack and may need to be taught something all over again, but that’s the thing about scaffolding—we are all students in need of our Master Teacher’s help. Christ performed the Atonement so that, with humility and faith, we can turn to Him through repentance and be taught again.
As part of Heavenly Father and Christ’s education for us, we receive guidance about living righteously. Sometimes this guidance includes specific guidelines that we should follow. We might consider these guidelines to be part of Christ’s scaffolding—specific instruction to help us strengthen our understanding of the gospel principles they represent.
Consider the gospel principle of modesty, for example. The For the Strength of Youth booklet gives a very specific, actionable definition of immodest clothing: “Any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner.”5 As we follow this guideline, it can help us strengthen our understanding of all that modesty really is—an attitude of humility, decency, and “glorify[ing] God” (1 Corinthians 6:20)6—until our hearts are changed and our actions to come closer to Christ become second nature.
As I applied this shift in mindset to all the “to-dos” I felt I had to accomplish in the gospel, my increased feelings of burnout began to shift to feelings of faith. My burdens felt lighter as I looked toward the central gospel principles that each to-do or commandment represented. Tithing taught me about applying the law of consecration in my life. Attending church each week to take the sacrament became a lesson in the Savior’s Atonement. Suddenly it felt like there was a spirit, and not just a letter, to God’s laws in my life.
As we focus on the Savior and allow Him to change our hearts, God’s image will become “engraven upon [our] countenances” (Alma 5:19). He wants us not only to follow Him but to become like Him, to think and act as He would, to know Him.
In the parable of the talents (see Matthew 25:14–30), how could the last servant claim to know his lord yet do the exact opposite of his will? He may have understood his lord on a superficial level, as a “hard man” (Matthew 25:24), while the “good and faithful servant[s]” (Matthew 25:21) understood their lord at his core.
To truly know Heavenly Father and the Savior at Their core, we need to strengthen our understanding of Their core gospel principles. Christ taught several of these core principles in John 3:3–21, including His Atonement and God’s love for us. We learn more in the two great commandments: to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves (see Matthew 22:37–39).
All the commandments and our covenants and callings in the gospel can point us to these core principles, which in turn point us toward Christ. Consider how other teachings help reinforce essential truths in the gospel. What does the sacrament teach you about God’s love for you? What does ministering teach you about your love for God?
When we see the commandments and our responsibilities as disciples of Christ as merely inconvenient to-dos, our feelings of burnout can make us question if following them is worth it. With this mindset, we might begin to feel bitter and start viewing the commandments as limiting and unfair. But understanding the plan of happiness with Jesus Christ at the center of the plan helps us focus on the why behind all that the Lord asks us to do and can transform our responsibilities from menial to meaningful (see Alma 12:32).
When it feels impossible to know what matters or what’s worth our meager energy, let us “exercise a particle of faith” (Alma 32:27) that Christ is the way and that the covenant path leads us to Him. Let us “experiment upon [His] words, … even if [we] can no more than desire to believe” (Alma 32:27). In doing so, we might see how the Savior is at the core of everything—maybe even those things you’re struggling with in the gospel. What if it all points us to Christ, His atoning sacrifice, and His Resurrection? What if it all points to His and Heavenly Father’s love for us?
As I have centered the foundation of my testimony in Christ, the burden of burnout has felt lighter. I still get overwhelmed at times, but refocusing my heart on Him helps me realize that what matters most is my efforts, both big and small, to grow closer to Him each day.