Latter-day Saint Life

What we may be misunderstanding about the Savior’s command to ‘take my yoke upon you’

What did the Savior mean when He invited us to be yoked with Him?

I don’t know much about livestock or barnyard animals. My dad kept a coop of chickens in the backyard while I was growing up, but I never took much interest in them. (I try to keep my distance from anything that could go to the bathroom right on the ground at any time without warning.)

So when I heard these well-known verses from Matthew 11 for the first time, I definitely didn’t fully understand them and their agricultural theme: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

I was interested in the promise of finding rest for my soul. But what is this talk about a yoke? Certainly not the yellow blobs my dad’s chickens were producing.

I later learned in Sunday School that a yoke is a device put around animals’ necks to harness them together. The yoke helps the animals pull a heavy load by balancing the weight, which makes it easier to manage.

An illustration of yoked oxen pulling a cart.

Then my teacher taught that the Savior invites us to be yoked to Him so that He can lighten our burdens. It’s a beautiful metaphor teaching a beautiful truth. For years, I found comfort in the imagery of the Savior being connected to me when I needed help. But there is a very important part of the metaphor that I did not grasp until just recently. And what I’ve realized has made all the difference in how I access the rest Christ offers me.

I came to my epiphany while preparing to teach a lesson on Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson’s talk “Jesus Christ Is Relief.”

President Johnson quotes those verses from Matthew 11, and as I pondered them again, I realized something. Something probably very obvious to anyone with experience on a farm, but it was a profound insight to a novice like me.

You yoke oxen together because there is a job to do. You do not yoke oxen when it is time for them to rest. Or when they are grazing in a pasture. A yoke exists to help move something forward.

We may think that finding the Savior’s rest would mean lying back in the cool green grass and taking a nap. But paradoxically enough, when the Savior invites us to yoke ourselves to Him in order to find rest, He is inviting us to go to work with Him in the kingdom. Realizing this brought me a feeling of closeness to the Savior because now I better understand how to experience the rest He offers. Christ may not always take away the load I have to pull, but He will work with me to keep moving forward.

President Johnson taught this truth beautifully in her conference talk. She asked, “How does the Savior relieve us of the burdens of living in a fallen world with mortal bodies subject to grief and pain?” Her answer makes so much sense when you consider the analogy of the yoke:

“Often, He performs that kind of relief through us!” She goes on, “Our covenantal blessing is to partner with Jesus Christ in providing relief, both temporal and spiritual, to all of God’s children. We are a conduit through which He provides relief.”

I love that—as baptized, covenant-keeping members, we have chosen to be yoked with the Savior to do the work of “mourning with those that mourn” and “comforting those that stand in need of comfort” and “stand[ing] as witnesses of God at all times and in all things.” We are in the work of “bear[ing] one another’s burdens, that they may be light.”

And it is often through that work of lifting others that we find our own inner rest.

I heard a story on the All In podcast that powerfully illustrates finding rest. The podcast host, Morgan Pearson, was interviewing Brigham Young University professor Dr. Gaye Strathearn who shared a touching story of when she found rest on the Sabbath Day—and not by taking a long nap on the couch.

Dr. Strathearn was called to serve as stake Young Women president in her area in Australia, and her first Sunday was a busy one. She left home at 8 a.m. and had a full day of ward conferences, presidency meetings, and a last-minute teaching assignment at a fireside. When she finally arrived home at 9 p.m., she was exhausted.

“It was nighttime and I decided to take my dog for a walk. We were just walking in the dark and, all of a sudden, this feeling enveloped my entire being—I felt the love of God. And it caused me to express out loud, ‘I love this gospel. I love being a part of it. I love being, even in this small way, invited to be an instrument in His hands.’ And I spoke this out loud—like, Who’s hearing me? It’s my dog; he didn’t care.

“But really, it was my pouring out of gratitude to God. Because on that day, I wasn’t ‘still’ in the sense of doing nothing. But I was seeking still in terms of seeking the rest of God, the opportunity to have this connection with Him. And those things don’t happen to me every Sunday, not even close. But the times when they do happen, they just reverberate in my soul. And I think that’s what God wants and hopes that we will experience on the Sabbath day, both as individuals, as families, and collectively as a community: that we’re open and still enough to hear what He wants to say to us.”

I love that the opportunity to serve connected her with God in a way that reverberated in her soul. And we don’t have to be as busy as Dr. Strathearn to feel that love; we serve in whatever ways make the most sense for our lives.

Looking back, I can see how serving in God’s kingdom has brought me much-needed relief, too. When I moved to a new city after graduating college, I found myself unexpectedly more anxious and fearful than I had ever been before. My life had been fairly structured and planned up until that point. Now the great wide future was stretched out in front of me, and I didn’t like not knowing exactly how it was going to go. I constantly worried about questions like, “Is my career going to work out?” “Am I going to get married?” “Do I have enough friends?” And sometimes my fears went even as far as thinking “How do I have hope in a world that seems to be deteriorating?”

But a few months later, I was called to a leadership calling in my ward. And it turns out that having a full calendar of activities, service projects, and meetings was exactly what I needed to look outside of myself and not succumb to my fears. More than once we found ourselves on someone’s doorstep at just the right moment or planned a Relief Society lesson that was exactly what a sister needed to hear. Each instance felt like a miracle and strengthened my faith that God is closely watching over us.

I am grateful to know and better understand how my covenant to serve with Jesus Christ can lead me to find rest. I now connect more to what President Russell M. Nelson said in his October 2022 general conference talk: “Entering into a covenant relationship with God binds us to Him in a way that makes everything about life easier. … Yoking yourself with the Savior means you have access to His strength and redeeming power.” President Nelson ends his talk with these powerful words that I believe can be true for all of us as we work in unison with the Savior: “I bless you to see the needs of those around you and strengthen those you love. Because Jesus Christ overcame this world, you can too.”


▶ You may also like: A definition of YOLO to bring more joy to covenant living

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