When 25-year-old William E. McLellin asked Joseph Smith for guidance in October of 1831, his life was in transition. His wife of two years, Cynthia Ann, had died. He had met some missionaries and joined the church just two months earlier. Now, he wanted to know what was next.
In the revelation Joseph received in response, the Lord gave William specific assignments: travel east as a missionary with Joseph’s brother Samuel, bearing testimony everywhere, healing the sick, being patient in afflictions. He also told William what not to do, including the following instruction: “Seek not to be cumbered” (Doctrine and Covenants 66:10).
To be cumbered is to be overburdened, to be weighed down to a degree that diminishes our effectiveness.
When Martha became frustrated with her sister Mary, the root cause was that she was “cumbered about much serving” (Luke 10:40). The Greek word translated “cumbered” in this passage, perispao (περισπάω) comes from two roots: peri, which means “all around,” and spao, which means “to pull.” So one meaning of cumbered is stressed out, pulled in too many directions, unable to focus and accomplish the most important things, because there is too much on your plate.
When Lehi and his family began their journey into the wilderness, they left a lot behind. “He left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents” (1 Nephi 2:4). Trying to carry too much under those circumstances would have been counterproductive.
When Alma saw that he needed to spend more time on his role as high priest, he stepped down from his other time-consuming role—chief judge. He recognized that he could no longer do both effectively, so he eliminated one responsibility to avoid being pulled in too many directions. (See Alma 4:15-20.)
We don’t always have control over our schedules and our responsibilities, but sometimes we do. As President Russell M. Nelson has recently pointed out, the global pandemic has given many of us a unique opportunity to reset our schedules and to be intentional about how we spend our time:
For a time, the pandemic has canceled activities that would normally fill our lives. Soon we may be able to choose to fill that time again with the noise and commotion of the world. Or we can use our time to hear the voice of the Lord whispering His guidance, comfort, and peace. Quiet time is sacred time—time that will facilitate personal revelation and instill peace.
Discipline yourself to have time alone and with your loved ones. Open your heart to God in prayer. Take time to immerse yourself in the scriptures and worship in the temple.“What We Are Learning and Will Never Forget,” General Conference, April 2021
Today, I will avoid being cumbered. I will be careful not to overcommit and not to overclutter my schedule. I will ensure that I don’t become too busy to spend quiet time drawing closer to the Lord and to my family.