The Meaning of Sacrifice
Like the last chapter, there is no chapter in the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:... (the old Priesthood/Relief Society manuals). We will need other resources from which to draw out the ideas taught in this lesson. Like the last lesson, We Believe, by Rulon T. Burton, will be very helpful.
The following note appears at the bottom of the page of this section:
For teachers: You do not need to teach everything in each chapter. As you prayerfully prepare to teach, seek the Spirit’s guidance to know which portions of the chapter you should cover and which questions you should ask (p. 149).
This concept is what we have hoped for constantly in this blog. There is way too much for any one lesson, but hopefully something for each who uses it to supplement or to clarify concepts in each lesson.
The meaning of sacrifice (the title of this section), is well stated in the first sentence of this section, “Sacrifice means giving to the Lord whatever He requires of our time, our earthly possessions, and our energies to further His work" (p. 149).
It seems that this statement needs to be based on an earlier premise, so let’s look at three major foundation principles to better understand the Law of Sacrifice.
PRINCIPLE ONE - - Everything we have comes from the Lord.
King Benjamin taught this very well:
I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast? (Mosiah 2:20-24).
Joseph Smith explained this curtly:
Men not unfrequently forget that they are dependent upon heaven for every blessing which they are permitted to enjoy… (Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 156).
Offering sacrifice, then, is much like paying tithing in the following illustration:
…it is important to remember that when we pay tithing, we are merely giving back one-tenth of what God has already given us (Preparing for Exaltation: Teacher’s Manual - - this year’s Sunday School manual for 12-13 year-olds, 169).
PRINCIPLE TWO - - The Lord requires that we covenant with Him to sacrifice.
From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism we learn:
God requires sacrifice of his people both to make or renew covenants with him and to test their ultimate loyalties (D&C 98:12-15) (p. 1248).
This is what we learn in the following reference about God trying us through sacrifice:
For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith.
And whoso layeth down his life in my cause, for my name's sake, shall find it again, even life eternal.
Therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy.
For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me (D&C 98:12-15).
President George Q. Cannon taught the following concerning our responsibility to sacrifice:
If we cannot sacrifice everything there is upon the face of the earth, that men hold dear to them, then we are unworthy of that great salvation that God has promised unto the faithful. The man that cannot bring every appetite into subjection to the mind and will of God, that cannot forego everything of this kind, and that is not willing to sacrifice houses and lands, and father and mother, wives and children and everything that men hold dear to them, is unworthy of that great salvation that God has in store for His faithful children.
If we value this salvation as we should, there is nothing that will stand between us and it.
We must love the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the cause that He established, better than we do our wives and children, better than we do our own lives. There is nothing upon the face of the earth that we should love as we do the Gospel. God requires this of us (We Believe, 123).
President James E. Faust quoted Joseph Smith concerning this:
The Prophet Joseph Smith once said, “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.” He continues, “Those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith, because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith (Ensign, Nov 1998, 54).
PRINCIPLE THREE - - The Lord wants to give us everything He has.
In a wonderful talk, President James E. Faust explained:
To be faithful members of this Church requires sacrifice and consecration. It means that worldly pleasures and earthly possessions should not be our principal aim in life, because the gift of eternal life requires a willingness to sacrifice all we have and are in order to obtain it (Ensign, Nov 1998, 54).
A discussion of just what the gift of “eternal life” means may be helpful from the following:
And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God (D&C 14:7).
Joseph Smith declared:
…from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth's sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain (We Believe, 122).
That sacrifice will allow us to dwell in God’s presence, and just what is meant by “eternal life” will also be discussed in the last section of this lesson.
In this section, the manual states, “Our willingness to sacrifice is an indication of our devotion to God. People have always been tried and tested to see if they will put the things of God first in their lives (p. 149).
Concerning this, Wilford Woodruff explained:
We have been called to pass through trials many times, and I do not think we should complain, because if we had no trials we should hardly feel at home in the other world in the company of the Prophets and Apostles who were sawn asunder, crucified, etc., for the word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ… (Journal of Discourses, 23:328).
This section ends with the question, “Why is it important to sacrifice as the Lord asks without expecting anything in return?” (p. 149).
This question may be answered two ways. First, probably what the authors of the manual had in mine, is implied in the statement, “Our willingness to sacrifice is an indication of our devotion to God” (p. 149). That is, we need to sacrifice with pure intent, not with “reward” in mind. A truly wonderful outline of the various reasons we can serve, seven reasons in ascending order of “good, better, best…and bestest-of-all,” can be found in a conference talk by Elder Dallin H. Oaks entitled, “Why We Serve.” Giving service and offering sacrifice would be interchangeable concerning the ideas found in this article.
Second, the answer to this question could also be “The Lord has promised much in return for our sacrifice!” (Ensign, Nov 1984, 12).
President Daniel H. Wells, of the First Presidency, considered this:
We talk a great deal about sacrifices, when strictly there is no such thing; it is a misnomer—it is a wrong view of the subject, for what we do in the kingdom of God is the best investment we can possibly make. It pays the best, which ever way we may look at it, it is the principle of all others to be coveted—to be appreciated—and is the best investment we can make of all that pertains to us in this life (We Believe, 125).
From the wonderful little booklet True to the Faith, we learn:
To sacrifice is to give up something we value for the sake of something of greater worth. As Latter-day Saints, we have the opportunity to sacrifice worldly things for the Lord and His kingdom.
With an eternal perspective, you can see that giving up the things of the world is really no sacrifice at all. The blessings you receive are greater than anything you ever give up (p. 149-50).
The Law of Sacrifice Was Practiced Anciently
The idea is found herein that, “From the time of Adam and Eve to the time of Jesus Christ, the Lord’s people practiced the law of sacrifice” (p. 149). This may be effectively discussed using this reference:
And Adam knew his wife, and she bare unto him sons and daughters, and they began to multiply and to replenish the earth (Moses 5:2).
This was after Adam and Eve were grandparents.
And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.
And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore (Moses 5:5 - 8).
This section ends with a great question, “Why is the Atonement considered the great and last sacrifice? (p. 151). The answers may be enhanced with discussion of the following scriptures (with bolded portions for added emphasis):
And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer… (Mosiah 3:7).
Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement… (2 Nephi 9:7).
…until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind… (2 Nephi 25:16).
Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another...
But…there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world (Alma 34:11 - 12).
Thus, from Adam until Jesus Christ, all men were to look forward to the sacrifice Jesus Christ would offer. And thus should we look backward to this same sacrifice through partaking of the sacrament.
Elder John A. Widtsoe had this wonderful comment:
The Savior gave of himself, gave His very life that we might live. To sacrifice that others might be blessed was His word, His work, His life. Sacrifice is the evidence of true love. Without sacrifice love is not manifest. Without sacrifice there is no real love, or kindness.
We love no one unless we sacrifice for him. We can measure the degree of love that we possess for any man or cause, by the sacrifice we make for him or it.
Sacrifice lifts us toward the likeness of God, the likeness of our Elder Brother Jesus Christ (We Believe, 123-4).
We Still Must Sacrifice
3 Nephi 9:19-20 was quoted in this section concerning the sacrifice of “a broken heart and a contrite spirit” as being the sacrifice for us today replacing the shedding of blood before the Savior’s offering. Elder Bruce D. Porter, of the Seventies, clarified what this means in a conference talk:
What are a broken heart and a contrite spirit? And why are they considered a sacrifice?
As in all things, the Savior’s life offers us the perfect example: though Jesus of Nazareth was utterly without sin, He walked through life with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, as manifested by His submission to the will of the Father. “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). To His disciples He said, “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). And when the time came to pay the ultimate sacrifice entailed in the Atonement, Christ shrank not to partake of the bitter cup but submitted completely to His Father’s will.
The Savior’s perfect submission to the Eternal Father is the very essence of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Christ’s example teaches us that a broken heart is an eternal attribute of godliness. When our hearts are broken, we are completely open to the Spirit of God and recognize our dependence on Him for all that we have and all that we are. The sacrifice so entailed is a sacrifice of pride in all its forms. Like malleable clay in the hands of a skilled potter, the brokenhearted can be molded and shaped in the hands of the Master.
A broken heart and a contrite spirit are also preconditions to repentance (Ensign, Nov 2007, 31).
The above quote was found by using “scriptures.byu.edu” as discussed in the Chapter 25 of this blog.
Concerning Elder Porter’s comment about “preconditions to repentance," Nephi may have qualified in regards to this sacrifice when he plead:
O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin? (2 Nephi 4:31).
Another great example is King Lamoni who first wanted to “consecrate” his property to Ammon to save himself:
If thou wilt spare me I will grant unto thee whatsoever thou wilt ask, even to half of the kingdom (Alma 20:23).
Ammon explained what would be necessary to “sacrifice”:
Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.
But Aaron said unto him: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest (Alma 22:15-16).
In King Lamoni’s testimony he stated what he was willing to “sacrifice” to qualify:
O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead (bolded for emphasis added) (Alma 22:18).
We Must Be Willing to Sacrifice Everything We Have to the Lord
In this section, key words in the sentence, “If we are to be a living sacrifice, we must be willing to give everything we have for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—to build the kingdom of God on the earth and labor to bring forth Zion…” (p. 151) will be recognized by temple goers.
Those who have been to the temple have taken sacred vows to not speak of certain things outside of the temple. Therefore, it is important that we be very cautious about what we say concerning anything contained in the temple ceremony. One good guide is that we can discuss anything spoken of in the scriptures or by general authorities. There are several laws taught and committed to in holy temples.
In an article in the New Era, in the “Q&A: Questions and Answers” section, these laws taught in the temple are discussed:
Out of respect for its sacredness, members of the Church who have attended the temple are asked not to talk outside the temple about the details of the temple ceremony. However, the promises you as a member are asked to make will not surprise you. They are consistent with teachings you have already received, including obedience, sacrifice, order, love, chastity, and consecration (New Era, Jan 1994, 17).
This manual will have future lessons on several of these laws: Obedience (chapter 35) and Chastity (chapter 39). Since we do not have a lesson in this manual on temples, this may be a good place to discuss the Law of the Gospel and the Law of Consecration, in addition to the one at hand, the Law of Sacrifice.
The Law of the Gospel is mentioned by Elder William R. Bradford, of the Seventies, in a conference talk:
Saddest of all, perhaps, are those who will not study the law of the gospel contained in the holy scriptures…
We could talk about the law of sacrifice and service to one another, moral cleanliness, tithes and offerings, honesty. Indeed, we could review all the many laws that together comprise the law of the gospel (Ensign, Nov 1977, 64).
This law is also referred to in several scriptures:
Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand… (D&C 88:78).
The Law of Consecration is defined in Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
The law of consecration requires dedicating all of one’s time, talents, and possessions to the Church and its purposes… (p. 313).
As is evident from the above definition, the Law of Consecration is very closely related to the Law of Sacrifice. In a terrific conference talk, Elder Bruce R. McConkie expanded on these laws:
I shall now set forth some of the principles of sacrifice and consecration to which the true saints must conform if they are ever to go where God and Christ are and have an inheritance with the faithful saints of ages past.
It is written: “He who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.” (D&C 88:22.) The law of sacrifice is a celestial law; so also is the law of consecration. Thus to gain that celestial reward which we so devoutly desire, we must be able to live these two laws.
Sacrifice and consecration are inseparably intertwined. The law of consecration is that we consecrate our time, our talents, and our money and property to the cause of the Church: such are to be available to the extent they are needed to further the Lord’s interests on earth.
The law of sacrifice is that we are willing to sacrifice all that we have for the truth’s sake—our character and reputation; our honor and applause; our good name among men; our houses, lands, and families: all things, even our very lives if need be.
Joseph Smith said, “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary [to lead] unto life and salvation.” (Lectures on Faith, p. 58.)
We are not always called upon to live the whole law of consecration and give all of our time, talents, and means to the building up of the Lord’s earthly kingdom. Few of us are called upon to sacrifice much of what we possess, and at the moment there is only an occasional martyr in the cause of revealed religion.
But what the scriptural account means is that to gain celestial salvation we must be able to live these laws to the full if we are called upon to do so. Implicit in this is the reality that we must in fact live them to the extent we are called upon so to do.
Now I think it is perfectly clear that the Lord expects far more of us than we sometimes render in response. We are not as other men. We are the saints of God and have the revelations of heaven. Where much is given much is expected. We are to put first in our lives the things of his kingdom.
We are commanded to live in harmony with the Lord’s laws, to keep all his commandments, to sacrifice all things if need be for his name’s sake, to conform to the terms and conditions of the law of consecration.
We have made covenants so to do—solemn, sacred, holy covenants, pledging ourselves before gods and angels.
We are under covenant to live the law of obedience.
We are under covenant to live the law of sacrifice.
We are under covenant to live the law of consecration.
With this in mind, hear this word from the Lord: “If you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.” (D&C 78:7.)
It is our privilege to consecrate our time, talents, and means to build up his kingdom. We are called upon to sacrifice, in one degree or another, for the furtherance of his work. Obedience is essential to salvation; so, also, is service; and so, also, are consecration and sacrifice (Ensign, May 1975, 50).
Joseph Smith had this to say about consecration:
When we consecrate our property to the Lord it is to administer to the wants of the poor and needy, for this is the law of God; it is not for the benefit of the rich, those who have no need; and when a man consecrates or dedicates his wife and children, he does not give them to his brother, or to his neighbor, for there is no such law.
Now for a man to consecrate his property, wife and children, to the Lord, is nothing more nor less than to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the widow and fatherless, the sick and afflicted, and do all he can to administer to their relief in their afflictions, and for him and his house to serve the Lord. In order to do this, he and all his house must be virtuous, and must shun the very appearance of evil (We Believe, 125).
In the last section in this lesson, it states, “We may not be asked to sacrifice all things. But like Abraham, we should be willing to sacrifice everything…” (p. 153). If the following (the next two paragraphs) was not used in the previous lesson, here is repeated a portion from Chapter 25 (October) of this blog which really fits better in this lesson:
In holy temples we promise to be willing to live the Law of Consecration. While we are not commanded yet to fully live that law, there are some things we do live now. From the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual we learn:
We must be willing to make the sacrifices that the Lord requires of us at the present time. These include sacrifices of time, talents, and possessions. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve give us direction regarding how we implement the principles of the law of consecration in our day.
a. Pay tithing and fast offerings and give generously in other ways to those in need.
b. Serve willingly in the Church… In addition to specific Church callings, we can share the gospel with others, do temple work, and seek to strengthen the testimonies of those who are new or weak in the faith.
c. Serve as a full-time missionary (p. 75).
In the manual, Jesus asked the rich young ruler to “sell all that thou hast and distribute unto the poor…” (pp. 151-2). Currently, we are asked only that we be “willing” to live the law of consecration. Currently we only live only a portion of the whole law, as spelled out in the above paragraph. In a wonderful article by President Marion G. Romney (of the First Presidency), he outlines the principles of this law and was asked if we will ever actually be asked to live this law fully. Here is his answer:
As to the question, “Will the righteous members of the Church be asked to live the law of consecration?”—my answer is yes. I believe that the righteous members of the Church will, in time, become “united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom” and that the law of consecration will be lived by them during the Millennium (New Era, May 1979, 38).
Concerning these laws and the temple, Elder Dallin H. Oaks declared:
Latter-day Saints are uniquely committed to sacrifice. In partaking of the sacrament each week, we witness our commitment to serve the Lord and our fellowmen. In sacred temple ceremonies we covenant to sacrifice and consecrate our time and talents for the welfare of others (Ensign, May 2009, 93).
After discussing two other covenants in a conference talk, Bishop Keith B. McMullin said:
Three, the covenants of the temple: Sacrifice, the willingness to sacrifice for this the Lord’s work—and inherent in that law of sacrifice is the very essence of the Atonement. … Consecration, which is associated with it, a willingness to give everything, if need be, to help in the onrolling of this great work… Worldly preoccupation with self surrenders to sacrifice, consecration, and the other holy covenants of the temple (Ensign, May 2001, 61).
Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, General Relief Society President, commented in conference:
In the temple we further covenant to be obedient, selfless, faithful, honorable, charitable. We covenant to make sacrifices and consecrate all that we have (Ensign, Nov 2002, 103).
President James E. Faust, in a First Presidency Message, stated:
In the temples of the Lord, we learn obedience. We learn sacrifice. We make the vows of chastity and have our lives consecrated to holy purposes (Ensign, Aug 2001, 2).
In the first sentence of this section, the concept of “living sacrifice” (from Romans 12:1) may deserve further discussion. First, here is what Paul had to say:
I BESEECH you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God… (Romans 12:1).
The concept from Paul is beautifully developed by Jeffrey R. Holland (before he became and apostle) in a talk, “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments,” given at a BYU Speeches of the Year. 12 January 1988. In this talk, he stated:
Paul's warning to the Corinthians takes on newer, higher meaning:
. . . Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye
have of God, and ye are not your own?
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit,
which are God's. [1 Corinthians 6:13-20; emphasis added]
Our soul is what's at stake here our spirit and our body. Paul understood that doctrine of
the soul…because it is gospel truth. The purchase price for our fullness of joy (body and spirit eternally united) is the pure and innocent blood of the Savior of this world. We cannot then say in ignorance or defiance, "Well, it's my life," or worse yet, "It's my body." It is not. "Ye are not your own," Paul said. "Ye are bought with a price."
Thus, we can present our natural fallen man bodies as a “living sacrifice” to keeping God’s commandments in a critical part of our own plan of salvation.
Concerning the concept “to bring forth Zion” at the end of the second paragraph, Elder John A. Widstoe declared:
The question as to individual responsibility for the welfare of the Church was asked in the early days of members of the Church. Several of the men who labored with the Prophet Joseph Smith came to him in those early days and said: "What shall we do?" They might have said: "What shall we do to be saved?" The Lord in every instance gave an answer. We have a series of short revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, which are the answers to that question. I find in every one a significant statement, worded almost identically in all of these revelations, to Hyrum Smith, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and others of less fame in the Church: "Keep my commandments, and seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion." That is our business, the business of the Latter-day Saints.
From one point of view, it is selfish enough, perhaps, to keep the commandments that I may be blessed, but it is something even greater to keep the commandments that Zion may be established. As the foundation of his great cause, the Lord gave the law of sacrifice. Unless we give of ourselves we cannot build Zion, or anything else worthy of the great cause that the Lord has given us. The law of sacrifice, from the day of Adam to the present day, in one form or another, is the basic principle of life among the communities of Saints (We Believe, 124).
Sacrifice Helps Us Prepare to Live in the Presence of God
Again, from that wonderful little booklet True to the Faith, we learn how really important is sacrifice:
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should be willing to make any sacrifice required by the Lord. If we were not required to make sacrifices, we would never be able to develop the faith necessary for eternal salvation (p. 149).
Concerning the concept that “Sacrifice Helps Us Prepare to Live in the Presence of God” (title of this section), Elder Melvin J. Ballard said this:
What did it mean to have in the world, during his ministry, for three brief years the Lord Jesus Christ—not the Father, just the Son? It was the most wonderful privilege the world has ever had. What would you give tonight for the privilege of standing in the presence of the Son for five minutes? You would give all your earthly possessions for that privilege. Then can you comprehend the full meaning and significance of the statement that those who gain celestial glory will have the privilege of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son forever and ever? That in itself, will be reward enough for the struggle to obtain the prize. Yea, it is beyond price and earthly possessions. Even the giving of life itself would be a trifle for the privilege to dwell forever and ever in the presence of the Father and the Son (We Believe, 122).
…the Lord notices our sacrifices; He promises, “Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matthew 19:29) (p. 153).
President Brigham Young declared that because of what we are promised, we really cannot claim that we “sacrifice”:
I can say that I do not consider that I have ever suffered anything for this kingdom—nothing in the least. I have never sacrificed anything, without it be the evil propensities that are sown in our nature, springing from the seed that was sown at the fall. May that be termed a sacrifice? I will not call it so. What do we possess on this earth? Do we even own our bodies? Had we the power to produce them? Is the intelligence in these bodies our own? Did we organize and implant it? No human being has had power to organize his own existence. Then there is a greater than we. Are we our own in our bodies? Are we our own in our spirits? We are not our own. We belong to our progenitors—to our Father and our God.
We say that we have lost an ox, a cow, or a horse; or, "I left my farm, my house, and have sacrificed a great deal for this work." This is a mistake. You had nothing to lose. Not one particle of all that comprises this vast creation of God is our own. Everything we have has been bestowed upon us for our action, to see what we would do with it—whether we would use it for eternal life and exaltation or for eternal death and degradation, until we cease operating in this existence. We have nothing to sacrifice; then let us not talk about sacrificing (We Believe, 125).
One of the most powerful sentences in this lesson begins this section, “Only through sacrifice can we become worthy to live in the presence of God (p. 153). Living “in the presence of God” here does not mean just dwelling with God, but becoming like God. As Moses was told by Jehovah:
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39).His work was immortality (resurrection for all) and His glory is “eternal life” for those who make and keep covenants. Joseph Fielding Smith declared this about “eternal life”:
Eternal life is to have the kind of life that God has (Pearl of Great Price Institute Student Manual, 6).
Elsewhere, Jesus Christ proclaimed that all who make and keep holy covenants:
… receiveth my Father's kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him (D&C 84:38).
President James E. Faust, after quoting D&C 84:38, declared succinctly:
Those who receive all that the Father hath can receive nothing more (Ensign, Nov 2004, 52–55).
On pages 153-4, one of “sacrifices made in these true examples” includes “Another family sold their home to get money to go to the temple.” Elder Claudio R. M. Costa, of the Presidency of the Seventy“ shared the following:
When Benedito Carlos do Carmo Mendes Martins decided to take his family to the nearest temple in 1992, he needed 15 days off work to make the arduous round-trip from his home in Manaus, in northern Brazil. It was a busy time for his company, however, and his boss refused to give him time off.
Because the family had prepared, sacrificed, and saved money to make the trip, they prayed that they might somehow still be able to go. Their prayers were soon answered.
“The day before the trip, I was diagnosed with parasites,” Brother Martins said. “I was so happy to be sick!”
His doctor immediately prescribed medication and a two-week medical leave of absence from work, which, by law, his company was obligated to give. The next day the family left for the temple.
“I took my medicine with me, and during the trip I received injections,” Brother Martins said. By the time he returned, the parasites were gone.
“I came home with faith in and a testimony of the ordinances of the temple,” he said, “especially the ordinance of being sealed to my wife and three children.”
Before Manaus became part of the Caracas Venezuela Temple District in 2005, the nearest temple was the São Paulo Brazil Temple, located thousands of miles away in southeastern Brazil. Some Latter-day Saints in Manaus were so determined to go to the temple that they sold their homes, means of transportation, work tools—anything of value—to raise money (Ensign, Dec 2008, 20).
Anne C. Pingree (Second Counselor General Relief Society Presidency)also gave a wonderful example:
I will never forget a sauna-hot day in the lush rain forest of southeastern Nigeria. My husband and I had traveled to one of the most remote locations in our mission so he could conduct temple recommend interviews with members in the Ikot Eyo district. Some in this growing district had been Church members less than two years. All the members lived 3,000 miles away from the nearest temple in Johannesburg, South Africa. None had received their temple endowment.
These members knew the appointed day each month we would come to their district, but even we didn’t know the exact hour we would arrive; nor could we call, for telephones were rare in that part of West Africa. So these committed African Saints gathered early in the morning to wait all day if necessary for their temple recommend interviews. When we arrived, I noticed among those waiting in the searing heat were two Relief Society sisters dressed in bold-patterned wrappers, white blouses, and the traditional African head-ties.
Many hours later, after all the interviews were completed, as my husband and I drove back along that sandy jungle trail, we were stunned when we saw these two sisters still walking. We realized they had trekked from their village—a distance of 18 miles round trip—just to obtain a temple recommend they knew they would never have the privilege of using.
These Nigerian Saints believed the counsel of President Howard W. Hunter: “It would please the Lord for every adult member to be worthy of—and to carry—a current temple recommend, even if proximity to a temple does not allow immediate or frequent use of it.” 1 In her hand, carefully wrapped in a clean handkerchief, each sister carried her precious temple recommend. I carry their examples of faith carefully wrapped in my heart (Ensign, Nov 2003, 13).
Another sacrifice to add to the list was told by Victor D. Cave:
The Tahiti Papeete Mission president had assigned my companion, Elder Tchan Fat, and me to help prepare a group of 80 Latter-day Saints to receive their endowments and be sealed as families in the nearest temple—the Hamilton New Zealand Temple, five hours away by plane. Mama Taamino had traveled to the temple every year for six years, and this year she would go again. I wondered how she could afford such expensive trips when her living conditions were so meager. Six years later I learned the answer.
In 1976, as president of the Papeete Tahiti Stake, I regularly inspected the stake’s meetinghouses. One day at noon I stopped at the chapel in Tipaerui. At the time, we had paid custodians, and there I found Mama Taamino, now in her late 60s, working as a custodian to help support her large family. She greeted me with her usual “Come and eat,” but I replied, “Mama Taamino, you are not young anymore, and for lunch all you are having is a small piece of bread, a tiny can of sardines, and a little bottle of juice? Aren’t you earning enough to have more food than this?”
She replied, “I’m saving to travel to the temple again.” My heart melted with admiration for her example of love and sacrifice. Mama Taamino traveled to the temple in New Zealand nearly 15 times—every year until the Papeete Tahiti Temple was dedicated in October 1983. At the dedication she radiated joy (Ensign, Apr. 2010, 61).
President James E. Faust also told the following powerful story in conference:
Some years ago President David O. McKay told from this pulpit of the experience of some of those in the Martin handcart company. Many of these early converts had emigrated from Europe and were too poor to buy oxen or horses and a wagon. They were forced by their poverty to pull handcarts containing all of their belongings across the plains by their own brute strength. President McKay relates an occurrence which took place some years after the heroic exodus: “A teacher, conducting a class, said it was unwise ever to attempt, even to permit them [the Martin handcart company] to come across the plains under such conditions.
“[According to a class member,] some sharp criticism of the Church and its leaders was being indulged in for permitting any company of converts to venture across the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart caravan afforded.
“An old man in the corner … sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it, then he arose and said things that no person who heard him will ever forget. His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity.
“In substance [he] said, ‘I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church, because everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.
“ ‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.’ ” He continues: “ ‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
“ ‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company’ ” (Ensign, May 1979, 53).
President Gordon B. Hinckley narrated the following:
I met a naval officer from a distant nation, a brilliant young man who had been brought to the United States for advanced training. Some of his associates in the United States Navy, whose behavior had attracted him, shared with him at his request their religious beliefs. He was not a Christian, but he was interested. They told him of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, who gave his life for all mankind. They told him of the appearance of God, the Eternal Father, and the resurrected Lord to the boy Joseph Smith. They spoke of modern prophets. They taught him the gospel of the Master. The Spirit touched his heart, and he was baptized.
He was introduced to me just before he was to return to his native land. We spoke of these things, and then I said: “Your people are not Christians. What will happen when you return home a Christian, and, more particularly, a Mormon Christian?”
His face clouded, and he replied, “My family will be disappointed. They may cast me out and regard me as dead. As for my future and my career, all opportunity may be foreclosed against me.”
I asked, “Are you willing to pay so great a price for the gospel?”
His dark eyes, moistened by tears, shone from his handsome brown face as he answered, “It’s true, isn’t it?”
Ashamed at having asked the question, I responded, “Yes, it’s true.”
To which he replied, “Then what else matters?”
These are questions I should like to leave with you: “It’s true, isn’t it? Then what else really matters?” (Ensign, Jul 1993, 2).
A good goal for all of us might be to be able to fill in the blanks and bear testimony of the first line of the last verse of the great hymn, “Praise to the Man” (Hymn # 27):
“Sacrifice brings forth the ___________ of __________________ .”